Intelligent Beings

Out of curiosity, in your D&D campaigns (or any fantasy where the world is somewhat contained inside a few continents), how many intelligent creatures do you have?

I ask because for some reason I have a hard time reconciling the fact that in say, Forgotten Realms, has hundreds of intelligent creatures, all with their own culture. It just sparks the improbable to me. I've played in campaigns that have many, and I enjoy them. But, there's always something in the back of my mind that's says, "really..."

Thanks.
 

Celebrim

Legend
I think you are going to have to define 'intelligent' and 'creature' to get any sort of real answer to your question, other than some variation of 'lots'.
 

Arilyn

Adventurer
It does seem implausible, but then I think there are a lot of gods in Forgotten Realms, all wanting their own worshippers. 😂
 

John Dallman

Explorer
The number of different intelligent species in a D&D setting is just implausible. I solved that for my homebrew world by having almost all of them originate in different worlds, and having come to the game world fairly recently, in the last few centuries. I've seen this approach used a few times for rationalised fantasy settings.

A friend's homebrew world has a different solution: there's one native species, the dragons, who made almost all the other species for various purposes. Elves for artistic creativity, dwarves for practical creativity, and so on. Different dragons had different ideas, which is why the structure is somewhat untidy. Gnomes were a variant on dwarves that tasted nicer.
 

Derren

Adventurer
Having hundreds of different cultures isn't all that unrealistic.
The amount if intelligent creatures is highly improbable, but most high fantasy games want ti have nothing to do with evolution and instead base their world on creationism. Thus the more gods there are the more races exist.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I ask because for some reason I have a hard time reconciling the fact that in say, Forgotten Realms, has hundreds of intelligent creatures, all with their own culture. It just sparks the improbable to me.
I think pretty much everything about the Forgotten Realms is improbable. Wizards, dragons, beholders. It feels a bit strange to me to pluck 'number of intelligent creatures' out of that world as the improbable factor.
 

Nagol

Unimportant
Out of curiosity, in your D&D campaigns (or any fantasy where the world is somewhat contained inside a few continents), how many intelligent creatures do you have?

I ask because for some reason I have a hard time reconciling the fact that in say, Forgotten Realms, has hundreds of intelligent creatures, all with their own culture. It just sparks the improbable to me. I've played in campaigns that have many, and I enjoy them. But, there's always something in the back of my mind that's says, "really..."

Thanks.
I just figure for D&D intelligence is so strongly linked to species survival that even species that look like inanimate objects will tend to develop it. Sort of like how detecting and discrimination of electromagnetic waves (i.e. some form of sight) has spread through most of the species on Earth.

Cultures are less improbable. If you start with one homogenous culture and then wall off 3 same-sized villages from each other for 3 generations their cultures will have diverged. Multiple cultures means limited contact either because of external factors or because of preference.
 

MGibster

Adventurer
How many intelligent creatures do we get from Greek myths? Centaurs, dryads, titans, harpies, various giants, lamian centaurs, gorgons, icthyocentaurs, satyrs, sirens, and sphinxes and I'm sure there's more. And that's not even getting into intelligent beings that are unique. And, hell, they could all talk to one another and shared the same Gods. I honestly don't worry about realism when reading Greek myths and I don't worry about it when playing D&D.

My only problem with races in D&D is that I don't feel as though they all belong in every campaign. How many different kind of dwarfs do I really need? Will Goliaths fit into my campaign?
 

Celebrim

Legend
Remember, in the animist view of the world everything is acted on by internal rather than external forces. Everything has its nature not because there is an external, universal, knowable law, but because everything is animated by a distinct spirit of its own will.

As such, even the rocks are intelligent. Every tree, every spring, every body of water, every meadow in every field, every cloud you see in the sky, and every wind that blows them - all intelligent.

Viewed this way, it's not the least bit surprising that the world should be filled innumerable sorts of intelligent beings.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I’m not sure it actually is improbable. It’s entirely possible that if we ever find planets with life outside our own, we will find ourselves to be outliers in this regard.

But also, think about how many Earth species are very close to our own intelligence.

Now, imagine that all the different Homo sapiens that once’s existed couldn’t all breed with each other, and had external help in surviving long enough to make it to recorded history.

We didn’t kill them off. The ones not killed by environment and geography and disease didn’t die, they became part of a whole that is now the modern human.

Now, extrapolate that out to the notion of such a genesis happening on every continent, with some happening several times on the same continent, in response to a greater evolutionary pressure toward tool use and complex cooperation, and outside influences keeping them from being whipped out by famine and disease.

It’s only improbable in the sense of all fantasy being improbable.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Sorry, but are we trying to understand how evolutionary forces and the unlikelihood of multiple intelligent species developing in parallel in the same biosphere is applicable to a pretend-elf game with magic and dragons and actual heavens and hells? I get that everyone has their buttons, I'm just wondering how it is you got past dragons flyiing, magic in general, pantheons of gods existing, the outer planes, even flumphs, to land on 'hey, it seems against our modern understanding of the development of intelligent species and available biosphere resources to have multiple intelligent species codevelop' as your suspension of disbelief breaker. ;)
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Sorry, but are we trying to understand how evolutionary forces and the unlikelihood of multiple intelligent species developing in parallel in the same biosphere is applicable to a pretend-elf game with magic and dragons and actual heavens and hells? I get that everyone has their buttons, I'm just wondering how it is you got past dragons flyiing, magic in general, pantheons of gods existing, the outer planes, even flumphs, to land on 'hey, it seems against our modern understanding of the development of intelligent species and available biosphere resources to have multiple intelligent species codevelop' as your suspension of disbelief breaker. ;)
I was way more succinct.
 

John Dallman

Explorer
Sorry, but are we trying to understand how evolutionary forces and the unlikelihood of multiple intelligent species developing in parallel in the same biosphere is applicable to a pretend-elf game with magic and dragons and actual heavens and hells?
In my case, I'm having trouble with the idea that lots of competing intelligent species have co-existed for long periods of time without the aggressive ones wiping out the others.
 
How many intelligent creatures do we get from Greek myths?
The Greek writers didn't worry about how their creatures evolved, whether they can consume enough calories relative to their energy expenditure, their ecological niches, whether enough of them exist to form a viable gene pool and so forth. We inhabit a different conceptual world.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
The Greek writers didn't worry about how their creatures evolved, whether they can consume enough calories relative to their energy expenditure, their ecological niches, whether enough of them exist to form a viable gene pool and so forth. We inhabit a different conceptual world.
And D&D writers do? Or Star Wars writers? Or Star Trek writers? Or Tolkien? Or Marvel’s Avengers?

I mean, there are plenty of ‘realistic’ games out there. D&D isn’t one of them. Maybe try a different game?
 

John Dallman

Explorer
But you’re OK with beholders?
If they're sufficiently rare, yes. I'm applying somewhat different standards to outright monsters, likely created by foolish wizards or malignant deities. For creatures like orcs that have a culture, breed, and generally have some relationship to economics and population dynamics, irrespective of their origins, I prefer higher standards of plausibility.
 
In my case, I'm having trouble with the idea that lots of competing intelligent species have co-existed for long periods of time without the aggressive ones wiping out the others.
The aggressive ones are monsters such as orcs and ogres? I think the answer is that elves, gnomes and the like have superior intelligence, magic, and technology, along with better cooperation and organisation due to good/lawful alignments.
 

Advertisement

Top