Do We Still Need "Race" in D&D? - Page 3
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  1. #21
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    Here's what had bothered me for the longest time, and I am quite serious on this:

    "Race" is largely acceptable in fantasy genres where they were once classified in older games as "human" and "demi-human". The connection was the assimption that all human-like races were evolved or created from the same mold in the same world by different deities as different expressions and aspects of the world created. I find this acceptable and meaningful and not overly concerned with modern alertism and hyper-sensitive overreactions.

    My only beef, speaking strictly in game terms, is how there is little emphasis on actual cultural differences for humans. Elves have come in all kinds of flavors, complete with significant changes in character packages, options, midifiers, etc. Elves being the primary example, of course, as we see similar treatments for dwarves, halflings, and other fantasy staples. But humans, who traditionally dominate the landscape as the most numerous, most varied, and most adaptable race on nearly every world is left flavorless, untouched, and purely vanilla. Is it caution to err with a conservative approach so as not to offend real-world races with interpretations that might be construed as offensive if viewed in the wrong light? Or something else?

    I know Forgotten Realms did make some very compelling sub-cultures based on real world ones, as does Golarion (Pathfinder). I think the latter has more in-game influence of mechanics than the former. Perhaps PF2 may expand this more with their new design.

    And for the record, "species" is very appropriate for sci-fi settings where creatures are completely alien.

  2. #22
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    Biologists have settled meanings for these terms, of course. Races (of birds, for example - yes, some have races) can interbreed. Species rarely can interbreed successfully (mules, from horse and donkey, are sterile). Humans, dogs, and cats are three species, not races. All human races are part of one species.

    D&D indulges in sloppiness using race where species was usually meant. Humans often indulge in sloppiness with words, to a point that most people use the "new" meaning (such as "gay", which used to mean happy-go-lucky, or "verbal," which used to mean "with words" (written or oral). Now it's frequently used as a substitute for "oral" (spoken word only). The word "silly" meant "touched by god" 500 years ago. And so on.

    It's a case of ignorance overcoming standard meanings. Don't say "bi-annual" any more - about half the people think it means twice-yearly (i.e., semi-annual) instead of once every two years (the older meaning).
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  3. #23
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    I can't believe that this is even a question. What does it matter? Gamers don't need social justice in their games, for the most part we're one of the most accepting groups there is. We don't care who or what you are, we just want to play.
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  4. #24
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    My understanding is that the dwarves and elves etc are as different from humans as neanderthals or some hominid might have been.

    I think it makes sense to in some way make this clear. how you do it I don't entirely care. if you use scientific language matters little me (because fairies and dragons) but let's not dilute the archetypes that have come to be.

    humans are of course humans...color and custom changes nothing. I like that the PHB has a list of different ancestries for humans (even though not into FR).

    I think it would be cool to have some direction about differences in humanity to consider for making your own races (ahem) ancestries or whatever.
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  5. #25
    In Adventure in Middle-earth, which is D&D 5e based, it is called Cultures. Cultures cover Elves of Mirkwood, Men of Bree, and Hobbits of the Shire.
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  6. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jacob Lewis View Post
    My only beef, speaking strictly in game terms, is how there is little emphasis on actual cultural differences for humans.
    Yes, but I wouldn't touch that with a 31 1/2 foot pole.

    I agree that there are cultural differences between humans, and I've even experimented with allowing players to choose "culture" when they choose race. (Unlike most games, all elves in my game belong to the same race. There are no packages for wood elves, snow elves, or high elves.) The problem is that I started listing out culture packages for Concheeri, Averni, Har, Destrian, Tumeesi, and things were fine but as soon as I started working on ethnic groups in the fantasy world with darker shades of skin color, I realized that someone would come along and assume that my fantasy culture packages were in some way commenting on the real world. And to avoid that I'd have to go out of my way to explode expectations and that would put constraints on my fantasy world that were still based on the real world, in the same way that a fantasy writer that goes out of there way consciously to be different than Tolkien is still being influenced by Tolkien.

    The writer of the original article seems to hint that the move to the term "ancestry" is good in part because it sets up the ability to differentiate human ethnicities the way that elven or dwarves (or even Halfling) ethnicities are differentiated. I think that's just a huge can of worms we aren't nearly mature enough as a society to actually deal with.

    I think I'd be happier with race + background, as in 5e than 'ancestry' + anything. I feel that's a safer ground where our subculture, the culture of gaming, has built up some maturity and capabilities that moving to ancestry is just going to toss out of the window. Maybe nothing will come of it, but change lacking in a rational basis just seems more likely to go wrong than go right.

  7. #27
    Try to portray real world etnicities in D&D is a hornest nest, a big one.
    Just look at the tomb of anihilation controversy
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  8. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shadow Demon View Post
    Absolutely yes! There is one human race with multiple ethnicities and cultures in the real world. In the fantasy world, this is still true but I challenge anyone to come up a better descriptor for the differentiation between humans, elves, dwarves, and halflings.

    It is total nonsense to be offended by the use of race in this context.
    I prefer the convention used in Type III D&D of Type (Humanoid, Dragon, Aberration, etc.) and Subtype (Elf, Human, Orc, Shapechanger, etc.), though it was inconsistently applied.

  9. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by lewpuls View Post
    Biologists have settled meanings for these terms, of course. Races (of birds, for example - yes, some have races) can interbreed. Species rarely can interbreed successfully (mules, from horse and donkey, are sterile). Humans, dogs, and cats are three species, not races. All human races are part of one species.

    D&D indulges in sloppiness using race where species was usually meant.
    I strongly object. We have no reason to believe that any of the basis of real world science applies to a fantasy world.

    Species is a slippery enough term in the real world, and put a dozen Ph.D.'s in biology in a room and ask them what the definition of a species is and you'll probably get more than a half-dozen different answers and a conversation as convulted and impassioned as "Who is better, Kirk or Picard."

    Fantasy worlds tend to have science with a basis in the beliefs of the ancient world. In fantasy worlds, DNA doesn't exist and there are generally no barriers to interspecies breeding at all. In a fantasy world, species isn't a term for an isolated breeding population, but if it is a term at all (and it's not likely that it is) then it's a term for groups divided by their phenotype. That is, we know things are cows because they look like cows. But in a fantasy world, nothing prevents any two things despite radically different appearance from hybridizing successfully. Humans and dragons aren't the same fantasy species, but they readily hybridize in many or most fantasy worlds to produce offspring that are not sterile. In the same way that the Merovingian Kings of France could boast to their vassals that one of their ancestors was a Sea Serpent, in a fantasy world the logic of the world is not based on the scientific.

    Thus scientific terms like species have no basis in a fantasy game world, and if they appear then they will have no connection to the scientific terms. Pixies, dragons, humans, and elves may all interbreed, but their success in this endeavor doesn't make them scientifically the same species. Chromosome count has nothing to do with it, because chromosomes likely don't exist in the fantasy world.
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  10. #30
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    Unambiguously yes, we still need race. Or rather, stupidly trying to swap various synonyms in place of it is just people trying to eat their narrative cake and have it to, and we really shouldn't be engendering intellectual dishonesty when we have the choice not to. Frankly, a lot of this discussion seems only centered on the fact that many stock fantasy races are superficially similar to humans; trying to sugarcoat the differences between Thri-kreen and humans in Dark Sun as "heritage" is simply ridiculous. Even for the more conventional ones the large number of mechanical differences certainly allude to enough physiological disparities to qualify for racial distinctions.

    Simply put, if it isn't broke, don't fix it, and neither the OP nor anyone else has given compelling evidence as to the current nomenclature being broken.
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