D&D 5E Jeremy Crawford Discusses Details on Custom Origins

Azzy

ᚳᚣᚾᛖᚹᚢᛚᚠ
What you fail to understand is that I do not think of only myself. I will have no trouble at all to say no. But I do think about young or inexperienced DMs that will have troubles with saying no or to justify themselves. Will I be annoyed in having to justify myself? Not the first few times. But after a while, it will get on my nerves. If an old stubborn grognard like me expect troubles, you can bet that not a few DMs will have these problems and will have troubles to justify themselves.

Banning a book is never an easy thing to do. In my area, about 40% welcome the change, 40% don't want to hear about it and 10% don't care at all. It was made at the local store and it was about 300 people that took time to answer. Nothing scientific in that survey but it does show that this book (or some of the rule changes) are far from being unanimously acclaimed. Enough for the store owner to order about half the normal amount of books he normally orders. The debate at the store is as hot as it is on this and other forums.
Have we really reached this stage?
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Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I feel like you entirely missed the point.

The point isn't that an all-human team sucks. The point is that you can tell the difference between a human fighter and a dwarf fighter. They aren't the same character at all. Similiar? Of course, they are both fighters, but they are also very different. And if they aren't that it is a problem.

And, like Cadence said. If DnD had not come out with the ability for people to play other races, and a different game did, then DnD would have to adapt or die. Most Fantasy and Sci-Fi TTRPGS allow for the players to be one of multiple "races" because that offers more freedom to explore the most common tropes of those genres.
I think you're the one who missed the point. It's been a truism for decades that race doesn't have very much weight (for lack of a better term) with regards to what makes a character notable, at least insofar as what's on their character sheet goes. (I know this isn't a very concrete example, but I have a vague memory of an NPC book - 3E's Enemies and Allies maybe? - which said something to the effect of "if you want to change the races of any of these characters, it's pretty easy; just modify the ability scores and one or two other, altogether minor things.") Aspects such as class, level, and gear are far more salient; sure, you can play up your character's race, but the importance of that in system-immanent terms is modest at best.

The idea that D&D would have to "adapt or die" if it hadn't had Tolkien-style demihuman PCs similarly strikes me as unlikely. The game established its brand identity early on, attaining a death grip on its market niche that it's never really lost (though there have certainly been periods where it waxed and waned). By contrast, Middle-Earth-based RPGs have come and gone. D&D wouldn't have died for want of halflings.
 
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Chaosmancer

Legend
I think you're the one who missed the point. It's been a truism for decades that race doesn't have very much weight (for lack of a better term) with regards to what makes a character notable, at least insofar as what's on their character sheet goes. (I know this isn't a very concrete example, but I have a vague memory of an NPC book - 3E's Enemies and Allies maybe? - which said something to the effect of "if you want to change the races of any of these characters, it's pretty easy; just modify the ability scores and one or two other, altogether minor things.") Aspects such as class, level, and gear are far more salient; sure, you can play up your character's race, but the importance of that in system-immanent terms is modest at best.

If all race is, is a +2 or a -1 to certain scores, then yeah, it isn't even worth discussing.

I happen to usually see it as more than that. Like the Elven inability to sleep, or dwarven resistance to toxins, or in more modern versions, the infernal magic of Tielflings.

The idea that D&D would have to "adapt or die" if it hadn't had Tolkien-style demihuman PCs similarly strikes me as unlikely. The game established its brand identity early on, attaining a death grip on its market niche that it's never really lost (though there have certainly been periods where it waxed and waned). It wouldn't have died for want of halflings.

Really?

Let me propose it this way.

Game #1 allows you to play a human in a fantasy world, fighting demons, dragons, and other forces of supernatural evil.

Game #2 allows you play a human in a fantasy world, fighting demons, dragons, and other forces of supernatural evil. Or, you could play as any of five other races.


Which game, assuming their mechanics are equally well-designed, do you think would do better?

Look up "traditional DnD party" and you get images like this

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You would have to try pretty hard to find a "classic" DnD party that is all humans. Part of why DnD grabbed the Niche it did and was so successful, was because they offered a variety of options for people to play as. It wasn't just wizard, fighter, cleric, rogue, it was also elf, dwarf, human, and halfling.

The very fact that mono-race parties are the exception, seems to point to that as well. If they didn't have halflings, and someone else did? Yeah, DnD might not have made it. After all, some of the DnD clones that came out around the same time didn't have races other than human. And they did fail.
 

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Cadence

Legend
Supporter
I'm not a Tolkien Scholar, but I think if you have to get to the point of "but which elves were better in which ways" and "or did it all come from their personal and close relationship to their gods to get all that" I think we've moved beyond "Tolkien elves were dexterous and that was it"

I was going to support my point by posting that in the 1e UA (so way back in 1985) we got the stats for the different kinds of Elves... but I pulled up what the mods are, and.. I just can't. You win.

