5e D&D by Wizards of the Coast
Greetings, I decided to tackle a topic that is controversial in the D&D/ttrpg sphere in this installment – Humanoids & Inherent Evilness. I will also touch upon the often interconnected issue the alleged “racism” represented by these races.
I will be 48yo this year (2020) so I grew up with D&D and other fantasy RPGs that utilized the tropes that Orcs and other Humanoid races are often inherently evil – PCs of said races might exist but they are exceptions to the rule.
Now days younger or more “woke” older players take issue with the whole concept of “Inherent Evilness”. They often see it as racist and often see the use of “coded”
language to describe them as problematic because it endorses (in their opinion) colonialism – the whole “taming the Wilderness and pacifying the Savages” thing.
Often they will point to an obscure letter by J.R.R. Tolkien to prove the point.
Their position is that there should be no inherently evil sentient humanoid races and using problematic language used by colonialism should be banned.
I am fairly liberal on social issues so this kind of policing of a hobby and attempts to pressure companies into compliance rubs me the wrong way. I have gotten into arguments on Twitter over this recently.
That said I do understand the reasoning behind it and my stance has been there isn’t a problem with Humanoids being inherently evil. The core reason is that they are fictional races and most fantasy ttrpg fans never remotely considered these races as “coded” as POC.
Add to that my ancestors the Anglo-Saxons, Bretons, Gaels and Nordic Folks were seen as “savages”, “Barbarian” and “Godless Heathens” by imperialist colonizers and Christian/Muslim spiritual leaders.
When I picture Humanoids I often draw from my own “Barbarian” ancestry to “code” these races. I would never consider seeing them as coded as POC as I have a deep respect for them and their cultures.
I abhor the injustices that they have historically suffered under and still currently suffer under in Western society.
5e D&D by Wizards of the Coast
This all said even though in my current setting I do consider most humanoid races as inherently evil, Orcs and Ogres are not. As my setting is inspired by and rooted in OD&D tropes.
I wanted to skew towards those tropes for the upcoming campaign to get back to the roots of OS D&D but also take a break from modern D&D tropes.
Once I begin working on my own rule set inspired by both OD&D and Chainmail I will be taken a totally different tact.
I am a fan of Wizards of the Coast’s 3.5 D&D campaign setting Eberron especially it’s novel line.
I love how they were moving beyond the post-OD&D ALL Humanoid races are inherently evil. I also loved how they actually developed civilizations for them tied to the very history of the setting.
I am also a HUGE fan of Elder Scrolls Skyrim for those very same reasons. I often played Orc and Dark Elf characters when I played.
As such these properties and others like the Iron Kingdoms will inform my newest setting. I will be developing cultures and civilizations for my versions of the humanoid races for my campaign.
That also means reevaluating how they are envisioned both visually and culturally represented in my setting.
My Humanoids will NOT be inherently evil or default as “savage barbaric tribal races”… not based on wokeness but because it is boring and I will have run a previous campaign rooted in that trope.
I love how OD&D and Chainmail really didn’t describe their Humanoids for the most part and included in the rules the option that players could PLAY anything even Dragons & Balrogs – But I am not going that far.
5e D&D by Wizards of the Coast
Now that I have covered how my future campaign setting will include non inherently evil humanoid races – however I will have humanoid shaped inherently evil monsters. They are lesser infernal beings who escaped from the Mythic Underworld and plague the surface world.
Unlike Humanoids in my setting they don’t have cultures – they are malice and chaos in its darkest most evil form. Their sole driving passion is causing pain, death and destruction.
They do not create they destroy.
“But Ezra, that is using colonialist coded language used to demonize POC”.
So? It was used to describe my ancestors too and still are. How many films, novels & tv shows portray them as often vicious barbarians?
We need to reclaim language and understand the context of the use of the words. Not just assume malice is behind them.
As I have said my Humanoids are going to be fully realized people with cultures and civilizations that played apart in the history of the setting.
But there needs to be a threat that causes them and humanity to mostly unite against it.
Monsters and these infernal beings are that threat. They are denizens of the Mythic Underworld who broke free and are causing mayhem, death and destruction.
These are not a race unlike humanity, Demi humans and Humanoids are with diverse cultures and civilizations that they have built.
They are demonic/infernal creatures born from the darkest voids of primal chaos.
The above races are their prey. Period. End stop.
There are only three reactions for these infernal beings – I have easier prey, I am currently sated or kill/consume.
Instead of taming the Wilderness, pacifying savages and looting tombs the players will be reclaiming lands, recovering lost treasures and fighting monsters – who are often aligned to either Law or Chaos.
The world is a battleground between the forces of Law AND Chaos. Both are very real potential threats – depending on the being or organization encountered. They could be hostile or benign in nature.
That said they will also have to deal with human/humanoid evil as well.
As such, some of our real world issues like colonialism, slavery and related issues will play out in the background of the setting in which the players may choose to engage or ignore.
These themes will be ALSO found within the humanoid cultures as well. Nobody is immune from these things. I want to create a vibrant setting for my players to engage with and not including such things feels wrong in my book.
BUT I will endeavor to treat them in a respectful way.
To summarize I think D&D and similar ttrpgs have room for traditional D&D fantasy tropes, as well as what some would refer wrongly as overly “Woke SJW politicalization” of D&D (I DON’T see it as such, but my politics and mentality have shifted too).
I am going to run games that I prefer to run. In most of them Humanoids are not just playable races but their cultures are NOT inherently evil in nature. I love Orcs, Goblins and Tieflings. Bite me if that offends you. Please take care, fin.