D&D should be for everyone, not just white men

  • by: Josh Fox
  • target: Greg Leeds, CEO of Wizards of the Coast

Summary


Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is the single most famous roleplaying game in the world, the route most people got into the hobby, and the flagship of the hobby. So it's a tragedy that the game is pushing away potential fans through artwork and even game text that is overwhelmingly focused on one customer: the white male. This petition calls on Wizards of the Coast to improve this for the next edition of D&D.

 






















                • We want to see artwork that reflects the diversity of the real world























 






















                • As a minimum, 50% of people depicted should be female























 






















                • As a minimum 20% should be non-white (in line with the population of the USA)






















 






















                • Such characters should be portrayed [edited to add:] as respectfully on average as white male characters - not just as submissive weaklings or semi-nude eye candy (e.g. chainmail bikinis) [/edit]























 






















                • WotC should lose the text that describes demihuman races as exclusively pale-skinned.























Please sign this petition if you agree.


 

More detail for the curious cat


60% of images in D&D 4th edition (specifically the DMG, PHB, PHB2 and Adventurer's Vault) were of men[1]. On a range of measures designed to pick up on sexist depictions (active vs neutral stance, whether the character was fully dressed and whether the image was sexually suggestive) D&D scored badly, with well over a third of images hitting any given measure of sexism[1].


There was only one image of a non-white human character in the D&D 4th edition core books[2], and across the core books of all four numbered editions of D&D only two non-white human characters depicted [2,3]. Even the nonhuman races seem to be dominated by paler skin tones; looking at the playlet material for D&D Next, the nonhuman races available to play were stipulated as having skin tones consistent with a white human, with the possible exception of dwarves who are permitted to be "light brown"[4].


It's only a fantasy. But it's our fantasy and we can make it whatever we want. Everyone should be able to open a D&D book and not feel excluded. Wizards of the Coast are very likely saying behind closed doors "white male heroes is what our fanbase wants". Well, then it's up to us, as the fanbase, to tell them they're wrong about that.


 D&D Next is in development right now. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape the game. Most of the buzz has concentrated on mechanics. But there's no reason why the game can't take leaps forward on diversity as well.


 What we are asking for


We the undersigned call upon Wizards of the Coast to make D&D Next at least as diverse as the real world. We want to see men and women of all colours in the artwork. And we want the fantasy races to reflect the full palette of human experience, too. Even though some of us are white men, we aren't going to be put off our hobby by images of people that aren't - in fact, just the opposite.


The USA represents the biggest market for D&D at the time of writing. As such, this petition proposes a minimum standard that reflects the demographics of the US. 50% of images containing a humanoid creature should be female, and where applicable 20% should be non-white. It is also important that these images should avoid displaying these characters as submissive or weak, or at least no more so than white males. Finally, text describing demihumans should be rewritten to make them as diverse as the people who play the game - not restricted to white skin-tones.


[1] From Anna Kreider's article here: http://www.pelgranepress.com/?p=3501


[2] Robert Sullivan's video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utsvMDewdUA&feature=plcp


[3] Chris Van Dyke's article here: http://raceindnd.wordpress.com/2008/11/18/nerd-nite-presentation-november-18th-2008/


[4] Chris Stone-Bush's article here: http://www.doucheydm.com/?p=1043


[Edited to add FAQ]


So, here is my rapidly-developing FAQ on this petition.

Q D&D is medieval European fantasy, so you are making ridiculous demands

A In fact, the D&D books say that humans come in all shades from lily white to almost completely black. So D&D is meant to have nonwhite people in it. In any case, the vanilla D&D background is pretty vague, and from the monster list you could deduce that there are non-European themes (rakshasa, mummy, etc). So the petition isn't asking D&D to go against its background at all - rather, it is asking D&D to live up to what it says in the text.

Q Why are you including specific numbers, isn't that rather superficial? And why US figures?

A I started out with a vague "please make D&D art more diverse" plea, but it needed something specific for WotC to aim for. The petition does say "as a minimum" because I don't regard these numbers as a particularly high bar. The wording of the petition makes it clear that I'm not just saying "do this by the numbers" but rather do it respectfully. And, having decided to ask for specific numbers I went for US figures because that's where most of the audience is (I myself live in the UK). Neither decision was easy.
 

