Intelligent Beings

And D&D writers do? Or Star Wars writers? Or Star Trek writers? Or Tolkien? Or Marvel’s Avengers?
You're quite right but my point is that while modern scientific concerns often don't apply in our fiction, they could never apply to the ancient Greeks because the ideas didn't exist yet.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
You're quite right but my point is that while modern scientific concerns often don't apply in our fiction, they could never apply to the ancient Greeks because the ideas didn't exist yet.
I don’t think scientific concerns (modern or not) apply to any fantasy writing, by definition. It’s rather the point of fantasy.

I’d argue that requiring your fantasy to meet modern scientific standards essentially eliminates a genre of literature. Why would anybody want to do that? We all know it’s not real. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t write it. Tolkien didn’t think Balrogs existed; he was writing fantasy.
 

MGibster

Adventurer
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.
When I debate with some of my friends about the existence of Big Foot I bring up things like ecological niches and energy expenditure. Just how much would a 400 pound 7 foot tall simian need to eat in order to survive? How many of them need to exist in order to maintain a stable population? How come we haven't found any of their bodies, scat, nests, evidence of predation, or some other physical evidence?

But why should you worry about such things when you're in Faerûn? In what manner does this touch your game? How many fantasy games are improved by applying a modern understanding of evolutionary theory to a cockatrice or a dragon? From my limited understanding of physics, a dragon shouldn't be able to fly but that doesn't bother me in places like Krynn where they soar through the air. I just need enough verisimilitude to get me through the day. I don't need to see a huge dragon at the bottom of a dungeon in a 50x50 room with no exits for it to squeeze in and out of without a damned good explanation. That said, I did rather enjoy those "Ecology of..." articles from Dragon back in the day because the information gave me ideas for how to use the creatures in the game.

But some people love world building and coming up with something, well, I don't like to use the word realistic but I'm not sure what else to use in it's stead. And that's a totally legitimate way to look at things.
 
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 can get past dragons (and flumphs) because they are so limited and a world like FR has an enormous portion that's still remote and unexplored. There are also planes of existence for other creatures to live on, that could rarely come into contact with the Material plane.

My thought is maybe I didn't explain it well enough. It just seems to me that all these races with cultures, especially since they live together, seems like they would clash a lot more. Where as a dragon, even an evil one, might realize that they need men, dwarves, etc. to be fulfilled.

Here is a small list: Aarakocra, Azer, Bugbears, Bullywugs, Centaur, Chuul, Cyclops, Drow, Duergar. This is just from the MM and only using A-D. I did not include other planar creatures, as for some reason it's easier for me to rationalize. I only included creatures (races) that are large in population, carry culture, and have contact with the traditional fantasy races. I don't know, it seems like a lot to me.

I should also point out that I like D&D settings. It's just from a world building perspective, this one thing seems "off" to me.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
I had addressed this point in an earlier homebrew campaign world that I ran two campaigns in, totaling 12 years between them. (D&D 3.0 and 3.5.)

There was a large number of material planes, and they "floated" in the elemental planes, though they had separate locations/vectors in each of the elemental planes. When material planes were particularly close, it was possible to travel from one material plane to another using that element of the material plane - for for example when they were close in the elemental plane of water you could sail from one to another, and when they were lose in the elemental plane of earth you could travel underground (or via earthquake while underground) from one to another.

(Heh, i just noticed that when close in the elemental plane of air, you could get from one to another via tornado. I think the Wizard of Oz just became canon somewhere in that cosmology.)

None of that was common knowledge, but it came out explicitly in the second campaign.

Anyway, the particular material plane I was running had "thin walls", so it was easier to get to. Over the eons since the universe was created, various gods had used as a refuge to lead their chosen people away from oppression, genicide, or other calamedy. For example the humans got there were commoners fleeing on 13 Great Ships that sailed the seas for three years, fleeing a terrible war with the elves. (The human rulers were LE with demonic blood in their bloodlines.) There were even orcs from two different material planes with very different cultures. The only native sentient race was effectively underdark halflings that weren't around anymore.

Elves were an interesting case. They had Courts that were really fey demi-planes (this was before the Feywild was introduced as a plane in D&D), and the King/Queen of each Court had some control over how them moved in the elemental planes to bring them in and out of conjunction with the other material planes. The elves in the world at the start of the first campaign were ones abandoned there when their court moved on centuries before. In the second campaign a new Court came close and it happened to be the one that the humans had fought and fled.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I can get past dragons (and flumphs) because they are so limited and a world like FR has an enormous portion that's still remote and unexplored. There are also planes of existence for other creatures to live on, that could rarely come into contact with the Material plane.

My thought is maybe I didn't explain it well enough. It just seems to me that all these races with cultures, especially since they live together, seems like they would clash a lot more. Where as a dragon, even an evil one, might realize that they need men, dwarves, etc. to be fulfilled.

Here is a small list: Aarakocra, Azer, Bugbears, Bullywugs, Centaur, Chuul, Cyclops, Drow, Duergar. This is just from the MM and only using A-D. I did not include other planar creatures, as for some reason it's easier for me to rationalize. I only included creatures (races) that are large in population, carry culture, and have contact with the traditional fantasy races. I don't know, it seems like a lot to me.

