D&D General how are stories infused with a race?

Another way to make a fantasy race stand out are unique resources, goods, and skills. Elves having access to magical skill and training others lack or Dwarves being smiths of supernatural ability are possible. You can also just have a given people inhabit lands that's the sole source of a desirable resource, like say having the ancient wood in which the Firbolg dwell have tree that produce magical fruit. This creates means of both trade and conflict and can help to set up "typical" relationships between communities.
 

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Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Entitled by centuries of market economy, Customers are the bane of the land. Everywhere they settle, not unlike a plague of locust, their appetites incite other into turning everything into goods for them to consume.

Customer Traits:

  • Ability Score Increase. Increase one ability score by 2, and increase a different one by 1.
  • Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and one other language that you and your DM agree is appropriate for the character.
  • Creature Type. You are a Humanoid.
  • Size. You are Medium. If your favorite product is fast food, you can be Large, too.
  • Speed. Your walking speed is 30 feet.
  • Darkvision. Countless nights spent on shopping website have given you the ability to see thing in dim light.
  • Compulsive purchase. You're proficient in Shopper Tools. You can also summon any object worth less than 100 gp out of your shopping bags. You can use this power proficiency bonus times per long rest.
  • Nature's Bane. You have advantage against spells cast by a Druid.
  • Questgiver. Instead of going out adventuring, you prefer to sit in dark corner of a tavern (due to your natural Darkvision), smoking a pipe, and waiting for an adventurous group to hire them to do it for you.
What about Summon Manager 1/week?
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I am bad at trope recognition one is fairly religious and cultish the other is needing a rewrite.
There you go. Find some info about religious zealots and cults. Look for general ideas about how they are viewed and play them up.

What is the physical description of you zealous / cultish race?

Another poster mentioned playing with relationships. That’s great advice. Your new race will have a history, allies, and enemies. Those will help define your race.
pure otherness is hard for anyone to rp and only works for monsters.
Yes and no. It’s hard but it’s not just for monsters.
 



There you go. Find some info about religious zealots and cults. Look for general ideas about how they are viewed and play them up.

What is the physical description of you zealous / cultish race?

Another poster mentioned playing with relationships. That’s great advice. Your new race will have a history, allies, and enemies. Those will help define your race.

Yes and no. It’s hard but it’s not just for monsters.
It was these guys if you were there,
three - eyes stare out from an oversized cranium it’s w shaped pupils scan the world rapidly, six tentacles surround its wide mouth writhing when the creature is pleased.

It lacks a nose or any trace of nostrils. Its mouth brings to mind a skeleton with the sight of its teeth and fierce appearance. a body covered in clammy skin, possessing four arms with six digits, and long legs ending in wide splayed toes that form a crescent shape.

They possess bony armour over their torsos and parts of their heads with what resembles gemstones set in them, this bone armour has parts of it the call to mind seashells and in other parts the leaves of ferns in its latticework. their bone plating comes in a variety of metallic shades, highlighted by bright flourishes of flesh.

they got an aesthetic but I can't hammer out one story let alone the three stories I would need for the different cultures to not just be making a monoculture.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
OK. Very alien physiology. Almost like aberrations.

One subculture could be religious zealots, seeking to remake the world in accord with their deity’s edicts.

And countering them, an ascetic, isolationist group.

Perhaps these beings had an empire and some want to reclaim it.

In their alien-ness, they may have desires and practices that evade our understanding. Like…a pathological fear/hated of all things with wings. Or an all consuming list for particular shades of blue. They eat things we cannot.

Figure out WHY they’re so different in form, and you might be inspired to figure out the things that flow…errr “naturally” from that.
 
