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The Fantasy Races Thread

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11 hours ago, Duke Bushido said:

Biology was the killer for me.  I mean "evil" and "just sort of floats in the air without propulsion" were difficult-- Yes; I get that the floating is magic.  So, while every other living thing in this universe as to learn magic, beholders were just sort of born abusing it.  Whatever.

 

Well, couldn't they be partly, mostly, or wholly magical creatures?  (To be honest, I find the "racial evil" thing harder to accept, but I've made that clear enough in this thread.  😃)

 

A quick Google search tells me that a beholder is an 8 foot wide orb, so I'm guessing there's plenty of room for brain, guts, magical organs... 

 

A beholder is one of the ones I'd like to see as "just people" rather than racially evil.  

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23 hours ago, tkdguy said:

 

That works too. The Faerie in the Castle Falkenstein game are a varied lot. Elves in that game are a name for sprites. The closest thing you get to the Tolkien/D&D elves are the Daoine Sidhe, who will take offense at being called elves. Faerie Lords/Ladies would be an acceptable term, though.

This is also a funny coincidence with my setting. "Elf" is just the term for "Man Fae". "Fae" in the setting means "Is a Lens and is a living thing." They are usually animals but with distinctive "Fae" features. An Elf is just a man with distinctive Fae features (long wispy eyebrows, pointed ears, eyes with glowing pupils and no distinct iris/whites, fine/straight hair, etc.) 

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16 hours ago, MechaniCat said:

Really don't like Law vs. Chaos personally. Though I also remove Alignment from my games. It's definitely an improvement to remove the connection to ethics. If I had to implement some kind of alignment system I would rather use some sort of Yin/Yang or Creation/Destruction system. Some people grow the trees, some people burn them down to fertilize the forest and let it grow anew.

What you have just described is a perfect example of chaos and order. You don't need to use DnD's silly worldbuilding and cumbersome, dated alignment system to include the themes of Chaos and Order and balance in your games. It's unlikely that you could avoid those themes in general, they're so fundamental to the human experience and story telling. Now, whether or not you explicitly talk about chaos and order during your games is a completely different matter. You absolutely don't have to do that, but if you do, there are a lot of awesome ways to do it that don't involve DnD's alignment. One could have a kind of "Chaos Luck" or "Order Luck" ability that pushes the situation into one of those directions. "Sow Chaos" could be used to start a riot that breaks up a police blockade, and "Sow Order" could be used to stop a tavern brawl. Alternatively, you could build Chaos and Order into the strata of your magic system, such that all fire magic is considered to be chaos magic and ice magic is considered  to be order magic (and so on). 

Me and my friend used to roleplay mages called Ignar and Crynar who were brothers, each representing Chaos and Order, respectively. Ignar had access to chaos magic, which was primarily centered around fire, upset, and in general beginning chain reactions with wide spread consequences. Crynar had access to order magic, which was centered around ice, control, and in general cleaning up the messes Ignar would create. Ignar was a kleptomanic psychopath, and Crynar was an autistic control freak, and it was a lot of fun.

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On 4/11/2020 at 10:57 AM, Duke Bushido said:

Thanks, Dean.

 

Moving away from elves, and trying to work back to fantasy races...  though I am still stuck with "evil races" with this one, as ridiculously impossible as I find that to be....

 

Beholders.   There were so many reasons I could never get my heart into them, not the least of which was "racial evil."  (Though, to be fair, they were actually portrayed as at least more consistently evil than orcs: they would eat and kill each other just because the opportunity was there, etc).  On the plus side, they just sort of quietly went away for a decade or so, but something in recent years has brought them back in a big way.  I don't see the appeal.

 

Biology was the killer for me.  I mean "evil" and "just sort of floats in the air without propulsion" were difficult-- Yes; I get that the floating is magic.  So, while every other living thing in this universe as to learn magic, beholders were just sort of born abusing it.  Whatever.

 

I couldn't justify the tentacle eyes _and_ the great big eye.  Not only did it make no sense, but the rest of the "body" was sized such that there could be nothing in there but a cranium tightly wrapped around the big eyeball and some skin.  _Barely_ enough room for a mouth, and no room for a brain or even a digestive system.  Thanks to the size and shape of them and that complete lack of anything other than an eye-holder / skull, I was always pretty well convinced that you only saw them pictured head-on because their anuses were on the back of their heads.  If they yawned and farted at the same time,  for just a moment, you could look straight through them.

 

Really, _really_ hard to take that seriously.

