Inclusion at the gaming table
Inclusion at the gaming table

Here’s some good resources if you want to make your gaming table more inclusive!

Some good questions to ask yourself about how inclusive your game is, and ways to fix them!

This Geek and Sundry article has 5 good tips for inclusion at your gaming table.

Your Best Game Ever has some really good advice for making everyone welcome at your table. Also, I wrote an article about how to develop your character’s “voice”, so you can check that out at the same time 🙂

The Gauntlet has some great tools, like lines and veils, to keep people safe and comfortable while they game.

The Dice Tower has a great video about Inclusive Gaming.

If you know of some more good resources, please post them in the comments and I’ll add them to the list!

News: Posted February 20th, 2020 by Alina

^ 31 Comments to “Inclusion at the gaming table”

  1. Wildstag Says:

    I’ll be honest, I’m not on board with the thought of “seeking approval” to play a fantasy race. If I was playing a D20Modern game where playing a dark-skinned character comes with real-world style interactions, it makes sense.

    But in a fantasy game where the cultures don’t really match anything on Earth, it’s hard to justify. At that point, it really does feel like a skin-deep issue, and not actually looking at the fantasy race on their own terms and merits. If I’m playing a dark-skinned Wood Elf, my character won’t have to face even a fraction of the difficulties an Afro-American has. And in a setting where skin-color doesn’t really matter, it’s less an issue.

    As for all-evil races, it makes sense as a simple change to existing lore. With current lore for races being “I made this creature in my image, and I am a malevolent deity”, it makes sense that there is a divine pull to be a certain way. It is also incredibly easy to just give such races a less boring background.

    Posted February 20th, 2020 at 9:33 pm
  2. Sarah Says:

    Thank you so much for making this comic, Alina.

    Posted February 21st, 2020 at 2:03 am
  3. Me Says:

    The idea that any race is “all-evil” is lazy writing. That implies the absence of free will and sentient thought.

    Posted February 21st, 2020 at 2:22 am
  4. Scia Says:

    Okay, definitely a good point on the alignment thing. XD; I can still see races being *predominantly* XYZ because of cultural reasons (which… has been the vibe *I* got? I’ll admit to being a relative newcomer, though ^_^; ), but yeah, free will is a thing.

    …still not ruling out the possibility of eugenics in some cultures, though. XD; I know it’s fantasy, but I prefer an element of realism, including touching on hard topics.

    Posted February 21st, 2020 at 4:30 am
  5. Bartimaeus Says:

    What changes did Katie want for Sarah’s character?

    Posted February 21st, 2020 at 4:34 am
  6. mersharr Says:

    I apologize in advance and will explain that I’m from Europe, in an area with little ethnic diversity, so my experience is very limited.
    I do not understand the deal with blackface. I understand the history of it, the character Blackface in American media of past decades. But isn’t there a difference between badly imitating ethnic characteristics to make fun of them (or in the belief that they can’t act, so “Caucasians” have to do it for them); and trying to represent a specific character out of admiration, including their ethnic characteristics? Isn’t it more offensive to deny a character’s ethnic background by representing them without it?

    Posted February 21st, 2020 at 4:37 am
  7. AtWork Says:

    I never understood the “this race is only good/this race is only evil” trope which seems to be abundant in D&D. I grew up playing different P&P originating in Germany. The most popular one, “The dark eye” never used alignment charts. They did have some problems too though with “wild races” like Orcs and Goblins basically being “hairy mongolians”, though that faded out quickly. But you could never expect a PC or NPC to behave like “X” just because they were of a certain race. Having an alignment sheet is nice for thinking/planning out a character concept, but it shouldn’t play any actual role in the game, IMHO.

    However, if you want a pure evil/pure good race, there’s plenty of logical choices that don’t come across as being racist. Undead. Demons of all sort. Angels/Celestial beings. Just make sure that these do not employ certain tropey things like “blonde hair and blue eyes” or “twisted dark hair”. Just make them non-humanoid, or fleshless, erase all the things that can (and will) be used to compare them to any real world civilization. Because even the most benign comparison usually drifts toward excluding people.

    If that fails – don’t use categorically good/evil characters. Period.

