RPGBOT.Podcast Season 2 Episode 2 – The Move Toward Inclusion in Tabletop Gaming

Show Notes

This episode is a discussion about and around some sensitive topics on race, gender, and ability. We may not be the right folks for this conversation, but we think it’s an important conversation to be having.

In this episode of the RPGBOT.Podcast, we discuss the ongoing move toward inclusion in Tabletop RPGs. We discuss missteps in the history of D&D and Pathfinder, as well as what companies like Paizo and WotC are doing to be better and more inclusive, as well as where they’ve fallen short in those efforts. We discuss other subjects of inclusion, including handling sensitive topics, portrayal of underrepresented groups, and how to make tabletop RPGs more welcoming and inclusive.

Special thanks to Discord user and RPGBOT patron Scawizzz for the question of the week this week.

Materials Referenced in this Episode

Transcript

Randall

Hey folks, it’s Randall. Tonight’s episode is on the move towards inclusion in tabletop gaming. We’re going to talk about and around some sensitive topics on race, gender, and ability. We may not be the right folks for this conversation, but we think it’s an important conversation to be having.

Randall 

Welcome to the RPGBOT.Podcast. I’m Randall James and with me is Tyler Kamstra.

Tyler 

Hi, everybody.

Randall 

And Random Powell.

Random 

Evening.

Randall 

All right, Tyler, what are we doing tonight?

Tyler 

Well, today we’re going to talk about something that is a little bit uncomfortable, but still very relevant to current discussions in the RPG world. We’re going to talk about the subject of inclusion and depictions of individuals as members of a group. So this came up and was really brought to the forefront recently after the erata 3.0 release towards the end of December 2021. So this kind of discussion has been going on pretty heavily for the past year or two in the tabletop RPG space. But a lot of people have been brought into this discussion by changes that have been made to the fifth edition D&D rules. So we’re going to explore where things are going with RPGs and why and kind of the broader context around those subjects.

Randall 

Okay, that makes sense. And I think maybe there’s a few things worth calling out that we’re aware of, but we want to make sure that other people understand we are aware of. I mean, we’re going to talk a lot about real topics that are mirrored in tabletop gaming. So topics on, you know, gender, race, sexuality. These sorts of things. We are three white dudes. So, and most of us, yeah, all of us are three white dudes. Producer Dan, background, also white dude. Okay, um, we we don’t have a lot of the experiences that would probably be most valuable to have a real conversation diving deep into a lot of these topics, but we’re gonna do our best. We don’t know everything, we definitely have blind spots, we have things that we don’t think about, because we’ve never had to consider particular topics or particular language in certain ways, because it hasn’t affected us. Nor nor, you know, is it a kind of a dark spot in our past. We know we’re not going to solve any of society’s problems in a one hour podcast. We’re hoping that you find this both informational and entertaining and maybe it adds something to your game next time, because a lot of a lot of the fun can be taking some of these, like, historical tropes that we’ve included, turning them on their head. And I think there’s a couple topics that we’ll cover along the way that I think will be interesting towards this. We’re, we’re probably gonna say the wrong thing at some point. That is my expectation. Not just in this hour, but in every episode ever.

Random 

Yeah, I mean, it to be perfectly honest. I mean, while Randall did a really good job of of talking about this. We are a tabletop role playing game podcast, right? We are here to talk about how there are mechanics for some things, what the role playing game companies are doing about these mechanics, what they’re doing about the fluff between these mechanics. And so we’re gonna try and keep things kind of constrained to that context, while still doing a good job of talking about it in as full-bodied a way as we can. And, you know, this is a thing that, like, 10 years ago, I don’t think a lot of people would have even thought to have this conversation. 20 years ago, if you had tried to have this conversation, you would have been laughed out of your your basement, and I say that lovingly as someone who has played D&D in a basement. And so I mean, realistically, like, this is going to shift. Where we are having this conversation now may be utterly out of congruence with when you listen to this episode in 10 years. So we’ll just have to see where that goes.

Tyler 

Yeah, that concept of the Overton Window is really important here. So tabletop RPGs have existed, like, modern tabletop RPGs. And there have been proto-RPGs, But that’s a way different episode. Modern tabletop RPGs have existed since roughly the 70s. And if you look at the cultural shifts which have happened since then, the world is a very, very different place from just under 50 years ago. And the concept of the Overton Window is really important here. So if you’re not familiar, it’s basically just the general concept of what the broad populace accepts as normal and acceptable. And we will link the Wikipedia episode in the show, er the Wikipedia page in the show notes. But we have to keep in mind that anything we say here, no matter how much we try to be on the right side of history in 10, 20 years, whether we want it to or not, what we’re going to say today may be extremely outdated by then and that is a natural shift in… just society. That’s just how things work.

Random 

And so, just ahead of time: Sorry.

Randall 

Yeah, basically. Yeah. And so in general, what’s actually happening in tabletop gaming today? So we had the Hullabaloo? Hullabaloo, that’s a good word for it, over the the third errata for D&D 5e. And it seemed like the big thing that was happening here is we are not shaming people or peoples or persons for being different. Whether that’s over race, religion, sex, gender identity, age, physical appearance. We’re also not trying to pigeonhole particular characters or particular groups of characters. So the whole, like, not all X or Y, that you can take a character and you can make a character however you would like that character to be. And I think we talked about it last time, I feel like there’s been a little bit of a tendency to say, let’s take all the language out about the group typically being a particular way, instead of just sticking in that typical word, you know, so instead of saying all Drow are evil, but we had this one really exceptional drow, let’s just say that drow are typically evil. And in fact, we read some of the language. I actually liked the language that was added of saying, in this area in this area, there’s a problem. And there are heroes trying to fight it. And in these other areas, that problem doesn’t exist yet. Like that was, that was pretty fantastic. And then, you know, finally, and I think this may be one of the most important things, which is tangential to everything else we’ve just said, an individual member of a group is not a clone of a member of any other group. Unless, of course, you’re playing fantasy flights, in which case, the clones are absolutely clones of everyone else in the group. But that’s, that’s like one one case. Otherwise, that’s not true.

Tyler 

Right. Yeah, that that concept that a single member is not a clone of the whole is really central to the changes that are being made to D&D right now. Like I said, Randall, removal of the alignment entries, removal of the sections and Volo’s about how to roleplay a member of a specific group. The tabletop industry is working really hard to get away from the ideat that, you know, that idea that one member is just a carbon copy of the whole, and that sort of… So there’s a phrase that gets, that has historically been used a lot by… I don’t want to say bigots. Sometimes it’s not intentional. But when when someone describes a group as X and describes a member of that group as quote unquote, “one of the good ones,” it’s, it’s not a good thing. It depicts that larger group as a problem and the idea that many individual members of that group aren’t part of those problems. Like, it depicts that as somehow novel. And Drizz’t is a really good example looking at the Drowbecause he has historically been, quote, unquote, “one of the good ones” and with almost no other exceptions in fiction, the Drow have been depicted as evil and, like, unfalteringly so. So getting away from the idea that any sentient creature with the freedom of choice, well, any sentient humanoid, at the very least. Getting away from the idea that they don’t have a choice on their philosophical outlook is really important. And the tabletop industry is going in that direction very rapidly right now.