 

Past D&D editions had several varieties of "Beholderkin" with a quasi-biological rationale connecting them. Not anymore. I find the new version explicated in Volo's Guide to Monsters actually quite a good bit of Lovecraftiana. To summarize:

 

Beholders warp the world for miles around just be staying in a place too long. (This has actual mechanical effects.) They don't reproduce biologically: They reproduce when one beholder literally dreams another one into existence, in a fit of self-fulfilling paranoid nightmare. It is not even clear that beholders have biology. Perhaps the reason they have no empathy for other creatures -- seeing them only as food (do they actually need to eat? not sure), pets/slaves, or dangers to be exterminated. Every beholder believes it's the only "real" beholder, and every other beholder is an abomination and a mockery that must be killed on sight.

 

Beholders don't make a lick of sense, biologically or psychologically. That's the point. They aren't just alien to the worlds they occupy. They are alien to all known existence. They are Things That Should Not Be.

 

Dean Shomshak

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On 4/11/2020 at 12:57 PM, Duke Bushido said:

Really, _really_ hard to take that seriously.

 

I don't think they were originally ever intended to be taken seriously. Remember, the original concept came from a pun.

 

(For those who don't know -- Spoiler Alert -- back in the day (it may still be true) that if you killed a Beholder and cut open it's big, central eye you'd find a diamond. That's because "Beauty is in the eye of a Beholder.")

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14 hours ago, Lord Liaden said:

That is extremely cool to know. Thank you, Dean.

 

Any indication of an origin for those things? Do they come from some other alien universe? Did something make them? Or is it a big mystery?

 

Fifth Edition is thus far silent, as far as I can tell. (I haven't read every supplement.)  IIRC previous editions labeled them as creatures of "the Far Realms," beyond the arrangement of Inner/Elemental Planes and alignment-based Outer Planes.

 

Beholders do not currently have diamonds in their central eyes. 1st and 3rd edition Monster Manuals don't mention it, either. Source, please?

 

Oh, I just thought of a parallel from ficiton that could jibe with beholders' paranoid megalomania: the Eddoreans from E. E. Smith's "Lensman" series. Eddoreans are explicitly from another universe. Unlike all the intelligent species of this universe (all ultimately descended from the Arisians, who seeded life on newly-formed planets), Eddoreans reproduce asexually, by mitosis. Smith posits that this accounts for the Eddoreans' uniquely tyrannical way of thinking: Intelligences that reproduce sexually need other people on a fundamental level. Eddoreans don't: Every other Eddorean is a competitor. As a result, Eddoreans lack even the most rudimentary empathy for other creatures. The Eddorean civilization, or anti-civilization, is merely an extended truce between the last Eddoreans standing after eons of each-against-all warfare: Having concluded it's impossible to kill each other without unacceptable risk of dying themselves, they decided to find a universe rich in life they could conquer. Smith was not a greaqt writer or thinker, but it's an interesting attempt to define and explain a radically nonhuman perspective.

 

Dean Shomshak

 

 

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Late to the discussion, but I will throw in my own two pennies here:

 

1) What purpose do multiple races have in a rpg? Or alternatively, what should multiple races add to a game if they're done well?

As mentioned by others, they help make the setting 'fantasy'.  They tap into the folklore and mythology most of us grew up with.  They also serve as arch-types.  In a poorly played game, that arch-type becomes stereotype, with no room for individuals.  But if the 'typical' dwarf is an industrious miner, that doesn't mean you can't find some that are frivolous thespians (not that thespians are inherently frivolous, just that it is the at odds with industrious).  And that might make for a fun character to play because they are so at odds with the canonical dwarf.  Most races are not going to deviate very far from humans, because most players and GMs (myself included) can't really put our head in that space, so the different races usually epitomize some kind of specific culture.  In my own games, dwarves are usually patterned after Germans and Scandinavian cultures, elves are a mash-up of Vietnamese and Indian cultures, and goblins are all the worst impulses of middle-school children.

 

2) Do you prefer multiple races at all in your rpgs?

Generally if I am going to have one non-human race, I will have several, just for variety.  Also to keep the world from becoming polarized between humans and whatever other race there would be.

 

3) What fantasy race pet peeves do you have? Why?

First that they exist at all, and second that they are often capable of interbreeding.  Biologically having multiple intelligent races evolve simultaneously seems a stretch, much less being capable of producing off-spring.  That is why any fantasy world I run has to have some backstory as to how all those different humanoids popped up.  Usually this is the result of powerful gods or inter-dimensional beings toying around with the world, or some extraordinary magical event that created the different races.  And beholders, that is some kind of magical monstrosity.  It is truly alien and as such is going to seem evil to humans and the like, not just culturally different.

 

4) How many is too many? Too few?