    Posted February 21st, 2020 at 6:36 am
  8. Blave Says:

    Alright I’m glad that there is an acknowledgement that changing the skin color doesn’t really do anything on it’s own.
    @Me I agree marking a whole race as “This thing” is pretty lazy. I do believe it’s okay if you have some sort or lore behind it though. Something along the lines of this race sided with the Lich King or whatever in the past. So all the other races still hate them for it, and because the discrimination still goes on they have become isolated and hostile towards the other races as well. As long as there is some history behind the relationships of the races I don’t really see the problem. This really wouldn’t make the whole race “X”, but it would give a reason behind why “this” is “that” way.
    As far as the whole Black Face thing goes. I don’t really care myself. Matter of fact I saw someone cosplay as Mr. Popo and I thought it was hilarious. (and yes I do know the history of Black Face)

    Posted February 21st, 2020 at 9:52 am
  9. Monte Cook brought out “Consent in Gaming” last year. Which is also a good reasource.

    https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/288535/Consent-in-Gaming

    Posted February 21st, 2020 at 10:43 am
  10. Cookie Ogre Says:

    Because Georgie Laforge is awesome, Abbie. Duh.

    Posted February 21st, 2020 at 11:41 am
  11. Derg Says:

    Making my group more inclusive taught me that everybody has the potential to be a game-shattering murderhobo. A revelation.

    Posted February 21st, 2020 at 5:07 pm
  12. DiploRaptor Says:

    I both kind of hated and loved this because it was an important message and needed to be said.
    Course most groups know to not have a race be always Chaotic Evil thankfully.
    Abbie does make a point but at least Purple isn’t as well offensive.

    Posted February 21st, 2020 at 5:37 pm
  13. Wildstag Says:

    I’m not sure I really understand the merits of asking permission from a poc about playing a darker-skinned character. In a D20Modern or Shadowrun game I can understand as those would be worlds with relatively contemporary worlds and modern outlooks.

    But playing an elf or dwarf with dark skin is like playing a dwarf or elf. They’re just dwarves or elves. It feels like reducing a fellow player to their skin color. Unless the character is facing discrimination in some way, skin color feel superfluous.

    The laziest part of this game’s design is definitely the mono-cultures though. Single-alignment races are one aspect of the game I am glad to leave in the past.

    Posted February 21st, 2020 at 8:08 pm
  14. Rose Says:

    Maybe we should stop calling them races, to begin with.
    They’re Species and subspecies.
    A black-furred catfolk is not a dark-skinned member of the species that we call homo sapiens. First of all the “black fur” is either extremely dark brown that could even be dark calico, secondly, the mechanisms that cause dark fur in cats are not the same that are found in homo sapiens.

    The problem with assigning characteristics to humans based on skin colour is that humans are all the same species.
    We’re all hairless apes.

    Take Pathfinder, the game that most people seem to be playing in this comic.
    Their elves are literal aliens. They’re from the next planet over.
    They also have their skin colour change based on environment, and not over eons but over a single lifetime of an individual.
    Elves who live in the ocean gain blue skin, elves who live in the snow are more pale, elves who live underground are darker.
    Hell all the darklands races range from pitch black (once again cosplaying as shadow Link, for example, isn’t blackface) to grey to purble to dark blue. However they all are along the lines of blending in with their surroundings, something that is known to be part of elven biology in Pathfinder.

    Posted February 21st, 2020 at 9:43 pm
  15. jesslc Says:

    Maybe I’m reading this comic differently to others but I think Sarah talking to Abbie and Katie first was specifically about wanting to play a Drow. I feel this is different to playing a dwarf or elf who just happened to have dark skin.

    It’s the reasons discussed on this page and the last page – about how problematic it is that the Drow were written as both dark skinned and always evil. The way that the bad/evil races in most fantasy worlds (historically, at least) are almost always dark skinned and coded as Asian or African, and the heroes are white and/or coded European.

    I’m sure Katie’s approach of never having any all-evil races in the games she runs is as much (or more) a part of dismantling the racist stereotypes that the Drow evoke, than giving Sarah’s Drow character purple skin.

    Thank you Alina for talking about this.

    Posted February 21st, 2020 at 11:16 pm
  16. jesslc Says:

    Posted February 21st, 2020 at 11:29 pm
  17. TB Says:

    I’ve seen some Geordi LaForge cosplayers, and all of them were playing him with their own skin color, not LeVar Burton’s. It was all about the costume.

    Posted February 22nd, 2020 at 12:56 am
  18. Sani2341 Says:

    @Wildstag
    I don’t realy understand that either. Then again at my table the policy usualy is ‘if there is something you dont want to See in this game, be it from me or other players let me know either before a session. Or point out after if you noticed something new/you didn’t think of’
    Because i know people will have vastly different ideas of what’s not okay. (i. E. This whole Arc) So instead of trying to guestimate, especially in online games, i ask people to *say* what they want avoided/can’t stand, preferably through pms unless they want to talk about it with the whole group.

