How Do You Incorporate D&D Races & Classes Into Campaign Settings?

MGibster

Adventurer
When you construct a campaign setting do you give a lot of thought into how the basic races in the PHB fit into the world? For the most part I personally don't give it a lot of thought. The driving philosophy behind world design for me is basically "I'm not going to worry anything I don't think my players are going to care about." That means I don't spend a lot of time on things like politics, identity, religion, history, the economy, etc., etc. because for the most part my players aren't going to care about any of that unless it has a direct impact on an adventure. But lately I've been thinking it'd be a lot more fun to incorporate race and class into the setting itself with the hopes that it may help players engage with it.

I'm not looking to reinvent the wheel or anything so far as class and race go. But I'd like to have things like druidic orders, barbarian groups, etc., etc. actually tied directly into the setting. Does anyone here do that? And let's talk about how races fit into your world. I've got the drow in mine but they're not evil. They're aggressively isolationist known for producing the finest silks in the land but they're not designed to be antagonist. That's what I've got tieflings for. How about you guys?
 

Jd Smith1

Explorer
I focus more on the enemy, than the PCs' races. If a PC wants to be part of a larger group, I have them write up the concept and then I tweak it. However, I've found that my guys are not generally joiners.

To encourage roleplay I focus more on the PC group. Here's what I am doing in my current campaign:

Evil groups, on the other hand, define a campaign far better IMO. Here's what I'm doing in my current campaign:
 

Chaosmancer

Adventurer
I did a lot for trying to figure out the various cultures of my races, looking into how they view the world and interact to help give me more content.

For example, I took the Drow and Yuan-Ti and made them "non-evil".

To the Drow I played with the idea that the Elves messed with portal magic and blasted a city with Far Realms energy. The diety soon to be known as Lolth interposed herself in front of the blast, but all the elves were bonded with her shadow.

Then she went crazy, paranoid scizophrenic in every way I could think of. Which led to the Drow becoming more... well, more like the Addams family than anything else. They are odd, potentially dangerous but just as likely to pull harmless pranks as deadly ones, and always victorian era polite.

And the first time one of my players heard "drow" they immediately started telling the entire table how they were all slavers and evil, and there were these books...

sigh

When the players actually interact with the Drow, they thought they were awesome, because it was a society they had never seen, and even though I wasn't able to flesh it out, I was able to fake enough that they had a good time. So, I don't see it as wasted work, but it is incredibly hard to get players to break out of the mindset of what the race is "supposed" to be even though there are tons of different interpretations.




As for what I do, my biggest focus tends to be on Religion (I made every pantheon unique, there are no 'general' gods who all races worship in my games) and one or two big ideas. So, the Dwarves craft. They seek to make the world better and more beautiful by taking the raw materials of the world and forging them into better shapes. The Elves are very militaristic, and are pretty much in constant decline from their glorious empire days. The orcs are incredibly traditionalist, but struggling with growing movements that seek to change them to better adapt to a world that is leaving them behind. Gnomes are masters of technology and research. Halflings are wanderers like the Gypsy/Romani people, Yuan-Ti practice good ritual cannabalism to reempower the gods that saved their people from extinction. ect ect ect.

Essentially, I figure out who they worship, and what the most "X-ish" thing they could do is. From that I can hang details and figure out "okay, if this is true, how would that effect Z?"
 

Coroc

Adventurer
When you construct a campaign setting do you give a lot of thought into how the basic races in the PHB fit into the world? For the most part I personally don't give it a lot of thought. The driving philosophy behind world design for me is basically "I'm not going to worry anything I don't think my players are going to care about." That means I don't spend a lot of time on things like politics, identity, religion, history, the economy, etc., etc. because for the most part my players aren't going to care about any of that unless it has a direct impact on an adventure. But lately I've been thinking it'd be a lot more fun to incorporate race and class into the setting itself with the hopes that it may help players engage with it.

I'm not looking to reinvent the wheel or anything so far as class and race go. But I'd like to have things like druidic orders, barbarian groups, etc., etc. actually tied directly into the setting. Does anyone here do that? And let's talk about how races fit into your world. I've got the drow in mine but they're not evil. They're aggressively isolationist known for producing the finest silks in the land but they're not designed to be antagonist. That's what I've got tieflings for. How about you guys?
Yep, I absolutely do. In my greyhawk campaign pc can play humans and halfhumans. So halfelves halforcs tieflings(of devlish ancestry) and gnomes (humans of half height :p).

Since I did put the techlevel into renaissance I wanted to have dwarves and elves to be few and secluded NPC only and halflings are more tolkienesqe, basically peaceful farmerfolk not suited to adventure.

The halforcs and halfelves and tieflings are mostly byproducts of the long waging war in my campaign, and I had everyone in the group start out being a refugee from this war. All of these grew up in human society so they are relatively accepted.

On the other hand drow would be considered and treated as monsters, and dragonborn do not exist in my version of greyhawk. My players mostly prefer to play human so I got these in my group and one gnome and one halfelf. So there is that.

Classes are also limited, no sorcerers no barbarians. Although there are barbarian cultures around still, the player would not descend from them. Sorcerers weren't part of the blue box which I took as a baseline.
Paladins only the LG variant (of Heironeous), Clerics of several of the greyhawk pantheon, but according to their race (Kord for HO, Ulaa for gnome e.g.) Druids would be Ohbad Hai, Nature Clerics Beory.

I also do only allow 2e conform race class combos. When it comes to D&D then at least for some of the campaign settings I love archetypes and I loathe diversity , for Eberron I would handle this differently.
 
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When you construct a campaign setting do you give a lot of thought into how the basic races in the PHB fit into the world?
In theory, I should design a new campaign setting at least in broad strokes with the purpose of making it more or less unique, different from others we have played in the past. That would certainly include to give at least some thought on which PHB races exist, where they live and how large their populations are, and whether they are any different than the default PHB description.

In practice, I haven't really planned a setting on paper since 3e, and I have instead let the players choose what characters they want to play. After their choices are done, I use them as an opportunity. For instance, nobody chose to play a dragonborn PC? Awesome, I can cut off that goofy race from the fantasy world completely. But they chose to be a High Elf, Wood Elf, Drow and a couple of more non-core elven subraces... well maybe it means the theme of this campaign should be more about the relations between these subraces.
 
I think races are more important to fit in than classes. Classes are not necessarily a thing normal people have - that's a choice for a setting to make. Eberron 3E for example is a firm, loud yes to that, but most settings have classes as more vague, with only a handful as defined parts of the setting.

I used to take a similar attitude to the OP, long ago, but i found it ultimately leads to settings which don't feel as real to the players, or to me, so stakes and engagement aren't quite as high. As such I started considering stuff like how the basic economies of nations worked and connected with those around them, how cultures and religions spread, how D&D races integrated (or didn't) into various cultures, and so on.

It's interesting that the two different philosophies here have been part of RPGs since the 1980s. On the one hand you have stuff like Mystara, where basically every culture stands alone and barely interacts with others. It's almost like a randomly set up board game. Honorable lion people here, nuclear reactor elves there, etc. There's no consideration about interrelations or history or anything and A Wizard pretty much did everything. But in 1989 you see Taladas for D&D, which is completely about interrelationships and culture and even language, with a cool flow-chart showing lingual relationships and how well a character who speaks on language might understand someone speaking another. Religion and culture similarly flow and mix like RL instead of being bound and great attention is paid to how the societies actually function. Even the complexity of gender roles across societies is considered (one culture, for example, views all wizards as female, so male wizards exist but live with and dress like the women, are referred to in that culture with female pronouns and so on). The wonderfully different positions of Half-Elves in different societies are a thing too, and the way some societies are cosmopolitan re D&D races and others xenophobic is very well-handled.

When I started out I thought Taladas was cool but a bit much. Five years later I thought it was much closer to what I aspire to than stuff like Mystara (which I loved a lot of). Most D&D settings exist on a spectrum between these two more extreme outliers. FR is towards the middle. Eberron more up the Taladas end. Greyhawk between Mystara and the FR. Not every DM is going to be interested in that kind of stuff though.
 

LuisCarlos17f

Adventurer
I don't respect the canon at all and I like to create my own mash-up versions.

I alter the lore about the "evil" races because my opinion is all society too selfish to doomed to self-destruction, the groups have to share a common allegiance (religion, tribe, race, fatherland) to survive. Gnolls are dangerous, but if they cause too many troubles then their fate is to suffer a genocide, by good or evil races. In my setting the aasimars aren't too rare, but not very popular precisely because they are too "good", a too tall poppy, causing envy by rivals or discomfort by dishonest/sinner people.

I used the favored souls and psionic ardents for stories with a love-hate relation with clerics because this are like "workers hired indefinitely" or clery officers and those as freelance workers. Some times they are allies because they are follower of the same deity, but they don't trust each other. I have also used binders and vestige pact magic as the "low-class" or almost-outlaw version of spellcasters. Vestiges would try to get more followers, like religious cults, and gods don't like this. Some vestiges are the spirits of former deities in allowed cults, but killed by another power. Some vestiges would be mortal with special powers, like a titanblood giant lord or an ancient dragon aspiring to ascend to divinity.

And the warmages in the beginning of the age of the gunpowder (with firearms like in d20 Past) looking for new tricks to not lose their jobs as mercenaries, for example illusory magic as smoke grenades, or mind-controlling animal swarns, or animating constructs, or using ectoplasm to build walls instantly or using a special variant of teletransportation to put traps like in tower defense videogame (for example Orcs Must Die or Fortnite: Save the World).
 

Bitbrain

Adventurer
When I started out I thought Taladas was cool but a bit much. Five years later I thought it was much closer to what I aspire to...
...Eberron more up the Taladas end. Greyhawk between Mystara and the FR. Not every DM is going to be interested in that kind of stuff though.
You know, I wouldn’t be surprised if Taladas actually inspired some parts of Eberron. It certainly feels like a sort of proto-Eberron.

You’ve got the Tamire elves (prototype for the Valenar), the Thenoi (not sure if I spelled it right) who seem like a mix of Thrane and Karrnath, and the gnomes who stand guard over the most inhospitable area (kind of like the Ghaash’Kala orcs in the Demon Wastes).

Edited for clarity.
 
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Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
To me, one of the most wondrous things about using the Eberron setting is how there are fresh takes on all of the races, and they have their own culture, dynamics and place in the world. It really makes it pop. I've been playing since the 80s and same-old-same-old is boring as heck.

So I alwasy homebrew my setting, and the same for adventures. I often work out new and interesting cultures and then work races into them, avoiding a racial monoculture. I run lots of shades of grey, and in most settings there are no "always evil" races. And even where there are, that doesn't mean that the players can't interact with them. Had a whole military communistic Hobgoblin culture one game that the PCs were (carefully controlled) guests in one of their cities due to being there under a treaty. Very interesting dealing with a generally LE society. (Note: they were communists because it made sense, not because of the "E" in LE.)

A world building series back in ole' TSR-era Dragon Magazine was for everything you build, put in a secret. Even if you never expect it to come out in play. I had one world that had a bunch of different sentient races because it had "thin" planar boundaries (in my own cosmology) and various gods over the millennium had sent their people (for whatever "people", not just PHB races) there in order for them to escape prosecution and genocide. The only exceptions were underdark halflings who were the original inhabitants (and had split as a race to have above ground cousins), and the elves who had multiple demi-plane "Courts" (lots of mini Feywilds) around a king or queen that randoms intersected various material planes for a while.

If you don't think your player will pay attention, part of it is that you need to make it bigger. Turn up the volume on what you are doing like Eberron or Darksun did and make the races really pop.
 

bedir than

Adventurer
When creating your own world, before making race/class restrictions/expansions, think "What kind of story do I want to tell?"

My setting is an exploration of who controls knowledge and the relationship between people and their pets. That lead to a few choices in regards to race. Some don't exist (Tiefling), others have new stories (Dwarf, Goliath, Halfling, Goblinoids). It also had me get rid of Wizards and Warlocks, for a while.
 

Connorsrpg

Adventurer
I love rolling a bunch of races on the extensive charts I have put together inspired by the 2E World Builder's Guidebook, including how they work together, and variants, etc. I love smashing these rolls/ideas together to create something new (and sometimes a lot of standard too). I think a setting is defined as much by what is not available as much as by what is present.

It all starts on the linked page, but I have MANY follow-up charts :)

Race Populations
 

aco175

Adventurer
I have not made a campaign in a long time, but I used to only change a few small things to make the races still 90% PGB. I tended to keep the stereotypes the same to make the players able to go against the type.

Classes are something I changed more since they can alter the feel better. I tend to make kingdoms or regions have class problems as well and not the whole world. One kingdom may have outlawed wizards but a PC could be from another kingdom where they are more normal. Same thing with druids or such. Fighters and thieves are everywhere, but some of the lesser known classes like swashbuckler did not generally come up. I liked 3e with the prestige classes and I could make some kingdom specific class like border-guard or royal knight.
 

5atbu

Explorer
Having done it many ways, I suggest that rather than invest heavily on your side, have a session zero, and ask the players to describe, between them, four major forces that they might ally with, or oppose, and what those forces are about and most importantly, their primary goal.

These forces can be anything, a religion, a political order, an ethnic group, a merchants guild, a nation or city; or all of the above; or less..

Factions in Forbidden Realms are a good example, and the rules on trust and ranks in factions in the DMG can be used.

Then, on your own, think about what the force is going to do to achieve their goal and NPCs that they deploy to achieve that.

I tend to avoid stereotypes of races, my background build is more cultural than racial.
 

Chaosmancer

Adventurer
Thinking about classes, you can do some interesting things with them, but it is really hard sometimes to get everything to fit.

For example, I went back and have been using "Primal" to describe the magic of Druids and Rangers, and some Barbarians (but not all) and then I started thinking about the differences between Divine magic and Primal Magic. I decided that Primal magic is tied to the World while Divine magic was tied to the people who belonged to the congregation. This actually leads to some interesting implications on how to combat the different organizations. It also led to me getting rid of all gods of nature and gods of the Arcane, because I decided those forces are outside the control of the gods, being more intrinsic to the fabric of the universe than the gods themselves.
 

jmartkdr2

Villager
I think about races in my settings a lot, because in many ways it's the main thing connecting the pc's to the world as opposed to just the community. This mean I also have to think about non-pc races like gnolls and minotaurs and orcs, since they affect the politics of everything. But fitting all the races together is the basic plan of how I make the world.

I usually try to give as many races as possible a little twist (but not too much) to make the world stand out a bit without invalidating the existing tropes. I let the players and the adventures fill in the small-scale details.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
For the PC races, I do give some thought to how they fit in and-or interact with each other; be that interaction trade or war or alliance or whatever. However I also realize that's all stuff that can develop during the campaign, so it's mostly low priority.

I give much more thought to where they'll each be in the world, both from a practical-for-the-race/culture point of view and a playability point of view - if there's no Elves within two thousand miles of the campaign area, for example, it becomes hard to justify Elves as a commonly playable race. Thus, when doing the mapping I try to make sure the geography of the campaign area provides logical places for each of the common races to live (or that there's reasonable justification for common races to be there e.g. seafaring Hobbits might be common along the coast even though none permanently live in the area).

