[RPG] Is using the term “gypsy” in a game racist


I've been working on a set of house rules for a "retroclone" game called OSRIC. This game plays similar to the original 1st edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. I was planning to tweak a few of the classes for the setting; one of my intended classes is an improvement of the illusionist. I'd wanted to give the class the added ability to fight decently, but with finesse, as opposed to only using "support" magic.

Hence, I was pondering new names for the modified class. One that came to mind is "gypsy". However, I'm unsure if basing the class off of the romanticized equivalents of the Romani peoples would be offensive. I'm worried that the class name would be going off of a stereotype, even though it's based more on the romanticized idea and not the real-life people. I am aware that, with light research, that "practical" magic is associated with some gypsy peoples (but not all), and that Spanish and Turkish gypsy cultures have a form of dance associated with them (Flamenco and Karsilama, respectively).

So… I had made the mistake of going to Yahoo Answers for this question originally. Caused me to have an episode of self-guilt, actually. =\ So, I wish to ask this here, at the suggestion of an online friend.
I in no means think that all of the Romani people are "magical", all dancers, et cetera. I also mean no offense to anyone by posting this. But apparently, some folks think that's not the case. Feel free to refer to my original YA post here.

Best Answer

(Five years on, my answer to this has changed a little; I'd avoid the word "traveler," too, since that's often been used to allude to the same peoples that are referenced by the original word.)

I think your instincts are good—the word harkens to stereotypes about real-world groups it's not helpful to promote. If you want to promote the idea of wandering performers with magical skill and some combat ability, you could go with "vagabond" or "mountebank" or something even more sinister like "charlatan." My recommended choice, though, would be the euphemistic "performer," which alludes to those evocative images without calling upon historical problems.