Dungeons & Dragons recently released its new boxed set, Spelljammmer: Adventures in Space, a revamp of the original 1989 setting which allowed players to have campaigns in the stars rather than on the ground. Like previous playbooks, Spelljammer’s Astral Adventurer’s Guide has introduced six new playable races, and it’s the lore behind one of them that’s recently landed the TTRPG giant in controversy.
Previously revealed in the lead up to Spelljammer’s release, the Hazodee are a race of flying monkey aliens. According to the lore, the Hadozee were kidnapped and experimented on by a wizard with the express intent to sell them as magically enhanced soldiers, and the Hadozee later rose up and killed the wizard. The backstory for the Hadozee draws parallels to real world events of people being forcibly experimented on against their will, such as the Tuskegee experiment. And if you are black, you likely have heard of “monkey” being used as a slur, if you weren’t called it yourself.
Notably, the Hadozee were first introduced in 1982 during the second edition days of D&D, and none of this new lore was part of their backstory back then. The backlash to this has was swift, and Wizards of the Coast deleted the lore from all digital versions of Spelljammer. They also released a public apology, saying that not all Hadozee-related content was properly vetted before release. Future physical editions won’t feature the new Hadozee lore, and a “thorough internal review” is being done, which will see the company take “necessary actions” once it’s completed.
“We failed you, our players and our fans, and we are truly sorry,” wrote the D&D team. “Throughout the 50-year history of Dungeons & Dragons, some of the characters in the game have been monstrous and evil, using descriptions that are painfully reminiscent of how real-world groups have been and continue to be denigrated. We understand the urgency of changing how we work to better ensure a more inclusive game.”
Racism in regards to D&D has been prevalent for decades, as several races across the franchise’s history are in some way linked to racist stereotypes. Orcs, for example, have commonly been portrayed as evil and brutish, and the beloved Curse of Strahd setting had been called out in the past for its stereotypes of Romani people. Back in the summer of 2020, the Dungeons & Dragons team talked about their plans to do better in this regard, either through sensitivity readers or by mechanical changes to particular races so players can get away from those stereotypes. Earlier in the summer, the Radiant Citadel anthology was notable for having every adventure created by a person of color.
Tellingly, there isn’t a diversity consultant for the Hadzoee listed in the credits of the Astral Adventurer’s Guide, which would’ve avoided the error. With the brand being just short of 50 years old, it may be worth asking if it’s possible to extricate the racial baggage from D&D entirely. Or maybe this is what One D&D will help the company with, so it avoids similar controversies in the future.
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