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General The Importance of Page 33


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The Glen

Adventurer
Umm, since when has Mystara been a setting defined by exclusion of races. Practically every single Mystara supplement added races for the players to play. The only reason there aren't dragonborn and tieflings in Mystara is because they hadn't been written yet. It has nothing whatsoever to do with setting fidelity.
Mystara was quite exclusive of a lot of races because it had its start in BECMI rather than AD&D. Since orcs and other humanoids were descended from beastmen, they couldn't interbreed with humans or demihumans, so no half-orcs. Interbreeding in-game was already quite difficult and according to the books, with half races being handled differently, thus no half-elves. Mystara replaced a lot of creatures that were available in Realms or Greyhawk with their own. It has 5 reptilian humanoid races already, Dragonborn are superfluous. Tieflings would only be available as extraplanar since interbreeding requires a divine act and the Immortals keep out outer planar creatures. It might have a lot of playable races from the crucibles, but they were already established races.
 


Interesting line of thought. So in our hypothetical no-spell-casters campaign, I can reskin my wizard character as a martial and use my spells mechanically as written?
Here's my simple question: WTF are you doing using (non-4e) D&D for a no-casters campaign. About 40% of every single non-4e PHB is spells. About two thirds of classes are casters.

On the other hand I have played a bard as a pure charlatan who didn't actually have any spells, but was capable of coincidental trickery. This isn't "I reskinned fireball" but "I was very careful and detailed in the spells I picked".

I do not think that this is a question of a map filled to the maximum but rather a question of continuity. Refusing to add more races can be justified in many ways, the gods are not the least of them. Especially in a world with only one pantheon. The gods are perfectly able and willing to prevent planar travel for a large size population or a single person if it suits their fancy.
If you can use gods as an excuse to not allow races then you can certainly use them as an excuse to allow races. Which means that the continuity argument vanishes in a puff of smoke.

I suspect that a very large part of this problem is that all of the "official" settings for the past twenty years have been fantasy kitchen sinks, with even the more Arthurian/Tolkiensque Dragonlance and the Gothic Ravenloft being outsourced to third-parties. As much as I bitch about Dragonborn and Tieflings in Dark Sun-- and the sidebar about Divine classes-- it seems like there's a lot less pressure to turn a strongly thematic setting into a kitchen sink than there is to make the existing kitchen sinks broader.

But... my problem here is the same as my problem with the Radiant Triangle in Spelljammer: when a setting already has so little identity, those minor exclusions are the only thing that differentiates one from another, the only things those settings have left. When you drink out of the kitchen sink, the only flavor you taste is dishwater; mixing the dishwater out of a dozen different kitchen sinks isn't going to make it taste better.

Of course, it's also those little exclusions and those little incompatibilities that made AD&D's classic campaign settings exclusive, and led to their ultimate commercial failure. I can understand WotC's desire to avoid making those same mistakes all over again... but that doesn't mean I have to like it.
And my problem with this argument is that D&D races are in general not that flavourful. They are light stereotypes that provide a little background colour - and most fantasy worlds are too homogenous anyway because there are only a few minds working on them. Humans of any culture are far more diverse than just about any fantasy setting even with the range of fantasy races.

The only race I can think of that has a serious impact on the themes of the setting for good or ill is the Warforged of Eberron. The Last War lasted about 100 years and ended only a couple of years ago. But Warforged are new; the oldest playable warforged types are 1d12 years old for the simplest types (fighters and barbarians) to 1d4 years old for the most complex (wizards, artificers). Also from memory there was a ban on new warforged two years ago -so roll a 1 and you're illegal.

Does mass production of warforged in little more than the past decade say a lot about Eberron on its own? Definitely. And it does so in ways that the normal kitchen sink melange of elves (of all types), dwarves, orcs, gnomes, halflings, etc. don't.

But does this mean that I can't play a warforged in another setting? Of course not. A warforged is essentially an android made via magic. I've played a warforged made centuries ago by a mad wizard and trapped for most of that time. Did it disrupt the setting much? No. Mad wizards are a thing and adventurers are weird. There may have been other warforged in the setting but I'm not aware of any.

And likewise small communities and far away communities disrupt very few settings and add a tiny amount of spice. You don't get a stronger setting by excluding things - you get one by picking things to focus on.
 


doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
It's a cat.
I figure it oughta be pretty obvious that if “it’s a cat” was enough of an explanation, I wouldn’t have needed to ask the question.

