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D&D General Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes and Halflings of Color

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
You can die from an awful lot of things in extremes. Doesn’t make the thing poison.
Chocolate is poisonous to us, but the amount of chocolate you have to eat for the poison to kill you is more than your stomach can physically hold. Just because other things can kill you if you consume too much of it does not make something else not be poison.

Alcohol is poison. It's relatively safe (it's not healthy in any amount, but relatively safe) in moderation and in settings where being drunk won't kill you. Chocolate is poisonous, but only in outrageous quantities, but it's still poisonous. Alcohol is dangerous in much smaller quantities, and is poison.
 
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Dire Bare

Legend
What is the best technical terminology?

So far, official sources have used:
• race
• subrace
• kin ( = race and subrace)
• lineage ( = race?)
• ethnicity
• culture



For a while, it seemed WotC was planning to remove the term "race". But recently, they seem to have walked that back. I support that removal, because many races are too human, making the term race too close to racist thinking. The buzz word has too much baggage. If the term race, as in the "human race", is to mean species, then the other races need to more clearly nonhuman.

That said.

The Players Handbook lists the Human having a number of "ethnicities". An ethnicity seems to blend "culture" and "physical diversity", such as average height, average skin color, etcetera.

If so, does subrace and ethnicity mean the same thing?

When I look at elves, the difference between High Elf and Wood Elf and Drow Elf, is easily an ethnic diversity. I suspect some might say the differences are mechanical differences. But. Ability modifiers no longer apply. Want a high Strength Drow? Done. Want a high Intelligence Wood? Done. Some traits are necessarily learned from culture, such as weapon training. Meanwhile other differences derive from diverse magical cultures. The difference between a High Elf and a Wood Elf is less than the difference between one Feat Human and an other Feat Human. And skin color does not a subrace make. These seem like Elven ethnicities.

Since ethnicity includes culture, I suppose "culture" means "proficiencies and background"?



It is unclear to me what the difference between race and lineage is. They appear to be identical, but some sentences use both terms in a way that implies a difference.
If you've been looking at the many recent attempts to get away from the term race by various RPG companies . . . WotC, Paizo, others, and various fan-designers on the DMsGuild . . . you'll see the terms lineage, ancestry, and heritage all used somewhat differently in place of race. As uncomfortable as the word makes me, there isn't a straightforward substitute. I agree with @MGibster, we're on a well-meaning euphemism treadmill, and these words are somewhat interchangeable . . . lineage, ancestry, and kin are straight up synonyms and refer to your familial inheritance (biology mostly, but . . .), while heritage refers more to cultural inheritance . . . but they are all used interchangeably somewhat in the real world.

Race is a word social scientists don't like, as it doesn't have a precise scientific meaning. It's a cultural construct, and refers to someone's background combining and confusing their cultural and biological inheritances alongside a healthy dose of stereotyping. But yet, it DOES have meaning, it IS a word we use in everyday life. It's use isn't wrong per se, but is easily made problematic, both in the real world and in our fantasy games.

Ethnicity IS a word social scientists like, and does have a defined, scientific meaning. Ethnicity refers to a social group that shares a culture and/or nationality, and can be associated with minor physiological differences like skin color. Of course, we use this word too confusingly in everyday life . . . if you were born to a white parent and an Asian parent, but have a black grandparent, you are born with dark skin and raised in mainstream American culture . . . what is your ethnicity? You'll be labeled by others as African-American, and you might even choose to identify that way yourself, but are you?

In traditional D&D, your race usually and mostly correlates with your biology, your species (if indeed, species is even the right word). Your subrace usually and mostly correlates with your ethnicity, your culture. We can probably agree that all elves are part of the same species, and that the major differences between wood elves and high elves is cultural. There are differences in skin tone, hair color, and other minor physiological differences, just as in the real world. Of course, It doesn't quite break down that perfectly, as each subrace often has abilities that don't seem cultural and go beyond skin color (etc).

I think we're going to be stumbling our way through this for a while now before we find our footing in the fantasy gaming and sci-fi scenes. I appreciate that we're having the conversations and that designers are putting forth ideas. We'll see what sticks.
 



Zardnaar

Legend
True, but alcohol IS a toxin.

Gotta die of something right? Praise be to grog.

