I want to talk to you today about my favorite section of the Players Handbook for 5th edition. Now that might seem like a bit of an odd topic. Even more so when I mention that it’s not just a section, or a page, but it specifically is two paragraphs. But before I get into the details of this, I want to qualify my statement. I don’t have any intention to bring politics into this site or start arguments in the comments section. I don’t want to offend anyone or make anyone feel left out or same any inflammatory remarks. That being said, this is something that Wizards of the Coast chose to put into their handbook for the game. The one book that pretty much anyone who really wants to play needs to read, even if they never notice these two small paragraphs. It’s something that makes me proud as a D&D player that they put in the book and I think it’s healthy for the game and healthy for society to have these views. Will everyone agree with what I’m about to post, probably not, but that’s ok. Just because two people don’t agree on something doesn’t mean they have to fight, or can’t be friends, or can’t sit at a table together, roll some dice, and go on adventures. If everyone in the world was the same how dreary a world that would be. What matters is that we respect each each other, even if someone disagrees with us. I would never force my beliefs on someone else and would not want them to try to force theirs on me.
So before we go further, let me just put in these paragraphs here so we are all on the same page. Which incidentally, this is found on page 121 of the Players Handbook for 5th Edition.
You can play a male or female character without gaining any special benefits or hindrances. Think about how your character does or does not conform to the broader culture’s expectations of sex, gender, and sexual behavior. For example, a male drow cleric defies the traditional gender divisions of drow society, which could be a reason for your character to leave that society and come to the surface.
You don’t need to be confined to binary notions of sex and gender. The elf god Corellon Larethian is often seen as androgynous or hermaphroditic, for example, and some elves in the multiverse are made in Corellon’s image. You could also play a female character who presents herself as a man, a man who feels trapped in a female body, or a bearded female dwarf who hates being mistaken for a male. Likewise, your characters sexual orientation is for you to decide.
The one thing that D&D has always been about is how you can do anything, you can be anyone, you can go anywhere. The only limit is your imagination. And to Wizards of the Coast credit, it is something that stick by and support. So much so that they made sure these two paragraphs where in the core rule book of the game. This is about inclusion. Anyone can play this game and you can play anyone you want to. There was a great article in one of the recent Dragon+ magazine articles about players and characters with handicaps. It discussed how you should welcome players with handicaps to the game and if someone has a character that has a handicap or becomes handicapped in the course of the adventure, that’s ok. It’s actually a good thing. It makes your world more real, it makes your game more welcoming and accepting.
My gaming group is made up of men and women. We have people of all ages and all different backgrounds. Anyone is welcomed at my table. And I have seen a range of character choices. Men playing female characters, female playing male, I have even seen a woman playing a male character who wanted to be a female but had not completed the transitioning process yet. You can be straight, you can be gay, you can be anything you want to be. And Wizards made sure that was well known.
I commend them. This could be a very controversial section of the book and they could get flack from a lot of people. But they took a stand and they made a statement. They are saying that anyone is welcomed and all will be accepted. I think one of the reasons that this is never really complained about from my experience at the table is that this is just something that D&D has always offered. That may be why a lot of people never noticed this part of the handbook. It’s just a natural part of the game so these paragraphs are really no big deal to them. But there are people out there who do notice. And seeing a company stand up for them like this, and accept them as they are, has got to be a good feeling to know they won’t be judged and can let their imagination run wild or just be themselves. The handbook looked at bigots and close minded people and told them in no uncertain words, we accept everyone.
Wizards took a stand and made a choice. And they chose acceptance.
That’s a company I’ll stand behind every day of the week.