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D&D 5E Are humanoid mono-cultures being replaced with the Rule of Three?

I certainly don't like mono-cultures for any humanoid, but the trend seems we're going from a single monolithic culture to 3 different cultures in many cases. It's like the Rule of Three moved from beyond Planescape. I guess it's the easiest number to have as it's, "here's the one you know, here's it's opposite, and here's something else". Having 4 or more might seem too much for some.

It's certainly something I thought about with the thread on FR Drow with Udadrow, Aevendrow and Lorendrow, but it's already in place in Eberron with Vulkoori, Sulatar and Umbragen (Drow), Aereni, Tairnadal and Khovaire (Elves) or Ghaal'dar, Heirs of Dhakaan, City Goblins (across all Goblin races, Marguul Bugbears might break that). It seems to be a coincidence that it's often 3.
 

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DammitVictor

Druid of the Invisible Hand
I feel like that's just replacing racial monocultures with... subracial monocultures. Instead of saying "these things are true of all elves", it's just saying "there are three kinds of elves; these things are true of all elves of this kind".

If we want a "rule of three", it should be two lists: "all of these things are true of all elves" (and a ruler to the knuckles of anyone who says "but not my elf!") and "three of these things are true of any elf" with a little bit of wiggle room if someone wants to play a less or more stereotypical elf. Stop making more subraces.
 

Marandahir

Crown-Forester
Aevendrow is not a new subrace of Elf. It's a Dark Elf culture, much like Illuskan, Mulan, and Calimshite are examples of human cultures. They do not change the Human ancestry features. They are storytelling tools that show that Humans are not a monolith. Aevendrow and Lorendrow are storytelling tools that show that Drow are not the monolith we've understood from years of stories about the Udadrow.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I'd rather the rule of three than the infinite varieties of elves.

Seriously, it's almost like, "Hey, we have a terrain type. Let's get an Elf for it! Wood elf, sea elf, sand elf, swamp elf, um, mesa elf, er .... hot springs elf ..... elf on the shelf ....." I swear, it's like the "shrimp scene" in Forrest Gump, but so much longer and more annoying.

Elves are the Darwin's finches of D&D, except instead of being cute and having different beaks, they are all just dead-eyed soulless automatons.
 

Marandahir

Crown-Forester
I'd rather the rule of three than the infinite varieties of elves.

Seriously, it's almost like, "Hey, we have a terrain type. Let's get an Elf for it! Wood elf, sea elf, sand elf, swamp elf, um, mesa elf, er .... hot springs elf ..... elf on the shelf ....." I swear, it's like the "shrimp scene" in Forrest Gump, but so much longer and more annoying.

Elves are the Darwin's finches of D&D, except instead of being cute and having different beaks, they are all just dead-eyed soulless automatons.

There's a reason why Eladrin are not four different subraces in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes. WotC have come around to this point of view as well. An elf variation has to be significant; other wise it's a culture, not a unique ancestry with its own features.
 


willrali

Explorer
Probably. Designers are trying to avoid stereotyping which is fine. I personally think it's missing the point.

Humanoids don't need to have real-world-esque layers and complexity, because they're not real world. There's no depth to explore, and there doesn't need to be. Ultimately, everyone's playing humans-in-makeup.

'Look at me, I'm a fighter dude but I'm graceful and aloof and my immortality makes me sad and strange. I have a curvy Tolkein sword and I move like mist on the breeze.'

But all power to the folks who want to make Elves a deep and complicated subject.
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
There's a reason why Eladrin are not four different subraces in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes. WotC have come around to this point of view as well. An elf variation has to be significant; other wise it's a culture, not a unique ancestry with its own features.

Just because you give it a name like a pharmaceutical doesn't mean it's not just another elf.

"Darling? Have you seen my Eladrin*? I have to take two of them to get going."

"Oh, dear. I think they are in the pill bottle next to the Lorendrow. Can't get to sleep without my Lorendrow!"

*Caution: When I take Eladrin, I get sweats. My bones are cold. My teeth are loose. My heart gets really, really hot. I can read minds and sometimes, I wake up driving a stolen car. But my erections are FANTASTIC! When I wear gray sweat pants, people cross the street. Which is fine. Eladrin gave me my life back. Hail satan.
 

