#RPGaDAY 2: Change

Day 2 of #RPGaDAY 2020. Today’s prompt is ‘Change’.

Movies and games are not the only sectors undergoing cultural upheaval at the moment. RPGs are another sector that has been overwhelmingly dominated by white heterosexual cisgendered men ever since its inception over 40 years ago. And its source material, fantasy novels, were also overwhelmingly written by the same demographic. Needless to say, there are tons of problematic concepts in RPGs, and tons of problematic people that have found a safe haven within the community. There are plenty of ‘missing stairs’, and there are plenty of people who will defend known abusers and patently racist content. I’m not going to give a whole list, but there’s a lot of stuff going on.
But it is also heartening that people are not taking it any more. People are called out and held accountable. Non-white creators are making more and more ripples in the indie scene, and more and more games are being created with explicitly diverse settings and backgrounds. There’s a lot of progress being made, but sadly there is also a lot of resistance by types who don’t seem to recognise that the RPG community has to change in order to grow the hobby.

Fantasy racism is just boring, and why would we limit our imagination or the types of stories that are told? The point of RPGs is precisely that you don’t have to.

3 thoughts on “#RPGaDAY 2: Change

  1. I think you’re absolutely right in focusing on the indie scene as the source of more inclusion here. That’s also why it’s such a shame that D&D is the gateway into RPGs for most people: there are so many indie RPGs that more interestingly engage with material and provide more alternative viewpoints.

    I wonder if it would be feasible to make a module/adventure prompt without any character illustrations, and intentionally ambigious character descriptions, to allow individuals greater freedom in tailoring their own experiences. For instance, a character name of “Alex”, which could be both male or female in US english, just something like “The Groundskeeper”—who knows what ethnicity or gender they are? It could be anything you’d like. Maybe even just giving prompts for NPCs: “The Sales Clerk is snippy, arrogant, and cocky. Never seen out of perfectly neat attire, the Sales Clerk should comment on the PCs sloppiness at any moment.”

    I think it’d be tricky to write something like that in a naturally flowing style, but it would be interesting to see what happens to those descriptions in play!

    1. I’ve actually thought about doing that for my scenarios. But something interesting happened: the players assumed that everyone they met was male. In response to that, I decided to specify the gender that every NPC presents themselves as, so that there is a healthy mix of people in various positions.

      I’m reminded of a group where the GM gender-swapped a whole scenario, which means that there was only a single man in the whole adventure — and the group was convinced this was the result of some sinister plot in the game world. A good demonstration of what is wrong with some published scenarios.

      1. I hadn’t considered that! The same method that will allow people to place themselves into a scenario would also give narrow-minded people the chance to write others out. Thanks for the perspective!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *