D&D General All Dead Generations: "Classic Vs. The Aesthetic"

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Faolyn

(she/her)
Then why are they ogres or elves? Why aren't they just more humans? Differences need to have weight in order to be differences.
Because ogres and elves have different traits, different cultures, and different ways of going about things. Even if they're all part of a society, they're likely going to have different outlooks and histories and cultural rituals.

And because having pointy ears or being 8 feet tall or having horns is cool.
 

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Faolyn

(she/her)
For individuals? Well thrasher one would be to ask the company we are paying to do then work, to actually...do the work.

Provide that Alignment.
Provide that basic historical overview.
Provide that 'permission' to discard those things.
Provide the examples through the official canon and world building effort, that while there is a trend toward X behavior/culture/religion, there is also room for Y.

The easiest path, is to hold Wizards to a standard where they provide both.
No, because that adds to the amount of writing that needs to be done (and paid for) and the potential page count of the book (which also needs to be paid for).

Why do you need "permission" to discard anything?

If that's somehow beyond the pale, I still choose the first option. It's easier to add, and go against type, than to do everything.
And I find it much easier to add by not having a "type" to begin with.

Again, if they don't provide us with something, why do we pay them?
For that historical overview and for rules that have hopefully been gone over by more people than just your own gaming group.
 

He has better AC, yes, but that’s not necessarily more valuable to a wizard than the ability to hide in fog or whatever. Unlike having +1 to basically every d20 roll you make, +1 to all of your save DCs and an extra prepared spell, which is necessarily more valuable than either.
Sure, bonus to in is better for wizard than natural armour, no doubt about it. But we're talking about world where that is not an option (or it is not tied to race) so only differentiation are the traits. And some of them absolutely will make certain races better for certain classes. Under Tasha's mountain dwarves are super good for wizards and sorcerers compared to most other options under the same system.

I fully understand you not liking racial ASIs, it just seems very disingenuous to use essentialism argument against them as the same applies to your preferred method. And I feel it rather trivialises social justice issues to use them to argue for your favoured game mechanics in an elf game. The real issues, even in this game, are elsewhere.
 



People enjoy fictional violence pretty much everywhere from comic books to Hollywood movies.
I find your comment quite offensive.
That you say that you find killing one particular fictional race exceptionally satisfying definitely sounds disturbing. And that this particular race is a noted target of problematic depictions certainly doesn't make this seem any better.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Sure, bonus to in is better for wizard than natural armour, no doubt about it. But we're talking about world where that is not an option (or it is not tied to race) so only differentiation are the traits. And some of them absolutely will make certain races better for certain classes. Under Tasha's mountain dwarves are super good for wizards and sorcerers compared to most other options under the same system.
The advantage dwarves have as casters under Tasha’s is really not significant compared to other racial features. Is it “better” for a wizard to have medium armor, or to be able to change their appearance at will? It depends on what you want to do with your Wizard. This is not the case when comparing ability score increases. Increasing Intelligence will always be better for a wizard than increasing any other ability. Racial traits come at the opportunity cost of other racial traits, which have similarly niche applications. Ability score increases come at the opportunity cost of increasing other abilities, and since every class has one ability that is objectively more important for them than any other (well, ok, fighters can choose which of two abilities they want to be more important), an increase to that ability instead of an increase to another ability makes a character an inherently better specimen of their class in a way that having one racial trait as opposed to another doesn’t.
 

The advantage dwarves have as casters under Tasha’s is really not significant compared to other racial features. Is it “better” for a wizard to have medium armor, or to be able to change their appearance at will? It depends on what you want to do with your Wizard. This is not the case when comparing ability score increases. Increasing Intelligence will always be better for a wizard than increasing any other ability. Racial traits come at the opportunity cost of other racial traits, which have similarly niche applications. Ability score increases come at the opportunity cost of increasing other abilities, and since every class has one ability that is objectively more important for them than any other (well, ok, fighters can choose which of two abilities they want to be more important), an increase to that ability instead of an increase to another ability makes a character an inherently better specimen of their class in a way that having one racial trait as opposed to another doesn’t.
I simply do not agree that this is the case. All traits are not equally good for all classes. Perhaps the disparity in power is smaller that way, but at most we have a difference of degree, not of kind. And if the complaint is that is that favouring certain classes is inherently problematic, then I don't think that should matter.
 

