D&D General The Tyranny of Rarity

Status
Not open for further replies.

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
what makes a race an oddball to you anyway?
If it's a PC and not one of Human, Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Hobbit, Part-Elf or Part-Orc it's an oddball.

And oddballs there have been, over the years: I've DMed as PCs two Leprechauns, a Dryad, a couple of Drow, a Centaur, a Gnoll, a Part-Deity(!), a minor Devil, and a small boatload of strange and varied inter-species crossbreeds e.g. a character who has both Orc and Elf in its recent ancestry and is thus a Part-Elf and Part-Orc at the same time, a Human-YuanTi cross, etc.

The most bizarre of all was a character who ended up being a cross between a Skulk and a Frostman. The player here got into the oddball charts and for a while I thought she was never going to stop; the dice just kept taking her from one table to another, each less likely than the last.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Definitely my biggest failing/hurdle as a DM is being obsessed with internal consistency that the player's just don't care or even think about.
Thing is, in order to help figure out how things work in the setting I focus on internal consistency more as a player. As a DM I just try to make things consistent enough to keep me-as-player happy. :)
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
And once more, as a balance, we are left with the actual tyranny of the player, who wants to play whatever he wants, despite the DM maybe having prepared a very consistent world with some restrictions because they fit his cosmology, history, myth, cultures or whatever. Some worlds are created with the principle of "whatever exists in D&D exists in that world" and that's fine too. But the players are playing in the DM's world, so they have to accept his rules and his design. And if, for example, he does not want flying creatures because they are unbalanced compared to what he has prepared (and please don't server me the BS about "it's easy to adjust", first it's not true especially at low level and second, a DM has enough work as it is with all his players, why should he expend specific effort to cater just for my whims ?), then sorry, that's the way it is. We are just starting a new campaign in an interesting world, the types of tieflings there are different, so I'm choosing one of them. And I won't be an entitled little wangrod and insist that my DM allows me to play a winged tiefling just because they have to exist somewhere in the universe. Simply put, in that universe, they don't, and I accept that to be able to play in a consistent campaigns where tieflings are descendant of specific creatures, with a history and consistency, and I will enjoy that.

All of this goes with a trend that started with 3e of not respecting the work the DM does for his players enjoyment. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for the players having fun, but there are limits to it, respect needs to flow both ways, and respect for work and preparation is very important for me.
 

cbwjm

Legend
Sometimes I'll say "PHB" only, perhaps with some additions, rather than allowing everything. I don't use any of the bloodlines from ravenloft in any of my games, though they'd be options in ravenloft.

If I was going to play an established setting like dragonlance, I'd likely restrict races to what's already there, though that does mean that there are a fair few monstrous races that could possibly be available as well half-orc as a substitution for half-ogre.

If I'm just playing a bunch h of one shots like my thunder rift games, I just don't care what people use. It's not a serious campaign, I haven't crafted the world, so the races don't matter.
 

I can understand it, but it indicates an issue - the GM having an intent for the game (say, human dominated with a small number of others) that the players haven't embraced - a Session Zero problem, if you will.

It is an indication that intent doesn't seem valuable to the players. So, one should ask - what value should it give to the players? Did the GM actually make it valuable to them? Were they given a reason to embrace it beyond, "I, the GM, want it this way?"

There should be some things the player accept because the GM wants it that way, and vice versa, in the name of compromise and mutual fun. But the GM ought to ask themselves if this is one that really matters.
A lot of these issues come about because the DM's excluding things doesn't actually convey much to the players.

Eg. The DM may think that "PHB races only and non-human species are very rare" indicates the intention for a human centred game, but to players since it's a very specific set of guidelines it may well suggest that anything within that sphere is perfectly ok. So you get 3 Drow and a rock gnome. And then the DM is pulling their hair out because they now have a party that has no reason to care about the human kingdom whose fate they wanted to centre the game on (and which priority they did nothing really to communicate).
 

