'Savage Species': that time Wizards of the Coast called furries a bunch of jackasses
In the far-off time of 2003, Wizards of the Coast published an expansion to the rules of its popular Advanced Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game known as Savage Species. It’s purpose was to allow players to choose one of the many monsters the game featured as a playable race and still allow them to play with players sticking with one of the Player’s Handbook pre-approved playable races, who were either human or basically humans, just with pointy ears or a shorter build than normal.
The appeal to furries is obvious. The Monster Manual contained various anthropomorphic animal races, including minotaurs, gnolls, kobolds and many others that furries would almost rather certainly play than just vanilla humans and the human adjacent. In addition, tucked into the third appendix of Savage Species was added a new “creature template”, which could be added to existing creatures, specifically animals. That template was known as “anthropomorphic animal.”
Unfortunately, this was the far off time of 2003, and the reputation of the furry fandom among other geek cultures was not good. Wizards of the Coast didn’t mind if furries wanted to buy their expensive add-on books, but they also wanted to make sure to signal to all the other non-furry geeks this wasn’t a furry book and also they didn’t really like furries either. They did this with the selection of the example animal that the template was applied to: a donkey, which we’ve covered the symbolism of elsewhere.
Furries have long felt mistreated by the “mainstream media”, feeling like any negative reputation of the fandom is the result of exaggerated reporting that accentuated the negative. While this certainly didn’t help and we can definitely argue the accuracy of certain reports, this view ignores the fact that lots of groups who have just as much reason to question the “mainstream media” as furries also did not like furries. Dungeons and Dragons, despite being just a fantasy game played for fun, was often accused of causing Satanic worship, dangerous loss of touch with reality and over-consumption of Mountain Dew and Cheetos by “mainstream media.” If any group was going to watch the infamous CSI episode and say to themselves “this is probably crap,” you’d think it would be people who played Dungeons and Dragons.
But they didn’t. They might have known it was inaccurate in the details, and if pressed admitted as such, but they didn’t care because that’s what they thought furries were like in general. People they didn’t like.
Almost twenty years later, things have improved for furries. Furries were still niche around the turn of the century, and it was also easier to hide. If a bunch of nerds didn’t want you on an art site, furries could make their own. Furry ostracized on 4chan? Go make fchan. YouTube kind of changed this, as furries who wanted to do videos really couldn’t make their own version of that [not for want of trying]. So you had the stupid YouTube Furry War, which we won because we had nowhere else to go. We had to win. The upshot was more contact with people. Nowadays, you can be a fairly active furry entirely on mainstream social platforms like Facebook or Twitter.
There are other factors. The furry fandom has always been LGBTQ friendly, which was not the case with a lot of early Internet geek subcultures. This harmed the furry fandom’s reputation back then, but as LGBTQ movements have themselves made gains, it both helps our current reputation and retroactively makes us look better back then. Meanwhile, many other geek subcultures that were so down on us back in the day don’t look as good.
As far as Savage Species is concerned, back-handed as it was, its solution to the problem of playing overpowered monsters – turning the monsters into classes – definitely worked. However, as it was a third edition book and Dungeons and Dragons is now on its fifth, I can’t really recommend it now.