5E Greyhawk, and race options for Oerth PCs

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
I thought it best for me to make this thread so that people can actually take this debate onto a thread that's actually built for it, instead of flooding threads built for another purpose.

In case you're new, here's the gist; Greyhawk! Arguably the first (yeah I know Blackmoor) campaign setting for D&D, the world of Oerth. Here's its description from 1d4chan;

Old-ass setting made with help from the G-man himself; lots of the core fluff is from here.
This setting is by far the best one - Toril can go f*** itself because Oerth is THE S**T! A peasant's life is full of s**t, just like it should be. Magic items do not grow on trees in Oerth. The Gods are not going to help with every little problem you have here. The Blood War's origin is actually clear and logical. And the Circle of Eight are total badasses well... it's complicated.

When you're a kid, some of those first things you experience will always be magical. The first porn you see/watch. That first booze you drink. The first hit of a joint. First time you have actual sex. Sure, you may have other great versions of that experience, but the more you do them, the fewer of them stand out as exceptional. But that first time? It's special, it's a milestone in your life.

Greyhawk isn't just the first campaign most people play. It's the first campaign that was ever created (STFU Blackmoor!). Sure, it doesn't always make sense. The fact that some of the nations have leaders like "His Transcendent Imperial Majesty, Overking Xavener I, Grand Prince of Kalstrand, Crowned Head of House Darmen" gives Greyhawk that eternal homebrew feel. It was created all hodge-podge, and sure it got a little ridiculous in places, but you can really feel Gary Gygax's love of D&D when you see all the little silly details he put into this thing.

This game setting is a labor of love. It doesn't always make the most sense, but it's as comfortable as those sneakers you wore in high school, and it's always there for you.
Forgotten Realms? F**k that noise. Sure it might have started that way, but it's turned into a Goddamn marketing strategy, one in which Marty Stu Elminster gets to f**k women he's three times (or more) older than, including goddesses and pretty much anyone Ed Greenwood feels he should have gotten to fuck in life. Even Gygax admitted that Mordenkainen was a bit of a dick who didn't really have all the answers he claimed to, he was just winging that "enforced neutrality" bit. Plus, Mordenkainen isn't some pushy perverted creep; he might be a f**k-up, but he's got some standards.

Eberron isn't bad in and of itself, it's just a bit less fantasy and more steampunk-ish, plus the setting is geared for low-level PCs which means you'll be breaking the world in half in a few sessions if the DM isn't careful. Dark Sun is pretty f**king grimdark; your players need to be ready to make new characters every few sessions if they treat it like a beer-and-pretzels thing. Mystara is the only other thing that compares, and only because it is just as homebrew in nature. The only reason Mystara isn't quite as good is because it's a little more constrained (no gods, little in the way of cosmology), but in other ways it has great stuff (complicated domain and war rules/mechanics, very complex political situations). Dragonlance is a bit more on the high-fantasy scale, similar to LOTR in scope and theme; sure you do some dungeon-crawling, but it can't just be to get rich or die trying, it's because "things" are happening. Birthright isn't terrible, but there's probably better systems for running empires and wargames. Planescape and Spelljammer really aren't even their own settings, they're "unified" settings meant to mix and match with the rest of them.

Greyhawk is best if you want to play a homebrew setting without all the work involved in making one yourself, but is still inclusive enough to give you room to add your own little touches as you like to it. And that's what Gary wanted us to do: share this hot mess of an idea and put out own little spins on it.


Anyway, now that it's introduction is out of the way... let's move on to its "races" controversy.

You see, Greyhawk is very human-focused. There are six human races, each of which probably gets more fluff and history than any non-human race.

More than that, back in the day you really couldn't play as all of the 4E (and now 5E) races. Tieflings and Dragonborn just didn't exist. The monstrous races, including orcs, goblins, drow and the like, were considered NPCs only. There are almost no examples of individuals of those races pulling a D'rrizt and bucking their races culture to be a good guy.

But now we're in 5E. Now, it's considered the norm to have a mixed-race group of characters. The PHB includes not just the base races of Greyhawk like humans, dwarves halflings, and elves, but half-orcs and tieflings and dragonborn. The Ghosts of Saltmarsh adventure book, remade for 5E, includes a tiefling NPC and has dragonborn within the art.