Stormonu

Legend
@Lyxen - yes, there is that aspect that does come up, where a player wants something that just isn’t appropriate, mechanically or thematically. I believe the DM does have the right to shoot it down or to put in qualifiers (such as “everyone is going to stop and stare at your character”), but I also feel the player should have the option to make their case. If the foot goes down, though, drop it and don’t belabour the point.

However - and I am guilty of this myself - I’ve seen too many instances where the knee-jerk reaction is a hard “No!”, with no consideration of how it might be made to work, and what sort of benefit it might add to the game arc by including it in one way or another. A lot of times we, as DMs, forget we can offload the workload to the player, or that the campaign world isn’t an ivory tower of our creation - the players are usually more interested in participation if they have buy-in on some of the imaginary real estate as well.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I’ve run the same campaign world for years as well (well, actually two - one Greyhawk, one Amberos - with planar travel between the two). It can be done, races fading in and out over time (especially if between groups years have passed since the last campaign).

It’s a point for consideration, not a hill to die on.

For some examples, I’ve had one-off Warforged in Greyhawk, the one-off Kenku on Greyhawk (from Amberos), a one-off Minotaur (a former human, in fact - on Amberos), the D&D gorgon being unique in Amberos and a few others over the years. Both worlds have pretty established backgrounds, but I made allowances so the players (or me as a DM) could have a bit of fun, even if it meant expanding the gate a bit more than I was comfortable.
You don't even need them to be full races in the setting. A Tabaxi PC from The Beastlands where his race resides somehow ends up in Greyhawk. A Tortle coming out of hibernation as the glacier above him melts, his people dead for a thousand years. And so on. Even if four campaigns later another Tabaxi or Tortle comes into play, it still won't trigger some change to the racial make-up of the world. It will just be another semi-unique circumstance allowing a second one to be played.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
A lot of these issues come about because the DM's excluding things doesn't actually convey much to the players.

Eg. The DM may think that "PHB races only and non-human species are very rare" indicates the intention for a human centred game, but to players since it's a very specific set of guidelines it may well suggest that anything within that sphere is perfectly ok. So you get 3 Drow and a rock gnome. And then the DM is pulling their hair out because they now have a party that has no reason to care about the human kingdom whose fate they wanted to centre the game on (and which priority they did nothing really to communicate).
If I'm going to have a human centric game, I will let the players know that during session 0 or even before. A DM that ends up with 3 drow and a gnome in a human centric game didn't talk to the players about it before hand. :p
 

Stormonu

Legend
If I'm going to have a human centric game, I will let the players know that during session 0 or even before. A DM that ends up with 3 drow and a gnome in a human centric game didn't talk to the players about it before hand. :p
Or somehow wanted the “danger to the human kingdom” to be an (early) surprise in game.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
If I'm going to have a human centric game, I will let the players know that during session 0 or even before. A DM that ends up with 3 drow and a gnome in a human centric game didn't talk to the players about it before hand. :p
Or doesn't get the respect he or she deserves. It may be that they said they wanted a human-centric game, but the players all showed up with the Mos Eisley weirdos anyway assuming that the DM would let them play anyway.
 

If I'm going to have a human centric game, I will let the players know that during session 0 or even before. A DM that ends up with 3 drow and a gnome in a human centric game didn't talk to the players about it before hand. :p

Or somehow wanted the “danger to the human kingdom” to be an (early) surprise in game.

Or doesn't get the respect he or she deserves. It may be that they said they wanted a human-centric game, but the players all showed up with the Mos Eisley weirdos anyway assuming that the DM would let them play anyway.
I think quite often it's a case of not really knowing what they wanted until they realise they didn't get it.

Edit: Also and related the DM may be quite happy with one weird character (so they're allowed) but didn't expect everyone to take that option. This is the problem when you just set character creation boundaries.

If you want a focused game you really need to work together to make characters (and I think make sure that players don't try to just bring some character they've already made*).

*Really I think the player who has a specific character they made a while ago and wrote a backstory with and want to bring along and play in your game is poison. When they insist they can fit it into your game they're usually wrong - the character is made for the the D&D world they imagine in their head (or maybe for the published world they created it for - usually Forgotten Realms) and is often incompatible with the other players' characters as well..