Randall 

So in general, like, yeah, fighting the myth of exceptionalism appears to be the goal, right? That it’s like, oh, you know, this, this person, you know, is heroic and did these fantastic things, and look how they stand out and above. And meanwhile, you know, perhaps that character might know it’s like, yeah, I’ve got, like, everybody I know is part of the hero band running around shooting the bad guys, what do you…

Random 

And I have to say, I think that Wizards of the Coast, while there’s been a few stumbles, I think that they’ve generally done a decent job of trying to shift their piece of the Overton Window. I, you know, while the particular handling of the errata 3.0 we generally agreed was pretty bad. The changes that they ended up with, I really appreciate and this sort of reflects where they were coming from when they introduced in Tasha’s, the character customization, the lineage customization, right? So this is your idea that, you know, as a character, sure, I’m a halfling, but that doesn’t mean that I grew up the same way that all other halflings did. I can mess with my stats, I can mess with my languages, I can mess with my inbuilt proficiencies because the whole point of being a player is that you are exceptional. You’re already exceptional in that you’re going to take one of these character classes, why not be exceptional other ways? Now, it then makes a lot of sense to say, Well, okay, but obviously, it’s not just player characters that can do that, right? And so that’s where you start to get into more of this, okay, let’s break the mold of like they’ve said all XR why let’s break the mold of, you know, this, like, this race is evil and to break it into okay, maybe there are, like they were talking about with the drow. Like, Menzoberranzan as a culture is problematic because as a culture they largely worship Lolth, who demands very specific things that the rest of the world largely considers problematic. And, you know, they’re… in tabletop roleplaying games that have deities, we’re gonna run into this interesting problem where, you know, hopefully, this is one of the things that they start to shift where they introduce more things like, rather than Lolth is the God of the Drow, Yondala is the goddess of the halflings. I hope that we start to get more variety there so that there’s the less of that cultural push to one set of values.

Randall 

Yeah, I think that makes perfect sense. I want to, I want to stop for a second. So we had this interesting idea of Overton Window. And I almost want to go back, like at the 1000 foot view. So 5e came out in what year?

Tyler 

It’s been, what, six, seven years? 2015? 2016? I don’t know off the top my head anymore.

Randall 

Come on, what are we even doing here? All right, let’s call it 2016. Pathfinder, two came out 2019. So there was either a four or five year gap. And I feel like a lot happened in the world during that. I don’t know if anybody could think of anything significant that happened, let’s say between 2015 and 2019. And even, right, for all the topics we’re talking about, I feel like a lot of these things have become more important over the past seven years. So I say that to say like, what are the differences that you noticed between when 5e came out and some of the language that’s included there, versus how  the window had shifted by 2019 when PF2 came out?

Tyler 

There are some really clear, very, very easy-to-find differences if you look at the core rulebook for Pathfinder, Second Edition and the 5th edition Player’s Handbook. So look at the art for the iconic characters. Historically, in D&D, the the humanoid races with skin, all of the iconic characters have been white. That finally changed in fifth edition. Like, Random, you and I started on third edition. All of the iconic characters are white. Every single one.

Random 

They sure were.

Tyler 

Except for the half-orc. And fifth edition, we… a few of the iconic characters pictured with alongside the classes are meant, like, they resemble different real world ancestry. And Pathfinder second edition took that a step further. Like,  the facial features are different. The skin tones are different. As they’ve added new classes and new splat books, like, they’re… one of the iconic characters as an amputee. Like, the diversity in Pathfinder second edition’s iconic characters is a bit broader than 5e’s. But 5e also doesn’t really use the iconic characters for anything other than art. Pathfinder, like, there are comics, there are books about those characters. And then D&D it’s mostly just splash art, with the exception of Drizzt, who is one of the iconic pictures used for elves. So just those two differences are already pretty stark. But there’s also a section in each of those books about gender for your characters. I think the language is fairly similar between the two, which is really good, and honestly surprising, but I think the Pathfinder version is a little more up to date and inclusive.

Randall 

Okay, and I think that makes good sense. I guess I’ll say from my perspective, like most of the media that I consume tied to tabletop gaming is in the form of podcasts or like YouTube series, this sort of thing. I say that to say that it seems like the tabletop gaming community is, at least as represented in media, is very inclusive, is striving to be inclusive. And so I say that to say, it feels like the community probably wouldn’t have so much resistance to most of this. And in fact, most of the complaints that we saw in media even over the the third errata for 5e, it was, I didn’t see any content that was saying like, Oh my god, I can’t believe they’re doing this. Like, blowing up a game. Like, why are they bringing, you know, “political correctness” into this or something like that? It was all like, Yo, why’d you ruin my ebook?

Tyler 

Yeah, they’re, uh…

Randall 

Did I not dig deep enough?

Tyler 

Well, we went over that the errata episode, which we’ll link that in the show notes if you haven’t listened to it yet. But yes, people were justifiably upset due to the rollout of the D&D 3.0 errata, because it sounded like they just cut huge sections from from several books. But honestly, if you go back and read those sections, you’re not missing all that much like the the information for the monsters, it’s all still there. It’s just removed from the sections on roleplaying individuals of that race. And of course, the alignment sections are gone, as we talked about earlier. As much as we’ve talked about depicting entire races as inherently evil, there were sections that depicted entire races as inherently good, which is honestly just as problematic.

Randall 

No, I’m with you. And to be clear, what I was saying is I didn’t see, I didn’t see a lot of celebration of the all X are Y. You know, I didn’t see anybody in the media complaining that this was gone. It was… If anything, I feel like the tape that we had on it, which was like, I always knew not all X or Y and that I had the option of not doing this. I didn’t need you to treat me like a child and tell me. Like, oh, they changed the one sentence! Now obviously, you know, because I mean, here’s the deal. Nobody, nobody, nobody had ever rolled a Drizz’t character named Rizz’t and tried to play in a campaign, because the book said you couldn’t. It was there! All drow are evil. Yeah.

Tyler  

Yeah. Again, so a lot of these changes aren’t necessarily for long-time RPG players. In, well, this will release in January. And at the end of January, we’re getting a reprint of the core rules as a new gift set, and a reprint of the non-core, non-setting-specific rulebooks. So Xanathar’s, Tasha’s, and the new one Mordenkainen’s Monsters of the Multiverse. And they’re, they’re updating the text to get ready for those, which they’re pitching as, like, this is the entry point to the system. The system has been out for a while. We’ve got this big mountain of books. You don’t need all of them. Start with this, if you want more, buy the rules expansion set. And they don’t want new players to come in and say, Hey, drow look neat. I want to be a drow hero. Oh, all Drow are evil, and I don’t have anyone here to explain this to me. People without the context or without somebody else to explain, like, no, you don’t have to stick to that, there are always exceptions, like there was all this other stuff going on. If you don’t have somebody to explain the broader context to you, all you have is the text in the book. So the text in the book has to be right.

Random 

And I will just say that, I mean, while the changes that they’ve made, you know, there is some loss there. The the big thing that people were complaining about is, like, you know, we lose in the text that was removed, we lose some flavor about the race. And that does pinch a little bit, right? There is some utility to be gained there. As long as you look at it with that understanding of, okay, this is not set in stone, right? This is not the way that it has to be. And this is, you know, even if you just look at it as this is how this one area usually is, but people in different areas, you know, like, if we encounter Drow and Eberron for instance, they don’t worship Lolth because Lolth doesn’t exist in Eberron. And so, you know, they’re going to be a different society. But even within societies, ther are still going to be the individual exceptions. So I think that once you have that context, there is something useful to be gained from those those baseline things of, you know, here is what a typical drow of Menzoberranzan is. Here is what a typical halfling from the Sword Coast is like. Because that’s going to be a really easy way to, and like we talked about in the errata episode, you know, flip to a book go, Okay, I need to roleplay somebody. Great. Here’s a baseline go. And then, you know, it’s a sort of a shortcut for DM’s to fill in the world. But with that said, you know, what they’re moving towards, while it’s a little bit more complex to find the information you’re looking for, this is a complex issue. And moving towards complexity, as long as it’s no. overly verbose is not a problem. And so I’m grateful that they are taking the time to approach the sensitive issue with not cutting corners. With actually explaining things fully. You know, like, in in 3.0, there were these, er, not in 3.0, in the errata 3.0. It removed these cultural alterations, right? So like talking about how to make things more appropriate for your setting. But like I talked about earlier, custom origin already does that, right? Like, we don’t need the same information in a lot of places. You just need to say, like, Okay, if you are going to try and roleplay a member of a race as something other than what is generally described, look in this place. And, you know, if like, if that was the entire section of the book, it like at the start of each race entry, like, if you would like to do something different look here for our text on that. Great! problem solved, right? So I appreciate the way that they are trying to both simplify and expand in a way that covers the topic in a more approachable, more appropriate format.

