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


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dave2008

Legend
Yes, I can understand that. Which is why I clarified in the previous post
You clarified what your intent was, but did not seem to understand how what you wrote didn't serve that intent. I was just curious if you understood that or not. Not big deal, I was just curious.

To clarify, saying you apologize for something, does necessarily show that you understand what you are apologizing for (which I personally believe does need an apology at all).

PS you never answered my initial question either:

okay, what would this race do in this circumstance",...
How would you answer this for humans?
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
How would you answer this for humans?
🤷‍♂️
It depends on the culture, the situation, and if you are a specific type of human (Dragonmarked, for example). City humans (Waterdhavian humans) would approach a situation differently from a Barbarian Tribe of humans, and they would approach it differently from a Pastoral Settlement of humans. It's hardest with humans, because humans are extremely diverse and don't have racial features that could help with this. Basically, any type of culture in the real world can exist in a fantasy world, and there are a ton of different human cultures and they all react in different ways.

Say, it's a drought. Waterdhavian humans would be more likely to demand their city leaders to do whatever they could to get through the drought, while a Barbarian Tribe would be more likely to just move to a different area that has more water, while a Pastoral Settlement of humans would probably just try to weather through it. If it was a war, the Waterdhavian humans would probably be well sheltered from the war by their city guards and troops, while the Barbarian Tribes would probably resort to guerilla warfare and the rite of champion combat, and the Pastoral Settlement would have to ask their nation's leaders to send troops to help them.

These are all generalities and can get more in-depth when you get more specific about the setting, but basically, you answer this as "how would humans of a similar cultural group in the real world react to this scenario, or a real-world equivalent of this fantasy scenario".
 

dave2008

Legend
🤷‍♂️
It depends on the culture, the situation, and if you are a specific type of human (Dragonmarked, for example). City humans (Waterdhavian humans) would approach a situation differently from a Barbarian Tribe of humans, and they would approach it differently from a Pastoral Settlement of humans. It's hardest with humans, because humans are extremely diverse and don't have racial features that could help with this. Basically, any type of culture in the real world can exist in a fantasy world, and there are a ton of different human cultures and they all react in different ways.
That is my point. You can't answer for "humans" you have to answer it for cultures. So why are you asking that question for other races? As you have just noted, the race isn't really that important, the culture is.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Ah, I see we've reached the "argue semantics and tone policing" portion of the thread.

Mod Note:
So... tone matters. We should not disconnect from the original problem of tone policing, and wave those words in people's faces as.. well, another form of tone policing. "I don't like what you are saying, so I will accuse you of tone policing," is hypocritical.

If someone has taken meaningful harm, telling them - telling the victim - that to get redress or improvement they need to control their tone and be nice to people who have harmed them, is inappropriate.

However, if you have a couple of people arguing over how to pretend to be elves, yes, a little reminder that how you speak to others largely controls their response to you is often called for. People often forget this, in their fervor to win arguments. As if thinking you are correct alleviates your need to be respectful, polite, and kind to your fellow gamers.

So, to remind people: @doctorbadwolf and @AcererakTriple6 the two of you don't seem to be able to carry on in a constructive matter. There's a well understood dynamic where, having locked horns, folks will often not disengage unless forced to do so.

Consider this your invitation to disengage, before you are forced to do so. Thanks.
 
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AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
That is my point. You can't answer for "humans" you have to answer it for cultures. So why are you asking that question for other races? As you have just noted, the race isn't really that important, the culture is.
Have you read the OP? The whole point is making the race and its features matter more to their cultures. That . . . kind of is the answer, and humans are an exception to this rule. I don't see a problem here.
 

dave2008

Legend
Have you read the OP? The whole point is making the race and its features matter more to their cultures. That . . . kind of is the answer, and humans are an exception to this rule. I don't see a problem here.
It is not a problem, I just disagree that humans and fantasy races should be treated differently. If you want mechanics to determine cultures then mechanics should determine all cultures IMO. So each race should have multiple cultures, or really culture should be separated from the race and applied on top of the race. Actually, I think that is how LevelUp is doing it.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Maybe we're talking past each other.
Maybe, but I think there really is a disagreement at the core of this that genuinely matters.
I prefer my preference (literally in the definition), and support it. I prefer that all races have some amount of non-alien psychology to them. I think that it is good to have those, just like I don't think that it would be good to make two different races that were exactly identical in mechanics, except for a language or skill change, or something minor like that. I'm perfectly fine with most races having mostly human psychologies, but mostly human doesn't mean completely human.
If mostly human is fine, then we are already there. Halflings aren't prone to greed, or hubris, but are prone to complacency and a certain smugness about their way of life. Cool. We can explore how being small impacts their material culture, how curiosity and very little fear means they don't tend to have cultural/social norms centered on fear of outsiders or on fear of embarrassment, etc. We can talk about what effect being a little more lucky, in the sense that the worst possible outcome happens to them meaningfully less often, impacts social norms around taking risks. We can and should discuss and write about the sort of cultural heroes that might arise in halfling societies.