This is a basic rule for me. Do not start thinking about characters before session 0.
 
Last edited:

Oofta

Legend
I’ve run the same campaign world for years as well (well, actually two - one Greyhawk, one Amberos - with planar travel between the two). It can be done, races fading in and out over time (especially if between groups years have passed since the last campaign).

It’s a point for consideration, not a hill to die on.

For some examples, I’ve had one-off Warforged in Greyhawk, the one-off Kenku on Greyhawk (from Amberos), a one-off Minotaur (a former human, in fact - on Amberos), the D&D gorgon being unique in Amberos and a few others over the years. Both worlds have pretty established backgrounds, but I made allowances so the players (or me as a DM) could have a bit of fun, even if it meant expanding the gate a bit more than I was comfortable.

The problem with these conversations is that whether it's intended or not it always comes across to me as "I'm not saying you're doing it wrong, but the way I do it is so much better".

Better for whom? I have an established history that spans centuries and several campaigns. If there is suddenly a sustainable population of tortles, where have they been living? Why has no one ever in the history of any campaign ever encountered one? I have established pantheons with deities from specific pantheons having a relationship to each other, what does the pantheon for goliaths look like and how do they relate to the other deities.

I'm quite open about my restrictions. A player will know before a session 0 what the allowed races are and they can decide whether or not it works for them. If they insist that they must play a minotaur or the game isn't worth joining then it's kind of a red flag, they already have a vision without discussing it with the DM much less the rest of the group. While everybody has a preference, for me ideally the group chats about and discusses what PCs they're going to run and in most cases why they're forming a group. I know a lot of people don't care about a campaign being (for lack of a better term) grounded and consistent as a DM I care. If I didn't care I don't think I'd be as good at DMing.

I simply don't see a lot of upsides to allowing any race. If you're so stuck on one specific race and are unwilling to compromise about that I'm a bit leery that at some point you won't be willing to compromise to get along with the group in other ways as well. So I see downsides with no upside. We can't really know how an aarokocra would think, in the end it's just going to be a person with a funny skin color and horns; I find it hard to believe you can't get 99% of what you want of most races without playing a loxodon.

One last thing ... I like to think about how the different races relate to each other. I want how an NPC treats a PC to be based on a lot of factors, including race. But it's also a world where monsters are real, things do go bump in the night that want to eat your soul. Some people would assume a tiefling was some kind of fiend and react appropriately, whether it's right or wrong.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Or doesn't get the respect he or she deserves. It may be that they said they wanted a human-centric game, but the players all showed up with the Mos Eisley weirdos anyway assuming that the DM would let them play anyway.
I'm not shy about saying no, especially when it comes to folks violating the social contract. If I've spoken to them about it being human centric, they've either agreed or refused. If I show up to the first game expecting it to be human centric, then they agreed and changing things like that isn't cool, so back to the drawing board the player(s) go.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
@Lyxen - yes, there is that aspect that does come up, where a player wants something that just isn’t appropriate, mechanically or thematically. I believe the DM does have the right to shoot it down or to put in qualifiers (such as “everyone is going to stop and stare at your character”), but I also feel the player should have the option to make their case. If the foot goes down, though, drop it and don’t belabour the point.

Thanks for this reply, you are right, in the end it can only be settled by discussion about what the table wants, and if agreement can't be reached (it can be about that or actually many other points in the campaign), it's better not to force it. But of course the player can discuss it with the DM, which I did with my DM when I asked about tieflings, as I had already ideas about my colour of skin and other attributes like horns and tail, etc. But in the end it's fine, and I'm way more happy in the end of having a tiefling that is well integrated in the world rather than my original idea.

However - and I am guilty of this myself - I’ve seen too many instances where the knee-jerk reaction is a hard “No!”, with no consideration of how it might be made to work, and what sort of benefit it might add to the game arc by including it in one way or another. A lot of times we, as DMs, forget we can offload the workload to the player, or that the campaign world isn’t an ivory tower of our creation - the players are usually more interested in participation if they have buy-in on some of the imaginary real estate as well.