The bonuses for some of them seem less sensible to me than the Valley Elves.

"Valley elves are thought to be an offshoot of the gray elves, and have all powers and abilities of that sub-race, plus the ability to speak the gnomish language. Valley elves are unusually tall, some of them growing to the height of humans. They are shunned by other elven sub-races, who do not consider them “true elves.” The name of valley elves is derived from the Valley of the Mage, where the sub-race is headquartered in the WORLD OF GREYHAWK‘“ Fantasy Game Setting, but valley elves are equally at home in any similarly far-removed section of the world free of other elvish influences."

I somehow (mercifully) had forgotten this, but will now do all gnomes in valspeak. Like totally, fer shur.
 
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Alzrius

The EN World kitten
If all race is, is a +2 or a -1 to certain scores, then yeah, it isn't even worth discussing.

Which is correct in terms of how big of an impact they have in terms of what your character can do under the game engine.

I happen to usually see it as more than that. Like the Elven inability to sleep, or dwarven resistance to toxins, or in more modern versions, the infernal magic of Tielflings.

Right, which are issues of mechanics, and don't have nearly as much impact as five or six levels of, well...any particular class.

Really?

Let me propose it this way.

Game #1 allows you to play a human in a fantasy world, fighting demons, dragons, and other forces of supernatural evil.

Game #2 allows you play a human in a fantasy world, fighting demons, dragons, and other forces of supernatural evil. Or, you could play as any of five other races.

Which game, assuming their mechanics are equally well-designed, do you think would do better?

Whichever one says "Dungeons & Dragons" on the header. :p

All joking aside, the issue of "the game would die if it didn't allow for more races" is a very odd position to take. We've seen D&D jettison core races before, such as the half-orc in AD&D 2E and the gnome in 4E, and while there was some grumbling, no one was suggesting that either were some sort of mortal blow. At worst, people didn't like how the half-orc disappeared as a presumed part of the "appease angry mothers" strategy (in a late response to the Satanic Panic), but overall it wasn't anything that made waves outside of the hardcore crowd.


Look up "traditional DnD party" and you get images like this

Pictures snipped for space. That said, it's not hard at all to find an all-human party. Heck, that second picture could easily be taken as one! For another instance, check out the party in "The Gamers 2: Dorkness Rising," (which wasn't a D&D product per se, but openly used the D&D rules in the film, even showing a 3.5 PHB) which made some jokes about how one guy wanted to play an elf and the DM shut him down in favor of an all-human party. And that's quite possibly one of the best "D&D game" films!

You would have to try pretty hard to find a "classic" DnD party that is all humans. Part of why DnD grabbed the Niche it did and was so successful, was because they offered a variety of options for people to play as. It wasn't just wizard, fighter, cleric, rogue, it was also elf, dwarf, human, and halfling.
I have no doubt that was a part of it, but it wasn't a particularly major part of it. D&D was so successful because it was the first one out of the gate, and in so doing set the standard. What it laid down became the baseline everyone else used, and in that regard it had far more options available to it than you're giving it credit for.
The very fact that mono-race parties are the exception, seems to point to that as well. If they didn't have halflings, and someone else did? Yeah, DnD might not have made it. After all, some of the DnD clones that came out around the same time didn't have races other than human. And they did fail.
No, not so much. In fact, a lot of the second-stringers that came out after D&D did so with the explicit goal of trying to do D&D better, and failed to displace it. Ken St. Andre made Tunnels & Trolls specifically to be more accessible than D&D one year after D&D came out (and it had more PC races than D&D did at the time). It was never a serious contender. If D&D hadn't picked up halflings, nothing would have changed.
 
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I would subscribe to a DnD game without stat increases. On the other hand, I want certain species to be better at something than others. Real world biologie has differences too. Cultural training and knowledge also has its place. Both can be done differently (often better/sometimes worse) than with stat bonuses.
+1 hp per level of hill dwarves is thematic. They are just tougher.
+2 con however also serves dwarves well (+1 bonus to everything that is related to endurance). I think it is still better than giving a +1 circumstance bonus to everything. But maybe a short rest ability that allows a reroll will serve them equally well or even better.
I'm not saying races should not be distinct from each other - I just think racial ASIs don't even do a good job making races distinct, while carrying baggage and (in practice) limiting player options.

I do think pc size should be a bigger factor, for example.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
The idea that D&D would have to "adapt or die" if it hadn't had Tolkien-style demihuman PCs similarly strikes me as unlikely. The game established its brand identity early on, attaining a death grip on its market niche that it's never really lost (though there have certainly been periods where it waxed and waned). By contrast, Middle-Earth-based RPGs have come and gone. D&D wouldn't have died for want of halflings.
The Tolkien core of races for PCs were in the original OD&D in 1974, weren't they?