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AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
I think we would all agree that races have stories as part of them with tieflings and the half races being outsiders, halflings being the humble people and so on

what I want to know is how they are infused and what examples there are as I want to get my custom race working properly?
If I'm reading this correctly, you're basically asking "how do I attach a story to a race that I just have the mechanics of?". Is that accurate? Like "Tieflings are often outcasts from their societies due to their Devil blood, as are Aasimar and Genasi" and you're asking how to build a race's story/identity from just the mechanics of them (not just the in-game mechanics, but also the lore-mechanics of how they came to be in the world). Correct me if I'm misreading any of this.

This was actually a part of the core premise of this thread of mine. The premise was "cultures of the player races in a world are developed through the context of the world and what mechanically sets them apart from humans". Warforged are taken advantage of in Eberron because, up until recently, they were treated as golems enslaved by the 5 nations to serve (and die) in their war so that the "normal races" wouldn't have to, Kalashtar are refugees from their oppressive homeland with mystical powers and harmful stereotypes that makes others shun them, and Shifters are persecuted due to the fact that they're related to Lycanthropes, and were almost completely wiped out by a Church-driven genocide a few decades ago.

The point that I'm trying to get across here is that the race's "story" is built by three main things:
  1. Their lore-based identity that sets them apart from humans (Warforged are "living constructs" with souls, Shifters are lycanthrope-folk, Kalashtar are psionic humans bonded with an alien entity, Planetouched are part-demon/elemental/celestial/fey, et cetera.)
  2. How they came to be in the world, typically in a manner that is different from the origins of humans in this setting (Warforged were created by a magical corporation to serve in the Last War, Shifters are descended from Lycanthropes, Kalashtar were created when Quori fled to the Material Plane to merge with humans, Planetouched are the result of inter-planar crossbreeding, and so on.)
  3. What game-mechanics set them apart from humans (Warforged don't have to eat, drink, breathe, sleep, and so on, Shifters can become more "feral" temporarily, Kalashtar don't dream and are telepathic, Planetouched have some characteristics of their otherworldly parent.)
From what you described in a recent post, this race answers these questions like this:
  1. They are heavily devoted to . . . something. Cult-like. This would probably end up making them be hated/disliked by most other races, especially ones that don't worship the same entities/gods.
  2. They seem to be connected to the Far Realm based on their description. Even if they aren't, their physical appearance alone is probably going to result in the people of the world not being all that fond of them.
  3. They have four arms. Think about how that would influence their culture. They would be great artists, warriors, and spellcasters if they set their minds to it. Their mouths' tentacles writhe when they're happy, so they wouldn't have any emotional response to seeing someone smile, and would instead have that response based on the tentacle-writhing motion. They don't have a nose, so they probably wouldn't have any sense of smell and wouldn't care about living in filthy environments. (This could further alienate them from other races, with them having the stereotype of being filthy, emotionless monsters that worship an evil god/entity that want to end the world, or something similar to that.)
I hope this helps.
 

aco175

Legend
It was these guys if you were there,
three - eyes stare out from an oversized cranium it’s w shaped pupils scan the world rapidly, six tentacles surround its wide mouth writhing when the creature is pleased.

It lacks a nose or any trace of nostrils. Its mouth brings to mind a skeleton with the sight of its teeth and fierce appearance. a body covered in clammy skin, possessing four arms with six digits, and long legs ending in wide splayed toes that form a crescent shape.

They possess bony armour over their torsos and parts of their heads with what resembles gemstones set in them, this bone armour has parts of it the call to mind seashells and in other parts the leaves of ferns in its latticework. their bone plating comes in a variety of metallic shades, highlighted by bright flourishes of flesh.

they got an aesthetic but I can't hammer out one story let alone the three stories I would need for the different cultures to not just be making a monoculture.
If I read this to my players, they would think undead or beholder-like and likely attack it.

Trying to come up with a story should first start by finding their role and niche. With their 4 arms- are they good at something like carving or smithing? Races used to have physical traits like great strength or intelligence and the race would follow with a role.

