D&D General I think the choice of Species / Race / Ancestry has more to do with Story than Rules...

Clint_L

Hero
Human. And I'd push hard for limiting all PCs to Human.

Why? Because now there's no reason to play anything else.

Side benefit for the DM: all the other previously-PC-playable species can now become non-playable monsters, opening up all kinds of opportunities.
Why is human the default? I don't get it. You could just as easily say "goblin. Because now there's no reason to play anything else."

If there's no mechanical reason to pick one thing over another, won't folks just go with whatever their character fantasy is?

Edit: there are games where there are no mechanical benefits to which species you choose, and players wind up choosing all sorts of different options.
 

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ezo

Hero
What do you think? Do you think players are more motivated by the mechanical benefits of a species, or by the story potential?
I think it is about 50/50. Half the players I know pick races they like, regardless of mechanical benefits; the other half look for races that have mechanical traits which will benefit their class.

What kind of choice would you make in the given scenario?
I lean more towards story reasons, personally. I would love to play in a game where the races had no "benefits" at all, and where just people.
 

CreamCloud0

One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
Why is human the default? I don't get it. You could just as easily say "goblin. Because now there's no reason to play anything else."

If there's no mechanical reason to pick one thing over another, won't folks just go with whatever their character fantasy is?

Edit: there are games where there are no mechanical benefits to which species you choose, and players wind up choosing all sorts of different options.
Humans are the default because they’re literally us, because, if we are playing some other species we kind of expect some sort of representation to display how they are different from us, like I said upthread, it’s fine pretending right up until the rubber hits the road and the mechanics start not living up to the narrative the fluff is telling us and you get hit with a ton of dissonance.

Mechanics are primarily designed assuming to represent human capabilities, and thus tell the narrative of humans the most accurately.
 

Clint_L

Hero
Humans are the default because they’re literally us, because, if we are playing some other species we kind of expect some sort of representation to display how they are different from us, like I said upthread, it’s fine pretending right up until the rubber hits the road and the mechanics start not living up to the narrative the fluff is telling us and you get hit with a ton of dissonance.
I don't. I guess you do. Things like "+1 dexterity" have zero impact on my ability to immerse myself in playing an elf. As I posted, there are lots of games that don't mechanically distinguish between playable species, and players have no problem playing them.

D&D has been gradually getting rid of mechanical distinctions between species (not to mention genders) for decades, and non-human characters are more popular than ever. Wanna bet they'll remain so when 2024 removes even more of those distinctions?
Mechanics are primarily designed assuming to represent human capabilities, and thus tell the narrative of humans the most accurately.
They don't tell the narrative of anything the most accurately. They are absurd abstractions. They are just as accurate for tortles, plasmoids, and talking chipmunks as for humans. Gygax happened to use humans as the baseline for attributes, but he could have just as easily used goblins, elves, or potatoes (though the latter would have probably been a tough sell).
 
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James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
While Gygax definitely wanted a human-centric campaign world, even he realized there were reasons for players to want to approach the game from a different viewpoint, and to have a different experience, thus giving us Dwarves, Elves, and Halflings are options (and eventually Gnomes and Half-Orcs).

To say there is no reason anyone would want or should be allowed to play anything else is, "Well, you know, that's just like uh, your opinion, man."

Many great fantasy worlds have existed where humans aren't the major race, or don't even exist at all (though, usually, various race tropes are applied so that you can often sum things up as "oh so these guys are like Roman Elves, and those guys are basically Bronze Age Dwarves")!

Earthdawn has Dwarves as the major power of the setting, through their trading empire, and having been the first race to go exploring the world and securing trade routes after Scourge- but the world still has Humans, Orks, Trolls, Windlings, T'skrang, and Obsidimen!

Talislanta infamously has No Elves!

Tekumel (I know, hiss, bad!) has humans...and several very alien races who populate it's world, each with their own purpose and potentially ancient history.

