Thursday, 12 April 2012

Diversity in D&D

Dominic Matte
Today io9 informed me that Mordicai Knode wrote an article asking Wizards of the Coast for more diversity in the next edition of Dungeons & Dragons, since there isn't much in existing editions. In a very non-scientific flip through the books, Mordicai noted only four black humans in the 4e Player's Handbook, and just one in the 3e PHB.

I think the problem here is that D&D (and most modern Hollywood fantasy stories) are based around medieval Europe, where white men were typically those who had power and authority, which by extension allowed them to obtain the best training and skills. In a medieval European setting, it totally makes sense for white men to be the ones leading armies and going on adventures.

However, while at its core D&D may be based on medieval Europe, there's nothing in the game that actually has to do with Europe - every D&D setting takes place in a fictional world. And in a fictional world, there's absolutely no reason not to feature many ethnicities. Some people argue that it doesn't make sense to include black people in D&D, but those people are thinking about historical Europe and not a completely invented world. Besides, why would you worry about the historical accuracy of black people when there are lizard men and teleporting elves running around?

Under some circumstances I could see logic behind excluding certain types of culture as incompatible with the typical trappings of a fantasy world, but on the other hand, most of that can just be hand-waved away. Clothing style and material has a lot to do with the environment, and if two items are functionally very similar (like heavy samurai armour vs. knight's armour), there's no harm in altering the cosmetics.

Actually, there could be some pretty major benefits to providing a huge diversity of art in the next edition of D&D. If you included images in the Fighter class section that looked like a knight, a samurai, a Maasai warrior, a Spartan, a Muscogee warrior, and a Viking, that presents many different ideas of what a "fighter" can be, and shows many different examples of armour style and fighting technique. This would be a great way to encourage players to put more thought into character creation and roleplay.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. What do you think?


  1. I think it would be a good idea, but I guess I find the entire issue moot because I have never felt restricted in my imagination over what characters would look like based on the limited sketches in the D&D Handbooks. But hey, more diversity is awesome, and I'm all for it!

    1. Not everyone has your level of imagination or desire to put so much work into a character :p

  2. As an addition to my Facebook comment, I also like the new 'theme'.

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