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D&D 5E What is the appeal of the weird fantasy races?

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I mean, do you know how badass it is to play a domesticated Black Cat warlock that slays demons with Eldritch Blasts?

Or wield a sword as a Grey Wolf Rune Knight?

I mean yeah you can get the same results as a human, but then your a human.
 

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Bitbrain

Black Lives Matter
I’m on the autistic spectrum. I don’t really think or behave in a similar fashion to other humans I know in real life, so why would I ever want to play a human at the game table?

Fantasy is more than just Tolkien, and different people like different things. Why do some people like superhero films and others prefer gritty gangster movies while others enjoy romantic period pieces? The point is to have options for people, not proscribe one single example of the fantasy genre.

Very true.

Unfortunately, the only Fantasy the other two DMs in my group care for is Tolkien.
 

One of my big fantasy things is Shining Force, the ol' Sega game.

So... Bird people doesn't seem 'weird' to me given how that game goes. They're just, part of the world and part of how fantasy goes. Along with the phoenix, the jellyfish, the ratman thief you can promote into a ninja, tanks being sort of common, and the Gamera
 


Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I limit races to the "traditional" ones myself for a variety of reasons, not least of which that I don't want my towns looking like they're getting ready to enter Mos Eisley's cantina. Even with standard PHB races (no dragonborn or drow) it feels like there are already too many species to me. I get that some people want to "explore" other perspectives, but do we really do that in any meaningful way? We are limited by life experience, biology and built-in unconscious biases, limited in our ability to take on an alien perspective.

On the other hand, when it was available in LFR I played warforged and a gnoll. To be honest, the former was largely to see how many people would get the Star Wars reference because I named him TK-542, the latter so I could play Scooby-Doo. So whether that's a robotic warforged who doesn't really understand meat based life forms or an over-enthusiastic gnoll who will do just about anything for a snack, it's just funny caricatures that easily stick.

So I'm a bit torn here. On the one hand, as a DM I don't want a silly cartoon universe. Even limiting as I do(there aren't that many "monstrous" humanoids running around either) it still feels too crowded. On the other hand for a more casual game playing wacky fun time is fine. In casual public games I want have to have a really simple "hook". Something I can latch onto that stands out.

So that's why I play "weird" fantasy races now and then even though I don't allow them in my home campaign.
 

6ENow!

The Game Is Over
I'm totally with the OP on this. I am amazed at how many players seem to want to play the more "unusual" races nowadays. A lot of the minis people preview in the HeroForge Color thread I started shows the rather strange eclectic hodgepodge (to me) of PC concepts that are out there... I don't see the appeal and when someone insists on playing one, when you go into towns, etc. in my games you are likely to get some strange looks from the townsfolk--who don't often see such strangers in their communities.

Now, when we played our online monk game, we purposefully took animalistic races: Aarakocra, Tabaxi, Tortle. BUT the idea for the campaign was there existed an "animal kingdom" continent (sort of like Zootopia) in part of the world where animal-races flourished and were the norm. So, in that setting, such races get some looks outside of their own lands, but everyone knows of the kingdom and understand where they are from.

Frankly, it has been a little fun, but more often just seems silly to me, personally. shrug
 

Undrave

Hero
Just challenge your player to a mono-race party if it bothers you that much. I’m in a game where the whole party is Dwarf (okay, my last dwarf was killed and I’m playing a rock gnome, but it worked at that point in the story and if we had been closer to our home base I would have switched to a Dwarf Mastermind!)
 

For me, it has everything to do with the setting. I‘m right with the OP...until someone mentions thri-keen on Athas, and then I’m like “well, that’s legit.” Or Planescape, where it’s kind of supposed to be the Mos Eisley cantina.

For me, setting is everything, and there has to be a clear understanding that D&D baseline settings have traditionally been predominantly the Tolkien-like races as the massive majority of the population. So it’s when someone wants to play a thri-kreen on Oerth, or a tiefling on Krynn, or a dragonborn..well, anywhere...that it throws everything off for me.