If you don’t want actually articulate whatever it is, that’s all well and good, but if the intent was to make clear that which I have indicated is unclear, that ain’t gonna do it.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Personally, I played in a great horror campaign where we played monsters who were stuck in the realm of monsters who were completely alien to us. It was tense and terrifying. You don't need to play all humans to do horror.

You just need to clearly establish an Other that is Unknown. We constantly had things coming at us from unexpected directions, like the time my character was possessed by a hostile spirit while we were trying to rest in a broken down shack. We were already beaten and broken and then that happened and we were literally at our wits end. Hearts hammering in our chests and ready to tear our hair out.

Frankly, even if the Tabaxi is played for comic relief (which it doesn't have to be), it will only highlight the horror when Strahd plays cat-and-mouse with it (and the cat is the mouse).
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Supporter
Personally, I played in a great horror campaign where we played monsters who were stuck in the realm of monsters who were completely alien to us. It was tense and terrifying. You don't need to play all humans to do horror.

You just need to clearly establish an Other that is Unknown. We constantly had things coming at us from unexpected directions, like the time my character was possessed by a hostile spirit while we were trying to rest in a broken down shack. We were already beaten and broken and then that happened and we were literally at our wits end. Hearts hammering in our chests and ready to tear our hair out.

Frankly, even if the Tabaxi is played for comic relief (which it doesn't have to be), it will only highlight the horror when Strahd plays cat-and-mouse with it (and the cat is the mouse).
Gothic horror, which Ravenloft mixes with epic fantasy D&D style, is a more specific genre than just horror.

Genre is something that, if you want, you can bend. So, you want to run a Ravenloft campaign strong in the gothic horror genre . . . but want to allow a PC to play a tabaxi? It can work, but it does stretch the genre. However, nothing wrong with trying to maintain a tight genre feel, as long as you can convince your players to go along with it.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Supporter
Mystara was quite exclusive of a lot of races because it had its start in BECMI rather than AD&D. Since orcs and other humanoids were descended from beastmen, they couldn't interbreed with humans or demihumans, so no half-orcs. Interbreeding in-game was already quite difficult and according to the books, with half races being handled differently, thus no half-elves. Mystara replaced a lot of creatures that were available in Realms or Greyhawk with their own. It has 5 reptilian humanoid races already, Dragonborn are superfluous. Tieflings would only be available as extraplanar since interbreeding requires a divine act and the Immortals keep out outer planar creatures. It might have a lot of playable races from the crucibles, but they were already established races.
Mystara is interesting because it used the BECMI D&D ruleset that co-existed with AD&D . . . two similar-but-different rulesets that effectively did the same thing. I'm still a bit salty over that decades later. A lot of what makes Mystara "unique" comes from the BECMI rules, particularly race-as-class. The designers at one point decided that Mystara didn't have half-elves, mostly because that would have required a new race-class to be designed. Easier to say, "Nope, not in this setting". Problem was, the setting wasn't different enough from other D&D settings for that moratorium to make sense from a story perspective. And it was a design choice they later broke with the Yavi, a dark-skinned half-elven race inhabiting the Serpent Peninsula . . . although I don't recall any rules created for player options.

If you plan on running a Mystara campaign running the BECMI rules, then sticking with the existing race/class list makes sense . . . as again, designing a half-elf class would be a pain. But if you plan on running a Mystara campaign using the 5E rules . . . then it makes no sense to me to restrict half-elves. Or orcs, tieflings, dragonborn, etc. Mystara had a restricted list of races back in the day, sure, but it wasn't to maintain a genre theme or tone, it was simply an artifact of the rules. And they kept adding to that list of races to the point where Mystara has one of the most diverse arrays of sentient creatures in all of the D&D multiverse, which is why some of us feel adding a few more to the mix just doesn't break the tone and feel of a Mystara campaign.
 

I figure it oughta be pretty obvious that if “it’s a cat” was enough of an explanation, I wouldn’t have needed to ask the question.