Somehow I'm picturing the Lost in Space robot.
1642123128222.png
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
As a player, here are my thoughts...
It was these guys if you were there,
three - eyes stare out from an oversized cranium it’s w shaped pupils scan the world rapidly, six tentacles surround its wide mouth writhing when the creature is pleased.
It's related to an ilithid or beholder.
It lacks a nose or any trace of nostrils. Its mouth brings to mind a skeleton with the sight of its teeth and fierce appearance. a body covered in clammy skin, possessing four arms with six digits, and long legs ending in wide splayed toes that form a crescent shape.
Definitely an aberration.
They possess bony armour over their torsos and parts of their heads with what resembles gemstones set in them
I'm going to harvest those gemstones.
this bone armour has parts of it the call to mind seashells and in other parts the leaves of ferns in its latticework. their bone plating comes in a variety of metallic shades, highlighted by bright flourishes of flesh.
I'm going to harvest the armor bits and wear and/or sell them.
they got an aesthetic but I can't hammer out one story let alone the three stories I would need for the different cultures to not just be making a monoculture.
You won't need to worry about any story. Your players are going to attack these things on sight and try to find where the XP is hiding. Considering the physical appearance, you'll likely need a positive or at least soft introduction to these things. By that I mean introduce one as a flat-out necessary ally of the PCs. Anything less than that and they'll likely attack on sight.

As mentioned, all you need to do is pick one aspect and make each faction focus on that. One is the cultish faction. One is the zealous faction. And the third is trying to keep the peace between them. Or have each faction have a slightly different history and access to resources...which produces different enemies and allies, etc.
 

OK. Very alien physiology. Almost like aberrations.

One subculture could be religious zealots, seeking to remake the world in accord with their deity’s edicts.

And countering them, an ascetic, isolationist group.

Perhaps these beings had an empire and some want to reclaim it.

In their alien-ness, they may have desires and practices that evade our understanding. Like…a pathological fear/hated of all things with wings. Or an all consuming list for particular shades of blue. They eat things we cannot.

Figure out WHY they’re so different in form, and you might be inspired to figure out the things that flow…errr “naturally” from that.
I do not want to make just a bunch of evil monsters as part of the problem, and idea on what figuring out why their differences might be?
I was going for more self-actualization as god for the religious zealots with them in fragmented city-states that often work for other larger power to both nerf them and make them politically interesting.
If I read this to my players, they would think undead or beholder-like and likely attack it.

Trying to come up with a story should first start by finding their role and niche. With their 4 arms- are they good at something like carving or smithing? Races used to have physical traits like great strength or intelligence and the race would follow with a role.

Somehow I'm picturing the Lost in Space robot.
View attachment 149886
how does one come up with a niche and role?
 

TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
Just as an aside, races have been created for D&D. The Giths, tieflings and Aasamir, those hippo guys.

And mind flayers, which seem more relevant to this case.
 

Just as an aside, races have been created for D&D. The Giths, tieflings and Aasamir, those hippo guys.

And mind flayers, which seem more relevant to this case.
most of those were built as monsters first or are half breeds which building is a lot easier as opposed to building from near nothing.
 

It was these guys if you were there,
three - eyes stare out from an oversized cranium it’s w shaped pupils scan the world rapidly, six tentacles surround its wide mouth writhing when the creature is pleased.

It lacks a nose or any trace of nostrils. Its mouth brings to mind a skeleton with the sight of its teeth and fierce appearance. a body covered in clammy skin, possessing four arms with six digits, and long legs ending in wide splayed toes that form a crescent shape.

They possess bony armour over their torsos and parts of their heads with what resembles gemstones set in them, this bone armour has parts of it the call to mind seashells and in other parts the leaves of ferns in its latticework. their bone plating comes in a variety of metallic shades, highlighted by bright flourishes of flesh.

they got an aesthetic but I can't hammer out one story let alone the three stories I would need for the different cultures to not just be making a monoculture.
What are they like personality-wise? Do they have alien thought patterns, or are they surprisingly human despite their monstrous appearance?