So if I were playing in Eberron, sure make that party of weird choices, because it was designed that way, but if I’m playing in a setting that wasn’t designed that way, it bugs the crap out of me. Treating every setting as if it were Eberron means you don’t get the other experiences at all, much sh less as a baseline. And since there are a lot of new younger players (who did not grow up saturated with just elves and dwarves, but grew up with weird races, so it’s not even something new for them) they are coming into D&D and seeing all that weird fun presented to them as the default rather than as, well, weird! Id prefer if they got a chance to see what the classic settings looked like, so they can choose what settings to use for what story ideas, rather than just get the idea that D&D is supposed to be a kitchen sink menagerie on every setting by default.

Now, when we played our online monk game, we purposefully took animalistic races: Aarakocra, Tabaxi, Tortle. BUT the idea for the campaign was there existed an "animal kingdom" continent (sort of like Zootopia) in part of the world where animal-races flourished and were the norm. So, in that setting, such races get some looks outside of their own lands, but everyone knows of the kingdom and understand where they are from.
I might have to borrow that idea. Sounds like a really cool idea for a world...in Spelljammer!
 

6ENow!

The Game Is Over
I might have to borrow that idea. Sounds like a really cool idea for a world...in Spelljammer!
LOL have at it! I figure if I run these types of games, I will continue to use this concept.

The idea is on this continent, the "animal-gods" humanoided the animals to compete with the other races of the world. So, you have everything and anything that is animalistic in race.

Hope it works out well if you use it. :)
 

Shardstone

Adventurer
Weird Fantasy races do a lot of things for me.

First off, they explore new ideas, and allow me to really think about what life would be like if you weren't human. Things like Loxodons and Simic Hybrids must live pretty wild lives, and I like to explore those speculative ideas.

More importantly, I am obsessed with symbology, and I like thinking about races as symbols. What does it symbollically mean to be an race of elephant creatures? What does that say about the society? About being a hero? How does it recontextualize and change Fantasy to have these ideas? What do these symbols lead to, and as a vector, what new stories do they create?

But ultimately, I play weird Fantasy races because of threads like this. Because of people who like mainstream Fantasy but turn their nose up at weird Fantasy. Something about being a rebel punk and a kid and all that I guess. Dunno.

Like really man, dwarves and elves, those sure are normal, lmao. I guess after Tolkien and Dragonlance were written, Fantasy as a whole was tapped for some of you, eh?
 


BookTenTiger

Adventurer
I'm totally with the OP on this. I am amazed at how many players seem to want to play the more "unusual" races nowadays. A lot of the minis people preview in the HeroForge Color thread I started shows the rather strange eclectic hodgepodge (to me) of PC concepts that are out there... I don't see the appeal and when someone insists on playing one, when you go into towns, etc. in my games you are likely to get some strange looks from the townsfolk--who don't often see such strangers in their communities.

I think this is a Session 0 issue. I'm running a game inspired by Curse of Strahd. The players rolled up a Tortle, goliath, Tiefling, and Aasimar.

Rather than have all these characters be strangers in a strange land, I changed the land. Villages of tortles were the first conquered by my vampire BBEG. The seaside pirate town is full of Tieflings. There's a monastery of Aasimars hiding out in the mountains. The Goliath is still an outsider, because that fits the character concept.

Recently the Tortle character died and the player rolled up a gnome. Now we've established that the vampire BBEG kidnaps gnome experts to work in her castle as alchemists, mages and tinkerers.

Weird races are only weird if they don't fit into the campaign world!
 


Undrave

Hero
Id prefer if they got a chance to see what the classic settings looked like, so they can choose what settings to use for what story ideas, rather than just get the idea that D&D is supposed to be a kitchen sink menagerie on every setting by default.

A LOT of D&D settings are kitchen sink :p

At the end of the day, WotC has copyrights on Tieflings, Dragonborns, Tortle, Loxodon, Tabaxi, Aasimar, etc, and not on Dwarves, Elves and Gnomes, so for them it's makes more business sense to push the races they own than the races everybody can use in their setting books.

Kitchen sink is the new normal :p
 

Drazen

Arch-Villain
I'll admit I'm an old school D&D player/DM. I've never discounted a player idea in osr or 5e, but I still wonder. Turtle people (tortles) flying people (aarokara), dragon people (dragonborn)... and so on.

