Update 09/04/22 11:20 AM: Wizards of the Coast has made an official statement regarding the D&D hadozee race changes. An official post on the D&D website states that not all content regarding the hadozee were properly vetted before appearing in the most recent release and that the company promises to do better in the future.
Wizards of the Coast confirms that the offensive material regarding the hadozee will be removed from both digital references as well as all future physical printings. Furthermore, the company has announced that thorough internal review of the situation has been initiated and will take necessary actions going forward.
The post ends with a download link to a page of errata for the Spelljammer books which, in addition to revising the hadozee lore, includes additional rules clarity and game balance changes.
Quiet changes have been introduced to the D&D Hadozee race. The new player option was introduced in Wizards of the Coast's newest sourcebook for the world's most popular TTRPG, Spelljammer: Adventures in Space, and slowly amassed some controversial backlash. The reasons why include a combination of lore around the race's creation, the implementation of certain artwork, and the negative parallels to real-world tragedies and institutions.
Why was the D&D Hadozee Race changed?
First, we must express the original D&D hadozee race lore as it was presented. On page 13 of the Astral Adventurer's Guide, the entry on the Hadozee player race options reads:
The first hadozees were timid mammals no bigger than housecats. Hunted by larger natural predators, the hadozees took to the trees and evolved wing-like flaps that enabled them to glide from branch to branch.
Several hundred years ago, a wizard visited Yazir, the hadozee home world, with a small fleet of spelljamming ships Under the wizard's direction, apprentices laid magic traps and captured dozens of hadozees. The wizard fed the captives an experimental elixir that enlarged them and turned them into sapient, bipedal beings. The elixir had the side effect of intensifying the hadozees' panic response, making them more resilient when harmed. The wizard's plan was to create an army of enhanced hadozee warriors for sale to the highest bidder. But instead, the wizard's apprentices grew fond of the hadozees and helped them escape. The apprentices and the hadozees were forced to kill the wizard, after which they fled, taking with them all remaining vials of the wizard's experimental elixir.
With the help of their liberators, the hadozees returned to their home world and used the elixir to create more of their kind. In time, all hadozee newborns came to possess the traits of the enhanced hadozees. Then, centuries ago, hadozees took to the stars, leaving Yazir's fearsome predators behind.
In addition to being natural climbers, hadozees have feet that are as dexterous as their hands, even to the extent of having opposable thumbs. Membranes of skin hang loosely from their arms and legs. When stretched taut, these membranes enable hadozees to glide. Hadozes wrap these wings around themselves to keep warm.
The paragraphs about wizards visiting the hadozee home world are of note. Strip away the fantasy trappings of mad wizards and arcane experiments and this is a race of people that were captured, enslaved, forcibly transformed against their will, and eventually released by the benevolence of their owners. In other words, readers saw some very strong parallels to the enslavement of black people, the atrocious practices of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and the colonization of Africa. Even one of the official pieces of hadozee artwork heavily invokes minstrel imagery, making these parallels more explicit.
The backlash to this D&D hadozee race lore was strong. Director of the D&D Streaming channel Bards and Brews, Kendrick Smith, posted a long Twitter thread about the hadozee lore, stating that it was unconscionable for it to be published. Another professional GM, Katie Mae, broke down the negative connotations of the minstrel artwork, citing Connie Chang's tabletop workshop on non-colonialist fantasy worlds of TTRPGs for how it could have been improved.
However, it seems that Wizards of the Coast has addressed this controversial material. In a D&D Beyond update, the digital content platform for Dungeons & Dragons, the new entry on the hadozee has excised all lore regarding slavery and experimentation. Now it simply states the bare minimum about the race: that they were prey, lived in trees, and eventually evolved into an intelligent spacefaring race. At the time of writing, it seems the offensive minstrel artwork is still in the entry.
How will the D&D hadozee race changes affect the game going forward?
These changes to the D&D hadozee race are not completely out of character for Wizards of the Coast. They notoriously have reprinted various books to amend content in the past. The most well-known example of this was when they reprinted the prewritten adventure Curse of Strahd, which broadly generalized a group of people, the Vistani, into unflattering Romani stereotypes. In fact, the foreword for the aptly named Curse of Strahd: Revamped, includes a list of changes to the adventure including why they were made.
But in the case of the hadozee, things are muddier. These changes are only active on D&D Beyond, not in the physical books. Second, Wizards of the Coast has not made any formal statement regarding these changes; they just quietly happened. Third, this may set a precedent for retroactive changes to other material on D&D Beyond, albeit not on the same level as completely dropping support for two different supplements.
We reached out to Wizards of the Coast regarding these changes to the D&D hadozee race. We asked the studio for an official statement on why these changes happened, if this would mean a revised physical printing of the Spelljammer books, and if this would mean other incremental changes were coming to previously released material on D&D Beyond. At time of writing, they have yet to respond.