D&D General Race Has No Mechanics. What do you play?

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
How about you answer that question first?
I already did, somewhere upthread: narrative and mechanics are joined at the hip, and during the run of play one nearly always* informs the other.

The only question is one of which one does the informing. 4e made a push to have the mechanics inform the narrative; more commonly in D&D it's the other way around.

* - broadly put, the exceptions are (at one end) pure-crunch situations such as char-gen or level-up and (at the other end) free-form roleplay.
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Right. So the OP is asking you....would you pick either the bird person (spelling really is hard) or the centaur if they didn't come with racial bonuses like flying or countless hours of satisfying hoof trimming videos?
Whether they came with the bonuses or not I personally wouldn't pick either one; as I probably wouldn't even be in a game where such wacko species were available as PCs (other than by very unlikely die rolls as rare oddballs).

That said, I do want species to mean something other than just cosmetics, in terms of having both benefits and drawbacks that will in theory affect play.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I kind of feel like this is a whole tangent on the entire thread. It will be long. And then we can agree to disagree if we need.

First:

To me, It's not this. PS, I'm drinking my coffee right now.

To me, Narrative is all the assumptions made based on the story, overarching themes and history in the specific campaign.

Going back to your example of an elf being allowed to see the Elf-King. This is not "auto-success". The fiction has already established that elves can get an audience based on the background and history of the world where the game takes place. Calling it an auto-success isn't appropriate because there's no challenge.
And if all the PCs are Elves, no problem: there's no challenge for anyone involved.

But if there's five PCs and only one is an Elf, the very fact it's an Elf gives it an advantage the other PCs don't have: it can automatically succeed at something (gaining access to the King) where that same thing is a maybe-insurmountable challenge for the other PCs. Mechanically this reflects as DC 0 for the Elf and maybe DC 40 for the rest of 'em; i.e. guaranteed access for the Elf and guaranteed no-access for the others.
To compare: Instead of one elf walking in to see the Elf-King, let's call it 4 elves walking into a bar.

Would you say that these 4 elves auto-succeeded their strength saves to open the door and auto succeeded their balance checks to cross the threshold and auto-succeeded their persuasion checks to order a drink? Because that's what you're telling me with the Elf-King example.

To me, the fiction establishes that this Inn is a public space open to all travelers who may enter and order drinks. The story dictates the assumption we make as players.
If the inn is truly open to all then sure, no problem. But the moment you hit "We don't serve their kind in here" you've got a species-based (in this case) penalty.
The story might suggest that Elves are, generally, smarter than humans. That assumption will affect the narrative because it might make many elves look down on humans. It might mean that libraries are more likely to hire elves than orcs. This assumption might create racial tension. It doesn't care if the game gives the elf race a +2 INT. They don't even NEED to have a bonus to INT for these racial assumptions to be true. The Narrative dictates the assumptions based on the campaign world.
Here I disagree: if the higher Intelligence isn't reflected in the mechanics then it doesn't exist, no matter how much the Elves would like to think otherwise.
So, where do mechanics come in?

Going back to Elves being smart, mechanics don't concern itself with the attitudes of NPCs. NPCs are going to assume elves are smart regardless of stat bonuses because in-world story has already established this. Giving elves a +2 INT will give elves a slight advantage when making knowledge checks. It deals with mechanics of dice rolls. It's appropriate given the fiction, obviously, but not necessary.

Going back to the 4 elves walking into the bar. If one happens to be a half-elf and the Innkeeper is an elf who is a racist jerk who happens to think half-breeds are filthy pigs - the half-elf might have to make a persuasion check to get a room for the night, the half-elf would have to convince the barkeep he can stay. He will have to roll persuasion (mechanic). But just because one guy has to roll a dice, doesn't mean the other 4 auto-succeeded.
Yes it does, and that's my point. They auto-succeeded without even trying. No roll required.

We auto-succeed at a whole lot of things in real life every day. Ditto for the characters in the game world, only their world is underpinned by under-the-hood mechanics; and just because those mechanics aren't invoked all the time doesn't mean they don't exist.
Unless we agree that everyone always auto-succeeds balance checks to walk across the room without falling. (which I don't)

-The narrative established that the Inn is open to the public
-The narrative established that 3 elves and a half-elf walked into a bar
-The narrative established that the Innkeeper is racist because he thinks elves are smarter and better than humans

Without mechanics, the narrative dictates that the half-elf will have to find a different place to stay the night, therefore:

-The half-elf has to roll to be able to stay at the Inn (mechanic which will change the current direction of the narrative). He's got a pretty good chance because Half-Elves also happen to get a +2 to Charisma (mechanic)

Edit: (I think)to boil it down to a couple lines: mechanics only come into play when the assumptions of the narrative are being challenged. In the act of challenging the outcome of the story, sometimes the mechanics reinforce narrative assumptions. (IE: elves are smart and, therefore, get +2 INT)
Still means the Half-Elf has a mechanical penalty in this case, which is what the OP is trying to eschew.
 

