Are the Races of D&D races of Human or seperate Species according to lore?

ClaytonCross

Kinder reader Inflection wanted
So the concept of half-elfs and half-orcs seems to imply that Orcs and Elves are actually human off shoots but I am not aware of any lore as to why or how this happened. Tyflyings are straite himan demon hybryds which if the first like is true At the same time the Moradin created Dwarves from raw stone and steel pulled from the ground. So they at least are distinctly not human, and by lore are more like the Warforged than humans which explains the lack of Half Dwarfs. If this is true would it make since to make elves, orcs, fielfings (aka half-demons), half-elves, and half orcs sub selections of human race? Then change the "race" selection to species to clarify that they are not races but entirely different species that are unable to cross bread?

… or is the lore that explains these strange interactions of different species creating fertile off spring? I know in the Goblin Slayer mythos, Goblins can impregnate any humanoid female and the off spring is 100% pure goblin but this is how they function having no female goblins and what makes them so inherently vile and evil even though as a sentient and moderately intelligent species that could in theory choose not to be evil. They are literarily built as a society and mentally driven to be evil based on basic need to propagate the species and an overriding personal drive which makes it difficult to function in any other society. However, D&D is not nearly that dark and makes all races pretty much capable of being good, even if the settings have a commonality of culture that leans them one way or another. The typical Dwarves and elves are good but duergar and Drow are generally evil, but exceptions can be made for both and biases of the realm will generally play a part in the story of those characters. Orcs and Goblins have females in D&D and they can be played as heroes just the same as tieflings or some of the other more monstrous races as well as sculpted to fit any D&D setting environment, with or with out inter species hate. That does not answer the question of how they interact as cross species families. Is there lore for that? Perhaps other examples being the Shannara chronicles where all spices are off shoots of the human race effective by magic the same with Shadowrun being that their was an age of humans and when magic returned people became the other races with the perhaps or perhaps not exceptions of dragons.

Perhaps, due to the age of Elves, humans, and orcs are and off shoot of elves in D&D? I would be really interested to read some D&D source books that break down origins of the numerous species and how old they are as a species. That might explain the lack of Tabaxi towns for example if they were once wild animals cough in magic rift in the fey wild, transformed and spread in the prime material plane. The they would be cats altered to be more humanoid. Or they could be Orcs, turned into cat spies by a mighty Orc Shaman in order to create better spies but they just left, and multiplied into a new member of society at large. A number of the races do have defined origins and interaction so I am primarily curious which ones do and if their is perhaps a single source book that covers these? I mean all the half species not require much explaining except how it is that the two species that sired them are able to produce fertile off spring. I would very much like a list that tells me if a Tortle is at the least a natural occurrence of the impact of magic on turtles that developed in wild magic or the result of magical meddling or are they not actually related to turtles at all being made more like dwarves, created entirely as a new being but barrowing a turtle as a template (meaning that they would not actually be related to turtles at all, they simply have borrowed aesthetics and features).

I don't need to know why there are wood elves, high elves, and sea elves. To me those are superficial separations of culture and environment. I am just interested in the origins of entire species. Just natural occurrence, magical meddling, created entirely as a new being, and if they come from another species which one and are they far enough apart to actually be a new species or are they actually a just a sub race.

(I know this is long, and really that last sentence ties it up well, but I am just pondering world implications and if there are official answers to the questions they create, to which I am not concise. Feel free to ponder or produce if such answers are available.)
 

PsyzhranV2

Explorer
As far as I know, none of the official settings have Elves, Orcs, and Humans be offshoots or genetic relatives of each other. Similarly, how Elves and Humans can interbreed with each other isn't explained in detail. Orcs are setting specific.

