D&D General The Tyranny of Rarity

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DND_Reborn

Legend
Unless a player feels really strongly about playing a certain race, I am comfortable banning PC races that I don't want in the game. If a player really wants to play something that is otherwise banned, I am perfectly happy doing the "you came from a different realm and are trapped in a strange world" or whatever.
 

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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.
It's not solely the DMs fault. Players can be sometimes be somewhat wilfully indifferent to what the DM is aiming for, but DMs need to know what they actually want too.

It's a lot more useful to tell your players what you do want (and sell them on why it would be cool) rather than tell them what you don't want. Because in my experience if you do the latter they will always come up with something you don't want but which it didn't occur to you to exclude.
 

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.
Well. Yes. That's the better way to do it.

Although I think it helps to know why you want everyone to be human.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
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.

Or another example:
  • DM: Human centric campaign
  • Player 1: But I'd like to be an elf
  • DM: OK, we can have one elf
  • Player 2: I'd like to be an elf
  • DM: I'd rather for the campaign to be human centric, and that would make two elves, please discuss with Player 1 and let me know who gets to play the elf in the group.
 

Or another example:
  • DM: Human centric campaign
  • Player 1: But I'd like to be an elf
  • DM: OK, we can have one elf
  • Player 2: I'd like to be an elf
  • DM: I'd rather for the campaign to be human centric, and that would make two elves, please discuss with Player 1 and let me know who gets to play the elf in the group.
Yes. Yes. Obviously it's not irresolvable.

But resolved or not, it illustrates that by saying "human-centric" you haven't actually done anything to encourage players to get on board with what you actually want to do. What does it say about what you've offered them that their first prefence is to play an elf?

Why is it cooler to play a human in this game than an outsider elf character?
 


Or another example:
  • DM: Human centric campaign
  • Player 1: But I'd like to be an elf
  • DM: OK, we can have one elf
  • Player 2: I'd like to be an elf
  • DM: I'd rather for the campaign to be human centric, and that would make two elves, please discuss with Player 1 and let me know who gets to play the elf in the group.
Players 1 & 2: we decided to both be half-elves. That’s like one whole elf for the party.
 

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!
A summary of a 3E game I almost played in (never got past session 0). While I fortunately no longer have to deal with this type of player, too many people seem to assume that players can be reasonable.

DM: We're doing a human centric world, so PHB races only
Me: Human's fine with me.
Player 1: I'm thinking elf.
Player 2: Gnome maybe.
Player 3: I'm going with Treant.
DM: I said PHB only.
Player 1: Oh, I'm going with drow.
DM: wait...
Player 2: Never mind, pixie looks good.
DM: seriously???
 

Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
While I see what you're getting at here and to some extent agree, the inherent risk is that you'll run aground* on table mechanics: "Hey, she's got one of those to play, I want one too!", meaning that thing that until a moment ago was a complete one-off either a) suddenly has to be duplicated or b) is liable to cause resentment at the table.

More broadly, I also very much want to avoid the end-result effect where an adventuring party resembles the Star Wars cantina on feet.

* - I speak from experience here, and have had these discussions. Perhaps fortunately for me, the player of the one-off character was a real Leroy Jenkins type and ran it straight into its grave, whereupon the desirability of playing that species dropped considerably... :)
If, as a GM, a player asked to be a warforged in a world where there weren't any warforged I'd allow it and have a lot of fun coming up with the oddball circumstance that made it happen (lightning hit a statue at the same time a cleric cast True Resurrection and a soul was created and instilled).

If, after that strange one-off backstory a different player wanted to ALSO play a warforged, well now not only do I get to have fun creating a different odd all story...now I have an instant subplot involving two characters (Who is creating these creatures with bolts of lightning???)

That being said, the plots of the games I run are the intersection of the PC goals and the happenings in the world around them. I try to rarely use generic adventure goals....which is why I have little use for premade adventure oaths and campaign setting books.
 

Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
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.
I think you are conflating avoiding a mechanical hang-up (flying at low level) with a locked down set of options.

Would you allow me to play an aarakokra(sp?) in your game if I didn't use my innate flight power?

If yes...your hangup is flying.
If no....your hangup is wanting a tightly curated list.
 

Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
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.
I always feel like players really only get 2.5 major decisions for their character (Race/Class/Background).

Limiting them to 1.5 major decisions always feels wrong to me, if the missing element is t made up for in some other interesting way like a rules-inclusive choice of guild membership or important family to allow for more differentiation.
 

I always feel like players really only get 2.5 major decisions for their character (Race/Class/Background).

Limiting them to 1.5 major decisions always feels wrong to me, if the missing element is t made up for in some other interesting way like a rules-inclusive choice of guild membership or important family to allow for more differentiation.
I think that's just generally a good idea anyway. Players often don't want to play humans because they are perceived as boring and vanilla. So make them not so.
 

I figured that would be your stance @Lanefan, and I respect it - I have on occasion been rather heavy-handed about the inclusion of certain things in the games I run (no PC drow in 1E/2E being one that comes foremost to mind), but after having also raised my kids to play D&D, I’ve opened the gates quite a bit (similiar to @Smackpixi ’s experience with his “players” ;) ).

I can understand the head-desking when the group goes full Cantina, but I also understand the desire to play or be something you just can’t in this world. While I try to make playing a human in my home brew desirable, I’ll allow just about anything - so long as the mechanics aren’t unbalanced. The big thing I keep in mind is that I don’t let myself worry about how to make it fit into the game - players willing enough to play strange things are fonts of ideas themselves, and when it comes to monsters player’s ability to imagine the worst scenario possible for its origin or how it fits into the world arc often exceeds my own.
One potential problem with this, when there's only one example of something in the world, it is bound to attract attention from NPCs in the world, and some of that attention is bound to be negative. Otherwise, you're really stretching the way people think. The "hideous lizard-man" mentioned in the OP is likely to cause fear in many communities by virtue of its appearance alone, for example.
 

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.
Are you saying that it shouldn't matter? The vast majority of fantasy properties are primarily human with a small number of other races for a reason. If the DM wants to hew to that philosophy, I'm inclined to let them. Changing that conceit is a HUGE worldbuilding headache if the world isn't built with that in mind.
 


Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I always feel like players really only get 2.5 major decisions for their character (Race/Class/Background).

Limiting them to 1.5 major decisions always feels wrong to me, if the missing element is t made up for in some other interesting way like a rules-inclusive choice of guild membership or important family to allow for more differentiation.
I very, very rarely limit races like that, and when I do it's for good reason that I know the players will enjoy.
 

One potential problem with this, when there's only one example of something in the world, it is bound to attract attention from NPCs in the world, and some of that attention is bound to be negative. Otherwise, you're really stretching the way people think. The "hideous lizard-man" mentioned in the OP is likely to cause fear in many communities by virtue of its appearance alone, for example.

That doesn't necessarily follow. As the OP noted, that's in mindset where everyone expects they know what their world is about. Especially in a cosmopolitan area, the reaction could be "Huh, I've heard there are weird things out the world; apparently one of them is lizard men."
 


I think that's just generally a good idea anyway. Players often don't want to play humans because they are perceived as boring and vanilla. So make them not so.
How would you do that in basic 5e? They are designed to be the least interesting race, and the Tasha's add-on just made it worse.
 

That doesn't necessarily follow. As the OP noted, that's in mindset where everyone expects they know what their world is about. Especially in a cosmopolitan area, the reaction could be "Huh, I've heard there are weird things out the world; apparently one of them is lizard men."
How cosmopolitan can an area be with a short list of non-human races?
 

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