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

the Jester

Legend
I like that a lot, I hadn't considered politicians very much, since I tend to run feudal style politics, but it fits really well.

I might yoink some of those ideas.
Feel free! I find that writing these racial descriptions really helps me define what makes each one different from the others in my campaign, and really helps me roleplay npcs so that a tiefling feels like a tiefling, instead of like just another guy.
 

the Jester

Legend
Just to demonstrate how different the various races' roles and place in the world are in my game, I'll post my write up of another one- the dwarf.

Players Guide to Cydra said:
DWARVES
The dwarves of the city are a mix of refugee families from the rest of the (now-fallen) empire and immigrants from Black Gorge. Some of the Black Gorge dwarves feel that the newcomers need to move along, so there are often tensions between the two. Though they sometimes cooperate, they often bicker and sometimes even fight amongst themselves. Black Gorge dwarves are all hill dwarves, but not all hill dwarves in the city are from the gorge.
Values: Dwarven values are complex and run deep in their culture. Those dwarves who consistently flout dwarven values are shunned and ostracized; after all, if one will dishonor his ancestors, who else might he betray? Dwarves generally trust mechanics over magic, and often shun or distrust magic entirely. Dwarves consider the following to be important virtues: industriousness, honesty, social harmony, honor to the ancestors, courage, loyalty, thrift, discretion, drinking. Dwarves consider the following to be vices: social disorder, laziness, miscegenation, innovation, cowardice, talking too freely, overemotionalism, temperance.
Beards: Both male and female dwarves grow long, luxurious beards. In fact, much of a dwarf's identity is tied up in his or her beard, and a dishonored dwarf's punishment sometimes includes shaving. A dwarf without a beard is either a child or is seen as an object of pity or scorn.
Dwarves braid their beards, adorn them with jewels and thread them with precious metals. A dwarf can tell a great deal about another dwarf by “reading” his beard.
Hard and Soft: A concept that runs deep through most elements of dwarven culture is the idea of “hardness”, which might also be translated as strength, propriety, righteousness, harmony, honor or propriety. To “speak hard” means to tell the truth stringently, but it can also mean to speak kindly to someone (albeit still with stringent honesty). Males are considered hard by default, though they can lose this status through dishonoring themselves or others. A hard person honors his ancestors, keeps his word, works industriously, does not harm social order and fights to protect his family.
Softness sometimes connotes dishonor, disgrace, disharmony, chaos or impiety, but not always. Depending on the context, softness is often good. Females are (by default) soft. Soft implies flexibility and gentleness; a soft person might be indirect, deceptive, circuitous, oblique or mysterious. While hardness is always considered a good thing, softness is not always bad.
Patriarchal: Dwarven society is largely patriarchal. This doesn't mean that there are no female warriors or leaders; rather, it means that those females who take up male roles are expected to act like males (at least in most respects- they should still marry a good dwarven man, and dwarven culture strongly condemns homosexuality). This extends to naming; a female dwarf who takes up a male lifestyle usually adopts a male nickname, if she doesn't have a male-appropriate name.
Language: The Dwarven tongue is an ancient and proud one that does not easily accept change. The language has four genders: hard (or male), soft (or female), neuter and female-male, which is the gender used to describe a manly woman (such as a woman warrior or leader). Male words always begin with hard sounds- B, D, G (as in girl), K, P, S, ST, T, TH (as in this), V, Z.
The dwarven written language is runic in nature, and elder versions of dwarven runes have great power- they are connected to the Words of Creation that were used in the creation of the world. Dwarven runes form two distinct alphabets. One consists of the hard sounds (listed above) plus the hard forms of the dwarven vowels; the other consists of the soft sounds (F, H, J (as in Jon), J (as in jejune), L, M, N, R, SH, TH (as in think), W) and soft forms of the dwarven vowels. The form of the vowel used varies with the gender of the word; neutral and male-female words are context-specific (for example, a door might be spelled with hard vowels if it was a heavy barred metal door, while an unlocked, thin wooden door would be spelled with soft letters).
Dwarven written vowels are as follows: A (as in at), A (as in danger), E (as in best), E (as in eel), I (as in pin), I (as in pine), O (as in over), O (as in out), O (as in on), U (as in under). As stated above, each has two forms.