What are they good at as a race? (Does not have to be supported by mechanics) Do they have a knack for cooking (Taste receptors in their tentacles)? Bureaucracy? Languages? Sculpture?

Why would you travel to one of their city-states: What would you want to obtain from them and what would you bring to trade?

What is their origin? They're a distinct race, not the occasional sport amongst other races like the plane-touched. Were they created by a far-realm being in the best likeness of other material-realm races that it could comprehend? Are they refugees from another plane?

Do they worship a far-realm being? Have they enthusiastically but erratically thrown themselves into the worship of material deities? Are they aggressively disdainful of material deities and follow a path of philosophy instead?
 

What are they like personality-wise? Do they have alien thought patterns, or are they surprisingly human despite their monstrous appearance?

What are they good at as a race? (Does not have to be supported by mechanics) Do they have a knack for cooking (Taste receptors in their tentacles)? Bureaucracy? Languages? Sculpture?

Why would you travel to one of their city-states: What would you want to obtain from them and what would you bring to trade?

What is their origin? They're a distinct race, not the occasional sport amongst other races like the plane-touched. Were they created by a far-realm being in the best likeness of other material-realm races that it could comprehend? Are they refugees from another plane?

Do they worship a far-realm being? Have they enthusiastically but erratically thrown themselves into the worship of material deities? Are they aggressively disdainful of material deities and follow a path of philosophy instead?
bit of both for thoughts.

no idea yet any recommendations.

depends on the city-state some might sell higher-tech if it is dominated by artificers other are more exotic good or simple food but religion plays a massive role in the city-states I was going for a mix of the old greek city-states and some Mayan influences.

but I wanted more than one type of culture so I also want a bigger one who used its army like the mercenary swiss army need up only longer-term

born from an entity from the far realm the journeyed to the prime material for some reason.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
I am not good enough to suggest how to greatly infuse a story with a race...

But I know how to destroy the strong story elements of a race: make it a playable race in a non-setting-specific book.

As soon as it's an official playable race, it will be required to support all possible character concepts (classes, subclasses, backgrounds, pillars, combat roles...), not necessarily to support all of them equally well but at least reasonably. For example it won't be accepted by the gamerbase that you cannot play a race X wizard even when their original story involves that race X being averse to arcane magic or hating it outright. Make a playable Illithid race and everyone must accept Illithid bards and druids and paladins, because they are PHB options.

A real historical example is the Drow. As soon as they became a playable race, the vast majority of players of course wanted to play the good-aligned exception, which is totally ok for the individual PC, but in a few years it became such a common choice that in fact it ended up not being an exception at all and it significantly changed the story of the Drow as a whole. Not saying that the final outcome (the Drow subrace being changed to having essentially the same alignment profile as everybody else) is necessarily a bad thing, just that technically it is one less story element that differentiate them from all other elven subraces.
 

toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
Mythology.

AD&D
was famous for this in its supplements and things like Dark Sun where new, or heavily altered, races were introduced. Its Complete Books of [Insert Race] were full of stories that mothers might tell their children.

These myths do quite a bit for a culture. They in part (1) answer questions of the unknown, such as how were we created, and (2) teach lessons that exemplify abilities the culture prizes or despises.

For example, the halflings might have myths relating to how being small saved the day (only they could fit through the crack in the wall to trick the orc god), and philosophy (they're not lazy, they're efficient, so they'll have a story about the farmer who waited and waited, and while the "bigguns" laughed, he had seen something they missed and only his crops survived the blight), and prized skills (a hero blinded the moon with a sling shot).

For the more alien looking creatures, it's all the same. Dark Sun thri-kreen had stories of the clutch-mind wherein they share memories. Because of this, they might remember things from centuries ago. They will have a collective story of how this helped them thrive where others would fail.
 

