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

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6ENow!

The Game Is Over
Mostly because we wish to be something other than human, we want to be more then we already are.
That holds no appeal for me personally. I wish to be able to do things like cast spells, search for undiscovered artifacts, etc. that are tied to the adventures in the game--not the races.

So, others might want what you say, but certainly not everyone. I've known many players who only play humans--ever. shrug
 

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SiCK_Boy

Explorer
What's up with everyone just saying that people like exotic races for powergaming reasons?
It's based on my own observations and experience. Again, not very scientific, and certainly full of bias based on the kind of players I associate with.

But I've never seen anyone in my games really play out the implications of a non-human race in a human-centric world.

I've seen plenty of drow being happy to have +2 DEX and 120' darkvision (while seeming to always live in a cloudy overworld where they never suffer penalty from sunlight), and throwing a few lines here and there about being away from the Underdark or fearing Lolth, but it never amounts to anything more than that.

I make the deduction that they enjoy the powergaming aspect since that is what they mention at the table (like proudly showing off their +5 DEX modifier).

And it may not be just those player's fault or choice; a lot of it is also DM-dependant. If the DM only cares about the "main quest" and doesn't develop his setting or the story to support players investing in those aspects of their characters, you can't blame the players for using their race as a halloween costume that grants some bonuses.

In my current group, we have one human (non-variant), one drow, 2 aasimar, and one halfling. The halfling is mostly used for comedy due to his size, and the aasimar have had little impact yet (although both seem to have elaborate backstories, which I hope we get to explore more of in the future). We just had a few discussions about age recently (what with the drow being old enough to remember what it was like to live through the spellplague), which is not something I've gotten a chance to explore that often in the game; even then, I think the player himself was sorta taken aback by this angle and has been trying to build up his own knowledge to factor that notion into his interpretation and presentation of the character later on.

And even when I think of online games I've been watching on streams, it isn't developed all that much. I often see it more as an excuse for players to wear disguises and such; but rarely do I see race play a foundational role in how characters are played.

I welcome all the positive examples people are providing; it's expanding my perspective. But it's hard to make abstraction of what I've experienced and seen in the various groups I've played with.
 

I think D&D's brand of fantasy is increasingly stepping out from the shadow of Tolkien. There's a ton of fantasy with nontraditional beings as protagonists and sidekicks. As the fanbase skews younger, you're getting more videogame and anime influences in people's idea of what fantasy is. And heck, there's Guardians of the Galaxy, where you've got a racoon and a tree as two major heroes.
 

SkidAce

Hero
Supporter
I think D&D's brand of fantasy is increasingly stepping out from the shadow of Tolkien. There's a ton of fantasy with nontraditional beings as protagonists and sidekicks. As the fanbase skews younger, you're getting more videogame and anime influences in people's idea of what fantasy is. And heck, there's Guardians of the Galaxy, where you've got a racoon and a tree as two major heroes.
I was going to mention this.

I mean;

Final Fantasy, DragonQuest, Dragon Age, Slayers, etc .etc. etc.
 

MGibster

Legend
Don't forget the DM can control what's allowed in any given campaign. No drow, only tortles, whatever.
I think the way D&D is set up it encourages players to create whatever race they want to play and DMs feel some pressure to allow those races into their games by default. I'm one of those people who feels as though character race makes very little difference in how the game plays out. It usually doesn't matter whether a character is a Goliath, Dwarf, or Elf in most scenarios.
 

zarionofarabel

Adventurer
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.
I have no idea. In fact I still have no idea what the appeal of playing any other race is. We are humans and that's all we can be. To me anyone playing a different race is just a human not so cleverly disguised with a funny hat. Mostly it's just an excuse for mechanical bonuses.
 

Different people like different things?

Now personally I think that the intelligent species of the setting are a big part of its flavour and not every race will thematically fit every setting. I'd treat the official rules as a toolbox, and when building a world I'd pick and choose which ones make sense for that setting. For my current one I ended up altering many of the existing races and creating some new ones.
 