Names: Dwarven names are either 'soft' or 'hard', based on what sound they start with. No traditional dwarven name starts with a vowel, and dwarves with such atypical names are usually shunned by their own kind, as they are thought to have dishonored their 'borrowed' name. A dwarf has two names: a first (or 'borrowed') name and a second (clan) name. Dwarven first names are considered to be borrowed from the ancestors, and the actions of the current generation can increase or diminish the honor of those they are named for. A dwarf who loses his honor in the most egregious way may even be stripped of his name.
Dwarves who found new thaneholds, earn great honor or perform heroic actions in the service to their community are sometimes awarded the opportunity to found a new clan. This is a rare and signal honor reserved only for the greatest dwarven heroes. Such a dwarf adopts a third name, which becomes the name of his new clan. If he is already married, his wife (and any children) also adopt the third name. If a dwarf has three names, it is a sign that he is mighty and well-respected by his peers.
Hard names start with one of the following sounds: B, D, G (as in girl), K, P, S, ST, T, TH (as in this), V, Z. Some of the most common male dwarven names include Baldur, Braggi, Druntin, Galdor, Grunder, Grungi, Kandor, Keldon, Kulgi, Paktor, Sogrum, Sunder, Stander, Stumpar, Tordek, Vulker, Zaggi and Zotar.
Common female names include Barda, Helga, Honnid, Kagel, Kelga, Lorrid, Morrid, Muggi, Norid, Ruggi, Selda, Shapdara, Thora, Zelda and Zoral.
Dwarven clan names typically describe something about the ancestor who established the clan; for example, the Firestone clan (from the Black Gorge) mines firestone, the Hammerhead clan was established by a warrior-smith who wielded a hammer, the Chudstone clan was cast into dishonor and renamed after dishonestly using inferior stone for three generations, the Deepdelver clan was named for an adventurer who descended deep into the Underdark in his adventures, and so forth.
Other Races: Though there are naturally many exceptions, dwarves tend to stereotype other races in the following ways:
Dragonborn: Dwarves view the few dragonforged in the area with respect, as they have a reputation as fierce warriors in the army. Since there are so few dragonborn in the city, most dwarves have never actually met one.
Eladrin and Elves: Elves of all types, including eladrin, are flighty buggers who can't hold their liquor, don't grow facial hair and all look like females. Most elves are homosexuals (shudder) and libertines who wouldn't know an honest day's work if it smacked them upside the head.
Gnomes- Dwarves respect gnomes for their strong work ethic and tradition of mechanical engineering, but generally think that most gnomes are a little crazy. A common rumor is that a given gnome was exposed to alchemical fumes as a youth and that's why he's so weird. The real down side about gnomes is that everyone knows that they are hoarders of wealth and secretly pull a lot of strings from behind the scenes. Dwarves tend to like gnomes, but rarely trust them.
Goliaths: Goliaths are few enough in number that dwarves tend to have few preconceptions about them. However, the sheer size of a goliath is such that, upon encountering one, a dwarf is typically slightly intimidated and therefore somewhat put off.
Halfbreeds: It isn't their fault, the poor freaks. Dwarves tend to pity mixed-blood creatures, as they have no real legitimate place in the world- no community and impure ancestry. These poor things probably should have been killed as babies, and those who live to adulthood probably have had to do terrible things to survive. They are deeply untrustworthy.
Halflings: Halflings are untrustworthy and duplicitous, but at least they know their ancestors. As long as you watch the silverware, they make good cooks and servants.
Humans: Humans would probably be a lot better if they only remembered their ancestors. They are careless and unpredictable, including both the best and the worst among their number. Humans have great potential, but are often disappointingly unable to reach it.
Tieflings: There is no better example of why it is important to honor the ancestors than tieflings. They turned away from their own ancestors and toward fiendish powers that would have been best left untouched. As a result, they turned into the tainted creatures they are today, best shunned and avoided. It is never a good idea to enter into a contract with a tiefling.
Warforged: Dwarves look at warforged with the love and affection of an engineer looking at a finely-made great work. There is a great deal of debate among dwarves over whether the warforged are actually alive or whether they are simply extraordinarily clever machines.
 