But anyway, back up to the Fantasy Supplement for Chainmail that was hyped as allowing "the medieval miniature warmgamer to add a new facet to the hobby, and either refight the epic struggles related by J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard, and other fantasy writers; or you can devise your own 'world,' and conduct fantastic campaigns and conflicts based on it." (Fantasy Supplement).

It sounds like Arenson's Blackmoor took its inspiration from LotR and Dark Shadows (wikipedia and others), and used the Fantasy Supplement from Chainmail to add them. Elves and Dwarves as PCs apparently show up by late 1972 at the latest in Blackmoor games. (DH Boggs Blakmoor Timeline).

So, given they were in OD&D, it feels like there never was a D&D brand without the demi-humans, and so the only example we have of it being established and fighting off other games is with them.

Even more, given how the fantasy supplement impacted Arneson - apparently explicitly to add in LotR and Dark Shadows things, and how he was pretty darn important to making D&D, I'd argue D&D might very well never existed in anything like its current form, if at all, without the demi-humans.
 
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Alzrius

The EN World kitten
The Tolkien core of races for PCs were in the original OD&D in 1974, weren't they?
If you mean the elf, dwarf, and halfling, then yes. But not so much the half-elf or half-orc.
But anyway, back up to the Fantasy Supplement for Chainmail that was hyped as allowing "the medieval miniature warmgamer to add a new facet to the hobby, and either refight the epic struggles related by J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard, and other fantasy writers; or you can devise your own 'world,' and conduct fantastic campaigns and conflicts based on it." (Fantasy Supplement).
Notice that it played up the struggles, and not the races. There's a reason why that book didn't allow you to play as an elf, halfling, etc. Instead, the one-to-one rules allowed for you to play as a wizard, hero, or super-hero. The wizards also were presented as being akin to artillery, which is far from how Gandalf acted during the mass combat scenes in Tolkien's work. So the name-drop doesn't have much follow-through, besides a few monsters.
It sounds like Arenson's Blackmoor took its inspiration from LotR and Dark Shadows (wikipedia and others), and used the fantasy supplement from chain mail to add them. Elves and Dwarves as PCs apparently show up by late 1972 in Blackmoor games. (DH Boggs Blakmoor Timeline).
You should check out the recent "Secrets of Blackmoor" documentary for a more in-depth analysis of what Arneson's game was really like. While Boggs' timeline is impeccable (I contribute to his Patreon), it's important to note other salient points of Arneson's game. For one thing, it was originally a Napoleonic fantasy game, set on Earth, before being ported over to Blackmoor. The players originally played themselves (though it's iffy if that was before or after the switch-over from Earth to Blackmoor), and it was several years before demihuman PCs were introduced (i.e. they were an afterthought).
So, given they were in OD&D, it feels like there never was a D&D brand without the demi-humans, and so the only example we have of it being established and fighting off other games is with them.
Again, they weren't there when Arneson started his Blackmoor game. But insofar as published works go, they were there from the beginning. So really, the whole "D&D would have failed if it hadn't had them" is a fairly pointless bit of speculation to begin with. That said, other games had those races and more (T&T) and were more accessible than D&D, and still didn't do as well.
Even more, given how the fantasy supplement impacted Arneson - apparently explicitly to add in LotR and Dark Shadows things, and how he was pretty darn important to making D&D, I'd argue D&D might very well never existed in anything like its current form without the demi-humans.
I believe you'd lose that argument. Being present doesn't mean that they were notable or otherwise significant. As noted, they were a late addition to Arneson's game, and weren't options in Chainmail. D&D allowed them, but only in very limited ways (restricting their class options and available levels, which would last for several editions).
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Which is correct in terms of how big of an impact they have in terms of what your character can do under the game engine.

Right, which are issues of mechanics, and don't have nearly as much impact as five or six levels of, well...any particular class.

"As much of an impact" is not "zero impact" which is what you claimed previously.

Whichever one says "Dungeons & Dragons" on the header. :p

All joking aside, the issue of "the game would die if it didn't allow for more races" is a very odd position to take. We've seen D&D jettison core races before, such as the half-orc in AD&D 2E and the gnome in 4E, and while there was some grumbling, no one was suggesting that either were some sort of mortal blow. At worst, people didn't like how the half-orc disappeared as a presumed part of the "appease angry mothers" strategy (in a late response to the Satanic Panic), but overall it wasn't anything that made waves outside of the hardcore crowd.

You keep missing the point that was made. The point isn't about DnD losing one race out of 20 every so often. The point was that the game was designed to include multiple races from the beginning. And because it had that design, it was more successful than if it had been designed and marketed as a "human only" game.

That was the point that was being made.