Nefermandias

Adventurer
That you say that you find killing one particular fictional race exceptionally satisfying definitely sounds disturbing. And that this particular race is a noted target of problematic depictions certainly doesn't make this seem any better.
I just used orca as an example. Could have been goblins, gnolls, kobolds, whatever... Just something that isn't a mindless construct or animated pile of bones or boring human highwaymen. I thought that was clear from the context.
I'm genuinely offended.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I simply do not agree that this is the case. All traits are not equally good for all classes. Perhaps the disparity in power is smaller that way, but at most we have a difference of degree, not of kind. And if the complaint is that is that favouring certain classes is inherently problematic, then I don't think that should matter.
Which is where you and I always eventually come back to on this subject. We just fundamentally disagree on this matter.

For the record though, no, I don’t think all racial traits are equally valuable for all characters. I think the value of racial traits is dependent on what you want to do with your character, not on their class. This is in contrast to ability scores, the value of which is heavily dependent on class.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
At the very least, yes.

And if we were only talking about Orcs, I'd be more or less cool with the idea they can be any alignment or ethos (though I'd still prefer an alignment tendency be listed in their MM write-up); another species to put alongside Humans, Dwarves, Elves, etc. in that mold.

But it seems we're not. There's been perhaps two or three dozen different creatures mentioned in this thread - including, incredibly, mind flayers; which are generally accepted as all evil, all the time - and some posters seem to want this same "they might just be misunderstood" treatment applied to the lot of 'em. That's overkill.
Mind flayers. No they're not misunderstood. But no, they're not inherently evil either. They're exactly as evil as humans are for eating animals. We eat animals. Mind flayers eat intelligent life. Having a limited diet doesn't make you evil. That we think they're evil doesn't make them so. We're their food. Of course we think they're evil. Just as chickens, if they were sufficiently intelligent, would think humans were evil for eating them.
I wonder how much of this stems from people, for any given species, interpreting the listed MM alignment as an absolute rather than a tendency.
Well, it's presented as an absolute the majority of the time, so it's not a giant leap to assume it is an absolute. And when it's not presented as an absolute, it's presented as the default.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
My neighbor would be a lot more interesting if he had bigger teeth and a Frey or green tint to his skin. Just saying.

Yes, and?

So? What’s wrong with characters having cosmetic differences from humans? You say “what’s the point of having them?” I say “what’s the point of not having them?” They’re cool. Have them if you want them. Or don’t, whatever floats your boat.

And because having pointy ears or being 8 feet tall or having horns is cool.

For some reason my brain wanted me to type something about how thinking a group of people are cool for looking different seems to tread close to fetishizing. Does fetishizing something imaginary avoid language issues and so would never bring to mind fetishizing the far east, for example? Or is it that fetishizing in general (as opposed to negative stereotypes) has nothing inherently bad with it? Or is it that it's completely different than fetishizing? Does it matter if only some groups look cool and not others? Does this have trickiness to avoid about, say, certain skin tones are never portrayed as the cool ones?


Because ogres and elves have different traits, different cultures, and different ways of going about things. Even if they're all part of a society, they're likely going to have different outlooks and histories and cultural rituals.

Why would any particular race (elves, dwarves, whatnot) have the same outlooks, cultures, and histories when they come from different worlds? Should the MM just give sample ones from several different settings where they're completely different? If they have great similarities across entirely different worlds with different histories, does that lead to something biologically essential in their make-up that leads to the similarity?

Let's drill down a bit more here shall we?

