New Drizzt D&D Novels to Tackle Drow’s Racist Depictions

Drizzt Do'Urden raises a hand to his hooded head to protect his vision in a snowstorm.

Drizzt’s subsequent journey will open his eyes—and ours—to a wider, extra nuanced view of the Drow.
Screenshot: Wizards of the Coast

For years, Dungeons & Dragons has trafficked within the thought of particular racial traits assigned to its many species—a participant picks a race, and they’ve specialised strengths, weaknesses, moralities, and ideologies. Some of these histories have, in flip, trafficked in racist stereotypes assigned to “othered” races, usually with non-white pores and skin. Changes have been underway within the recreation to handle this, however now one of D&D’s most beloved writers helps change it too.

Although 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 transfer past their depiction as explicitly black beings—have been part of Dungeons & Dragons in its unique inception, creator R.A. Salvatore arguably created essentially the most iconic and beloved member of their form when he created Drizzt Do’Urden. Drizzt has starred in myriad novels—many penned by Salvatore—and in video games, and he and his feline companion Guenhwyvar plaster the booster pack artwork for the D&D-themed Magic: The Gathering set Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, releasing this week. The Drow ranger hero has, in some ways, become a sort of public face for Dungeons & Dragons as iconic as both, effectively, dungeons or dragons for the tabletop recreation’s fantastical world.

But as a Drow, Drizzt has all the time been solid as an outsider, regardless of how legendary or heroic his deeds, instantly judged and acknowledged for the colour of his pores and skin. His folks, up till very not too long ago inside D&D’s lore and mechanics, have been outlined by a serious racially coded trait: the Drow are inherently merciless and evil folks, restricted to sure villainous ethical alignments, prejudiced towards. Which, as a serious, 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 performed so for literal many years.

The people who make D&D now perceive this. Last yr, within the wake of a press release addressing the worldwide outcry and response to the homicide of George Floyd, Wizards of the Coast announced plans to make sweeping changes to the best way racial traits labored within the present fifth version of Dungeons & Dragons—years after homebrew developers and fans took the concept into their own hands—particularly highlighting the Drow and races just like the Orcs as part of character creation the place the corporate had lengthy failed to keep away from taking part in into racially coded stereotypes. The promised adjustments to character creation arrived later in 2020 within the form of the sourcebook Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, which supplied D&D gamers with an alternate character creation course of—designed to both substitute or complement the unique 5E system—that allowed gamers not solely more choice 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.

But now the step is being explored past simply mechanics, within the tales Dungeons & Dragons tells past the tabletop. Speaking to Polygon about his upcoming novel Starlight Enclave—the primary in a brand new collection referred to as Way of the Drow—Drizzt’s creator R.A. Salvatore addressed how he’s modified as an creator since creating the character, reflecting a need to each acknowledge the errors made previously with Drizzt’s Drow heritage and broaden the Drow species past their unique categorization as untrustworthy villains merely due to their race.

“I can’t tell you how many letters I’ve gotten over the years, from people who have said, ‘Thank you for Drizzt.’” Salvatore told Polygon. “‘I finally have someone who looks like me.’ On the one hand, you have that. But on the other hand, if the Drow are being portrayed as evil, that’s a trope that has to go away, be buried under the deepest pit, and never brought out again. I was unaware of that. I admit it. I was oblivious.”

“Nothing’s being dictated to me, I am not retrofitting or retconning the Drow. I am expanding the Drow… These aren’t game books, they’re novels,” Salvatore instructed Polygon. “Novels are supposed to reflect the time period they were written in. There’s no reason to [make any changes to past Drizzt books], because there’s nothing in my early books philosophically that’s different than who I am today. I’m just more aware of certain things in the books that became problematic. But philosophically, that’s who I am. That’s who I’ve always been. I just try to be better.”

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 likely be separated even farther from both faction as druidic, jungle-dwelling elves who apply a symbiotic relationship with the pure world round them. But past these lore-based explorations, Salvatore hopes that the brand new collection will present audiences that he stands with the strikes to change the Drow—and that he as an creator has modified as effectively.

“This is something I hope more younger people can understand,” Salvatore added. “You’re seeing all this stuff and it’s obvious to you. If you grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, it wouldn’t have been obvious. Some things are obvious, but it’s the subtle things that you learn about as you continue to grow and learn. And now, finally, we’re seeing it being played out there in the correct way with people saying, ‘This is bullshit.’ And I love it, and I feel like I’m growing.”

Starlight Enclave will launch on August 3.

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