The year is 1992, and Rifts is a breakout success. It’s the gonzo RPG experience that no one knew they wanted, and people are screaming for more. The books out are selling like crazy, but the world is still insanely under developed. World Books One and Two, The Vampire Kingdoms (Northern Mexico) and Atlantis respectively, were well received. 1993 is supposed to build on the successes of the last few years, with Dimension Book One: Wormwood, and the third and fourth World Books, England and Africa, planned for release. Things didn’t go as planned.
Category Archives: Racism in Games
Over the years, whenever a new “ethnic” campaign setting was in the offing at TSR, it almost inevitably ended up being bolted onto the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting to give more “options” to players (read: to have their characters not come from said “ethnic” setting). Kara-Tur, the setting of 1985’s Oriental Adventures was later added to the setting as the eastern half of the Eurasian style main continent, opposite to the European themed Faerûn. Zakhara, the setting of the 1001 Arabian Nights themed setting of Al Qadim was added in 1992, as a large peninsula dangling south, midway between Faerûn and Kara-tur. But prior to that, in 1991, the Maztica boxed set was released, and gave the Forgotten Realms a pre-contact “Americas” region. Things went sideways fast.
This entire blog was initiated because of the gross injustice done to Chult in the 4e D&D Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting.  With 5e D&D, a lot of “fixit” work was done to the setting, a bid to reverse almost universally disliked changes. To date, Chult has been a relatively ignored or abused since 2e AD&D; when James Lowder cracked the area open with his Ring of Winter novel and as a co-writer on the Jungles Of Chult Module. So its selection as the location for the redone Tomb of Annihilation module came as a surprise. Given past experience, I approached it with caution. Time to review The Tomb of Annihilation.
Anyone who knows me in real life knows that I’m into tanks. Tanks, and by extension most armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs), are kind of my thing. I teach AFV and aircraft recognition, have Military Machines International magazines laying about, and possibly too much bookshelf is being consumed by a slowly growing selection of books about tanks and other AFVs. Needless to say, I’ve wanted to play World of Tanks for some time, and earlier this year I finally got my poor old iMac to run it. The game is great fun, but some parts of it leave me with mixed feelings. The creators of the game have done a great job overall, going so far as to have nation specific voices for the crews to shout in. The research detail isn’t too shabby either, although some vehicles suffer for the sake of game balance. The part that left me disappointed was the crew section. In the garage (or stables as I prefer), each tank’s crew is represented with a row of thumbnail images, one for each crewman. The faces are overwhelmingly white. In fact, only the tanks from the USA’s tech tree have the option of being switched to having POC crew, or the possibility of having a POC face randomly selected. Now, given that the game was originally aimed at a World War Two-ish era, some might ask “So?”
A continuous plague, not just in gaming, but in real life, is the continued use and belief in non-Mendelian genetic inheritance. This can be particularly hurtful towards, and irritating to, POC who identify as “Mixed-race” individuals. This is because non-Mendelian ideas of inheritance come loaded with social stigmas and pervasive stereotypes that we still labour under to this day, despite serious science’s rejection of them. This affects gaming by reinforcing negative impressions of the “half-breed” player races and by extension, actual people of mixed ethnicity. When Gregor Mendel did his work on peas, he immediately disproved the existing ideas about what we now know as genetic inheritance. If you need a quick crash course in Mendel’s work, and Punnett Squares, check out this video. Unfortunately, the more common sense sounding “Blending” inheritance model and the disastrous aftermath of the laws designed to classify ethnicity via blood quantum and one-drop laws continue to affect us both in reality and in game. So buckle up, this one is going to be a bit science-y, and then I’m going to look at how fantasy races (species?) act as the other, and reinforce real world prejudices and beliefs. As previous, D&D will the fantasy gaming world I’m examining, as it is the most prominent and popular.