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D&D 5E [Merged] Candlekeep Mysteries Author Speaks Out On WotC's Cuts To Adventure

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In an event which is being referred to as #PanzerCut, one of the Candlekeep Mysteries authors has gone public with complaints about how their adventure was edited.

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Book of Cylinders is one of the adventures in the book. It was written by Graeme Barber (who goes by the usernames PanzerLion and PoCGamer on social media).

Barber was caught by surprise when he found out what the final adventure looked like. The adventure was reduced by about a third, and his playable race -- the Grippli -- was cut. Additionally, WotC inserted some terminology that he considered to be colonialist, which is one of the things they were ostensibly trying to avoid by recruiting a diverse team of authors for the book.

His complaints also reference the lack of communication during the editing process, and how he did public interviews unknowingly talking about elements of an adventure which no longer existed.

"I wrote for [Candlekeep Mysteries], the recent [D&D] release. Things went sideways. The key issues were that the bulk of the lore and a lot of the cultural information that made my adventure "mine" were stripped out. And this was done without any interaction with me, leaving me holding the bag as I misled the public on the contents and aspects of my adventure. Yes, it was work-for-hire freelance writing, but the whole purpose was to bring in fresh voices and new perspectives.

So, when I read my adventure, this happened. This was effectively the shock phase of it all.

Then I moved onto processing what had happened. ~1300 words cut, and without the cut lore, the gravity of the adventure, and its connections to things are gravely watered down. Also "primitive" was inserted.

Then the aftermath of it all. The adventure that came out was a watered down version of what went in, that didn't reflect me anymore as a writer or creator. Which flew in the face of the spirit of the project as had been explained to me.

So then I wrote. Things don't change unless people know what's up and can engage with things in a prepared way. So I broke down the process of writing for Wizards I'd experienced, and developed some rules that can be used to avoid what happened to me."


He recounts his experiences in two blog posts:


The author later added "Wizards owns all the material sent in, and does not publish unedited adventures on the DM Guild, so there will be no "PanzerCut". I have respectfully requested that my name be removed from future printings. "
 

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey



I too was actually surprised at seeing the Grippli in it with NO player data or stats to play them as a race as well.

Since each adventure lists the new monsters and equipment in the pages of their specific adventures, instead of the usual appendix or section for new stuff usually, it seem like that there should've been a spot for all the player data for em.

I really hope the PanzerCut is either released as a DM Guilds material or it gets offered as a free upgrade add on digitally on DNDBeyond. Or something.
 

Probably, but it seems like they chose poorly on what to cut/simplify. They should have consulted with the author first.
Yeah, this is definitely a huge part of the issue, especially since the professed intent of WotC on this book was to showcase the work of freelance writers in the industry. And according to Barber, some of the contributors to the book did get that second round of feedback and consultation on what to cut or change, so what happened here?
 

RSIxidor

Adventurer
I'm going to guess the Panzer cut ran into a hard page count imposed by the editor.
That doesn't explain them inserting "primitive" in the adventure when the author never used that word, it doesn't explain them removing backstory context to the degree that the writer says they did. They seemed to have removed all of the culture from the frog-people in the adventure, removed context of why Yuan-Ti are doing things, etc. Edits have to happen but should they go that far?
 


That doesn't explain them inserting "primitive" in the adventure when the author never used that word, it doesn't explain them removing backstory context to the degree that the writer says they did. They seemed to have removed all of the culture from the frog-people in the adventure, removed context of why Yuan-Ti are doing things, etc. Edits have to happen but should they go that far?
Sounds like WoTC's attempts at letting players/DMs fill in the world building details went a bit to far. That is one of the main themes of 5E and its nature of being an Evergreen.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
That doesn't explain them inserting "primitive" in the adventure when the author never used that word, it doesn't explain them removing backstory context to the degree that the writer says they did. They seemed to have removed all of the culture from the frog-people in the adventure, removed context of why Yuan-Ti are doing things, etc. Edits have to happen but should they go that far?
Generally yes, that is what happens when you turn in your manuscript. They're not publishing you, you're writing to spec for them.

However, it does become awkward when you're not just a contributor to a book, but are publicly credited as the author of a specific identifiable section of it, and your name is publicly part of the marketing, and your words are dramatically altered to say something else. I don't know what the answer to that is. I guess you stay quiet or you go 'Alan Smithee' on it. I'm surprised they only found out after the book was published.
 

This thread!

Oh dear.

I think if there was one author you were going to cut down the adventure off, add a somewhat offensive word to, and... not tell him about it... Panzer was the wrong person to do it to. He's being pretty polite but like jesus WotC pay some attention.
I'm surprised they only found out after the book was published.
Yeah that's particularly concerning. Like, why not just say what you did? It's not like it's a small cut. It may be necessary - fine (though adding "primitive" never will be) - but just like, tell the author.
 

Oh dear.

I think if there was one author you were going to cut down the adventure off, add a somewhat offensive word to, and... not tell him about it... Panzer was the wrong person to do it to. He's being pretty polite but like jesus WotC pay some attention.
Especially since WoTC was trying to be more inclusive and trying to change things up in an attempt to move forward from such prior ideas.
 

