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

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Thomas Shey

Adventurer
It is fair to not want to do in-depth culture for all of those. However, there's an easy fix for that, which has been said multiple times before in this thread. Just have them be completely unique to the setting. The Tabaxi character was a wizard's experiment on combining a cat and a person. The Tortle was a turtle/tortoise that walked into toxic waste (Demon Ichor). The Tiefling was produced by their personal meddling with devils, infusing themselves with demonic essence.

Unique people can exist in the world.

Yeah, but there's a dynamic where that ends up making everyone prone to doing that, and bluntly, it can be hard to put things together for a party that stands out as a freakshow and not acknowledge that's what it is; and doing so can distort the game in non-trivial ways.

I know not everyone cares about that sort of thing, but not everyone runs a game to have every PC be a special case; 13th Age's dynamic here is not what everyone is looking for.
 

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Thomas Shey

Adventurer
Of course it is fair to use a limited amount of races due to time and effort.

What is not fair is to disguise time and effort concerns under a sense of superiority of your own preferences or denying that D&D historically had lots of races and used flimsy reasons to make some of the exotic ones weak or not playable..

Absolutely no disagreement; note my comment about the "three races" someone has time to give attention to.
 


Thomas Shey

Adventurer
is everyone here condemed to argue endlessly about proper world building or dm-player interaction? it seems to be the only thing you seem to want to talk about.

Unfortunately, a rather large number of other issues tend to turn on questions related to those two points. So its going to circle around to disagreements in those spheres in a lot of topics.
 


Thomas Shey

Adventurer
do we make a thread to banish those topics in too?

I don't see any way to disentangle them; they're going to constantly come up in reference if nothing else on other things. Its like trying to have a thread about mechanics and banish references to game balance; since views on how important that is color all mechanical discussions to one degree or another, you can't just push it outside that sort of discussion.
 

Scribe

Explorer
okay so if chewie is what is the desired end state what would make it more practical to generate such character?

I'm not saying its the desired end state, I am saying that if we are looking at 'alien' or 'monstrous' or 'weird', then my preference, would be that if one is so wildly divergent from the norm (Human/Elf/Dwarf/Assimar/Tiefling as it should be, etc) then...it should be wildly divergent from the norm.

As the post outlines, despite Chewie being able to function within the party/group, he's not that far off in manerisms from a more beast like creature.

It speaks to what I have mentioned a few times. There is nothing in the current implementation outside the (imo) comical 'I'm in a Devil Costume' appearance since 4e that could not be handled in another race, through RP, at least nothing to convince me.

Not picking on FrozenNorth at all, but since they are one who provided a list...

I want to be an outcast for my heritage. - Not race specific.
I want to be a hunter of my own kind. - Not race specific.
I want to be an atoner for the sins of my forefathers. - Not race specific.
I want to be a charming sophisticate pining for Bael Turath. - Culture call out, but has zero to do with view on the race until the 4e changes.
I want to play a character that leverage devilish heritage and high Charisma to intimidate people. - Not race specific.
I want to have a cool rivalry and banter with the party dragonborn. - Not race specific.

I like horns - Bingo.

To me, and again this is just ME, Tieflings are no more a distinct race, than any of the normal races. They are not remotely close to our example of Chewie, and so yes they are just part of the 'human-esque' races, to me.

Even Dragonborn, are going to fall in that camp.

Why?

Because I highly highly doubt people are going to pull off RP as Chewie, and not have the table devolve into 'what are you trying to say lol'.

So I get it, but again to me it continues in D&D to boil down to 'I want to look different'. Not judging anyone for that, at all. Not saying you cannot love Dragons, and want to be a Dragonborn because of your love for Dragons, but if Dragonborn were humans with some scales around their temples, lizard like eyes, or some claws, would it be as much as an issue as this 234 page thread has made it out to be?

I doubt it.

"What is the appeal" - They look different. Thats just it for me, as far as how they are currently implemented. If Dragonborn were more like Chewie, and a person had to try and bring that animalistic behavior, lack of ability to communicate in Common (or English) and really go all in? It would be a different matter, to me.

Not throwing hate at anyone, just saying that after all this discussion, thats all I'm seeing.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
As much as people are saying "Chewie is different" ... I'm not so sure.
  • Big guy? Just a description.
  • Outsider? Background.
  • Doesn't speak common? Well ... technically he doesn't but since he understands everyone and everyone understands him, I don't see why it matters.
  • Anger issues? Okay, he's a barbarian
  • Intimidating? Proficiency.
  • Roars? Role playing.
But he is (relatively) polite, seems to have human emotions, motivations and goals. Chewie is just a person on a big dog suit that has a unique language.