Let's move away from orc into SF and Star Trek. Just for a moment. Vulcans. Now, vulcans are FAR closer to humans than orcs are to humans. Vulcans are physically pretty much just humans with funny ears. They don't even have bumpy heads. A pair of dollar store ears and a bad hair cut and you're cosplaying a Vulcan. Not a huge stretch.

I think Vulcans are a great example of how to do a non-human species well. They have coherently distinct and recognisable mentality that leads to interesting narratives, yet they're not incomprehensibly alien. This is is exactly the sort of thing I want to see in fantasy as well.

Would Vulcans have different mental stats at all? (What stats would you use in a Star Trek system?) Are there some mental type saves they'd have advantage/disadvantage on? Are innate mental differences for an entire species problematic? Or only if they have negative connotations? (Aren't there some you'd think they were positive at first blush stereotypes about real world groups that are still harmful?)
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
For some reason my brain wanted me to type something about how thinking a group of people are cool for looking different seems to tread close to fetishizing. Does fetishizing something imaginary avoid language issues and so would never bring to mind fetishizing the far east, for example? Or is it that fetishizing in general (as opposed to negative stereotypes) has nothing inherently bad with it? Or is it that it's completely different than fetishizing? Does it matter if only some groups look cool and not others? Does this have trickiness to avoid about, say, certain skin tones are never portrayed as the cool ones?
That’s a really interesting question! I’ll have to do some thinking on it and get back to you.
 

Doug McCrae

Legend
What are the load-bearing tropes for Gygaxian D&D?
  • The adventuring environment – dungeon, wilderness – must be unknown. The PCs should therefore come from somewhere else.
  • The adventuring environment must contain things the players want – treasure, magic items.
  • The adventuring environment must contain things the players want to avoid – wandering monsters, traps.
  • The adventuring environment must be large so there are many meaningful decisions to be made about where to go.
  • The adventuring environment should be lawless so no one can force the PCs to do anything.
  • If there are a lot of different 'grades' of monster and treasure then it makes the players' decisions more meaningful.
  • The existence of magic makes the DM's job much easier, in much the same way it makes a pulp fantasy writer's job easier.
  • The PCs should be detached from society – more like Conan than Frodo – so they are free to go anywhere they want.
Therefore I'd say the load-bearing tropes are:
  1. Civilisation vs wilderness.
  2. Lots of magic.
  3. Lots of monsters and other hazards.
  4. Big dungeons or wildernesses.
  5. PCs are rootless wanderers.
(2) and (3), to the extent that D&D embraces them, don't look like most of its sources in fiction, except to some extent Vance's Dying Earth and to a greater extent, the kitchen sink universes of Marvel and DC comics.

I don't think Evil monsters are essential. Good and evil seem entirely unnecessary to this power up finding, peril avoiding game. Monsters are evil from the PCs' perspective insofar as they prevent them getting what they want, but they don't have to be cosmically Evil.

EDIT: I don't think the PCs need to be magic at the start, though they could become so as the game progresses. This would help to make the magic of the adventuring environment more of an unknown. Here it might be better if D&D embraced the idea in Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions and Moorcock's Elric stories that magic = Chaos = monsterdom and science = Law = humanity.
 
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TheSword

Legend
Mind flayers. No they're not misunderstood. But no, they're not inherently evil either. They're exactly as evil as humans are for eating animals. We eat animals. Mind flayers eat intelligent life. Having a limited diet doesn't make you evil. That we think they're evil doesn't make them so. We're their food. Of course we think they're evil. Just as chickens, if they were sufficiently intelligent, would think humans were evil for eating them.

Well, it's presented as an absolute the majority of the time, so it's not a giant leap to assume it is an absolute. And when it's not presented as an absolute, it's presented as the default.
That’s quite a superficial look at mind flayers. Do you know anything about them? They tap into four of the five Primal Fears of human nature.

Extinction: They eat the brains of intelligent creatures… while they are alive and aware of what is happening to themselves. Destruction of the self via consumption of the organ that determines the self. The ultimate extinction.

