Dungeons & Dragons has slightly reworked its process for designing books in an attempt to catch potentially insensitive material before heading to the printers.
Chris Perkins, senior story designer at Wizards of the Coast and frequent face of D&D, posted a blog on November 10th to the D&D Beyond website outlining inclusion reviews and how it will improve the company’s future releases.
This change was necessitated by the inclusion of two glaring instances of culturally insensitive to explicitly racist material printed in the Spelljammers: Adventures in Space book earlier this year. Fans and players, especially within the Black community, criticised a description of the simian Hadozee that trucked in harmful real-world beliefs regarding eugenics and slavery. Additionally, artwork of a Hadozee bard closely mirrored historical minstrel shows in the US.
The new inclusion-review process will affect all future releases, as well as reprints starting with a fresh batch of books from the Spelljammer boxed set that no longer include the offending material mentioned above. Perkins said neither instance was “reviewed by cultural experts”.
While cultural consultancy was normally carried out at the discretion of product leads, Wizards of the Coast is testing a new structure whereby cultural consultants will review the material at several points during production, including at least once during text creation, art creation and the final review.
Cultural consultants will then hand their reports to a studio’s leadership, who create a plan for implementing the feedback. That plan is handed back to the consultants and an executive producer, who must approve the proposed changes before they are finalised in-text. Any new material is put through this process separately.
“The studio’s new process mandates that every word, illustration, and map must be reviewed by multiple outside cultural consultants prior to publication,” Perkins wrote in the post. “We don’t want our marginalised employees to be burdened with the task of reviewing content for cultural competency. That’s why we leverage the expertise of outside cultural consultants.”
It’s unclear whether these consultants will be considered freelancers, contracted workers or something more permanent within Wizards’ development structure. The post also doesn’t explicitly state how much they will be paid for their work or if their names will be included in the credits - this has often not been the case for past books, adventures and other supplements. Dicebreaker reached out to the company for comment but did not immediately receive a reply.
Perkins seems hopeful the inclusion-review process will stop culturally insensitive and racist material from the jump, removing the onus of flagging obvious misses from the playerbase. Spelljammer: Adventures in Space’s reprints will be the first product to benefit from increased consultancy, and an errata document of the resulting changes can be found here.