Marandahir

Crown-Forester
Probably. Designers are trying to avoid stereotyping which is fine. I personally think it's missing the point.

Humanoids don't need to have real-world-esque layers and complexity, because they're not real world. There's no depth to explore, and there doesn't need to be. Ultimately, everyone's playing humans-in-makeup.

'Look at me, I'm a fighter dude but I'm graceful and aloof and my immortality makes me sad and strange. I have a curvy Tolkein sword and I move like mist on the breeze.'

But all power to the folks who want to make Elves a deep and complicated subject.
Elves didn't have curved swords in Tolkien. That's a Weta-developed concept, likely originating mostly from Alan Lee and/or John Howe as they were trying to portray gracefulness in Elven cultures. Tolkien mostly depicted his elven swords as similar to how swords are written in the Norse Sagas, the Finnish Kalevala, and the Irish Cycles.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Rule of three was kinda already being followed. Hill dwarf, mountain dwarf, duergar. High elf, wood elf, drow. Lightfoot, stout, ghostwise. Rock gnome, forest gnome, svirfneblin.

The problem (in 5e) has never been that races lack for subcultures. The problem has always been that there is no variation on display within those subcultures. We don’t need new types of elf with different cultures, we need more elves who buck the cultural trends of the subtype to which they belong.
 

Marandahir

Crown-Forester
Just because you give it a name like a pharmaceutical doesn't mean it's not just another elf.

"Darling? Have you seen my Eladrin*? I have to take two of them to get going."

"Oh, dear. I think they are in the pill bottle next to the Lorendrow. Can't get to sleep without my Lorendrow!"

*Caution: When I take Eladrin, I get sweats. My bones are cold. My teeth are loose. My heart gets really, really hot. I can read minds and sometimes, I wake up driving a stolen car. But my erections are FANTASTIC! When I wear gray sweat pants, people cross the street. Which is fine. Eladrin gave me my life back. Hail satan.

Oh, I didn't mean that Eladrin aren't yet another elf subancestry; just that it's not 4 additional subancestries. The Spring/Summer/Autumn/Winter Eladrin are cultures, not immutable ancestry choices made at 1st level. This is also the same book that brought back Sea Elves and made Shadar-Kai elves again (they were shadow-influenced human descendants in 4e).
 

Marandahir

Crown-Forester
Rule of three was kinda already being followed. Hill dwarf, mountain dwarf, duergar. High elf, wood elf, drow. Lightfoot, stout, ghostwise. Rock gnome, forest gnome, svirfneblin.

The problem (in 5e) has never been that races lack for subcultures. The problem has always been that there is no variation on display within those subcultures. We don’t need new types of elf with different cultures, we need more elves who buck the cultural trends of the subtype to which they belong.
And that's what these Drow are a fix for. These are cultures within Drow. They're not new elven subtypes.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
And that's what these Drow are a fix for. These are cultures within Drow. They're not new elven subtypes.
They’re sub-subtypes (because drow is already a subtype of elf), which only kicks the can down the road. If the presentation of Drow was too monolithically evil, the presentation of Unudrow is too, because it hasn’t been changed at all apart from the addition of three more letters in their name. What’s needed is more diversity within the culture, not more different cultures.
 

J-H

Adventurer
They’re sub-subtypes (because drow is already a subtype of elf), which only kicks the can down the road. If the presentation of Drow was too monolithically evil, the presentation of Unudrow is too, because it hasn’t been changed at all apart from the addition of three more letters in their name. What’s needed is more diversity within the culture, not more different cultures.
Yes, but then you get "Here are 3 cultures for each of 50 subraces" and you end up with a setting book that is 300 pages of cultures at 2 pages per subculture.

It's setting background info that, for most campaigns, will be mostly unused. I think most people are generally fine with 2D cardboard cutouts, with the occasional focus of a campaign or book getting the 3D treatment.
 

