More Culture/Subculture Clash in D&D.

I’m going to try to break this down and get into why inclusivity is important in the Dungeons & Dragons fan community and the larger tabletop RPG community as a whole. Bigotry needs to stop. Gatekeeping needs to stop.


How did I not see this coming?

Of course Wizards of the Coast announcing the change of “Races” to “Species” in One D&D has caused an absolute uproar among the Old Grognards and edgelords in the #ttrpgcommunity. Why not? It’s one more thing to freak out about. We couldn’t possibly have a nice, calm, quiet, pleasant holiday season without some kind of major uproar in the gaming community. Could we?

This is me.

It’s a little hard for me to chime in on this given I’m a.) older; b.) White; c.) presumed cishet since I have 4 kids; d.) presumed conservative; and e.) presumed Christian (*Because I’m a white guy in Iowa. You’d think we non-Christian liberals would have all fled the state by now.) I find it makes it a little hard to chime in when the TableTop RolePlaying Game Old School Revival/Renaissance/Re-whatever subculture starts popping off of the latest changes in Dungeons & Dragons.

News Flash: Wizards of the Coast owns Dungeons & Dragons.
Let that sink in for a moment. It’s well known fact. It’s their game. It’s their intellectual property.

WotC is free to do as they please with their intellectual property. We can cry all day about the changes. It’s not going to matter.

We can change anything we want at our own tables. There are no D&D nomenclature police that will come to your house and tell you how to run your game. Use whatever terms you like at home with your group. WotC does not care what you do at home in your basement with your group. WotC changes official rules, terms, names, etc. You never have to use them in your own private gaming group if you don’t want to.

It was inevitable that changing “Races” to “Species” would cause an uproar in the D&D and RPG communities.

I think it took all of seconds for people to go barking mad about the changes. We got to hear the litany of:

You can’t tell me how to run my game.
I’m just going to play older editions.
Stupid woke kids and their stupid woke game.
It’s not even D&D any more.
Everything since Third Edition is just garbage.
Liberals are ruining the game.
If you can’t handle it, you should make your own game.
Just play Pathfinder.

It makes me laugh because these kinds of comments come from roughly the same bunch of people every stinkin time. You see it on social media, YouTube, blogs, and in comments on other peoples’ posts too.

There’s been some positive feedback.

I have seen some constructive comments aimed at WotC by people who mean well for the game. Whether WotC is listening might be another story for later. Overall, the D&D fans seem to be of the consensus that “species” is okay, but origin, ancestry, or legacy might sound better.

Really it doesn’t matter what they end up calling it. As long as we know elf from human from beholderkin, who cares? WotC and a large part of the D&D fan base have all agreed that the term “race” had to go. We have too many issues involving race in the real world just among humans.

Some Sociological/Anthropological perspective.

I’ll put up a more detailed table somewhere down the road, but here’s how I kinda break it down:

The tabletop RPG community as a whole is a culture unto itself. We all recognize the common trappings, items, language, common customs, smaller social groupings within the whole, and so forth. Right?

From there we get circles within circles that make a standard Venn diagram look like someone was testing a bingo dauber. It gets a little complicated quickly.

Let’s take what I call the D&D subculture as a large grouping underneath the TTRPG community. There are still a LOT of people still within this group. D&D turns 50 years old soon. At this stage, anyone who participates in or identifies with any edition of D&D or its various retro clones can still be considered a part of the D&D fan community.

So far nothing exclusive or cliquish has come up. It’s till a fairly large group that you could find at a convention, on social media, or even on a Saturday at the friendly local game store. We all love RPGs. We all like or have at least played D&D. Then from there it starts getting tricky.

(*I don’t have definitive numbers nor have I done any kind of official study on this subject, so please be kind.)

More on this tomorrow. Thanks for stopping by. I promise there’s more to unpack on this topic.

Author: Jeff Craigmile

I'm a tabletop role-playing game writer and designer from Des Moines, Iowa. I'm the father of four boys and human to three cats.

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