Which goes back to either visuals or cultural tropes. There are some exceptions to the general rule such as warforged because they aren't biological beings. Even when I've run one or played with one though, it didn't make a huge difference.

None of which makes wanting to play some other race "wrong" in some way. Coming up with a truly alien thought process is difficult and something I have a problem implementing with fae creatures such as the Sidhe and they're NPCs that I can limit screen time.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
All of which could be used to describe a tavern full of humans (except of course for the "species" one but for some reason some people find that term insulting). 🤷‍♂️
In the context of D&D absolutely no one will take it that way, while most people will understand “cantina world” to be derogatory in that same context.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
In the context of D&D absolutely no one will take it that way, while most people will understand “cantina world” to be derogatory in that same context.

Meh. I disagree that anyone other than people on forums like this will think of "cantina world" as being derogatory. They'll take it in context as just a description. Feel free to disagree.
 

I'm not saying its the desired end state, I am saying that if we are looking at 'alien' or 'monstrous' or 'weird', then my preference, would be that if one is so wildly divergent from the norm (Human/Elf/Dwarf/Assimar/Tiefling as it should be, etc) then...it should be wildly divergent from the norm.

As the post outlines, despite Chewie being able to function within the party/group, he's not that far off in manerisms from a more beast like creature.

It speaks to what I have mentioned a few times. There is nothing in the current implementation outside the (imo) comical 'I'm in a Devil Costume' appearance since 4e that could not be handled in another race, through RP, at least nothing to convince me.

Not picking on FrozenNorth at all, but since they are one who provided a list...

I want to be an outcast for my heritage. - Not race specific.
I want to be a hunter of my own kind. - Not race specific.
I want to be an atoner for the sins of my forefathers. - Not race specific.
I want to be a charming sophisticate pining for Bael Turath. - Culture call out, but has zero to do with view on the race until the 4e changes.
I want to play a character that leverage devilish heritage and high Charisma to intimidate people. - Not race specific.
I want to have a cool rivalry and banter with the party dragonborn. - Not race specific.

I like horns - Bingo.

To me, and again this is just ME, Tieflings are no more a distinct race, than any of the normal races. They are not remotely close to our example of Chewie, and so yes they are just part of the 'human-esque' races, to me.

Even Dragonborn, are going to fall in that camp.

Why?

Because I highly highly doubt people are going to pull off RP as Chewie, and not have the table devolve into 'what are you trying to say lol'.

So I get it, but again to me it continues in D&D to boil down to 'I want to look different'. Not judging anyone for that, at all. Not saying you cannot love Dragons, and want to be a Dragonborn because of your love for Dragons, but if Dragonborn were humans with some scales around their temples, lizard like eyes, or some claws, would it be as much as an issue as this 234 page thread has made it out to be?

I doubt it.

"What is the appeal" - They look different. Thats just it for me, as far as how they are currently implemented. If Dragonborn were more like Chewie, and a person had to try and bring that animalistic behavior, lack of ability to communicate in Common (or English) and really go all in? It would be a different matter, to me.

Not throwing hate at anyone, just saying that after all this discussion, thats all I'm seeing.
Half of chiew's animal like mannerisms could be put in a short role play guide and thus would not be too hard to replicate with sufficient knowledge of Wookies.

On tieflings I suspect multiple races can have overlap on the why you should play niche, but if you add in the connection to fiends the overlap drops really fast.
 


Remathilis

Legend
Meh. I disagree that anyone other than people on forums like this will think of "cantina world" as being derogatory. They'll take it in context as just a description. Feel free to disagree.

Star Wars Bar
A Bar/ Pub filled with strange, unusual and often dangerous characters. while these establishments hold no offical affilation to the franchise, the abundance of fights and/ or bizarre happenings is reminiscent of the mos eisly cantina bar in star wars: episode 4.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.

Star Wars Bar
A Bar/ Pub filled with strange, unusual and often dangerous characters. while these establishments hold no offical affilation to the franchise, the abundance of fights and/ or bizarre happenings is reminiscent of the mos eisly cantina bar in star wars: episode 4.
So that kind of sounds like a regular gaming session to me. Or a visit to Walmart. ;)
 

Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
I don't think that Star Wars, as much as I love it, ever gave a passing nod to realism in any capacity. :D
Whaaat? Are you telling me a universe of single biosphere planets is somewhat simplistic storytelling? No way!