Gamma World's future Earth has true (Pure Strain) Humans who are vastly outnumbered by mutants, evolved animals, products of genetic engineering, and potentially emigrants from other worlds or dimensions!

I could go on, but the point is made. The only way there is "no reason" to not play a human, is if the campaign doesn't have any other intelligent races who would offer a different experience to players.
 

Retros_x

Explorer
But mechanics are meant to support and uplift story elements.
I don't know if thats true. For me it feels like more that the fixed attribute bonusses + darkvision is what makes the elfes "humans with pointy ears" - because players might choose them for their mechanics, not for their story. They kinda get forced into specific races because of their mechanics. If we really would want to focus the story elements of a race or lineage - I agree we need to get the mechanics out of there and shift them to the class. Or give them "narrative mechanics", similar to a background.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
People will--almost always--be drawn to some archetypes over others, in every area where they have a choice. Some players will always think rules-first, you can't stop or dissuade that. And some will always think flavor-first, same deal. In fact, I'd argue many people think flavor-first.

But many people also can kinda clue in on when things aren't all that good. It may take time, it may always be a weird subconscious thing, one's thoughts catching on something one can never quite identify.

Which is why it is such a big deal to have weak design in popular options. People won't stop choosing those things. But they will experience growing dissatisfaction/frustration/annoyance. And for a lot of casual folks, that effect is more than enough for them to just...choose not to play anymore.

It's not enough to simply be easy to get into. A game must also give folks a reason to stay. Far, far too many games--not just tabletop, games of all kinds--have hyperfocused on maximum easy-to-get-into, at the expense of reasons to stick around.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
I don't know if thats true. For me it feels like more that the fixed attribute bonusses + darkvision is what makes the elfes "humans with pointy ears" - because players might choose them for their mechanics, not for their story. They kinda get forced into specific races because of their mechanics. If we really would want to focus the story elements of a race or lineage - I agree we need to get the mechanics out of there and shift them to the class. Or give them "narrative mechanics", similar to a background.
I believe what Mephista means is that the examples you're citing are precisely the examples of dull, boring, ineffective design for ancestry/race/etc.

Remember back in 4e, when every race had a particular thing they were actually, demonstrably good at, because it was an action they could perform? Dragonborn breathed fire(/ice/etc.) and it was pretty great. Eladrin could teleport. Devas had past-life-memories. Dwarves could bounce back from an injury and still kick butt while doing it. Humans mastered more basics of their craft. Etc.

Building up mechanics that enhance and uplift the fiction, not just ones that tick off the basic expected boxes, is how you make an area of design interesting. Impoverishing it until it's a mechanical nothing doesn't do that--it just turns a previously interesting choice into a difference of which color you want your new car to be.

And, yet again, I will mention the 13A approach to attribute scores, where race contributes choice of A or B, and class contributes a choice of C or D. You can pick any combo of the two sets (e.g. {A,C}, {A,D}, {B,C}, {B,D}), so long as they don't double up. This preserves the association between specific races and specific ability scores, while ensuring that if a player just adores the idea of playing an Orc Wizard, they're just as baseline capable as anyone else. (It also represents the benefit of intentional, focused, professional training in something, which is kinda lacking in the way D&D has done ability scores.)
 
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Retros_x

Explorer
I believe what Mephista means is that the examples you're citing are precisely the examples of dull, boring, ineffective design for ancestry/race/etc.

Remember back in 4e, when every race had a particular thing they were actually, demonstrably good at, because it was an action they could perform? Dragonborn breathed fire(/ice/etc.) and it was pretty great. Eladrin could teleport. Devas had past-life-memories. Dwarves could bounce back from an injury and still kick butt while doing it. Humans mastered more basics of their craft. Etc.

Building up mechanics that enhance and uplift the fiction, not just ones that tick off the basic expected boxes, is how you make an area of design interesting. Impoverishing it until it's a mechanical nothing doesn't do that--it just turns a previously interesting choice into a difference of which color you want your new car to be.