Making them prone to legally mandating happiness, or being especially afraid of giants, or the like, or making them lack the capacity to understand some basic aspect of human interaction to push roleplay toward something different from a human makes them into a new thing, and removes the thing that used to have the name Halfling.

This is why I say that your stance is more exclusionary than my stance, because my stance explicitly validates the preference for races that are alien, and yours says "that's not good enough, you should have to homebrew in order to have any trace of your preference validated at all". Do you really not see the problem with that?
That's what I want. Yes, it is a universal statement, because it applies to literally every race that isn't a human (and even human sub-types, like Dragonmarked races), because all races that aren't human have different mechanics, history, and features that can and (IMO) should influence how they act.

I don't think that's a contentious topic.
It very much is. If your position was, "make the races that are clearly not human or biologically very different from human feel less human", I'd be all for it. If it was simply, "Lets brew up some cultural touchstones shared by many cultures made up of a given race that are based on their mechanics." I'd likewise be all for that. Hell, I'm all for dropping the thing we will never agree on and just focusing on those two endeavors, if you'd like.
Again, yes, it's universal, but I've actually given reasoning and examples for why it makes sense, why it wouldn't be hard to implement for most races, and why I think it's a good thing for the game.
The universality is the entirety of the objection. If no compromise is possible on that, there is no path forward. I would like to understand why you have a problem with there being races in the game that don't match your preferences, though?

For instance, I think the game would be meaningfully better if the Cleric was removed and the Monk was expanded to cover things like the 4e Invoker and Avenger and allowed to wear armor like the Barbarian, and if the Fighter was replaced by at least 2 classes with literally any level of actual story in the base class. But like...a bunch of people love those two classes, and prefer them how they are, so, even if I got rich enough to buy hasbro and become the boss of DnD, I wouldn't force those two classes out of the game. I'd just work to design the monk to cover a bit more ground, and try out some revisions of the fighter that optionally add more spice to the base class.

But seriously, the cleric...ugh.
Does this explain my position in a better, non-hostile manner? Sorry if we got off on the wrong foot. We don't have to agree with each other, but at the least we should be respectful of each other's opinions and selves.
It's fine, I think we probably would be best to just drop the whole "universal vs not universal" argument. It's not like either of us will ever be the boss of dnd.
I can see how it came across as condescending. To be honest, I could have held back a bit more of it than I did. However, I don't know what the "among other distasteful behaviors" means. Care to clarify?
If you really wanna know PM me, I don't think rehashing it will help us avoid umbran's further disapproval.
That doesn't do it for me. If some races are made alien in mindset, and the rest are just humans, that's not a compromise I can get behind.
This is the crux of what I am astonished by. Having plenty of races with default lore that matches your preference isn't good enough, it has to be all of them. Why?
There are some races that I'm already interested in, but would far prefer and would probably play if they were more in-depth on how their racial mechanics influence their cultures. I already like Lizardfolk, Tortles, Owlfolk, and quite a few other races that don't have this tool applied to them. I just would way rather play them/use them in my games if their racial mechanics impacted them in a similar way to described above.
Okay, so, we can do that without removing human-like halflings and dwarves from the game, or making large swathes of the player base homebrew in order to play the way they prefer. They're publishing new settings again, and they listen to feedback on social media. We can advocate for this approach in new settings.
My absolute is on the approach; how racial cultures should be designed from the get-go. Not on how they should/have to be played at different tables, or incorporated in different worlds.
I never thought otherwise.

I certainly don't think we need to stop interacting in order to untangle our horns, to borrow umbran's analogy.

I'm never going to support reinventing things that people love the way they are, in their default presentation, but I'm all for variants in supplimentals, and with simply doing more with all of DnD's playable folk.
 


🤷‍♂️
It depends on the culture, the situation, and if you are a specific type of human (Dragonmarked, for example). City humans (Waterdhavian humans) would approach a situation differently from a Barbarian Tribe of humans, and they would approach it differently from a Pastoral Settlement of humans. It's hardest with humans, because humans are extremely diverse and don't have racial features that could help with this. Basically, any type of culture in the real world can exist in a fantasy world, and there are a ton of different human cultures and they all react in different ways.

Say, it's a drought. Waterdhavian humans would be more likely to demand their city leaders to do whatever they could to get through the drought, while a Barbarian Tribe would be more likely to just move to a different area that has more water, while a Pastoral Settlement of humans would probably just try to weather through it. If it was a war, the Waterdhavian humans would probably be well sheltered from the war by their city guards and troops, while the Barbarian Tribes would probably resort to guerilla warfare and the rite of champion combat, and the Pastoral Settlement would have to ask their nation's leaders to send troops to help them.

These are all generalities and can get more in-depth when you get more specific about the setting, but basically, you answer this as "how would humans of a similar cultural group in the real world react to this scenario, or a real-world equivalent of this fantasy scenario".
People are individuals, not cultures. I could leave a dozen scousers with an old car and only eleven of them would steel the wheels and leave it stacked on bricks.
 

