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


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Zardnaar

Legend
Aaaand you definitely CAN die from alcohol consumption.

Lies!!! I don't really drink enough in one sitting to get a hangover let alone anything else. 6 drinks abv is my upper limit usually 1-2.


Anyway a not Egyptian Dwarf from Nuria Natal. Con and Int mods. Midgard setting.

IMG_20210722_125757.jpg

I'm playing a non Caucasian halfing on Saturday but that's Darksun. Not sure what time I'll describe him as but may use Polynesia and Mesoamerican weapons. Taiha, Patu, that Aztec sword etc.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
I mean in real life it's definitely the result of being poisoned by consuming the byproduct of rotting fruit. Humans are just so dumb and determined that we just decide warning signs not to consume things mean they're awesome.

See also hot peppers and hallucinagenics (sp?).
Its not dumb though, quite the opposite in fact. Its the same suppression of instinct that lead to Hominids picking up flaming branches and playing with wolf pups
 

Its not dumb though, quite the opposite in fact. Its the same suppression of instinct that lead to Hominids picking up flaming branches and playing with wolf pups
“Many were increasingly of the opinion that they'd all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans.” ~ Douglas Adams
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Previously only Humans were ever shown as being non-European in D&D, and the other common core races of Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes and Halflings were always depicted as being "white" even if some published campaign settings have for example said that some Dwarves have brown skin or that Wood Elves are "bronze" colored. Now I pick those four in particular because they're the most human-like (not counting the hybrids) and they're a core part of D&D along with all the classes and alignment, it's generally assumed they're there unless the DM says they aren't.

So if a player wants to play an "Asian" Elf or a "African" Dwarf, I suspect most DMs in most campaigns would just let them be with very little questions. It doesn't necessarily need to be fully explained why that Elf or Dwarf is like that. Some people might just want to have character who might be like them, or might fit some image they have (or justification for a class/subclass with a lot of cultural baggage). I'm approaching this as a Person of Color, who is a minority in the western country I live in. So I care less about cultural purity, and more about representation.

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Dara from the Netflix adaptation of Witcher as an example.

But for others DMs they have to work in something. Are Halflings and the others for example as widespread as Humans are in that campaign world, virtually living everywhere that Humans do? If so then yes. This would in many ways be the Shadowrun approach, which conceivably Shadowrun might be the first RPG where "metahumans" of different ethnicities are a canonical and established thing where a Dwarf could be from Shanghai and an Elf could be from Nairobi.

But there also could be something like for example, where at one time there were different cultures and ethnicities of Elves (not counting subraces) but they moved around a lot and mixed, such that there is no real distinct cultural differences in Elves anymore. A lot of times the assumption is that they somehow default to a European culture, though Eberron has an Elven culture that's sort of has a bit Arabic influences, and another that has African and other influences.

Now the idea of Elves, Dwarves and Halflings in D&D of course comes from Tolkien's work. Despite Elves and Dwarves having origins in Germanic myths, Elves as commonly depicted in fantasy are sort of the Aos Si of Celtic myths, and despite the fact that Tolkien tried to depict Dwarves as being Jewish they somehow commonly became Scottish (someone once joked what if Dwarves were Mexican). Halflings (as Hobbits) are mostly original to Tolkien's work but sort of represented the humble Englishman, and Gnomes were first mentioned in the Renaissance and somehow became a caricature of Jewish people. But despite all this, they are a core part of D&D's identity among the core assumptions about most D&D campaigns.

Some settings which attempt a deep-dive into certain Earth cultures assert that there are none of those core races in the setting (but there may be local alternatives), because there's no myths about such things and cultural purity would be more of the goal. And that's fine if it's the primary setting and focus of the campaign. But in a campaign that's a lot more international where there are various "expy's" various Earth cultures living on the same world and the PCs could be from anywhere, then this is where the question of "could gnomes be from over there too?" In terms of world-building it's likely easier just to have Gnomes there, with some sort of parallel culture to the region. They may be of the same subraces as Gnomes in the PHB, but there could be some sort of local Gnomish subrace for the region. Having a completely different race in place of Gnomes everywhere else, might be too much work for many. And if there are for example regional races like Hengeyokai to use an example, then why aren't they in other places?

So back the original point is that overall I feel that Humans should not be the only race with diversity as its thing. Despite whatever the origins of Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes and Halflings, in core D&D they are now far removed from their mythological Earth origins, so they don't need to be locked in as exclusively European.
Joining the conversation late, apologies if I missed anything . . .

Beyond the obvious, that elves, dwarves, and hobbits spring from European sources, originally for a Euro-descent target audience, I think another reason why we tend to see diverse humanity and less diverse demihumanity is that the concept of "race" is problematic either way, a blend of genetic (inherent traits) and cultural (learned traits). In my view, fantasy races are essentially super-ethnicities, differing sometimes by not only culture and language, but skin color, height, ear-shape, lifespan, and some sort of magical ability. They are still, in practice, very human rather than different species . . . .

We know what diversity in humanity looks like, so that's easier to comprehend and represent in our games. It's less clear what elven diversity looks like, especially when elves are a European folk construct. So, for the longest time, elves and dwarves were almost always drawn "white", even when the text described them as otherwise.

Is it okay to portray elves as inspired by other cultures or ethnicities? An African elf? A Japanese dwarf? While I think it's certainly possible to do so poorly and insensitively, certain Western tropes have become so widespread I don't think it's a problem anymore, if it ever was. I think the trick for any future sensitivity editors out there (professional or armchair) is to ask . . . would the people who are a part of that culture NOW have a problem with the depiction? If you want to create a culture of African-inspired dwarves, share the concept with some folks from Africa first, worry less about what folks in the US might think. Although, I do think it's important to include the views of indigenous cultures and diaspora cultures. Not only is Africa diverse, but African-Americans (or other African diaspora folk) might not view things the same way.

