Sometime over the last couple of days, Wizards of the Coast decided to put up the following disclaimer on all D&D products earlier than 5th edition, plus a few 5E items as well:
Setting aside the typos and grammatical errors of this hastily-done disclaimer, I can’t say I’m surprised that Wizards of the Coast has decided to bend the knee to the SJW crowd. They’ve been on a trajectory towards something like this for a while, courting the “social media influencer” crowd and the like, buying into the ludicrous idea that orcs are somehow “code” for black people, and other nonsense.
But more egregious is the implication that Wizards of the Coast somehow can control what its players should believe and say, that D&D is nothing more than a “franchise” over which they have total control. They’ve been edging towards this culture of control, too, by pushing “official” adventures at conventions and in game stores.
But by its very nature, Dungeons & Dragons has defied such centralization since its very inception. As Gygax himself wrote at the end of The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures (p. 36):
…everything herein is fantastic, and the best way is to decide how you would like it to be, and then make it just that way! On the other hand, we are not loath to answer your questions, but why have us do any more of your imagining for you?
Even when he attempted to publish a more standardized, officially sanctioned version of the game in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, the entrepreneurial spirit of the game refused to be stilled. Dragon magazine was stuffed with new classes, magic items, spells, and the like. Although there was the World of Greyhawk Fantasy Setting as a model, by far the vast majority of DMs created their own campaign worlds and their own rules variants, and few and far between were the campaigns (or even tournament games) that strictly followed “da rulez”.
There is no sexism in saying that the females of a race that doesn’t exist are not as strong as the males, or that they have magic powers that the males do not. There is no racism in saying that a race of creatures that is completely made up is ineffably and irredeemably evil. There is no “coded prejudice” in utilizing the tropes of mythology and fantasy literature that have existed for centuries.
The only people seeing such prejudices and hearing such dog whistles are the ones who are obsessed with finding fault in everything. Consumed by their own self-loathing and driven by a nihilistic world view where everything is “problematic”, modern society is irredeemably racist/classist/sexist/*ist, and so it must be torn down. Everything is politicized, and even a simple roleplaying game must actively conform to the Politically Correct attitude or be targeted.
Personally, I refuse to enter into the spirit of this disclaimer, and won’t be buying anything that has it attached. Wizards of the Coast does not speak for me, and they don’t speak for my Dungeons & Dragons game, either. I won’t let them do my imagining for me.