Aebir-Toril

std::cout << "Hi" << '\n';
I spend loads of time detailing how the different races, and, indeed, how various cultures within those races, including different Human ethnicities, fit into the world.

That being said, I take a more "natural" approach in many settings, where I will detail the cultural conventions of a particular ethnic group or society in great detail, but I won't make all Humans from A perfect stereotypes and such.

So yes, I include extensive levels of detail about organizations, societies, kingdoms, and all of the related groups and hierarchies in my world.

This is because I strive for verisimilitude in my worlds, in both story and tone. The background is, to me, almost as important as the tale itself.
 

MGibster

Adventurer
I use to enjoy doing that, but there's just so damn many now I find it tedious.
I'm starting with the core races and I doubt I'll go too far beyond that.

Tieflings: The political elite of the Empire. There are tieflings who aren't members of this elite but they're still looked upon with suspicion by most others.

Dragonborn: Shock troopers created by the Empire is past eons. After serving in the Imperial army for twenty years they are given land of their own to settle in. Land that is often already occupied by those they conquered or in vassal states.

Hafling: Citizens of no nation, they are protected by Imperial law and heavily engage in trade throughout the empire.

Orc (I use Half-Orc stats): One of the more belligerent races brought to heel by the empire. Their armor is highly prized by Dragonborn soldiers and they make great mercenaries throughout the empire.

Human: Numerous and belligerent.

Elf: Mostly vassal states of the empire. They provide goods, services, and troops when required.

Dwarf: Mostly vassal states of the empire. They provide goods, services, and troops when required.

Gnome: The Empire made an example of the Gnome Free States when they resisted Imperial rule. The Gnomes are nearly extinct and most of the shorter lived races can go through their entire lives without ever seeing one. Gnome automatons are highly valued in Imperial courts.

I plan on introducing some races later in the campaign from outside the empire. Those turtle people for one and many a goliath.
 

Celebrim

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?
I construct a campaign setting, then pick and choose what D&D is offering to incorporate into it. If it isn't to my taste it doesn't go in, and if I can't find something to my taste I make it.

Whatever you don't have some ideas about, doesn't exist to interact with and so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy that no one will be interested in it.
 

QuentinGeorge

Explorer
Elves: Ancient, almost Greco-Roman style civilisation. Had great empires in the past, enslaved humans
Dwarves: Mountain dwarfs cleave very much to Norse style, hill dwarfs more Sumerian
Halflings: Central Asian-style nomadic
Gnomes: In my campaign they are very closely related to dwarves, but are exiled from their homelands. Their diaspora draws a lot from Medieval Jewish style communities.
Orcs/Goblins/Hobgoblins/Goblins: In my campaign are all part of the same people. Elements of Turko-Persian culture, misunderstood people, not so much "evil" as in with a different set of cultural touchstones and moral rules.
Tieflings: Rulers of a secret hidden empire in the fair south.
Dragonborn: Not a true race per se, more akin to the 3rd edition fluff.
 

Arnwolf666

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?"
I kind of hate how players assume that certain things are in a setting. In addition to that it disgusts me that they weakened drow and made them a PC race. I preferred them much more powerful and as NPC’s.
 
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.
I definitely do not :) But I am referring to 1E/2E FR compared to 1E/2E Greyhawk, primarily! Very little was written about GH after 1E, and it all makes it look even more simplistic than it was. The FR actually has a similar thing - 3E and onwards FR has way less detail about cultural interaction and so on then 2E did. You read 3E or later FR stuff and compare it to 1E GH stuff and it's more similar. But there are entire FR books in 1E or 2E which are basically descriptions of culture and politics and trends, with relatively little game information (usually some spells/magic items though - some of which will fit with/into the cultural stuff). People sneer at that now, often brutally sneer, basically spitting on it, but at the time it was remarkable. GH's countries may have conflicts, but they don't have much of a sense that they evolved together, and many seem to have simply sprung into being. It's not as bad as Mystara of course, where it seems like someone just clicked some new hexes into place with an entirely novel and alien culture (which, in isolation, is cool, but in the context of surrounding countries is bizarre). Even the FR is far from Taladas, let's be clear on that, and GH isn't miles down the line towards Mystara.

Just as a note, Birthright was more up the Taladas end. Ravenloft is way down the Mystara end but it's entirely conscious and in-setting so works.
 
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.
Huh. That is an interesting comparison. I feel like Zeb Cook would be pretty inspirational to any setting-writer reading his stuff. He came up with both Taladas and Planescape for goodness' sake, two of D&D's most amazing settings (perhaps the best two settings D&D has ever seen, I would personally suggest - but that is very much "like, just my opinion, man"!).

There's also something about the Glass Sailors that makes me feel they'd fit right into Eberron (they also have an interesting proto-Morrowind vibe).
 

