Sunday, July 16, 2017

Dungeons and Dragons, "Best Evil Fantasy Races"

Standard Introduction
            I have been writing about Dungeons and Dragons semi-regularly this year and in the course of writing those I found a 30-day blog challenge.  As I have done those a couple times before it seemed remiss not to jump on this one.
            If you want here is a link to my 30-day challenge on Disney Movies, here is a link to my 30-day challenge on Video Games, and here is a comically out of date 30-day challenge on Movies (it is old and the writing is rubbish).

Day 16- My Favorite Humanoids and Giants
            There are 10,000 monsters in this gods damned game.  Expect several top 5 lists this week as there are not too many specific “favorites” more like “preferred”.  Today is Humanoids and Giants.
            I have already talked about giants a bit back in my extra-long discussion about “Exotic Monsters” and how I prefer to see them as elemental beings.  Pointing to the oft maligned 4th edition as having the best giants compared to the 3rd and 5th editions might rob me of some credibility in the eyes of readers.  Truth be told that edition had plenty of good ideas that are getting overlooked because people have a hard time parsing good ideas from bad ones.

Eat your vegetables and one day you'll be a TITAN!
            Humanoids have been mentioned in the context of “My Favorite Fantasy Races”.  Since we don’t really need me talking about how cool Warforged are again I will try and keep things fresh.  What is a good way to spin this?  How about “Best Evil Fantasy Races”
            Let’s go.

#6: Orcs
            I mentioned how you might change Orcs to make them more objectively monstrous back in my “Exotic Monsters” blog.  I pointed to the Orks of “Warhammer 40k” as an example of how it might work.  The typical Orc in Dungeons and Dragons I feel has become really old hat.

Am I supposed to be viewing this image as if it were at some kind of Dutch-Angle?
Cause it looks like the two on the left are about to fall over.
            Orcs have just been done to greater effect in other games, and as far as having a barbaric race that are in a state of constant war with everyone else, these guys are too much the dumb brute to be interesting.  Without a lot of reworking or making them the servants/minions of a more complex and interesting other party (see: Sauron and Saruman) they are too much the “Crush-Kill-Destroy” type opponent and they need to be better than that to be as prominent in the game as they are.
            As is, Orcs are not inhuman enough, nor complex enough, to work for me as bad guys unless they are in the very narrow role of goon.

I think the black-white-silver color scheme is also a strong factor in their success.
Color theory in regards to character design is a topic worthy of more discussion.
#5: Drow
            Another group (I think) that has been done to death.  At the very least they do it better than Orcs.  They have all the smarts, arrogance, and elegance of an elven race, while being coupled with monstrous elements like an insane god (Lloth), creepy sidekick monster (spiders), and an exotic location (Underdark).
            I can’t deny the popularity of the race and I would be stupid to deny the appeal of Drizzt Do’Urden which has become the quintessential example of heroic outsider (he is beaten out in name recognition only by characters like Ben Grimm or the Incredible Hulk for heroes who have sad music playing for them about the tragedy of their situation).
            Really my distaste for them comes more from seeing them so much.  Kind of like how I used to really like certain songs… Till they were the song I heard everywhere and eventually they lost all appeal.  It is just a matter of overplay.  The fantasy equivalent of the Chainsmokers.

“So, baby, pull me closer
“In the backseat of your Rover
“That I know you can't afford
“Bite that tattoo on your shoulder
“Pull the sheets right off the corner
“Of the mattress that you stole
“From your roommate back in Boulder
“We ain't ever getting older”

Maybe I just think of these guys as assholes because "The Lion King" was big when I was growing up.

#4: Gnolls and Animal People
            I think I might be the only person who is open to more animal-people being put into Dungeons and Dragons.  Aside from Gnolls and the occasional Jackal Headed humanoid in an Egyptian style area there aren’t any I can readily think of.  Rakshasa maybe, but they are so powerful they don’t get played by players.  Lizardmen, Dragonborn, and Minotaur I guess too.  Though I think Minotaur were only playable in 4e, the Bermuda Triangle of good ideas.
            Maybe there is some kind of stigma against it.  Maybe there aren’t enough of that type of fantasy race in conventionally Western folklore/mythology for it to be seen as a necessary aspect of the game.  Pathfinder was better at this I think.  Grippli and Vanara had great art in their Advanced Races Guide.  This section is turning into “My Favorite Fantasy Races” blog entry.  Let’s just move on.

I want to emphasize the version on the left.  Which I have dubbed, "the good version".
#3: Goblins
            Much like Orcs I talked about Goblins in my “Exotic Monsters” blog entry with an emphasis on making them more like a manufactured race of creatures.  I also made fun of how unremarkable the yellow versions of the race were in 5th edition (I stand by that).  No, the Goblins I really like are the Pathfinder Goblins, which are as Ugly-Cute as a pug dog and pretty much the mascot of their whole game.
            This is the sort of fun emphasis I really like and sometimes feel goes underappreciated.  They are vile and dangerous, but they are so goofy looking and acting, that aspect of them livens the game up, and creates more of an impact when things do take a turn for the serious.  Right now, with the possible exception of the Flumph (who are good guys), there doesn’t seem to be too many silly monsters running around in Dungeons and Dragons.  Pathfinder does not have that problem.

We have complex tactics by the standard of 4th edition, and compared to 5e we are intensely interesting.

#2: Kobolds
            I talked about these guys and how I see them at length in another Blog entry.  My feelings toward them haven’t changed, so I will reference that and say only this, “Another thing that 4th edition did right were the Kobolds.”

This was a magazine cover.  It is pretty rad.

#1: Githyanki
            These guys, aside from a brief collaboration between Dungeon Magazine and Dragon Magazine back when magazines were still a thing, are under used.  They have a cool back story as the first race of humanoids enslaved by the Mindflayers.  They have cool surrounding lore, in that they live in the Astral Plane on the corpse of a dead god; have a pact with Red Dragons for mutual cooperation; they are part of a splintered society with their cousins the Githzerai living in the plane of Limbo as peace seeking monks; and they are ruled by a Lich Queen who eats the souls of any member of their society who grows too powerful.
Look at this fucking thing.  It is amazing.
            Generally speaking, the Githyanki have all the best cultural and game play markers of the Drow (replace Lloth with the Lich Queen, replace spiders with Red Dragons, instead of good elves there are the Githzerai, replace the grab bag of magic powers with a grab bag of psionic stuff, and the Astral Plane is the Underdark of the Multiverse) but they are 100 times more exotic and lack all the baggage that comes with the fan favorite Drow.
            I feel that if you enjoy using Drow in your games that you may want to give more time toward these guys should you ever want to expand your games to the multiverse rather than staying on the material plane.  It will take more work, because their lack of use means you will find fewer premade dungeons and stat blocks, but you might not feel weighed down by expectations and still able to throw some curveballs in regards to behavior and locations.

Coming Tomorrow
            Tomorrow I am going to talk about Dragons.
            You knew they would eventually make an appearance.


            If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter (click that link to follow me), Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

No comments:

Post a Comment