My Facebook feed has gotten a little busy the last couple of days over Dungeons & Dragons 5e Player’s Handbook. Now, I will apologize in advance for not being able to link back to any official statement from WotC (Wizards of the Coast for you non-gamer types) for this. I did a Google search, and the only things I can find are blogs talking about it. I did not, however, find WotC backing up and going “Woah, woah, wait a second. We’re not trying to tread new ground here” and several of the people sharing the news are themselves industry insiders (that’s where I first heard it from, and insider I follow on Facebook). So, going by the ethos of those sharing and no back-peddling from WotC, I’m going with legit.
I like seeing this. If you follow me on G+ or Facebook, then you know that I take LGBT issues very seriously. While other companies, for example White Wolf, tackled them first, before it was cool to do so, btw, it is good to see another major player walk onto the field in a positive way. And while, admittedly, this brings to mind many a joke about elves and their perceived gender neutrality, this is not a small thing in the D&D multiverse. Corellon Larethian is a big god, the big god of the elves.
You know that nasty Lolth who caused so much mischief for so long, twisted elves to her own ends, and created her own dark pantheon?
Yeah, in 3 & 3.5 editions of Dungeons & Dragons (I don’t know about 4th cause I never played it) she was technically still part of Corellon Larethian’s pantheon. That’s how big of a god he is. So presenting him as androgynous as an example for players to follow in not only how to consider gender for their own characters but to build acceptance in their own games and gaming universes … yeah. It’s a big thing.
Off topic a moment, am I the only person who always said Larethian with an extra “n”?
Back on topic …
Will we see backlash? Maybe. Go and start a discussion on any busy forum involving gaming about the depiction of women or gender equality. I’ve seen it for as long as I’ve been gaming online. My friends dub them MRA, the name comes from other trigger issues we won’t get into right now, and male and female alike tend look at them with contempt.
I doubt we will see any back-peddling, however. More and more companies are getting braver and braver about their outreach to the LGBT community. As one friend pointed out, this is a good economic decision for WotC. They are making their product more appealing to a broader audience. Even the current detractors will likely toss their criticisms aside once the books come out. Why?
Because this is nothing new in gaming.
As sexists as the gaming community and gaming media can be, its player base has also been, in my personal experience, some of the most culturally accepting people I have ever known. Even the ones who I may otherwise vehemently disagree with politically, when it comes to LGBT issues will often be like “Well, okay. Whatever floats your boat.”
Considering the number of table top and online games I have played with men who gender-bend, or the fact that I don’t think anyone playing a caster-type online has ever complained to me that his character has to wear a dress (let’s face it. Robes and kilts are no different than dresses and skirts), I don’t think fuss over this kind of move will remain in place long. At worse, it will just be another thing for some religious groups to point at.
Because we all know the love that religious groups have for Dungeons & Dragons.
No, criticism over this will blow over. Because in this move, WotC is not ahead of their player base. They are catching up to it. Now will it lead to better, more even portrayal, of female characters in this and other games, both in paper and online? Perhaps. That would be nice. Will it lead to greater prevalence of LGBT characters in fantasy games? I don’t see why it wouldn’t. But this specifically is nothing that many players have not already seen in their own table top games.
WotC is just acknowledging and encouraging it. And to that I say, it’s about time.