Pictures snipped for space. That said, it's not hard at all to find an all-human party. Heck, that second picture could easily be taken as one! For another instance, check out the party in "The Gamers 2: Dorkness Rising," (which wasn't a D&D product per se, but openly used the D&D rules in the film, even showing a 3.5 PHB) which made some jokes about how one guy wanted to play an elf and the DM shut him down in favor of an all-human party. And that's quite possibly one of the best "D&D game" films!

I love that movie, but a movie does not the game represent. And in fact, it was a presented as a "bold move" on the part of the DM to make it all-human, it was breaking the norm.

I have no doubt that was a part of it, but it wasn't a particularly major part of it. D&D was so successful because it was the first one out of the gate, and in so doing set the standard. What it laid down became the baseline everyone else used, and in that regard it had far more options available to it than you're giving it credit for.

And part of that standard was multiple races. I don't get how you can argue that was not the case. DnD was designed with multiple races as part of the core design. They played an equal role in your character as your class did.

I mean, I can't imagine a player talking about their character and not mentioning the race. It ends up being a pretty big deal, and never for the +2/+1

No, not so much. In fact, a lot of the second-stringers that came out after D&D did so with the explicit goal of trying to do D&D better, and failed to displace it. Ken St. Andre made Tunnels & Trolls specifically to be more accessible than D&D one year after D&D came out (and it had more PC races than D&D did at the time). It was never a serious contender. If D&D hadn't picked up halflings, nothing would have changed.

I can only repeat the point so many times. DnD is what it is, in part, because you can play different races. That is part of the core identity of the game. I don't know why you want to insist it could have had no demi-humans at all, and still been DnD. That is like saying Pepsi would still be one of the biggest brands on the market if it hadn't had sugar in it.

Sure, there is zero sugar pepsi now, but Pepsi got where it is based on the original formula.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
"As much of an impact" is not "zero impact" which is what you claimed previously.
Can you please quote where I used the phrase "zero impact"?
You keep missing the point that was made. The point isn't about DnD losing one race out of 20 every so often. The point was that the game was designed to include multiple races from the beginning. And because it had that design, it was more successful than if it had been designed and marketed as a "human only" game.

That was the point that was being made.
It's not, which explains why you keep misunderstanding the point that's under discussion. The point isn't that the game was designed to have multiple races from the beginning. It's that the inclusion of Tolkien-style demihuman races was an altogether modest part of the game, which would have had very little overall impact if they hadn't been included. (Heck, it wouldn't even have left D&D being a single-race game; gnomes, anyone?).

That's the point that's under discussion (even if there have been quite a few tangents).
I love that movie, but a movie does not the game represent. And in fact, it was a presented as a "bold move" on the part of the DM to make it all-human, it was breaking the norm.
There was no presentation of it being a "bold move" (that I recall). Rather, it was Cass (the player in question) trying to assert that the Core Rules could not be abridged, and the DM overruling him. Likewise, I'd say that movie represented the game very well indeed. Far more so than virtually any other RPG-based film (with the possible exception of "Zero Charisma," but in a different way).
And part of that standard was multiple races. I don't get how you can argue that was not the case. DnD was designed with multiple races as part of the core design. They played an equal role in your character as your class did.
A minor part, to be certain, but as noted it didn't play much of a role in helping D&D make it's mark. Direct your attention again to Tunnels & Trolls, which had more races than D&D and didn't do as well.

It's likewise false to claim that they played an "equal role in your character as your class did." Your class played a far greater role (notwithstanding B/X and BECMI).
I mean, I can't imagine a player talking about their character and not mentioning the race. It ends up being a pretty big deal, and never for the +2/+1
Sure, people mention all sorts of details about their character. That doesn't mean that they're salient features in terms of what they can do in the game. Would your 20th-level human wizard (3E and later, obviously) play significantly differently if he was a 20th-level elf wizard? Or would be significantly different if he was a 20th-level human fighter?
I can only repeat the point so many times. DnD is what it is, in part, because you can play different races. That is part of the core identity of the game. I don't know why you want to insist it could have had no demi-humans at all, and still been DnD. That is like saying Pepsi would still be one of the biggest brands on the market if it hadn't had sugar in it.

Sure, there is zero sugar pepsi now, but Pepsi got where it is based on the original formula.
D&D is what it is in modest part due to the elves, dwarves, halflings, etc., sure. But the Tolkien-esque demihumans simply aren't a particularly notable part of making the game what it is. Far from being "core identity," the game plays exactly the same without them, which wouldn't be true if you suddenly didn't have, say, clerics (particularly if there's no other source of healing magic available). Tolkien-style demihumans aren't the sugar in Pepsi; those are the classes. Rather, the demihumans are the red-and-blue logo design. You can do away with that and still have Pepsi be Pepsi.
 

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