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

Yaarel

Mind Mage
I guess that leaves us at an impasse, then. I'm only three generations removed from Germany, but my exposure to your ancestral culture has been sorely limited, self-directed, and filtered through multiple non-ancestral worldviews before it could reach me. But to me it is sacred, it is vital to my senses of self and community.

I won't scold you again, and I apologize for mistaking you for someone with no stake in our argument.
Germany is Germany.

Germany is a mixture of many ethnic groups: Celtic, Saxon, Slavic, and apparently Nordwest Block. Germans are their own unique, melting pot, identity.

Scandinavians have never been Germans.

Nordic Countries have cultures that are unique to Nordic Countries.
 

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Yaarel

Mind Mage
Strictly speaking it's a revival there's no continuity between the ancient beliefs and modern practice.

You're both guilty of cultural religiousappropriation;).

Yaarel does have a somewhat thin cultural continuation link, yours is even thinner.

From a historical PoV of course.
Part of Nordic archeology is to clarify those Viking Era spiritual traditions − and they are quite different from Neo-Paganism.
 

Dire Bare

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.)
Unearthly beauty is certainly one of the defining traits of many a mythological creature, including nymphs and elves. Just as ugliness defines other creatures. As does gender sometimes, as nymphs and valkyries usually being portrayed as female. Beauty is almost always associated with goodly creatures, although not always, and sometimes stories get a little more complex . . . or that goodly beauty has a dark side of viciousness. Ugliness is often associated with evil, although again, not always. Hags/witches are particular problematic, combing ugliness, age, and feminization as an evil combo!

If we decide to change some of those associations, we do end up changing the D&D race/monster . . . and it's easy to feel that these changes aren't needed, it's only fantasy, etc, etc. But I think taking a close look at all sorts of D&D races and monsters and reimagining some of them to move away from problematic stereotypes serves us well in the long term. As we reexamine these various creatures, we won't all agree on what needs changed, and it's a lot of work. But again, I think the conversations and the thought processes are worth having.

This is complicated when D&D adapts a mythological creature, and in doing so changes the role of that creature! If an elf is some sort of nature spirit, then is it okay for it to hold unearthly beauty and be largely considered good, if mischievous? But does that still hold if elves are now a mortal race, on par with humans?

As we change our ideas of how the game deals with race (sentient creatures), how important is mythological accuracy? Especially when so many myth-inspired D&D creatures aren't all that accurate before we do any revising! And of course, we are taking folkloric elements from oral traditions that were anything but consistent within cultures, and similar creatures could vary significantly between cultures. Fey/elves/fairies are a good example of that.

One of these days I want to write up a supplement de-coupling hags from the ugliness/female/old trifecta equating to evil . . . . but even I have a hard time imagining a good-looking, young, male hag! Although the hag-born (hexblood) lineage in the new Ravenloft book actually moves in that direction . . . you can be of any age, any gender, and any level of attractiveness and be a hexblood, or hag-lite. Or maybe you just have to break some of those associations . . . maybe all hags are ugly by human standards, but they aren't human, and they don't see themselves as ugly or evil . . .
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Germany is Germany.

Germany is a mixture of many ethnic groups: Celtic, Saxon, Slavic, and apparently Nordwest Block. Germans are their own unique, melting pot, identity.

Scandinavians have never been Germans.

Nordic Countries have cultures that are unique to Nordic Countries.
Saxons were Celts descendants?

I've traced my family back to rural Wales/England just across the border and parts of Scotland so mostly Celtic.

I feel 0 zip nada cultural affinity to the Celts though or the modern culture.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Part of Nordic archeology is to clarify those Viking Era spiritual traditions − and they are quite different from Neo-Paganism.

Yep but it's been to long imho with no real continuity. I'm of Celtic descent mostly but 1021AD was a really long time ago which is close to the last Viking pagans left.

Celt religion died long before that.
 

Trying to not be dragged into the cultural appropriation or religion discussion. But to me having male Valkyries would be like having male Amazons.
It is a group of mythologically prominent badass ladies, and there are not that many of such. So making them mixed gender doesn't really strike me as equality, it seems more like eroding this cool female thing. And no, it's not same as doing the reverse to a similar male group, as those are omnipresent.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
How I wish companies would start to create more fantasy cultures in their fantasy games instead of just copying real world cultures and then have people complain that said cultures in fantasy games are not faithful enough to the real world (or what they imagine how faithfulness would look like).
I am tired of seeing notChina, notJapan and notEgypt, etc.

Maybe then we can start arguing about the silly concept that some people own a culture, are automatically experts in it because of their skin colour or some distant relatives and that cultures are unchanging and every concept clearly belongs to a specific culture whos "owner" must give permission for said concept to be used.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Trying to not be dragged into the cultural appropriation or religion discussion. But to me having male Valkyries would be like having male Amazons.
It is a group of mythologically prominent badass ladies, and there are not that many of such. So making them mixed gender doesn't really strike me as equality, it seems more like eroding this cool female thing. And no, it's not same as doing the reverse to a similar male group, as those are omnipresent.

Yep it's kinda stupid. Create something new vs mutilate some one else's culture.

Pretty hard to get to purist about extinct cultures though that don't have a cultural continuation to a modern group.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Trying to not be dragged into the cultural appropriation or religion discussion. But to me having male Valkyries would be like having male Amazons.
It is a group of mythologically prominent badass ladies, and there are not that many of such. So making them mixed gender doesn't really strike me as equality, it seems more like eroding this cool female thing. And no, it's not same as doing the reverse to a similar male group, as those are omnipresent.
Well, the historical "Amazons" appear to be horseback nomads. Apparently the male group hunted. While the women were the center of the culture, with children and elders. Presumably some men stayed with the womens group, and some women ventured off with the mens group.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Honestly, the gamer obsession with separating one's biological heritage from their cultural heritage is ridiculous.
Thanks for dismissing the concerns and preferences of a growing number of D&D fans, myself included. But yeah, you're right, we're wrong . . . maybe even badwrongfun. I probably actually agree with some of your points as I skimmed your posts, but your aggressive opener just shut down my interest in reading further.