I should also point out that I like D&D settings. It's just from a world building perspective, this one thing seems "off" to me.
So, here’s a thing to consider. A bullywug will 99% of the time be in a swamp, hunting and gathering and worshipping weird swamp gods and being gross.

A centaur gonna be in the forest or maybe some steppes, in fairly small numbers, only safe from being wiped out by disease by luck and divine intervention. Again, like regional species IRL, but with gods looking out for them against stuff like large scale disease and famine.

So many of these creatures live in places humans only settle because there isn’t much competition or because they want to escape other humans. So, not in large enough numbers to really threaten the local bullywug or centaur population.

The peoples that do exist in the same niche either are in conflict, or cooperate instead.

Aarakokra live where pretty much no other intelligent creatures live, except maybe giant eagles and the like.

Honestly, IMO it’s mostly goblinoids and orcs that pose a logical issue here. In my worlds, bugbears are forest dwellers and live in trees. Goblins are scavengers and live anywhere they can coexist with other intelligents. Hobs I often forget about unless someone wants to play one, tbh. Orcs live in the wild places, and most conflict with them is colonial, with the “pretty” races expanding where they don’t belong.

Total population numbers of sapient species is similar to real world humans at a higher tech level, so entirely sustainable.
 
I don't know, it seems like a lot to me.
You're right, it is. Especially when they live in the same environment and that environment produces few resources, such as mountains, deserts, and tundra.

For example according to the 5e DMG, desert encounters include humans, kobolds, gnolls, hobgoblins, jackalweres, ogres, thri-kreen, yuan-ti, couatls, lamias, cyclopes, medusae, nagas, efreets, sphinxes, and dragons.
 
So, here’s a thing to consider. A bullywug will 99% of the time be in a swamp, hunting and gathering and worshipping weird swamp gods and being gross.

A centaur gonna be in the forest or maybe some steppes, in fairly small numbers, only safe from being wiped out by disease by luck and divine intervention. Again, like regional species IRL, but with gods looking out for them against stuff like large scale disease and famine.

So many of these creatures live in places humans only settle because there isn’t much competition or because they want to escape other humans. So, not in large enough numbers to really threaten the local bullywug or centaur population.

The peoples that do exist in the same niche either are in conflict, or cooperate instead.

Aarakokra live where pretty much no other intelligent creatures live, except maybe giant eagles and the like.

Honestly, IMO it’s mostly goblinoids and orcs that pose a logical issue here. In my worlds, bugbears are forest dwellers and live in trees. Goblins are scavengers and live anywhere they can coexist with other intelligents. Hobs I often forget about unless someone wants to play one, tbh. Orcs live in the wild places, and most conflict with them is colonial, with the “pretty” races expanding where they don’t belong.

Total population numbers of sapient species is similar to real world humans at a higher tech level, so entirely sustainable.
Yes, this is exactly how I used to rationalize it. The ecosystem methodology served me well for twenty years. It's only lately that I've had the new thoughts. Still not even close to a deal breaker, especially when the DM handles it well. But I like that thought of them being remote, like the Yanamamo tribe of Brazil. It's just that if they are so remote, then adventurers would rarely ever see them.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
You're right, it is. Especially when they live in the same environment and that environment produces few resources, such as mountains, deserts, and tundra.

For example according to the 5e DMG, desert encounters include humans, kobolds, gnolls, hobgoblins, jackalweres, ogres, thri-kreen, yuan-ti, couatls, lamias, cyclopes, medusae, nagas, efreets, sphinxes, and dragons.
Some of those don’t consume much or any resources, while others eat the others, and still others don’t fully live in the desert, but are connected to other planes.

Also, the game world doesn’t assume that all those critters live in every desert. You pick a few, and this desert/region of the desert is the territory of those critters. Some of whom are much better at desert survival than humans.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Yes, this is exactly how I used to rationalize it. The ecosystem methodology served me well for twenty years. It's only lately that I've had the new thoughts. Still not even close to a deal breaker, especially when the DM handles it well. But I like that thought of them being remote, like the Yanamamo tribe of Brazil. It's just that if they are so remote, then adventurers would rarely ever see them.
Right, adventurers should only meet them as either the oddball/exile traveling where vanishingly few of their kin have ever gone, or bc the party is in their territory. It’s fun stuff!
 

Tonguez

Adventurer
okay on the side of speculative science

1 - At one point on Earth there were at least 4 or 5 different co-existing Hominins: Neanderthals, Denisovans, Modern Humans, Homo Erectus and Floresiensis (probably a dwarf erectus). Eeven Humans have had both robust archaic forms (eg Cro-Magnons) which differ subtly from us more gracile Modern Humans.

So we know its possible to have different humanoids around and eventually interacting. On Earth those interactions included interbreeding and conflict and lead eventually to the extinction of everything except humans.

2 - However now imagine a much larger world with more resources, the various humanoids develop in relative isolation from each other and all achieve a level of civilization before coming in to direct conflict. In such a World where Neanderthal miners live in huge underground caverns and are known for their forging skills they could have quite possibly continued to survive after contact with the Humans.

