Dungeons & Dragons Marketplace Caught Up in Controversy Over Erotic Adventure Artwork

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(Photo: Lluis Abadias)

One of the biggest marketplaces for Dungeons & Dragons adventures and supplements has come under scrutiny for pulling down an adventure due to "distinctively sexualized" artwork, despite the use of similar artwork in official stock art packs and other adventures. Earlier today, the Dungeons Master Guild, an online marketplace that allows officially licensed Dungeons & Dragons adventures using official IP, pulled down the adventure Curse of Hearts by ENNie Award nominated designer Oliver Clegg. The adventure's tagline was "Stake some naughty adventure" and featured vampires and other monsters as queer romantic interests. Per the marketing blurb, Clegg (who tends to write both his adventures and marketing copy in a deprecating tone) described the story as "an excuse to get gay with vampires."

In a statement, the DMs Guild noted that the decision was made after Clegg was asked to change two pieces of interior art by Lluis Abadias that "crossed the line." One image featured a male-presenting slime with a tentacle wrapped around its body and chest, and another featured a headless vampire licking his own shirtless torso. Clegg was asked to revise the artwork by either censoring, cropping, changing, or removing the artwork altogether, but his changes ultimately "exacerbated the sexual innuendo" thus leading to its removal. In the statment, the DMs Guild noted that the artwork in products need to uphold similar standards to those found in modern Wizards of the Coast products. ComicBook.com also confirmed that the DMs Guild offered to move Curse of Hearts to its sister site DriveThruRPG, which does not allow adventures featuring official D&D IP, but can feature more adult content.

Clegg discussed the decision to pull the title on his Twitter feed shortly after it was pulled. "I don't mind if the [Dungeon Masters'] Guild or [Wizard of the Coast] want to keep their products free of sexual material," Clegg wrote. "What I -do- [emphasis his] ask is that they wield their authority and discretion consistently to empower all creators regardless of orientation." Clegg pointed out several examples of artwork featuring sexualized women that were made available in official art packs made available for DMs Guild creators to use. "I'm being asked to cover non-existent nipples on art designed for queers and women, while some art designed for straight men goes unnoticed for months or is actively enabled," he stated in a subsequent tweet. "I am not objecting to [the DMs Guild] asserting that it doesn't support adult content," he also wrote. "I am objecting to the demonstrably uneven enforcement of those standards and the designation of queer content as obscene when almost identical heteronormative content is ignored or encouraged." Clegg's full comments about the adventure being pulled, along with examples of the art that the DMs Guild objected to, can be found on his Twitter page.

After the adventure was pulled and the DMs Guild released its statement, many DMs Guild creators and D&D fans spoke out about the adventure's removal and a wider discussion of artwork used in Dungeons & Dragons material. Laura Hirsbrunner, another prominent DMs Guild creator, compiled a number of art pieces used in official D&D materials and available for use on the DMs Guild showing women and monsters in sexualized outfits or in various states of nudity, including an image of a male centaur with non-erect horse genitalia. Hirsbrunner noted that she didn't want to see these pieces censored, but was a commentary on how "the world is far quicker to censor art that's not for the cishet male gaze." Other creators, such as Steve Fidler, called for the DMs Guild to provide a clear list as to what is and is not considered "Kid/Teen Friendly" for publication at the DMs Guild.

Clegg has stated that he will be moving Curse of Hearts to DriveThruRPG and will be making it available for sale. When asked whether the DMs Guild would be revisiting other supplements and art packs featuring suggestive images of women, a representative replied via email that "We always review titles that are reported to us, on whichever site that product is normally listed." ComicBook.com also reached out to Dungeons & Dragons for comment, but received no reply as of press time.