As much as I love SW, realistic world building was not a primary design goal FOR SURE.

And on a separate note....in the world of Middle Earth would the fellowship walking into an inn for the night be described by the locals as a cantina menagerie of strangeness? You have in one small party composed of 4 different races (3 of which would be considered super exotic by most common men). If you count Aragorn as a half-elf and Smeagol as a weird one-off you can push the main adventuring party to 6 races in a setting that is being considered toned-down.
 

Scribe

Explorer
Half of chiew's animal like mannerisms could be put in a short role play guide and thus would not be too hard to replicate with sufficient knowledge of Wookies.

On tieflings I suspect multiple races can have overlap on the why you should play niche, but if you add in the connection to fiends the overlap drops really fast.

Fair point on Chewie, and it would be fun to see honestly. :p

On Tieflings, I must continue to disagree. Fiend Folio and a few other books had Planetouched examples for multiple base (Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfing) race types. Tieflings had zero need to be turned into what they are now, and I'll never think otherwise. :D
 

Gammadoodler

Adventurer
I can take credit for the second one. Although, to be fair, I was talking in the context of a curated world where the DM builds cultures from scratch. So, my thinking was, a DM only has so much time. It would be hard to get depth from many races, as opposed to a few. I never said weird. So if it came across that way, I apologize. But that is the context of the depth argument. So please read all of those statements through the lens of the DM building things, and I think you will see why the viewpoint exists.
I have also stated that when I run FR, I allow everything. Cosmologically, I think it is too messy to try and reign in. So it works better as a... um... strange bar in a distant galaxy that has a lot of races all drinking and playing music together. :) (Or heterogenous setting, which still doesn't quite capture FR in my opinion.)
So it is true, it has been said a curated world built by the DM with 40 races might not have the depth that one that has 8 races. And in the same breath, it has been said that FR should be run as a free for all. It has been said that a curated world built by the DM has a time structure attached to it. And in the same breath, it has been said that if you are not going to put in the time, then you should bend to the player's wants.
So I really have a difficult time remembering anyone using cantina as a "gatekeeping" word. Or as a "right/wrong" word.

Full Disclosure: I am a poster that is guilty of using a bad analogy. (Personally, analogies are nothin' but trouble, but they are interesting, so we keep using them.) My bad analogy was during our food analogy kick. I used the high end chef with a set menu in opposition to a chef running Cheesecake Factory. I made one high end, the other not high end. That was my bad. I should have used two chefs of equal caliber, one that hyper focused on a single style of cooking and the other that had very broad culinary experience.
I think it's fair to say that if you ask for an example of bad behavior as evidence that people have valid complaints about it, hear an example of bad behavior and recognize it as something you've done yourself, then the complaint probably has some merit, no?

Incidentally though, it was not even you I was referring to.
 

Fair point on Chewie, and it would be fun to see honestly. :p

On Tieflings, I must continue to disagree. Fiend Folio and a few other books had Planetouched examples for multiple base (Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfing) race types. Tieflings had zero need to be turned into what they are now, and I'll never think otherwise. :D
honestly I would change how they do plane touched but that is for another day.
however I can say why a Tiefling would be more or less a better looking cooler human because they are mostly human meaning they have an honest reason to be that way.
now dwaves, elves, halflings have no excuse and we have not even hit the not a human with a rubber forehead territory.
 

FrozenNorth

Adventurer
Not picking on FrozenNorth at all, but since they are one who provided a list...

I want to be an outcast for my heritage. - Not race specific.
I want to be a hunter of my own kind. - Not race specific.
I want to be an atoner for the sins of my forefathers. - Not race specific.
I want to be a charming sophisticate pining for Bael Turath. - Culture call out, but has zero to do with view on the race until the 4e changes.
I want to play a character that leverage devilish heritage and high Charisma to intimidate people. - Not race specific.
I want to have a cool rivalry and banter with the party dragonborn. - Not race specific.

I like horns - Bingo.
Well, you quoted me, so I am going to have to disagree on principle. Also, I’m going to nuance your statement: “there is another race that can do this” is different from “not race-specific” is different from “a different race can do something similar”.