In the real world, culture is what differentiates human groups from one another. Sure, we have physical differences, but they are incredibly minor. But we overemphasize those physical differences all the time and confuse them with the cultural differences, and base our tendency towards tribalism, or racism, on those misunderstood differences.

In the fantasy and sci-fi world (or sci-fantasy), the differences between races goes beyond cultural. The difference between elves vs dwarves vs orcs is somewhere between ethnic differences and species differences . . . and just as in the real world, we conflate biological and cultural differences. This matters because the language and thought processes we use to stereotype elves and orcs is the same that we use in the real world to negatively stereotype different groups of people.

So, a growing number of us are interested in separate race/species from culture in the game, to try and avoid that racist imagery. A well designed system can also allow for more diversity in character creation, as well as more options for those who like, well, more options. If, at character creation, you make a race/species choice, and then a culture choice . . . you can choose to be an elf with a wood elf culture (not really different than the current system) . . . or you could choose to be an elf raised by dwarves steeped in mountain dwarf culture. With customization rules similar to those in Tasha's, you could devise a more complicated background if you want . . . grandpa was an elf, dad an orc, mom a dwarf, but I was raised by halflings, halflings living in a human city . . .

Most of the systems I've seen so far are a bit clunky and don't quite hit things right, for my tastes at least . . . but again, we're having conversations, we're innovating with designs, and we're stumbling towards something better.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
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.
A highly sexually dimorphic species in D&D? Sure, why not! I do think you'd have to be careful when designing such a race, lots of potential landmines there, but I'm sure it can be done well. I'm sure it already has by somebody, either at their home table or in some rulebook I haven't seen yet.
 

Well, the historical "Amazons" appear to be horseback nomads. Apparently the male group hunted. While the women were the center of the culture, with children and elders. Presumably some men stayed with the womens group, and some women ventured off with the mens group.
There are no historical Amazons. They're partly inspired by Scythians, but that's not the same thing than mythical Amazons.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Well, the historical "Amazons" appear to be horseback nomads. Apparently the male group hunted. While the women were the center of the culture, with children and elders. Presumably some men stayed with the womens group, and some women ventured off with the mens group.

Women in Sythia semed to have a higher status than ancient Greece. Some ancient Greek in the Black Sea probably observed the Sythians or ancient Colchis people and Amazon legend was born.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Saxons were Celts descendants?
When I say Saxons, I am vaguely referring to an indigenous presence, often identified with bronze age Jastorf Culture.

I've traced my family back to rural Wales/England just across the border and parts of Scotland so mostly Celtic.

I feel 0 zip nada cultural affinity to the Celts though or the modern culture.
As you know, Wales and Irish definitely care about their heritage, and strive to revive their Celtic languages.

Oddly, Scotland doesnt seem to care about a language revival? Probably because Scotland has always been a mix of Gaelic- and Scot-English-speakers.
 
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Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
A highly sexually dimorphic species in D&D? Sure, why not! I do think you'd have to be careful when designing such a race, lots of potential landmines there, but I'm sure it can be done well. I'm sure it already has by somebody, either at their home table or in some rulebook I haven't seen yet.
I had a homebrew (I never ran) in which the females of an anthropomorphic dragons species were size L and had wings, while the males were size S and flightless…
 



Dioltach

Legend
dwarves building pyramids
compensating-for-something.jpg
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Trying to not be dragged into the cultural appropriation or religion discussion. But to me having male Valkyries would be like having male Amazons.
It is a group of mythologically prominent badass ladies, and there are not that many of such. So making them mixed gender doesn't really strike me as equality, it seems more like eroding this cool female thing. And no, it's not same as doing the reverse to a similar male group, as those are omnipresent.
Depends on the role valkyries take in the game. Are they warrior angels serving Norse-inspired gods? Female only seems fine to me there. Are they an elite order of mortal warriors riding winged horses? Female only, good here too. Are they a mortal race? Maybe not female only in this case. I remember there was a variant of valkryies in the 3E Tome of Magic, where they were presented as scary vengeance demons, much like furies . . . I had mixed feelings on that iteration.

Amazons, DC comics aside, are usually portrayed as mortal humans. It's not that there are only female Amazons, it just that Amazonian culture is female dominated. The ladies are out waging war, the guys are at home doing the menial labor. Which works fine for me. I'm even cool with the DC comics idea of Amazons, that they are (were) mortal women who were abused by men, and then given new immortal lives as Amazons on the island of Themyscira. Except Diana, she's made of clay and/or the godly daughter of Zeus and Hippolyta . . . .

Your overall point though, of not removing some of the few examples of bad-ass women from mythology is well taken, however.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
I guess that leaves us at an impasse, then. I'm only three generations removed from Germany, but my exposure to your ancestral culture has been sorely limited, self-directed, and filtered through multiple non-ancestral worldviews before it could reach me. But to me it is sacred, it is vital to my senses of self and community.

I won't scold you again, and I apologize for mistaking you for someone with no stake in our argument.
I get that.

It seems to me, if the Norse texts are central to your worldview, you would want to learn more about Nordic cultures?

Alternatively, it is ok to invent a different religion that is inspired by Norse texts. Then it is important to understand the difference, and to not misrepresent Nordic Countries.
 

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