I'm really enjoying more recent fantasy art that shows elves, dwarves, and all sorts of fantasy folk in all sorts of colors, body shapes, hair textures, and more. We certainly haven't solved the problem of systemic racism in D&D, but we've made a lot of progress in recent years. As an aside, I did find a troubling criticism of Mr. Witch (or is it Mr. Light) from an upcoming book as being to heavyset for a shadar-kai elf . . . why can't elves be heavy?
 



slobster

Hero
I know what you mean, but . . . we're all ethnic. Just like we all have an accent!
lol yes, I always get a kick out of the aisle at the supermarket labeled "ethnic food". Like, was the rest of the food in this place extruded by robots or conjured out of a cultureless vacuum by faceless entities?

...you know what, given what stocks most of the shelves in my local supermarket, don't answer that question.
 


Yaarel

Mind Mage
As an aside, I did find a troubling criticism of Mr. Witch (or is it Mr. Light) from an upcoming book as being to heavyset for a shadar-kai elf . . . why can't elves be heavy?
For mythological accuracy, as part of "elfness", the Elf must be visually appealing. There are many ways to be beautiful and that includes heavyset.

D&D has traditionally described the Elf as unusually slim. But it is more important to describe them as unusually beautiful.
 



Yaarel

Mind Mage
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.
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
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.
I believe that WotC is using Lineage as a "race", but you can turn into that thing. Dhampir are a Lineage because you don't have to be born as a Dhampir, you could've survived being bitten by a vampire in order to become one (or one of the other listed possibilities). If you made a deal with a hag that went wrong, you could be transformed into a Hexblood. If you died and was raised from the dead in a flawed manner, you could have been transformed into a Reborn.

You can't be turned into an Owlin or Rabbitfolk through a manner similar to this. You're born as those, just like how you're born as a Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, Gnome, or any of the other races. You don't become them (unless through an unfortunate roll of the Reincarnate spell or the True Polymorph spell, which is a very different situation). You can be born as a certain lineage (like a Half-Vampire Dhampir character, a Half-Hag Hexblood character, or if you were born as a Reborn in a Manifest Zone to Dolurrh on Eberron), but you don't have to. IMO, if WotC were to redo all of 5e right now, they would make Aasimar, Genasi, Tieflings, and Simic Hybrids be Lineages, not races (they might even do the same for Eladrin and Kalashtar).

That's the difference between Race and Lineage. Race is your species, Lineage is your genetic mutation (and, yes, this does muddle the line between Sorcerers and Lineage/Race a bit).
 

MGibster

Legend
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.
I don't think they ever intended for there to be a difference between the meaning of lineage and race. They just decided to use lineage to mean the same thing while avoiding using the word race. We're on the euphemism treadmill here (which is fine because that's just how language works). Eventually WotC will just have to figure out what word and/or terms they wish to use to describe physical characteristics, culture, etc., etc. that's both clear to most readers and non-offensive to most people.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
I believe that WotC is using Lineage as a "race", but you can turn into that thing. Dhampir are a Lineage because you don't have to be born as a Dhampir, you could've survived being bitten by a vampire in order to become one (or one of the other listed possibilities). If you made a deal with a hag that went wrong, you could be transformed into a Hexblood. If you died and was raised from the dead in a flawed manner, you could have been transformed into a Reborn.

You can't be turned into an Owlin or Rabbitfolk through a manner similar to this. You're born as those, just like how you're born as a Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, Gnome, or any of the other races. You don't become them (unless through an unfortunate roll of the Reincarnate spell or the True Polymorph spell, which is a very different situation). You can be born as a certain lineage (like a Half-Vampire Dhampir character, a Half-Hag Hexblood character, or if you were born as a Reborn in a Manifest Zone to Dolurrh on Eberron), but you don't have to. IMO, if WotC were to redo all of 5e right now, they would make Aasimar, Genasi, Tieflings, and Simic Hybrids be Lineages, not races (they might even do the same for Eladrin and Kalashtar).

That's the difference between Race and Lineage. Race is your species, Lineage is your genetic mutation (and, yes, this does muddle the line between Sorcerers and Lineage/Race a bit).
But a lineage can be a normal "race" with prehistoric origins, born of parents.

Or a lineage can be a construct character concept, like the Warforge race is.

Apparently, a dragon can produce and engineer a new dragonborn from a dragon egg.

Genasi are element-touched mutations, that perhaps can happen spontaneously.

I dont see a meaningful distinction between race and lineage.
 


Dire Bare

Legend
For mythological accuracy, as part of "elfness", the Elf must be visually appealing. There are many ways to be beautiful and that includes heavyset.

D&D has traditionally described the Elf as unusually slim. But it is more important to describe them as unusually beautiful.
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.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Just because we and other intelligent mammals like it doesn't mean it's not a negative effect. Being tipsy is a sign that your body isn't working right anymore because you hurt it for the pleasant-feeling side-effects of almost dying.

We evolved not to die from consuming alcohol, and then as tool users abused that fact.

Lots of medicines are basically intelligently applied poisons/chemical weapons. Anything that numbs pain or messes with your blood for example. Just because we discovered dosing doesn't mean the intent on the plant's part wasn't to murder you, weaken you so others can murder you, make you think you are being murdered, or in the case of tomatoes--summon wasps to murder you.
Okay.
 


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