Randall 

I think that makes sense. And so we talked a little bit about what’s happening in 5e, the idea of, for instance, having called Custom lineages, this sort of thing. What is… does PF2 have anything similar?

Tyler 

Yes. So instead of calling your race “race,” quote, unquote, they’ve moved away from that term, because it has, you know, problematic real-world implications. They’re using the term “ancestry” and your subrace instead of being a subrace is called your “heritage.” For some ancestries, your heritage is like a bloodline of some kind. For some ancestries, your heritage is a regional culture. So, like, it varies from race to race, which really shows the diversity between those races. And then all of the mechanics, which would indicate some sort of culture for your ancestry are opt in. So, like fifth edition, dwarves are proficient with four weapons. Like, warhammers, battle axes, a couple other things. In Pathfinder Second Edition you can take the feat Dwarven Weapon Familiarity, which improves your proficiency with those weapons, but you have to opt into that option. It’s not just like you are stuck with this because you were a dwarf. You can choose to have those things as part of your character. But part of that is just Pathfinder Second Edition gives you much more granular control over how you customize your character, and what you want your character to be. So part of that is the mechanical differences. Part of that is that shift in the Overton Window, because, again, Pathfinder came out several years later after fifth edition. If you’re using custom origin rules in fifth edition, you have all of that same flexibility. Like, you can opt into whatever proficiency is within the rules to make your character fit whatever concept you have, regardless of whatever culture is written into the game.

Randall 

Okay, so when you say that it’s opt-in in PF2 the, there is an opportunity cost, though, is what I’m hearing. Like, if you take that feat, you’re actually not taking some other feat?

Tyler 

Yeah, definitely. You have a finite number of feats in every character, just like you gain a level, you gain some number of feats of different kinds. And there are only so many slots on the character and you can’t get any more. So anything you pick is definitely opt-in because there are benefits to whatever thing you take. But you can just opt into some other thing if that’s not the story you want to explore.

Randall 

And because the name of the field is Dwarven Weapon Familiarity, it would be reasonable that if I was you know, a halfling raised among doors that I might still take the Dwarven Weapon Familiarity, because these are the folks that I grew up with. And of course, I am familiar with a weapon of my own folks.

Tyler 

Yeah, and there, there is a feat to support that called Adopted Ancestry.

Random 

And so while we’re talking about Pathfinder 2, just want to mention Pathfinder 2 and Pathfinder 1 are both set in one very particular setting called Golarion. Golarion has some interesting stuff that goes along with it. There are some areas, some whole deities who are super into slavery. Like, Absalom, it like the whole Absalom. It’s a lot of slavery. It’s a problematic amount of slavery. And I mean, like, like, I barely even know where to begin with how how, how much there is to talk about here.

Tyler 

Yeah. So this has kind of blown up just in the past like week or two as of when we’re recording this. So people who play fifth edition exclusively and think like, oh, maybe Pathfinder is this golden land where none of these problems exist. It’s not. So Golarion was created… roughly towards the end of the 3.5 lifecycle like D&D 3.5. And at the time, like grimdark, gritty settings were super in so early Golarion is very much that. There’s a lot of like societal acceptance of really bad stuff like slavery and torture and things like that. Weirdly, almost none of that appears in Rise of the Runelords, which is like the definitive Welcome to Golarion campaign. But a lot of those things have stuck around in Pathfinder, and in official adventures since Pathfinder started, and they just recently started having this reckoning over it. So an anonymous Freelancer posted an open letter through a prominent game designer whose name I’m forgetting, but we’ll link the letter in the show notes. The open letter was to Paizo and lead designer Eric Mona and basically said… it’s, it’s difficult summarize, so I’m going to ask you to go read it. But the basic premise was Paizo needs to do better about slavery, they need to stop using slavery is the only plot point. They need to stop exploiting real world trauma for this thing. And also, it’s really weird that it was legal for so long within Pathfinder society for good-aligned players to own slaves. That was weird, guys, you should have fixed that faster.

Randall 

I mean, to be clear, like in societies which are not evil societies, it was still perfectly reasonable to own slaves. And in fact, like, player characters could actually go out and buy a slave if there was some advantage to this.

Tyler 

Yeah, it was rules legal in Pathfinder society and if you wanted to play a Pathfinder society game, you had no mechanical recourse to say, Hey, you can’t do that at this table.

Random 

And for context, Pathfinder Society, this is Paizo’s organized play. This is, like, the Adventurer’s League in fifth edition. So like, this is not just written into the rules. This is like officially sanctioned by the company playspace.

Tyler 

Yeah, so this is the kind of game where you’d walk into your game store, sit down with maybe some people you know, maybe you don’t, or it might be like, Hey, I’ve been playing Pathfinder society with these guys for years. This guy just walked in. He’s a newcomer, welcome to the table. Come join us. We’re not allowed to turn you away. Oh, great. You’ve got slaves. Cool.

Randall 

Yeah, or vice versa, if you’re a newcomer to the game and you sit down and the very first thing that somebody says is like, you know, have the slave go do X, Y, and Z. And it’s like, are you… What? What? Yeah, what are we playing and what year is it?

Tyler 

Yeah. Yeah, so Paizo has rightly realized that’s not okay. So they are very quickly moving away from that but the the open letter addressed part of that in which they had an organized play event where there was… I don’t know the full context on the in-game event. I wasn’t part of it and I don’t follow Pathfinder Society super closely. But basically there was a slave rebellion in Absalom. All the slaves are free, slavery is no longer legal legal in Absalom, but the circumstances of the event are kind of weird. From what I’ve read, it may have been, like, the government of Absalom was like, Hey, we’re being attacked by another army. If you defend this city where we’ve systematically enslaved you for centuries, we’ll let you go. It’s like, ah, that’s kind of iffy guys.

Randall 

Also, yeah. Also also problematic a little bit. In Pathfinder 2, like, is there a system for this? Or is this not part of the Pathfinder 2 core rulebook?

Tyler 

Um, I believe the system for owning slaves was in one of the setting books. So, like, it’s not in like Guns and Gears or Secrets of Magic. It’s one of the, like, Golarion setting book that’s mostly focused on setting. But it’s Pathfinder, so there’s always character options in those books. But just in December, they released a book called Absalom: City of Lost omens, which is a massive tome about the city of Absalom. And apparently slavery features super heavily in the book. Yeah, exactly. That is the right response. Yeah, so. So lead designer Eric Mona has said okay, we’re basically done featuring slavery as a plot point. If it’s mentioned, it will only be in passing. That’s it. Clean break. So Paizo has tried really hard, and hopefully they’re going to do better in the future.

Randall 

So I guess I want to challenge us a little bit to talk about this in more detail. So I feel like it’s really easy to say, obviously, it is very reasonable to reject the idea of your player characters owning slaves or reject the idea of a good society owning slaves. And if that’s the only plot point that you can possibly come up with, okay, maybe that’s frustrating. On the other hand, I can… Is it acceptable, for instance, to have, you know, like, I have a quest and the quest that we’re going to go on is there is some evil local society, and they are capturing people and forcing them into slavery. Let’s go not let that happen anymore.

