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Fantasy Races vs Sci Fi Species. Different or not?

Big J Money

Adventurer
By Sci Fi species, I'm referring to sentient and sapient species, for example the major races in Star Trek and Star Wars (Vulkans, Klingons, Mon Calamari, Wookies, etc)

Do you think there is any significant difference between the two? Do (or would) you tend to treat them differently in how you play or GM a campaign? Are there implications of being a fantasy race that are not true of a sapient alien race or vice-versa?

Or are they identical concepts in your mind?

I'm curious what different opinions are out there. Thanks for sharing.

Edit: hopefully made the line of inquiry clearer
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Do you think there is any significant difference in how players or game masters should treat fantasy races and such sci fi species in their campaigns?

How other people should treat them? No. I, personally, do think of them significantly differently. I prefer games that support treating them differently. But I don't hold that my preferences are in any way a superior such that there's some call for others do to what I do.
 

Big J Money

Adventurer
I prefer games that support treating them differently.
Can you give an example of one or more ways they can be treated differently? I realize that it's your preferred way in terms of fun or maybe immersion, and you aren't implying that it's the only way or the right way (I'm the same on that when it comes to a lot of these kinds of campaign choices).

Edit: I'm trying to figure out how to rephrase my question to get rid of the 'should'. I still want to hear from people who have strong opinons as well, though.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
Same? Yes and no. Fantasy and sci-fi races are the same and should be treated the same in that they should reflect and encourage people to take a different point of view, show off different strengths/weaknesses compared to others.

But they're a bit different in the idea that fantasy races from the same world should probably be expected to have more in common - at least socially and historically - than sci-fi species that are from completely different worlds. I'd be more inclined to push some differences further for alien sci-fi races than I would for fantasy races.
At least some of the Traveller alien races are good examples of how far you can push differences and have fun with them. The K'kree are always strongly evocative with their militant herbevorism, extreme claustrophobia, and herd mentality. Aslan are also fun with their extreme divide between male and female roles. It may seem silly that male Aslan really don't understand technical skills (Q: How many male aslan does it take to screw in a lightbulb? A: At least 5 because I've seen 4 trying...), but it makes for some strong role playing opportunities playing such extreme levels of differing mentalities and capabilities that may only be really acceptable (from a modern political standpoint) because they are so alien.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Can you give an example of one or more ways they can be treated differently?

The first thing that comes to mind is that I'm okay with fantasy races that make no bloody sense.

YOu want 47 different kinds of elf that frequently interact, can interbreed, but somehow maintain distinctiveness for thousands of years? Cool. Dragonboobs, and Lizardfolk that don't have specific issues with cold? I'm good. Monocultures? I'm okay, so long as they aren't racist retreads. Dwarven cultures with dubious agricultural support? Go for it! Everything interbreeding with every other thing? That's fine. The mere existence of 17 peoples sharing the same ecological niche for thousands of years, with no regard for what makes for a viable breeding population? We almost insist on it!

What happens with fantasy races can be arbitrary, nonsensical, and not stand up to more than 5 minutes worth of consideration, and I. Don't. Care. I can wave my hands in the background whispering about magic that doesn't follow logic, and the whim of capricious deities, and there are no issues.

Except for Kender. Those guys are nonsensical, and really freakin' annoying. They can take a hike. Tasslehoff Burrfoot was not a typical member of his people - he didn't have wanderlust, he was exiled for his compulsive lying and callous disregard for the needs of others. Rather than address his issues he projected them into fictions about how all his people were just like him. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

In sci-fi, if you give me an alien race that doesn't hold up to two minutes of logical thought, and we will have words.
 





embee

Lawyer by day. Rules lawyer by night.
The first thing that comes to mind is that I'm okay with fantasy races that make no bloody sense.

YOu want 47 different kinds of elf that frequently interact, can interbreed, but somehow maintain distinctiveness for thousands of years? Cool. Dragonboobs, and Lizardfolk that don't have specific issues with cold? I'm good. Monocultures? I'm okay, so long as they aren't racist retreads.
In fact, the Halves- prove, if anything, that racism really doesn't belong in D&D, as it goes to show that humans will hook up with anyone, regardless of background.
 

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
For me, fantasy generally works best when the answer is "It's magic!" or "The gods did it!" So it's fine for races to have nonsensical origins and interrelationships. Not necessary, but certainly a-okay.

Sci-fi is an even more broad genre than fantasy, but assuming we're talking about the "in space!" variety, my preference is that things at least try to make some logical sense, even if it's just handwavium and technobabble at the bottom. So species are probably naturally evolved, unintentionally mutated, or deliberately engineered. Any technology involved might well be so advanced or ancient as to be completely inscrutable, but I like having an implication that there is an actual technology behind it.

In fact, now that I think about it, it's probably that implication that separates most fantasy from most sci-fi, at least in my thinking.
 



billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
I haven’t watched any of the new stuff (I don’t have those channels)- have any female (or other) gendered humans boldly gone where no one has gone before?

bow chicka wow wow
Beckett Mariner from Lower Decks is a prime candidate.
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MGibster

Legend
One of the nice things about science fiction is being able to tell stories about contemporary issues with a veneer of deniability. The Klingons of the 1960s allowed Star Trek writers to create stories that were allegories for the conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States. Their role changed in the 1980s as the Cold War was cooling and the Klingons became allies and even a member of the crew.

Or think of the Moclus from The Orville. At the beginning of the 1st season, we're given to understand that their species is entirely male, but we learn later that some Moclus are born female and given corrective surgery because it's seen as a defect. Also, Bortus, our Moclus crewmember, has a husband named Klyden, who is dismissive of the women Bortus works with. So the Moclus allows the writers to tell stories about contemporary issues surrounding transgender issues, toxic masculinity, and even gay rights. In one episode, Klyden outed a fellow Moclun who kept his attraction to women in the closet.

I don't know if I see that kind of thing happening in fantasy stories a lot. So I suppose that's how I treat race/species differently when it comes to science fiction and fantasy. At least that's what I'd like to think. Star Wars has a Wookie just because it's cool not because it's trying to say something.
 

Big J Money

Adventurer
I don't know if I see that kind of thing happening in fantasy stories a lot. So I suppose that's how I treat race/species differently when it comes to science fiction and fantasy. At least that's what I'd like to think. Star Wars has a Wookie just because it's cool not because it's trying to say something.
I think that's more down to the writers' choice of expression than the genre. Penny Dreadful is in a setting of traditional monster horror, which is closer to fantasy than scifi, and it addressed the theme of depression through allegory. Horror has been doing this for a long time, actually. Real world ancient mythology has allegories for many things, and is arguably the original source of modern fantasy (it inspired works like Middle Earth, Conan, D&D, etc).

I wouldn't be surprised if there's an example of high fantasy that we just aren't thinking about or aware of. Oh, Arthurian legends hit a bit closer. Also fairy tales. I guess these things were kind of like the "sci fi of their times".
 

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