Oh, and by the way someone suggested the numbers were just for black people. Not so, they're for any nonwhite people. (Apologies for the term nonwhite, by the way - it just seems to be the least offensive term I can pick without listing all ethnicities evar.) Again, this is a very low bar. Yes, there is room for interpretation here, is Osama Bin Laden white or whatever - but it would be hard to do worse than they're doing right now.


Q You say whites aren't put off by nonwhite images, why are you assuming the reverse isn't true?

A Mainly because I read at least one article from a dude who said he felt alienated by the white-only art. There's been one comment on this thread saying the same. But the truth is that the statement about "we won't be put off" was not intended to be a statement of fact per se, but a statement of intent by the signatories of the petition. In fact everything in the petition is only what the signatories are saying, in effect.

Q Why a petition, not a polite letter?

A If you read the article (http://www.wizards.com/DnD/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4dreye/20120502) by the lead D&D art guy, you'll see that he's heard these arguments before and dismissed them on grounds of commercial considerations. In other words, our fans want semi nude chicks so that is what we shall give them (he didn't actually address race in the article). Well, I figure a petition is just a polite letter signed by lots of fans. It's the most efficient way to argue against him - show that he actually has commercial reasons to fix this problem.

Q You shouldn't try to force your views on others. Let WotC write the game they want to write.

A I agree! This petition isn't legally binding, and nobody is compelled to sign it. Though of course, I would argue that you should sign it.

WotC is a commercial operation. I believe that if enough people tell them they want something, they'll give that thing to them. But they don't have to - if artistic integrity comes into play (i.e. they strongly feel that D&D should only have white people and lightly clad women in the art) then perhaps they will ignore the petition. That is their right.     






Dear Greg Leeds

As you may be aware, hundreds of gamers have signed a petition calling on Wizards of the Coast to up their game on diversity. Previous editions of Dungeons & Dragons have contained art that predominantly featured white characters, usually male, or where female, often lightly clad and suggestively posed.

The petition calls on you as CEO to make sure that the new edition of D&D sets a higher standard - for at least 50% of the characters to be female, at least 20% non-white, and all to be portrayed as respectfully as their white male counterparts, not as submissive weaklings or semi-nude eye candy. We're also asking for you to lose text from previous editions that described all demi-humans as pale-skinned.

It's understandable that historically, D&D has followed the traditions of fantasy art, which have focused on the white male hero and the adoring damsel in distress. But we're long past those days, and there are new audiences who are looking to D&D as the flagship of the roleplaying hobby to set an example. During the research for this petition I have spoken to gamers of all backgrounds who feel embarrassed to pick up a copy of D&D because of the images it contains. Worse, I have spoken to gamers who feel excluded because their ethnic background or gender is presented badly - or not at all - in your games.

If you're sceptical about D&D's record, I suggest that you read the articles linked to in the petition promotion text, which I have attached to this letter. Likewise, you may wonder why we picked those percentages. Of course, they are arbitrary. But they're also pretty easy to meet.

I have heard some encouraging noises from the D&D Next design team which makes me hope that the new edition will be an improvement. But as CEO, I hope you'll take the time following this petition to review the planned artwork and consider - is it really fit for a 21st century D&D?

Thankyou for taking the time to read this.

Yours sincerely

Josh Fox

AKA Rabalias of the Black Armada gaming blog
 

------



Summary


Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is the single most famous roleplaying game in the world, the route most people got into the hobby, and the flagship of the hobby. So it's a tragedy that the game is pushing away potential fans through artwork and even game text that is overwhelmingly focused on one customer: the white male. This petition calls on Wizards of the Coast to improve this for the next edition of D&D.



  • We want to see artwork that reflects the diversity of the real world



  • As a minimum, 50% of people depicted should be femaleAs a minimum 20% should be non-white (in line with the population of the USA)



  • Such characters should be portrayed as respectfully on average as white male characters - not just as submissive weaklings or semi-nude eye candy (e.g. chainmail bikinis)



  • WotC should lose the text that describes demihuman races as exclusively pale-skinned.


Please sign this petition if you agree.



More detail for the curious cat


60% of images in D&D 4th edition (specifically the DMG, PHB, PHB2 and Adventurer's Vault) were of men[1]. On a range of measures designed to pick up on sexist depictions (active vs neutral stance, whether the character was fully dressed and whether the image was sexually suggestive) D&D scored badly, with well over a third of images hitting any given measure of sexism[1].