So, what is the better path? To usher in this setting into the new 5E age by adapting these changes? Or is it better to maintain the old paradigm, and block these options?
 
Barring some sort of dire player need I'd start with Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Halfelves and Hobbitses. You can retcon in anything you like, but I'd prefer to keep that a special occasion and by request kind of thing. Mind you, I'd allow a Warforged without batting an eye, I wonder why that is... anyway, start with the standard template is where I'd go there.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
So, what is the better path? To usher in this setting into the new 5E age by adapting these changes? Or is it better to maintain the old paradigm, and block these options?
Matter of taste, really. I do discourage the Mos Eisley cantina effect since the setting is so humanocentric. I'm also not keen on all of the race options that have cropped up over the years and I generally don't encourage people taking options that vaguely irritate the DM.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
Just add a little note in the Races of Greyhawk sections to remind the players to read the sidebar called ''Uncommon Races '' in the races section of the PHB before creating their character and ask their DM beforehand.

At my table I already enforce a special rule, even in a FR game: Uncommon races are limited at 1 per party and Monster races (including drow) are also limited to 1 per party. I have a group of 8, so that makes any party more ''classic'' in presentation.
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
Just add a little note in the Races of Greyhawk sections to remind the players to read the sidebar called ''Uncommon Races '' in the races section of the PHB before creating their character and ask their DM beforehand.

At my table I already enforce a special rule, even in a FR game: Uncommon races are limited at 1 per party and Monster races (including drow) are also limited to 1 per party. I have a group of 8, so that makes any party more ''classic'' in presentation.
An excellent point. For those who don't know it by heart;

Dragonborn. It's easy to assume that a dragon born is a monster, especially if his or her scales betray a chromatic heritage. Unless the dragon born starts breathing fire and causing destruction, though, people are likely to respond with caution rather than outright fear.

Gnome. Gnomes don't look like a threat and can quickly disarm suspicion with good humor. The common folk are often curious about gnomes, likely never having seen one before, but they are rarely hostile or fearful.

Half-Elf. Although many people have never seen a half-elf, virtually everyone knows they exist. A half-elf stranger's arrival is fol lowed by gossip behind the half-elf's back and stolen glances across the common room, rather than any confrontation or open curiosity.

Half-Orc. It's usually safe to assume that a half-orc is belligerent and quick to anger, so people watch themselves around an unfamiliar half-ore. Shopkeepers might surreptitiously hide valuable or fragile goods when a half-orc comes in, and people slowly clear out of a tavern, assuming a fight will break out soon.

Tiefling.
Half-orcs are greeted with a practical caution, but tieflings are the subject of supernatural fear. The evil of their heritage is plainly visible in their features, and as far as most people are concerned, a tiefling could very well be a devil straight from the Nine Hells. People might make warding signs as a tiefling approaches, cross the street to avoid passing near, or bar shop doors before a tiefling can enter.
 

Emrico

Villager
I'm running a 5E campaign of Greyhawk currently (in addition to 2 1E AD&D Greyhawk games) and I put in some pretty severe restrictions on races and classes for my game. Races are pretty much limited to original 1E PHB races - no Dragonborn, no Tieflings, etc. I also limited the classes - no Warlocks and no Sorcerers as they just don't seem to fit in Greyhawk to me. The only other major limit I put in place is that humans can't multi-class.

My players have zero issues with it and are all enjoying themselves immensely. They started out in Saltmarsh and after completing Sinister Secret they headed off to the Lendore Isles and are in the midst of The Secret of Bone Hill.

Jim
 

Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
Barring some sort of dire player need I'd start with Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Halfelves and Hobbitses. You can retcon in anything you like, but I'd prefer to keep that a special occasion and by request kind of thing. Mind you, I'd allow a Warforged without batting an eye, I wonder why that is... anyway, start with the standard template is where I'd go there.
I'd start with the classic races and then work with players that really feel like they want to play one of the more unusual ones. They need a great reason to do so and they need to understand what that will mean for them and the party in RP situations.

I'd probably make sure the rest of the group is willing to take on those difficulties as well so they don't get bitter if they get barred from an in for their tiefling friend's mere presence.

I like the descriptions/points that @Urriak Uruk made for the "unusual races"

The only other major limit I put in place is that humans can't multi-class.
Can they dual-class? ;)
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
I like the descriptions/points that @Urriak Uruk made for the "unusual races"
I actually didn't make those, that is directly from the PHB.

