De-colonizing D&D

I’ve been thinking a lot about colonialism in D&D. How can we maintain the feel of exploration and treasure hunting without turning it into “taking stuff from ‘evil races’ because we are superior”?

NB: This is an area where I have little to no expertise, so please understand that this only reflects my own growth so far. If you want serious, informed, educated thinking on this, the end of this post has a few links.

(c) 2018 Wizards of the Coast
“Veteran Explorer” by Steven Belledin

First, my games have no “evil races” (that phrase itself is a Y I K E S). For example, in a setting that has goblins or drow or similar peoples, individuals have their own viewpoints and alignments. Governments and societies may have problems, for sure, but generally speaking the populations consist of regular folks trying to get through their days like everyone else. I’d also reduce or eliminate mechanical bonuses based on who you are rather than what you’ve learned. For example: dwarves may have innate resistance to poison biologically, but culture is where you learn wisdom or weapon training or language.

I am currently exploring the idea of reclaiming a region after some sort of disaster occurred long ago. The monsters that live there now either aren’t intelligent or at least are not the original inhabitants. Or maybe some sort of magical phenomenon occurred and society is still exploring and building in a truly new location, such as a newly created continent with environmental challenges or expanding into outer space.

Perhaps the players are an expedition to push back an invasion. For example, after a demon apocalypse, the mortal peoples are ready to retake the surface, having united in underground settlements. Intermarriage would have occurred over the years, and thus there would be significant implications for the heritages / ancestries / backgrounds available to players.

Anyway, I’m still reading and learning and doing the research (including self-reflection). Some of the folks whose expertise I’ve valued thus far are listed below, and I’d love any additional suggestions folks might have.

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