Generally yes, that is what happens when you turn in your manuscript. They're not publishing you, you're writing to spec for them.

However, it does become awkward when you're not just a contributor to a book, but are publicly credited as the author of a specific identifiable section of it, and your name is publicly part of the marketing, and your words are dramatically altered to say something else. I don't know what the answer to that is. I guess you stay quiet or you go 'Alan Smithee' on it. I'm surprised they only found out after the book was published.
Doesn't make it right, but trying to change industry standards from the bottom up is harder than pulling teeth. Though I've also heard freelancers in tabletop games writing are especially at risk for this, compared to other written mediums (such as fiction publishing).

As far as I know, Paizo also has a habit of doing these kinds of edits. In contrast, I believe Evil Hat is usually pretty good with keeping communications with the authors during the revision process. Anybody know about other major games studios?
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Doesn't make it right, but trying to change industry standards from the bottom up is harder than pulling teeth. Though I've also heard freelancers in tabletop games writing are especially at risk for this, compared to other written mediums (such as fiction publishing).

As far as I know, Paizo also has a habit of doing these kinds of edits. In contrast, I believe Evil Hat is usually pretty good with keeping communications with the authors during the revision process. Anybody know about other major games studios?
It's about communication. Obviously a company isn't obligated to publish everything - or indeed anything - you turn in, and is allowed to use material it has paid for. It can use the work however it wishes. Or it can reject the work, if it's off-spec, but I assume that isn't the case here.

I guess the only fair approach to that is to let the writer see the final result before publication and decide whether to be credited for that or not. I also think posting about it on Twitter first is not ideal. But then, finding out about it after the book has been published is also not ideal.
 

The Glen

Hero
Quite probably the idea, but they're not consistent about it, from a quick page-through. Some examples:
  • Miirym the Sentinel Wyrm and Shemshime are unique NPC undead... who have no described alignment at all. (Though Shemshime is described as "malevolent".)
  • The meenlock still describes them as "cruel fey" that "seek to destroy all that is good". Still sounds like "evil" to me, but I guess removing alignment fixes that, somehow?
  • Overall, most adventures seem to have alignments for everyone, but fewer have no alignments, just some general personality.

Probably, but it seems like they chose poorly on what to cut/simplify. They should have consulted with the author first.
That doesn't explain them inserting "primitive" in the adventure when the author never used that word, it doesn't explain them removing backstory context to the degree that the writer says they did. They seemed to have removed all of the culture from the frog-people in the adventure, removed context of why Yuan-Ti are doing things, etc. Edits have to happen but should they go that far?

Speaking as somebody who has written professionally for years for magazines, chopping up an article to make it fit what the editor wants to say isn't uncommon. Lot of times the editor already has an idea of what they want, you're getting paid to guess what they want and put it into words. I've had more than a few pieces that came out not resembling anything I submitted. You've got three options, take the money and smile and you get more work. Take the money and complain, you'll probably never work for them again. Or you can refuse the money and walk away from the job at the cost of your career. Editor's change what you do. That's what they're paid to do. Add a lot of time the change comes down from the editor-in-chief who thinks the changes will be an improvement on what the writer has submitted.
 

Speaking as somebody who has written professionally for years for magazines, chopping up an article to make it fit what the editor wants to say isn't uncommon. Lot of times the editor already has an idea of what they want, you're getting paid to guess what they want and put it into words. I've had more than a few pieces that came out not resembling anything I submitted. You've got three options, take the money and smile and you get more work. Take the money and complain, you'll probably never work for them again. Or you can refuse the money and walk away from the job at the cost of your career. Editor's change what you do. That's what they're paid to do. Add a lot of time the change comes down from the editor-in-chief who thinks the changes will be an improvement on what the writer has submitted.
I'd like to think WotC had slightly higher standards than a monthly magazine, but perhaps they don't.
 

The Glen

Hero
I'd like to think WotC had slightly higher standards than a monthly magazine, but perhaps they don't.
Magazine or Game books all about the economics of words. You have so many pages and so much space on each page. Whatever they include from your piece is taking away from somebody else. Add in art, side bars and Stat blocks and you have even less words to work with. And it will get political, not in the voting type of politics, but everybody will be lobbying the editor for more space and more bells and whistles for their article. Publishing something like this is a numbers game.
 


Zaukrie

New Publisher
WotC can change what they want. IMO.....they should have let the designer know what they were doing. IMO....they should not brag about including inclusive voices, then, not really do that (esp. adding in not communicating that to the author). Hope you all saw the IMOs there.....
 


Corrosive

Adventurer
any they probably didnt want to add another race at this time. It also might not have been developed enough to warrant its inclusion.
Yeah, while we have no way of knowing what conversations took place, but if the writer wasn't specifically commissioned to introduce a new race to D&D, WotC isn't obligated to do so because a writer decided to write one. New races are probably planned long in advance, not at the whim of a freelance writer.
 

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