Saturday, November 17, 2012

Promoting Diversity of D&D Characters

I want to promote diversity in D&D. I underestimated the controversy surrounding this topic.
That is why I propose small practical changes for D&D.

When I did research about discrimination I learned a lot.
I focused on :
  • gender discrimination (sexism)
  • age discrimination (ageism)
  • disability discrimination (ableism)
  • sexual orientation discrimination (homophobia).

I used many stereotypes in my home-brew campaigns.
The more I learn the more I find how little I know.
Now that I know, my campaigns will be more diverse.

Wizards of the Coast

Wizards of the Coast (WotC) are already doing a good job with their latest core books and adventures.
Recently they did articles on body types and D&D art.
I like their efforts on these aspects of D&D and them asking for our opinion.
From a commercial standpoint this might be a catch 22, how to embrace new players while not alienating existing players.

clouds in spring
Image courtesy of
Diversity is more controversial then I thought. Recently there was a thread on the D&D forums on Gender Neutral Language.
Many good points were brought up during that discussion.

Personally, I'd remove gendered pronouns for class descriptions.
Using the plural form like in D&D 4E Player's Handbook 3 (PHB3) is my preference.
For example: "Warlocks curse their opponents" instead of "A Warlock curses his opponent".
Iconic character can still be addressed by he and she.


These are the posts in the series:

Discrimination in D&D 4E Writing (part 1)
Discrimination in D&D Societies and Settings (part 2)
Types of Character Discriminations in D&D  (part 3)

All these posts are part of this series about discrimination and diversity.
Any conclusion I draw is explained in more detail in the previous posts.

Changes in Player's Handbooks

Gender Neutral writing as done in the PHB3 backgrounds is excellent for me.

Add disabilities and sexual orientation as questions to the character creation.
This acknowledges their existence in the D&D setting.
Character sheets includes age and gender, I wouldn't put anything new on the character sheet.

Backgrounds can include backgrounds for elder characters.
For example: mentors, sages, retired city guards, war veterans, etc.
This automatically gives them responsibilities and possibly followers.

Changes in official Adventures

Gender balance in the last published adventures was better than I expected.
The first adventures released for 4E weren't that good.
The default setting should be inclusive, which means adventures are as well.
That is why I'd like NPCs with disabilities, elder NPCs and NPCs of different sexual orientation, all without stereotypes.

Call to action

I don't think WotC is just going to read this post and say "How could we be so wrong. Let's do all the things someone on a blog says".
I like to take matters into my own hands and do something about it.

Things we can do:
  • Blogging: Awareness of these issues is important, so blogging about it increases awareness in the D&D community.
  • Create diverse content: Future antagonists on my blog will be more diverse. Or for example Prismatic Art by Sarah Darkmagic.
  • Petition: this is a possibility although I'm doubtful of its effect.
    There exists a petition to promote diversity in D&D art.
  • Home-brew adventures and settings can always use some more diversity.
  • Forums: Starting threads on the D&D forums is a possibility but I'm afraid this will only result in endless flame wars.

Final Thoughts

I wonder if discrimination of D&D characters affects the number of players.

What views do people have of D&D regarding diversity?
Do studies or statistics exist about that?

I always played with male players, we haven't found female players.
Most of us are working in software development which has a low number of women.
This might explain why we are a male only group.

I'd like to hear your opinion.
Would you like to see more diversity or not, and why?
Are there types of discrimination I forgot to mention?


  1. Avoiding diversity in RPGs is a self fulfilling prophecy of exclusion. I'm going to be using the gender inequality as a bases for this point, but it applies to all the other things you've mentioned.

    few women play RPGs, so we don't want to focus too much on female traits and diversity.

    Women look at these games, see that they're under-represented, and thus find little to gain from playing them.

    Not many women play RPGs... Repeat.

    I think there needs to be a big seismic shift in the mind set of all games develops - not just the big ones - to break out of this circle, and show that gaming is truly a hobby open to anyone.

    1. Paul, thanks for your comment.
      I think you might be right, I see the same self fulfilling prophecy in software development.
      It would be nice to have numbers: the number of men and women playing RPGs, how women view RPGs, etc.


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