A Response to an Open Letter to DnD Next’s Art Department

Choose Your Weapon

This guest post was submitted by Draco.

If you read the New York Times or Forbesor are a total gamer nerd, you may have heard that there’s a new version of Dungeons & Dragons in the works. I’m as excited as the next dice-chucker, and there is no shortage of people who are eager to opine on what this new version should include. Especially because Wizards of the Coast is encouraging player feedback this time around.

One blogger took this rare opportunity to speak up in a post addressed to Wizards about a rather large elephant (Oliphant?) in the room.

…I am very, very, deeply concerned about the direction of the art in this game, and I would like to invite the art department, particularly those in decision-making positions, to pay close attention to what I am about to say next:

Dungeons & Dragons is still seen as a sexist game, and you are the only people in the world who can fix that.

Now, the game itself is not innately sexist. And as the author notes, it’s come a long way since the 70’s. But the art in the game (including core books, supplements, and online material), can still fall victim to all the usual pitfalls that many blogs, including this one, have worked to bring to light of late.

Now, pointing this out is one thing, but the author doesn’t stop there:

It’s not just sexist, though. It’s sexist, it’s racist, and it’s ableist in its artistic representation of people.

Yep. And he goes on to detail how and why this should change, and that 5e / D&D Next / whatever the next version will be called, is a great opportunity to make this change. And for the most part, I agree.

Where my opinion diverges is this: I don’t think D&D needs to be a sexless game. I think there’s absolutely room for some light romance, sensuality, and even a bit of flirty sexuality in the game’s art. Let’s not forget that some of our favorite high fantasy includes these things. Aragorn and Arwen? Lancelot and Guinevere? Cersi and Jaime? …okay, maybe not those two.

Anyway, the key is that it needs to be appropriately displayed, and not just limited to women. No awkward poses. More practical adventuring armor/clothing. No goofy expressions.

The rest, I think, is spot on. Bring on the husky, dark skinned fighters and the waifish, olive skinned, one-armed clerics.

The best part of all this, though? Through the power of the internet (specifically Twitter), we’ve brought this to the attention of the powers-that-be at Wizards of the Coast. And it sounds like they’re listening:

(from the comments) Not only do I here [sic] you, but I invite you to come join me when I start writing articles on the D&D website. I’ll be talking about a whole heap of issues that I know interest folks. How do I know? I’ve been asking.

…and I think this is where we say, “HUZZAH!”

But not just that, we need to take this offer, this opportunity, and speak up. If you’d like to see more inclusive art, say so! Let Wizards know that there’s a market they may miss if they don’t act. After all, the world needs more chainsaw-armed zombie slayers.

Draco (an alias, chosen long before that Malfoy kid moved in down the street), has been gaming since 1992, and currently runs a 4th edition D&D game. He’s pretty sure that being more welcoming to lady gamers and a more diverse gaming community in general benefits everyone. He’s also a fan of good fantasy art.

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