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

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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Same here. For my home-brew setting (that I won't shut up about, apparently), I'm taking far more inspiration from the civilizations of the Bronze and early Iron ages from around the globe (with a few, like my vaguely Incan-esque mountain-dwelling elves, taking inspiration from civilizations from later points in history and from fiction) and trying to avoid a one-to-one adaptation (those Incan elves will take inspiration from elsewhere—like the Air Tribe Avatar, the last Airbender, also). I like Middle Earth, I like Greyhawk, but I don't want to create a setting that emulates either.


I'm so sorry. IMO, you should go ahead and take the plunge in trying something different that you like. Your players may be more amenable to and easier to roll with it than you think. Heck, if it fails spectacularly, you always have the tried and true to fall back on.

Yeah, I'm thinking after the current campaign is done, proposing a mini-campaign. Maybe one where people keep bouncing from genre to genre and only have a vague memory of who they are? :unsure:

I'd run it by my players first of course.
 

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Yeah, I'm thinking after the current campaign is done, proposing a mini-campaign. Maybe one where people keep bouncing from genre to genre and only have a vague memory of who they are? :unsure:

I'd run it by my players first of course.
Such as a 1960s TV sitcom?
 

Races of Stone, the dwarf/gnome race book, is where they're from. They were pretty much just Half Giants genericified with the psionics stripped off, however.

Because 3.5E is when Half Giants went medium after Half Ogre happened, y'see
I played a half ogre character in 1st edition, round about 1983. I think they came from Dragon magazine.
 



At one point tieflings were monstrous races. So were dragonborn. Now they are in the staple (and half-orcs that made it in early). So there is change. It might not be fast enough for you, but no doubt, there is change.

See, but Tielfings were basically never a "monstrous race"

Tieflings were introduced in 1994 in Planescape, already a playable option. They stayed a non-core playable option until 2008 when they were in the Core Player's Handbook. That is 14 years. They even got their own dedicated book in 2010, two years later.

We are now in 2021, an additional 13 years later, after they showed up in the Core Books. They are still in the PHB, and they are still considered weird and exoctic by many people. Now I'm not sure which number we should focus on, the 27 years since they were introduced, or the 13 years that they have been in the Core Player's Handbook, but either way it seems beyond strange that we are still saying that they "just need time"

And some of these other options are even older. Lizardfolk first got playable stats in Dragon Magazine #185, in 1992, that is 29 years ago. And let us not forget that DnD is only 47 years old this year. That means that for nearly two-thirds of DnD's history playing a lizardfolk has been an option. Never a core option, but one nearly as old as the game itself (only an 18 year gap)

Actually, here is a fun fact. Gnomes were introduced in the first ever Player's Handbook, in 1978. Yet, if you look at the wiki page for that player's handbook it states "The book also included information on non-human races, such as dwarves, elves, and halflings, character abilities,..." And when we talk about the "main" races, what do we say?

Oh yeah, the "Core Four" yet, there have always been more. In fact they included "Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, Half-Elf, Half-Orc, and Gnome" and I believe that it was either this book or the accompanying MM that had rules for Monsters as Playable characters.

So, why do we say "Core Four"? Why do we think that Human, Elf, Dwarf, Hobbit are the foundations of DnD?

Yeah, sorry Chaos, we just really have a different view on these things. From your take on Tolkien to your take on DM, we just disagree. I often find your word choice off-putting. For example, you imply the above DM isn't really doing the work. Or, if they did they and you don't directly see it, they "wasted (their) time." As a DM that tries to use show don't tell, and one that tries to limit their explanations of the world, I find it a bit rude. Maybe I'm just soft skinned though.

No, I think you are conflating what I am saying with something else.

I'm not implying the DM in that example isn't doing the work. I am stating that if they do not do the work, I will judge them for it.

If they came to me and said "I spent hundreds of hours on this world of the Blade coast, with the city of Everwinter and there is a powerful wizard called Leminster" Then I'm going to be highly skeptical they really devoted hundreds of hours to the game world. Maybe they did, but it is all stuff so far behind the scenes that all I can see is a poorly painted copy of the Forgotten Realms.

