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D&D General Demihumans of Color and the Thermian Argument

I was more thinking of Anansi stories to be honest. That and a host of anthropomorphic animals that are used in many African folk tales. I honestly wasn't really thinking about North American folktales. But, yeah, I could see that too.
Well the migration of Anansi from Africa to the Caribbean to the American South; from Anansi to Aunt Nancy to Baron Saturday could comprise a 1-20 adventure path on its own.
 

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Dausuul

Legend
The part that makes the premodern farm labor dark is that your children basically existed to be part of a Ponzi scheme. You had to have a lot of kods to help out in order to be able to keep the farm running, but eventually they grow up and start eating as much as an adult and they need to have a lot of their own kids to keep their own life and plot of land solvent and so on and so on and correct me if I'm wrong but that's either a ponzi scheme or a pyramid scheme
Sure thing. You're wrong.

Ponzi and pyramid schemes rely purely on the transfer of wealth from new participants to older ones. No one is actually producing anything, just passing money around. This is why they are "schemes"--they are inherently unsustainable and must collapse when they run out of new participants.

On a farm, actual productive work is being done, the transfers of wealth go back and forth over time (infants and very young children take; older children and adults give; elderly adults take), and the whole thing can be sustained indefinitely. Modern society works the same way--it's just that the shift from "take" to "give" happens later in life.
 
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"I want to tell a story involving X" where X is something objectionable is totally valid. "I wanna tell a story set in a Middle Ages Allegory and Monarchies are a trapping of that era." is another perfectly valid reason. No agenda. Just... that's the reason.

The issue comes in when it's "I wanna tell a story about how X thing happens but since X is objectionable I'll instead bend over backwards and sideways to present logic within the narrative itself that makes it okay that I'm telling a story about X" rather than just saying "I recognize X is objectionable, but it's what I wanna tell a story about"

Like having Sue Storm respond to criticisms about her Costume having the number 4 as a Boob Window, thus presenting it as the character's choice rather than authorial or editorial intent.

Or put another way:

You wished to draw a woman so you did.
You wished for her to be nude so you didn't draw clothes.
You wished for her to be beautiful so she is.
You placed a mirror in her hand and said she is Vain.
But you are the one who made her beautiful, nude, and hold the mirror. She is nothing but your desire.

And the more surreal:

MagrittePipe.jpg


Write what you want to write, just don't respond to people's objections with explanations from within the narrative. The answer is "I did it because I wanted XYZ to be a part of the narrative. Here's the way I added it to the narrative in these ways to create a consistent narrative". Never "Because the narrative wanted it"
You had to do it, you just HAD to go and Magritte the whole thread! Sheesh! ;)
 


As someone who likes to give their demihumans an inhuman mindset, I don't really see this as a problem. Only a fraction of my players over the years have deeply engaged with the lore to such a level. Often times, their characters were played as "funny looking humans". I use this as an opportunity to spotlight the distinction. NPCs will comment what an unusual elf/dwarf/whatever they are. More often than not, the player takes this as a compliment IME, because it makes them feel unique.

At the end of the day, while I make the setting, it's their character and they can play it as they like. If they want to be the most human-minded elf in the world, that's fine. The world will respond to them as such, and the game will be all the richer for it.

Of course you can question how often a GM can engage with a sufficiently alien mindset well enough to do a competent job here; I'm not going to question your particulars here, but there's no reason to believe GMs as a group are going to automatically do any better than players here.
 


Why meander towards surreality when you can start there?
That would of course be one way to subvert potentially iffy content decisions, sheer weirdness and surreality. Not that it is a perfect cure, but if you are portraying a milieu that is illogical, surreal, and perhaps clearly lacks anything corresponding to a 'why', then people will often suspend judgment to a degree.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Of course you can question how often a GM can engage with a sufficiently alien mindset well enough to do a competent job here; I'm not going to question your particulars here, but there's no reason to believe GMs as a group are going to automatically do any better than players here.
I think something that a lot of people lose sight of in these kinds of discussions is what we are doing this for.

I obviously can't speak for your group, but at my table we don't do it to be famous. We don't do it to show off our world renowned acting talents. We don't do it to impress the local historical society, or so that the devs at WotC will take notice.

We do it to have fun. So if everyone is having fun with it (and that's been my personal experience), you're doing a competent job of it. You don't need to "achieve" someone else's hypothetical of competence. Just have fun with it.
 