3 - add in the effect of magic and horny dragons and meddling gods and you get even more cultural diversity than on earth. Those gracile Homo Erectus archers in the forest were exposed to Fae magic and are now virtually immortal, have pointy ears and become a new subspecies everytime they burp



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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
okay on the side of speculative science

1 - At one point on Earth there were at least 4 or 5 different co-existing Hominins: Neanderthals, Denisovans, Modern Humans, Homo Erectus and Floresiensis (probably a dwarf erectus). Eeven Humans have had both robust archaic forms (eg Cro-Magnons) which differ subtly from us more gracile Modern Humans.

So we know its possible to have different humanoids around and eventually interacting. On Earth those interactions included interbreeding and conflict and lead eventually to the extinction of everything except humans.

2 - However now imagine a much larger world with more resources, the various humanoids develop in relative isolation from each other and all achieve a level of civilization before coming in to direct conflict. In such a World where Neanderthal miners live in huge underground caverns and are known for their forging skills they could have quite possibly continued to survive after contact with the Humans.

3 - add in the effect of magic and horny dragons and meddling gods and you get even more cultural diversity than on earth. Those gracile Homo Erectus archers in the forest were exposed to Fae magic and are now virtually immortal, have pointy ears and become a new subspecies everytime they burp
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Not only all that, but remember that the “other” hominids weren’t like...killed by homo erectus. Neanderthals just got subsumed via sex, and also may have been less good than us at adapting to changes of environment.

But dnd races are all tool using cooperative people with the same basic communicative capabilities. Looking at IRL history, there is exponentially more trade than war. When dwarfs mine and forge naturally as well as a human who has spent years and years training, human groups are going to look to trade with dwarves for the products of those skills more than they will seek to burn their towns and take their food.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
Didn't Ed Greenwood say (even recently in an article on very site) that the FR is quite literally many realms that were forgotten?

Likewise the Witcher novels and games take place in a world that had a "convergence" of worlds in the past which dumped elves from the elf world, vampires from the vampire world, dragons from the dragon world, etc all into one world.

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.
This is also true.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
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.
In FR and Greyhawk canon, you have gods to do this. You don't have to worry about the question of how this developed, if the answer is "It didn't - life on this planet was created by gods."

You then only have to answer how this situation is sustained. And once again, you can lean into the idea that there are external forces that work to maintain it - Gods (through clerics/druids or directly) bless crops to keep people from starving, they cut down a lot of disease, keep infant and maternal mortality low, and birth rates up, and so on.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I don’t think scientific concerns (modern or not) apply to any fantasy writing, by definition. It’s rather the point of fantasy.
Yeah, but strangely, Frodo generally walks on the ground, rather than floating away into space, weightless. Fantasy selectively breaks rules, rather than just tossing the entire book out the window all the time. If zero scientific concerns applied, then fantasy would be incomprehensible. We need the world to be mostly like ours to be able to make sense of the thing.

So, we then get to quibble over which rules get broken, and when, and how. Sometimes, these concerns get to become plot points....
 

Derren

Adventurer
Not only all that, but remember that the “other” hominids weren’t like...killed by homo erectus. Neanderthals just got subsumed via sex, and also may have been less good than us at adapting to changes of environment.
Isn't that what usually happens in most high fantasy worlds? The process is not complete but it is a common theme that elves, dragons, sometimes dwarves, etc. are slowly going extinct and humans take over everything.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Isn't that what usually happens in most high fantasy worlds? The process is not complete but it is a common theme that elves, dragons, sometimes dwarves, etc. are slowly going extinct and humans take over everything.
Maybe? It’s a thing in some fantasy for sure. I’ve no clue if it’s the standard in worlds that have humans and other races.
 

Voadam

Adventurer
The Oathbound setting has this baked into its backstory. It is seven realms with semidivine ruler/prisoners who reach into a fantasy multiverse and pull in individuals, groups, cities, and armies and plunks them into their themed realms hoping to spur an evolutionary fittest survival contest that will result in someone tough enough to defeat them and take their place bound to the world. So there is a reason for the D&D standard huge number of intelligent races and monsters running around. The world is also full of divine power so things grow quickly and more powerfully so there is even a reason for rapid level development and huge populations.

In my current D&D gothic horror game I have a human focus with most monsters being variants of humans (undead, werewolves, NPCs, etc.) but also allowing in D&D stuff, so the party has a half-elf and a half-orc and elves and dwarves and orcs have history and story significance for the game. The most monsterish things have been Cthulhu mythos type creatures.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
Didn't Ed Greenwood say (even recently in an article on very site) that the FR is quite literally many realms that were forgotten?
Several cultures are just that. The ersatz Egyptians, Babylonians and Assyrians are all originally those Earth cultures magically transported to Faerun.

Likewise the Witcher novels and games take place in a world that had a "convergence" of worlds in the past which dumped elves from the elf world, vampires from the vampire world, dragons from the dragon world, etc all into one world.
IIRC The Witcher setting was a pretty standard fantasy world (without humans), that had humans from Earth and monsters from other worlds dumped into via the convergence.
 

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