And maybe you think "Well no one would actually do that", but I have seen very very poor rip-offs of more popular settings and stories. Not in DnD, I'll give you that, but I would not be surprised that it happens.

Yes. I understand. This is your style. No DM should be beholden to your style though. It's great you have done the work. But the key is, you have done the work. In your example, you have done the work. The work is done. If a DM has done his world building work, and is now going to focus on the nuances, such as NPCs and character arcs and dungeon design and accents they want to try and painting their minis prior to encounters, etc. Then they are allowed to say no to the player.
Time is limited commodity. DMs should be allowed to use it how they see best.

Time is a commodity. I'll grant you that, but no player then ever has a chance. DMs build their worlds before they bring them to the players, so no player would ever have a chance to try something the DM didn't think of .

And I'll be frank with you, and this may be just my style, but I'd rather get the chance to work in a new race or a new section of the world than have a painted miniature or the DM talk in an accent.

Especially since, after the game starts, then they have plenty of time to paint their minis and practice their voices.

But again, I guess that is just my style. I don't bother with miniatures, too poor, so maybe it really does require so much extra work.
 

I'm sorry. Are you posting me a "thread" from 11 years ago and a thread from 12 years ago to prove that people use cantina in a negative way? They might still do so today. I didn't disagree with you. I was asking you to understand the context of my post. Me inviting someone - someone who likes the cantina - to an RPG game that has the cantina, on steroids.
The term dungeon crawl has also been disparaged. If I knew someone who loved dungeon crawls and invited them to play by saying: It's a campaign that is a dungeon crawl on steroids, would you call me out on it?
I get it. Everyone has heightened senses and touchy regarding races and D&D. But, please take my statement for what it is, in the context of how it is said, rather than trying to rebut.

I think the point more was "People have been using this term negatively for over ten years, why should I have taken it to be positive in this context"

Which, is a fair point. When something has commonly been an insult, it is very hard to believe it should be taken as a compliment.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I think the point more was "People have been using this term negatively for over ten years, why should I have taken it to be positive in this context"

Which, is a fair point. When something has commonly been an insult, it is very hard to believe it should be taken as a compliment.

If you have a scene with dozens of races, what would you call it? Seems like you could label any term or phrase used to describe it as an insult. I mean, I obviously can't compare a multitude of anthropomorphic animal races to Zootopia (a movie I enjoyed) because that's an insult as well.

I can't stop you from being insulted, but insisting that everyone who uses the term is using it as an insult seems a bit of a stretch. Especially when the person using the term specifically clarified what they meant.
 

I love that D&D lets you play all the races you list.

But, while not new to the game really, most of these races certainly fall into the uncommon to rare categories. Both in-world and in player choice. That's why they often feel new, when they aren't really. Plus, most of them haven't traditionally been presented in the core books, but in supplements.

And, um, actually . . . goliaths debuted in 3rd Edition. ;)

I think you are missing the point though.

When someone could have been playing a Genasi for the last 30 years, almost the entire lifetime of Dungeons and Dragons, why are we still saying that they are only playing it because it is shiny and new.

I mean, let me put this into context for people. 1991 is an important date in world history. It was when the Internet became publicly available.

Many many many of the Races we are talking about, Tieflings, Lizardfolk, Centaurs, Genasi, Goblins, Kobolds, ect ect ect, have been playable races since before the internet. They are "new" in the same way as the internet is "new". Sure, if something debuted in 3rd, it is newer than the internet, but the vast majority of the options we are talking about are older than that.

So, why is it we are still being told "You like these weird races, but if they became popular and not as new then you wouldn't like them anymore" when most of them are OLD.
 

If you have a scene with dozens of races, what would you call it? Seems like you could label any term or phrase used to describe it as an insult. I mean, I obviously can't compare a multitude of anthropomorphic animal races to Zootopia (a movie I enjoyed) because that's an insult as well.

I can't stop you from being insulted, but insisting that everyone who uses the term is using it as an insult seems a bit of a stretch. Especially when the person using the term specifically clarified what they meant.

Um... a scene with dozens of races.

