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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Hussar

Legend
Inhuman monsters are not human ethnicites.
Again, while technically true, and thus, the best kind of right, it's missing the point.

We have a depiction of a monster which is drawn from racist sources. That's pretty undeniable. That depiction is now (and has been for a while) popular among players who want to play that monster, and, again, have done so for a while. I remember hearing that Gygax was shocked that so many people wanted to play drow, because to him they were so evil and depraved that no one would ever want to play them.

But, the rather obvious connections between drow and racist depictions of African peoples and the incredibly misogynistic depictions of women are now considered to be a barrier to entrance into the hobby. People are being made to feel not welcome in the hobby because of it. We know that this is happening because people are TELLING us (and have been telling us for a lOOOOng time) that this is happening.

So, which is more valuable to you? Retaining the depiction of drow as is or welcoming new, real, living, ACTUAL people into the hobby?

Personally, I pick real people over fictional every time.
 

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In ancient Rome, being African and being black were not the same thing. The majority of Africans were mediterranean.

See this interaction between Septimus Severus (African and often said to be Black, but probably not for reasons which should become clear, with an Ethiopian soldier on Hadrian's wall). Here, (scroll down a little).

Racism is not a modern invention. Only particular modern ideologies are.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Again, while technically true, and thus, the best kind of right, it's missing the point.

We have a depiction of a monster which is drawn from racist sources. That's pretty undeniable. That depiction is now (and has been for a while) popular among players who want to play that monster, and, again, have done so for a while. I remember hearing that Gygax was shocked that so many people wanted to play drow, because to him they were so evil and depraved that no one would ever want to play them.

But, the rather obvious connections between drow and racist depictions of African peoples and the incredibly misogynistic depictions of women are now considered to be a barrier to entrance into the hobby. People are being made to feel not welcome in the hobby because of it. We know that this is happening because people are TELLING us (and have been telling us for a lOOOOng time) that this is happening.

So, which is more valuable to you? Retaining the depiction of drow as is or welcoming new, real, living, ACTUAL people into the hobby?

Personally, I pick real people over fictional every time.

I know a PoC and she loves the Drow. Being matriarchal and powerful is a large reason why she likes them.

Outside of online world people don't seem to make the connection.

Not American though so there's that.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
I thought the Drow were the corrupt, evil elves. I don’t see the need to make Drow sub-races to try and avoid any imagined correlations with real world cultures. Blaming their inherent evil culture on Lloth is enough to justify an evil culture. A similar link with Orcs to Gruumsh makes them what they are
"The black people are evil because of their religion" is not any better.

If you manage to break a drow free of Lolth, do they become normal elves again?
 

Zardnaar

Legend
In ancient Rome, being African and being black were not the same thing. The majority of Africans were mediterranean.

See this interaction between Septimus Severus (African and often said to be Black, but probably not for reasons which should become clear, with an Ethiopian soldier on Hadrian's wall). Here, (scroll down a little).

Racism is not a modern invention. Only particular modern ideologies are.

The video I linked to referenced this.

The Roman army changed so it depends on what time frame one is referencing.

Some Romans were racist. Some definitely said racist things. They had very racist ideas about other cultures. And they were cruel.

Basically they were human.

They weren't white supremacists nor were they a wonderful multicultural utopia. You submitted or got destroyed. Exceptions could be made but the process to become a citizen could take decades if not centuries for a conquered region.

Or you could serve. I remember my classics teacher pointing out it was quicker to become a citizen via slavery than the army or waiting for your region to become recognized as Roman.
 

Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
That was covered in the video. They were 2nd class citizens for the most part.

They could become citizens via military service so logically some of their kids would have been citizens as well. The surviving accounts are a bit vague on that.

They would have been the exception not the rule though.

By modern standards the Romans were a cruel people not really any better or worse than most empires they're all built on blood at the end of the day.
Mary Beard, Sarah Bond, Dani Bostick, Curtis Dozier, Shelley Haley, Rebecca Futo Kennedy, Denise McCoskey, Daniel Padilla Peralta, Patrice Rankine, and other Classical Scholars disagree with Metatron.
 

Such entities may be understood as Good or Evil, but that perspective is influenced by political history and allegiance. Most entities, tragically, see themselves as being the height of virtue.
Interesting: I totally see that for mortal races like the Drow, who in their past descriptions could be thought of as "elves who have mistaken vice for virtue", but wouldn't have thought to extend it to planar entities. From what I recall, when a denizen of the upper planes falls to evil, it metaphysically changes what that creature is - along the lines of how the gate towns physically move around based on what the people living there believe.