Why do people chose these races?

To me, elves and dwarves have a human element. But Turtle people, and cat people and demon people and dragon people seem like the new normal. Do people who play D&D now, feel more comfortable with role-playing animalistic type characters than before?

It is kind of off-putting when your player party is a bunch of bird people, elephant people, demon people, cat people... and so on. I mean are humans even relevant in D&D anymore?

Is it a role-playing thing, or just a ability bonus power-up thing?

is the normal for D&D 5e is ampthormorophic / furry role-playing? I don't think I've ever ran a group that had a single human in it.
The nature of exotic species has always been attractive.
Mostly because we wish to be something other than human, we want to be more then we already are.
Humans are one of the most versatile and adaptive species that comes in a wide variety of choices but beings like cat-people, drow, demons, elves and whatnot are more exiting and interesting. They bring more than just a typical human who have little to no fluff. Other then being most common

As for the relevancy of humans, i guess it's up to the DM. He can decide whether or not to have a more human party involved.
 

embee

Lawyer by day. Rules lawyer by night.
I'll admit I'm an old school D&D player/DM. I've never discounted a player idea in osr or 5e, but I still wonder. Turtle people (tortles) flying people (aarokara), dragon people (dragonborn)... and so on.

Why do people chose these races?

To me, elves and dwarves have a human element. But Turtle people, and cat people and demon people and dragon people seem like the new normal. Do people who play D&D now, feel more comfortable with role-playing animalistic type characters than before?

It is kind of off-putting when your player party is a bunch of bird people, elephant people, demon people, cat people... and so on. I mean are humans even relevant in D&D anymore?

Is it a role-playing thing, or just a ability bonus power-up thing?

is the normal for D&D 5e is ampthormorophic / furry role-playing? I don't think I've ever ran a group that had a single human in it.

Reptilian people, cat people, people with demonic heritage, and avians have all been fantasy and sci-fi staples for decades. And expanding the roster of playable races is an equally hallowed RPG staple. Both are driven by player dissatisfaction with limited options.

Heck, elves and dwarves had racial level caps as written but so many groups house-ruled the caps away that TSR took the hint.
 

SiCK_Boy

Explorer
I rarely consider any of the uncommon races from the PHB, nor any of the myriad other books released over the years. When I've been tempted to consider these, it was usually because I had a very specific character concept in mind.

My impression is that a lot of players, even if they won't admit it, pick those races first and foremost for powergaming reasons. They look for a race that will grant them some edge along with their class. Same reason variant human is so popular: as soon as you get rid of the free feat, you see humans become the least chosen race.

In the end, it often matters very little. Darkvision is quickly handwaived in a group where everyone except one halfling or one dragonborn player has it. Rarely do DMs go through the trouble of developing a world that specificaly reacts to those races (even drows are not provoking much reactions from most NPC nowadays - or tiefling, to take a less loaded example because of the real-world parallel that can too easily be made with the drow), and very few adventures are centered around the specifics of those player's races / communities. Most players using one of these races are exiled or "unique", and as such, there is little need for the game to explore what it's like to be a Tortle in this fantasy-land, for example.

Because your class is purely "chosen" (except for sorcerer, that can be an inborn power) and learned (from a character perspective), there is a lot of emphasis on having your class define what you can do, and what kind of adventuring enterprise you would take part in. But your race, by definition, is not something the character chose (even if the player did choose it), and is much more part of what you are, as in your whole upbringing should be greatly shaped by your race (and, to some extent, by your background). Most people (DM or players) cannot invest the amount of energy needed to fully realize a character with such an upbringing; it's easier to just focus on your class and where you want to take your character as a member of that class (rather than as a member of a given race). The race just becomes a small list of mechanical benefits to add to the package (if there's one good thing out of the added flexibility with race abilities coming out of Tasha's, it's that it allows the players to fully assume the irrelevance of race by just letting them pick any "suit" they want to wear, get the mechanical benefits they prefer that align with their chosen class, and let go of all the cultural and societal baggage that should come from a race if they don't care for it).