Go to your corner and say 15 hail hops. Or grapes.

IMG_20210722_174452.jpg

Might last to Monday. Australia has its uses.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Chocolate is poisonous to us, but the amount of chocolate you have to eat for the poison to kill you is more than your stomach can physically hold. Just because other things can kill you if you consume too much of it does not make something else not be poison.

Alcohol is poison. It's relatively safe (it's not healthy in any amount, but relatively safe) in moderation and in settings where being drunk won't kill you. Chocolate is poisonous, but only in outrageous quantities, but it's still poisonous. Alcohol is dangerous in much smaller quantities, and is by poison.
By a definition I challenged earlier, yes, chocolate and alcohol are poisons. Alcohol is arguable on a “reasonable colloquial definition” level, but chocolate is just ridiculous to call a poison.

So, definition is of questionable utility. It makes more sense to prioritize colloquial usage, so that “poison” doesn’t become a useless term that refers to anything that imparts any biochemical effect on any species.
 



Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
By a definition I challenged earlier, yes, chocolate and alcohol are poisons. Alcohol is arguable on a “reasonable colloquial definition” level, but chocolate is just ridiculous to call a poison.

So, definition is of questionable utility. It makes more sense to prioritize colloquial usage, so that “poison” doesn’t become a useless term that refers to anything that imparts any biochemical effect on any species.
But colloquially, we don’t refer to chocolate poisonings in most humans, mainly because we’re relatively immune to it as a species.*. Chocolate toxicity is largely a veterinary issue.

OTOH, people die from alcohol poisoning on a daily basis, and the damage it does to the brain, liver and other bodily functions is well documented.



* I, however, am mildly allergic to it...so I only eat it in small amounts.
 



Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Okay. Let’s bring the tangent back toward the topic, or even just back toward gaming relevance in general, and ask, does that mean it is a poison in D&D game terms?

I would say it is obviously not.
It isn’t treated as one, RAW, probably because the amount of alcohol you’d need to consume to die from alcohol toxicity is very high as compared to, say, arsenic.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Think a guy here died of alcohol poisoning. Put the tap in his mouth from the keg and drunk for 47 seconds.

Drinking game here or doing a keg stand. Upside down handstand on a beer keg tap in mouth drink.

Haven't down one for 15 years not that stupid.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Good being associated with beauty (elves) and evil being associated with ugliness (hags) is one of the problematic issues that D&D has with race, that it inherited from literature and folklore. I'd like to move beyond it, as much as possible.
Maybe the Norse alfar are good, in the sense of bringing good fortune to human individuals and families, and sometimes being guardians. But they can be disturbingly vicious when lashing out against enemies.

The Scottish sith seem ethically ambiguous, and in any case dangerous, albeit they teach humans how to heal and do magic.

The French fay (faie) are inscrutable, causing both magnificent and devastating fates, without obvious reasons.



Mythological accuracy helps me enjoy the game more, and beauty is central for these kinds of elves. And Greek nymphs too.

That said.

I strongly agree with the WotC decision to remove alignment from every D&D player race.

Every character of any race, requires the player to decide what alignment their character is. That includes any elf, including any drow, and any orc.

For D&D, I want to see male nymphs (of any kind of nymph) and valkyries, and so on. (While the valkyrie can be various races, I agree with the scholars who suggest they were mostly female alfar, the dis, who choose the fate of an honorable valorous death.)
 

Shroompunk Warlord

Archdruid of the Warp Zones
Honestly, the constant discourse about separating one's biological heritage from their cultural heritage strikes me as misguided-- and it bothers me deeply. It only serves to further dilute the archetypal nature of nonhuman races by introducing more and more convoluted individual lineages and further divorcing "racial" mechanics from any kind of narrative purpose. Frankly... I think separating race from class, and introducing the half-elf and half-orc races, were amongst the worst design decisions between OD&D and AD&D, and this is pushing the game even further in that direction.

You look at the lineages described in the PHB, and how often are any of those different-- really different-- peoples actually adopting infants from other lineages and raising them as members of their own? (And don't talk to me about Bruenor Battlehammer; neither of his human "children" knows their way around either the mines or the forge.)

