New Drizzt D&D novels to tackle racist portrayals of Drow

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

Drizzt’s next adventure will open his eyes – and ours – to a larger, more nuanced view of the Drow.
Screenshot: Wizards of the coast

For years, Dungeons & Dragons tampered with the idea of ​​specific racial traits assigned to its many species — a player chooses a race, and they specialized strengths, weaknesses, morals and ideologies. Some of these stories have, in turn, trafficking in racist stereotypes attributed to “other” races, often with non-white skin. Changes are underway in the game to fix this problem, but now one of D&Dthe most beloved writers of help change it too much.

Although the Drow – a race of originally dark-skinned dark elves, who over the years since their introduction have been portrayed in various dark hues in an attempt to go beyond their description in as explicitly black beings – were part of Dungeons & Dragons in his original creation, author RA Salvatore arguably created the most iconic and beloved member of his genre when he created Drizzt Do’Urden. Drizzt has appeared in a myriad of novels—Much written by Salvatore—and in video games, and he and his feline companion Guenhwyvar plaster the art of the booster for the D&D-theme Magic: The Gathering together Adventures in Forgotten Realms, released this week. The hero ranger drow has, in many ways, become a kind of public face for Dungeons & Dragons as iconic as, well, the dungeons or dragons for the fantastic world of tabletop game.

But as Drow, Drizzt was always portrayed as an outsider, no matter how legendary or heroic his actions were, immediately judged and recognized for the color of his skin. His people, until recently within D&Dthe traditions and mechanics of, were defined by a major racial group code trait: Drow are inherently cruel and evil people, limited to certain villainous moral alignments, against which there is prejudice. Who, as a major group of dark-skinned people in the D&D the setting, in turn, casts racial overtones against one of its major non-white species, and has been doing so for literal decades.

People who do D&D now understand that. Last year, following a statement regarding the global outcry and response to the murder of George Floyd, Wizards of the Coast announced plans to make sweeping changes to how racial traits worked in the current fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons-years later developers and homebrew fans have taken the concept into their own hands– specifically highlighting Drow and races like Orcs as part of character creation where society had long failed to avoid playing in racially coded stereotypes. The changes promised to character creation arrived later in 2020 in the form of reference book Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, who provided D&D players with an alternate character creation process – designed to replace or complement the original 5E system – which allowed players to not only more choice in the creation of their characters, but removing the specific defining features of each of the D&Dplayable races that define them from a moral or physical point of view.

But now the step is explored beyond the simple mechanics, in the stories Dungeons & Dragons tells beyond the table. Talk to Polygon on his next novel Starry enclave—The first in a new series called Way of the Drow—Drizzt creator RA Salvatore spoke about how he has changed as a writer since character creation, reflecting a desire both to recognize mistakes made in the past with Drizzt and Drizzt’s Drow legacy. expanding the Drow species beyond its original categorization as untrustworthy villains simply because of 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 said at Polygon. “’I finally have someone who looks like me.’ On the one hand, you have it. But on the other hand, if the Drow are portrayed as bad, it’s a trope that must go, be buried under the deepest pit, and never come out again. I did not know. I admit it. I was unconscious.

“Nothing is dictated to me, I am not modernizing or reconnecting the Dline. I’m extending the Drow… These aren’t playbooks, these are novels, ”Salvatore told Polygon. “Novels are meant to reflect the period in which they were written. There is no reason to [make any changes to past Drizzt books], because there is nothing in my early books that is philosophically different from what I am today. I’m just more aware of certain things in the books that have become problematic. But philosophically, that’s who I am. This is what I have always been. I’m just trying to be better.

Starry enclave will explore the Drow Society to build two other never-before-seen Drow factions – first detailed by Wizards of the Coast earlier this year – beyond the Udadrow from which Drizzt descends. The Aevendrows north of Faerûn, for example, have rejected the demonic teachings of Spider Queen Lolth and the corrupting influence adopted by the Udadrow, while the Lorendrows will be further separated from either faction as druidic elves of the jungle who practice a symbiotic relationship with the natural world around them. But beyond these lore-based explorations, Salvatore hopes the new series will show audiences that he supports efforts to change the Drow – and that as a writer he has changed as well.

“This is something that I hope more young people can understand,” Salvatore added. “You see all of these things and it’s obvious to you. If you had grown up in the 60s and 70s this wouldn’t have been easy. Some things are obvious, but these are the subtle things that you learn as you continue to grow and learn. And now, finally, we see that it’s playing out the right way with people saying, “This is bullshit.” And I love it, and I feel like I’m growing up.

Starry enclave will be released on August 3.

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