D&D General Do you like LOTS of races/ancestries/whatever? If so, why?

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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I do think that people underestimate just how empty the world used to be pre-industrial age.

Like about 80% of the population is gone. Think about that for a second. Whatever town/city you happen to live in right now, in a D&D world, should be about 15% of it's current size. That's a LOT of empty space. My hometown in rural Canada wouldn't even exist, nor would virtually all the towns within a 100 kilometer radius. I'm from Southern Ontario. That would largely be entirely empty of people a thousand years ago. Tiny bands (by modern standards) living more or less beside rivers and that's about it.

And most of the world should look like this. The problem is, D&D fantasy worlds aren't designed like that. Everyone takes the Greyhawk/Forgotten Realms route of a more or less Industrial Age population. Good grief, the Sword coast has multiple cities of 300 000 people or more, all within a few hundred miles of each other. That's insane. Most of these cities shouldn't exist if we're actually being rigorous about it.
Yep. Ya know how those cities make sense? If you give generous population numbers to every race published in a given edition, each roughly equivalent to human populations from a thousand BCE.

That gets us around 6 billion people globally, some of them aquatic, others living deep underground, others primarily living on other planes of reality, and then you’ve got the races that wouldn’t have anywhere close to the population of humans.

No way Goliaths have the same pop numbers as humans, for instance. I’d guess less than a tenth as many.

But 6 billion people? Any Earth sized world has plenty of room for that.


Now if we want realism and no magical boost to crop production, we have to decrease those numbers.

Let’s assume the total sentient population is the same as humans in 1000 BCE. That’s, on average, 1.6 million per species. Not much less than some estimates for 10,000 BCE.

If we jump up to 1000 CE, it’s 4.6 million average, hitting the higher estimates for total human pop in 10,000 BCE.


So, yes, 60 species that fill vaguely the same ecological niche could easily exist globally.
 

Yep. Ya know how those cities make sense? If you give generous population numbers to every race published in a given edition, each roughly equivalent to human populations from a thousand BCE.

That gets us around 6 billion people globally, some of them aquatic, others living deep underground, others primarily living on other planes of reality, and then you’ve got the races that wouldn’t have anywhere close to the population of humans.

No way Goliaths have the same pop numbers as humans, for instance. I’d guess less than a tenth as many.

But 6 billion people? Any Earth sized world has plenty of room for that.


Now if we want realism and no magical boost to crop production, we have to decrease those numbers.

Let’s assume the total sentient population is the same as humans in 1000 BCE. That’s, on average, 1.6 million per species. Not much less than some estimates for 10,000 BCE.

If we jump up to 1000 CE, it’s 4.6 million average, hitting the higher estimates for total human pop in 10,000 BCE.


So, yes, 60 species that fill vaguely the same ecological niche could easily exist globally.
At least from the numbers available to me, human population in 1000 BC was roughly 40-50 million. Even if we assume an outsized figure at 60 million, and there would need to be 100 different races all at 60 million worldwide for us to hit the 6 billion mark.

As a general rule, the "standard" D&D setting is more or less High Middle Ages--it has schizotech imported from the middle to late Renaissance, but overall that's where it lands. The best data I have is for 1200 or 1250, which is roughly in the middle of the High Middle Ages (1000-1300), which peg world population at about 400 million people. Even if we assume 50% of those are human and 25% are some kind of elf, dwarf, or halfling, that's still 100 million people to spread out between the remainder. I count approximately 54 races (excluding variants), others count 68; let's call it 60 "non-Tolkien" races for ease of math.