Yeah I'd say that if Greyhawk ever gets a setting book, it'd be great to have a section on races. It wouldn't need to have any mechanics or anything (those already exist in the PHB, and Greyhawk doesn't really have any races unique to it). But it would be great to have little sections explaining the history and culture of each races in Oerth.

Humans would obviously get the biggest section, to detail all six races. But every PHB race should get a little bit of lore. I'd definitely appreciate tieflings getting something tying them as direct creations to Iuz in his evil empire, and that dragonborn are recent immigrants from a far-off continent (dragonborn dressed as Tibetan monks would be a fun spin).
 

Bacon Bits

Adventurer
When I run Greyhawk, I generally limit players to the originally available races: Elf (non-Drow), Dwarf, Gnome, Human, Halfling, Half-Elf, and Half-Orc. Half-Orcs are generally treated with suspicion and contempt. Elves and Dwarves are mildly antagonistic towards each other.

Exceptions have been: Goliath for a Frost Barbarian, with Goliath just representing a big human that has been rumored to have stone giant blood.

Drow exist but are kill-on-sight to surface dwelling races. Tieflings might exist, but are largely constrained to Iuz and are essentially always going to be evil. Iuz specifically spent time breeding half-demons, and wouldn't give up that power easily. Lizardmen exist to the far south, but that doesn't mean they're Dragonborn nor does it mean they'd be accepted in Greyhawk.

Just about everyone in Greyhawk is xenophobic. It's a post-apocalyptic campaign setting in bleak recovery, so there isn't a lot of trust to go around even within your own species. Few allies, little trust, long stretches of open, untamed wilds. It's a dangerous world where even friendly strangers can react violently. If you're playing after From the Ashes, then it's just that much worse.

Even Gygax admitted that Mordenkainen was a bit of a dick who didn't really have all the answers he claimed to, he was just winging that "enforced neutrality" bit. Plus, Mordenkainen isn't some pushy perverted creep; he might be a f**k-up, but he's got some standards.
Mordenkainen is the perfect example of a talented wizard who doesn't have his head stuck in the sand... but who still doesn't act. He's definitely a huge jerk, and is never interested in helping the PCs unless there's really clear evidence that not doing so would upset the balance. He has feelers and searchers everywhere and often knows exactly what's going on, but basically does nothing as long as humanly possible. There's a reason that nobody wants to ask Mordenkainen for help.

Elminster doesn't help because he's stronger than most deities and is "too busy." Mordenkainen doesn't help because he's paralyzed by the possible consequences, torn between allowing nature to take it's course (believing it will tend towards balance) and trying to save the world but risking failure. Mordenkainen only acts when he is certain doing so is correct, which is precisely why he tends to accomplish very little.
 

David Howery

Adventurer
So, what is the better path? To usher in this setting into the new 5E age by adapting these changes? Or is it better to maintain the old paradigm, and block these options?
This... isn't really something the rest of us can answer. What do you and your players want? Tieflings yes, tieflings no, dragonborn yes, dragonborn no? That seems to be the only real issue here... GH has a long history of having gnomes and half-orcs, so those shouldn't be a problem. Want to include tieflings? Pretty easy... according to the PHB, they are of devilish origin, and hey, GH has/had a place dedicated to devil worship, the Horned Society. Tieflings could be a recently appearing result of that. Dragonborn aren't quite so easy, but not hard to include either... say they recently appeared in the Flanaess from the mysterious western part of the continent (which hasn't really been detailed ever). Don't want to include either of them? Easy too, just don't.
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
This... isn't really something the rest of us can answer. What do you and your players want? Tieflings yes, tieflings no, dragonborn yes, dragonborn no? That seems to be the only real issue here... GH has a long history of having gnomes and half-orcs, so those shouldn't be a problem. Want to include tieflings? Pretty easy... according to the PHB, they are of devilish origin, and hey, GH has/had a place dedicated to devil worship, the Horned Society. Tieflings could be a recently appearing result of that. Dragonborn aren't quite so easy, but not hard to include either... say they recently appeared in the Flanaess from the mysterious western part of the continent (which hasn't really been detailed ever). Don't want to include either of them? Easy too, just don't.
I suppose it's more of a question, of if Greyhawk is ever published for 5E as it's own setting book, what path should it take?
 