Unlike the previous poster, however, I don't give nearly as much thought to 'monster' races other than some very basic where-are-they ideas, unless a particular race or culture is intended to be a long-term threat or enemy to the party and-or its home area. So for example, while I long ago decided there's a large colony of Leprechauns in the eastern forest I've never formally placed it anywhere specific or figured out what they're doing other than just existing; so far all they've ever been is a rumour, and they'll either show up in actual play sometime or they won't. :)
 

Coroc

Adventurer
...
Greyhawk between Mystara and the FR.
...
You surely mean FR between Greyhawk and Mystara. FR has much more cultural differences in close proximity than Greyhawk does. And much less overall material detailing how the different countries interact with each other. Ok Greyhawk has a little less detail generally I give you that.
 

Quartz

Explorer
When you construct a campaign setting do you give a lot of thought into how the basic races in the PHB fit into the world?
There was a series of articles in Dragon Magazine about world-building. Dungeoncraft, I think it was called. Well worth reading.

Personally, I'm a fan of 'less is more'. Do I need to explain something right now? If not, I don't until I need to.

One of the rules of Dungeoncraft was that every time you decided a major fact for your world you should generate a secret to go with it. For example, if you decide that there are elves in your world, your secret might be that each one is a shard of the soul of the god of the woodlands. The corrollary is that the players don't get to play an elf until they've learned that secret. Of course, you can reverse this and get the player to generate the secret!
 

the Jester

Legend
When you construct a campaign setting do you give a lot of thought into how the basic races in the PHB fit into the world?
Absolutely. I even have a write up for how each race fits in the setting, including the stereotypes they have of each other race. I'll post one as an example.



The driving philosophy behind world design for me is basically "I'm not going to worry anything I don't think my players are going to care about." That means I don't spend a lot of time on things like politics, identity, religion, history, the economy, etc., etc. because for the most part my players aren't going to care about any of that unless it has a direct impact on an adventure.
I've always found that if you have it detailed, it invites the players to stick their fingers in it. My groups have been intimately involved with politics, identity, religion, history, AND the economy, at various points.

But I'd like to have things like druidic orders, barbarian groups, etc., etc. actually tied directly into the setting. Does anyone here do that?
Heck yeah!

One key method is by using factions as a major element of the game setting, and tying some of the factions to various classes. The Oaken Circle is a faction that represents druidic interests and values, even if not everyone in it is a druid.

And let's talk about how races fit into your world. I've got the drow in mine but they're not evil. They're aggressively isolationist known for producing the finest silks in the land but they're not designed to be antagonist. That's what I've got tieflings for. How about you guys?
In my game, Drow are monsters, not pcs, and almost no pc starts off knowing they even exist. I don't use them as the monster of the week; they're special. So far in my 5e game, they have only appeared at the climax of Hall of the Fire Giant King.

As for tieflings... well, I said I'd post my notes on one race. Since you asked:

Players Guide to Cydra said:
TIEFLINGS

There are basically two sorts of tieflings in the city, those who are of tiefling lineage and those who are of human lineage. Most are the children of other tieflings, a true-breeding race who long ago made a deal with infernal powers for which they and all their descendants will forever pay. In addition, rarely, a human mother will birth a tiefling child when the child has a touch of fiendish ancestry. Only about 2% of tieflings are human-born; these are often shunned by their own families, and many are adopted by tieflings of the other type. There is a substantial tiefling population in Fandelose; they work hard to integrate themselves into larger society, serving in many guild halls or political committees.

Values: Tieflings, being touched by infernal powers on a racial level, appreciate Byzantine schemes and twisted political maneuvering. The infernal influence on the race manifests in many ways, from the subtle physical marks that indicate their race to a preference for written contracts over spoken deals. Typical tieflings see the following as virtues: cunning, keeping one's word, rules and regulations, charity, patronage, civility, wit, strictness, circuitousness, temperance, ambition. They see the following as vices: social disorder, lack of subtlety, rudeness, miserliness, short-sightedness, directness, drunkenness, penury, being of low social class.

Political Savvy: Most tieflings are, to some extent, born manipulators who love and enjoy political maneuvering. Together with their racial tendency toward ambition, this means that many tieflings become powerful politicians; nearly one politician in four in the city is a tiefling, while they make up only about 11% of the population. Tiefling politicians are often willing to aid other tieflings in gaining political positions in return for promises of future aid, and most tieflings have a friend or two in a position of power.

