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, 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.
Being 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.
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.
Quite clearly the author is new to roleplaying games. I suppose they are unaware of 2e D&D. Ok probably older than the author. For the benefit of the younger players there were many supplement books giving intricate details for different historical cultures from around the world such as Zulu, Russians, Chinese and many others. So you could play pretty much any culture you could think of.
As for other minority groups, there are plenty of storylines in the published books you could use.
Besides, if you are a good DM you can create your own scenario and cover literally anything.
Maybe it’s different where you live. This game is played globally and its important to remember this before making sweeping statements.
Thank you, I have been playing for over 30 years now and started playing D&D 2nd ed. Diversity applies to more than just cultures, and 2nd ed. D&D and AD&D was not that diversified, even though TSR created a fantasy versions of Eastern Asia, Arabic and African cultures. These versions were heavily influenced by mainstream media depictions of these cultures. And were there sourcebooks that showed how to play a gay person, a disabled person, a trans person, etc.?
But you are right, a good DM can create their own scenarios and cover anything. And I sincerely hope you do in your gaming.
Perhaps it is different from where I live, yes, so much is true. But this statement also applies to yourself. And the world is changing. Just by looking at how WotC have changed their perspective, and made D&D ever more diversified and inclusive shows that things are getting better.
I predict that sales will follow the same trends as the NBA, NFL, and NASCAR. Diversity is fine but not if you alienate your core fans
True, it might do that.
As for the core fans, who are they? Us older dudes who started playing all those years ago or the young people buying in on the game sometime in the last 6 years? People who have been drawn to the game by shows like Critical Role?
To me, it seems that WotC is more interested in the latter, since their marketing strategies seem to be more directed at that target group. They catter to the older crowd from time to time, but since the D&D community grew over 52% just in 2018 perhaps we need to change our perspective, perhaps we are no longer D&D’s core fans, perhaps the younger crowd are those who will keep D&D alive and going in the next ten years. After all, it seems a much larger audience than we are.
“And were there sourcebooks that showed how to play a gay person, a disabled person, a trans person, etc.?”
You honestly think this is a good idea? To have a sourcebook teaching you how to play as a gay person? The gay people I know are just that, people.
No, I don’t, I was trying to make a point, though it probably didn’t come out right. Sorry about that. I think that there’s a reason why WotC has put the following disclaimer on almost every old D&D product available on DMsGuild.com and Drivethrurpg.com. I should’ve been more direct in my answer above.
“We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.”
Oh, I remember when I came back to role-playing after a break in the early ’00. Before I played and DMed AD&D. Seeing that in the 3.5 books used he/she and the names were equal male and female was a nice surprise. I felt so much more included by this. Now seeing queer, trans and just all kinds of folk in the 5e books warms my heart. It makes the world much more rich and gives me ideas that I would probably never thought of otherwise. And makes space for all kinds of persons to play the game! In the olden days I hardly ever saw another girl at the table. And I don’t remember one that DMed. So the stories and the viewpoints were a bit, ehm, ramish, Which is fine, but it is good to have all the other colors too 🙂
Now I am seeing my son playing and DM on his own and how he and his friends do it is just wonderful. Us old timers can learn so much from these young people. They have taken our old game and made it so much better by including views and ideas we didn’t even think about at their age.
Spot on! 🙂
“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.”
Thats not diversity, nor inclusion. Chastising people who like, of whom plenty are women aswell, scantily clad female characters in a fantasy TTRPG, erasing such characters completely and replacing them with politically correct, inffensive replacements, thats direct opposite of D&I, thats exclusion and intolerance.