Mutilation: They have acid eating tentacles that burrow through your skin to reach your living brain. Usually through the eye sockets, mouth, nose or or straight though the thin parts of the skull. They also reproduce by implanting their young into your body against your will where it eats your brain from the inside as it grows, eventually taking over your body.

Loss of Autonomy: They have powers that dominate - forcing you to fulfill any action they require irrespective of your wishes. You become their slaves. They also have the ability to paralyze you, leaving you helpless if they choose to. They also read your mind. Invading your privacy in the most fundamental way.

Death of Ego: in taking your free will, reducing you to the status of slave or worse dinner, they destroy your ego, self worth and identity. Through physical means and psychic means. Moreover they learn your thoughts by consuming your brain, so not even your secrets are inviolable.

These things are intrinsically linked to Mind Flayer abilities, so no they are not ‘just as evil as humans eating meat’.

Those are just the unarguable physical abilities. Take the fact that we know they also experiment on unwilling sentient test subjects, use mind controlled slaves in arena fights to the death, and raise intelligent folk like cattle, and have a creed who’s job it is to create the maximum amount of horror In the victim to make their brains taste sweeter…. Not evil? If not I’m not sure of any single living creature that does more evil as it goes about its daily business.
 
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For some reason my brain wanted me to type something about how thinking a group of people are cool for looking different seems to tread close to fetishizing. Does fetishizing something imaginary avoid language issues and so would never bring to mind fetishizing the far east, for example? Or is it that fetishizing in general (as opposed to negative stereotypes) has nothing inherently bad with it? Or is it that it's completely different than fetishizing? Does it matter if only some groups look cool and not others? Does this have trickiness to avoid about, say, certain skin tones are never portrayed as the cool ones?
I don't think that's a problem unless a fantasy race clearly corresponds to a real life human culture. So playing in kara tur can be tricky because the conceit is that you are playing in a fantasy asia as imagined by anglo authors. But at the same time, rpgs can be used to complicate or work through those attachments in productive ways. Similarly, the way that people represent gender through their characters might carry with it all manner of real world idealizations, but for me is not problematic in and of itself.

In terms of fantasy races that have a lot of appeal and draw a lot of attention, 5e tieflings might count. But I think that's because they are queer-coded and thus are seen as a way for people to express themselves through their character (which is probably another thing that is antithetical to approach of classic play)
 

Would Vulcans have different mental stats at all? (What stats would you use in a Star Trek system?) Are there some mental type saves they'd have advantage/disadvantage on?
They most definitely would have different mental stats. They tend to be superhumanly intelligent. Also highly mentally disciplined. They also are massively stronger than humans and more resilient, and have better reflexes and are telepathic... In D&D they would be ludicrously overpowered. But is Star Trek where weapons can easily vapourise you, being super strong or resilient is more of an interesting quirk that sometimes comes handy. And a lot of problems are social, and that definitely is the weak area of Vulcans.

Are innate mental differences for an entire species problematic? Or only if they have negative connotations? (Aren't there some you'd think they were positive at first blush stereotypes about real world groups that are still harmful?)
I don't think they're inherently problematic, no. They usually are the most interesting differences. Though I'm not necessarily meaning differences that would be sort of things that would be reflected in D&D mental stats, more like different instincts and ways of thinking. And sure, some depictions may be problematic, but so can some visual depictions and we're not talking about removing cosmetic differences between fictional species.
 