And, yet again, I will mention the 13A approach to attribute scores, where race contributes choice of A or B, and class contributes a choice of C or D. You can pick any combo of the two sets (e.g. {A,C}, {A,D}, {B,C}, {B,D}), so long as they don't double up. This preserves the association between specific races and specific ability scores, while ensuring that if a player just adores the idea of playing an Orc Wizard, they're just as baseline capable as anyone else. (It also represents the benefit of intentional, focused, professional training in something, which is kinda lacking in the way D&D has done ability scores.)
Races would be definitely more distinctive with feats like that, but wouldn't "cool" actions like this push even more players choosing race for powers and not for their story? I truly am more of a fan of "roleplaying" feats that connect story with gameplay in that regard. An elven fighter should not feel that differently than a dwarven fighter in gameplay, but they should feel different connection to the world and story and context. If you choose an elve not because they can teleport, but because they can ask there great-great-great-great-great-grandfather for help who still lives in the undying court. (Just a maybe not so great example I thought in the moment)
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
Races would be definitely more distinctive with feats like that, but wouldn't "cool" actions like this push even more players choosing race for powers and not for their story? I truly am more of a fan of "roleplaying" feats that connect story with gameplay in that regard.
Humans were still the most popular race in 4e. Their "power" was getting to choose an extra at-will and an extra skill--and they were the only race that only got +2 to one stat, rather than two, albeit whatever stat you wanted. Objectively, most other races were at least a little more powerful starting out, and humans only really became great as a pick after multiple years of getting more support than pretty much anything else.

An elven fighter should not feel that differently than a dwarven fighter in gameplay, but they should feel different connection to the world and story and context. If you choose an elve not because they can teleport, but because they can ask there great-great-great-great-great-grandfather for help who still lives in the undying court. (Just a maybe not so great example I thought in the moment)
Rules cannot realistically represent that element--so they should not waste effort on things they cannot achieve. That's (part of*) why 4e left stuff like that, on the level of "this specific character's roleplay," as something to be talked out between player and DM.

What rules can do, however, is provide support for unusual expressions or combinations of ideas. As one example, 4e Eladrin (think "high elf, but its own distinct race") had interesting and distinctive support for the Fighter, Warlord, and Wizard classes (amongst others, those are just the ones I know relatively well.) Eladrin Fighters could benefit much more from their Intelligence score, which was normally not all that useful for 4e Fighters. Eladrin made excellent "Tactical" Warlords (effectively, a subclass focused on speed and group maneuvering), and got feats and Paragon Paths that enhanced them further in that direction. And then as a Wizard, Eladrin could take the feat Eladrin Sword Wizardry, which would let them treat longswords as if they were wands, gaining all the associated benefits of using a wand, while still having a melee weapon equipped for when that was relevant. (This, also, paired very nicely with certain nice Wizard and/or Eladrin PPs.)

IMNSHO, that is how you make different races feel different: reward interesting, flavorful choices that reinforce the theme and concept of that race. Build on a foundation set by the basic mechanics, and embellish those mechanics with support and options down the line. Anyone can be a Wizard--and, with a feat or two, even a regular Wizard can use a longsword as their spellcasting implement (="focus" in 5e terms). But only an Eladrin can use a longsword as if it were a wand.

When paired with the 13th Age style of stat boosts (one of two from race, one of two from class, your choices must differ), you get a system that is flexible enough to enable a consistent baseline of mechanical effectiveness, while still preserving the feeling that playing an X is different from playing a Y, even with the same class--because the things you do and care about actually do differ. The equipment you use, the abilities you take, the actions you favor, they actually differ, because there's mechanical incentive to make them differ.

*The other reason is that the fanbase reacted with violent anger at the built-in flavor of things like "Golden Wyvern Adept"--only to then rip the resulting books, which did what players had asked for, up one side and down the other for not having enough flavor. D&D truly has an unpleasable fanbase sometimes.
 

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