If you don’t want actually articulate whatever it is, that’s all well and good, but if the intent was to make clear that which I have indicated is unclear, that ain’t gonna do it.
There's an inherent silliness in talking animals. I guess we all perceive the limit in a different way, but most people would agree that if one of the main characters of "Dracula" were a Carebear or Donald Duck, it would change the tone of the novel quite significantly. Some people have the same reaction when it comes to Tabaxi or other exotic D&D species. And yes, the protagonists of a story play an important part in setting the tone. If the main characters of Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" were a Halfling to begin with, his eventual transformation would feel less dramatic.
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Here's my simple question: WTF are you doing using (non-4e) D&D for a no-casters campaign. About 40% of every single non-4e PHB is spells. About two thirds of classes are casters.
You might have missed the chain of posts that I was responding to. Some of their claims might have amounted to saying one could reskin freely. I was testing that proposition with this thought-experiment. If one is unwilling to accept it, then it can easily be narrowed to some subset of spells. Let's say no revival spells (no raise dead etc). Can they be brought back into the campaign by reskinning them?

My general claim is that while the fluff-to-crunch relation is flexible, it is not fungible. That is because when game designers craft mechanics, at times they aim to capture something quite specific in their dynamics. It's not just totally arbitrary.

You don't get a stronger setting by excluding things - you get one by picking things to focus on.
Evidence? For instance, I think the EarthSea setting would be weakened if the author had been made to throw in the kitchen-sink of fantasy and sci-fi races (for the sake of the example, all of them).
 

Li Shenron

Legend
If you don’t want actually articulate whatever it is, that’s all well and good, but if the intent was to make clear that which I have indicated is unclear, that ain’t gonna do it.
Many of us did articulate, but we didn't satisfy you. You also didn't articulate back, just reiterated your question, so clearly now some people are starting to respond to you more bluntly. I am quite sure nothing we can say will sway your opinion at this point, but there is no reason you should change your mind. Keep your opinion, and move onto something else. I will now do the same.
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Many of us did articulate, but we didn't satisfy you. You also didn't articulate back, just reiterated your question, so clearly now some people are starting to respond to you more bluntly. I am quite sure nothing we can say will sway your opinion at this point, but there is no reason you should change your mind. Keep your opinion, and move onto something else. I will now do the same.
I have reached more or less the same point. It seems to come down to taste. I notice when pear is added to the salad, @doctorbadwolf does not. There's probably something else out there that I am not sensitive to, that @doctorbadwolf does notice :)
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
There's an inherent silliness in talking animals. I guess we all perceive the limit in a different way, but most people would agree that if one of the main characters of "Dracula" were a Carebear or Donald Duck, it would change the tone of the novel quite significantly. Some people have the same reaction when it comes to Tabaxi or other exotic D&D species..
No, there isn’t. You and some others perceive a silliness in a feline humanoid (which...isn’t a talking animal any more than a human is), but it isn’t inherent.
But by claiming there is, you’ve given some degree of an actual explanation, rather than just repeating the premise over and over, which I appreciate. You have an association with cartoons that comes to your mind when ever a sapient humanoid that is part of a genus other than primate is in a story, and thus (and here I’m extrapolating a bit) you have a harder time taking the story seriously.

I can grok that. I don’t think that it outweighs a(nother) player’s character concept happening to involve a tabaxi, but it’s comprehensible.
Many of us did articulate, but we didn't satisfy you. You also didn't articulate back, just reiterated your question, so clearly now some people are starting to respond to you more bluntly. I am quite sure nothing we can say will sway your opinion at this point, but there is no reason you should change your mind. Keep your opinion, and move onto something else. I will now do the same.
Do what you want. I seem to be having an actual discussion with a couple other people, however, so I’m gonna go ahead and continue doing that. 🤷‍♂️
I have reached more or less the same point. It seems to come down to taste. I notice when pear is added to the salad, @doctorbadwolf does not. There's probably something else out there that I am not sensitive to, that @doctorbadwolf does notice :)
Probably.

I think it’s worthwhile to try to dig into “why” on stuff like this, and try to understand it.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Gothic horror, which Ravenloft mixes with epic fantasy D&D style, is a more specific genre than just horror.

Genre is something that, if you want, you can bend. So, you want to run a Ravenloft campaign strong in the gothic horror genre . . . but want to allow a PC to play a tabaxi? It can work, but it does stretch the genre. However, nothing wrong with trying to maintain a tight genre feel, as long as you can convince your players to go along with it.
It doesn’t inherently stretch the genre, though.

If someone listens to the CoS run of High Rollers, and taken out of the genre tone because the grave cleric is a tabaxi...honestly I don’t see how that is anything related to the actual genre and tabaxi interacting. It’s a that person thing. Which is fine, we all have our things, but examining them is useful, as is refraining from acting like they’re unavoidable or inherent to whatever thing they’re related to.
 

