Drizzt Do'Urden, the heroic drow elf ranger, is one of the most iconic Dungeons & Dragons characters, but its creator has recently spoken about the changes to the lore made to move him away from racist tropes.
On Thursday, July 22, Polygon published an interview with novelist R.A. Salvatore about his upcoming book Starlight Enclave, a novel that will introduce two new cultures of drow that have rejected the influence and teachings of the spider demon goddess Lolth, erasing the drow's past depiction of being innately evil. The drow is the race of dark-skinned elves that have been a part of D&D since the 1970s. Salvatore says the change is long overdue as he noted that the drow needed to be updated because of how they used racist tropes.
"I did it because it's the right thing to do," the author told Polygon. "It's an update that was greatly needed - for things that I didn't even know were a problem when I first wrote the books."
Salvatore says that he wanted to emphasize Drizzt's "otherness" to build conflict between the protagonist and other characters who perceive him as evil, but he said that he didn't comprehend how Drizzt's dark skin would contribute to how that othering was perceived by his audience.
When the 5th edition of D&D launched in 2014, race was presented as a gamified concept. Wizards of the Coast once again cast the drow, orcs, and the vistani as inherently evil. There was a backlash from the community in social media, and amid the backdrop of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. Last year, the published issued a formal apology and promised to make changes to the lore and mechanics of D&D.
The expansion of the drow lore was made after Salvatore's high-level meeting with Wizards of the Coast four or five years ago, but the 62-year-old author says he willingly made the much-needed changes of his own.
“I can’t tell you how many letters I’ve gotten over the years, from people who have said, ‘Thank you for Drizzt.’” Salvatore told the outlet. “‘I finally have someone who looks like me.’ On the one hand, you have that. 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.”
“Nothing’s being dictated to me,” Salvatore added. “I am not retrofitting or retconning the drow. I am expanding the drow.”
Salvatore noted that the changes won't affect the events that happened in the past Drizzt novels, nor are any changes being made to the past novels. "These aren't game books, they're novels," Salvatore explained. "Novels are supposed to reflect the time period they were written in. There's no reason to [make any changes] because there's nothing in my early books philosophically that's different than who I am today. I'm just more aware of certain things in the books that became problematic. But philosophically, that's who I am. That's who I've always been. I just try to be better."
Salvatore's next Drizzt novel Starlight Enclave is scheduled to release on August 3. Youc an pre-order the novel at Amazon.