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D&D General Downplaying Humanity


Dances with Gnolls
I my WIP the great human empire has fallen. Successor kingdoms vie for the left-overs. Meanwhile the Eternal Empire (reptilian) in the south watches anxiously at who will come out on top, or if all out war between these kingdoms and warlords will settle the matter. Meanwhile another chunk of the world population, Orcs wait for more stable times to once again openly trade with their neighbors to the East.

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There is (or was, when I read it) a fun short story on fanfiction.net set in a generally D&D-ish setting. The Order of the Star
was a 500-1000 year old military group responsible for keeping an area free. They got super-weakened and then later taken out because a lot of their artifacts weren't working or something. It turns out that, because they live longer, elves and half-elves had ended up in all the leadership positions...and the mostly-human lower ranks had kicked them out at some point. This left a lot of elf-/half-elf- operable items with nobody to use them. There was no planned elven takeover... but "X for life" ends up with really imbalanced results when average lifespans are 1,000, 400, and 80.

One of my proto-settings, should I ever run a new game, has a Dragonborn empire as the primary civic-culture force. It's highly distributed because it was founded by a warlord who discovered bow to reactivate ancient teleportation circles, and used them to conquer multiple city-states by moving way faster than any other army could possibly replicate. She ser herself up as Empress and her descendants continue to rule (with varying effectiveness). Adventurers are often hired to investigate the beast-riddled ruins across the continent in hopes that they'll find new circles to reactivate. Nobody knows who made the circles originally. Humans have literally only just arrived on the continent and are seen as Really Weird Looking, like a strangely beefy changeling or a strangely thin and scaleless dragonborn.

Another proto-setting for 13A specifically is set after a war between an aggressive dragonborn empire took advantage of a freak natural disaster to finally conquer the human-led league of various races on another continent. (Think Persia vs the Athenian League; these humans aren't really good guys, holding effectively imperial control while making a pretense of having an equal alliance, but the dragonborn are absolutely conquerors who want to force fealty upon the whole world.) Knowing it was only their now-lost navy that protected them from a land invasion they WOULD eventually lose, the humans used their last-ditch effort, and performed a massive blood-sacrifice to summon the powers of hell. (Only using slaves, of course, so it's tooootally okay, nothing horrible about it!!!) This made a grand contract and literally tore open a mile-wide portal straight to hell. The devils upheld their contract flawlessly; they never attacked a single human unless that human attacked first, and they drove out the dragonborn within a span of days. But the thing is, they also killed all sorts of NON-humans...and there were a lot of humans who were violently not okay with that. The Icons eventually addressed the problem, but only after something like half the world's population had died and the remainder were on the brink. Humans exist but aren't a majority. Tieflings are descended from those who participated in the blood sacrifice that caused the Great Mistake, so some fools take it out on them even though the perpetrators all died over a thousand years ago. Most dragonborn feel partly responsible, and thus feel a drive to fix the world in some small (or not-so-small) way to make up for it. The dragonborn homeland continent would be the primary setting, so while humans are around they're uncommon.


In college I ran one campaign where I tried to invert or at least skew the stereotypes of all the races. There was an ongoing cold war between a rigidly organized and cruel elvish empire, and a gnome republic modeled after ancient Rome with golems in place of legions. Dwarves lived in nomadic tribes and halflings had a continent-spanning criminal network. Humans were a near-extinct race from elder days.

I'm playing in a game that my wife is running where none of the standard races are available. PC races are from the various animal-folk types. You can choose from Vanara, Catfolk, Tengu, Grippli, Kitsune, Ratfolk, Nagaji, and Lizardfolk. The setting does include humans and elves (and maybe others) but they aren't part of the country where the game is based and so aren't PC races.

There's some sort of big secret involving the humies and/or elves. I suspect they used to be the cruel overlords before they were overthrown by the animal-folk. Possibly the animal-folk are the descendants of some sort of Dr. Moreau style experiments. I'm keen to find out the truth but real life does make our sessions a bit... occasional.

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