2023 is set to be a big year for Dungeons & Dragons hero Drizzt, with the third entry in creator R.A. Salvatore’s The Way of the Drow series revealed during this week's D&D Direct and the upcoming expansion for video game MMORPG Neverwinter visiting the dark elf’s home of Menzoberranzan.
Ahead of the next chapter in Drizzt’s decades-long journey, D&D historian and author Michael Witwer has delved into the hero’s past for a new book detailing his adventures, lore and legacy so far.
Ahead of Dungeons & Dragons: The Legend of Drizzt Visual Dictionary’s release, we spoke to Witwer about Drizzt’s place in Dungeons & Dragons history, why he deserves more recognition both in and out of the tabletop RPG, and asked whether the elf legend deserves his own movie.
For those not up to speed with their D&D lore, who is Drizzt and why is he worth writing a whole book about?
Drizzt Do’Urden is an udadrow elven ranger and arguably the most famous character in D&D’s Forgotten Realms. He is also, in my opinion, one of the most important fantasy characters of all time.
Drizzt is everything one could ask in a hero - brave, virtuous and skillful - but what makes him special is his plight.
He is everything one could ask in a hero: brave, virtuous and skillful, with adventures full of riveting action, suspense, humour and romance. But what makes him special is his plight. Born to the demon-worshipping, subterranean udadrow elves of Menzoberranzan, who are obsessed with power, violence and deceit, Drizzt is brave enough to listen to his heart and find a different way. According to creator R.A. Salvatore, Drizzt “does what’s right even when it hurts”. What’s not to love about a hero like that?
Just as important to the Legend of Drizzt are his “Companions”, who he basically lives and dies for (and they for him). It’s an amazing and dynamic cast of characters that include the salty dwarven warrior-king Bruenor Battlehammer, the brave and tenacious human warrior (and later wizard) Catti-brie Battlehammer, the towering and solemn barbarian Wulfgar, the gregarious halfling rogue Regis and the ever-faithful magical panther Guenhwyvar. There are of course many other great characters, but the Companions are certainly the central thread.
How did you first encounter Drizzt?
The books! Drizzt first appeared in R.A. Salvatore’s 1988 debut novel, The Crystal Shard, and kicked off a series that is now roughly 40 books and counting.
I’ve been playing D&D since the mid-1980s, but I didn’t get deep into D&D fiction until many years later, where my focus has been mostly on the Drizzt and Dragonlance books.
How has Drizzt’s depiction and place in D&D lore changed since he first appeared in The Crystal Shard?
Drizzt is a super dynamic character that has changed and learned a lot over the years (and the dozens of books).
To put it in D&D terms, he’s spent his roughly 200-year life (so far) multi-classing. As a young man, he attended the Menzoberranzan college of warfare called Melee-Magthere, so he was effectively a fighter in his earliest days (and a really good one by the way). After eventually escaping Menzoberranzan, the udadrow, and the Underdark, he befriends a man named Montolio, who teaches him the way of the ranger (his second class). Cut ahead almost 150 years, he becomes an apprentice of Grandmaster Kane of the Monastery of the Yellow Rose, where he learns the way of the monk (class #3).
Drizzt’s has become a vehicle by which countless people could experience the Forgotten Realms, even without playing D&D.
There is certainly much more you could say about how he has changed over the years, but it would require an essay (or book for that matter!)
One thing I would add about his place in D&D lore is that Drizzt became a vehicle by which countless people could experience the vibrant and extensive campaign world of the Forgotten Realms if you didn’t happen to be playing it in your home D&D game. You might say that many first saw the Forgotten Realms through Drizzt’s lavender eyes!
What’s your favourite bit of Drizzt trivia that most people may not know?
Drizzt is one of the few heroes to ever face off against Demogorgon and live to tell the tale!
Did you discover anything surprising about Drizzt that you didn’t know before while writing this new book?
Yes, lots! Drizzt’s story is really complex, with dozens of key characters, locales and nuances, and when working on a project like this, you do everything you can to get it right.
Heck yes, Drizzt deserves a movie!
What adds further complexity is what you consider to be canon. For example, as early as 1989, then-D&D publisher TSR was putting out game books that had statistics and additional backstory for Drizzt and his Companions. Is that canon? Did R.A. Salvatore contribute to it or approve it?
There were lots of questions like that, which needed to be considered as we sorted through the archive. Ultimately, the Salvatore books were a no-brainer, but just about everything else - from video games to D&D supplements - needed to be discussed as to what the project team considered to be a Legend of Drizzt fact.
Could you share three bits of Drizzt trivia that you feel every D&D fan should know?
Sure, but where to start!?
- Based on the current Forgotten Realms calendar and the most recent book, he’s almost 200 years old!
- He wields two magic scimitars: one called Twinkle, the other Icingdeath
- He carries a small onyx statue that he can use to summon one of his dearest friends and companions, the panther Guenhwyvar.
Personally, where would you like to see Drizzt and his story go in the future - does he deserve to be the next D&D movie hero, even?
I think Drizzt should go wherever Bob Salvatore decides to take him - he’s done pretty well so far! And heck yes, he deserves a movie!
Dungeons & Dragons The Legend of Drizzt Visual Dictionary by Michael Witwer is published by DK and available now, £25.