Argyle King

Legend
I was more thinking of Anansi stories to be honest. That and a host of anthropomorphic animals that are used in many African folk tales. I honestly wasn't really thinking about North American folktales. But, yeah, I could see that too.

The stories I mentioned are still African folk tales. They were simply modified to reflect the animals seen in North America.

In either case (the original African tales or the African-American versions,) many of the stories were oral traditions and weren't written down in a readily available format for a while. Even so, there most certainly is "non-white" and "non-European" fantasy. It's just usually not well known due to being from what was a suppressed culture.
 

I think something that a lot of people lose sight of in these kinds of discussions is what we are doing this for.

I obviously can't speak for your group, but at my table we don't do it to be famous. We don't do it to show off our world renowned acting talents. We don't do it to impress the local historical society, or so that the devs at WotC will take notice.

We do it to have fun. So if everyone is having fun with it (and that's been my personal experience), you're doing a competent job of it. You don't need to "achieve" someone else's hypothetical of competence. Just have fun with it.
I don't disagree. But if the criterion someone is working on is that nonhumans absolutely have to feel nonhuman to be "done right", I think assuming anyone will do a good job of that, player or GM, is a reach. Some may be better than others at it, but I don't think the majority of people have the combination of talent and werewithal to do so.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
I don't disagree. But if the criterion someone is working on is that nonhumans absolutely have to feel nonhuman to be "done right", I think assuming anyone will do a good job of that, player or GM, is a reach. Some may be better than others at it, but I don't think the majority of people have the combination of talent and werewithal to do so.
Has anyone actually said that 'nonhumans absolutely have to feel nonhuman to be "done right"'?

Good job is entirely relative. You aren't likely to be publishing your take on nonhumans for mass consumption, much less expected to be penning this for a new Issac Asimov novel. You just need to do a good enough job to entertain a handful of folks at your table. I don't think that requires an overabundance of talent by any means.
 

Has anyone actually said that 'nonhumans absolutely have to feel nonhuman to be "done right"'?

Multiple people have indicated the problem with the handling of them is that it isn't done. That seems pretty clearly saying what I did in other words. Consider Shiroken's statement back on page one.

Good job is entirely relative. You aren't likely to be publishing your take on nonhumans for mass consumption, much less expected to be penning this for a new Issac Asimov novel. You just need to do a good enough job to entertain a handful of folks at your table. I don't think that requires an overabundance of talent by any means.

And I suspect you're not looking at the same level of result the people I'm referring to are. Though I should note your first response in this thread was to talk about giving nonhumans "an inhuman mindset" which seems pretty far along in that direction, too.
 

Minigiant

Legend
I was more thinking of Anansi stories to be honest. That and a host of anthropomorphic animals that are used in many African folk tales. I honestly wasn't really thinking about North American folktales. But, yeah, I could see that too.
I added Anansians and Samedis in one of my settings.

Only one player opted because they thought they could pull off the right level of jerk.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Multiple people have indicated the problem with the handling of them is that it isn't done. That seems pretty clearly saying what I did in other words. Consider Shiroken's statement back on page one.



And I suspect you're not looking at the same level of result the people I'm referring to are. Though I should note your first response in this thread was to talk about giving nonhumans "an inhuman mindset" which seems pretty far along in that direction, too.
This statement?
While I don't care about the skin color of demi-humans (they could be bright orange for all I care), I do feel that too many people look upon the original demi-humans as just "funny looking humans." They should have a culture and mentality completely alien to our own (humans), which helps disassociate them from any real world baggage that they may have started with. My examples:
  • Dwarves are so in tune with the earth, they can feel the difference between each type of metal and stone. Certain metals, particularly gold and mithral, evoke a joyful sensation within them unknown to others.
  • Elves have no concern for normal material wealth, concerned only with beauty. They only use them when they have to deal with the other races.
  • Gnomes are part of the ecology of small burrowing creatures, once having innate claws that have faded away. Most creatures see them as a type of large burrowing animal, rather than a humanoid.
  • Halflings have several senses that allow them to differentiate each ingredient of food & drink. By examining tilled earth, they can tell how long it lay fallow and the best type of crop to grow.
Half-breeds are a bit problematic, because it should be based on the two parent races. Half-Elves are always human-elf hybrids, and so really are "funny looking humans." Half-orc blood burns hot, usually with rage from their orc parentage, but this is incorporated with the other parentage, giving them a more intense version.
This seems to be in support of nonhuman nonhumans, rather than claiming it can't be "done right".