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GMMichael

Guide of Modos
Hmm. If you grew up on Sesame Street you want to kill monsters. If you grew up on Daniel Tiger you want to be a monster. Maybe it's related to kids' TV.

I'm playing a centuries-old, WAY over the hill, blue dragon. I don't care about dragonborn bonuses (my cantrips are better than the breath weapon, anyway). I'm just in it to play "get off my lawn!" to the most extreme extent possible.
 

Mannahnin

Explorer
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.
Truth. In the original edition it was spoken of positively, though the DM was advised to have them start small/young and progress to more power like the other PCs. Gary got more cautious of and negative about it by the time the 1st Ed DMG was published, but it was still allowed for.

I think there's a great deal of truth in the idea that the variant races help folks portray a less-Tolkien-dominated world, and feel more open and fresh to a lot of players.
 

dave2008

Legend
It's based on my own observations and experience. Again, not very scientific, and certainly full of bias based on the kind of players I associate with.

But I've never seen anyone in my games really play out the implications of a non-human race in a human-centric world.
Why do you assume they are playing in a human-centric world? When I have heavily mixed groups I typically assume the rest of the world is the same. It is typically a humanoid-centric, but not human-centric
 

ppaladin123

Adventurer
I've been playing D&D for 30 years. During that time I have played dozens of humans/dwarves/elves/haflings. I have also absorbed countless books and video games about humans/dwarves/elves/halflings. I am recently having fun trying out some dragonpeople, lizardpeople, catpeople, and birdpeople. Variety is the spice of life.
 

SiCK_Boy

Explorer
Why do you assume they are playing in a human-centric world? When I have heavily mixed groups I typically assume the rest of the world is the same. It is typically a humanoid-centric, but not human-centric
Because the games I've played in or DMed in were mostly set in the Forgotten Realms, which is mostly human-centric. It's also the assumed default baseline from the PHB.

Others have pointed out the importance of setting and the feeling of the setting in regards to how races are used and portrayed, and I agree with this.

I'm not trying to convince anyone that playing uncommon (as per PHB definition) races is bad or futile; just saying that I do share a number of the questions that the OP has. I rarely see the appeal of these races, nor do I see players making a choice of an uncommon race with a significant intent to play out what it really means to be that race in that setting; it often boils down to an arbitrary choice dictated by the mechanical bonus the race gives (which is not a bad reason either to choose a race).

But kudos to those who enjoy it.
 

Hexmage-EN

Adventurer
Personally, my favorite race to play is the gnome (specifically the deep or forest gnome). I imagine them as enthusiastically obsessive on certain topics. I'm currently playing a variant human for the extra feat, but if that character dies I've got a forest gnome conjurer ready.

As for more exotic races, they aren't that weird to me because 1) lots of strange, intelligent crearures exist in D&D settings, so at least some of these have to have been accepted by society at large, and 2) one of the first video game RPGs I ever played, Breath of Fire, includes ox, wolf, dog, frog, mole, monkey, armadillo, cat, fish, etc people as members of the party (the fish people are essentially the primary trade merchants of this world, BTW, making trade sea vessels largely unnecessary).

I think playing a minotaur might be fun. 4E's lore for minotaurs sold civilized members of the species to be very lawful and concerned with rejecting the influence of the demon lord Baphomet to the point that they as an extension have also rejected nature, fearing that being in touch with nature could pull out their more animalistic side and make them vulnerable to Baphomet's influence (so minotaur barbarians and druids would be pariahs). Mazes were depicted as a symbolic means of meditation and self-reflection on what it means to be a minotaur and how one must avoid traveling down the paths that lead to savagery.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
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.

"We cannmot do it perfectly, so why do it at all," is not a strong position. Plus, why does what we do at the table needs to be "meaningful". Why can't it just be fun?
 

