D&D General RA Salvatore Wants To Correct Drizzt’s Racist Tropes

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In an interview with Polygon, the author talks about how the drow are currently being redefined in D&D, and how he wants to be part of that process.
”But on the other hand, if the drow are being portrayed as evil, that’s a trope that has to go away, be buried under the deepest pit, and never brought out again. I was unaware of that. I admit it. I was oblivious.

Drow are now split into (at least) three types — the familiar Udadrow of Menzoberranzan, the arctic-themed Aevendrow, and the jungle-themed Lorendrow. Salvatore's new novel, Starlight Enclave, helps to expand the drows' role in the narrative.
In 2020 WotC made a public statement about how they would be treating drow and orcs going forward -- "Throughout the 50-year history of D&D, some of the peoples in the game—orcs and drow being two of the prime examples—have been characterized as monstrous and evil, using descriptions that are painfully reminiscent of how real-world ethnic groups have been and continue to be denigrated. That’s just not right, and it’s not something we believe in. "

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Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
If giants were a bigger villianous group in D&D, they were made paler and less colored by their elements, and they were more tied to the European groups; a lot more D&D designers, authors, and fans would have made more connection to skin color and the usage of it in D&D as villains.
 

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Levistus's_Leviathan

5e Freelancer
That's still saying that darkness is attributed to evil, though, even if they mean metaphorical darkness.

I highly doubt that the connotations of darkness and night with evil, death, disease, etc are consistent among all cultures and could have one root cause. Like I mentioned earlier, the Black Death was called that because Europeans noticed infected, dying tissue blackening.
That's assuming that Svartalfar were evil, which most Norse myths that included Dark Elves did not depict. Svartalfar are also quite possibly the same thing as Dwarves (due to the fact that the Svartalfar were the ones that created Sif's magical golden hair after Loki cut off her hair, and the fact that Svartalfar were said to be subterranean, as were Dwarves), which are known for being a "good race", even if they are "dark" (living in dark places).

The Norse "dark and light duality" was not the same as the more recent "evil and good duality". Dark doesn't mean evil in Norse myth (or reality, which I feel the need to state).
 

Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
Two things:
1) Snorri was writing in the 13th century. Iceland had been a Christian nation for a couple centuries by that point, so his writing is apt to have been influenced by other traditions.
2) Snorri's language use with respect to the elves is inconsistent and uses words that are often used in a spiritual sense, rather than just in a physical sense.
^THIS is incredibly important.

The vast majority of our understanding of history has been filtered through a christian-centric largely western straight male perspective.

It's why all ants are "Females" even though only the Queen and Drones have the requisite biology to reproduce and the rest of the workers and soldiers have turned their potential reproductive cells into poison glands.

It's why when Archaeologists find women buried in armor and surrounded by weapons they say she must have been Important rather than a Warrior since male warriors in that culture are buried in their armor and surrounded by weapons.

It's why when a guy writes in his journals at school about his schoolmate being naughty in his dreams and needing to kiss him and take him to bed to fulfill all those dreams and occasionally write about marrying the guy Historians say they were "Quite good friends" when they move in together, never marry, and get buried in the same grave plot with a shared headstone.

Imperialistic aims from Antiquity resulted in massive cultural homogenization and active attempts to genocide other cultural traditions.
 

The vast majority of our understanding of history has been filtered through a christian-centric largely western straight male perspective.
I'll admit I'm at least a bit curious why discussions about colonialism and such almost never mention how most of these colonizers were Christians, a religion that commands its followers to "go forth and make disciples of all nations" while also saying that people who aren't adherents of the religion will suffer in the afterlife. Especially since a lot of these colonizers themselves once had unique cultures and religions and such that were paved over by culturally imperialistic missionaries.
 

pumasleeve

Explorer
I mean, if you object to my phrasing, you’re welcome to suggest an alternative and I will correct it (my phrasing, that is). My broader point was that the position you’re presenting here isn’t one your verbal opponents hold
Disparaging a persons views is very different from stating I disagree and why. That is all.
That’s quite a different argument than “drow have dark skin = racist.” Though you’re still leaving out the crucial element, that having dark skin marks drow as evil. Simply having dark skin does not perpetuate any particular stereotypes. Having dark skin be a sign of wickedness does.

So, the problem with drow is multi-layered. The first layer is that, as a race of people that is inherently (if not universally) evil, they echo real-world racist beliefs, only in this fictional world, those beliefs are justified because this race actually is inherently evil. On top of that, we have the fact that they have dark skin, which parallels real-world people having assumptions made about their character based on the color of their skin - particular dark-skinned people. On top of that, the drow weren’t always evil, and didn’t always have dark skin; they were cursed with dark skin because they turned to evil. This reinforces the second issue by affirming that, yes, the drow’s dark skin is the specific thing that marks them as evil, and also echoes real-world beliefs about native Americans.
That is very well put and it is probably fair to say that "drow have dark skin = racist" is an over simplification of this premise.
 

Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
I'll admit I'm at least a bit curious why discussions about colonialism and such almost never mention how most of these colonizers were Christians, a religion that commands its followers to "go forth and make disciples of all nations" while also saying that people who aren't adherents of the religion will suffer in the afterlife. Especially since a lot of these colonizers themselves had unique cultures and religions and such that were paved over by Christian missionaries.
Because most forums won't let us talk about it.
 

Me in the 90s reading Homeland at 13.

Someone else asking me what I'm reading.

Me, finding myself in the position of explaining what a Dark elf is and realising how dodgy the whole concept it.

The thing that puzzles me about a lot of the recent social justice movements around D&D, is that there is literally nothing that we weren't aware of in the 90s.
 
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The argument that drow can't be racist because they aren't real is a bad one.

Yep. Drow are very racist. They hate their lighter-skinned brothers. They hate humans. They hate Dwarves. And so on. ;)

But seriously, while they may not have started out as a fantasy equivalent for real-world people, they were also made to be very easy to hate and call evil. And that has let people who do hate real-world darker-skinned people have something to practice on. And if they get caught practicing on Drow, they can just claim, "oh, it's just a game and they are not real and I would neeeeeveeeer think that way about real black people."
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
It's why when Archaeologists find women buried in armor and surrounded by weapons they say she must have been Important rather than a Warrior since male warriors in that culture are buried in their armor and surrounded by weapons.
If you’re referring to the Birka woman, her situation is complicated somewhat by the fact that there are no signs of battle injury on her remains. I still think occam’s razer suggests that she was a warrior and simply didn’t receive any battle injuries severe enough to be shown on her skeleton - maybe she was just that badass, but more likely she just managed to avoid fighting on the frontlines. Still, I think it’s an important detail of the academic controversy surrounding her that tends to get left out of the discussion.
 

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