It is not a problem, I just disagree that humans and fantasy races should be treated differently. If you want mechanics to determine cultures then mechanics should determine all cultures IMO. So each race should have multiple cultures, or really culture should be separated from the race and applied on top of the race. Actually, I think that is how LevelUp is doing it.
To do what you want in a practical way, you would actually have to separate race and culture. Otherwise, making every race nuanced and multicultural would inflate the page count beyond any reasonable publishing limits.

Of course, defining monocultures for race (while allowing for individual exceptions) has been the general rule in RPGs, and indeed most of fiction, for a reason. And that reason was not laziness or a lack of sophistication. There comes a point where you create so many combinations that it becomes difficult to identify archetypes, and archetypes are very helpful if you want something to be memorable and easy to understand.
 

dave2008

Legend
To do what you want in a practical way, you would actually have to separate race and culture. Otherwise, making every race nuanced and multicultural would inflate the page count beyond any reasonable publishing limits.
To be clear, this is not what I want - it was just for arguments sake. But I think I would agree that the best method is to separate race and culture (like LevelUp is doing).
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
To do what you want in a practical way, you would actually have to separate race and culture. Otherwise, making every race nuanced and multicultural would inflate the page count beyond any reasonable publishing limits.

Of course, defining monocultures for race (while allowing for individual exceptions) has been the general rule in RPGs, and indeed most of fiction, for a reason. And that reason was not laziness or a lack of sophistication. There comes a point where you create so many combinations that it becomes difficult to identify archetypes, and archetypes are very helpful if you want something to be memorable and easy to understand.
Elven societies tend to lionize the wise and subtle, more than the strong and brash.

Dwarven societies tend to value the family unit more than the individual, especially Mountain Dwarf cultures.

Dwarven diasporas tend to artificially pack into crowded enclaves full of clever uses of space, making for quite small but surprisingly comfortable homes where the sounds of one’s family are never far away. Most dwarves grow irritable or even dispondent if forced to go long periods without the company of kin, born or chosen, and diaspora dwarves that don’t live in an enclave will often “adopt” the family of a close friend, keeping regular contact, taking their friend’s children as apprentices, or acting as patrons for the ventures of these chosen kinfolk.

All of those can describe many cultures, but they help inform what kinds of cultures tend to arise, and what disparate cultures will tend to have in common.

etc.
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
People are individuals, not cultures. I could leave a dozen scousers with an old car and only eleven of them would steel the wheels and leave it stacked on bricks.
I am aware that people are individuals, not cultures. I was talking about how a culture, in large, would respond to different circumstances.
 

I am aware that people are individuals, not cultures. I was talking about how a culture, in large, would respond to different circumstances.
Way to miss the point.

My point is, my joke is offensive to people from Liverpool. The only reason I can make it is because I am from Liverpool. Making generalisations about how people behave based on their background is ALWAYS OFFENSIVE. It doesn't matter if you think it is true or not, it is still offensive. All barbarians are stupid. Everyone with a noble background horsewhips peasants. Don't go there, it's not a good look.
 

Scars Unseen

Explorer
Way to miss the point.

My point is, my joke is offensive to people from Liverpool. The only reason I can make it is because I am from Liverpool. Making generalisations about how people behave based on their background is ALWAYS OFFENSIVE. It doesn't matter if you think it is true or not, it is still offensive. All barbarians are stupid. Everyone with a noble background horsewhips peasants. Don't go there, it's not a good look.
Big disagree. Generalizations are a highly useful tool when working with fictional cultures. You don't always have the time, inclination or page count (if publishing) to do a fully fleshed out writeup for every culture in your setting, and having a kind of behavioral short hand is a good way to give yourself and any potential readers an idea of what to expect without going into exhaustive detail. Naturally if you were going to focus on that area in gameplay you could then flesh the culture out, and naturally any individuals that you meet from that culture will be different on an individual basis. That doesn't make generalizations less useful as a starting point.

Where it can be offensive is where you start trying to shortcut your way through the creative process by using a real world culture as a baseline and then making generalizations about that. But that's entirely because you are then proxy generalizing real people. Fictional people only have the emotions you attribute to them.
 

Where it can be offensive is where you start trying to shortcut your way through the creative process by using a real world culture as a baseline and then making generalizations about that. But that's entirely because you are then proxy generalizing real people. Fictional people only have the emotions you attribute to them.
It doesn't matter if your fictional people do not resemble real world people or not, they point is, you are saying "you can make generalisations about people based on their culture/background/occupation and they hold true".

Find a better way to write.
 

Scars Unseen

Explorer
It doesn't matter if your fictional people do not resemble real world people or not, they point is, you are saying "you can make generalisations about people based on their culture/background/occupation and they hold true".

Find a better way to write.
I literally did not say that. Don't put words in my mouth.
 

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