With that in mind, let’s go back over my list:
  • I want to be an outcast for my heritage. Half-orcs can pull this off, other races? Not really, barring specific examples in specific settings. Not a lot of people taking the side of devils literally condemning souls to the 9 Hells.
  • I want to be a hunter of my own kind. Again, limited to a couple of races. Not unique, but not generic enough to claim “not race-specific”.
  • Atoner for the sins of my forefathers. Its race-specificity depends on the setting. In addition, saying that in X’s setting, the background of elves is that they are genocidal conquerers so my character could just be an elf (like in Elder Scrolls) is meaningless if for any of a thousand reasons I don’t want to play an elf.
  • Charming sophisticate pining for Bael Turath - I agree that this references 4th edition, but dismissing something because it’s a change from an earlier edition isn’t particularly convincing.
  • Devilish heritage and high charisma - actually, this is culture specific. A half-orc intimidating someone would tend to play up their vicious brute stereotype. A tiefling would play up the soul in jeopardy aspect.
  • Rivalry and banter with dragonborn- race specific. I was specifically referencing the fact that Arkhosia and Bael Turath were competing empires that mutually destroyed each other.
  • Big horns. I was being facetious. Also, this was the last example of six.
 

Scribe

Explorer
Well, you quoted me, so I am going to have to disagree on principle. Also, I’m going to nuance your statement: “there is another race that can do this” is different from “not race-specific” is different from “a different race can do something similar”.

With that in mind, let’s go back over my list:
  • I want to be an outcast for my heritage. Half-orcs can pull this off, other races? Not really, barring specific examples in specific settings. Not a lot of people taking the side of devils literally condemning souls to the 9 Hells.
  • I want to be a hunter of my own kind. Again, limited to a couple of races. Not unique, but not generic enough to claim “not race-specific”.
  • Atoner for the sins of my forefathers. Its race-specificity depends on the setting. In addition, saying that in X’s setting, the background of elves is that they are genocidal conquerers so my character could just be an elf (like in Elder Scrolls) is meaningless if for any of a thousand reasons I don’t want to play an elf.
  • Charming sophisticate pining for Bael Turath - I agree that this references 4th edition, but dismissing something because it’s a change from an earlier edition isn’t particularly convincing.
  • Devilish heritage and high charisma - actually, this is culture specific. A half-orc intimidating someone would tend to play up their vicious brute stereotype. A tiefling would play up the soul in jeopardy aspect.
  • Rivalry and banter with dragonborn- race specific. I was specifically referencing the fact that Arkhosia and Bael Turath were competing empires that mutually destroyed each other.
  • Big horns. I was being facetious. Also, this was the last example of six.
Outcast is one of the most basic tropes that could be absolutely applied to any race you can imagine if that race is tightly codified.
Hunter of own kind? Bounty Hunters? I'm stunned you would think this is in any way race specific.
Atoner. Absolutely any race can do something which later generations feel the need to atone for. From betraying ones family or clan, offending ones gods, or perpetrating some kind of evil. The list could be endless, literally.
Bael Turath - Yes, the major cultural hook for the change to 4e style is important, I'll give you that. However hoping for ones lost heritage to return to prominence? Thats a Dwarf Trope if I have ever seen one.
Devilish Heritage - Any fiend planetouched (and there are more than Human based ones) could do this. Its not a cultural issue at all?
Rivalry with Dragonborn - Yes, you are looking at a 4e setting specific hook, but...that doesnt mean I'm wrong. Any race can do this.
Big Horns - You may be kidding, but that still is the major call out here, especially if you are not looking at it from a 4e setting specific POV.

EDIT:

Full disclosure here!

I'm a Tiefling fan. Have been since I was a kid. Well well well before this current version was set in stone by 4e.
I'm a Blood War fan.
I'm a Planescape fan.
I'm all about the Great Wheel Cosmology, and the Upper and Lower Planes are what I'm all about.

So please dont take this as me hating Tieflings. What I dont accept is that the change to Tieflings appearance, has improved anything WHATSOEVER, and that it was at all meaningful or necessary.

To ME (and I'm using caps for emphasis since this thread is touchy and 230+ pages) the part that makes Tieflings a 'Weird' Race, is simply the stupid f'ning 4e Horns.

We didnt need it, and it added nothing of value, while it is a net LOSS to diversity, if played by the default appearance and descriptions and 'all Tieflings are Asmodeous blah blah' trash from 4e.

So yeah, when I look at your list, outside the obvious 4e setting tie ins, there is literally nothing but 'I wanted horns' that screams Tiefling.
 
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