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D&D General No More "Humans in Funny Hats": Racial Mechanics Should Determine Racial Cultures

aco175

Legend
Only to whatever degree they're not accustomed to it.

For example, any non-human that lives in houses rather than wandering around the world without any kind of place to take shelter from a storm would understand what a house is, and recognize the idea of trying to keep it safe, clean, and intact, so wouldn't bust down doors "Because it was in my way? Am I not supposed to do that?" or shatter windows in order to open them.

Any non-human that wears clothing to protect itself from the elements or engage in modesty is going to understand how clothing works and even if they don't know the particular way humans connect or color-coordinate their clothes for fashion, they're not going to be stunned at the idea of "Cloth?! ON BODY?!"

Unless they exist in an entirely anarcho-communist society, non-humans are still going to understand that there are laws and people who enforce them and people who are in authority over other people in a human society... just 'cause, y'know... S'how so many societies work.

The individual customs? Sure. It'd pretty much be no different than flying to Japan without learning about the social faux pas you can commit. You'll step on some toes and be a bit annoying, for sure, but that only works if your culture and the other one have so little contact that you don't know even cute trivia about the other culture involved.
Wouldn't this be covered under the background? We already have a hermit, a scholar and a folk hero that can fit in this.

I'm not sure if we now have something where we need to look at human hermits and non-human hermits? Is an elf hermit that different that a halfling hermit, or a dwarf hermit? What about a mountain dwarf hermit or hill dwarf, or even gold dwarf? Not sure if we want to get that far with character generation.
 

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Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
Wouldn't this be covered under the background? We already have a hermit, a scholar and a folk hero that can fit in this.

I'm not sure if we now have something where we need to look at human hermits and non-human hermits? Is an elf hermit that different that a halfling hermit, or a dwarf hermit? What about a mountain dwarf hermit or hill dwarf, or even gold dwarf? Not sure if we want to get that far with character generation.
And you've hit on why I find it so important to create cultures in a world separate from a basic idea of "Elf". It gives a level of understanding to what a Hermit leaves behind when they exit their society. The ideas they've escaped. And having those societies contain members of various races adds just chef's kiss so many layers to play with.

Different ways people of different perceptions interact with the same cultures... Really helps make the smallest amount of world-building look Herculean. >.>

And also helps to create a ton of variety for player characters.
 

Faolyn

Hero
Races having different kinds of vision and different habitats could affect their culture.

For example, dwarf would not have a God of Darkness because they can see in the dark. They also would not have a God of Twilight because the difference between bright light and dim light is meaningless as it only matters for colors. Since darkvision would be used often in the dwarven would not stress Light, Darkness, and Twilight.
Or they might have a god of impenetrable darkness. Not regular darkness, which is totally normal and only means that you can't see colors--not a big deal, as you say. But impenetrable darkness means magic and supernatural creatures like demons and devils. I would imagine it like the Nothing from The Neverending Story.
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
I know you said you were going to an extreme, but I kind of have a problem with this idea. it gets uncomfortably close to badwrongfun.
I don't think that this is badwrongfun. IMO, it's something else entirely. I'm not saying that people are wrong for having fun with/liking redundant/"unjustified" races/lineages, monsters, and classes. I don't think that it's wrong to like something that I see as redundant. I just see it as unnecessary. IMHO, those are distinct. It's absolutely fine and valid to like a style of play that includes a vast slew of creature options that are just humans with funny hats or slightly differently painted versions of the same creature, and I support anyone that plays in that style, I just find it (I'm not sure if there's a better word for it) wasteful.

I'm not going to waste my time and resources creating a race and racial mechanics for Ocelotfolk and Tiggers when Tabaxi already exist. I'm not going to include Sea Elves, Merfolk, and Koalinths in a world that I have Tritons, Sahuagin, and Simic Hybrids (which I flavor as Krakenspawn in my world). If I have Lizardfolk, and Yuan-Ti, I don't need Crocodilefolk, Legless-Lizard-folk, and Pythonfolk (I could get behind Geckofolk, however).

