The New Wokeness of D&D: When They Came for the Orcs…

I suppose it was inevitable that the SJWs would get bored with smashing sci-fi and space fantasy and move onto liquidating traditional fantasy.
No, I don’t mean putting fairies and elves into the camps, ala Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards (I should do a column on that oddity), but in a more figurative sense of wrecking the lore.
Since I’m what some might call a “vintage” player of role-playing games, I only recently learned that Wizards of the Coast has decided to make Dungeons and Dragons ‘woke.’   This is yet another lamentable milestone in the ever-lengthening highway of SJW stupidity.



Projection, Thy Name is SJW

More and more I hear the term ‘dog whistle’ to describe hidden elements of racism.  Of course, it’s axiomatic that if you can hear the dog whistle, you’re the dog.
It takes a particularly bold and tone-deaf person to declare that an imaginary people known for ceaseless violence, casual cruelty and incidental cannibalism must necessarily be a stand-in for black folks.  Seriously, if Lurtz emerging as a newborn from a muddy slime-pit immediately puts you in mind of a real-world ethnic group, I think you are the one with the racism problem.
To everyone else, orcs are a convenient stand-in for elemental evil, the necessary contrast to the nature-loving and spirit-centered elves.
Orcs hate nature, burn and hack whatever gets in their way.  They are servile but rebellions, cruel and cowardly.  Again, if you think these particular traits apply uniformly to a real-world ethnic group, I’d suggest you get some psychological counseling.

“Dull, Drilled, Docile, Brutish Masses of the Hun Soldiery”

Orcs as we know them came from the inimitable mind of J.R.R. Tolkien, and (as he has written) he was inspired both by historical legends and his own experiences in the trenches of World War I.  Tolkien was no aristocrat, but when war came and the British Empire mobilized, his college education moved him to the ranks of “officers and gentlemen.”  So it was that a student of languages found himself a freshly minted lieutenant of infantry.
Amidst the carnage and waste, Tolkien gained a new appreciation for the stubborn courage of his soldiers – something he represented in the hobbits of Lord of the Rings.  Modest, peaceful, even conflict-averse, they nevertheless were capable of astounding feats of courage and self-sacrifice when duty required it.
But Tolkien also saw a darker side, one described by Winston Churchill in the quote above, but that actually applied to all armies: hard-bitten soldiers for whom mercy and morality were but a memory.
The unceasing grind of trench warfare produced men who can only be described as “orcish,” and the dialog Tolkien attributes to them closely mirrors the Cockney speech patterns of British troops who had lost themselves in the ceaseless slaughter.
Unlike the other soldiers, Tolkien saw these men as embracing cruelty for its own sake, laughing at the pain of others and thinking only of how they can rise through the ranks and gain a station of comfort and power.
Tolkien’s work created an entire genre precisely because it was so familiar.   Like the best fiction writers, he found a way to discuss deep philosophical questions in the human condition and – more remarkably – he did so in a in a way that even children could understand.
As for orcs, we immediately recognized them and the evil they represented, from Einsatzgruppen in the Ukraine to ethnic cleansers in the Balkans or Rwanda.  Orcs ran the killing fields in Cambodia and machine-gunned civilians at My Lai.  Orcs exist in every time and every part of the world, for they are the worst of us.

Dammit, You’re Using Your Imagination Wrong!

WotC isn’t just stopping with Morgoth’s monstrous Glamhoth, however, but extending its revisionism to drow elves, which is positively bizarre.  These weirdos were always sort of fringey, and early editions of the game denounced stories of them as heretical (no, really, the books said there weren’t any).  Tolkien himself used the term “Dark Elves” (Moriquendi in his invented language) to describe the ‘primitive’ elves who never went the fabled West.  It carried zero implication of evil, but rather referred to their lack of “enlightenment.”   There was a certain irony here, for the supposedly most advanced elves (the Noldor), unleashed war, betrayal and destruction on their rustic kin.
The drow are highly stylized with pure white hair, black skin and a serious spider fetish.  They live underground and run slave empires.  Like the orcs, anyone looking at their cruel, sadistic and sinister society and who says:  “you know which ethnic group this reminds me of” is the one with the problem.
So to combat this evil WotC is going to churn out modules and stuff showing us “good orcs” and “good drow” because why not?  Maybe orcs are just friends we haven’t made yet?  Perhaps WotC can build a one of those “coexist” logos where Chaotic Evil and Lawful Good shake hands in mutual respect and joy.
The irony here is that players have been making non-traditional orc and drow characters for years, decades even.   That’s the thing about role-playing games – you get to run it any way you want.
The proper response from WotC should have been: “It’s a game!  You’re out of your mind!  People play what and how they want!  Get lost!”
But just as with console games, comics and other forms of geek culture must be made to conform.
When you get right down to it, SJWs cannot create things of beauty, and this fills them hate.  Their greatest joy is wrecking the artistic labor of others.
If they are so worked up about orcs, maybe they shouldn’t act like them.

A.H. Lloyd

Obscure author and curmudgeon. Read my other ravings at and buy my brilliant books.