Random 

And so… “yes, and” to use a wonderful improv term for a second. Here’s the thing, right? And, as I so often preach about, this is something that you need to handle with a social fix. This is something where you’re going to sit down with your players at session zero and say, alright, guys, this is a story.

Randall 

Look out!

Random 

No, you make a good point, I’m sorry. You make a good point. Yes. Alright, party. This story is going to be focused on us being captured by Menzoberranzan Drow at the start, and being held as slaves basically. There is, in fact, a published module that does that. I’m currently playing it. It’s a good story, but if that could be problematic for someone, just solve that by having your session zero, where you say, this is a thing. If anyone is uncomfortable with this, let me know now. If you become uncomfortable with it, during the course of play, let me know then. If you are not comfortable bringing up your discomfort in front of other people, message me offline. Talk to me outside. Whatever. Because there are ways in which that can be an effective storytelling device. Just as there are ways that other difficult subjects can be effective storytelling devices. And as long as everyone is consenting to that, that can be a good story. And just, you know, the the things that you need to keep in mind are, be upfront about it, be willing to accept feedback about it, and be willing to drop the subject and figure out, you know, like, I need to cut this if someone becomes uncomfortable with it.

Randall 

Yeah so I am, once again, yes, and. I’ve actually done this with you folks. So what I like to do in that scenario, is don’t go in with the one thing that you think could be problematic. Go in with three options and hopefully one of them is clean, like we are, we are fighting the bubblegum fairy for they have stolen the chocolate. like that’s, I’m half joking. But, you know, there can be some challenging themes. But if you can go to the group, likely one of them will be acceptable, and one of them will will be the most interesting. And so what you might get, you might have one person who’s really excited about this idea. And the other person is like, look, I just don’t like the idea of playing that story. But you’re not forcing them… If I go to you and say I have this idea and this idea only, do you accept it? They basically have to tell you go back to the drawing board. But if you can go to them and say I have these three things I’m thinking about touching. Ideally, one of them should be acceptable to everybody, which I think is the minimum bar. If it’s not acceptable to the whole party, you need to you need to find a different idea. And then once you’ve laid that minimum bar of like, okay, this is acceptable to everybody here. Now, what is the most exciting idea exciting kind of quest line, the hook that you’ve offered, that you can bring people into play?

Tyler 

Yeah, at some point, we will do an episode on safety tools, but that that comes perilously close to lines and veils, which is an excellent safety tool. So if if you start with your group and say, like, I want to explore theme one, theme two, and theme three, and somebody at the table says, like, theme one is aligned for me then you just… that’s fine. Respect your party. These are generally your friends, or at least people you’re going to be spending a lot of time with for a while hopefully. So use safety tools be conscious of other people’s real-world traumas and like real-world subjects that they’re just not okay with. Sometimes you might look at that and think, Okay, this is kind of limiting. And maybe… So I’ve seen a lot of discussions around the the alignment changes. More people have said like okay, they’re they’re taking some flavor out of the descriptions of monsters, which again, didn’t actually happen. But people have advocated, like, yeah just use slavers as your, like, baseline this person is very clearly evil. They’re doing something very clearly morally incorrect. But there are so many other options for conflict for antagonists for depicting someone as very clearly evil. I went and looked at IMDB, which feels off topic, but bear with me. Of the 50 most popular films released in 2021, three of them involved slavery, kinda. So it was The Matrix: Resurrection.

Randall 

Wait, wait. Pause. Spoilers.

Tyler 

I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna… I promise I’m not gonna spoil anything, because it’s literally the premise of these movies. The Matrix: Resurrections. Kinda of slavery because humans are enslaved for either processing power or literal power for for computers, depending on whether you’re reading the books or looking at the movies. Black Widow. Women are enslaved to become assassins. Not much of a spoiler. Black Widow has been around for like 70 years. And The Suicide Squad. Literally the entire premises, they’ll kill you if you don’t do what you’re told, which is slavery with, like, half an extra step.

Randall 

No, but it’s okay because they were bad people to start with. That’s why it’s fun.

Tyler 

Two wrongs don’t make a right, man.

Random 

Listeners didn’t see me flipping the table.

Tyler 

But my point is, there are so many other ways to build an antagonist. Slavery doesn’t have to be your only crutch. Paizo is learning that. The rest of us can too.

Randall 

Okay. Now I think… I think that makes good sense. I guess, another group. What about, you know, differently-abled folks?

Tyler 

Yeah, yes. So that has been another another source of internet argument. Which, okay. So first off, Pathfinder second edition recently introduced the class the inventor in Guns and Gears, which we did an episode on. And the iconic inventor is an amputee. Like, he has, he has a prosthetic arm. Cool character. Great design. Interesting character. I haven’t read any of the fiction but I look at that and like, I want to play that guy. Eberron has had canonically had prostheses for characters since Eberrpm was a thing. So, like, differently-abled characters, characters with physical ailments, characters that are like blind, deaf, missing limbs. All of these characters have existed in D&D for decades. And recently, recently, something called the “combat wheelchair” was published by somebody. We’ll link the original combat wheelchair in the show notes. But for some reason, a vocal portion of the tabletop community saw the combat wheelchair and thought “this is too far” because the concept of a chair with wheels on it is unbelievable in a game with flying carpets and wizards and, like, eldritch horrors. Like, I… sorry, I don’t want to get too preachy on this because we’re trying to come at this from a place of being helpful and friendly. But the D&D is a power fantasy fundamentally. People want to be able to see themselves in these games. People want to see different representations of real-world ethnicities. People want to be able to see different representations of gender identity and expression. They want to be able to see characters that look and feel like them so that they can see themselves in the game world. If, if a combat wheelchair makes the game more accessible for real players, that’s a good thing.

Random 

And real quick, this, like, this is not just a like, oh, you know, wouldn’t it be cool if if these characters… this is a real-world very observable phenomenon. So recently, Hawkeye has come out on Disney+, right? And features a character who speaks only using ASL, and.

Randall 

Spoilers!

Tyler 

It’s the first episode!

Random 

It’s a character. Right. But ot features a character who speaks only using ASL. And when that happened, like Google searches for resources for learning ASL went up several thousand percent.

Tyler 

Whoa! I didn’t know that!

Random 

This is real world thing. This happens. Right? And so, like, when we, when you look at things like the combat wheelchair, there were definitely some… I did see some people talking about the power budget of the item itself being a little off-balance for the rarity that it was given. And, okay, that’s, there’s arguments you can make there. But as always, with anything in these books, these are not set in stone, right? If this is your table, where you are the the person running the game, just say you know what, it, if you’re going to try and buy it, then maybe it’s rare. But if you want to play this character concept, I’m going to work with you to make this happen. You know, if you want to play this character, who maybe is an amputee and wants this, this wheelchair, great. Or, you know, maybe you just want it because it’s like a cool piece of tech, also great. And, but you know, being sensitive of why somebody wants it as to how difficult you’re going to make it to access. That’s, that’s one of the things that you need to keep a real close eye on. And why I think they labeled it uncommon is so that it was fairly accessible, which is a good place to start. And just, you know, if you’re going to tweak that, understand that they did that, from that place of let’s be as inclusive with this as possible, while still making it an obviously magical piece of tech.

