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Racism is not restricted to reality anymore! Now even non-existent RPG races are discriminated against.

I came to this realization during a fabulous 13 hour RPG session recently. Our gaming group has been playing an Earth Dawn campaign for over six years now. Our Game Master is incredibly talented and dedicated. The quest is obviously of epic proportions and we've all played multiple characters, both for variation and because mortals are such fragile beings that they have a nasty tendency to die. Due to this, our group has come into contact with essentially every Name-giver race. I have noticed that some new characters are accepted more readily and easily into the party then others. From extended observation I realized this had little to do with the personality of the character and much, much more to do with the character's race.

The problem is that most RPGs have at least one cute, cuddly, obnoxious race. Of course the members of this race that make it to the adventurer status would be quite different from the run of the mill, say Kender (see: Dungeons and Dragons) or (in my case) Windling. Yet the generalization of their race characteristics stick to the poor would-be heros like a plague. Just like real life! Of course these races have a much worse time because in the RPG world there really is nothing more to go on then the general race description that the Player's Handbook gives. My gaming mates make it no easier by refusing to acknowledge that they have a problem. Whatever Windling stumbles upon our group and cause is labeled annoying, irritating and bait instantly, before the Player can even manifest a personality in said Windling. This is especially frustrating if you've been allowed to develop your character, have worthwhile and necessary information to contribute and can also slaughter most of the companions in your group without breaking a sweat. Yet the group still manages to ignore you and wander off to their death, oblvious and just happy to be rid of the Windling.

So I don't want to offend anyone and claim that I understand racism. But this is a little bit of insight, into the feeling a minority, or really anyone who is hated for no good reason, must feel. It's also a bit of despair, because people can't even keep racism out of a game, a fictional world.

Forgive the intrusion from the non-RPG world, but I find this a fascinating topic, and can't resist the urge to propose a conceptual framework.

One important distinction might be between prejudice and other forms of racism. By prejudice I mean, literally, pre-judging a person, based on first impressions, typically because it is expedient. For example, you are walking alone down the street and see a group of tough looking strangers that appear to be of a different class or race than you, walking towards you. You decide to cross the street or otherwise avoid a confrontation. Lets be honest, people of all races probably do this more often that we're willing to admit. It is arguably an acceptable form of prejudice, because in a potential survival situation, you are making a rational judgment based on limited information as to the best way to handle the encounter. It would be surprising (and quite irrational) if this same behavior didn't manifest itself in most RPG "encounters". After all, the death is the rule in RPG much more than in real life, so this would tend to increase the survival benefit of prejudice.

Other forms of racism might be defined as judgments (whether before or after you know the individual) based on ignorance or hatred, rather than expediency. The important difference is that these types of racism are irrational. I leave it to the reader to fill in their least favorite example.

The interesting question is, how much RPG racism is based on expediency, and how much is based on these other factors? Ignorance may not be an important factor, because all players presumably have perfect knowledge of the documented characteristics of each race. I suppose its possible players might decide to role-play their character's ignorance, but I don't get the sense from the write-up that this happens very much. The remaining basis for irrational racism in RPG's is antipathy or outright hatred. In some cases, hatred between the races is a documented feature of the game milieu; failure to be racist would in general be out of character in these cases. Here, racism is an artifact of the game rules and not necessarily an example of real world racism intruding into the game.

But, its possible (and likely, judging by the write-up above) that some game characters engage in (non-expedient) racism in the game merely because distaste for certain game races has become part of the player culture, even when the game or scenario rules don't explicitly call for it. Here would be a true case of real world tendencies towards racism migrating into the game.

RPG racism vs. real world racism -- I think there's at least a good term paper in it!

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