Dungeons & Dragons retcons one of its most problematic characters


Image: Anna Podedworna/Wizards of the Coast

One of the most popular adventures from the fifth installment of Dungeons & Dragons, the gothic horror classic Curse of Strahd, is known to contain several harmful stereotypes. Players have complained about this since it was first released in 2016. As a result, Wizards of the Coast has officially revised the source material Strahd’s curse remastered in 2020. But with its next product, Van Richten’s guide to Ravenloft, the editor goes even further. The book as a whole picks up on a key figure Curse of Strahdand the result is something really uplifting.

The character in question was named Ezmerelda D’Avenir; She was an experienced monster slayer with a tragic backstory. Wizards counted them among the Vistani, a group of people in the game’s fiction that was often interpreted by fans as an allegory for the gypsies. Curse of Strahd originally portrayed the Vistani according to actually harmful stereotypes of Roma and portrayed them as inherently evil and untrustworthy; The Vistani were also allied with the module’s villain, Strahd von Zarovich. Ezmerelda’s own backstory even hinted at Vistani’s involvement in human trafficking. The wizards also gave him a prosthetic leg and called it his “secret”, making it something he actively hides from the world.


Ez D’Avenir as on the alternative cover of Van Richten’s guide to Ravenloft.
Photo Credit: Charlie Hall/Polygon

In 2020, amid the broader cultural movement that included the Black Lives Matter movement, Wizards formally apologized for these and other errors in its materials and vowed to take action.

in the 2020s Strahd’s curse remastered, mages evolved the Vistani and infused them with a greater sense of free will. Ezmerelda’s prosthesis was no longer a dark secret she kept from others, but an adaptation that didn’t stop her. Wizards also proposed new rules to deal with the concept of race, which were later formalized Tasha’s cauldron of everything.

which open Van Richten Guide On May 18th we find a completely different version of the Vistani. They are presented without the primitive veneer of superstition that once accompanied them. His own magic is now clearly connected to other forms of magic in the world of D&D. In addition, their culture redefines itself as a culture rich in tradition, but also one that is hopeful about its own future. While the Vistani retain their wagon wagons and nomadic lifestyle, their visits to the many realms of the D&D multiverse are now celebrated rather than met with near-universal suspicion. More importantly, they are no longer dominated by one of the most powerful villains in the game.

“An Entire City” Van Richten Guide says: “Vistani refuses to be held prisoner by an empire, the fog or any terror.”

The biggest transformation, however, comes for Ezmerelda herself. She is now seen as the victim of “her manipulative family who posed as Vistani to take advantage of travelers”. Ezmerelda decides to join the Vistani, among whom she has “traveled widely but never found […] they belong.” Eventually, however, he founded his own agency and even adopted a new name. Van Richten Guideshe prefers to be called Ez.

Instead of a lost loner, Ez is now a person who seeks peace. She is described as part of a group of adventurers led by her mentor, Rudolph van Richten. Like the handwritten letters at the beginning Van Richten Guide, it was these adventurers who eventually became his true family; a loving and found family, a family of her own choosing. Eventually, Ez and van Richten’s personalities clashed, and a major misunderstanding tore their small community apart. Now he wanders the multiverse, fighting evil and searching for his family once again.

“Since,” Van Richten Guide says: “Ez has changed a lot, he learned the ways of the mist and his leg was replaced with a magnificent prosthetic leg after a werewolf attack. She hopes that her explorations and the wisdom of her former mentor will eventually allow her to create a place safe enough to call home.




Photo Credit: Charlie Hall/Polygon

The first pages of Van Richten’s guide to Ravenloft tells the story of a loving family that is torn apart. The rest of the book gives players all the tools they need to rebuild it.

For a character with such a sordid history, I was happy to see these changes Van Richten’s guide to Ravenloft. Ez still has a tragic backstory and is still evolving into a skilled and fearsome monster slayer in her own right. But she’s no longer wrapped in the racist caricature that the Vistani were originally meant to be, and she’s been blessed with far more agency than ever.

It seems that Ez is now someone who can defeat evil in all its forms. He even manages to say it out loud with a quote The Van Richten guide. “‘The evil that feeds on the innocent,'” says Ez, “‘is the worst of all evils and must be destroyed.'”

You can find Van Richten’s guide to Ravenloft online at retailers like Amazon, your friendly local game store, and through digital tools like D&D Beyond, Fantasy Grounds, and Roll20. Read our full review in the Polygon Table section.


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