DammitVictor

Druid of the Invisible Hand
Yes, but then you get "Here are 3 cultures for each of 50 subraces" and you end up with a setting book that is 300 pages of cultures at 2 pages per subculture.

You are so close to correctly identifying the problem. What would 4 cultures for each of 15 distinct ancestries look like, both in terms of page count and perceived diversity compared to the current design? What would a single table of cultural traits, to be rolled or picked, for each of 15 ancestries look like?
 

Oh, I didn't mean that Eladrin aren't yet another elf subancestry; just that it's not 4 additional subancestries. The Spring/Summer/Autumn/Winter Eladrin are cultures, not immutable ancestry choices made at 1st level. This is also the same book that brought back Sea Elves and made Shadar-Kai elves again (they were shadow-influenced human descendants in 4e).

Thanks to Lineages like Hexblood, Dhampir, and Reborn, no race is fixed at level 1 anymore.

Eladarin Seasons are functionally subsubraces.
 

Marandahir

Crown-Forester
They’re sub-subtypes (because drow is already a subtype of elf), which only kicks the can down the road. If the presentation of Drow was too monolithically evil, the presentation of Unudrow is too, because it hasn’t been changed at all apart from the addition of three more letters in their name. What’s needed is more diversity within the culture, not more different cultures.
I think there's still room for an evil empire or nation of evil trope. What this does is says that Udadrow is your nationality, NOT your ancestry. You're not beholden to the Udadrow's evil, and like Drizzt you can reject it. Drow are not a monolith of evil, but evil drow regimes exist. Just like there are evil dictators with evil followers in the real world, but the people who make up that nation are not by necessity evil, and they are almost certainly just one nation of a broader culture that is not specifically beholden to an evil regime. The difference here is that Elves live a LONG time, and the dictator is a Demon Goddess who lives forever. What does such a nation look like?

Or take it this way. The Dunmer are a xenophobic, slave-owning, god-hating cursed people who live in the volcanic wastelands, salted plains, and bitter coast swamplands of Morrowind. There are a lot of evil people among the Dunmer. The house leaderships are nigh-entirely corrupt and degenerate, as is their Tribunal Temple. But there are a lot of good people too. And that curse? It's because their kings attempted apotheosis and killed the loyal war-chief Nerevar, not because the people did anything particularly wrong. It's a Fisher Kingdom, and the people are cursed to bear the weight of the sins of the regime. But some things are changing. House Hlaalu, one of the most ardently pro-slavery regimes among the Dunmer, is also home to more egalitarian interests and there's the beginnings of a factional war between the slave mongers and the abolitionists. Without help from heroes, the House won't change. The Grandmaster is also the leader of the slave-owners. But when it does change, the Dunmer may change entirely. Slavery no longer exists in Morrowind, 200 years later, per conversations with Dunmer colonists of Solstheim in TES V. The god-kings died. The regime changed.

The Drow are not evil. What we have here are not 3 sub-subtypes. What we have here are 3 different regimes that rule over a Drow populace. The Udadrow is an evil empire. The Aevendrow and Lorendrow are not. This specifically refutes biology as destiny or dark skin = evil. It's saying that some people are bad and some people are good. Some rulers are bad and some are good. This is like saying that the City States of Athas have evil rulers. There's no need to make the Sorcerer-Kings less evil. The point is that they're evil, and liberating the people from them is a difficult but ultimately rewarding task. You might end up with chaos or other evil entities filling the (see The Mandalorian for what happens after Empires fall), but stopping the evil empire is not a bad thing. The other Drow nations show other models for the Drow to live by should Lolth be finally defeated.
 


Aevendrow is not a new subrace of Elf. It's a Dark Elf culture, much like Illuskan, Mulan, and Calimshite are examples of human cultures. They do not change the Human ancestry features. They are storytelling tools that show that Humans are not a monolith. Aevendrow and Lorendrow are storytelling tools that show that Drow are not the monolith we've understood from years of stories about the Udadrow.
If you've read the descriptions of those cultures, it seems extremely likely that they will, in fact, change the Drow features. Certainly the surface-dwelling ones are likely to lack the long-range infravision and sunlight aversion, and they may well have different spells.
 

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