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RSG's Statement on the Spelljammer Controversy

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

Red Star Games' work on the Doronai Nui is largely rooted in games like Pathfinder 2e, and, notably, Dungeons and Dragons 5e. We are disappointed and upset by the news of Wizards of the Coast's racist handling of the Hadozee species in D&D’s Spelljammer.


This was brought to our attention by a Tweet from Kendo, a black TTRPG content creator. We won’t publish what WoTC wrote directly in this document, but if you want to read for yourself, please check this out, or find it on dndbeyond.com.


The Hadozee are presented with several anti-black stereotypes, and are written from the viewpoint of animals first, intelligent beings second. Aesthetically, this interpretation of the Hadozee evokes the flying monkeys of the Wizard of Oz, which is, itself, a racist caricature of the indigenous peoples of North America. These tropes are actively harmful towards minority TTRPG players, and prevent the game genre from being as accessible as possible. Furthermore, it comes as a surprise, following WoTC's changes to several 5e player species, such as restricting its use of the term "race," and doing away with inherently good or evil species. These were positive changes that we'd hoped to see more of in the future.


It is clear that WoTC still has a long way to go identifying and correcting racist tropes and design philosophies within its games; a problem that has persisted since D&D's inception. Bionicle, unfortunately, also suffers from this, due to its inclusion of dozens of unique species.


TTRPG's, including our own, tend to code player species (and NPC's, monsters, etc.) with itemized lists of stat bonuses, penalties, and unique abilities. While these are important to distinguish how playing as a certain species impacts gameplay, it also has the potential to push negative connotations. While this is a lesser concern for Bionicle, given the detachment from the human world, RSG does pull from human cultures to inform our lore and mechanics. Some things can be avoided, such as further use of the Maori language. RSG has taken steps to avoid deepening the issue by working with OutofGloom's Matoric Dictionary (https://twitter.com/gl0mung/status/1557380803834699777), which has largely divorced itself from any real-world languages, and we encourage other projects to do the same.


However, while we have done our best to review our own work for stereotypes, misappropriated elements, and other contributing factors, we recognize that we may not be perfect at finding all of them. Our staff is predominately white, and with that comes opportunity for failures on our part to navigate these waters.


Some elements of Bionicle's canon make this difficult, such as Krahka's or Keetongu's species being treated as Rahi, despite being capable of speech, empathy, and intelligence on a level rivaling Matoran and other sapient species, or Krekka's species being coded as dumb laborers. The existence of slavery within the franchise makes working with Sidorak's species a minefield in its own right.


For several of these species, we have found ways to breathe new life into them, ensuring that player characters can easily break the rigid molds created for them by Lego's story team. Alternatively, we may place content warnings or notes on problematic species. Here’s an example of how we addressed Sidorak’s species, the Dahkini:



As we introduce more canon species into our game, we will continue to rehabilitate them until our game reflects the level of depth we know is possible for the characters within it.


RSG will continue to ensure that a player's chosen species is an interesting and dynamic element of character creation without creating harm. If at any point we stumble, please let us know, and we will work to correct it. We thank you all for your continued support, and are excited to release more updates for the Doronai Nui and our other titles.


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