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View Full Version : Roll to Save vs. Prejudice: An academic study of race in D&D [Seeking Informants!]



WhiteKnight777
2015-02-24, 11:24 AM
Hello, folks! Iím WhiteKnight777, a long-time forum resident, gamer, and, more recently, graduate student. Iím working on my thesis, which investigates how playing D&D affects the way people perceive race. Since most roleplaying games include ďraceĒ as one of the basic components of a character, itís something that every gamer interacts with. But how does race in-game affect how we look at race in real life, or vice-versa? Why do we choose to play a certain race in-game, and not another?

These are the kinds of questions Iím hoping to answer with my research, and Iím hoping some of you will be willing to help. although I'm happy to talk about race in all sorts of games, my thesis is specifically investigating player experiences with D&D, as a way of refining the focus of the study. Participants will be asked to participate in a brief interview, about thirty minutes or so. Some questions will include general inquiries into your gaming habits, such as what types of games you like to play and how you choose which games to participate in. Others will ask about how you interact with the idea of race within the game, and how much ďbleedĒ there is between game and real life perceptions of race.

These interviews will take place a time of your convenience via Skype (text only) or the chat client of your choice. Your participation is voluntary, and you can terminate it at any time, or choose not to answer any questions you wish. If you want to participate, or if you have any questions about your participation, please contact me via PM or at [email protected] You must be at least 18 to participate, because I'm only authorized to interview legal adults (I don't need you to provide ID or anything, though.) You can also ask questions right here in the thread. And finally, thank you for your time!

Note to Mods: I asked Roland ahead of time about this ad, and he gave me permission to post this thread here. Thanks for all your hard work!

Khedrac
2015-02-25, 07:49 AM
I'm not in a position to contribute via Skype, but can I refer you to a line in one of the early Discworld books by Terry Pratchett:

Racism had never gained much of a following on the Disc, where speciesism was so much more interesting. Black and white got together and ganged up on green.

Part of it is the old question between Race, Breed and Species. Most rpg "races" are really separate species, with the rest being "breeds" - it's a different meaning to the race of racism.

WhiteKnight777
2015-02-25, 01:53 PM
That's actually one of the points I'm pursuing with the research - D&D doesn't really distinguish, at least in the core content, between race and species. Is that significant?

By the way, the Skype participation doesn't mean voice chat or anything. Any IM-type method of communication is fine.

theMycon
2015-02-26, 02:26 PM
Well, since they can interbreed freely*, they're the same species, at least biologically. Race is the right word here.


*at least everything can breed with humans, it's explicitly stated that half-elves/orcs/dragons breed true, there's no reason to suspect other mixes don't, and ring species are a thing.

Feddlefew
2015-02-26, 06:02 PM
Well, since they can interbreed freely*, they're the same species, at least biologically. Race is the right word here.


*at least everything can breed with humans, it's explicitly stated that half-elves/orcs/dragons breed true, there's no reason to suspect other mixes don't, and ring species are a thing.

I suspect humans are the Ur-Humanoid species, since they can interbreed with every other humanoid and are explicitly stated to be genetically diverse. They're also the onley ones explicitly without a patron deity, unlike every other race.

I suspect divine tampering.

The Glyphstone
2015-02-26, 07:44 PM
I suspect humans are the Ur-Humanoid species, since they can interbreed with every other humanoid and are explicitly stated to be genetically diverse. They're also the onley ones explicitly without a patron deity, unlike every other race.

I suspect divine tampering.

Human: Hey elf, you look like a girl.
Elf: To a human, everything must look like a girl.
Human: What?
Elf: Half-orcs, half-ogres...
Human: ...shut up.
Dwarf: Half-dragons, half-kobolds.
Human: I said shut up!
Elf: ...
Dwarf: ...
Human: ...
Elf: Centaurs...

WhiteKnight777
2015-03-30, 12:11 PM
I just want to thank everybody who's been kind enough to offer feedback or give me their opinion in interviews. Things have been pretty crazy around here, what with getting pulled in last-minute to help out with academic conferences and other such stuff. But I just want to let you know that the project is still going forward, and to anyone who's interested, my thesis will be posted online for public consumption, hopefully sometime early this summer.

I'm also still looking for informants to interview, if anyone's interested. More data is always useful!

Maglubiyet
2015-03-30, 12:40 PM
What an awesome topic! I've been playing D&D since it first came out in the 70's and have watched the evolution of this over the years.

Everyone probably already knows this, but originally you could only be a very small handful of races while all other creatures were "monsters". In 2e they published the supplements, the Complete Book of Humanoids and Monster Mythology, that fleshed out some of the monsters as PC options. This was extremely exciting because most of us were already doing it on our own to some degree or another and now it was "official".

In 3e they greatly expanded the rules allowing for hundreds of playable races. Everyone takes it for granted now, but it's a huge jump from the original game.

I think race in RPG's has often been used as a simple shorthand for culture or ethnicity. Nowadays it tends to be more representative of personality.

Aside from non-human races, if you look back at the older game supplements you'll find a lot of things we would probably consider overtly racist. The Oriental Adventures module is one example -- back in the 80's they would explicitly refer to some human characters as "oriental".