The core of good fiction and good fantasy isn't deception, its truth--and Mani's dualistic insight does not describe the world honestly to my eyes.
Complete agreement.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Mary Beard, Sarah Bond, Dani Bostick, Curtis Dozier, Shelley Haley, Rebecca Futo Kennedy, Denise McCoskey, Daniel Padilla Peralta, Patrice Rankine, and other Classical Scholars disagree with Metatron.

He quoted a direct Roman source in their own words.

Another poster referenced the exact quote.

None of those people you listed are primary sources. Diidorus is along with Zio and the other authors such as Tacitus. At least when they reference their own time.

As I said the Romans weren't white supremacists but they weren't paragons of virtue either.

The white supremacists and afrocentrism types do like hijacking sources due to ideological reasons.

One also has to understand the context they were writing in as well. Ethiopian basically meant black.

Libya was a Greek colony, Tunis was Phoenician so the inhabitants were different than say now.

For various reasons people like projecting modern views backwards in time usually for ideological reasons. The ancients didn't even have words for a few modern concepts.

One if the emperor's was likely trans. The ancient sources were not very erm polite and that Emperor came to a sticky end.

So people are trying to interpret things through modern lenses when the ancients could only describe something and that description may or may not be accurate.

Only around 1% of the sources survived apparently quoting my classics lecturer and they're all written by the elites for the most part.
 

BrokenTwin

Biological Disaster
It took me a long time to understand how people saw real world racism in the drow. My only real exposure to them was through the R.A. books, where I had the impression that the drow were a small (relatively speaking) cultural split from other elves, who worshiped and were directly influenced by a spider goddess with a massive hate on for her brother. Which explained their pure black skin (black widow spider), institutional misandy (her relationship with Correllian [spelling?]) and intensely dysfunctional society that would immediately fall apart without her constant intervention. That didn't map to anything remotely real-world for me.

There's nothing wrong with that concept in isolation. But when it's the only example in D&D of a matriarchy, AND of a dark skinned culture, then... yeah. Not a good look.

Which is something I think certain groups either misunderstand or willfully ignore: there's nothing WRONG with LGBT villains, POC villains, non-cis-male villains... but when that's the only representation those groups are getting, it both makes them feel unwelcome and encourages people to view them in a negative light. Which causes a naughty word positive feedback cycle. Not to mention when they're villified BECAUSE of those traits, which... yeah, will always be a jerk thing to do.

As to the actual changes being discussed? More variety and options are always cool. My group can and will always pick the bits that are interesting and/or relevant to the games we want to incorporate into our own worlds.
 

Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
He quoted a direct Roman source in their own words.

Another poster referenced the exact quote.

None of those people you listed are primary sources. Diidorus is along with Zio and the other authors such as Tacitus. At least when they reference their own time.

As I said the Romans weren't white supremacists but they weren't paragons of virtue either.

The white supremacists and afrocentrism types do like hijacking sources due to ideological reasons.

One also has to understand the context they were writing in as well. Ethiopian basically meant black.

Libya was a Greek colony, Tunis was Phoenician so the inhabitants were different than say now.

For various reasons people like projecting modern views backwards in time usually for ideological reasons. The ancients didn't even have words for a few modern concepts.

One if the emperor's was likely trans. The ancient sources were not very erm polite and that Emperor came to a sticky end.

So people are trying to interpret things through modern lenses when the ancients could only describe something and that description may or may not be accurate.

Only around 1% of the sources survived apparently quoting my classics lecturer and they're all written by the elites for the most part.
Some dude on the internet quoting a Primary Source through translation into English: Perfectly unbiased and didn't reframe anything into his own perspectives.

9 noted and a further uncounted number of CLASSICAL HISTORIANS who each have translated various works: Wrong, I guess.

Here's Professor Rebecca Futo Kennedy on why she teaches about Race and Ethnicity in the Classical Period:

Search each of the others and you'll find similar works all based on Primary Sources, Linguistics, Geography, Sociology, Anthropology, and other Interdisciplinary understandings. Most of the list I gave you were Professors who spent decades studying this stuff.

And once more: Saying mean things and completely screwing over entire groups of people are different things.

The fact that they HAD a Transgender Emperor, regardless of what mean things were said, is just MASSIVELY HUGE.

There's even a movement that thinks Alexander the Great was actually Alexandria the Great and it got changed posthumously by revisionist historians. 'Cause revisionism is allll over the place throughout history.
 
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