KYRON45

Adventurer
Whether they came with the bonuses or not I personally wouldn't pick either one; as I probably wouldn't even be in a game where such wacko species were available as PCs (other than by very unlikely die rolls as rare oddballs).

That said, I do want species to mean something other than just cosmetics, in terms of having both benefits and drawbacks that will in theory affect play.

I agree with you in so far as i think most of the available species are a joke.
 

Fate DFRPG is a bit weird because it predates and is far crunchier than Fate Core, which formed the initial basis of my foray into Fate. But it's likely that water-breathing is a power because humans can't breathe under water, and I think that the game presumes you are playing a human, though I could be wrong. I also don't recall a water-breathing power in the subsequent Dresden Files Accelerated. Out of curiosity, I looked and Venture City, which is a Fate game that has superpowers, doesn't have water-breathing either.


Yeah, I think that the trend has been the whole idea of Aspects being true in the fiction makes some of these things a bit unnecessary if not extraneous.
To be fair, I think it’s called amphibious or something. It’s been a while since I made a character. The Fomor have that power, if you have ever read the Dresden files.
 

And if all the PCs are Elves, no problem: there's no challenge for anyone involved.

But if there's five PCs and only one is an Elf, the very fact it's an Elf gives it an advantage the other PCs don't have: it can automatically succeed at something (gaining access to the King) where that same thing is a maybe-insurmountable challenge for the other PCs. Mechanically this reflects as DC 0 for the Elf and maybe DC 40 for the rest of 'em; i.e. guaranteed access for the Elf and guaranteed no-access for the others.

If the inn is truly open to all then sure, no problem. But the moment you hit "We don't serve their kind in here" you've got a species-based (in this case) penalty.

Here I disagree: if the higher Intelligence isn't reflected in the mechanics then it doesn't exist, no matter how much the Elves would like to think otherwise.

Yes it does, and that's my point. They auto-succeeded without even trying. No roll required.

We auto-succeed at a whole lot of things in real life every day. Ditto for the characters in the game world, only their world is underpinned by under-the-hood mechanics; and just because those mechanics aren't invoked all the time doesn't mean they don't exist.

Still means the Half-Elf has a mechanical penalty in this case, which is what the OP is trying to eschew.
Like I said, we don’t agree.
 

TwoSix

"Diegetics", by L. Ron Gygax
Still means the Half-Elf has a mechanical penalty in this case, which is what the OP is trying to eschew.
I don't know if we've actually determined that (and we'd probably need the OP to weigh in).

The question over the last few pages has become "Is narrative weight, and the change in the narrative driven by that weight, in and of itself a mechanical feature, such that it would fall under the no mechanics clause proposed by the OP?"

Basically, for a race to have "no mechanics", do you have treat them exactly the same in every narrative situation?
 

I don't know if we've actually determined that (and we'd probably need the OP to weigh in).

The question over the last few pages has become "Is narrative weight, and the change in the narrative driven by that weight, in and of itself a mechanical feature, such that it would fall under the no mechanics clause proposed by the OP?"

Basically, for a race to have "no mechanics", do you have treat them exactly the same in every narrative situation?
Right. In the situation that race plays no role in the narrative- that no one race is ever disadvantaged over another and that there are no socially ostracized races (because having them would give all other races a ‘mechanical advantage’) then the role of race is moot. You might as well not have race.

If that is the line then class (ie: your status in the setting), your dress, etc..all grant some kind of mechanical (dis)advantage.

I don’t attribute DCs to things that seem obvious based on the lore or setting. I use the lore to determine whether or not mechanics might need to come into play.
 

cbwjm

Seb-wejem
Going all the way back to the original question regarding all races being the same mechanically. I dug out my old copy of the advanced fighting fantasy rules. In this game, all races were the same, you could be a human, elf, or dwarf. The only differences were that elves and dwarfs had 3 special skills they had to take; for instance, bow, magic, wilderness lore for elves. Other than these 3 skills you could pick anything, you could even make a human who had those exact same skills. My friends and I still played elves and dwarves even though there wasn't any special about them.

I will note, however, that they've changed that with the latest edition, but back in the day lack of mechanics didn't stop us playing other races. I wouldn't be surprised if I'd also created new races with 3 skills that they needed to take.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
I don't know if we've actually determined that (and we'd probably need the OP to weigh in).

The question over the last few pages has become "Is narrative weight, and the change in the narrative driven by that weight, in and of itself a mechanical feature, such that it would fall under the no mechanics clause proposed by the OP?"

Basically, for a race to have "no mechanics", do you have treat them exactly the same in every narrative situation?
I have said above that it is fuzzy. if we are assuming that elves get benefits in play other characters don't often, then that might qualify. But it doesn't count if in this one adventure it happens that an elf PC will help the party make contact with a faction, or whatever. That's just stuff that happens in play.

Essentially, if the benefit* is something listed in the race description in the character generation chapter, divorced from any context, it is a "mechanical benefit*" for my purposes in this discussion. If a cosmetic, setting or lore feature of a race is something that could potentially come up and provide a benefit*, it doesn't qualify.

*or hinderance
 

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