One freelance writer for the new Dungeons & Dragons 5E supplement, Candlekeep Mysteries, claims publisher Wizards of the Coast dramatically changed his submitted material to the point that he no longer wants his name attributed in future printings.
Designer and games writer Graeme Barber, better known online as PanzerLion, posted a Twitter thread on March 21st detailing his experience reading his contribution to Candlekeep Mysteries. He had been hired to create the Book of Cylinders, one of the many one-shot adventures included in the collection. It detailed a conflict between two factions of the serpentine Yuan-Ti and their search for forgotten relics in an otherwise unassuming settlement of amphibian folk.
“The idea was that good Yuan-ti were working to hasten the awakening of the World Serpent, the mother goddess of the serpentfolk, by recovering an ancient tome from the crypt in the old temple (from the story in the book). The evil Yuan-ti want to stop them. The Grippli are caught in the crossfire,” said Barber in a two-part explanation of events on his website.
According to Barber, all of his dealings with Wizards of the Coast’s editorial team progressed without a hitch for most of the process - he pitched an idea, which was accepted after “some minor modifications”. The draft passed through to playtesting, when Barber was asked if he could be contacted directly to address further edits. He replied yes, was reportedly paid according to his contract, and then didn’t hear from the company for several months.
When Wizards of the Coast did reach out, Barber says the company began coordinating media interviews wherein he discussed players being able to play as Grippli, building out their culture and relationship with other races, as well as how he shined a light on oft-overlooked threads of Forgotten Realms lore.
Except, the published version of theBook of Cylinders looked very different to him.
“The Yuan-ti were reduced down to just being evil for evil’s sake, the Grippli had their culture striped out and so on,” Barber said in the blog post. “Colonialist language and imagery around the Grippli was inserted as well, moving them from being simple and utilitarian with obvious culture and technology to being ‘primitives’ who ‘primitively decorate’ their thatched huts with crab bits.”
Me: "Right, time to give my #CandlekeepMysteries adventure an in-depth read."— PanzerLion (@POCGamer) March 22, 2021
There's been some changes. Really not liking seeing the term "primitive" being used. Also, my goal of adding to the FR failed. Everything linking to the deep history is absent. #DnD
Barber claimed in another Twitter thread that the worst part of the experience was realising his interviews and promotion of Candlekeep Mysteries gave false impressions to the public because he hadn’t been told about the breadth of changes to his adventure. Other contributors reportedly enjoyed more inclusion in later stages of editing, and public comments have decried the way Wizards of the Coast cut contact with Barber before substantially altering his submission.
Barber admits that Wizards of the Coast had no contractual obligation to inform him of the changes, but he wonders why the publisher allowed him to speak on-record about an adventure that no longer existed in the way he understood. “Frankly, this isn’t how this had to go down,” he said at the end of his explanation. “It didn’t have to happen, and change doesn’t happen unless people make noise.”
The worst part of this, THE WORST, is that I gave false impressions to interviewers leading up to the release of the adventure because I hadn't seen it and assumed that most of the story and conceptualization made it through the process because I hadn't heard anything otherwise.— PanzerLion (@POCGamer) March 22, 2021
This ordeal comes in the wake of Wizards of the Coast making multiple public statements about its promise to improve working relationships with creators of colour and reviewing the racist elements in Dungeons & Dragons and popular trading card game Magic: The Gathering. Those initiatives were themselves responses to public outcry over the testimony of former Wizards of the Coast employee Orion Black after they left the publisher.
Because Wizards of the Coast owns all parts of the adventure Barber submitted, he says he “respectfully requested” his name be omitted from future printings on the basis that the editors had transformed the Book of Cylinders beyond what he submitted. Dicebreaker reached out to both Barber and Wizards of the Coast for comment but did not hear back by time of publication.