Randall 

Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s actually kind of a… in my mind, it’s a funny idea of the, sure, say the item is rare. But the number of the folks in the world who need to use it potentially is also rare. Meaning that, like, if you’re a person who needs this and you have talent, you’re obviously of the talent of an adventurer, it would make sense that maybe this item would be available to you even though that is fairly rare to see. At a higher level, I guess I wanted to hit on, I feel like this applies to most of the topics we talked about, there’s kind of two reasons to to have this kind of content in your story, or in your ruleset. One is to make other folks be thoughtful, and be aware of something analogous to, you know, things that are happening in the real world. And the second is, I think at an individual level for folks who either suffer, you know, let’s say you’re a person who needs a wheelchair to move around. Being able to see yourself in the character is extremely powerful, and in fact, will likely bring a group of people to the game who maybe otherwise, like, just the fact that you see an article because this is something’s going to show up you because Google is scary. You’re gonna read this, and be like, oh, that’s actually kind of cool. I want to read more about it. Okay, I want to play. And boom, we have another person who’s joined the game. And I think that that is very powerful. One of the questions that I have here that I’m thinking about if I was a DM playing, you know, with a character who wanted to play in a wheelchair, whether that person in real life needed a wheelchair or not, they wanted to play a character who needed it. I would sit down at length in the social setting and say, like, what do we want to do? And what do we not want to do? I don’t know if folks are familiar with Brandon Sanderson novels. In particular, the Stormlight Archive, one of the later books, there’s a character who’s introduced as like a, he does these chapters where you’re almost following a narrative, and you have no idea why you even care about the narrative. But eventually, everything merges, right? There’s a particular character who does something a little bit too adventurous to prove herself, and winds up paralyzed, and then winds up being a significant character later on. And this character is still very powerful, still very important. Is showing, you know, there’s both the emotional turmoil of what has happened, but is also, like, badass. Yeah. The, at one point, the one of the downest moments for the character is they’re not able to use their magic wheelchair that allows them to float and go basically wherever they need to go, due to something that they helped to invent. Right? They discovered, or, no, I guess, one character discovered, they figured out how to apply the discovery to create this wheelchair. So they could move around freely, right? But that’s taken away. And so then they had to struggle through it. If you’re in… when we’re building this power, fantasy, and we’re setting this world together, if your characters are comfortable, do you say, look, you get this benefit, and we’re gonna have, you know, it’s an extremely strong thing. But occasionally, we’re gonna have the real issue or, you know, a, you know, a dungeon accessibility issue.

Tyler 

Yeah, a lot of people when the combat wheelchair thing came out, a lot of people said, “dungeons aren’t wheelchair accessible” because a lot of times they’re in caves and stuff. Random you ran Against the Cult of the Reptile God, which great big Temple essentially a giant dungeon. No stairs, all ramps. Because you know what snakes don’t like? Stairs! Because when you’re a giant snake I imagined going upstairs feels a bit like walking on Legos. So ramps. There you go. Wheelchair friendly dungeon. So there are canonical examples of official D&D adventures dating back like 40 years that are wheelchair accessible. And even if you don’t, like, even if you’re saying, Okay, we’re going adventuring in a cave, getting wheelchair through here is going to be a little difficult. There’s plenty of other options. Tenser’s Floating Disk. Levitate. Any magical option, you could just have somebody really strong just pick up the wheelchair. Like, goliaths can carry like 1000 pounds plus. You could strap somebody to horse. Game of Thrones, the little boy who gets paralyzed. Help me.

Random 

Bran.

Randall 

Bran.

Tyler 

Bran. Thank you. Um, I wanted to say like Brandon, but…

Randall 

No, that’s right. It’s still Brandon. But…

Tyler  

Okay, cool.

Randall 

He was named after I think his uncle.

Tyler 

That feels right.

Randall 

He’s named after a historical brand name. Because we only have four names for the whole family, we just got to share.

Tyler 

So, Bran. Game of Thrones. They figure, okay, he’s gonna need to get around outside of the castle where they’re not gonna have somebody to, like, carry him or whatever. So they train a horse and they get him a saddle that’ll hold them upright. you could very easily do that for a character. And even if you go for wheelchairs, there are real world examples of wheelchairs.

Randall 

Let’s pause for a second. Let’s actually just talk about like Bran in a saddle though. One of, like, a sad an interesting scene in the show, is he’s on his horse. And he feels super powerful, because he’s finally moving around, and everything’s great. And then he encounters bandits. And they’re like, you know, get off the horse boy. And he’s like, “I can’t. Like, what do you want me to do?” And I say that to say, like, it’s… I feel like if you’re going to have something like the combat wheelchair, and then you’re going to say, we have a wheelchair for the character, and we will never discuss it again. Like, there is no, there is no conflict personally for the character and everything is perfectly fine. It may be, and this is I think, again, it’s a social conversation, it may be better just to say, like, let’s, let’s not touch this, let’s just get around. But if the character says “I want this,” then I think having a conversation about okay, you know, every session we sit down, we are not going to have a challenge over this, because that is tedious. You won’t like it. Nobody else will like it. But occasionally, let’s have some conflict. And let’s get through it together. And let’s show that we can overcome it. I think that can be really powerful for everybody at the table.

Tyler 

I agree. And using a character’s limitations as a source of conflict in the story, like, that, that’s obviously not exclusive to people who are in wheelchairs. Like, in our horror one-shot, you did a really, really good job of taking, like, taking power from us. Taking, like, Random couldn’t see to cast spells, I was prone and not wearing my best armor. So both of us were extremely vulnerable and in a place where we had lost power. So you can use that as a storytelling device. But don’t, like you said, Randall, don’t overuse it or it will become tired and frustrating for everybody.

Randall 

And that’s where this social check in is like 100% mandatory. You have to constantly check in like, Hey, how did that go? And be sincere and listen, don’t just like you may have pushed it too far. You loved it. It was great. No, absolutely not. You’re a jerk. Anyway.

Tyler 

So I want to dip into a, to one… We’re just going to touch on this super briefly. I don’t want to beat on WotC too much, but Curse of Strahd originally released, and there have been… there have been several problems with with Curse of Strahd and the Ravnica setting in general. The Vistani people are an allegory for real world Romani people, and were referred to in the books for years and years and years as “gypsies” which is a slur for the Romani people. So, not great. Also Esmerelda… Random, do you know how to pronounce her last name,

Random 

d’Avenir.

Tyler 

Thank you. So she is the first canonical character in fifth edition to be depicted with a prosthetic limb. And when Curse of Strahd was published, there was a section in her description called Ezmeralda’s Secret. And the implication just because of that title, is she has a prosthetic limb and is ashamed of it. And since that was, at the time, the only depiction of a D&D character with a prosthetic, that doesn’t send a great message. They just fixed that. Like, the D&D 3.0 errata. It took them four and a half years to correct that text. Which… they knew it was wrong. They published the book, there was immediate backlash. That is why Wizards of the Coast started using sensitivity readers. But it still took them four and a half years to actually change the text.

Random 

A thing about that, that’s really weird is… So I, the Paladin that I talked about so often has met this character and adventured with her for quite some time. It like, it was really easy to… if you were looking at it with an eye for sensitivity, take the secret and the secret is how she lost the leg. And that that’s what she’s so upset about. But the actual leg itself, I mean, like, if you look at the art for it, the prosthetic is gorgeous, you know, beautiful wood, great gold inlay. So, like, if, if you, if you look at this as like, you know, she is, uh, ashamed of the circumstances that caused it rather than the, like, ashamed of the thing itself. There was definitely… I could see where they were coming from, but the way that they, again, WotC. the way that they implemented it. Guys. It’s, it is completely understandable why the backlash was so strong. And so I am grateful that they did get around to fixing that, even if it didn’t take them way longer than it should have.