People like to complain that the urge to play monstrous PCs is either "powergaming" (laughable) or trying to be a "special snowflake", but then rush to engage in and/or defend this nonsense-- and what else would you call a character that is half-human, one quarter elf and orc, who was raised underground by dwarves?

What we're doing in this thread, here, taking the European cultural assumptions of standard PHB races and replacing them with non-European cultural assumptions? Even mixing them and matching them, because even our human cultures aren't supposed to be 1:1 with real-life cultures, and using those to define either whole nonhuman monocultures, or differentiate multiple nonhuman cultures of nonhuman lineages? That's really cool stuff, and I want to see it goes. I want my D&D to be less Eurocentric, in practically any way possible.

It's right up there with meaningless symmetry for compulsive behaviors that people pour countless hours into, that usually harms the game it's applied to and almost never improves it. D&D would not be a better game if it had a Martial Controller (for the sake of having a Martial Controller) or a Shadow Defender (likewise), and it simply wouldn't be a better game for answering what would happen if a bunch of gnomish orphans were adopted and raised by an orcish warband.
 
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Yaarel

Mind Mage
There is also Fantasy Egypt Hamunaptra

Pathfinder has the Pahmet and Ouat fantasy Egyptian dwarves, but I am not sure if there is official art for them.
The Egyptian clothing and jewelry are cool.

At the same time, I want to ask Egyptians if they are cool with this. Egyptians today are proud of their antiquity, and view their heritage as culturally sacred, even while being a different religion today.

While wanting to be ethnically diverse, it is important to invite players from other ethnicities, as opposed to appropriating other cultures.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Maybe the Norse alfar are good, in the sense of bringing good fortune to human individuals and families, and sometimes being guardians. But they can be disturbingly vicious when lashing out against enemies.

The Scottish sith seem ethically ambiguous, and in any case dangerous, albeit they teach humans how to heal and do magic.

The French fay (faie) are inscrutable, causing both magnificent and devastating fates, without obvious reasons.



Mythological accuracy helps me enjoy the game more, and beauty is central for these kinds of elves. And Greek nymphs too.

That said.

I strongly agree with the WotC decision to remove alignment from every D&D player race.

Every character of any race, requires the player to decide what alignment their character is. That includes any elf, including any drow, and any orc.

For D&D, I want to see male nymphs (of any kind of nymph) and valkyries, and so on. (While the valkyrie can be various races, I agree with the scholars who suggest they were mostly female alfar, the dis, who choose the fate of an honorable valorous death.)

Cultural appropriation of the Greeks much? Lol.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
The clothing is cool.

At the same time, I want to ask Egyptians if they are cool with this. Egyptians today are proud of their antiquity, and view their heritage as culturally sacred, even while being a different religion today.

Not really a direct link to the old culture though.

It's not universal either.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Think a guy here died of alcohol poisoning. Put the tap in his mouth from the keg and drunk for 47 seconds.

Drinking game here or doing a keg stand. Upside down handstand on a beer keg tap in mouth drink.

Haven't down one for 15 years not that stupid.
All 7 of my grandfather’s siblings died from alcohol-related afflictions. He was a teetotaler.

While I grew up learning how to drink responsibly, I did my fair share of heavy boozing in college. My senior year, I helped host a Mardi Gras party where I got drunker than ever before (or since)- even blacked out for a portion of the evening.

The next day yielded an insight as to my great uncles’ and aunts’ relation with alcohol. For me, it was like any other post boozing day: no hangover, no sickness. This confused the hell out of everyonr who was at that party. I got scared that the lack of negative consequences was what let my relatives become alcoholics.

That day, I consciously stopped drinking hooch like it was water. I still drink, but almost never more than 1-2 at a time, and only a few times a month, max.
 

Shroompunk Warlord

Archdruid of the Warp Zones
For D&D, I want to see male nymphs (of any kind of nymph) and valkyries, and so on. (While the valkyrie can be various races, I agree with the scholars who suggest they were mostly female alfar, the dis, who choose the fate of an honorable valorous death.)

Would you support having some lineages-- a very small percentage of the total-- that are highly sex-dimorphic, such that males and females are mechanically different lineages? It would take much, much less dimorphism than occurs in the vast majority of real-life species to necessitate such a differentiation in the D&D rules.
 

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