What are the load-bearing tropes for Gygaxian D&D?
  • The adventuring environment – dungeon, wilderness – must be unknown. The PCs should therefore come from somewhere else.
  • The adventuring environment must contain things the players want – treasure, magic items.
  • The adventuring environment must contain things the players want to avoid – wandering monsters, traps.
  • The adventuring environment must be large so there are many meaningful decisions to be made about where to go.
  • The adventuring environment should be lawless so no one can force the PCs to do anything.
  • If there are a lot of different 'grades' of monster and treasure then it makes the players' decisions more meaningful.
  • The existence of magic makes the DM's job much easier, in much the same way it makes a pulp fantasy writer's job easier.
  • The PCs should be detached from society – more like Conan than Frodo – so they are free to go anywhere they want.
Therefore I'd say the load-bearing tropes are:
  1. Civilisation vs wilderness.
  2. Lots of magic.
  3. Lots of monsters and other hazards.
  4. Big dungeons or wildernesses.
  5. PCs are rootless wanderers.
(2) and (3), to the extent that D&D embraces them, don't look like most of its sources in fiction, except to some extent Vance's Dying Earth and to a greater extent, the kitchen sink universes of Marvel and DC comics.

I don't think Evil monsters are essential. Good and evil seem entirely unnecessary to this power up finding, peril avoiding game. Monsters are evil from the PCs' perspective insofar as they prevent them getting what they want, but they don't have to be cosmically Evil.
But what if we add to this gygaxian formula the "load-bearing" tropes of subsequent editions, specifically the influence of LotR style epic fantasy and beyond? Because then you have the interesting situation where the outside grave robbers of the gygaxian game are now the chosen one heroes of the hickman and weis game (and of course there were elements of the latter in the former).

incidentally, it is a bit of a paradox when it is the gygaxian naturalists who want inherently evil monsters, as it goes against the playstyle and aesthetics you identify
 

Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
That’s quite a superficial look at mind flayers. Do you know anything about them? They tap into four of the five Primal Fears of human nature.

Extinction: They eat the brains of intelligent creatures… while they are alive and aware of what is happening to themselves. Destruction of the self via consumption of the organ that determines the self. The ultimate extinction.

First, eating raw and alive is exactly what we do when we have oysters, sea urchin or those little worms crawling on top of casu marzu cheese. Second, it's how they feed, they don't have control about it, they are born this way and unfortunately they eat sentient brain. That's a very specific diet. This can't define an evil behaviour.

Mutilation: They have acid eating tentacles that burrow through your skin to reach your living brain. Usually through the eye sockets, mouth, nose or or straight though the thin parts of the skull. They also reproduce by implanting their young into your body against your will where it eats your brain from the inside as it grows, eventually taking over your body.

Same here. That's how they feed and how they reproduce, like the ichneumon wasp. They could choose not to reproduce, but it would be a collective choice of species extinction... Much like humans could choose not to reproduce and make themselves extinct to save the biodiversity. It's extreme... It would definitely be good, but not doing it doesn't make them evil.


Loss of Autonomy: They have powers that dominate - forcing you to fulfill any action they require irrespective of your wishes. You become their slaves. They also have the ability to paralyze you, leaving you helpless if they choose to. They also read your mind. Invading your privacy in the most fundamental way.

Death of Ego: in taking your free will, reducing you to the status of slave or worse dinner, they destroy your ego, self worth and identity. Through physical means and psychic means. Moreover they learn your thoughts by consuming your brain, so not even your secrets are inviolable.

Much like a human wizard can. It's not the ability to do these things that makes them evil, it's how they choose to use them. And there is no telling they chose to use them for evil on sight. The fact that "all the other mindflyers we know were bad ones" doesn't mean this particular one you meet is necessarily evil as well. Arena fights are entertainement in Mind Flayer colonies, most of them are doing bad things to make brains taste better? Sure, most of the ones who take part in it are evil. But you can't use this particular point against any and all mindflayers anymore than you can consider all real-life humans evil because we have bull fights, we kill all most male chicken at birth and enjoy foie gras. When you meet random Joe Mindflayer, there is no way to tell if he enjoys the evil activities he could choose (making him evil) or just enjoys the biological needs of his species, unless you consider the whole race as monster because there is something that make all of them, despite being sentient, choose the evil things you mentionned in the second half of your post on top of the other thing they can't do without as an individual or as a species.
 
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