David Howery

Adventurer
I suppose it's more of a question, of if Greyhawk is ever published for 5E as it's own setting book, what path should it take?
it has sorta been answered already. As someone noted earlier, GoS has a tiefling NPC and dragonborn PCs are in the artwork. But if wanted, both can be excluded without any real hassle...
 

Zardnaar

Legend
it has sorta been answered already. As someone noted earlier, GoS has a tiefling NPC and dragonborn PCs are in the artwork. But if wanted, both can be excluded without any real hassle...
Doesn't mean you can play one, I don't think to many people are arguing they don't exist.
. Only 4 races are core it's still ask your DM.

Tieflings and Drow maybe. Tieflings make sense in terms of existing PC race maybe it's a bad idea to play one IMHO.
 
A lot depends on how Grey you want your Hawk I guess. Hard core fans would probably favor running it oldschool because that's how is should be done dammit (a fine option) while a a group new to the setting might not care a fig for how it used to be in the olden dinosaur days and will run a more standard set of races out. Both are perfectly acceptable. My personal preference is to find the ways the GH is unique and push that angle, but it's not the only way to play it.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
An excellent point. For those who don't know it by heart;

Dragonborn. It's easy to assume that a dragon born is a monster, especially if his or her scales betray a chromatic heritage. Unless the dragon born starts breathing fire and causing destruction, though, people are likely to respond with caution rather than outright fear.

Gnome. Gnomes don't look like a threat and can quickly disarm suspicion with good humor. The common folk are often curious about gnomes, likely never having seen one before, but they are rarely hostile or fearful.

Half-Elf. Although many people have never seen a half-elf, virtually everyone knows they exist. A half-elf stranger's arrival is fol lowed by gossip behind the half-elf's back and stolen glances across the common room, rather than any confrontation or open curiosity.

Half-Orc. It's usually safe to assume that a half-orc is belligerent and quick to anger, so people watch themselves around an unfamiliar half-ore. Shopkeepers might surreptitiously hide valuable or fragile goods when a half-orc comes in, and people slowly clear out of a tavern, assuming a fight will break out soon.

Tiefling. Half-orcs are greeted with a practical caution, but tieflings are the subject of supernatural fear. The evil of their heritage is plainly visible in their features, and as far as most people are concerned, a tiefling could very well be a devil straight from the Nine Hells. People might make warding signs as a tiefling approaches, cross the street to avoid passing near, or bar shop doors before a tiefling can enter.
Would/Should the 6 human races be mechanically different from each other, or would they all use the basic PHB Human?
All use phb humans. That's a quagmire/not needed.
 

ninjayeti

Explorer
I'm guessing if there is an official 5E book they will call out these races as being DM's discretion. It is easy enough to justify them if you want them in your game, but I can't imagine they would, say, have a dragonborn kingdom from another dimension just show up overnight. That nonsense might fly in FR but if they tried to pull it in GH us grognards would aspirate our neckbeards.
it has sorta been answered already. As someone noted earlier, GoS has a tiefling NPC and dragonborn PCs are in the artwork. But if wanted, both can be excluded without any real hassle...
You can tell its a PC just from the artwork?
 

HarbingerX

Rob Of The North
Seems my thinking is the same as others have posted. I'd let the players know that the setting is very human-centric and Dwarves, Elves and other demi-humans are seen as oddities outside of places like Ulek, Celene and other isolated pockets. Tieflings come from Iuz and are definitely viewed with suspicion and not welcome - hell, they look like Graz'zt! Same deal with Drow. As for Dragonborn, they'd be an explorer from a far distant land; perhaps south of the steaming jungles, from the other side of the sea of dust, or from across the great ocean. People would perhaps mistake them as the remored Yuan-ti, since they both look like reptile people.

I'd have to think hard if one of my players came to me wanting to play one of those races in Greyhawk. I've had a tiefling in a 4e campaign, but that was homebrew and, well, 4e.

I'll admit to a certain bias as well against the type of character players want to play when they say they want to be a tiefling. It winds up being a lot like someone wanting to play a 'neutral' rogue who really just wants to be a jerk to the rest of his party because the player finds it fun to have secrets and mess with them.

Edit: One other fun one could be the Dragonborn have emerged from the Valley of the Mage due to some foul experiments.
 

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