The publisher of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) says it will adjust the way it portrays some of its “evil” races, such as the “savage” orcs and the “depraved” dark elves, as part of a broader push against racism in the wake of George Floyd‘s death.
The game’s publisher, Wizards of the Coast, says the move is part of a company-wide effort to address content that “does not reflect who we are today.” Wizards previously made changes to Magic: The Gathering, another of its games, to remove racist or problematic cards from circulation.
Its changes to D&D will affect the role-playing game (RPG) and the wide range of novels inspired by the game.
“Throughout the 50-year history of D&D, some of the peoples in the game — orcs and drow (dark elves) being two of the prime examples — have been characterized as monstrous and evil, using descriptions that are painfully reminiscent of how real-world ethnic groups have been and continue to be denigrated,” Wizards said in a statement. “That’s just not right, and it’s not something we believe in.”
The company says the current version of the RPG, known as 5th Edition, was designed to include a wide range of ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations and beliefs. However, Wizards acknowledged that some of its races are still steeped in old stereotypes, despite its “conscious efforts” to the contrary.
“‘Human’ in D&D means everyone, not just fantasy versions of northern Europeans,” Wizards said in its statement.
The game has been accused in the past of using racially tinged language with its characterization of orcs, a muscular, green-skinned, tusk-toothed species found in many other fantasy worlds, including Lord of the Rings and Warcraft.
Wizards also pledged to take a more nuanced approach with the way it portrays the drow, a race of dark-skinned elves that are depicted as evil, cave-dwelling murderers. The company’s most famous fictional character, a drow named Drizzt Do’Urden, is commonly presented as the one exception: a hero who overcame his evil culture to become a good person.
Wizards says it will try to present these races as “just as morally and culturally complex as other peoples” in both the RPG game and its various works of fiction. It also pledged to loosen up the RPG game’s rules around racial bonuses, which previously deemed certain species to be stronger, smarter or more agile than others.
“This option emphasizes that each person in the game is an individual with capabilities all their own,” the company said in its statement.
Wizards also promised to rectify the way it portrays the Vistani, a race that “echoes some stereotypes associated with the Romani people in the real world.” The company says it has enlisted a Romani consultant to help it avoid “reductive tropes.”
Wizards of the Coast says it’s working hard to recruit more writers and artists from a diverse pool of candidates so that it can bring a more nuanced and inclusive approach to its fantasy storytelling in the future.
“This part of our work will never end,” the company said. “We know that every day someone finds the courage to voice their truth, and we’re here to listen.”