A freelance writer who worked on the recent Candlekeep Mysteries book for Dungeons & Dragons 5e has asked for his name to be removed after accusing Wizards of the Coast of cutting content from the book without telling him. According to the writer, Graeme Barber, several important lore-related cuts were made that reduce the quality of the adventure, as well as adding instances of colonial language against the writer's wishes.
Candlekeep Mysteries - The Book of Cylinders
The adventure in question, The Book of Cylinders, is one of a collection of 17 adventures written with a general theme of mystery set in and around the fortress of Castelkeep, in the Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms campaign setting. The author of the adventure, Graeme Barber, better known as POCGamer, took to Twitter and his website to voice his displeasure at the Wizards of the Coast editorial process, and to announce he had formally requested that his name be removed from the project.
Initially, a pretty standard back-and-forth between Barber and his editor appears to have taken place, including minor changes and the removal of a race stat-block. Then when the draft was accepted and the adventure was moved to the playtesting stage, communication completely dried up, to the point he only found out about a problem in playtesting after it had released and he contacted them.
In the original work, Barber describes the homes of the Grippli people as "simple" and "utilitarian", but after being warned some changes were being made in playtesting, the final version had cut 1300 words of the original near-7000, and references had changed to call the homes "primitive", an article of colonial language often used to justify atrocities brought against native people by colonists.
"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." Barber said on Twitter after finally getting a chance to read the final version of his adventure. "My developed, interesting Grippli are just "primitive" frogfolk now, with no place in the larger FR."
At least one other freelance writer has also corroborated that a similar situation happened with his own adventure. The writer, who goes by Elven Tower on Twitter said this in response to Barber's original thread: "I have postponed reading mine because I too suspect some developmental changes from my final draft."
It's also important to note that Barber isn't allowed to release any of the cut content for himself as WotC owns all the work done for this project, even the content that wasn't published.
A Poor Choice Of Language And A Worse History For Wizards
It's no secret in the tabletop community that Wizards of the Coast has been under fire a lot recently with many tabletop gamers attacking a lack of cultural and racial sensitivity in Wizards of the Coasts' work, especially Dungeons & Dragons. Part of those complaints has been the abundant use of colonial language, i.e. the language used by colonizers to justify their atrocities against native peoples.
Wizards choosing to amend the adventure and add this language, specifically two uses of the world 'primitive', does come across as a thoughtless decision considering the current trouble the company finds itself in. Though it should be pointed out that in both cases, the word above is used to describe inanimate objects, but these objects are directly related to the Grippli species that are the focus of The Book of Cylinders. More importantly, the cuts remove a lot of the important context around both the heroes and villains of the story, and adding in what the author feels is coded language seems to be adding insult to injury.
Right now, the situation continues to develop with people speaking out against the haphazardly-handled editing, and it's possible more authors will come forward with similar stories. Wizards of the Coast declined to comment for the article. We also reached out to Graeme Barber for comment, and will update this if we learn more.