For my part, there are two approaches, one of which has already been discussed. The one everyone's talked about is "top-down," where you look at the high-level themes or at literary, mythic, religious, etc. source material and draw forth stories that way. The other approach is "bottom-up," and it's...well, a lot more speculative, less likely to be instananeously grabbing, but more likely to be very natural and well-suited to the specific thing you've created. Actual D&D races have had both.

Since it's sort of my traditional topic in this sort of thing, I give the example of dragonborn, viewed through each lens.

From a top-down perspective, dragonborn are pretty obviously reptile-like humanoids. That means you can potentially tap into a whole host of lizardy-boi stories across sword and sorcery, myth, legend, you name it. But because they have a connection to dragons, that kicks things up a notch--and also enables some really interesting connections specifically to several Greek myths. See, there are several Greek myths that involve something surprisingly similar to dragonborn (minus the breath weapon, since that's a more modern invention WRT dragons). You have the obvious direct parallels like the Spartoi, the warriors literally sown from dragon's teeth, or the ophiogenees, literally the "serpent-born" who were the descendants of the Mysian Dragon or Drakon Ophiogeneikos (literally "the dragon of the serpent-born") and Halia, a woman who had come to worship at the sacred grove of Artemis that the Mysian Dragon guarded.

But there are other myths too, like the story of Erikhthonios (often rendered "Erichthonius" or "Erechtheus," as these were different names but the earliest attestations use them interchangeably): Hephaestus came to desire Athena after Aphrodite had spurned him, but Athena rejected his advances; he tried to have his way with her but she fought him off, and wiped his...seed...off of her thigh with a bit of wool, causing a child to be born from the earth--but this child was either "a serpent intwined around the babe" or actually himself "half-human, half-snake," to the point that some myths explicitly call him a "drakon." He's also considered Athena's son (since she raised him and...participated...in his conception) even though she remained forever a virgin--a lovely example of mythic contradictions resolved. There's also multiple references to drakaina, female dragons or half-human half-dragon women, some of whom produce lineages of kings, e.g. the Scythian drakaina, who struck a deal with Hercules, that he become the father of her descendants.

So there's actually an awful lot of heroes, tribes, and royal lineages that could have been drakogenes, "dragon-born," in Greek myth. Perhaps dragonborn have the quirk that they are always born from an actual dragon's teeth (maybe dragons are like sharks in this setting, so loose dragon teeth are more common than one might expect), adult and fully formed. That creates one hell of a distinct story: what's it like for a culture where there are no children, no mothers, and no need for marriage or partnership except as a choice? Alternatively, perhaps dragonborn in this setting take cultural cues from the culture that the Greeks called "Scythians," a broadly successful culture from around 900 BC to ~500 BC (though remnants lingered well into the first millennium AD). The Scythians were noted for their excellence in war (Herodotus claimed the Scythians could not be stopped by anything less than an alliance of several states), rich artistic tradition particularly in metalwork (some of which survives to this day), and participation in the early Silk Road. That's a lot of cultural toys to play with, just gotta find a path that works.

Alternatively, you can build bottom-up. Dragonborn (at least in 4e...) have a bonus to History skill, high Charisma and either Strength or Constitution (meaning, overall high fortitude no matter what), and tend to heal from injuries more quickly. They also need less time to develop: female dragonborn are only "pregnant" (carrying an egg) relatively briefly compared to human pregnancies, then the fetus finishes maturing inside the egg in a hatchery of some kind. (In this regard, they are like hairless monotremes, or as I like to phrase it, "reptile-like mammals" rather than "mammal-like reptiles.") They mature extremely quickly, reaching the equivalent of a 10-year-old human child at merely 3 years, finishing their growth spurt by about 12-13, and being fully physically adult by 15; their maximum age is approximately the same as a human's. Most adult dragonborn have a breath weapon (though some have dragonfear instead), and although they are not dragons, they have a blend of draconic pride and more mortal-like desire for social companionship, which tends to drive them toward pursuit of excellence and clannish/reputation-heavy behavior. Their diet is heavier on protein than a human's, but otherwise the same, and they can tolerate the same temperature ranges as humans do (thanks to their wide mouths, which allow substantial heat transfer).

