Before getting to the meat of this story, I should probably start with a bit of disclosure. When I was younger, I used to play Dungeons and Dragons. I mean… I played it a lot. Probably obsessively. It started when I was in the Navy, but carried on well into my thirties. That fact is probably what later led me to become somewhat addicted to the online roleplaying game Everquest. So yes… I was one of those nerds.
With that out of the way, there was a recent announcement from Wizards of the Coast (the company that now owns the game, originally created by Gary Gygax) that took me somewhat by surprise. Perhaps I should have seen it coming, given the current era of social unrest and wokeness that we’re living in, but this development seems like a bit too much even for the most farfetched satire. There’s a change coming to the world of wizards, clerics, druids and mystical creatures. No more will any of the races in the game be unfairly painted with a broad brush, describing them as “inherently evil.” That just doesn’t work with 21st-century values of equality, you see. I first heard of this change from a site named The Mary Sue.
Dungeons & Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast is taking a step that I am sure will make some people mad, but I think it makes for some more interesting storytelling. The powers that be have decided that no races in the game are going to be characterized as inherently evil anymore.
A blog post that was shared on their official site breaks down the reasoning for these changes and mandates that they will be making decisions with an inclusive team going into the future.
I had to double-check to make sure this wasn’t some sort of satirical prank, but it was true. The company put out a lengthy, detailed explanation of how they have fallen short in their values and how they would improve things going forward. Here’s a shorter version excerpted from a corporate blog post.
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 characterized as monstrous and evil, using descriptions that are painfully reminiscent of how real-world ethnic groups have been and continue to be denigrated. 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 recognize 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.
The company has made it clear that they “heard from some players” about this and were responding accordingly. Seriously? Pardon my curiosity, but who wound up being offended by fictional races of creatures being depicted as walking on the dark side of the struggle? It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about table-top games, Everquest, World of Warcraft or whatever else. These are games based on heroic fantasies that have been with us for most of human history. It’s the classic struggle between Good and Evil. And you don’t have a battle if everyone is good.
We need to draw a distinction here between the player characters and the NPCs (non-player characters) that exist in the stories being played out in these games. D&D players have a wide variety of races to choose from, including some of the traditionally evil ones. That doesn’t mean that you have to play your character as an evil creature, however. You can be a “reformed” orc or Drow Elf. (The Drow are a dark-skinned race so that probably started some of this nonsense.) But at the same time, players have the option of taking their humans, high elves, halflings and other “good” race creatures and signing on with a chaotic evil profile and laying waste to all and sundry.
None of these fictional races are evil because of the color of their skin or their socioeconomic backgrounds. They’re evil because they were defined as the evil opposition to the forces of good. If you’re going to make them all woke social justice warriors, what’s the point in fighting them? But hey… Wizards of the Coast owns the game now so they can do whatever they want with it, I suppose. Welcome to capitalism. But this trend has now officially hit the point of being too bizarre for satire.