It doesn't need a special term. How would I describe a scene with elves and humans? By saying "You see elves and humans"

And, "Cantina" has specifically been used as an insult. Repeatedly. So getting upset because someone says "You are using a term that is generally used as an insult, so I am seeing negative connotations here" is kind of silly.

Additionally, while I believe you do like Zootopia, other things that generally get thrown around as insulting terms is "cartoons". This actually aggravates me because I know that cartoons are a wonderful medium, but we end up having to use the term "animation" because there are connotations that if you call something a cartoon it is silly and for children only. Which, again, is stupid, but as someone who has tried to get people into watching animated shows, I can tell you that bias runs deep. And, it is present here in these forums. Plenty of people who will compare something they don't like to "cartoons" or "anime" because they think it means those things aren't serious.

You clarified afterward that you really liked Zootopia, but if memory serves you didn't in the original post. So, comparing something to a prominent cartoon by a major producer of children's content, on a forum where people compare things to cartoons to diminish their value? Of course people were going to think you were trying to diminish the value of the thing you were talking about. It sucks, but it is always going to be the case as long as people think that animation and comics are lesser mediums.
 

Thomas Shey

Adventurer
Just a note; "the core four" concept probably comes from the fact they appeared first in OD&D (and people are probably lumping half-elves with elves there); even gnomes didn't appear in the original three booklet version.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Um... a scene with dozens of races.

It doesn't need a special term. How would I describe a scene with elves and humans? By saying "You see elves and humans"

And, "Cantina" has specifically been used as an insult. Repeatedly. So getting upset because someone says "You are using a term that is generally used as an insult, so I am seeing negative connotations here" is kind of silly.

Additionally, while I believe you do like Zootopia, other things that generally get thrown around as insulting terms is "cartoons". This actually aggravates me because I know that cartoons are a wonderful medium, but we end up having to use the term "animation" because there are connotations that if you call something a cartoon it is silly and for children only. Which, again, is stupid, but as someone who has tried to get people into watching animated shows, I can tell you that bias runs deep. And, it is present here in these forums. Plenty of people who will compare something they don't like to "cartoons" or "anime" because they think it means those things aren't serious.

You clarified afterward that you really liked Zootopia, but if memory serves you didn't in the original post. So, comparing something to a prominent cartoon by a major producer of children's content, on a forum where people compare things to cartoons to diminish their value? Of course people were going to think you were trying to diminish the value of the thing you were talking about. It sucks, but it is always going to be the case as long as people think that animation and comics are lesser mediums.
I don't keep a dictionary of "words that someone somewhere might find offensive". There are certainly words that are offensive that we all know all too well. If we limited our words to ones that a tiny percentage of the population might find offensive (without knowing ahead of time) then I'm not sure we could write much of anything.

There's also the bad habit of ignoring the intent of the word when it's later clarified. Is every post I or anyone else makes perfect? Of course not. Tone doesn't always carry, some people take these conversations far, far more seriously than I do. But I don't even have a hot tub, much less one that will let me go back in time to change my post. All I can do is, like @Scott Christian, clarify what I meant if someone takes offense. 🤷‍♂️
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
One other note - most of the "standard" races are used widely in fantasy specific fiction. I doubt many people outside of D&D wouldn't have a clue what a tiefling was. Add in that many of the "exotic" races were in non-PHB books, books that many people have never seen.

There is a core set of "standard" races that fit what many people think of when they think D&D style fantasy. Whether that is a good thing or not is kind of a moot point IMHO.
 

Scribe

Explorer
See, but Tielfings were basically never a "monstrous race"

Tieflings were introduced in 1994 in Planescape, already a playable option. They stayed a non-core playable option until 2008 when they were in the Core Player's Handbook. That is 14 years. They even got their own dedicated book in 2010, two years later.

Until 4e, I would agree. The retcon and 'reimagining' of how they look forcing them into the 'monster' race section was so unnecessary. I still look at them like Assimar. Plane-touched, and more human looking than not.

If one WANTED to have big horns and red skin, thats fine, completely, but if they would rather it be more subtle, I'm all for it.
 