100 million divided amongst 60 races is still ~1.66 million apiece. The largest cities in the world in the 1200s had approximately 1 million people. If we assume each of these 60 races has ~900,000 members of their population living in their "capital city" (which would be an enormous, bustling metropolis for this period, one engaged in substantial international trade!), that would leave ~760,000 to spread out into other cities around the world. That's more than enough for migrant populations to show up in the larger "Tolkien race"-dominated cities, and for there to be at lease loose general knowledge thereof even in less urbanized areas (again, referencing things like the African samurai warrior, "Moors" in England, the Armenian enclave in Beirut, the Jewish diaspora, etc.)
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
I pop off for some holiday Big Eyes, Small Mouth and find the thread has turned to genocide and how intolerance is a good fun thing for the game. Why do so many threads end up talking about genocide? My cooking group, no genocide. Discords for various shows I like? No genocide, even fewer war crimes than the cooks. The writers group that seem to think the most terrible violations a human can experience is 'character development'? Still very little genocide.

D&D? Three threads on the front page that dip into genocide.

I'm not surprised, just disappointed.
 

Aldarc

Legend
But sharks on rollerblades!

View attachment 267945
In a word "Jawsome."

Heck, ask yourself why English adds an S to the end of plurals when German doesn't.
That's not so clear cut, and I hope you don't mind my irrelevant aside. It's something of an anquitated view now to regard the -s plural ending as derving from Latin or Anglo-Norman French, as similar -as, -os, and -oz plural endings could also be found in Old English, Proto-West Germanic, and Proto-Germanic, respectively. I believe that the nominative plural reconstructed for PIE is also -oes. I recall reading that the -as plural was used for A-stem nouns in Old English, but this shifted to -es and simply to -s over time and became the general plural ending for nouns. Someone with actual linguistic training in Old English or Germanic languages could tell you better.

Old English: wulf -> wulfas
Old Saxon: wulf -> wulfas

High German (commonly just "German") isn't really some sort of Ur-form for English or even West Germanic languages. Modern day High German represents the German dialect/language that won out (and subsequently imposed) as the dialect chosen for unifying the German nation-state. It's similar to how Tuscan was selected by the Kingdom of Italy to be the derivation for the standarized Italian language. It's something of an artificial product of modern 19th century nationalism.

For a long time most of northern Germany spoke the Plattdeutsch / Low German language,* which derives from Old Saxon, making it closer kin to Old English than High German. Plattdeutsch served as the lingua franca for trade in the North Sea and Baltic during the Middle Ages as a result of the Hansa League. (Plattdeutsch subsequently had a strong influence on Scandinavian languages and vocabulary.) There are a number of consonant sound shifts that affected High German that did not affect Plattdeutsch, which makes the latter somewhat easier IMHO to understand than the former. And low and behold, one can find -s plural endings in Plattdeutsch, though one can also find -(e)r and -(e)n plurals that are closer to the neighboring High German. Plattdeutsch has different dialects, much like High German has. I believe that Dutch also has multiple noun plural endings, including -s as well.

* My partner comes from a town in North-Rhine Westphalia. They speak High German natively, but several of their grandparents were native Plattdeutsch speakers and a number of the signs in the town are still in Plattdeutsch.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Additional data points Re: my preferences on the number of sentient races in a setting

1) While I enjoy options, I don’t want essentially meaningless ones. I don’t want 5 extremely similar bipedal aquatic races- 1 or 2 would work just fine. And I definitely don’t need racial variants tweaked for each ecosystem. (Elves, I’m looking at you.)

2) I’ve been playing this RPGs since 1977, in 5 cities over 3 states. Most of the FRPG gaming has been in some form of D&D, and the bulk of that in very “by the book“ campaigns. (As in, PHB races, classes, etc. only.) So I’ve played a LOT of ”the usual suspects”, and when presented with different options, the potential of playing something different alone stokes my creative fires. I don’t always choose non-standard options, but I’m at least an order of magnitude more likely to do so tan most of the players I’ve games with in the past 20 years.
 

CreamCloud0

One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
This pretty much says it all right here.

The dms world is a “painting” that the nasty bad players are vandalizing with a marker.

But, sure, it’s all about “believability “ and sense of wonder. :erm:
Why can’t it be both about valuing our own work and believability and wonder?