Each setting has its own origin story for these races. For example, in two of the settings currently supported in 5e, Forgotten Realms and Eberron:

Forgotten Realms
  • Elves are the creations of Corellon Larethian, the head of the Seldarine pantheon. The exact story of their creation has changed between editions, but the common thread is that at some point they had settled the Feywild/Plane of Faerie before being forced to migrate to Toril.
  • Orcs are the creation of Gruumsh One-Eye, spawned as mortal avatars of his rage and his grudge against the other gods. Some Orcs are native to Toril, while others arrived on the planet through a portal which lead to the Orcgate Wars. Their ability to hybridize with Humans is a gift from the deity Luthic, who charged them to grow strong in number and to bring the strongest traits of the other races into their fold.
  • Humans are descended from a mixed stock; some are descended from Humans who naturally arose on Toril during the Days of Thunder, while others are descended from the people of Earth, their ancestors being forcibly taken to Toril as slaves. Their origins are unknown, with no deity claiming them as their own.
Eberron
  • Elves are descended from the Eladrin of Thelanis, specifically from slaves captured by the Giants of Xen'drik when they raided the city of Shae Tirias Tolai. The Elves found freedom when the Dragons of Argonessen crushed Giant civilization, with the majority of them fleeing to the island of Aerenal.
  • Orcs arose naturally on the continent of Khorvaire. They were pushed to the fringes by the Goblinoid empire of Dhakaan, but were instrumental in sealing away the Daelkyr Fiends that brought the Dhakaani low. When Human colonists arrived in Khorvaire, those that settled in the Shadow Marches integrated with the Orc population, giving rise to the Jhorguun'Tal Half-Orcs. It isn't explained how this is possible; as far as anybody knows, Orcs and Humans are completely separate species.
  • Humans arose naturally on the continent of Sarlona. However, a mixture of opportunity seekers and refugees fleeing the wars on the continent arrived in Khorvaire, quickly spreading throughout the continent and co-opting the infrastructure of the ruined Dhakaani empire. The establishment of the Kingdom of Galifar cemented their place as the dominant race of Khorvaire.
 
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Dire Bare

Adventurer
The scientific concept of species isn't really a part of the game. The term "race" itself isn't a scientific concept, but rather a social one.

From a meta perspective, the various fantasy races are embodied stereotypes of humanity, and humanity's aspirations and fears. From a mythic perspective, the various races are separate peoples and the idea of interbreeding doesn't come into the genre until Tolkien's Middle-Earth stories (I'm fairly certain). D&D picks up where Tolkien left off.

Many gamers, even back in the early days of the game, equate and/or confuse the concepts of race and species, sometime even on purpose! This happens a lot in the wider fantasy and sci-fi genres as well (half-Klingons in Stark Trek, anyone?) So, ARE the various fantasy races closely related human species? That's entirely up to the DM and how they want to build their world. It isn't clearly defined in the game itself.

In my own world-building, most of the races are various human species, which allows for the rare-but-possible interbreeding. I start with the scientific concept of species and add the fantasy magic to that. In the real-world, there actually were several different human species in the ancient past that developed in different parts of the world, that were eventually out-competed by, or absorbed into, homo sapiens (if you have European ancestry, you probably have a little neanderthal in your family tree). The difference in my fantasy world is that some of those species managed to stick around, and in some cases got a magical boost of one sort or another.

There's no right way or wrong way to do it, although a stick-to-the-tropes approach embodies some racist modes of thinking, in my view and makes me uncomfortable despite my love of the genre.
 

Dire Bare

Adventurer
As far as I know, none of the official settings have Elves, Orcs, and Humans be offshoots or genetic relatives of each other. Similarly, how Elves and Humans can interbreed with each other isn't explained in detail. Orcs are setting specific.

Each setting has its own origin story for these races. For example, in the two settings currently supported in 5e, Forgotten Realms and Eberron:

Forgotten Realms
  • Elves be the creations of Corellon Larethian, the head of the Seldarine pantheon. The exact story of their creation has changed between editions, but the common thread is that at some point they had settled the Feywild/Plane of Faerie before being forced to migrate to Toril.
  • Orcs are the creation of Gruumsh One-Eye, spawned as mortal avatars of his rage and his grudge against the other gods. Some Orcs are native to Toril, while others arrived on the planet through a portal which lead to the Orcgate Wars. Their ability to hybridize with Humans is a gift from the deity Luthic, who charged them to grow strong in number and to bring the strongest traits of the other races into their fold.
  • Humans are descended from a mixed stock; some are descended from Humans who naturally arose on Toril during the Days of Thunder, while others are descended from the people of Earth, their ancestors being forcibly taken to Toril as slaves. Their origins are unknown, with no deity claiming them as their own.
Eberron
  • Elves are descended from the Eladrin of Thelanis, specifically from slaves captured by the Giants of Xen'drik when they raided the city of Shae Tirias Tolai. The Elves found freedom when the Dragons of Argonessen crushed Giant civilization, with the majority of them fleeing to the island of Aerenal.
  • Orcs arose naturally on the continent of Khorvaire. They were pushed to the fringes by the Goblinoid empire of Dhakaan, but were instrumental in sealing away the Daelkyr Fiends that brought the Dhakaani low. When Human colonists arrived in Khorvaire, those that settled in the Shadow Marches integrated with the Orc population, giving rise to the Jhorguun'Tal Half-Orcs. It isn't explained how this is possible; as far as anybody knows, Orcs and Humans are completely separate species.
  • Humans arose naturally on the continent of Sarlona. However, a mixture of opportunity seekers and refugees fleeing the wars on the continent arrived in Khorvaire, quickly spreading throughout the continent and co-opting the infrastructure of the ruined Dhakaani empire. The establishment of the Kingdom of Galifar cemented their place as the dominant race of Khorvaire.
Good stuff, thanks!

Keep in mind that how you treat racial "origin stories" is as fluid as how you treat fantasy races biology. Are these stories myths told by the various peoples or are they the literal truth of their origins. Hell, we debate this in the real world! Did humans slowly evolve from early primate species, or did the Big G snap his fingers and a week later we got the world, humans included, pretty much as-is?
 

ClaytonCross

Kinder reader Inflection wanted
As far as I know, none of the official settings have Elves, Orcs, and Humans be offshoots or genetic relatives of each other. Similarly, how Elves and Humans can interbreed with each other isn't explained in detail. Orcs are setting specific.

Each setting has its own origin story for these races. For example, in the two settings currently supported in 5e, Forgotten Realms and Eberron:

Forgotten Realms
<snip>
  • Elves be the creations of Corellon Larethian, the head of the Seldarine pantheon. The exact story of their creation has changed between editions, but the common thread is that at some point they had settled the Feywild/Plane of Faerie before being forced to migrate to Toril.
  • Orcs are the creation of Gruumsh One-Eye, spawned as mortal avatars of his rage and his grudge against the other gods. Some Orcs are native to Toril, while others arrived on the planet through a portal which lead to the Orcgate Wars. Their ability to hybridize with Humans is a gift from the deity Luthic, who charged them to grow strong in number and to bring the strongest traits of the other races into their fold.
<snip>
Very interesting. Particularly, the gift of Luthic to the Orcs and Elves being creations of Corellon Larethion. The gift of Luthic is perfectly reasonable explanation, WHICH IS AWSOME! ... Elves as creations explains why they are often depicted as slightly more advanced than humans because they essentially could have been made after humans existed but were made fully formed sore of speak and then due to their long life span could spend more time developing their culture and skills from generation to generation. That might not seem like huge deal since most people don't make any great contribution to the futrue of the race themelf but a small part of a chain of generations improving on old ideas... until you get an Albert Einstein / Nikola Tesla or even an Alexander Graham Bell / Elon Musk type who may not make the original discoveries but who commercialize ideas pushing them into the main stream of a sociality.

It is odd that Elves and Humans can hybridize thought considering "because to Corellon, human expansion was a source of fear." … It seems to me that Corellon Larethian was against the idea of diluting his creations however Lolth his wife who betrayed him and became the Spider Queen of the Drow was not only known to take a human form and have some human followers but attempted to take control of the Elf pantheon from Corellon (if I understand correctly). That makes it possible that after losing she gave Elves the ability to hybridize with humans as a bit of a snub to Corellon Larethion in her defeat.

If that's true then, all the "races" of Forgotten Realms are in fact different species. The only lose end then is Tieflings, which seems along the same line as Dragon Bloodline sorcerers in that both Dragons and Demons likely assume the form of other beings in a sort of true polymorph but maintain their blood which becomes part of the offspring. … If that is the case then just as a Tortle could be a Dragonic Bloodline sorcerer they could theoretically have Tortle-Tiefling children? lol, which now I kind of want to see.
 

