Woke in fantasyland: They’re coming for Dungeons & Dragons now and the entire fantasy genre next

“Core design elements” of the world’s most popular role playing game – you know, stuff like good and evil itself – must be changed to satisfy the woke generation, but we all know nothing will be enough because Dungeons & Dragons was dominated by white dudes, or something

“It’s a game that was dominated by white dudes for decades and, because of that, it’s got some baggage. Some of its concepts—evil races, descriptions of orcs and half-orcs that mirror racist stereotypes, and the concept of racial disadvantages—don’t make sense anymore in a modern context.”

– Mathew Gault, writing for Wired

Yes, the woke crowd is now officially invading fantasy land and their target is the mother of all role playing games, Dungeons & Dragons.  Apparently, no one has informed them that fantasy isn’t real.  Nothing in Dungeons & Dragons actually exists, but surely it is worthwhile to debate whether hypothetical evil races are woke enough.

Many of you are probably wondering what an ability score modifier even is:  Characters in Dungeons & Dragons each have scores for their key traits.  Strength or Intelligence for example, usually a number between 3 (the worst) and 18 (the best) for  a human. Being a fantasy game, players don’t have to be humans, however.  They can choose from a wide variety of races.  If you wish, you can play an elf, dwarf, or halfling, among many others. Because the different races have different traits – elves for example are fast on their feet but thinly built, dwarves on the other hand are hardy yet slow – their ability scores are modified slightly.  If the maximum human score is 18, an elf can have a 19 in a certain trait.  If the minimum is 3, a dwarf can have a 2 in another trait.

Does that sound horribly racist to you?  Even more astounding for people that claim to actually play the game, why even bother having different races at all without the modifiers? The whole point of the ability score modifiers is that the races in Dungeons & Dragons aren’t supposed to be the same.  Each has their own unique strengths and weaknesses. On average, elves are more agile than humans.  If you remove the modifier, they are no longer elves.  What’s the point in playing them? Apparently, the use of different fantasy races in general is a huge problem for the woke crowd. The game’s creators have actually issued a new book with new rules for races, making it clear that players have complete freedom to tailor their game the way they want.  As Wired reports, “Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, WtC’s new book that launches with alternatives to using race, opens with a page and a half that outlines new rules for using races.”

Daniel Kwan, co-host and producer of Dragon Talk, is quoted extensively in Wired.  Even he agrees, “The new supplemental rules in Tasha’s are nice in that they encourage more player choice and freedom in the character-creation process.” Of course, as is always the case with wokesters, it’s never enough.  Kwan continued, “While players are now explicitly encouraged to swap ability score bonuses and languages in Tasha’s, this really doesn’t address the root problem—essentialism in how D&D races are portrayed. They simply tell players and DMs to ignore the problems without actually solving them.” Yes, “race essentialism” is apparently a new thing, invented out of whole cloth to demonize a fantasy world.  The only problem is:  Different races are essential to fantasy itself, the same as aliens are essential to most science fiction.  Technically speaking, the word races is used incorrectly.  We’re really talking about different species, with completely different origins.

Since J.R.R. Tolkien invented the modern fantasy genre with The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, almost every fantasy novel or game has featured different races with different traits.  These races usually arise separately, often in different time periods, and do not share a common ancestor. They are usually so different that an elf, for example, lives for thousands of years and doesn’t sleep. If you remove that concept, the essential nature of fantasy itself ceases to exist. This is especially true of the “evil races.”  Dungeons & Dragons is a world founded on traditional notions good and evil.  The gods actually exist, usually each race has their own set of gods.  There are, of course, dragons and vampires, demons and devils, knights and wizards, basically every mythological creature you can think of and then some.

Each of these creatures has what’s known as an alignment:  Good, evil, or neutral. If the evil races aren’t evil anymore, what are they?  If the good races aren’t good anymore, then who do they face off against?  Does everyone just get together and sing John Lennon’s Imagine and have group sex in a communist utopia?

Of particular concern:  Some of these evil races use what the woke crowd is calling racial stereotypes.  For example, Orion Black, who worked for WotC as a freelancer from 2019 to 2020, claims, “If you read the half-orc section from The Player’s Handbook, it uses language that is nearly one to one with language specifically used against inbreeding between black people and people of color. It sounds like I’m reading something about a black and white person from 1945.” What does the handbook actually say?  “Their human blood gives them an edge over their full-blooded orc rivals. Half-orcs’ grayish pigmentation, sloping foreheads, jutting jaws, prominent teeth, and towering builds make their orcish heritage plain for all to see.” Somehow, that’s a description of a black person?  Because they’re tall?  Because the forehead is sloped?  No other creature on Earth better fits that description?

Interestingly, others have complained that orcs are caricatures of Asian descent because of a note from J.R.R. Tolkien, who created the modern concept in Lord of the Rings.  In a private letter, Tolkien wrote that orcs were “squat, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant eyes: in fact degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types.” Tolkien himself had strongly anti-racist views, however, especially for the time.  When they wanted to bring The Hobbit to Germany, the publisher asked him if he had any Jewish ancestry.  His response was to soundly mock them, claiming he had no such noble blood. Of course, like most mythological monsters the orcs have animalistic traits.  From the minotaur (body of a man with the head of a bull) to the harpy (face and chest of a human female, wings and claws of a bird), legends have always depicted both good and evil creatures as blending human and animal features.  The orcs themselves couldn’t be more obviously inspired by the great apes, complete with large fangs and wide mouths, often hairy and usually with long arms and a stooped gait.  

The truth is:  It’s never about merely a change to this or a change to that, some of which is warranted for a 40 year old game as it would be for a 40 year old anything, but rather they are calling for a wholesale rewrite of everything.  A total transformation if you will. Austin Walker unwittingly admits the truth right here:  “D&D fifth edition is a game about killing people.  I believe that to address the question of evil races, you need to revisit that as a core design element. Because dungeon masters around the world want a reason to kick in the door and kill people. That design requires antagonists for whom the solution of killing makes sense. When you have an evil race, that’s very easy to do. I don’t know that putting out a side book that says, ‘Oh, there’s no more evil races,’ is going to change the play.”

Translation:  The game, indeed the entire genre of fantasy, as it has been known and loved for decades can no longer be tolerated.  The “core design elements” of good versus evil are no longer acceptable, whatever the publishers do. The sad irony of all this is that fantasy, at least since Tolkien, has always been a relatively progressive genre.  The elves and dwarves are naturally skeptical of one another, but end up putting aside their differences to forge a lasting friendship.  The scrawny, picked on youth grows up into a powerful wizard.  The halflings, despite their small stature and lack of respect, ultimately save the world.

Nothing can ever be enough, however.  The whole world must be rewritten to satisfy the woke.


1 thought on “Woke in fantasyland: They’re coming for Dungeons & Dragons now and the entire fantasy genre next”

  1. If a bunch of woke people want to get together and create a woke fantasy world and RPG in it & make up their own house rules eliminating race modifiers for “reasons” well let them do it. I don’t have to do that at my table with my friends.

    They can’t come for D&D since well I can do what I want with my own circle of players and friends.


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