If the world was an actual painting that players felt the urge to ‘impose their own creative opinions on’ people would almost definitely react differently to them ‘drawing on it’, why? Because that painting would be an actual physical item rather than lore and worldbuilding? Despite effort going into both why is the setting valued less?
 


Despite effort going into both why is the setting valued less?
Because a setting is (a) abstract, (b) much more easily modified, and (c) anyone can list out the descriptions of something, not anyone can paint the Mona Lisa. Both might require work, but one requires a LOT more work. Orders of magnitude more. To a degree that I find it very frustrating that you'd think they're even remotely comparable.

There are a hundred people who have a good idea for a novel for every person who actually does the massive amount of work to write a novel. And you cannot tell me that even half of the DMs out there do anything remotely like the latter.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Why can’t it be both about valuing our own work and believability and wonder?

If the world was an actual painting that players felt the urge to ‘impose their own creative opinions on’ people would almost definitely react differently to them ‘drawing on it’, why? Because that painting would be an actual physical item rather than lore and worldbuilding? Despite effort going into both why is the setting valued less?
If you want the setting to be a painting that others look at without touching it or painting on it, then I would suggest writing a novel rather than a roleplaying game setting. TTRPG settings IMHO should be valued in terms of their utility for the player characters' play.
 


Hussar

Legend
In a word "Jawsome."


That's not so clear cut, and I hope you don't mind my irrelevant aside. It's something of an anquitated view now to regard the -s plural ending as derving from Latin or Anglo-Norman French, as similar -as, -os, and -oz plural endings could also be found in Old English, Proto-West Germanic, and Proto-Germanic, respectively. I believe that the nominative plural reconstructed for PIE is also -oes. I recall reading that the -as plural was used for A-stem nouns in Old English, but this shifted to -es and simply to -s over time and became the general plural ending for nouns. Someone with actual linguistic training in Old English or Germanic languages could tell you better.

Old English: wulf -> wulfas
Old Saxon: wulf -> wulfas

High German (commonly just "German") isn't really some sort of Ur-form for English or even West Germanic languages. Modern day High German represents the German dialect/language that won out (and subsequently imposed) as the dialect chosen for unifying the German nation-state. It's similar to how Tuscan was selected by the Kingdom of Italy to be the derivation for the standarized Italian language. It's something of an artificial product of modern 19th century nationalism.

For a long time most of northern Germany spoke the Plattdeutsch / Low German language,* which derives from Old Saxon, making it closer kin to Old English than High German. Plattdeutsch served as the lingua franca for trade in the North Sea and Baltic during the Middle Ages as a result of the Hansa League. (Plattdeutsch subsequently had a strong influence on Scandinavian languages and vocabulary.) There are a number of consonant sound shifts that affected High German that did not affect Plattdeutsch, which makes the latter somewhat easier IMHO to understand than the former. And low and behold, one can find -s plural endings in Plattdeutsch, though one can also find -(e)r and -(e)n plurals that are closer to the neighboring High German. Plattdeutsch has different dialects, much like High German has. I believe that Dutch also has multiple noun plural endings, including -s as well.

* My partner comes from a town in North-Rhine Westphalia. They speak High German natively, but several of their grandparents were native Plattdeutsch speakers and a number of the signs in the town are still in Plattdeutsch.
From my understanding, English standardized the "s" plurals out of the mess of plurals it had before because the Scandinavians who invaded and then settled more or less forced the issue to the point where no one remembered the older forms anymore outside of a few holdouts which are typically household worlds like teeth and mice.

IOW, we went from having hundreds of different plurals in old English to having mostly just one because of the Vikings.
 

Aldarc

Legend
From my understanding, English standardized the "s" plurals out of the mess of plurals it had before because the Scandinavians who invaded and then settled more or less forced the issue to the point where no one remembered the older forms anymore outside of a few holdouts which are typically household worlds like teeth and mice.

