This question and its fantastic answers help answer NPC interactions with PCs. However, the question doesn't really touch on a immersion level involving NPCs. I don't anticipate my players playing a race where these kind of interactions will happen to them. Though, NPC to NPC interactions are likely to have racial undertones (or even overtones).

I'm running a steampunk game that is attempting to be accurate to history and the party will be starting out in New Orleans in the 1880s. Some background of the quest involves a feud between two rich families, one white and proud of it, the other black and do their best to help the black community prosper in these post-Civil War times.

How should I best portray racism involving real-life communities as a white GM? Or in other words, how do I, the GM, talk when NPCs are speaking without coming off as tone-deaf?

Obviously I can go the full monty and mimic something along the lines of the movie Django Unchained, with its usage of racial epithets and violence, or using the manner of speech along the lines of what Samuel L. Jackson's character used in public.

However, white people using the n-word is a touchy subject, and it seems like mimicking certain speech patterns stereotypes racial groups, which is also uncool.

In short: How can I maintain accuracy and immersion involving racism without stepping out of line?

The group is okay with the portrayal being extreme, though they are of the opinion that obviously racism is bad.

Ultimately I want a world that seems alive. Something immersive and somewhat accurate to history. I'm specifically asking about tactics for GMing.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think you may wish to hold off until after you've spoken to your group. Assuming it's okay is very different than it is actually okay. And you may get feedback that's directly helpful from your own players first. \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Jul 26, 2019 at 16:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ A reminder to all potential answerers: all answers must be supported by citing evidence or experience (the latter is more likely in this case). Please make sure answers adhere to the guidelines presented in Good Subjective, Bad Subjective, and see our relevant meta posts: What are the citation expectations of answers on RPG Stack Exchange? and How do we ask and answer subjective questions? \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jul 27, 2019 at 6:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ What kind of game experience do you want to create? As long as I don't know that I will VTC as too broad even though the state of this question is otherwise concise. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Aug 1, 2019 at 13:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu Ultimately I want a world that seems alive. Something immersive and somewhat accurate to history. I'm not sure how the question is broad because I'm specifically asking how to have NPC-NPC interactions without coming off as tone-deaf. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 1, 2019 at 14:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ In other words, the current answer is great from a world building perspective, however, I guess I'm asking more specifically about tactics for gm-ing. I think I've done the steps as the answer describes, but how should I, the gm, talk when the NPCs are speaking? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 1, 2019 at 14:37

1 Answer 1


I have not tested these within the context of RPGs, but here are a couple suggestions based on a American historical fiction writing class that was focused on class inequalities:

Focus on the larger aspect of the inequality in the environment

While dialogue is an effective means of conveying the attitudes of the characters, the lower class NPCs are likely less concerned about what they are called and more concerned about the overall inequality. Events demonstrating the inequalities caused by racism (wealth, access to education, justice system, constant threat of violence) will create more immersion than dropping n-bombs. Perhaps when the PC's are introduced to the lower class NPCs, they are being harassed by members of the upper class. If the feud is ongoing, the responses by the upper class are likely disproportionately harsh relative to the offense, and yet supported by the police force.

Accents are Subjective

Unless your PC's backgrounds are specifically from the rich upper class, the upper class NPCs could potentially sound just as foreign, or in this case overly eloquent, to both the PCs and the lower class NPCs. The extent to which you want to imitate the language is up to you, but a balanced approach will keep things in line better, while also making the lower class characters more personable. Think about how rich people with butlers are portrayed in movies, for example.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you used these sorts of suggestions in your own games, or seen them used? How have they worked, in your experience? \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jul 27, 2019 at 6:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ The suggestions are based on a writing class on the same topic. They have not been implemented in an RPG. Not sure how to address under gs/bs. \$\endgroup\$
    – Blits
    Jul 28, 2019 at 9:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ The way to address that here is to open your answer saying exactly that: that this advice comes from a writing class you have taken, and hasn’t been tested in an RPG. Maybe give some of the class’s/teacher’s credentials to establish reason to believe they know what they’re talking about/have tested this at least in a writing context. Either way, putting the information in the answer gives readers that information and lets them judge the answer accordingly: they may not think the answer is helpful coming from that source, or even actively unhelpful (and downvote), but it won’t be deleted. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Aug 1, 2019 at 13:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Your answer is great and I think that I have already taken these steps. Apparently my goal wasn't well described. I've commented on the question itself, but ultimately how should I, the gm, talk when the NPCs are speaking? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 1, 2019 at 14:39

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