For years, Dungeons & Dragons has trafficked within the concept of particular racial traits assigned to its many species—a participant picks a race, and they’ve specialised strengths, weaknesses, moralities, and ideologies. A few of these histories have, in flip, trafficked in racist stereotypes assigned to “othered” races, usually with non-white pores and skin. Adjustments have been underway within the recreation to deal with this, however now one in all D&D’s most beloved writers helps change it too.
Though the Drow—a race of initially black-skinned darkish elves, who’ve, through the years since their introduction, been portrayed in several darkish hues in an try to maneuver past their depiction as explicitly black beings—have been part of Dungeons & Dragons in its authentic inception, writer R.A. Salvatore arguably created probably the most iconic and beloved member of their sort when he created Drizzt Do’Urden. Drizzt has starred in myriad novels—many penned by Salvatore—and in video video games, and he and his feline companion Guenhwyvar plaster the booster pack artwork for the D&D-themed Magic: The Gathering set Adventures within the Forgotten Realms, releasing this week. The Drow ranger hero has, in some ways, develop into a kind of public face for Dungeons & Dragons as iconic as both, effectively, dungeons or dragons for the tabletop recreation’s fantastical world.
However as a Drow, Drizzt has at all times been solid as an outsider, irrespective of how legendary or heroic his deeds, instantly judged and acknowledged for the colour of his pores and skin. His individuals, up till very not too long ago inside D&D’s lore and mechanics, have been outlined by a significant racially coded trait: the Drow are inherently merciless and evil individuals, restricted to sure villainous ethical alignments, prejudiced towards. Which, as a significant, dark-skinned group of individuals within the D&D setting, in flip casts racial connotations towards one in all its main non-white species, and has executed so for literal a long time.
The individuals who make D&D now perceive this. Final yr, within the wake of an announcement addressing the worldwide outcry and response to the homicide of George Floyd, Wizards of the Coast introduced plans to make sweeping adjustments to the way in which racial traits labored within the present fifth version of Dungeons & Dragons—years after homebrew builders and followers took the idea into their very own arms—particularly highlighting the Drow and races just like the Orcs as part of character creation the place the corporate had lengthy did not keep away from taking part in into racially coded stereotypes. The promised adjustments to character creation arrived later in 2020 within the type of the sourcebook Tasha’s Cauldron of Every part, which supplied D&D gamers with an alternate character creation course of—designed to both exchange or complement the unique 5E system—that allowed gamers not solely extra alternative in crafting their characters, however eliminated particular defining traits from every of D&D’s playable races that outlined them from ethical or bodily standpoints.
However now the step is being explored past simply mechanics, within the tales Dungeons & Dragons tells past the tabletop. Chatting with Polygon about his upcoming novel Starlight Enclave—the primary in a brand new collection known as Manner of the Drow—Drizzt’s creator R.A. Salvatore addressed how he’s modified as an writer since creating the character, reflecting a want to each acknowledge the errors made up to now with Drizzt’s Drow heritage and develop the Drow species past their authentic categorization as untrustworthy villains merely due to their race.
“I can’t let you know what number of letters I’ve gotten through the years, from individuals who have mentioned, ‘Thanks for Drizzt.’” Salvatore advised Polygon. “‘I lastly have somebody who appears like me.’ On the one hand, you might have that. However however, if the Drow are being portrayed as evil, that’s a trope that has to go away, be buried below the deepest pit, and by no means introduced out once more. I used to be unaware of that. I admit it. I used to be oblivious.”
“Nothing’s being dictated to me, I’m not retrofitting or retconning the Drow. I’m increasing the Drow… These aren’t recreation books, they’re novels,” Salvatore advised Polygon. “Novels are alleged to mirror the time interval they had been written in. There’s no purpose to [make any changes to past Drizzt books], as a result of there’s nothing in my early books philosophically that’s totally different than who I’m right now. I’m simply extra conscious of sure issues within the books that grew to become problematic. However philosophically, that’s who I’m. That’s who I’ve at all times been. I simply attempt to be higher.”
Starlight Enclave will discover Drow society to construct out two different factions of Drow beforehand unseen—first detailed by Wizards of the Coast earlier this yr—past the Udadrow that Drizzt descends from. The Aevendrow within the north of Faerûn, for instance, rejected the Spider Queen Lolth’s demonic teachings and corruptive affect embraced by the Udadrow, whereas the Lorendrow will probably be separated even farther from both faction as druidic, jungle-dwelling elves who follow a symbiotic relationship with the pure world round them. However past these lore-based explorations, Salvatore hopes that the brand new collection will present audiences that he stands with the strikes to alter the Drow—and that he as an writer has modified as effectively.
“That is one thing I hope extra youthful individuals can perceive,” Salvatore added. “You’re seeing all these items and it’s apparent to you. When you grew up within the ‘60s and ‘70s, it wouldn’t have been apparent. Some issues are apparent, nevertheless it’s the delicate issues that you just find out about as you proceed to develop and be taught. And now, lastly, we’re seeing it being performed on the market within the right method with individuals saying, ‘That is bullshit.’ And I find it irresistible, and I really feel like I’m rising.”
Starlight Enclave will launch on August 3.