There was only one image of a non-white human character in the D&D 4th edition core books[2], and across the core books of all four numbered editions of D&D only two non-white human characters depicted [2,3]. Even the nonhuman races seem to be dominated by paler skin tones; looking at the playlet material for D&D Next, the nonhuman races available to play were stipulated as having skin tones consistent with a white human, with the possible exception of dwarves who are permitted to be "light brown"[4].


It's only a fantasy. But it's our fantasy and we can make it whatever we want. Everyone should be able to open a D&D book and not feel excluded. Wizards of the Coast are very likely saying behind closed doors "white male heroes is what our fanbase wants". Well, then it's up to us, as the fanbase, to tell them they're wrong about that.


D&D Next is in development right now. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape the game. Most of the buzz has concentrated on mechanics. But there's no reason why the game can't take leaps forward on diversity as well.



What we are asking for


We the undersigned call upon Wizards of the Coast to make D&D Next at least as diverse as the real world. We want to see men and women of all colours in the artwork. And we want the fantasy races to reflect the full palette of human experience, too. Even though some of us are white men, we aren't going to be put off our hobby by images of people that aren't - in fact, just the opposite.


The USA represents the biggest market for D&D at the time of writing. As such, this petition proposes a minimum standard that reflects the demographics of the US. 50% of images containing a humanoid creature should be female, and where applicable 20% should be non-white. It is also important that these images should avoid displaying these characters as submissive or weak, or at least no more so than white males. Finally, text describing demihumans should be rewritten to make them as diverse as the people who play the game - not restricted to white skin-tones.


[1] From Anna Kreider's article here: http://www.pelgranepress.com/?p=3501


[2] Robert Sullivan's video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utsvMDewdUA&feature=plcp


[3] Chris Van Dyke's article here: http://raceindnd.wordpress.com/2008/11/18/nerd-nite-presentation-november-18th-2008/


[4] Chris Stone-Bush's article here: http://www.doucheydm.com/?p=1043



FAQ

Q D&D is medieval European fantasy, so you are making ridiculous demands

A In fact, the D&D books say that humans come in all shades from lily white to almost completely black. So D&D is meant to have nonwhite people in it. In any case, the vanilla D&D background is pretty vague, and from the monster list you could deduce that there are non-European themes (rakshasa, mummy, etc). So the petition isn't asking D&D to go against its background at all - rather, it is asking D&D to live up to what it says in the text.

Q Why are you including specific numbers, isn't that rather superficial? And why US figures?

A I started out with a vague "please make D&D art more diverse" plea, but it needed something specific for WotC to aim for. The petition does say "as a minimum" because I don't regard these numbers as a particularly high bar. The wording of the petition makes it clear that I'm not just saying "do this by the numbers" but rather do it respectfully. And, having decided to ask for specific numbers I went for US figures because that's where most of the audience is (I myself live in the UK). Neither decision was easy.


Oh, and by the way someone suggested the numbers were just for black people. Not so, they're for any nonwhite people. (Apologies for the term nonwhite, by the way - it just seems to be the least offensive term I can pick without listing all ethnicities evar.) Again, this is a very low bar. Yes, there is room for interpretation here, is Osama Bin Laden white or whatever - but it would be hard to do worse than they're doing right now.


Q You say whites aren't put off by nonwhite images, why are you assuming the reverse isn't true?

A Mainly because I read at least one article from a dude who said he felt alienated by the white-only art. There's been one comment on this thread saying the same. But the truth is that the statement about "we won't be put off" was not intended to be a statement of fact per se, but a statement of intent by the signatories of the petition. In fact everything in the petition is only what the signatories are saying, in effect.

Q Why a petition, not a polite letter?

A If you read the article (http://www.wizards.com/DnD/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4dreye/20120502) by the lead D&D art guy, you'll see that he's heard these arguments before and dismissed them on grounds of commercial considerations. In other words, our fans want semi nude chicks so that is what we shall give them (he didn't actually address race in the article). Well, I figure a petition is just a polite letter signed by lots of fans. It's the most efficient way to argue against him - show that he actually has commercial reasons to fix this problem.

Q You shouldn't try to force your views on others. Let WotC write the game they want to write.

A I agree! This petition isn't legally binding, and nobody is compelled to sign it. Though of course, I would argue that you should sign it.

WotC is a commercial operation. I believe that if enough people tell them they want something, they'll give that thing to them. But they don't have to - if artistic integrity comes into play (i.e. they strongly feel that D&D should only have white people and lightly clad women in the art) then perhaps they will ignore the petition. That is their right.

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