Specifically, the hadozee's background evokes slavery and the Black experience in what some see as a trivializing manner.
D&D’s anti-racism efforts have taken a step backward
Spelljammer’s interpretation of the hadozee is not great
Is the slavery background part of the hadozee in previous publications? And if so, would anything have been lost by dropping it for the 5E take on Spelljammer?Polygon said:The offending passage in question comes from Astral Adventurer’s Guide, which effectively serves as the Player’s Handbook of the three-volume Spelljammer set. On page 13, the book introduces the hadozee, a spacefaring mammal that looks like a primate.
“The first hadozees were timid mammals,” the passage begins, “no bigger than housecats. Hunted by larger natural predators, the hadozees took to the trees and evolved wing-like flaps that enabled them to glide from branch to branch.” From there it tells the tale of a wizard who trapped and effectively enslaved these creatures with the intent of selling them “to the highest bidder.” Eventually, the wizard’s apprentices befriended these hadozee and set them free.
Fans on social media have been pointing out the parallels to the Black experience, and the history of slavery in the United States and abroad — including the setting’s reliance on antiquated sailing ships, the same kinds of vessels that brought enslaved people to North America in the first place. Critics have also found images in the book that hearken back to racist minstrel shows. Amid this controversy, some have dug even deeper into the archives of D&D’s original publisher, TSR. Wizards of the Coast purchased that company in the 1990s. In those archives, things really go off the rails, with additional background information about the hadozee evoking many other racist stereotypes of Black people.