ClaytonCross

Kinder reader Inflection wanted
Good stuff, thanks!

Keep in mind that how you treat racial "origin stories" is as fluid as how you treat fantasy races biology. Are these stories myths told by the various peoples or are they the literal truth of their origins. Hell, we debate this in the real world! Did humans slowly evolve from early primate species, or did the Big G snap his fingers and a week later we got the world, humans included, pretty much as-is?
first let me say I am not trying to get political here. I am really just interested in world building and understanding the backgrounds of the "races" and lore the authors created.

While this is true, as a work of fiction with authors who created it, there can be set rules per setting that are not really up for negotiation. I actually prefer them as separate species instead of races for the very purpose of avoiding racism trope narrative. If they are not races, its not racism and somethings really are true about their differences that are more than just perceived. Dwarf's having a +2 constitution racial bonus for example is simple then a matter of how they were made just like trolls can regenerate unless burned with fire. Having magical reasons for hybrids then makes since. While "sub-races" options do mean the Duergar and Drow being heated by their own race does mean racism is still part of the world, Elves and Dwarves debating which is the superior creature is like use in the real world comparing dogs and cats. The superiority is a questionable unending debate largely based on personal preference, but some dogs and cats get along while others fight. This changes preferences of the other species to an outsiders view, which to my mind uncomplicates the game. As a game, complication is not something I am looking for.

At the same time, having each and independent spices living with their own restrains and reality of their being and even having their own pantheon of deities is an interesting mechanic for story telling where separation persists while at the same time they are able to come together in amazing unity. Then you get a Tiefling, lol. Which really complicates that back up.

The idea that Dwarves are a race of living constructs feeds into their desire to build with stone and forge thigs of their own as in a way even making a hammer could be like forging life for them, Elves were created a finished product that lives a really long time as such there perceived arrogance it not so much "racism" but kind of how a cat looks at the world and pride in advantages of their craftsmanship not something they did to earn it, and Orcs are mortal avatars of Gruumsh One-Eye rage makes them raging as barbarians or resisting rage to remain calm a task that other species don't understand. Forgotten realms makes each truly interesting and unique while at the same time unites them very often onto cohesive groups getting along.

Play how you want of course but I like forgotten realms and enjoy it in part because it is separate and together. Its not one thing all the time. Right now I am in a campaign where I am dwarf in an otherwise all elf/half-elf party and we are in Hillsfar and only human town that hates out siders, but we were just with fairies and Elves that did not care. So while the differences create conflict in some places in the world, they only add unique flavor in others. Its a pretty great melting pot.
 

Voadam

Adventurer
Originally a lot of D&D tropes were from Tolkien so we got half-elves and half-orcs in AD&D.

D&D has always been eclectic, inclusive, and self-contradictory so expect different views over different sources.

In the 1e Monster Manual it says:

Half-Orcs: As orcs will breed with anything, there are any number of
unsavory mongrels with orcish blood, particularly orc-goblins, orc-hobgoblins,
and orc-humans. Orcs cannot cross-breed with elves. Half-orcs
tend to favor the orcish strain heavily, so such sorts are basically orcs
although they can sometimes (10%) pass themselves off as true creatures
of their other stock (goblins, hobgoblins, humans, etc.).

Similarly in the 1e PH it says:

Orcs are fecund and create many cross-breeds, most of the offspring of such
being typically orcish. However, some one-tenth of orc-human mongrels are
sufficiently non-orcish to pass for human.

In early sources like 1e Deities and Demigods it says:

The god is also mighty in battle, and is said to have personally banished such demons as Lolth from the sunlit Upperworld. Elven lore states that the race of elves sprang from the drops of blood Corellon shed in this epic battle.

In the 1e Dragonlance Adventures and in certain Dragonlance Tales novels it states how the chaos of the unleashed Graygem changed some gnomes to become dwarves and kender.

DA also said how gnomes were created:

When Reorx created the world, he needed
the assistance of men to help him with the
work. To this end, one-eighth of all men and
their families followed Reorx across the sea in
hopes of learning his crafts.
For many years, men worked happily under
the guidance of Reorx. Inevitably (humans
being human), the men became proud of
their skills and used them for their own ends.
Reorx was angered. In his wrath, he remade
these men into a new race. As they had
become tinkerers, so they would remain for all
time. He took from them the crafts he had
taught, leaving only their burning desire to
tinker and build, invent and construct. He
made them into a small people-they became
the gnomes.