    Of course this has bitten me in the ass once when in the middle of a Session of exalted one of the players felt that was the Best Moment to Tell everyone else he wasnt okay with the crazy sorceress PCs Plan for the City they stayed in. Despite her Player having talked about it at lenght with everyone since she got the idea for it months of irl time earlier.

    Posted February 22nd, 2020 at 3:03 am
  19. DiceRoller Says:

    This would never have been any other issue(other than the drow are lazily written) if the drow hadn’t been made dark-skinned. I can tell you that it would never have been an issue because orcs exist. Nobody in the real world is green-skinned (And that really just depends on how you flavor your orcs), so an automatically CHAOTIC evil, barbarian race of greenskin raiders that leave so many unwanted, nonconsenually fathered offspring that they get THEIR OWN HALF-BREED CHARACTER RACE in player handbook is never talked about. This is one of the reasons I would probably not ask permission from another player if its ok that I can play a non-human fantasy race. Now if I was going to play a human character and I had a cool idea for a human poc, then yes, I would probably run that by folks.

    Now that all being said, speaking as DM. Making races automatically evil/good is like what everyone else is saying, its amazingly lazy and in cases like this can make a player uncomfortable. A DM’s chief concern should be running a “fun” game and people can’t do that if something is making uncomfortable. Since all this stuff is made up, its super easy to change to allow your players have a good time.

    Posted February 22nd, 2020 at 5:53 am
  20. S Says:

    @mersharr
    Because the ethnic background of the character shouldn’t be part of their role/job/function/destiny-as-an-epic-hero.

    Geordi La Forge could have been Caucasian, Asian—it doesn’t matter. He could still be the same character, only that he would have been born in a different country/from different parents/etc.

    By integrating blackface to a costume, you’re conveying the message that the character’s ethnic background is so alien to yours that you might as well be different species. You wear cat’s ears to convey that you’re posing as a cat; you wear antennas to convey that you’re posing as a Znörg from planet XYZ; you… wear blackface to convey that you’re posing as an ethnically African person?

    But there’s nothing to “pose” for in the latter case. You’re both human beings! By wearing blackface, you negate that commonality. You choose instead to underline a perceived fundamental difference. From there, you stand but inches away from dehumanization, which directly relates to a history of slavery and genocide and to present-day atrocities. “They’re not like us.”

    If one day, we do meet Znörgs from planet XYZ and the human and Znörgian civilizations interact and bond, it would become offensive to wear antennas to convey that you’re “disguised as the Znörgian hero Xob”. Because you could simply wear Xob’s traditional outfit: that would be sufficient. But disguising as Xob AND “as a Znörgian” implies, again, that there is a deep ontological rift dividing the human and Znörgian natures. When there really shouldn’t be.

    Posted February 22nd, 2020 at 10:43 am
  21. ArdentSlacker Says:

    @Wildstag

    It’s about not being an ass to the players at the table, either intentionally or accidentally. Skin color makes a difference in the world because racist people make things harder for some people. When we get to a world where nobody would ever vote for a Trump, we can think about easing off on that. We don’t live in that world. So there are things we can do in fantasy that make people in the real world really fucking uncomfortable.

    Different context, someone plays a shapeshifter and, as a Loli, keeps hitting on players. Now, we have someone who is “just playing a fantasy character”, but they’re being That Guy. Some aren’t comfortable being hit on at the table in any context. Most aren’t comfortable with the child-like appearance of the character. You’d totally understand why That Guy would get kicked out of the group. They’re doing something that makes people at the table extremely uncomfortable. They don’t respect the others feelings, and are not showing anyone at the table any kind of respect.

    The game does not excuse YOU, the player, from needing to act like a decent human being to your fellow gamers. Your fun can not come at the expense of everyone else’s. That’s just basic decency and empathy.

    Posted February 22nd, 2020 at 11:17 am
  22. Thulcandran Says:

    @Wildstag, @Sani2341
    Again, I think it’s not “permission” or “correctness” here, but empathy for a friend. Sarah and Abbie are roommates, so I’m sure Sarah knows how this kind of thing has hurt Abbie before. If you were going to play, I don’t know, a rape victim whose quest was for vengeance, and you knew there was a friend in your group who had trauma along those lines, why not check with them to make sure they’ll be okay? Same if you’re the DM and you know a player has been hurt by othering – you’re not looking for permission, you’re trying to make sure you don’t hurt someone you care about.