Yes, I like nonhumans with an inhuman mindset.

I don't think that any of the mindsets from that example above would require an overabundance of talent to portray, any more so than the classic cantankerous dwarven mindset that's become something of a trope. Sure, you need to keep them in mind, but no more than anything else you create for your world (or even that exists in a published setting). If you can remember that the folk of Bartertown love to haggle, you can probably remember that dwarves consider gold and mithral joyful.
 

This statement?

This seems to be in support of nonhuman nonhumans, rather than claiming it can't be "done right".

Yes, I like nonhumans with an inhuman mindset.

I don't think that any of the mindsets from that example above would require an overabundance of talent to portray, any more so than the classic cantankerous dwarven mindset that's become something of a trope. Sure, you need to keep them in mind, but no more than anything else you create for your world (or even that exists in a published setting). If you can remember that the folk of Bartertown love to haggle, you can probably remember that dwarves consider gold and mithral joyful.

I don't consider most of that "inhuman". Its either minor add-ons, things not that far off from things humans have done, or things that will probably not come up often enough to be noticeable. Its not significantly different from the minor differences people toss on nonhumans as-is for the most part (the elven bit might produce some odd results in traditional D&D style games, but its also the one that is closest to what some human subcultures have already done).

None of it is strong enough to avoid the "humans in funny suits" effect some have complained about.
 

slobster

Hero
None of it is strong enough to avoid the "humans in funny suits" effect some have complained about.
FWIW, I think the "humans with bumpy foreheads and odd hobbies" aesthetic gets a bad rap. Sure, it's a cliche in TV sci-fi more rooted in budgets than in science, but in fantasy its a trope with a proud tradition and lots of resonance, and in tabletop rpg fantasy in particular its incredibly useful shorthand that also props the window open for very interesting RP on both sides of the screen.

IMO, it's actually an incredibly well suited tool to the needs of fantasy ttrpg play.
 


Dausuul

Legend
FWIW, I think the "humans with bumpy foreheads and odd hobbies" aesthetic gets a bad rap. Sure, it's a cliche in TV sci-fi more rooted in budgets than in science, but in fantasy its a trope with a proud tradition and lots of resonance, and in tabletop rpg fantasy in particular its incredibly useful shorthand that also props the window open for very interesting RP on both sides of the screen.

IMO, it's actually an incredibly well suited tool to the needs of fantasy ttrpg play.
This is why I like "human-plus" races, like tieflings and half-elves. Instead of trying to RP a truly alien being, you're playing a human with some nonhuman element that alters how you interact with the world. I find that much more interesting than trying to figure out why a wise immortal elf is looting a dungeon.
 

I don't consider most of that "inhuman". Its either minor add-ons, things not that far off from things humans have done, or things that will probably not come up often enough to be noticeable. Its not significantly different from the minor differences people toss on nonhumans as-is for the most part (the elven bit might produce some odd results in traditional D&D style games, but its also the one that is closest to what some human subcultures have already done).

None of it is strong enough to avoid the "humans in funny suits" effect some have complained about.
I think you've set the bar impossibly high. From your various comments, you seem to deride anyone who dares attempt to play up the inhuman aspect of non-human races. They are never up to your satisfaction, so it seems that you don't want them even to be tried. I think that any DM or player who wants to play up these aspects should be encouraged, rather than mocked for not meeting your ridiculous expectations.
 

I think you've set the bar impossibly high. From your various comments, you seem to deride anyone who dares attempt to play up the inhuman aspect of non-human races. They are never up to your satisfaction, so it seems that you don't want them even to be tried. I think that any DM or player who wants to play up these aspects should be encouraged, rather than mocked for not meeting your ridiculous expectations.

I don't think there's anything wrong with trying; I think where the trouble comes in is when its expected, especially since the particular lines people are drawing are fundamentally arbitrary. And I think both the expectation and the arbitrariness of where that expectation lays has been quite visible in this thread.

At no point did I mock anyone; in fact I respect people who try. What I do roll my eyes at is when people either expect or judge other people on doing or not doing the same in a way that suits them, especially when they're the GM.
 

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