Wizards of the Coast has apologized and subsequently issued an errata for their recent addition of a captivity angle to the Dungeons & Dragons backstory of the fictional Hadozee race in after this new bit of lore was accused of being a racist caricature of black people.
Adapted from the Yazirian in the original incarnation of TSR Inc.’s 1982 RPG Star Frontiers and later adapted for Dungeons & Dragons proper in 1990 for the game’s Spelljammer setting, the Hadozee – or “deck apes” as they are commonly referred to in-universe – are a race of simian humanoids who, despite lacking any spelljamming abilities themselves, came to be renowned as one of the premier sailing and space faring races in the entire Wildspace.
In the hadozee’s original description, as presented in the original Spelljammers’ release, little mention was made of the race’s backstory outside of the fact that their “relationship with elves goes back to the time of the Unhuman Wars, when the deck apes first showed a level of conscience and culture greater than the orcs and their kin, with which they had previously been grouped.”
“The hadozee aided the elves in that war, and they have been allied ever since,” it continues. “The elves have willingly employed the talents of the hadozee, and have in return paid them well. The elves in no way consider the hadozee to be an equal race, however.”
Though the species’ backstory remained relatively unchanged for the next forty-or-so years, that changed on August 16th when Wizards of the Coast released Spelljammer: Adventures in Space.
Therein, as part of their retooling of the , the publisher provided new insights into the origins of the Hadozee and revealed that their enhanced abilities were the result of a handful of their ancestors being abducted and experimented on by an evil wizard.
“The wizard fed the captives an experimental elixir that enlarged them and turned them into sapient, bipedal beings,” explained Wizards. “The elixir had the side effect of intensifying the hadozees’ panic response, making them more resilient when harmed.”
“The wizard’s plan was to create an army of enhanced hadozee warriors for sale to the highest bidder,” they added. “But instead, the wizard’s apprentices grew fond of the hadozees and helped them escape. The apprentices and the hadozees were forced to kill the wizard, after which they fled, taking with them all remaining vials of the wizard’s experimental elixir.”
“With the help of their liberators, the hadozees returned to their home world and used the elixir to create more of their kind,” their new backstory concluded. “In time, all hadozee newborns came to possess the traits of the enhanced hadozees. Then, centuries ago, hadozees took to the stars, leaving Yazir’s fearsome predators behind.”
Unsurprisingly, rather than excitement at towards this expansion on a longtime D&D staple, Wizards’ unveiling of this new lore was met with accusations of racism, as many identity politics-obsessed players proceeded to convince themselves that not only was the hadozee’s captivity and experimentation a supposed analogy for the African slave trade and its consequences, but that a piece of art depicting a hadozee bard provided by the developer invoked minstrel imagery.
Even more unsurprising, however, was the subsequent decision by the tabletop developer to accept this unfair definition of their intentions by the outrage-inclined.
“We wanted to acknowledge and own the inclusion of offensive material within our recent Spelljammer: Adventures in Space content,” wrote Wizards on September 2nd, alongside issuing an errata to immediately and entirely remove the above hadozee lore additions from the game. “We failed you, our players and our fans, and we are truly sorry.”
“Regrettably, not all portions of the content relating to the Hadozee were properly vetted before appearing in our most recent release,” said the developer. “As we continue to learn and grow through every situation, we recognize that to live our values, we have to do better.”
To this end, Wizards asserted, “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,” they then groveled. “Effective immediately, we will remove the offensive content about Hadozee in our digital versions – and these will no longer be included in future reprints of the book. Our priority is to make things right when we make mistakes. In addition, we’ve initiated a thorough internal review of the situation and will take the necessary actions as a result of that review.”
“We are eternally grateful for the ongoing dialog with the D&D community, and we look forward to introducing new, engaging and inclusive content to D&D for generations to come,” Wizards concluded their apology. “D&D teaches that diversity is strength, for only a diverse group of adventurers can overcome the many challenges a D&D story presents. In that spirit, we are committed to making D&D as welcome and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.”