No, there isn’t. You and some others perceive a silliness in a feline humanoid (which...isn’t a talking animal any more than a human is), but it isn’t inherent.
Perception is what you and all the others have been talking about from the start. If you're looking for axioms, I'm not sure you're going to succeed.
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Probably.

I think it’s worthwhile to try to dig into “why” on stuff like this, and try to understand it.
Some examples seem to have purchase for you - like first contact - so extrapolate those to assume greater sensitivity. For me, a dwarf would stick out like a sore thumb in an EarthSea setting. The author could probably have integrated them successfully, but if she wanted to spend her energy on other aspects of her setting - that had greater payoff for her tensions and themes - then to me that would make far more sense.
 

Coroc

Hero
I guess I just...don't understand something very fundamental to other people's view of the game and of stories.

In the CoS thread, someone talked about how their run of CoS was aided by the players leaning in to the theme of despair and gothic/slavic horror by...not playing certain races. To me, the statement reads exactly as reasonable and comprehensible as, "my players helped by only eating spicy food on wednesdays." I just can't fathom how a tabaxi would every possibly change the tone of the story in literally any way.

Like, I ask players to keep their character personalities, alignments, goals, and attitudes toward cooperation with a group of trusted allies, within the themes and goals of the campaign, but...a tabaxi can have any personality, alignment, goals, or attitude toward cooperation and trust.

What am I missing? Is there some sort of emotional shorthand by association that everyone else here has for each race that I just don't have? Like, you see a tabaxi or a tortle or a grung or a gnoll or whatever and just, see something that is outside the text yet fully real for you, that I just don't see?
It is about Ravenloft and gothic horror as such.

You see, your vanilla FR players when encountering a zombie it is just another bag of hitpoints, to overdraw it a bit so you better get the meaning.

In Ravenloft your PC is expected to show (and best RP!) fear when encountering something supernatural, be it a Zombie or something like a Goblyn (yeah in Forlorn they are spelled like that, and they are a bit different to your normal goblins in so far, that their special attack is to bite you directly in your face)

So now you are expected to RP fear when encountering everything besides normal bears and wolves, and you come along wanting to play a Tabaxi or a Dragonborn? Darn, if I am to eventually run away from something looking like a goblin, even as an experienced and battle hardened adventurer, then what will normal townsfolk do, when encountering a dragonborn?

If you want to play Ravenloft like a vanilla campaign your free to do it but imho you miss out all the fun

Edit for more clarity: The need to RP fear and madness is even more essential to Ravenloft than what races you allow there as a DM, but deducting from that you just cannot allow races who fall more or less under the =monster-category. In some domains this might even include elves!
 
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Coroc

Hero
There's an inherent silliness in talking animals. I guess we all perceive the limit in a different way, but most people would agree that if one of the main characters of "Dracula" were a Carebear or Donald Duck, it would change the tone of the novel quite significantly. Some people have the same reaction when it comes to Tabaxi or other exotic D&D species. And yes, the protagonists of a story play an important part in setting the tone. If the main characters of Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" were a Halfling to begin with, his eventual transformation would feel less dramatic.
Roflmao, Donald duck in CoS hahaha, I have t okeep that comparison in my mind for the surely upcoming future discussions with the everything-must-go-all-the-time fans.
 

Gothic horror, which Ravenloft mixes with epic fantasy D&D style, is a more specific genre than just horror.

Genre is something that, if you want, you can bend. So, you want to run a Ravenloft campaign strong in the gothic horror genre . . . but want to allow a PC to play a tabaxi? It can work, but it does stretch the genre. However, nothing wrong with trying to maintain a tight genre feel, as long as you can convince your players to go along with it.
Ravenloft is not just gothic horror. Certainly Barovia is, but the setting outgrew that pretty early on (although for some reason later editions wanted to shrink back to just the Transylvania by another name).

Darkon, by far the most useable of the domains, is fantasy horror, complete with demihuman majority towns. Paridon is Victorian Horror (ie Jack the Ripper), Dementileu, Mordent and Lamordia are 18th century romantic horror. The Amber Wastes is Hammer Horror complete with the Mummy. Bluetspur is Lovecraftian style cosmic horror. There's many flavours and nothing about Tabaxis that render them unsuitable for a campaign set there.
 

Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters

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