Contemptuous Outsiders: Many tieflings hold themselves apart from other races to some extent. Some even leave the city to find a solitary life, join covens of witches or evil cults, gather evil minions and take over ancient dungeons or link up with roving bands of brigands or bandits. Tieflings who stay in the city know that these distant kinfolk bring prejudice against them from the other civilized races, and some treat such rogue tieflings even more harshly than others would..

Language: Tieflings' native tongue is Imperial. See notes under Human, above.

Names: Tieflings tend to give their children sinister-sounding names, though there are many exceptions. Unlike most races, tieflings tend to use the same names for males and females alike. Some common tiefling names include Clenchkis, Ffash, Hkatha, Molachus, Mordus, Nurgle, Sepia, Serpentis, Thestra, Vextrigan.

Other Races: As always, exceptions apply, but tieflings generally have the following attitudes about the other races:

Dragonborn: Most tieflings feel that Dragonborn are heroes of the city and have truly earned respect and gratitude. However, those tieflings who leave the city and turn to evil often view dragonborn as dangerous threats to be avoided or murdered.

Dwarves: Dwarves are stodgy fool torn apart by the niggling differences between their clans. There is very little difference between one dwarf and another: all are dirty, greedy and constantly drunk.

Eladrin: Eladrin, with their intricate social networks and customs, understand the political arena and are therefore worthy of respect. They are also giften in arcane matters, another trait that tieflings both appreciate and, to some extent, share.

Elves: Elves are eladrin fallen to savagery, having devolved to a lower state. They are too stupid to understand complicated political structures, and many tieflings hold them in contempt. A small minority of tieflings finds elves disgusting to look upon, as if they were deformed.

Gnomes: Gnomes are cunning manipulators who form unseen cabals and dabble in everything from behind the scenes. Of all the other civilized races, only gnomes are so politically capable that they make tieflings feel self-conscious and inferior. A gnome always has a dozen secret agendas at once, and every word might have a double (or triple, or even quadruple!) meaning.

Goliaths: Big, dumb and clumsy, goliaths are basically good-natured oafs who always want to wrestle. They make great hirelings; they are far from clever enough to see any of their master's hidden agenda and are stupid enough to be easily managed. Goliaths have no political acumen at all and are therefore dismissed as a consideration by most tieflings.

Half-Elves: Politically savvy enough to be enjoyable opponents but not so skilled as to be dangerous, half-elves are generally merchants and diplomats. They have potential that they rarely realize. Tieflings appreciate and like half-elves.

Half-Orcs: Possessed of a low cunning and a propensity for violence that comes out at inopportune moments, half-orcs consistently overestimate themselves even as most other races consistently overestimate them. They make poor politicians but good criminals. As henchmen, their tendency to violent outbursts is their primary flaw. Tieflings like half-orcs but view dealings with them with caution.

Halflings: Halflings are much more than they appear. For one thing, they are tightly connected to gnomes, and many tieflings believe that halflings are simply gnomes by another name. Halflings don't favor politics, but their short-term cons, disguises and other chicanery often resemble short-term political moves, and tieflings therefore respect halflings more than they do other non-political creatures.

Humans: Humans are probably the closest thing to an equal that tieflings have. Though many humans lack the character traits required of politicians, those who are talented in such areas rival tieflings in skill. Humans are more devious than they admit and smarter than the other races give them credit for; tieflings like them for this, though they are wary of growing entangled in misguided human plots and being unable to extract themselves.

Warforged: The warforged are marvelous tools possessed of greater subtlety than most recognize. Tieflings appreciate the warforged tendency to predictability, but warforged also make them profoundly uneasy. Surely the creator (or creators) of such marvelous creatures would not make them without implanting secret methods of control- and therefore, warforged doubtless serve secret agendas unknown even to themselves.
 

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