One other note - most of the "standard" races are used widely in fantasy specific fiction.
That depends what you mean by "widely" and "most". A lot of fantasy authors try to avoid too obviously ripping off Tolkien, and use different races, or only human protagonists. And even the blatant Tolkien rip-offs rarely have gnomes or halflings (or woses).

And then there are those of us who actually read books written before 1954....
I doubt many people outside of D&D wouldn't have a clue what a tiefling was.
They might know what someone with fiendish ancestry was though - like Merlin. The concept is broader than the name.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
That depends what you mean by "widely" and "most". A lot of fantasy authors try to avoid too obviously ripping off Tolkien, and use different races, or only human protagonists. And even the blatant Tolkien rip-offs rarely have gnomes or halflings (or woses).

And then there are those of us who actually read books written before 1954....

They might know what someone with fiendish ancestry was though - like Merlin. The concept is broader than the name.
Go to the fantasy section of a bookstore and many will have elves, dwarves and perhaps gnomes (which are even in Harry Potter books, although they are a different incarnation). A few will have cat people or similar. Some will have anthropomorphic animals.

If Merlin's fiendish ancestry hadn't been mentioned in this thread I would have never known it. He certainly looked human, nary a horn nor tail in sight.
 

I don't keep a dictionary of "words that someone somewhere might find offensive". There are certainly words that are offensive that we all know all too well. If we limited our words to ones that a tiny percentage of the population might find offensive (without knowing ahead of time) then I'm not sure we could write much of anything.

There's also the bad habit of ignoring the intent of the word when it's later clarified. Is every post I or anyone else makes perfect? Of course not. Tone doesn't always carry, some people take these conversations far, far more seriously than I do. But I don't even have a hot tub, much less one that will let me go back in time to change my post. All I can do is, like @Scott Christian, clarify what I meant if someone takes offense. 🤷‍♂️

Sure, but I think it is far easier to keep track of insults used in the thread that you've been following. I mean, it was used as an insult in this thread repeatedly, and called out as such.

Ignoring that is less "there is a tiny percentage of people somewhere that might take offense" and more "I'm going to use the same offensive term other people have used, but its fine because I don't intend it to be an insult unlike those people"

And that is on you.
 

One other note - most of the "standard" races are used widely in fantasy specific fiction. I doubt many people outside of D&D wouldn't have a clue what a tiefling was. Add in that many of the "exotic" races were in non-PHB books, books that many people have never seen.

There is a core set of "standard" races that fit what many people think of when they think D&D style fantasy. Whether that is a good thing or not is kind of a moot point IMHO.

But, so are other races.

In fact, on one of the sites I write on, the people have to ask "scaly kobolds or fluffy kobolds" because in Anime, most Kobolds are dog-like beings, not lizards.

Lamia are half-snake half-human (or pointy eared human).

Beastfolk are ubiquitous. People born with divine, elemental, or dark powers are a dime a dozen. Lizardfolk are all over the place. Robotic or artificial people are all over the place.

Sure, DnD fantasy is far more limited, but it really makes little sense that it is, because it has offered so much more for decades, so it should be far more broad than it really is portrayed.
 

Until 4e, I would agree. The retcon and 'reimagining' of how they look forcing them into the 'monster' race section was so unnecessary. I still look at them like Assimar. Plane-touched, and more human looking than not.

If one WANTED to have big horns and red skin, thats fine, completely, but if they would rather it be more subtle, I'm all for it.

The appearance is really the least important part, and the easiest to change for Tieflings.
 

Go to the fantasy section of a bookstore and many will have elves, dwarves and perhaps gnomes (which are even in Harry Potter books, although they are a different incarnation). A few will have cat people or similar. Some will have anthropomorphic animals.

If Merlin's fiendish ancestry hadn't been mentioned in this thread I would have never known it. He certainly looked human, nary a horn nor tail in sight.


I'm not going to bother listing every series, here are the TV Trope pages for "Cat People", "Lizard People" and "Bull People" as well as the general "Beast People"






You could end up deciding to focus just on the "Literature" section, since that covers books in the book store, but I'd also recommend checking out "Comics" and "Anime and Manga" which also have massive sections and are highly influential sources within the Fantasy Genre.
 

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