If people had vested interest in specific races, you would be seeing a lot more campaigns based on a party of all non-humans (like an all dragonborn party that could explore all the interplay between various colors, the role of the clan in dragonborn culture, etc.). These are really the exception; the much more common adventuring framework is the motley / circus crew of random weirdo races (who luckily always happen to have one melee fighter, one party face, one arcane caster, one healer) all meeting in a tavern and forming a group to loot the surrounding monster lairs.

Maybe if I had more exposure to examples of players really playing up their race as part of their character development, I wouldn't be so cynical.

I must say a number of the replies in this thread have me thinking I may just not have been exposed to a sufficient variety of groups or players...
 

Shardstone

Adventurer
I rarely consider any of the uncommon races from the PHB, nor any of the myriad other books released over the years. When I've been tempted to consider these, it was usually because I had a very specific character concept in mind.

My impression is that a lot of players, even if they won't admit it, pick those races first and foremost for powergaming reasons. They look for a race that will grant them some edge along with their class. Same reason variant human is so popular: as soon as you get rid of the free feat, you see humans become the least chosen race.

In the end, it often matters very little. Darkvision is quickly handwaived in a group where everyone except one halfling or one dragonborn player has it. Rarely do DMs go through the trouble of developing a world that specificaly reacts to those races (even drows are not provoking much reactions from most NPC nowadays - or tiefling, to take a less loaded example because of the real-world parallel that can too easily be made with the drow), and very few adventures are centered around the specifics of those player's races / communities. Most players using one of these races are exiled or "unique", and as such, there is little need for the game to explore what it's like to be a Tortle in this fantasy-land, for example.

Because your class is purely "chosen" (except for sorcerer, that can be an inborn power) and learned (from a character perspective), there is a lot of emphasis on having your class define what you can do, and what kind of adventuring enterprise you would take part in. But your race, by definition, is not something the character chose (even if the player did choose it), and is much more part of what you are, as in your whole upbringing should be greatly shaped by your race (and, to some extent, by your background). Most people (DM or players) cannot invest the amount of energy needed to fully realize a character with such an upbringing; it's easier to just focus on your class and where you want to take your character as a member of that class (rather than as a member of a given race). The race just becomes a small list of mechanical benefits to add to the package (if there's one good thing out of the added flexibility with race abilities coming out of Tasha's, it's that it allows the players to fully assume the irrelevance of race by just letting them pick any "suit" they want to wear, get the mechanical benefits they prefer that align with their chosen class, and let go of all the cultural and societal baggage that should come from a race if they don't care for it).

If people had vested interest in specific races, you would be seeing a lot more campaigns based on a party of all non-humans (like an all dragonborn party that could explore all the interplay between various colors, the role of the clan in dragonborn culture, etc.). These are really the exception; the much more common adventuring framework is the motley / circus crew of random weirdo races (who luckily always happen to have one melee fighter, one party face, one arcane caster, one healer) all meeting in a tavern and forming a group to loot the surrounding monster lairs.

Maybe if I had more exposure to examples of players really playing up their race as part of their character development, I wouldn't be so cynical.

I must say a number of the replies in this thread have me thinking I may just not have been exposed to a sufficient variety of groups or players...
What's up with everyone just saying that people like exotic races for powergaming reasons?


My favorite race is Yuan-Ti. Yes, I know its OP because of spell resistance. But if it didn't have that, it'd STILL be my favorite race, because Yuan-Ti are COOL.

What's overpowered about Loxodon?

What's overpowered about Shadar-Kai?

Aren't the two strongest races Variant Human and Half-Elf?

EDIT: Btw, I run 4 D&D campaigns, and I think there is 1 human amongst all 4. Consider in the future not using your limited experience to paint an entire set of diverse opinions into a pretty irrational category.
 


jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
I'll admit I'm an old school D&D player/DM. I've never discounted a player idea in osr or 5e, but I still wonder. Turtle people (tortles) flying people (aarokara), dragon people (dragonborn)... and so on.

Why do people chose these races?
Same reason they want to play monster races, I guess? And people have been wanting playable monsters for as long as D&D has existed.
 

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