Tyler 

That’s, that’s kind of a common thing, just in society in general. Like, a lot of times people will know something is wrong and changing something to correct it can be hard. Sometimes it can be financially expensive. Sometimes it can be extremely difficult. And as much as we want change to happen overnight, and we want the world to be a better place overnight, sometimes change is difficult and takes time. It’s important that we keep pushing companies and people and society in general to be better. And waiting is hard. If you are a member of an underrepresented group, if you’re a member of an oppressed group, waiting for change to happen gradually isn’t fair. And people are justifiably sick of waiting for these incremental steps to happen. Sometimes that’s just the way it is. And it’s not good. It’s not great. I want it to be better as much as anybody does. Things are improving faster than they have, arguably in a very, very long time. But things… changes, improvements like this still aren’t instantaneous. Like, Wizards of the Coast can’t reach out and pull every copy of Curse of Strahd off the shelf and change it. They could have issued the errata a lot sooner, but generally they only get to do errata when they’re ordering a reprinting of books. So it’s entirely possible that they just haven’t reprinted Curse of Strahd in all those years, and that’s why it never changed. Like, they just had a massive warehouse of these books sitting somewhere that they had to offload before they could order more. The practical realities of running a company often don’t allow rapid change like this. And, again, physical books. It’s very hard to go out and reach into someone’s bookshelf and change the text. Let’s see, so… So if we can kind of pivot back to Drow. I know we’ve kind of beaten that drum a little bit, but Drow are a really good representation for a lot of the issues we’ve talked about tonight. They have existed in D&D canon for a long time. And they’re they’re a really easy example of looking at what has been done wrong, Well actually, so Tyler, I want to stop for a second. What is… What are the drow? Where did they come from? Yeah, so Drow are quote unquote “Dark Elves.’ They are, they’re typically dark skinned live in the Underdark, and were first introduced in the Forgotten Realms, which was created by Ed Greenwood. They’re, they’re, a race of elves which has historically been depicted as entirely evil, all worshipping the spider queen Lolth who is an evil deity who believes elves should be slaves to her and elves should live underground and anyone who lives on the surface should be murdered in their sleep. So very evil society. It’s heavily matriarchal. So women are in charge, men are functionally property. It is…

Randall 

I may be mixing my mythology real quick. Is it also the case that the original elves were like captured by loaf and trapped underground? Like, over generations turned into the drow? And so it wasn’t even that these folks made a choice to become this thing.

Tyler 

Yes, yeah. That is how the Drow came about within the fan or within the fiction, but a lot of that history isn’t presented in a lot of sources. Like, if you go and grab the original copy of the fifth edition Player’s Handbook, none of that is mentioned. They just talk about Drow are evil, they worship Lolth. They don’t live on the surface. They’ll kill you if they see you. Like, that… Yeah, okay.

Randall 

And then you were hitting like some of their important topics about their society. I just wanted to make sure I had that part clear. So, yeah, men are property and women run the world.

Tyler 

Yeah, yes. And basically, the way to advance in society is to be more powerful, kill your rivals. Worship Lolth better.

Randall  

That sounds great, but let’s talk about the Drow.

Tyler 

Well, I’m actually going to bring that around because that was a useful quip. So a lot of… a lot of what is wrong with the Drow is a very real comparison to what is wrong with a lot of real-world societies. Like if you look at the drought and say “it’s wrong for one gender to have power over the other gender.” That’s the point. It is wrong for one race of people to want to exterminate all other people. That’s the point. Like, the Drow are a very intentional foil and very intentionally like all of these things are really bad and you shouldn’t do any of these things. But a lot of that gets just kind of lost in the the noise of everything else going on in D&D and, like, all of real world society stuff and, like, a lot of… a lot of those things are just… Yeah, lost in the noise. So Ed Greenwood, famous for creating Forgotten Realms, created Drizz’t, wrote The Crystal Shard, created like all of these wonderful characters. Many times New York Times bestselling author. Generally really, really nice guy, really good guy has worked really, really hard to be on the right side of history for decades. But the Crystal Shard, the first book in which Drizz’t appeared was released in 1998. Before I was born. So we mentioned the Overton Window.  You said the year though, no, no, it released in 1988. I was born right after.

Random 

The ya go.

Tyler 

What did I say?

Random 

98. You said 98 the first time.

Tyler 

Oh, sorry. 1988. Yes, the Crystal Shard releases in 1988. Drizz’t is, like, the first character with dark skin portrayed in D&D fiction. So their… the depiction was not perfect. This was very much one of those “one of the good ones,” quote, unquote. And Drizz’t was introduced in Icewind Dale, which is a very, like, Norse… Everyone is a human or dwarf except him. Everyone is fair skinned except him. So he’s very clearly like the Stranger in a Strange Land. And all of the people are there and they’re like, hey, Drow… Drow bad. And then they meet dreads and like, Okay.

Randall 

I’m sorry, buddy. I like you a lot. Yeah.

Tyler 

Yeah. But at the time, again, shifting the Overton Window at the time, that was revolutionary. The idea that a dark-skinned character could be heroic was fairly novel still. So like Ed Greenwood has… Ed Greenwood has consistently been ahead of the curve. Of course, again, shifting the Overton Window, those works from 30 plus years ago, haven’t exactly held up to today’s standards. Sorry, go ahead.

Randall 

You have a quote here. It’s like exactly towards that, that I would love to read for the listeners. And we’ll put a link to the article where we drew it from.

Tyler 

Please.

Randall 

Alright, so: “This is something that I hope more younger people can understand.” Salvatore, who is 62 years old and White, continued. “You’re seeing all this stuff. And it’s obvious to you. If you grew up in the 60s and 70s, it wouldn’t have been obvious. Some things are obvious. But it’s the subtle things that you learn about as you continue to grow and learn. And now finally, we’re seeing it being played out there in the correct way with people saying, this is bullshit. And I love it. And I feel like I’m growing.”

Tyler 

Yeah, so Ed has very recently responded to the the criticisms of depiction of the Drow and is making changes in the Forgotten Realms setting. Two new populations of Drow have been introduced that don’t worship Lolth. So now it’s being it’s being made clear, Lolth has like a few cities in the Underdark that worship her. That’s it. But, like, Drow as an entire populace are not all slaves to her. So he’s moving away from that, like, all X or Y concept.

Randall 

Do we know yet? Like, are they retconning the origin story? Or is it the case that like a group of these folks kind of escaped the influence and are now just Drow?

Tyler 

I personally don’t know. I think, I think it is that like some of them escaped the influence and went off or were like “Lolth bad.” We’re gonna go like be normal, non crazy evil people.

Randall 

Remember when this didn’t suck? Yeah, that was great. We should do that again.

Tyler 

Yes. Yeah, so there’s also some differences in the Forgotten Realms between Ed Greenwood’s books and the like, D&D, tabletop rule books. Ed, Ed Greenwood has explained a bunch of times on Twitter’s there’s there’s tweets everywhere saying like, there is a difference between these two things. Ed’s books, like, the interactions between races are more complex. Cultures are more deep, but he’s also got, like, scores of novels where you can explore these. You can’t fit all of that into, like, the only fifth edition setting book we’ve gotten for Forgotten Realms is Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, which is like 200 pages barely. So it’s hard to fit all of that nuance into the extremely limited content we have in the game.

Randall 

And then just to make sure we’re not mixing, so Salvatore, wrote the Drizz’t books, and Salvatore introduced the Drizz’t character, or did Greenwood introduce?

Tyler 

Uh… you know, I may be getting the author’s mixed up. Yeah. Okay. Salvatore introduced the books, but Ed Greenwood created the ForgottenRealms.