I would never fight against people having the options that they want, I just want the distinctions to be meaningful. If there are going to be 3 different types of Birdfolk in the game (Aarakocra, Kenku, and Owlins), they'd better have mechanically and culturally distinct identities (Aarakocra being connected to the Elemental Plane of Air, Kenku being connected to Grazzt, the Raven Queen, or some other previous master and having lost their wings and voice through betraying them, Owlins through having magical sight, and being inclined towards scholarship).
A lot of people (me included) prefer to have some options that "don't justify their existence", so we can make them our own more easily. Roleplaying games don't need to have every nook and cranny curated and justified, and D&D is big enough to handle a lot of thing differently.
And I get that. And that's perfectly valid for people who don't feel the need or want to have to carefully pick and choose the races of their world and their role in their campaigns. I've included aspects of that in my world. However, in my experience, it often helps me tell stories (or at least, the type of stories I like) when I'm carefully picking and choosing what roles different creatures and races fill in my world and handcrafting their story and connection to the setting than just dumping literally every option in the game inside my world without thinking about it. It helps me create fun dilemmas for the story and characters when I can think "okay, what would this race do in this circumstance", and weave a compelling and fairly complex tale of their role and place in the world (like my world's Felshen and their relationship to the Yikkan Goblinoids).
One of Eberron's principles is "If it exists in D&D it can exist in Eberron". That doesn't mean it has to be justified in the setting, but that Eberron is open enough for you to put it there somehow. Keith Baker even says that he prefers not to have every race and class justify their existence and impact the world's culture. Sometimes you just want to play a tiny human with hairy foot, and that's ok.
IMO, that's not what that principle of Eberron means. It doesn't mean "every part of D&D does exist in Eberron", it means "if you want it to, you can, and here are some tools to include them [Mordain the Fleshweaver, the Mourning, Xen'drik, Manifest Zones, etc]". There's a reason there are creatures and player races that are purposefully left out of Eberron (Goliaths, Firbolg, Yuan-Ti, Kenku, Centaurs, Satyrs, etc), and that's to not have to deal with the deluge of massively redundant races and creatures. It provides options for including them, but Keith Baker has often recommended against adding literally everything in D&D to Eberron without a second thought, because that would severely hinder parts of the world's story(ies).
@AcererakTriple6 I really like most of your takes in this site, and I think we agree on most things, but I don't understand why sometimes you take the stand of "this shouldn't exist" and in fact it's just something you don't like.
It's not "this shouldn't exist", it's "this has no purpose in existing".

And the rebuttal to that will always be "anything that people like has a completely valid purpose existing in D&D, because D&D is a game where the purpose is to have fun, and anything that enhances that for someone is good enough to be in the game".

And the people that say that are absolutely right. I've used that justification several times for some smaller aspects of the game that I didn't feel the need to write up a huge, intricate story for them existing in my world. "I think they're cool, so they're in my world/campaign" is the perfect response to "why do you want this in the game?/I don't think these are necessary in the game for X-reason." IMO, D&D's official game designers really should use that excuse more instead of trying to lore-force things into different worlds. If they had just said "Dragonborn exist now in Toril, because they're cool and people want to play dragonfolk" in 4e, maybe things would have gone a bit better than they did through the Spellplague excuse. However, tastes are subjective, and some people will be more inclined to use this justification in their world for different aspects than other people.

If someone wants something to exist in D&D that I don't thematically like, I'm 100% willing to accept that and let them play and run their campaigns how they want to. However, I don't think that it's badwrongfun to ask why things like this exist, and I also don't think that it's wrong for people to use the "fun" justification. I just often prefer when there's more thought to it than "because hobbits are cool!" in my worlds.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Or they might have a god of impenetrable darkness. Not regular darkness, which is totally normal and only means that you can't see colors--not a big deal, as you say. But impenetrable darkness means magic and supernatural creatures like demons and devils. I would imagine it like the Nothing from The Neverending Story.

Why there be a god of impenetrable darkness? Such a thing would be so rare in dwarven society that they'd likely never have a deity associated with it.

Racial pantheons would be be based on things the race cares about, loves, admires, fears, and worries about.

Catfolk would have a Goddess of Sleep and a CN God of Knocking Stuff Over and maybe 3-5 different gods for hunting (for sport, therapy, sustenance, pest control, enemy, small game)

"O Mi-Miaw! Grant me your skill! Bless me with stealth! Shroud me with darkness of hunters past! So I may claw the face of a fire giant. Because it would be funny to see 4 scratch marks on its face. It dares breathe my air. OUR AIR! And with no gifts of cooked birds. Holy Mi-Miaw. Bless me with power to HUMILIATE THE BIG DUMMY!"
-common Catfolk prayer
 

Faolyn

Hero
Why there be a god of impenetrable darkness? Such a thing would be so rare in dwarven society that they'd likely never have a deity associated with it.

Racial pantheons would be be based on things the race cares about, loves, admires, fears, and worries about.
I would see it as a bogeyman of sorts. Maybe not a true god, but a demonic figure (an arch-fiend, in D&D terms).

Remember, in addition to living in a dark area, dwarfs live in underground tunnels filled with uneven ground, strange rock formations, pitfalls, bad air, and places where you really have to squeeze through (it's not all 10-foot tunnels made of worked stone). Imagine a slithering darkness you can't see through that suddenly engulfs you while you're moving through a tunnel. You can't see anything, not even grayscale. It may even muffle sound and smells (except for creepy sounds), because it's a supernatural entity, not a natural phenomena. It travels with you, and because it's evil, it slowly nudges you away from safe areas that have been thoroughly explored and into the very dangerous unknown. It may even pick you up and carry you away. If you manage to escape it, you're hopelessly lost, no food or water besides what you brought with you, and when you call for help, you can hear no replies but your own echoes bouncing off the cavern walls and the skittering of unknown creatures with too many legs--or worse, the sounds of known evils, because it might have led you strait to a monster's lair. If you don't escape it, you're trapped in the dark forever.

