Race & TTRPG

Last updated April 03, 2022.

It’s no secret that race is a fraught topic in TTRPG. Fantasy has a long and storied history of unquestioned racism and colonialism. At the heart of the Law sisters’ favorite TTRPG, Dungeons and Dragons, is a colonial attitude that romanticizes traveling adventurers going to “strange” lands and “solving” the local problems with violence.

And in the source material itself, Wizards of the Coast has gone as far as to assign typical alignments to races, with dwarves tending toward lawful goodness and orcs tending toward chaotic evil – yikes!

Roll Me a Hero was born out of a desire to create and draw whacky characters that defy stereotypes. Still, we would be the first to admit that we are far from experts on issues of race in TTRPG. We can only try our best to create inclusive, respectful characters and content. Below, we’ve outlined some of our personal philosophies and approaches to race. As we learn and grow, we intend to continuously update this page.

We also highly recommend this article by Graeme Barber, and No More Damsels RPG has a list of resources available.

Diversity within Race

There are a wide variety of people in the real world, and that should be reflected in our fantasy worlds. Any orc, goblin, elf, or otherwise should exist as aristocrats, bandits, warriors, scholars. Any character of any race should be able to be a city kid, tribe member, hermit.

Moreover, our approach is such that there is still race within TTRPG race. In other words, there are Asian orcs and Latino orcs and South Asian dwarves and Black dwarves, and everything in between and beyond.

Additionally, any “half” race requires further specification, too. It is insufficient to say a character is “half-elf” or “half-orc”, and Barber’s article (linked above) has a more in-depth discussion of why that is. Maybe one parent is an orc and the other is an elf. Or maybe one parent has an orc parent and an elf parent, and the other parent is a human. Or maybe even the parentage is unknown or partially unknown. Our character roller currently only includes races available in the source material (i.e. half-orc and half-elf still exist in the list), but any mixed character we create on RMAH will go beyond simply calling them a “half”-blank.

Removing Problems without Erasure

Occasionally we have observed folks attempt to remove “problematic” parts of D&D. Such strategies include making “evil” races like Drow pale instead of dark, or even the entire removal of “monster” races. While well meaning, it is lazy and ineffective. The fact of the matter is that no race should be depicted as a monolith regardless of outward appearance, and the elimination of stereotype-heavy races ends up being erasure. Instead of just changing the color of Drow, make it so that any Drow can be of any alignment. Make them as diverse in culture and personality as people are, even within relatively homogenous nations. Include monstorfolk as being the rich, full characters that they are, complete with unique strengths and shortcomings.

We encourage you to add variety to your characters, and reflect on the ways your characters do or do not follow conventions. Besides, homogeny and predictability make a campaign boring.

If you have any comments or questions, you can drop us a line through our contact page.