Dungeons & Dragons will no longer include direct references to the Half-Elf and Half-Orc races, as part of addressing the apparent racism inherent in the game.
This is one of the revelations during the Dungeons & Dragons Creator Summit hosted by Wizards of the Coast. The company invited a limited number of creators, influencers, and fans of Dungeons & Dragons to the event. This was in part to address the Open Gaming License controversy and get feedback to proposed ventures that will monetize the D&D brand, including a sneak peek of the D&D virtual tabletop being developed using the Unreal Engine.
Some details from participants in the D&D Creator Summit have since trickled in social media and Reddit groups, including the planned changes to mixed species parentage.
As part of the playtest material for the forthcoming update to the D&D rules, the half or mixed species such as Half-elves and Half-Orcs are no longer be included. Instead, players will have options to have customized species for their character backgrounds:
Options for creating characters descended from more than one species are not being removed from Dungeons & Dragons.
Proposed adjustments to character origins have been open to the community since August 2022 and will be revised further: https://t.co/vKapNZMSIU
— D&D Beyond (@DnDBeyond) April 6, 2023
Half species have been a staple of Dungeons & Dragons tabletop roleplaying game for a very long time. In fact, one of the most prominent characters in the popular Dragonlance setting is of mixed parentage: the ranger Tanis Half-Elven. Furthermore, Half-Elves and Half-Orcs have also been consistent options for creating characters in video games such as the Baldur’s Gate series, Neverwinter Nights, and Dungeons & Dragons Online.
Historically, fans of D&D have not had any issues with characters with mixed heritage or racial ancestries. The Half-Elf and Half-Orc races allowed players to create characters with connections to the Elven and Orc cultures, but avoiding the negative social effects of being from such species. For instance, most civilizations viewed any member of the Orc race as evil by default. A Half-Orc character bypassed that stigma, and offered roleplaying opportunities for being an outcast from society.
With the proposed changes aimed for inclusivity, the new edition for Dungeons & Dragons will be removing direct references to Half-Elves and Half-Orcs, opting for a more generic way of determining mixed species. In addition, they will not be directly named in official D&D published and digital content in the future.
This is not the first time in recent years that alleged inherent racism has become a focal point to D&D. A certain vocal group of Dungeons & Dragons fans had successfully pushed WoTC to remove the term "race" in referring to a character’s genetic ancestry. Elves, Dwarves, Dragonborn, Gnomes, Halflings, and their kin are now identified with the new moniker of "species" in the official D&D rules.
Back in August 2022, WotC released the Spelljammer: Adventures in Space supplement for Dungeons & Dragons. The idea of playing D&D in a fantasy version of a space opera is not new. As expected, the book introduced ways to travel outer space, presented interstellar locations and worlds, and new races. However, there was one race in particular called the Hadozee that triggered a backlash, with calling these newly introduced sentient beings as racist.
The Hadozee, as described, are a humanoid race with body and facial features similar to that of monkeys. The background of the species was that they were enslaved by an evil wizard and auctioned to the highest bidders for slave labor. They were mostly freed thanks to the help of elves. Critics have pointed out that this had parallels to real world historical instances of slavery, particularly in the United States.
While the Hadozee and their lore have appeared decades earlier, the inclusion in the current era has been heavily criticized and deemed racist. In response to the heated reaction to the Hadozee, the D&D design team removed the Hadozee from digital versions of Spelljammer: Adventures in Space. Plus, future reprints of the book will also remove the offensive content.
We failed our adventurers, and we are truly sorry.
Our statement on the Hadozee. https://t.co/3EKI13EfTd
— Dungeons & Dragons (@Wizards_DnD) September 3, 2022
Wizards of the Coast also issued an apology and errata to the rules on the D&D Beyond website:
We wanted to acknowledge and own the inclusion of offensive material within our recent Spelljammer: Adventures in Space content. We failed you, our players and our fans, and we are truly sorry.
The campaign includes a people called Hadozee which first appeared in 1982. Regrettably, not all portions of the content relating to the Hadozee were properly vetted before appearing in our most recent release. As we continue to learn and grow through every situation, we recognize that to live our values, we have to do better.
Throughout the 50-year history of Dungeons & Dragons, some of the characters in the game have been monstrous and evil, using descriptions that are painfully reminiscent of how real-world groups have been and continue to be denigrated. We understand the urgency of changing how we work to better ensure a more inclusive game.
The new changes being proposed to remove the half-races in Dungeons & Dragons seems to be an extension of addressing these racist controversies. But is it necessary? Some fans have responded that this seems overkill, particularly since there was no call to remove the Half-Elf and Half-Orc options.
Coincidentally, one of the main characters in the live action film Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is a Half-Elf. Simon Aumar (played by Justice Smith) is the party’s sorcerer whose insecurities prevents him from unlocking his true magical potential. How would removing the Half-Elf species from the rulebooks and the campaign setting of the Forgotten Realms affect the character’s background in a potential sequel?
Produced by Hasbro (via eOne Entertainment) and Paramount Pictures, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is currently playing in cinemas and IMAX theaters.