Depends on the world.  If you can't make them distinct from one another, that is too many.  Having only humans is fine, but if I have more than just humans I will have several for reasons mentioned above.

 

5) What do races represent in you games if anything?

They let me explore difficult topics like racism and what is evil in a safe space, one that is removed enough from reality to keep it from being too explosive or raw, but still allowing us to reflect on it.  This ties into discussion of evil races.  For me, orcs might be 'evil' because they embrace a hedonistic/narcissistic/might-makes-right culture, but that doesn't mean orcs are inherently evil or even that all orcs are evil.  That lets the players and good or morally ambiguous orcs have interesting interactions, but for the most part they don't have to feel too guilty about killing orcs along the way.  Yes, that does take a bit of cognitive dissonance, but it keeps the game from getting too heavy.

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On 4/1/2020 at 12:45 AM, MechaniCat said:

So races in fantasy games has come up in several threads (the Turakian Age, and Immersion Ruining thread most notably) So I thought I'd make a thread for talking about them specifically.

 

I'll start with a few questions and provide my own opinions, but feel free to add any thoughts you have about fantasy races in rpgs.

 

1) What purpose do multiple races have in a rpg? Or alternatively, what should multiple races add to a game if they're done well?

 

2) Do you prefer multiple races at all in your rpgs?

 

3) What fantasy race pet peeves do you have? Why?

 

4) How many is too many? Too few?

 

5) What do races represent in you games if anything?

 

1) Each species or race should represent some difference in body or mind from humans. Like elves are aloof and ageless. Halflings are very human-like, but subtle; they hide easily and they don't get caught up in forging empires or become ring-wraiths and such. A half-elemental has some minor super-powers. The purpose is to have an experience outside the ordinary. If you find yourself using species or races as stand-ins for human or human-like ethnicities, back up and turn around, you have made a wrong turn.

2) That really depends. Sometimes I prefer a human-centric campaign, with maybe some elves or snake people in the background. Generally speaking, for high fantasy I prefer the standard Tolkien set, or a different cluster of core species. A friendly world, but not crowded, where some races have significant secrets from each other.

3) Monolithic cultures. Dwarves are one sore spot for me, with dwarves being modeled heavily on Thorin's company and Norse myths. But the dwarves in the Hobbit were distraught over being reduced to coal-mining; they were aristocrats, perhaps not representative of tradesmen, or more stay-at-home types. Dwarves in Krynn do everything underground, and so they eat wear subterranean monsters and drunk mushroom beer and other stuff I find weird. I imagine dwarf fortresses to be mighty mountain keeps, but I also imagine farmlands surrounding, with lower status dwarves, and halfing, gnome, and human tenants farming, ranching, and hunting. Each race, particularly if it's at all widespread, should have cultural and tribal differences within it. Even a small group of extraplanar refugees should have factions. Also, while it's fine in my book for a species to be "evil" in the sense of being almost universally a threat, any intelligent being should have some capacity, however atrophied, to make choices of free will.

4) If you want to do high fantasy, "zero" is too few. If there are giants and elves at all in your setting, there should be some provisions for playing one. But twenty common races is too many. But if the setting has a major metropolitan center, or is at a planar nexus, or in a massive ringworld, there is no such things as too many. There could be hundreds, with some being entirely unaware of each other.

5) Conflict. Reason versus emotion. Talent versus pitiability. Many versus few. Old versus new. Kindness versus cruelty. Indifference versus curiosity. Human versus alien. Supernatural versus mundane.

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On 4/11/2020 at 10:30 PM, Chris Goodwin said:

 

Well, couldn't they be partly, mostly, or wholly magical creatures?  (To be honest, I find the "racial evil" thing harder to accept, but I've made that clear enough in this thread.  😃)

 

A quick Google search tells me that a beholder is an 8 foot wide orb, so I'm guessing there's plenty of room for brain, guts, magical organs... 

 

A beholder is one of the ones I'd like to see as "just people" rather than racially evil.  

You'll love the Fantasy Friends take on D&D monsters, then -- especially those with the capability to disguise themselves to live around people. Building a beholder with the ability to take a semi-human form would be a challenge, but in that setting and game most "monsters" can do it. There's a nifty little subplot involving the "eye creature" sample character having a father out in the Beyond who comes to visit every so often and demand of her why she hasn't conquered the world or built a all-reaching criminal empire yet, and is content with a quite life in a rural village. The reason she's content, of course, is that she knows and likes a lot of people and fellow monsters.

 

Strangely absent from the book are Orcs. Although "friendly Orcs" are possible anyway. Uncommon, but possible.

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