Dragonlance also has half-ogres.

In 2e Dark Sun there are half-dwarf half-human sterile half breeds called muls.

In the 2e Forgotten Realms Maztica novels
I seem to remember it showing the creation of orcs by one of the gods transforming evil humans.

In 3e Ravenloft half-orcs are actually humans cursed in the womb, they are renamed Calibans in the setting. There are normally no orcs in Ravenloft.

3e has Half-Dragons which arise from dragons strong magic and polymorphing ability.

Similarly for half celestials and half fiends in 3e which dilute down to planetouched after a sufficient generations.

In 1e there were Cambions for demon-human crossbreeding.
 

Voadam

Adventurer
In the forgotten realms duergar are the result of dwarves captured by mindflayers and altered.

In 4e duergar had more of a dwarves corrupted by devils origin story.

I seem to recall 4e having dwarves being connected to primordials with an origin as slaves to giants who work for titans who work for Primordials and Moradin became the patron of the dwarves after freeing them from giants/them freeing themselves from giants.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
From a mythic perspective, the various races are separate peoples and the idea of interbreeding doesn't come into the genre until Tolkien's Middle-Earth stories (I'm fairly certain).
Nope. The Norse have Skuld, who is the daughter of Helgi (or Halga, if you are reading Beowulf), and a dark elf woman. Also, there is Hagen/Högni, who is the son of Queen Ute, sired by an elf while her husband was away...

Much later, in 1924, there is The King of Elfland's Daughter, by Lord Dunsany. In it, the prince Erl goes into Faerie, and brings back Lirazel, the daughter of the king of Elfland, as his bride. They have a son, who is therefore half-elf. This is probably the earliest "modern" fantasy piece with the concept.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
In my buddy’s setting, dwarves and Goliaths are the results of giants breeding human slaves to create specialized classes of workers. They’re related to giants and to humans, as a result.

Meanwhile, humans and elves are related, possibly coming from the same missing link in the time of the Fey Kingdoms.

Orcs, meanwhile, are the result of wizards experimenting with goblinoids and humans.

Gnomes are mostly just an independent race, born from the Fey who once rules much of the world. Svirfneblin are the result of gnomes and shadar-kai breeding.
 
Elves and Men are the Children of Iluvatar, Elves the Firstborn and Men the Followers. Dwarves were created by Aule playing with clay or somesuch, Orcs were Melkor messing around with Elves he captured, and Hobbits are the result of Radagast the Brown and Gandalf playing a drinking game that got out of hand.
 

ClaytonCross

Kinder reader Inflection wanted
In general - it is a fantasy world. It does not strongly hold to real-world genetics. Trying to describe fantasy creatures using real-world science will ruin your fantasy.
Oh, Great another person who thinks only they understand this is a fantasy game and thinks the rules of the world don't matter.... Let me guess your a story GM how hand waves inventory management? Look, I am not saying your wrong but forget genetics (Not once did I mention genetics, so your the only one talking about that), you don't expect a human to sleep with a horse and create a Centaur. If that happens one time and never before or again it makes since their is an in world reason for it. The same is true with all the other races. I am not saying the should follow genetics but that they should have a consistent world. If all races can inter breed where are the half-Gnome half-orcs? They introduce that some races can hybridize so they should state why, when, and which ones. …. Nothing about that requires real-world genetics and your condescending implication that this is a pointless exercise is a meaningless post attacking people for talking about D&D and providing nothing tangible or constructive to the conversation. If your here to imply that people are stupid for talking about D&D rules and mechanics of world building … please start your own thread. This thread is about which races can mix with which other races and why. If you don't want to talk about he topic other then to say the topic is stupid, don't post on a thread. If you actually have something constructive to say on the subject, the please post that with out the dismissive comments about the subject of the thread.
 

