Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Dungeons and Dragons, "My Favorite 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to my 30-day challenge on Disney Movies, here is a link to my 30-day challenge on Video Games, and here is a comically out of date 30-day challenge on Movies (it is old and the writing is rubbish).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 5- Favorite Playable Race
            I have mentioned this before but I am much more about being the guy running the game as such I just don’t have a lot of time spent as a player.  When I am GG’ing my games tend to have lots of diversity in regards to the creatures and races my players encounter.
            Regardless of my ability to provide a big range of stuff when I have access to the whole world, typically when I play I go the boring route and play a human.  The small amount of customization allows me to do what I want with nearly any character type, and since Humans are by the conceit of the game diverse and able to have numerous cultures and world perspectives that means I have plenty of freedom when designing my guy.

            This boring streak goes a little deeper too.  I would be okay with humans being the only option in a campaign.  “Game of Thrones” style baby!  And I don’t just mean the sex!
            Think of all the chaotic things that have happened in our world in regards to culture clash, oppression, fetishizing, and exploitation and everyone in this world is a human.  The idea that someone could live to be 300 years old, or be able to talk to animals, or have body types and chemistry that were wholly different from humans, those alien perspectives are hard for me to comfortably envision.  I think very few players are comfortable envisioning them.
            Any attempt to illustrate those vast differences via lore or the player trying to explain them, they’re often underwhelming, “Elves value personal freedom” they say, “How exactly do they do that?” I ask, “A bunch of them play the harp and they tend to live in treehouses.”  Can you see how I might not consider that to be too big a deal?

Humans can play the harp and value personal freedom.

            I don’t need that sort of halfhearted “we’re different” for a game to be interesting.  +90% of the time I doubt most players can really appreciate the magnitude of such alien perspectives and just play the characters for a rules benefit.  So why bother with them being non-human?
            The obvious answer to my flippant question is, “It’s Fun”.  I am not stupid, I am just trying to illustrate my world view, “if you and your players are not going to do anything with an idea why bother with it?” seems like a logical question to ask when it comes time to edit something.

Fun Playable Races
            I have already mentioned my love of the Warforged in the context of talking about Eberron and exotic races of monsters in general.  Maybe the way to make these player races more meaningful is to push the envelope and MAKE THEM REALLY STRANGE.  So, I will mention some other possibilities that I think would help.
            I like Gnomes because of their penchant for their gadgetry and being uncomplicated good guys 90% of the time.  I like Kobolds as (sort of) bad guys, as I spelled out in another blog which was all about Kobolds.  I like what they did with Tieflings and Dragonkin, devils and dragons are cool fantasy elements and (to me) make more sense as fantasy races than Elves, Dwarves, and Halflings in most cases.  I also have a soft spot for Dhampir, the quasi-vampire player race, I wish they had been in the core book, much like I wish more mentions of Ravenloft were in there, they are in the Races Guide for Pathfinder, they should be present in DnD.  That Pathfinder Race guide also has Grippli and Vanara who look awesome.

And really Awesome looking Tengu as well.
           This kind of goes back to my discussion of the various published settings and my “Imaginatives” designation.  I personally put a much greater emphasis and have more affection for the exotic worlds, and while I think that an all human interpretation of those worlds would be fine and even if I don’t often play them or see them as flawed (Dark Sun) I still prefer them because they are so different.
            So rather than having the typical races which all look similar, having the core races be Humans, Gnomes, Warforged, Tieflings, Dragonkin, Dhampir, and Kobolds sounds like a much more interesting world than the standard assortment of “White people of various heights and ear pointiness”.

This this is such a well colored and illustrated image that I keep using it.
            The core races as they exist are bland.  They did some work to address it with all of the subraces and having as many exotic races in the Player's handbook as they do, but that doesn’t change the fact that Elves are just done to death at this point and more interesting options should be looked at, Elves are not inhuman enough to peak my interest.  Call me crazy but the idea that someone definitely NOT BEING HUMAN is interesting enough to notice.  Speaking from the experience of running a game with the Pathfinder Race Guide, NO ONE PLAYED A HUMAN OR TYPICAL CORE RACE.
            I am going to again complain that there hasn’t been a new campaign setting since Eberron 13 years ago, and that lack of innovation is going to stagnate the property.  Why not put Lizardmen, Shifters, Goliaths, and Shardminds right up front and show people new and old how crazy this stuff can get?
            Maybe I am just too outside the typical consumer for my opinions to be considered as good advice on the topic?
Yeah, maybe we don't need the Shardminds.
But, I am sure putting them in the Player's Handbook 3 didn't do them any favors.

Coming Tomorrow
            Tomorrow I am going to talk about my favorite class.

            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.

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