I agree, it's part of a negotiation, my difficulty comes from the fact that most of the times when I've encountered that, it was because the player came in too strongly, either with a roleplaying concept that was just not appropriate (and usually with some wangrod aspects in there), or was simply a technical build created for powergaming purpose. Which, in the end, proved that the player cared more just about himself than about the campaign as a whole including the other players and the DM.

Because, in the end, that's also what it is about, making it work with the other characters and the world that the DM creates. As a link to the other threads on similar subject, for me that's the problem of building characters in isolation, usually technically but sometimes in terms of role, and getting all worked up.

Note that this is also why most of the campaigns out there have players' guides which help understanding the concepts that will work well considering how the campaign has been built.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
I'm not shy about saying no, especially when it comes to folks violating the social contract. If I've spoken to them about it being human centric, they've either agreed or refused. If I show up to the first game expecting it to be human centric, then they agreed and changing things like that isn't cool, so back to the drawing board the player(s) go.
This sort of thing, and for better inter-player communication, is why I like to take Session 0 to actually make up the characters and get basic relationships established. Then we're actually sitting at the drawing board together. And if, during the process, the players decide that they really want to do something different, then we haven't wasted a lot of everybody's time.
 

I'm not shy about saying no, especially when it comes to folks violating the social contract. If I've spoken to them about it being human centric, they've either agreed or refused. If I show up to the first game expecting it to be human centric, then they agreed and changing things like that isn't cool, so back to the drawing board the player(s) go.
Player 1: What's the game world like?
DM: Well it's a human centric world and non-humans are rare.
Player 1: So I can only play a human?
DM: No there are some elves who visit human lands from time to time.
Player 1: Ok I'll be an elf.
Player 2: Damn. I wanted to be an elf. Perhaps we can be brothers travelling the human lands together?
Player 1: Cool!
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
A lot of these issues come about because the DM's excluding things doesn't actually convey much to the players.

Eg. The DM may think that "PHB races only and non-human species are very rare" indicates the intention for a human centred game, but to players since it's a very specific set of guidelines it may well suggest that anything within that sphere is perfectly ok.

And if I was a player in that game, having heard the above sentence, and before actually creating a character, I would ask the DM whether my drow would be OK. It's not the DM's fault here, honestly, at least he communicated, it's the player who decided not to communicate about his intent to actually diverge from what the DM had told him.
 

Stormonu

Legend
No offense @Oofta, I think we’re going to fall on the opposite ends of the pole on this one. Which is unusual, because I usually find myself in alignment with your opinion (and respect it quite a bit).

I, personally, used to have very strong opinions about what I allowed for my campaigns. That’s changed a lot, and more rapidly of late. My eldest son often boggles my mind with the things he comes up with, and having such a different interaction with the fantasy he’s grown up with than I had has really made me reconsider my approach to my 80’s-borne campaign world, and the critters upon it - as well as other things about the world.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
This sort of thing, and for better inter-player communication, is why I like to take Session 0 to actually make up the characters and get basic relationships established. Then we're actually sitting at the drawing board together. And if, during the process, the players decide that they really want to do something different, then we haven't wasted a lot of everybody's time.
Yeah. We roll up characters together because it's lots of fun to do. I said it that way because I get a lot of, "What if they show up to the game with different characters?" It seems like a lot of people have groups where the players roll up at home.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Player 1: What's the game world like?
DM: Well it's a human centric world and non-humans are rare.
Player 1: So I can only play a human?
DM: No there are some elves who visit human lands from time to time.
Player 1: Ok I'll be an elf.
Player 2: Damn. I wanted to be an elf. Perhaps we can be brothers travelling the human lands together?
Player 1: Cool!
How I do it.

DM: "The campaign I have in mind is human centric. Ideally you will all be human, but if you guys can agree on it, one PC can be non-human. If you can't agree, then all human it will be."
Players: "Cool. We'll discuss it and see what we come up with."

Clear expectations make it all easier.
 

Status
Not open for further replies.

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top