The Underdark is a dark and dismal place, full of creatures good and evil, though mostly evil. Mindflayers and drow are among the worst of the worst, but by no means all that dwells therein. A couple of years ago we completed a run through the City of the Spider Queen module. The module was a lot of fun for me as it gave me the chance to bring back my wizard Endeleban. It was also a chance to perhaps redeem himself a little bit from the path towards evil he had trod as originally transitioned from PC to NPC.
The Problem with the Drow
Drow by Helmuttt on DeviantArt
While I didn’t consider it at the time, a couple of podcasts I’ve heard and posts I’ve read since then have caused me to reflect a bit on the status of the drow in Dungeons & Dragons. It brought to light in my mind a problem that receives far too little attention in D&D culture. There is a feeling by many outside the D&D culture (and some within) that the existence of the drow causes others to perceive gamers as racist. This is a controversial topic and I’m trying to tread lightly here.
I realize the drow have been around since the early days of D&D and have played the major villain role in many modules and stories. But their existence as a dark skinned race of outcasts who are, with a sole exception name Drizzt, universally evil is something that it’s time for Hasbro and Wizards to take action on. Regardless of their original purpose and how they were originally conceived, their very existence reflects poorly on gamer culture.
D&D, and RPGs in general, have always served as a place where all could get together and have fun together. Our culture has always been one of inclusion, rather than exclusion. For the most part we invited all to join us because many of us, being nerds and geeks, have long experience being the ones on the outside looking in. We’re not without our faults. It’s taken a while for some to be accepting of others, but in general I feel we’ve always been a supportive and open group.
But from time to time we’ve had to make some radical adjustments in gamer culture to address certain failings. One obvious example still in the stages of growing pains is the portrayal of women in video games. It’s taken time, but the culture is shifting and better role models are coming to the forefront.
Time for Change
I’m not a particularly eloquent speaker and there are others who could make this point far better than I can. But it’s time for Dungeons and Dragons to take a step for growth. It’s time for a radical change surrounding the drow. We have something which is clearly holding back a segment of our population. We are a culture of inclusion and we need to do this.
It’s time for Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast to make this change. Make a formal statement that in an effort to be more inclusive you are removing a potentially offensive element from the game and officially remove the drow from game in entirety. I have no doubt some will be upset by such a change, but they’ll get over it. Or they’ll leave. While that would be unfortunate, sometimes a small number must be offended for the greater good.
Whether you agree with me or not, there can be no doubt that the drow are offensive to some. This is a documented fact. It’s time to do something about it. It’s time to grow.