Orcs, the monstorous fictional fantasy race, are once again under attack by ‘nerd’ culture outlets and creators who are unable to separate fiction from reality for failing to conform to very specific standards of progressive politics.

On April 25th, Arms of the Tide podcast host Quinn Welsh-Wilson asserted their disgust and shock at the in-game description of roleplaying as an Orc found in the 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons, claiming that the language used was “blatant racism.” (Archive link: http://archive.is/TUJRf)

The ‘Roleplaying an Orc’ section describes how Orcs are “indoctrinated into a life of destruction and slaughter,” but hold the ability to “develop a limited capacity for empathy, love, and compassion.”

It reads in full:

“Most orcs have been indoctrinated into a life of destruction and slaughter. But unlike creatures who by their very Nature are evil, such as gnolls, it’s possible that an orc, if raised outside its culture, could develop a limited capacity for empathy, love, and compassion.

No matter how domesticated an orc might seem, its blood lust flows just beneath the surface. With its instinctive love of battle and its desire to prove its Strength, an orc trying to live within the confines of civilization is faced with a difficult task.”

Progressive ‘Nerd Culture’ Outlets and Creators Once Again Claim Depictions of Orcs are “Problemtic”, Justify “Race Science”

Related: Tolkien and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ Accused of Promoting Racism Due to Orc Discrimination

Welsh-Wilson quickly received a wave of backlash from fantasy fans who argued that not only are orcs, first conceptualized by J.R.R Tolkien in his famous Lord of the Rings series, a fictional race and are not based on real-world minorities, but that Welsh-Wilson’s assertion was itself racist for assuming that these descriptors were being used in reference to non-white races.

After initially asking their critics to “please learn how to read texts. Just basic media analysis stuff,” Welsh-Wilson would later explain that their statement was “about language used by colonizers to justify colonial violence,”stating that they were attempting to “point out parallels in rhetoric and language in describing orcs to language historically used to dehumanize people and justify colonial violence.”

However, they were not alone in their views on the fictional race, as numerous independent table-top RPG developers and community figures quickly rushed to defend Welsh-Wilson, flaunting their progressive politics and doubling-down on the idea that lore-faithful descriptions of Orcs actively promoted racism.

This included Sinister Beard Games creator Oli Jeffrey, who connected the language used for Orcs with real-world, historical justifications for “slavery and genocide of indigenous peoples.”

Related: Former Star Wars Author Chuck Wendig Attacks Epic Fantasy: “Your World is Too White and Male and Straight”

Monkey’s Paw Games founder Nicholas Masyk bizarrely concluded after an extended Twitter rant that the continued employ of “dehumanizing/degrading language to describe nonhuman fantasy species, or use [of] racial tension as a plot point” in Dungeons & Dragons and other fictional works somehow justified the racist ideologies of “race science” and “biological determinism.”

Riot Games writer and editor Dante Douglas disingenuously concluded that “anyone who is saying that this discourse is about anything else is being obtuse or smokescreening.”

As the debate around this issue continued to mount on social media, Comicbook.com published an article decisively titled “Why Orcs Are Problematic in Dungeons & Dragons,” in which Comicbook.com writer Christian Hoffer attempts to infer that Orcs are inherently racist despite the fact, reported within the article, that “Tolkien noted in other letters that orcs were not meant to be representative of a particular culture of people, and that “orcs” could be found on both sides of any conflict along with genuinely good people.”

“Now, Tolkien noted in other letters that orcs were not meant to be representative of a particular culture of people, and that “orcs” could be found on both sides of any conflict along with genuinely good people. However, his depiction of orc culture as a monolithic society of evil, human-like creatures became a standard element in epic fantasy. Over time, various artists and authors used elements of various real-world non-European cultures when depicting orcs in books and other media, thus solidifying the idea that orcs were a reflection of non-European races, which is incredibly problematic.”

Hoffer’s argument, as read, appears to be predicated upon the pretentious assumption that players are unable to separate fiction from reality, despite D&D players having been able to do so since 1974, as he believes “many people see games like Dungeons & Dragons as codifying and normalizing the use of racial stereotypes, which leads to both racist situations in the gaming table and encourages racist attitudes getting adopted by some players”:

“While the above couple of paragraphs only summarizes why many people take issue with the depiction of orcs in general, it also touches on why many dislike how Dungeons & Dragons and other fantasy tabletop games deal with race in general. Dungeons & Dragons and many other fantasy games tend to describe races as monolithic entities that all share the same physical characteristics and cultural beliefs. This is reflected both in the racial attribute scores bonuses that each race gets in D&D as well as how they are described in passages like the one criticized by Welsh-Wilson. Many people see games like Dungeons & Dragons as codifying and normalizing the use of racial stereotypes, which leads to both racist situations in the gaming table and encourages racist attitudes getting adopted by some players.”

‘Orcs-as-an-analogue-to-real-world-racism’ has become a reliable subject for discussion in recent years due to the rise in popularity and adoption of social justice theory.

In 2018, science-fiction author Andy Duncan stated that there was a “repeated notion in Tolkien that some races are just worse than others” and that “in the long-term, if you embrace this too much, it has dire consequences for yourself and for society.”

Former Disney Star Wars author Chuck Wending criticized Lord of the Rings in 2019 for being “too white and male and straight — and ironically not fantastic enough.”

As of writing, Welsh-Wilson’s Twitter account has been set to private, following the mounting discourse and backlash towards their initial statement.

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  • About The Author

    Spencer Baculi
    Associate Editor

    Spencer is the Associate Editor for Bounding Into Comics. An unabashed and life-long anime fan, comic book reader, and avid video game player, Spencer believes in supporting every claim with evidence and that Wally West is the best Flash of all time. He can be found on Twitter @kabutoridermav.

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