Dungeons & Dragons has made strides in recent years to ensure the Forgotten Realms (and the planes beyond it) better represent the world we live in, and a playerbase that is more diverse than ever before. But in light of ongoing reckonings across the world against issues of systemic racism, Wizards of the Coast has unveiled new steps it wants D&D to take to foster an inclusive tabletop experience.
Companies and brands across the world have been spurred into taking forms of action in recent weeks thanks to the ongoing anti-racism protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd, and the tabletop industry is no exception. While Wizards of the Coast previously released its own statement standing against racism and inequality, in a new blog post on the official D&D website the development studio detailed what it has been doing to tackle the game’s own history of racist stereotyping, and what will be done going forward to ensure the game tastefully represents its fantasy world.
“Throughout the 50-year history of D&D, some of the peoples in the game — orcs and drow being two of the prime examples — have been characterised as monstrous and evil, using descriptions that are painfully reminiscent of how real-world ethnic groups have been and continue to be denigrated,” the new statement reads in part. “That’s just not right, and it’s not something we believe in. Despite our conscious efforts to the contrary, we have allowed some of those old descriptions to reappear in the game. We recognise that to live our values, we have to do an even better job in handling these issues. If we make mistakes, our priority is to make things right.”
Going forward, D&D will be making those things right with a six-point plan. Outside of the game itself, these include the use of sensitivity readers on upcoming and current Dungeons & Dragons sourcebooks as part of the creative process, and a commitment to “proactively seeking new, diverse talent to join our staff and our pool of freelance writers and artists,” a move already made for products set to release in the next year, but a policy being maintained going forward.
From an editorial standpoint, the D&D team will also go back through material as it is being prepared for reprints, and update them to modify and remove any racially insensitive material. The adventures Tomb of Annihilation and The Curse of Strahd were cited as particular examples, with Curse of Strahd being called out specifically for its use of Romani sterotypes in the background of the Vistani, a nomadic group of travellers that primarily resided in Barovia before the death of Count Strahd von Zarovich. In the editorial process for Strahd’s reprint, as well as two upcoming products, Wizards worked with a Romani consultant to present the Vistani without using reductive tropes.
But some of the points delve into the game itself — for example, the aforementioned ongoing exploration and re-examination of Drow and Orcish cultures in the game’s fiction, beings that were long described as beastly and villainous by nature while also being approximations of non-white cultures. Some of actual mechanical changes, like an “not yet announced” product — presumably the latest adventure for the Fifth Edition, Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frost Maiden, revealed as part of the D&D Live event today — will make changes to the character creation process, letting players modify the bonus stat points they usually get from picking a certain race, a move intended to draw the mechanic away from connotations of racially inherited traits, to the idea that these bonuses reflect that characters are “[individuals] with capabilities all their own.”
In all, it’s a good start, filled with plans not only to address D&D’s prior mistakes, recent or otherwise, but to move forward in the hopes of creating a game that really represents the world that plays it. With hope, we’ll start seeing the fruits of these labors in Dungeons & Dragons very soon, with the release of Rime of the Frostmaiden and beyond.
Pack your bags with as many winter clothes and things to bludgeon giants with as you can, adventurers: Wizards of the Coast has unveiled the latest adventure module for Dungeons & Dragons’ fifth edition. We’re heading off to Icewind Dale to uncover grand mysteries and sinister secrets.
Looking for ways to advocate for black lives? Check out this list of resources by our sister site Lifehacker for ways to get involved.
Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.