From the above, we can do all sorts of stuff. Dragonborn are bright fires, stars that flare hot rather than fading away--they may unfortunately embody the "live fast, die young" mentality, just with "glorious" replacing "fast." Their early lives are extremely brisk; most dragonborn are full adults a year or more before human high school students begin thinking about their college prospects, and their infancy/childhood is incredibly short, cramming into three years what humans take 10 to work through. This is likely to lead to a society that looks a lot more like what seems to occur so often in anime: prodigies of (what we would consider) shockingly young age yet superlative skill nonetheless; to them, Alexander the Great would have been something of a late bloomer, not the ridiculous military prodigy he is to us. They also likely prioritize herding and grazing over farming, so their communities may look different--and they're a lot more likely to need preservatives or to have a more complex dietary regime (e.g. incorporating dairy, eggs, complete-protein pairs, or other similar things into most dishes).

This gives the idea of a culture where pride and legacy are dominant, where leaving your mark on the world is incredibly important--"going off to seek one's fortune" is extremely common in their society, not something only callow youths with no family ties pursue. It's also one where building to last matters (since, y'know, a single big argument could lead to burning a place down if you aren't careful...) and where "go big or stay home" is likely deeply-ingrained. In other words, it's something like a hybrid of "fairy-tale farmer's sons" and "the idealized Romans of legend."
 

jgsugden

Legend
...I keep trying to find a race I just get you know? as I have failed to find such a thing I set out a while ago to try and make one that might fit.
You might consider asking yourself why you failed to find such a thing.

In the 90s, when I had more time to read 2nd, 3rd and 4th tier fantasy novels I began to think about how worlds fit together. It didn't make sense to me that the elves all lived over there and acted similarly. With all the magic and lengthy histories of these fantasy worlds, you'd have expected things to come together earlier - because they almost always moved closer together in the novels I was reading. That was when I started to drop the uniformity in my communities by many degrees and made everything more cosmopolitan. It just makes more sense. My communities felt more organic, and less forced. They continued to evolve, and I started to input a lot of xenophobic undercurrents into these communities as a place to create strife and conflict in the stories, but the forst step of making everything more cosmopolitan really made a huge improvement in my setting.
 

aco175

Legend
how does one come up with a niche and role?
A niche is something that other races are not good at or traditionally think of. Some of this falls into stereotypes as well. Dwarves are gruff smiths that do not get along with orcs and elves. They make good fighters and have strong family ties. Elves are good mages, live long, and look down on others because they are arrogant or pity their short lives. Etc...

There is also a problem with role the further you get away from default human. Halflings are small humans basically. Easy enough to add some role like farmers and like comfort even though they are brave and make good thieves. A goblin or orc can become a PC easier than some other monsters since they are humanish with two arms and legs, have a language that can be common, and arguably have some morals and alignment that can be chosen. Many people may just play an orc more like a human instead of what an orc is. It is hard for players to not be human and bring our norms to the game race.

The race proposed in the OP is another step away from human than even a goblin and is more like the thi-kreen of Dark Sun. Traditionally they would be monsters, so there needs to be something to make them fit into the world. Maybe they are adaptable in that they can change their bodies and minds as they grow to fill more roles. Some are great fighters and can use specialized weapons while others focus on artificing and can make devices to help defend their towns.

Maybe this is how they came to the world. A portal allowed them to come and help a human town defend from something and now they are tolerated in that town. Over the last 100 years, their ability to morph into good fighters helps the neighboring region in defeating the original threat, while their artificers help with food shortages. They now have learned religion from their human neighbors and spellcasting that boosts other things you need. Seems like there would be an underground thieves' guild from them with some resenting coming here and seek to either dominate or just get by.
 

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