IOW, we went from having hundreds of different plurals in old English to having mostly just one because of the Vikings.
The Norse accelerated a linguistic process that was already under way, but the Norse did not "[force] the issue" on the Anglish populations of northern and eastern "England." That makes it sound far heavier handed than it likely was. Intermingly did shift the language, but it was an organic process. We don't know how English would like now if the Norse and Normans had not invaded or what the plural would be like. It's possible it would have likewise simplified like in Dutch because a number of languages haves similarly standardized over time.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Personally, unless you are doing a nightmare, apocalypse, post-apoc, or small world, I think it is harder to cause a full setting with less than 25 cultures. You cant fll it up. And if you do this with few races, you are forced to do more work splitting up every races into 4-5 distinct bits.

I just dont get the "fewer races" argument as the most popular unless you are a skilled world builder. It's just harder for no reason.

Why split up elves 8 ways instead of making a new race if you aren't going to go deep into elvish uniqueness past elf subrace #4?
 

Personally, unless you are doing a nightmare, apocalypse, post-apoc, or small world, I think it is harder to cause a full setting with less than 25 cultures. You cant fll it up. And if you do this with few races, you are forced to do more work splitting up every races into 4-5 distinct bits.

I just dont get the "fewer races" argument as the most popular unless you are a skilled world builder. It's just harder for no reason.

Why split up elves 8 ways instead of making a new race if you aren't going to go deep into elvish uniqueness past elf subrace #4?
Because you want non-humans to be diverse like humans instead of being weirdly fladerised and thematically narrow.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Because you want non-humans to be diverse like humans instead of being weirdly fladerised and thematically narrow.
From my experience, the majority of non-video-game settings that go few races don't make non-humans even half as diverse as human.

The many races folks are more likely to have some races with a ton of subraces and subcultures.

I only really see "a few race many diverse subraces/subcultures" in video games and card games.
 

From my experience, the majority of non-video-game settings that go few races don't make non-humans even half as diverse as human.
I mean fantasy humans are unlikely to be half as diverse as real humans.

The many races folks are more likely to have some races with a ton of subraces and subcultures.

I only really see "a few race many diverse subraces/subcultures" in video games and card games.
I really don't see why it wouldn't be valid approach for tabletop RPGs.


In any case, I watched some Pirates of Dark Water as it was recommended in this thread. It has cool weird fantasy setting, I really like those. Though it doesn't seem to have nearly the amount of diversity implied here. Most non-D&D fantasy settings don't. They might have dozen species at most, and that's a lot. Over sixty is unheard of, even that famous Star Wars cantina doesn't have even near that amount. I like settings that feel really weird and alien, but still seem to make internal sense. Throwing in everything various D&D writers dreamed up over the decades in one setting is unlikely result this sort of internal coherence.
 

Reynard

Legend
I have a player that will always take the weirdest available race. To his credit, he is as interested in the quirks of playing the race as he is the mechanics of that race. He is a min-maxer to the core but one who also loves to roleplay so I usually relent because I know allowing him to play whatever the dumb nee WotC race is will make the game more fun. I have another player who is just a min maxer without the spark of creative fun. I push them away from weird races as best I can.
 

Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
If it’s because they are out of towners, cool. If it’s because they’re not human, Lif is a bigoted dingus and he’s gonna get robbed later. Or have a song circulate around town satirizing and humiliating him.

Honestly, swindling out-of-towners is xenophobic, not better than racism. And swindly people randomly, while inclusive, is still something that would be, like racism and xenophobia, be considered illegal and despicable, at least worthy of a song if the authorities don't deal with it.

As a side note, having the guards do nothing about it was totally common in the past settings, because morally corrupt authorities were commonplace, as much as on Earth. The more the settings implies a much better general awareness of societal issues among the fantasy population, to the point that the population of fantasy settings is more advanced than us in that regard, the more it sounds strange to me that the population to tolerate those authorities as much.

(I understand it wasn't the crux of your argument, but I needed to react to the idea that it a bigoted barkeep would be worse than a xenophobic one or a scamming one).
 
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