Randall 

Yeah. Okay. And so he created Forgotten Realms, including the Drow. And in particular, Salvatore made the character Drizz’t famous.

Random 

Correct.

Randall 

And so for folks who’ve been listening to this last few minutes. Just separate those things for everything that we just said, it’s gonna be great, you’re gonna love it. I said we were gonna get this wrong. This is like the best thing that we could have gotten wrong.

Tyler 

It sure is. Yes, yes. Yes, R. A. Salvatore, prolific author. Ed Greenwald, wonderful creator and generally a very nice person. So I’ve got another tweet written down from here, which another Twitter user spotted for me recently. So the tweet is “I talked with Gary Gygax about baked-in evil (Orcs, Drow, etc.). And though admitting D&D was whitebread, middle class and Christian rooted, he said he had to have evil labeled racist to fight and (=kill gorily) or the game would have been banned in much of the USA at the time.” So, according to Ed Greenwood, what he heard from Gary was at the time that D&D was released, there had to be a clear like a clear evil people to be antagonists or the game wouldn’t have been received by society at large. So compare that to if the game had been released today and, like, just the real world sentiments are very different.

Randall 

Yeah, I even… Marvel Cinematic Universe is huge right now. And let’s go through the Avengers movies, right? So in the first Avengers, like, mashup, everybody gets together. They’re fighting these obviously not human evil things that have come come to conquer society, right? In, you know, the next one, they’re fighting like a horde of robots who also want to conquer society. In the next one, obviously, they’re all it’s actually the same alienness things, but now with like, controllers, and again, obviously evil things who are trying to control society. So those are obvious evil, and therefore we have to combat them. So I, like, I have young children. And it it’s an interesting phenomenon that I’ve started to notice that like anything targeted towards children, there is always an obvious, not human, not like us evil, where we’re not supposed to feel sympathy, and it’s supposed to be fun that those characters are being destroyed. And there’s a maturing point when things finally turn the corner, and it’s like, but like, that character has some good points, or there’s some redeeming quality. Like, um… I’m losing my mind. Blade Runner is a fantastic example of that of like, that’s great sci-fi where it’s like I, whoa, wait a second. What? What, what are we doing?

Random 

And who is the good guy? Cuz the answer is very intentionally, “there isn’t one.”

Randall 

Yeah. And I say that to say like, I, you know, I read this. I’m gonna say, quote from Gygax, you know, let’s assume that this is 100% honest and true. I 100% can buy the idea that there had to be an “other”. And I think that kind of circles all the way back to what we opened with, that part of what we’re trying to do finally, is we’re trying to say like, there, there isn’t going to be a group and we’re just gonna say the group is “other.” Because that is a whole nother source of evil in human history is just declaring another group of people “other” and therefore it’s okay to have no sympathy or love for them.

Tyler 

Yeah, absolutely. The “othering” of a group of people in order to make it justifiable to oppress or harm them is the source of a lot of real-world problems. Thank you, smart speaker. So it’s, it’s very important when you think about your own world, when you think about your characters in somebody else’s world, if you say like, “my characters are good, they are kind people, they are the heroes.” If they’re okay with saying, like, “every member of this race is perfectly fine to go kill and take their stuff,” maybe they’re not as good-aligned as you thought. So we have to as people, like, as real world people, we have to be careful about those blind spots. We have to be careful about those thoughts. And I mean, I’m as guilty as anyone else. Like I have played D&D for 20 years now. And until these kind of discussions started happening the past couple of years, like it… I never thought, like, Okay, I never thought it was a problem for orcs to all be evil until, like, probably a couple of years ago. And then someone explained like, it’s not okay to say that all members of a sentience, thinking humanoid race think the same way and are inherently evil, and therefore it’s okay to go and kill them. And like, one Reddit comment, and like, oh, I have done some, like, I’ve had some bad thoughts. And I’m going to fix that. It’s that easy. You just have to watch out for those blind spots.

Random 

And it’s interesting, that you keep touching on humanoid, because you know, what we talked about this some in the errata episode, there are some beings in these fantasy settings whose morality is inherently tied to their character. Things like, you know, the outsiders, your devils, your Celestials that are created by divine sources. And even there, like we talked about in the the errata, you know, episode. Even there, it’s not that it’s impossible. For one of these things to change. It’s just exceptional. It’s, you know, it’s a… it is something worth a story. You know, while we’ve been beating on Drow for a little bit, but driders are an interesting example, right? So these are beings that started as Drow and then have been divinely cursed. But like, direct intervention from Lolth, you did something I don’t like, Lol, you’re a drider now. And, you know, it is it is worth exploring. Is it an interesting enough part of the story to say, you know, like, in the books, still, largely, driders are evil, right? Because they’ve been touched by a incredibly strong power that turns them that way. And so are you going to say, okay, yes, I accept all driders are evil? Or is it maybe an interesting thing to say, here’s another thing where that’s a very easy place to be a blind spot. And maybe it would be an interesting story, if you know, what, what people have been calling all Drow or all drider are evil, is actually all writers are possessed of madness, from their interaction with Lolth. And if you, like… maybe that madness is a thing that can be cured somehow. And then what does a drider do at that point, right? If you treat it like an affliction, rather than a part of their identity. Now, that’s something that you’re still going to want to be real careful with because this is not to say that you should be curing people of their personality traits. That’s never going to go well.

Randall 

I mean, I’m going to pause for a second. Like, what you’re what you’re describing is also, like, it’s almost analogous, like traumatic brain injury. Or like, how many, how many violent folks were you discovering, you know, upon analysis later, it’s like, actually, this person had a significant traumatic brain injury. And when their family said it was a night and day difference between this, the accident, and who they became. It’s 100% there. Like, I don’t… this is a whole ‘nother conversation, but it is wild how much of who we are, is dependent on not being stricken with a disease or not being stricken in the head and having our brain injured.

Tyler 

Yeah, and then and then just imagine that a deity steps and is like, hey, I’m gonna hit you in the head. Yeah, driders are a great example. Like, the… you could very easily say, like, driders are all chaotic evil because Lolth has removed choice, essentially. And the the important piece there is if they have a choice, not all members of group X are Y. But it’s entirely possible that by divine intervention, an intervention a deity can step in and is like, No, everyone under my thumb fits into this mold that I have chosen. And Lolth seems like the deity who would do that.

Randall 

Yeah, so we can all agree it’s okay to kill Lolth?

Tyler 

Yes.

Randall 

Yeah? Yeah. Good.

Tyler 

Evil and like spiders. Yup.

Randall 

Okay, I got..

Tyler 

Personal bias there

Randall 

Not all spiders. Okay, I got a thumbs up Producer Dan in the background on killing Lolth so I feel like I can definitely go for it. All right. Uh, yeah. So I, I think we tried to cover a lot. And I think on some places we went deeper, and some places we didn’t, At the highest level, like, for each of our own games, I think maintaining the social fix, having conversations about what folks are comfortable with, making sure that like we’re doing the right things is great. I think we, I said this earlier, but I want to repeat it. My impression is that this community, one, is a community. We tend to… Yeah, there are places where we meet, we talk, we share ideas. And certainly there are differences of opinion within the community. But in general, I think the community wants us to kind of row in a direction. That’s exciting. Hope we don’t get burned on that one. But yeah, I do think we tend to be accepting, which is good. And so maybe just being being aware of the power of what we bring to our games, what it has on bringing new people to the games and how it how we represent ourselves. And then finally pushing the companies that, you know, make the product that we consume to share our values has value. Alright, I think we did it. We did. We made it through. That’s great. So we have a question of the week. Our question of the week this week actually comes from the RPGBOT Discord channel.

