Diversity in tabletop roleplaying games is more than just a gimmick – more than a trick thought out by marketing departments to lure more players to buy their games. It’s much more than that and by taking part, we can help players have even more fun in our games. 

It’s been a while since I last posted here. Luckily, I’ve been busy working writing and creating roleplaying games, which has taken up a great deal of my spare time (more on that later). Also, life has been hectic, moving to a new place and finally being able to have my own game room where I have all my roleplaying books at hand. Needless to say, I spend more time there than anywhere else in our new house. But enough about me…

In the last few months many new games, modules and sourcebooks have been published and it’s been interesting to see how much things have changed in the last few years. It’s been inspiring to see that different minority groups are being represented in mainstream roleplaying games, and to see the community grow as fast as it is, really shows how important this is. For someone being able to play a disabled person if they wish and even find a miniature to represent them, is actually quite awesome!

diversity in rpg, Diversity in rpg – more than just marketing, Yawning Portal

Diversity in rpg

Diversity, whether in real life or games, is important because we want to belong – all of us. By being inclusive, by welcoming people of different gender, religion, sexuality, disability and so on, we help other people feel that they belong, just as we do – just as we want to feel welcome and included.

diversity in rpg, Diversity in rpg – more than just marketing, Yawning PortalBeing open to diversity and trying to keep it in mind is all that is being asked of us. Simple things, such as when emoticons started to appear in many different skin colours (once they didn’t, imagine that!), can make a huge difference to a large group of people. To have characters of a diverse varity in rulebooks and sourcebooks goes a long way.

Early in the 21st century we started seeing more diversity in roleplaying books. Gone where the scantly-clad, sexualized women or images that catered to other fantasies than those that took place at the gaming table. Later, images started to appear showing characters of different skin colors and stereotypes were slowly, but surely, phased out. This image, showing a warlock in the 5E Player’s Handbook, is in my opinion a good example. A few years back, an Asian female spellcaster would’ve probably been much younger and wearing more provocative clothes.

Today, fortunately, many publishers are fully aware of the importance of inclusion and diversity, though of course some might make mistakes now and again. And we must be willing to accept the fact that mistakes will be made, because we can’t predict all outcomes at all times.

Diversity leads to more sales

This idea of diveristy and inclusivity is not something that the marketing department of Chaosium, Hasbro or any other publishing company came up with. In fact this is an idea that has been circulating since forever. It is good marketing to speak directly to different audiences and make sure that they feel represented by brands. Global companies, such as Coca Cola, is aware of the importance of inclusivity, as is appearant in their latest commercial.

Ever since the advent of more diversity in roleplaying games and D&D 5E, which is the most inclusive D&D edition, the roleplaying games market has grown. The global role-playing games market reached a value of nearly $15,793.3 million in 2019, having increased at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.84% since 2015, and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 9.22% to nearly $22,471.3 million by 2023.

In fact, if there ever was a golden age of roleplaying games, we are experiencing it now. So, all of us middle-aged white dudes who believe that AD&D was the golden age just because we were young at the time, we are so wrong! All indicators, all measurable parts of roleplaying games point towards that this is the golden age.

diversity in rpg, Diversity in rpg – more than just marketing, Yawning Portal There are more games published now than ever before, partly thanks to social platforms such as Kickstarter. There are more players now than ever. Roleplaying games are used in schools, prisons and everywhere in between. Roleplaying games appear on mainstream television shows, in movies and so on. Movie stars, rock stars and other celebrities advertise and tell everyone that they play. This is it, this is the golden age and we owe it in many ways to diversity and inclusivity.

In fact, EVERY YEAR since D&D’s 5th Edition launched has seen the game’s biggest growth and the sale of D&D jumped 33% in 2020 alone despite Covid-19. Try as we might, but there’s no arguing these numbers. There are more people playing roleplaying games now than ever before and that is because they feel included and are ready to invest, both money and time, in a hobby where they feel welcome.

Things can be bad, but getting better

There are probably many minority groups that are still under-represented in roleplaying games, groups that feel left out and not welcomed. And it is one thing to update outdated images in rulebooks, while there’s still toxic masculinity, bigotry, homophobia, sexism, and transphobia at conventions we have a long way to go. So, even though things have changed for the better, there’s still much work to do.

We, who share a gaming table with people of different gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity etc., need to remind ourselves, to help them feel as welcome as we do in roleplaying games. We, the game masters, need to create characters that represent the diversity in each setting. Why shouldn’t there be disabled persons? Why wouldn’t someone in a fantasy or a science fiction setting be trans? Why aren’t there bi- or homosexual couples, just as there are in our own communities?

To make room for everyone, to be open-minded and ready to set aside whatever opinions you might have or not have, so you can ensure that everyone at the table is having fun and feels welcome, is not a virtue or something like that. It’s just a matter of being a decent human being and accept others as they accept you.

Be kind.