D&D Races: Evolution in Action...




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  1. #1
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    D&D Races: Evolution in Action...

    A few days ago, Discovery@Canada (Canada's main Science News show on the Discovery Channel) had a few special features about Lord of the Rings: A Scientific Exploration of the elements of Tolkien's works.

    One exploration that really interested me was an analysis of how the various races in LoTR might all be related. It really made sense, the way the expert explained it:

    Essentially, any critter with a human-like appearance is likely to be a Hominid, and so a cousin (however distant) of Humanity. Elves, Dwarves, Humans and others are basically divergent descendants of a common proto-human ancestor. This makes sense because in real life, our own dominant Hominid branch once shared the earth with many close cousins, with Neanderthal being the last such exemple.

    In LoTR, all the races had a common ancestor. Dwarves were the first race to diverge from the ancestral line, distancing themselves the most from their distant cousins. The line then branched out again into Elves and Humans, who developped into very different creatures. Likewise, Orcs (corrupted Elves) were a mutated offshoot of the same branch. And finally came the Hobbits, who were a more recent "pygmisation" of the Hominid line.

    That line of thinking made sense to me, and I've considered making a similar connection in my next campaign for the various races. By connecting them all to a distant "Common Ancestor", I tie all the Human-like races together, Good, Evil and Neutral.

    Here's the line I was considering:
    The Common Ancestor would be a large, long-lived, muscular race with potent magical abilities. Call them "Titans". They evolved in a world dominated by sentiant reptilian races, lead by the Dragons.

    After achieving dominance, the Titans established a hierarchical society, forcing the weaker of their members to serve as miners a laborers. The members of this "undercaste" would be the ancestors to both Dwarves and Gnomes. A corrupted offshoot of the race splinters off and becomes the ancestor of all Goblinoids.

    A Magical catastrophy of some sort causes the Titan race to lose dominance and scatter. The proto-dwarven race claims freedom and goes underground, to evolve further and eventually splinter off into Dwarven and Gnomish subraces.

    The formerly dominant race splinters off as well; one subrace devotes itself to mastering magic in all it's forms, attunes itself to the forces of Nature, and uses magical techniques to extend their lifespan even longer. The other subrace all but swears off it's dependancy on magic, and spreads out across the world, adapting to varying locales and favoring early technology over magic. They become Elves and Humans, respectively, and stay close enough to occasionally interbreed.

    Now, eventually some dark power comes along the world (still in early design) and discovers these interesting races, and gets to work corrupting a few of each race, mutating them to it's tastes. These become Duergar, Derro, Dark Elves and Orcs.

    That's about all I got so far, but I'm also thinking of making the Giant Races a completly different line of Evolution, partially elemental in it's origins, and using the "antidileviuan reptile race" concept hinted at in the Slayer's Guide to Troglodytes, which hints that Lizardmen, Troglodytes and Kobolds are distant cousins of the same race, once ruled over by the Dragons in ages past.

    Any comments?

 

  • #2
    Makes sense, but I don't know if it actually fits with Tolkien's works. I think he may have already established how the races came into existence.
    Of course, I don't know that much about it, so there's a good chance I'm wrong.

  • #3
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    Cool

    If you want to adap this explanation for D&D, it would really work well. This race of titans, "giants in the earth," also meshes with real world mythology quite nicely.

    Of course, the folks who did the show should have read the Silmarillion if they REALLY wanted to find out how the races came about in Middle Earth. Hmmm.
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    I like!

    I like the reasoning - but, if I'm remembering things correctly, there's something wrong with their (Discovery Canada's) assumptions. From what I recall of The Silmarillion, the Elves were the first race to be born. (Ignoring, of course, the gods - the Valar and the Maiar.) Furthermore, I *believe* that the dwarves were created, kinda bugging some of the other Valar. That'd make two of their points incorrect. Now, the Dunedain are definitely part elf, but, I don't believe that ALL humans are - little relation there, more another created race. The Orcs/Uruk-Hai are 'genetically engineered' races, though the Orcs did come from corrupted Elves, under Melkor. And, lastly - I believe that I've read somewhere (canon somewhere) that the hobbits were getting larger with each generation and becoming more humanlike... hmm - seems Discovery Canada 'ought to do some more research.

    On the other hand, I like your theories for a campaign world - it's an interesting idea. I believe that Bruce Gulke of Mythosa.net worked out something similar, but it's been a while since I read the history of his world...

    Anyway - in closing - that's some nice stuff you've got there. The theory is interesting, though, obviously enough, I take greviance with their example of Middle-Earth.
    - Terraism

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    Tolkien got alot of his stuff from old Finland stories.

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    Tolkien, was a creationist and his work was as well. The Silmarillion lays out the order of the creation of the races - Elves came first. Dwarves were actually created first but they were then hidden away until after the elves were given life. Men were created last. Ents and Eagles recieved life somewhere in there at an unspecified time to guard the animals and plants respectively, and he never says were the hobbits come from that I remember.

    It really seems unfair to the author to try and twist his work into something he would have personally disagreed with.

  • #7
    Thanks for the post, Wicht -- I sorta thought that, but I wasn't certain.

    I do think that your theories are a cool explanation, though, and would adapt perfectly for D&D. You could build a Tolkien-like world just using your theories as the background/history instead.

  • #8

    hmmm

    One thing I don't like about your idea is some of the cliches, namely that there *has* to be a distinct race of drow and duergar etc. And I find this all over the place. I recently bought Dragonstar and though I'm quite happy with the ideas and the integration of sci-fi and fantasy, I was very dissapointed by the unimaginitve use of some of the fantasy races. Even to the extent that they referred to the drow worshipping "their spider queen." If you're going to come up with something original, forget the subterranean races altogether or cook up something new. Just my $0.02CDN.

  • #9
    I think what everyone misses when looking to the Silmarillion for an explanation for the creation of Middle Earth is that it's a myth. It is the Elven myth for their creation, their bible. Just as there are many theories for the creation of our planet besides the Christian Bible, I don't think it's unreasonable to imagine other possibilites or explanations for Middle Earth.

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    Yeah, but...

    Yeah, but, you see, there's just one thing. Middle Earth DOESN'T exist. There aren't going to be Hobbit and Gondorian scientists looking back over the fossil record and debating what time frame Great Eagles lived in and what the diet of a Fell Beast was.
    Wolfspider

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