Superstitious dwarfs would try to rebuke it or offer sacrifices (even if just a coin tossed into a crevice) in an attempt to make it leave them alone. Parents would tell their children that the Dark steals away disobedient children who wander too far and don't eat their rat-and-rutabaga pie. Some particularly spiteful dwarfs might even pray to it to devour their enemies.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Or they might have a god of impenetrable darkness. Not regular darkness, which is totally normal and only means that you can't see colors--not a big deal, as you say. But impenetrable darkness means magic and supernatural creatures like demons and devils. I would imagine it like the Nothing from The Neverending Story.
reminds me of TPratchetts Discworld Dwarfs -"In place of gods and demons, dwarfs have several dozen different words for "dark". Many of these are highly mystical and dangerous, such as the "closing dark," the "calling dark" and the "waiting dark" (the dark that waits to fill new holes). Worst of all is the "Summoning dark ", which is said to have a mind of its own and to seek out and corrupt certain victims susceptible to it."

that would certainly fit with the shades of grey nature of Darkvision
 

Yora

Legend
Veins of the Earth is a super weird Underdark and it has two pages describing various styles of darkness.
I particularly like the darkness at the edge of vision. It's like a substance that always stays just out of the reach of light sources as it backs away, but then seals up the passagr behind you as you continue forward.
Always surrounding you and actively cutting you off from the rest of the world.
 

Minigiant

Legend
It's still more of a boogeyman than a feared deity. Supernatural darkness would be too rare in dwarven life to elevate to godhood. Unlike alcohol.
 

Faolyn

Hero
reminds me of TPratchetts Discworld Dwarfs -"In place of gods and demons, dwarfs have several dozen different words for "dark". Many of these are highly mystical and dangerous, such as the "closing dark," the "calling dark" and the "waiting dark" (the dark that waits to fill new holes). Worst of all is the "Summoning dark ", which is said to have a mind of its own and to seek out and corrupt certain victims susceptible to it."

that would certainly fit with the shades of grey nature of Darkvision
That was definitely an influence.

Vimes totally multiclassed with warlock there at the end, didn't he?
 


Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
It's still more of a boogeyman than a feared deity. Supernatural darkness would be too rare in dwarven life to elevate to godhood. Unlike alcohol.
said like a true surface dweller :)

I‘ve been in deep mining tunnel shafts and there are definitely different layers of darkness. I’d imagine a dwarf with true darkvision would see even more and being more aware might invest superstitious belief in those darknesses that evade even their perception
 
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jasper

Rotten DM
First you would have to cull the number of races and no subrace. So only Elf, no hill, wood, valley, drow, vulcan etc. Second A reskin option must be allowed but the what ever rubber mask the pc is wearing the mechical benefit would be the same. Ex. Anything out of volos, monster manual, etc would just a floating +2/+1
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle

Scars Unseen

Explorer
Personally, I'd love it if that percentage were shifted a bit, say, 75% class 25% race. Any nonhuman character in literature is defined more by their race than pretty much any PC is.
I can get on board with that. I'm not sure how best to approach it in a way that meshes with D&D(or at least WotC era D&D) though. Racial levels have been a thing, but I wouldn't say they've been a thing that's been done particularly well. You could make racial abilities part of class features(with different possibilities for each race depending on class), but that would require a pretty hefty page count to pull off in a satisfying way. Anything disconnected from the leveling process would feel either anemic or frontloaded, and anything that added to the existing power curve instead of partially replacing it would possibly bog the game down.

Dunno. Like the idea of it though.
 


doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
reminds me of TPratchetts Discworld Dwarfs -"In place of gods and demons, dwarfs have several dozen different words for "dark". Many of these are highly mystical and dangerous, such as the "closing dark," the "calling dark" and the "waiting dark" (the dark that waits to fill new holes). Worst of all is the "Summoning dark ", which is said to have a mind of its own and to seek out and corrupt certain victims susceptible to it."

that would certainly fit with the shades of grey nature of Darkvision
Makes me think of Guy Gabriel Kay’s Dwarves in The Fionavar Tapestry, with their Dwarfmoot, where the silence of the assembled Dwarves is weighed and measured.
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
Not all races should be alien in mindset from humans.
You forgot to say that that is your opinion, and should not have been stated/taken as an absolute fact.

I disagree. They're just matters of differing tastes. I agree that they should be close enough to humans for us to properly understand and roleplay them, but I do think that there should be some amount of an alien-mindset to playing a non-human race.
 


doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
You forgot to say that that is your opinion, and should not have been stated/taken as an absolute fact.

I disagree. They're just matters of differing tastes. I agree that they should be close enough to humans for us to properly understand and roleplay them, but I do think that there should be some amount of an alien-mindset to playing a non-human race.
By virtue of the fact that many people want to play non-humans that aren’t alien in mindset, we can pretty well determine that it is objectively true that not all races should be alien in mindset.

It is also true that some non-humans should have significantly alien mindsets, by virtue of a significant amount of the player base wanting that.
 

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