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Saturday, 19th January, 2002, 04:49 PM #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.
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