MarkB

Hero
Elves and Men are the Children of Iluvatar, Elves the Firstborn and Men the Followers. Dwarves were created by Aule playing with clay or somesuch, Orcs were Melkor messing around with Elves he captured, and Hobbits are the result of Radagast the Brown and Gandalf playing a drinking game that got out of hand.
There's a little-known goblinoid race called the Lingob. Close relatives of hobgoblins, they're taller, slimmer and more willowy, a nomadic race who peddle their talents and fighting skills across the lands.

They're little known these days because their numbers have greatly diminished. Not through persecution, or war, or plague, but because of the strong mutual attraction that exists between them and humans. Anywhere that humans and lingobs live in close proximity, the population inevitably skews away from purebreds of either species and towards their hybrid offspring.

Nobody knows quite why these offspring seem to bear so little in common with either parent, though their tiny stature is often attributed to old goblin heritage, while their more human-like skin tones and features are the main sign of that side of their heritage.

Unfortunately, due to this lack of resemblance, combined with the fact that they breed true with each other but not with either humans or goblinoids, these hybrids are often shunned and ostracised, eventually banding together to form their own communities. So prevalent are these new societies that many have forgotten that these people - known by humanoids as half-lings, and by goblinoids as the rather derogatory term "hob bits" - were ever of mixed heritage, mistaking them for a new race in their own right.
 

ClaytonCross

Kinder reader Inflection wanted
A friend of mine and a GM I play under chimed in on this conversation and sent me this link. Which is a good Forgotten Realms Lore layout of the Races of DnD.
 

LordEntrails

Adventurer
Oh, Great another person who thinks only they understand this is a fantasy game and thinks the rules of the world don't matter....
Perhaps you should pay a bit more attention to who Umbran his and the views he has posted on these forums before making such claims
...they should have a consistent world. If all races can inter breed where are the half-Gnome half-orcs?
Why? And more importantly, which world are you talking about? Others have tried to point out to you from the beginning of this thread that their is no one answer to these questions. D&D is NOT a single mythology. It is not a single world, it has no unified answer to history or why's.

Do you want to know about half-orc in the Forgotten Realms? Greyhawk, Dark Sun, Birthright?... Their are dozens of official D&D settings that have been published, each with its own legends and history and mythology. Each one has its own take on the questions you are asking. Why do you continue to assume their is only one answer?

They introduce that some races can hybridize so they should state why, when, and which ones.
Who is "they"? And why should they explain anything to you?

Do you know that their are hundreds if not thousands of people who have authored official content for D&D? That their is no single source of truth, no sage or authority who can say "This is how it always is". Numerous people have defined, officially, the origins of the different species in D&D. Each has done it with their own views, and often in different ways for different settings.

And, why should any of them have taken the time to answer these questions? Because you find them valuable? The lore is what it is. IT is often incomplete, jumbled, contradictory and nonsensical. Discuss your views, but demand some sort of official answer for something like this? That's, well, I won't say what I think that is other than useless.

If your here to imply that people are stupid for talking about D&D rules and mechanics of world building … please start your own thread. This thread is about which races can mix with which other races and why. If you don't want to talk about he topic other then to say the topic is stupid, don't post on a thread. If you actually have something constructive to say on the subject, the please post that with out the dismissive comments about the subject of the thread.
Yea, that's probably not the right attitude to address one of the forum moderators, even when they are posting as just member. Heck, it's certainly not a productive attitude to address anyone on the forums with.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
they should have a consistent world. If all races can inter breed where are the half-Gnome half-orcs? They introduce that some races can hybridize so they should state why, when, and which ones.


I don't think think it should be this way. It can. It certainly wouldn't be wrong to. But when I think about it, how does having a more consistent world in this sense make the game more enjoyable for the people at the table unless certain people at the table are having their characters try to breed with other PCs and NPCs.

I've yet to run a game like that. I've got to use too much of my brain power to figure out if my players stupid ideas succeed or fail, or what how to map their insane idea onto a die roll to worry about the metaphysical like this.

Actually not knowing these answers could possibly lead to more interesting scenarios. Perhaps it's some researcher's quest to discover these mysteries. Perhaps he's doomed to never know.

Still it could just be that humans and dragons can interbreed with most humanoids, and most humanoids can breed with humans and dragons, but apart from that species are not compatible? Because human gods are freaky and dragons don't give flying flumph for conventions, even divine ones?
 

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