Chaosmancer

Adventurer
I definitely do not :) But I am referring to 1E/2E FR compared to 1E/2E Greyhawk, primarily! Very little was written about GH after 1E, and it all makes it look even more simplistic than it was. The FR actually has a similar thing - 3E and onwards FR has way less detail about cultural interaction and so on then 2E did. You read 3E or later FR stuff and compare it to 1E GH stuff and it's more similar. But there are entire FR books in 1E or 2E which are basically descriptions of culture and politics and trends, with relatively little game information (usually some spells/magic items though - some of which will fit with/into the cultural stuff). People sneer at that now, often brutally sneer, basically spitting on it, but at the time it was remarkable. GH's countries may have conflicts, but they don't have much of a sense that they evolved together, and many seem to have simply sprung into being. It's not as bad as Mystara of course, where it seems like someone just clicked some new hexes into place with an entirely novel and alien culture (which, in isolation, is cool, but in the context of surrounding countries is bizarre). Even the FR is far from Taladas, let's be clear on that, and GH isn't miles down the line towards Mystara.

Just as a note, Birthright was more up the Taladas end. Ravenloft is way down the Mystara end but it's entirely conscious and in-setting so works.
Yeah, I've got a tiny little book for Greyhawk in 3.5 (an Atlas I think it) and there is some really interesting detail on the various countries and their relationships... in terms of who is fighting, who dislikes each other, and who is hiding where.

But, I also think that is perfectly understandable.

Writing a world with realistic interactions between a half dozen human kingdoms is a feat worthy of praise in literary circles, add in half a dozen different races and there kingdoms and histories... Honestly, the person who pulls off the perfect DnD world with realistic meshing of alien and human cultures is worthy of tons of praise.
 

Coroc

Adventurer
@Chaosmancer and @Ruin Explorer

But you know what, although i consider the group i am playing with and dming for to be very good roleplayers they tend to invest not to much interest in overall setting lore and politics unless it involves their current mission.
So it is mainly DM (me) who really cares and, hm, if i do not like any of the stuff Rule ZERO applies :p
 
@Chaosmancer and @Ruin Explorer

But you know what, although i consider the group i am playing with and dming for to be very good roleplayers they tend to invest not to much interest in overall setting lore and politics unless it involves their current mission.
So it is mainly DM (me) who really cares and, hm, if i do not like any of the stuff Rule ZERO applies :p
I think that's very common but it is interesting how different approaches can influence the same players. For example, with my main group, they largely match that description, in that unless something is relevant to them, they don't typically care too much (or is fascinating or open to leveraging!).

But one of them has just started a campaign which we are playing some weeks and he managed to get the same players quite invested, at least initially, in the setting by providing useful prompts during character creation and getting people to be a bit more involved in the setting as a result. I guess we'll see we're all L14, if that sticks, though.
 

Chaosmancer

Adventurer
@Chaosmancer and @Ruin Explorer

But you know what, although i consider the group i am playing with and dming for to be very good roleplayers they tend to invest not to much interest in overall setting lore and politics unless it involves their current mission.
So it is mainly DM (me) who really cares and, hm, if i do not like any of the stuff Rule ZERO applies :p
Fair enough, it is really hard to get people involved. I've done it once or twice, but effort in does not translate well into the players enjoyment, which makes it hard.
 

Zardnaar

Hero
Depends on the setting.

Ones like Midgard are kinda self contained, Greyhawk I lean towards pre 3E, Everron, Spelljammer etc anything goes.

Homebrew I normally allow the phb races.
 
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.

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?
Yes. I'd like the races to fit into the world, it's mythology, to have histories with eachother, cultural & physiological differences, and so forth. I might tweak 'em a bit here and there to do so.

I'm not looking to reinvent the wheel or anything .
Hey, if no one ever re-invented the wheel, we'd be tooling around in Sumerian chariots.

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?
I'm increasingly liking the idea of PC classes being nearly unique to PCs. Sure, there are other scholarly wielders of arcane magic, other priests, other soldier, warriors, crooks, bandits, swashbucklers, and the like out there, but they're not all going to just be NPCs walking the same class progression as a PC.
 

Bawylie

A very OK person
I do whatever I can to justify excluding wizards & sorcerers, first.

Then I look at the setting and theme and work on excluding the obvious choice. For instance, in a game that will involve heavy wilderness exploration/trekking, I drop out rangers and whatever background negates challenges in the wilderness.

For races I tend to stick to the PH but cut or add according to theme. My Ravenloft games, for example, have humans, halflings, and dwarves only for playable races. But my home brew world allows any races at all. Except gnome.
 

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