According to Wizards of the Coast Executive Producer Ray Winninger, the company’s recent decision to remove lore they deemed ‘problematic’ from Dungeons & Dragons – and more specifically those instances which dealt with the negative racial traits and attitudes towards slavery of some of the game’s fantasy creatures – was done because the once-esteemed publisher “no longer feel that such guidance is useful or appropriate.”
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Making an edit to the original blog post wherein the controversial lore changes were revealed, Winninger explained to players, “We recently released a set of errata documents cataloging the corrections and changes we’ve made in recent reprints of various titles. I thought I’d provide some additional context on some of these changes and why we made them.”
“I urge all of you to read the errata documents for yourselves,” he began. “A lot of assertions about the errata we’ve noticed in various online discussions aren’t accurate. (For example, we haven’t decided that beholders and mind flayers are no longer evil.)”
Stating “We make text corrections for many reasons,” Winninger then moved to elaborate on “a few themes running through this latest batch of corrections worth highlighting.”
The first such reason for this change, he argued, was to avoid giving any definitive features to any of the game’s creatures in order to make them more compatible with the game’s new Multiverse setting, which will be “a major area of focus for the Studio going forward.”
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“As part of that effort, our reminders that D&D supports not just The Forgotten Realms but a multitude of worlds are getting more explicit,” said Winninger. “Since the nature of creatures and cultures vary from world to world, we’re being extra careful about making authoritative statements about such things without providing appropriate context.”
He elaborated, “If we’re discussing orcs, for instance, it’s important to note which orcs we’re talking about. The orcs of Greyhawk are quite different from the orcs you’ll find in Eberron, for instance, just as an orc settlement on the Sword Coast may exhibit a very different culture than another orc settlement located on the other side of Faerûn. This addresses corrections like the blanket disclaimer added to p.5 of VOLO’S GUIDE.”
The second reason said Winninger – and ostensibly the most important one given the specific instances of lore that were removed – was the company’s desire to how their alignment system operated in regards to race.
“The only real changes related to alignment were removing the suggested alignments previously assigned to playable races in the PHB and elsewhere (‘most dwarves are lawful;’ ‘most halflings are lawful good’),” wrote the producer.
Pointing out how “we stopped providing such suggestions for new playable races some time ago,” as seen in the alterations previously made to the backgrounds of such species as Kobolds and Orcs, Winninger then tellingly asserted, “Since every player character is a unique individual, we no longer feel that such guidance is useful or appropriate.”
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“Whether or not most halflings are lawful good has no bearing on your halfling and who you want to be,” he clarified. “After all, the most memorable and interesting characters often explicitly subvert expectations and stereotypes. And again, it’s impossible to say something like ‘most halflings are lawful good’ without clarifying which halflings we’re talking about. (It’s probably not true that most Athasian halflings are lawful good.)”
Attempting to assuage fan fears, he then noted, “these changes were foreshadowed in an earlier blog post and impact only the guidance provided during character creation; they are not reflective of any changes to our settings or the associated lore.”
Finally, in an extension of his previous two points that could almost be considered ‘Reason 2.5’, Winninger said that the third factor that swayed their editorial decision were the mechanics behind “creature personalities.”
“We also removed a couple paragraphs suggesting that all mind flayers or all beholders (for instance) share a single, stock personality,” said Winninger. “We’ve long advised DMs that one way to make adventures and campaigns more memorable is to populate them with unique and interesting characters.”
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“These paragraphs stood in conflict with that advice,” he added. “We didn’t alter the essential natures of these creatures or how they fit into our settings at all. (Mind flayers still devour the brains of humanoids, and yes, that means they tend to be evil.)”
In conclusion to his edit, Winninger contended, “The through-line that connects these three themes is our renewed commitment to encouraging DMs and players to create whatever worlds and characters they can imagine.”
However, despite Winninger’s lengthy explanations, it seems as if his rationale has fallen flat with a widespread number of D&D players, as evidenced by the further ridicule and criticism leveled toward the company in response to the sharing of his statement to the /r/DnDNext subreddit by Wizards of the Coast community manager Brandy Carmel.
As best summarized by /u/Th3Third1, “This post just seems to woosh over the heads of WotC of why a lot of people are upset about this. It’s literally removing helpful content that can be built upon and is invaluable for new players.”
Doing their best to actually take player concerns into consideration, /u/Th3Third1 summarized, “Having alignment and other ‘typical’ features in there – even if it’s just for one common setting – is immensely helpful, having a foundation from another world to build your adventures and world upon is 1000% more useful than just giving the rules and stats and then saying ‘make up the rest’ without any prior example.”
“What WotC is doing is the equivalent of giving you a recipe with an ingredients list, but not providing step-by-step instructions because they don’t want to encourage everyone to make it the same way,” the user continued. “You cannot innovate if you have no baseline.”
They ultimately warned, “If you’re listening, WotC, it’s incredibly unhelpful to all groups with what you’re doing. Experienced groups don’t need this, new players don’t need this – no one needs this. It actively hurts and is making people hostile to you. You need to build upon your existing content if you want to encourage alternatives and new ideas – not remove them.”
What do you make of Winniger’s defense of the recent lore changes made to Dungeons & Dragons? Let us know your thoughts on social media or in the comments down below!
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