    Posted February 22nd, 2020 at 12:05 pm
  23. Club Says:

    I think the permission thing directly comes from the fact that Abbie and Sarah are roommates and close friends. She KNOWS this is one of those things that upsets Abbie. Sarah is asking to be kind to her friend. She is aware of the affects that Drow have on her, and thus asked if there was something she could do so that Abbie would be comfortable at the table with it.

    And of course, with any character you should talk to your DM about it and how they feel about the concept of the character, even for a hijinks game.

    Posted February 22nd, 2020 at 3:03 pm
  24. Mturtle7 Says:

    This is quite a timely comic for me! Right now, in the D&D 5e campaign I’m running, I’m actually having a super fun time running my players through a mission for a faction of Drow refugees in Neverwinter. A couple weeks ago, I actually had the extremely pleasurable experience of COMPLETELY changing the way that one of my players viewed drow! I had just finished the scene where an old Drow arachnomancer/community leader explained the mission to them, and he just outright told me “You know, I never really considered playing a dark elf in D&D, but now I’m getting all sorts of cool ideas!” and I was SO HONORED!

    Like most D&D players I know these days, I’m pretty uncomfortable with the old Tolkien-esque premise of “inherently evil races”, but I do enjoy twisting around the stereotypes of the races so that people can still look at them and think, “oh yeah, classic [insert race here]”, but also think “wow, that’s super cool!” (as opposed to “my job is to kill that”).

    Honestly, I think Drow tropes in particular are super easy to make interesting and non-racist, since there’s just SO MUCH stuff about their classic lore which really just has nothing to do with evil. They’re as connected to the Underdark as Forest Elves are to the forest, they have a whole spider-theme going on, they’re a freakin’ MATRIARCHY, which might seem inherently evil to some people but I think it’s just interesting and different (and useful for making fun of our own patriarchy!)…those are all just some of the ways you can focus on Drow culture without making it “evil”.

    Posted February 23rd, 2020 at 3:22 am
  25. Mturtle7 Says:

    By the way, quick question: does anyone ACTUALLY pay attention to the “alignment” listings for races in the 5e Player’s Handbook? They literally all just say something along the lines of, “most people of this race are of a certain alignment, but if you want to be different that’s fine too”, which seems a bit…weak? It’s as if they know perfectly well that nobody likes races being restricted to a single alignment anymore, but they’re still trying to keep up the APPEARANCE of clinging to that old premise, because they don’t want anybody accusing them of radically changing of the “core tenets” of D&D.

    Posted February 23rd, 2020 at 3:30 am
  26. Strix Says:

    As always, thank you very much for this comic and the important discussions there in. I’ve always been very aware that the majority of my gaming groups are white and male, part of the joy of roleplaying for me is exploring other cultures and their perspectives, their struggles and joys, challenging my own view points. Its important in doing so that we’re respectful to the cultures and ethnicities we’re roleplaying. One thing that I always consider is that for people who live those lives they might not want to experience or explore those same challenges that they face daily in a tabletop, roleplaying is as much about escape and the story. As a GM I try to be conscious of this and how tiring it can be for female and non-binary players, and that I write, play and run from a position of privilege where I have choice.

    Posted February 24th, 2020 at 11:43 am
  27. Eva Says:

    <3

    Posted February 24th, 2020 at 12:47 pm
  28. AeromechanicalAce Says:

    This kinda makes me think of the “Complete Trog” Source book for 5e Shadowrun. Really interesting take on that sort of issue from a fantastic perspective.

    Posted February 25th, 2020 at 4:25 am
  29. Urikanu Says:

    Meanwhile, over here in pathfinder, a gold dragon is literally doing a eugenics experiment on sentient creatures to see if it can breed out evil….

    Too much good is just turns into evil, as it were.

    Posted February 25th, 2020 at 12:54 pm
  30. Sledge Says:

    I find that a lot of stuff comes from the basis that most people roleplay every race as “Human but ….” instead of being completely alien. It is really hard to do this even in literature, never mind in the moment. It is far easier to portray the charicatures.

    Posted February 25th, 2020 at 3:12 pm
  31. John Says:

    I started running an afterschool D&D club for some avid young people who were all very interested in playing (one had been pining with books for years but no one to play with). I caught myself in their first introductory game when, with panic, I realized I had a 100% indigenous teenage party~ Try describing kobolds/goblins as anything other than a racist stereotype of the ‘primitive scavanger’ if you look at the core materials!

    I revised it quickly to suggest they were a scouting party simply guarding the entrance to the cavern system knowing that adventurers would start digging through and attacking their community on site looking for gold. It led to a lot more nuance for the group to look at motivations and perceptions of ‘badguys’

    Posted March 1st, 2020 at 1:28 pm