Wednesday, May 21, 2014

5th Edition Woes?

            It’s been awhile since I’ve had the time to sit down and write. But now that the semester is over I hope to be able to get more opportunities to write. Today I want to talk about DnD Next or 5th Edition, or perhaps simply called Dungeons and Dragons. 

            I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the new Dungeons and Dragons over the past few weeks. With its release only a few months away one can’t help be curious. I was reading an article on the minis that WizKids are going to produce when something caught my eye. None of the minis were black. Well they had a Drow (and don’t get me started on why the Drow are so bad) but the main line up was very monochromatic.

            So I decided to do a google search of images related to the next iteration of DnD and discovered that in all the images released for the game none of them depicted a person of color. Now I could have missed one, it is possible, but I found that idea to be very troubling. If one were to do a google image search of Pathfinder you would be able to easily see the diversity that the game promotes. The pictures of their iconic characters (the Middle Eastern cleric and the black paladin) are easy to find and show off what makes Pathfinder such a great game.

I am digging the logo though
            This is a big problem for Dungeons and Dragons. One I hope they seriously address at some point. DnD is the biggest name in tabletop rpgs. As much as I love Pathfinder and their work on diversity DnD is the go to game I use when I’m trying to describe what gaming is to non-gamers. DnD is a house hold name. Just about everyone knows what it is.

            With Wizards of the Coast trying to make the game appealing to both the causal/new gamer as it does the old gamers it becomes vital that DnD is upfront about diversity. You attract people of color to your game by making them feel included. And you make them feel included by including artwork that depicts people like them in the setting.

            Now there may be more to the artwork than I’ve seen so far. I may have missed a few things. Which is why when the game comes out I’ll give it a fair shot. But keep in mind I already own Pathfinder. I picked up Pathfinder last summer after I decided to chip in for a Thunderscape Kickstarter. All in all the game wasn’t that different from 3.5. But what impressed me was that there was a Middle Eastern cleric and a black paladin. It was that feeling of inclusion that prompted me to buy 9 more Pathfinder related products. All because Paizo did something new and different with their iconics.

            Wizards of the Coast you want that same effect. You want someone to open your book, see their ethnicity depicted and be inclined to go out and buy 9 more books. I’ll give you a shot come August. But whether or not I want to play Dungeons and Dragons will be dependent on, not only the rules, but whether I feel, as a customer,  like Wizards of the Coast wants to include me in their game.


  1. Uh ... there's a fire giant ... oh wait, that makes it worse. "Black people are 72 feet high and wear hats made out of dragons!"

  2. Dragon hats would be amazing. You have to be pretty ball'n to make a hat out of a dragon.

  3. As a social game, I don't think that D&D or any other RPG system benefits from exclusion. I hope that the omission you're describing is not a conscious decision from the business or artistic teams, and hopefully reading blog posts like this will make them aware of what they could do differently. Thanks for a good post!

  4. Hopefully they have the outdated stereotype that it is a game for nerdy white teenagers rather than being some sort of statement. Does every woman in the book have a chain mail bikini and boobs that would for them to have back surgery? they still might have the idea that they are marketing to 14 year old white males instead of the wider audience that RPGs now have. Pathfinder figured that out.

    I haven't seen the new book so I can;t say either way,

  5. Was looking through the GURPS 4e Campaigns and while the majority of folks are white or a fantasy race they have some pictures in there (color) that show a mix of races and some folks who might be of mixed race.

    Dace - never even occurred to me about some books being wonder bread white.

  6. @Bill I'm not sure if it's intentional. I would need a bit more proof, such as looking at the game over the course of several books, before I could say they are doing it on purpose. But I do think that if they have diversity they should market that as part of the plan. They want the game to be mainstream and that's kinda how you get a mainstream audience.

    @Joesph It happens. A lot of times these aren't things that you notice unless you're the one not represented. In the same way that I don't always see sexual harassment because it's not a daily part of my life. Somethings we don't notice till someone points it out.

  7. I doubt they've deliberately excluded anyone in their artwork, but WotC has a team of mostly-male white people working on this IP, some of whom have demonstrated serious ignorance in the past--namely Jon Schindehette, Senior Creative Director, a middle-aged white man who brought up the issue of sexism once, in a way designed to shut any conversation about it down (even eschewing the term "sexism), and then buried the topic altogether. I don't think he's ever really discussed diversity in art at all, and that's the problem.

    If they're not consciously making a decision to be more inclusive with their artwork, then they're consciously refusing to address a major issue that has been widely discussed in gaming circles for years now and ignoring a key point of attraction to products of their foremost competitor. Which means they're kind of failing to do good business as well as failing to overcome their own ignorance. I'm concerned because any previews they show are of images and text they believe to be representative of their products--to be selling points. If the all-white mostly-male artwork they've shown so far is representative of their products, then I don't want any of their products.