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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Is Dungeons & Dragons a White Guy Club?

OK...a small warning before you continue reading.  I'm gonna go deep on this one.  It's a topic I've been thinking about for some time, and recently have had a few conversations with gaming friends regarding.  It's gonna be about race, in particular 'why I have never played D&D with a black guy', so I may cross a line I shouldn't (likely in a non-malicious, accidental way...but it could happen).  I may not say something how YOU would say it, so maybe you find that offensive.  Bottom line is, if you think you might be offended, maybe you just shouldn't read it.  I know I can't stop the hate-mail or whatever later on, but its on my mind and I wanna talk about it, and I don't think talking about it is a problem.  Some folks are looking for a problem, and I'm asking those folks nicely, just don't read.  I won't get into a fight with anyone about this, because while I'm curious enough to want to talk about it here, I'm not invested enough to go to war over it.  Caveat over...your call.

I have never played Dungeons & Dragons or any other table-top role-playing game with a black guy (or girl).  I have been playing for a long time (since 1981 or so), and in all my years of playing, and in all the places I have lived, I have never played with a black guy.  I don't think I've ever even seen a black guy playing...period.  A short while ago I saw this video...

I thought it was a fun video, and didn't give it much thought.  Then I started taking note of all of the things happening with women and RPG's.  I had occasionally played with a girl at the table, but often she was know...the girlfriend of a guy playing who didn't want to be left out.  She didn't really take it 'seriously', and by that I just mean she was playing only to be near her boyfriend, not coming to the table really looking to play and enjoy the game.  These days alot of women/girls seem to be playing, GMing, and enjoying the hobby in the same way I have done for all these years, and I'm glad.  It means that we get a whole batch of fresh players with, in all likelihood, a perspective and attitude towards the game that will be different and refreshing.  I don't think of myself as a feminist or anything like it, but 15 year  old me sure would have liked to play D&D with a girl, because then I would have something to talk about with a girl, and maybe I would have had an opportunity to ask her out on a date or something.  Lord knows I was scared to death of girls as a young teenager...but I certainly knew that I liked 'em!

Anyway, my young libido aside...recently I began to think about diversity in gaming as a general construct, and that led me to where I'm at right now...this place where, as I reflect back on my 'career' as a player of D&D and RPG's in general, that I have never played with a black guy.  I grew up in Philly, a very racially and culturally diverse city where white and black folks (and every other ethnicity) live and work and raise kids and go to get the idea.  There was no lack of black folks here.  I went to school with plenty of black kids (even though they were bussed in back then), and I worked with black guys (who were older, and great mentors (especially when it came to lunch...I worked in Center City, and those guys knew where to get the best grub on the super 10$ always bought me a big lunch and 5$ change)).  My point is, that while I was around plenty of black folks every day, not once did any of the black kids in my middle school or high school ever sidle up to me while I read the DMG at lunch and take an interest, or even show that they knew what the hell it was.  I never saw a single black person at the FLGS.  It seemed like a white-guy only affair.

Later I moved to Houston, another metropolitan city  (though arguably less so than Philadelphia), and again I encountered the same lack of diversity in gaming.  Never saw a black dude at the FLGS in Houston.  I posted and answered ads for players and DM's, and not one new person or group contained a black guy.  As I started to go to gaming conventions, same thing.  A sea of white, pimply faces.  Now, back then I really wasn't giving it much thought.  I just hung with my friends.  I had gaming friends (all white or Asian), and then just friends (white, black, Asian...whatever...just friends).  It never struck me as odd because I wasn't analyzing it, I was just living it.  It was the 90's by then...BTW.

During my conversation with my Sunday night FG group last weekend...I decided to bring it up.  Had anyone played D&D with a black guy?  NOPE.  Had anyone been to a Convention and saw a black dude?  Nope.  I though to myself geez...what the fuck is going on here?  It's like 30 years after I started playing and still, no black guys?  We went to the internet, looking for answers.  None to be had.  A few people look like they tried to get some things going, but nothing stuck.  There was no blog for the Society of Black TTRPG Guys.   No organization of black gamers.  Images from this years GenCon were devoid of black guys.  Did I search wrong?  Did I miss a picture?  Maybe.  Maybe I'm not looking in the right places, but that still doesn't change the fact that I never played D&D with a black guy.

When I play Fantasy Grounds and we have a new game coming up, we post for new players.  Now granted, I can't really tell what race anyone is over Skype.  I still don't think I ever played a VTT with a black guy.  Maybe I did, and I just don't know it...but I doubt it.

I would love to hear from some black players/GM's.  It's a strange feeling, ya know?  Did we, RPG players as a group, somehow accidentally exclude black guys from our games, or did black guys excuse themselves from the 'table' for some reason?  Is this a hobby that just held no interest for the average or even the nerdy/geeky black guy?  Are things different now? Is it possible that I, being a fellow of a particular generation, won't ever play with a black guy because I tend to continue to play in my general age-bracket, and only younger gamers have this sort of diversity?  

Look...I'm not putting out a call to black gamers here.  I'm not looking to add a black guy to my game table just so I can say I have a black guy over to game...That seems overtly racist.  I guess I'm just wondering if there are black players of D&D, and do they have a perspective on the game or the hobby in general that I don't have access to, and if so, could they share it?

Also..Why don't we ever discuss this?  I see Diversity in gaming all over the place when it comes to gender, but nothing seems to be talked about with regard to race.  Are we all too scared to discuss it openly, and if we don't then how will it ever change?  For that matter, did it already change and I just missed it?

Holy crap.  Why am I even thinking about this?  I don't fucking know.  Sometimes I get a thought in my head and I can't shake it.  I don't think it makes me a bad person or unusual... you guys can tell me that I've been living under a rock.  Fire away.


  1. I think you might need to get out more.

    My most recent run at SF Comicon: 5 women, 2 men (including me.)

    At my FLGS, +Games of Berkeley we have players of many colors, cultures, genders, and nationalities.

    Another DM's shot of his game:

    Even my home game has had equal participation of women and men with only one "pair" being a couple.

    1. I certainly recognize that more and more women are playing...I point that out in the post, but 1 guys home picture of a game is not necessarily any more of a true sample or cross-section of gamers than my own personal experience, which is what prompted me to write the post.

      I get out plenty, but I'm still not running into alot of black guys or gals playing.

  2. Is this a chicken/egg problem? I honestly don't know.

    Only African American who would be a great candidate still lives in CO (I moved from there 15 years ago) but in Tucson? Gaming diversity....isnt.

  3. No. Played campaigns and games with all ethnicities and genders since 1979. Japanese, African-American, Hispanic, Caucasian. Gender has been about a 60/40 male/female split with RPGs and a 90/10 for wargames.

  4. I haven't played D&D with any black people, but I have played other games with black players at conventions. Apart from that, there are a few non-white players in my Star Wars: Edge of the Empire group. I think most of it boils down to where you live.

  5. Holy crizzap, thank you for adding me to your blogroll!!!!

  6. No problem! I love reading your posts. Super weird n cool and imaginative! Thanks for working on all of that great material!

    1. Thank you very much, I will add your blog to mine as well!

    2. Thank you very much, I will add your blog to mine as well!