As a game heavily nuanced by race systems, it is but inevitable that stereotypes exist specific to the different races. For example, any DnD player or enthusiast will know that Bards are typically silly, lascivious creatures while Barbarians are generally all brawn and no brain. The key words in the last sentence are “typically” and “generally”, and it is very important that we do not overgeneralise anyone, be it people or Bards or Barbs or Orcs. Speaking about Orcs, their situation appears to be getting some improvement, as DnD‘s new book, Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, now has an alternative orc race who are not evil, violent meatheads by nature.
The Orcs of Exandria
There are three new subclasses and four new subraces and in the new campaign in Wildemount. One of the new additions is the race called the Orcs of Exandria. They are not characteristically Chaotic Evil, neither are they wielders of a supernatural power which provokes them to be bloodthirsty murderers and purveyors of violence. No, these Orcs can feel empathy, compassion, and love just like any other race. Unlike traditional Orcs, the Orcs of Exandria do not suffer with an inherently low Intelligent stat. Moreover, they don't possess the "Menacing" trait which grants an automatic proficiency in Intimidation. Rather, this alternate race of Orcs can be skilled at Animal Handling, Survival, Medicine, Perception, Insight, and Intimidation (yes, the last one too if you wish).
Let's not start bashing DnD for being racist and allowing the proliferation of such stereotypes. Yes, the whole race system itself is controversial. However, as a role-playing game, DnD is of course mirroring real life, taking on the concepts which have become normalised through literature, media, and history. For example, J.R.R. Tolkien has characteristically used Orcs and Goblins as evil minions. This falls under the "Othering" theory. Basically, we "Other" someone, or some group, intentionally or otherwise, by thinking of them as some distant entity that is very different from us, very different from the norm.
The Map Of Exandria
Fighting The Grand-Narrative
However, in the 21st century, such biased ethnocentrism must give way to acceptance of variation. We shouldn't marginalise and exoticise. Rather, we should appreciate difference -- whether it be difference of skin color or difference of ideology or difference of character races in an RPG like DnD. Of course, it's just a game, but games are an excellent source (either positively or negatively) of dispersing rhetoric. Thus, a good step is to chip away at these racial stereotypes, and Explorer's Guide to Wildemount has taken one such step in that direction with the humanization of Orcs. Again, it's not essential that all races be equal. Rather, there shouldn't be set patterns for each race. Instead, variation should be encouraged within the race.
Besides this new debunking of stereotypes, there is great excitement about the new book, Explorer's Guide to Wildemount. You can buy it on Amazon here:
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