Tyler 

Yeah, so if you didn’t know that there’s a Discord channel, that’s a new addition. If you are a member of our Patreon at the $5 tier and above, you get access to our patron-only Discord were Random, Randall, and I all hang out and talk about stuff. Producer Dan pops in there every once in a while too. So this question comes from user Scawizzz, three Z’s, on Discord. I’m playing a half-elf Paladin in Curse of Strahd Revamped. Currently level two. My two companions are squishy (Wizard and Warlock) so I definitely want to be the tank/defender/emergency healer. Which oath is best mechanically for this role? I’m debating debating between crown and redemption based on your guides and I’m struggling to choose. What do we think?

Randall 

I’m going to pause right quick. So in Discord, Random already gave an example, or gave a response but I want to challenge. What Skawizz asked was “I’m debating to increase and redemption but struggling to choose between the two.” So if you had to choose between crown and redemption for a tank/defender/emergency healer, what direction would you go? I want to keep… I’m gonna…

Random 

Yeah, I mean, it’s so um, redemption liens harder into healing. And that’s, that’s really if you’re going to try and like run your Paladin as the group’s healer, Redemption is a good choice for that. Redemption is a ton of fun to roleplay. Of I’m thinking of the right oath, that’s the one that’s based on sort of the the vows from 3.5 or 3.0, I guess Book of Exalted Deeds was a 3.0 supplement. And there was a, a character that you could pick up after a couple feats called Apostle of Peace. And I have played an apostle of peace. That is a silly build. If you ever get a chance to play it, boy. Don’t. But so, that’s, there is some fun roleplay to be had with that, but for the character that you’re talking about, I would only ever do oath of redemption as a very particular, like, I want to be a Paladin, but my party has no other healing. And at that point, you should really explore why you want to be a paladin and not just a Cleric that you’re role playing some vows for. If you’re trying to be a defender, Crown is really a good choice for you.

Tyler 

Yeah.

Randall 

I’m thinking about the Wizard Warlock. Like let’s say, if if this person isn’t going to carry the healing, like how much healing can the Wizard or Warlock possibly carry for the party?

Tyler 

Well, the so the warlock has the celestial as an otherworldly patron option, which offers some limited healing options. They’re honestly not fantastic. They are good enough that the celestial Warlock made a decent showing in the Healbot Olympics, which is a crazy article I wrote, I’ll link it in the show notes. But they’re not… Basically they’re not going to do anything except hit point restoration. So you really need somebody else who can do some healing like a Paladin or Cleric. Wizards basically can’t heal with the exception of the recently added Wither and Bloom, which lets you spend hit dice. But again, they can’t remove status conditions unless you can cast Wish, in which case all problems are solved.

Randall 

Just everybody has to survive until you can cast Wish, that’s all.

Tyler 

Yeah, just rush level 17, guys, it’ll be fine.

Random 

Yeah, I mean, basically Scawizz, you’re in a tough spot. And I might try and talk to you your DM about… Maybe continue to play your character like a Paladin, but mechanically become a Cleric, so that you can try and fill the roles that you’re looking for. Actually, because having been a Paladin, the amount of… having been a Paladin in Strahd the amount of healing you can put out is underwhelming.

Tyler 

Yeah, I think I’d offer the same advice. If you’re absolutely dead set on being a Paladin I would definitely go for crown for… prevention is better than cure and crown is really good at preventing damage. A Cleric will be a great addition to this party and basically any heavily armored Cleric will do pretty much just as well as a Paladin as a frontline tank. So life domain, tempest domain, anything that gets heavy armor you’re gonna do great. I haven’t played Curse of Strahd. But I have to imagine that undead are a thing. So the ability to do consistent radiant damage. Really good. Of course, Paladins have Divine Smite, but yeah, so between the two, I would say oath of crown. If you’re considering other options, definitely look at Cleric.

Randall 

Okay, now I can’t believe I’m the one who has thought of this. Why not play, take the oath of crown and then bring a sidekick that can do the healing.

Tyler 

That’s a great idea too! If your group is willing to bring in sidekicks one of the spellcaster sidekicks that can do healing spells is a great choice. Basically, if they can do Cure Wounds and Lesser Restoration, that’ll solve a ton of your problems. And yeah, they’re a sidekick. So they won’t take up a lot of space, they won’t cause a lot of problems and you don’t have to give them too much attention.

Random 

I’m trying to think about where you would even find a character that could do that in a Ravenloft.

Tyler 

The spooky mists!

Randall 

isn’t the idea of it that people just randomly get drawn in from other planes? So just whatever. There’s a constant stream of healers coming in.

Tyler 

Disposable healbot. One falls into the encounter every time you roll initiative.

Randall 

No, but I do think, right, the idea of taking crown to be defensive, and then having a healer and then also maybe, you know, pushing the other folks in your party to carry some of the weigh. Maybe getting the warlock to take the celstia… the celestial patron. All those things together I would hope would provide enough healing and you’re not dependent on like one person and one person only that that hopefully you could survive it.

Random 

I will say Strahd is a very lethal campaign. There’s a lot of ways that they can go wrong and in the party of Paladin, full Bard, full Druid it still felt like there were times we didn’t have enough healing. So just be aware.

Randall 

All right, and then I will call out so in the Discord channel Random, your immediate responses like oh crown or redemption? I would choose oath of conquest.

Random 

No, I so I… I wasn’t responding to that. Somebody else brought up vengeance and conquest.

Randall 

Okay.

Random 

Talking about good protectors. And so then of course I had to pull out my conquest guide.

Randall 

Well, I threw under the bus for nothing. Okay.

Tyler 

We’ll link that in the show notes though his random zone of conquest article is very good. It’s a very cool subclass.

Randall 

It has never been in our show notes before, so this is exciting. They’re laughing a lot.

Tyler 

I think the only thing that we have linked more in our show notes is Red Hand of Doom. That’s fair, which is justifiable because red hand of doom is really good. We’ll link it in the show notes.

Randall 

Plus one to it. Okay, all right. Well, again, we did it. Thanks so much for joining. We enjoyed it. So next episode, we’re going to post a question. Why are you running your one shot at level one? I’m Randall James. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @JackAmateur

Tyler 

I’m Tyler Kamstra. You’ll find me at rpgbot.net. Twitter and Facebook RPGBOTDOTNET, and patreon.com/rpgbot.

Random 

and I’m random pelle, I am solely and exclusively available at the oath of conquest paladin page on RPGBOT.net but in case you do manage to find me somewhere else, I’m probably in places that people play games as Hartlequin or Hartlequint.

Tyler 

He’s also on our Discord as Hartlequint

Random 

Indeed.

Randall 

I’m imagining you using the the chat conversation on that post as your email server. Just message me here! What’s so hard about this anyway? Okay. All hail the Leisure Illuminati.

All 

Hail!

Randall 

You’ll find affiliate links for source books and other materials link in the show notes following these links helps us to make this show happen every week. You can find our podcast wherever find podcasts are distributed. If you enjoyed this podcast, please rate review and subscribe and share it with your friends. If your question should be the question of the week next week, please email podcast@rpgbot.net or message us on Twitter RPGBOTDOTNET or hop into our Discord and post there. Thanks, folks. We’ll see you next week. I didn’t do a Randall James. Or, you know, I’m Randall James and blah, blah, blah.

Random 

I know.

Randall 

I had forgotten one. And at that point, it was like it’s too late. And if I try to think of something with you right now, it’s going to be bad.

Tyler 

It’s good to know that about ourselves.

Randall 

Yeah,it’s like I’m, I’m Randall James and I’m, I’m a good person. I think.

Random 

Oh, no.

Randall 

That’s… exactly. It’s not as good.

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