One of Candlekeep Mysteries’ authors has requested their name be removed from future printings, claiming WotC changed the original work dramatically.
Candlekeep Mysteries features the work of many different writers, responsible for the 17 different short adventures, though this week, one of the authors has requested that their name be pulled from future printings. The author in question: Graeme Barber, better known as PoC Gamer or PanzerLion online, who discovered that his adventure, The Book of Cylinders, had been altered to the point that it was “wildly different” from what he submitted.
Barber outlined his initial experience in a Twitter thread earlier this week, explaining that he noticed some “problematic language” had been put back into the story, particularly that the Grippli, another species of frogmen, were once again being described as “primitive.”
“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.”
And in later posts, outlined the scope of the changes, stating that the scale of the shift was massive:
If you're wondering what the scale of the shift is, the ENTIRE plot is gone. All the motivations, ramifications… everything.
— PanzerLion (@POCGamer) March 22, 2021
In a later statement on Barber’s blog, he outlined the differences between the original and final version, as well as his experience working as a writer-for-hire with Wizards of the coast. In the original adventure, the Book of Cylinders would connect the deep history of the Forgotten Realms to the current day, including events like the Days of Thunder and different schisms in Yuan-ti culture.
Barber’s original idea was going to have Yuan-ti who plotted to awaken their goddess opposed by an evil faction of Yuan-ti, and the Grippli caught in the middle:
“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.”
Over the course of the adventure, they would learn of the Batrachi Empire, which involved many different frogfolk from the Realms, as well as discovering a Grippli village and becoming friends to frogfolk.
In comparison, the released adventure seems to have removed most of Barber’s connection to the history of the Realm, as well as employing “colonialist language and imagery” that Barber objected to.
“All references to the Batrachi, World Serpent, Days of Thunder, the tome, or any other motivations were removed. The Yuan-ti were reduced down to just being evil for evil’s sake for the most part (without the cut lore, it makes less sense), the Grippli had their culture stripped out and so on. 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.”
Barber expressed dismay at how the adventure shook out. He outlines the initial experience as quite positive and says that most of the edits he received were helpful and still kept the vision of his adventure alive. In a later Twitter thread, Barber points out the good, bad, and the ugly of working for WotC.
3/? And not just expansion, but creativity and development. Because at the end of the day, things have to be "D&D", and that D&D has to match the D&D they know. So in a situation where there's a lot going on, even if the purpose is to bring in new voices and perspectives, that…
— PanzerLion (@POCGamer) March 24, 2021
Barber points out similar statements issued by other writers of color working at WotC. Notably, Orion Black and Austin Walker, who spoke to Wired about some of the same issues they had, including alleging that ideas had been taken without credit, and that at the end of the day the idea of what makes something “D&D” has to fit this burden placed around it by older editions. Austin Walker puts it better, talking about WotC’s changes to try and make D&D less insensitive:
“All of these are probably the right decisions, and also, I don’t think any of this is proactive or deep enough to address core fundamental problems and expectations. It’s a difficult problem, I get it … I don’t think you can bowdlerize what was already there and say, ‘We’re gonna drop the slurs, we’re gonna make the yellow face a little less yellow.’ I don’t think you can remaster away racism. I think that’s a really difficult prospect, but it’s one that they should take head-on. But also, it’s hard to do that because you need people on the team who are as diverse as the world you want to represent.”
At press time, Wizards of the Coast has not issued any statement.