Because the games I've played in or DMed in were mostly set in the Forgotten Realms, which is mostly human-centric. It's also the assumed default baseline from the PHB.
I really wouldn't characterise Forgotten Realms as 'human centric' at all. Sure, the humans are the most common race, but FR is an incoherent kitchen sink hodgepodge, which has always had a lot of prominent non-human cultures.
 


dave2008

Legend
Because the games I've played in or DMed in were mostly set in the Forgotten Realms, which is mostly human-centric. It's also the assumed default baseline from the PHB.
I disagree that the assumed baseline is Forgotten Realms, or did you mean the assumed baseline is human-centric? If so, I'm not sure, I don't remember anything particularly human-centric in the PHB. However, I would probably reflexively ignore if it was there anyway.
I'm not trying to convince anyone that playing uncommon (as per PHB definition) races is bad or futile; just saying that I do share a number of the questions that the OP has. I rarely see the appeal of these races, nor do I see players making a choice of an uncommon race with a significant intent to play out what it really means to be that race in that setting; it often boils down to an arbitrary choice dictated by the mechanical bonus the race gives (which is not a bad reason either to choose a race).
Not sure this is your intent, but I just wanted to point out the you can enjoy playing a different race and still have no desire to explore what it "really means" or want a mechanical advantage. Most of the players that I've seen play non-standard races simply want to imagine themselves as those creatures. If all races had they same stats they would still want to play a dragonborn, because they want to imagine themselves as a dragon.
 

Undrave

Hero
Sometimes you DO just want to wear a costume with funky power.
But I've never seen anyone in my games really play out the implications of a non-human race in a human-centric world.
What kind of implications? If you're talking about racism... from what I read people who experience racism in real life don't really feel like playing it out in their fantasy game.
Different people like different things?

Now personally I think that the intelligent species of the setting are a big part of its flavour and not every race will thematically fit every setting. I'd treat the official rules as a toolbox, and when building a I'd world pick and choose which ones make sense for that setting. For my current one I ended up altering many of the existing races and creating some new ones.
Indeed. If you're creating a custom setting anyway, might as well let the PC's choice dictate what is common or not in your custom setting. Instead of having Elves in the woods and Dwarves in the mountains, you got Tabaxi and Goliath, for exemple. If nobody is playing Elves then they don't exist in your setting, plain and simple :p A bit like how the M:TG settings work.
Why do you assume they are playing in a human-centric world? When I have heavily mixed groups I typically assume the rest of the world is the same. It is typically a humanoid-centric, but not human-centric
What he said.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Well this is a good point. I don't use feats.

So if you eliminate feats, players take weirdo classes that grant them feat-like abilities, instead. So humans are rare and weirdo flying, swimming, animal PC become common. Because they need the weirdo special abilities. In the absence of feats, players need super powers.
Yeah, how dare players want cool abilities their characters can use in an RPG! So entitled!
It is a weird game to play. This whole magice is everywhere/phycics are everyhere, fend for our selves issse will never resolve.
I have no idea what this means.
No feats. So variant humans don't exist. Feats are optional and should not be considered in balancing the game.
Eh, if you don’t allow them you shouldn’t consider them in balancing the game. People who do allow them should.
I don't run with feats. Feats are the worst thing that has ever happened to D&D. The idea of character building has ruined the game.
Citation needed.
Mountain Dwarf is kind of cool as a semi-melee wizard. (As it should be). Different races give strengths and weaknesses as they should. Make choice of race meaningful. The way it was supports a drawback. A mountain dwarf can be built as a potential melee wizard, but they have a limitation and a debilitation.

To remove such makes choice of race meaningless.
You know, I hear this idea that race choice is only meaningful if (insert criteria here) a lot... from DMs. Almost never from players. Seems to me, if the choice matters to the players, then it matters. Period.
 

MGibster

Legend
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.

I'm of the mind that most depictions of fantasy races, at least those for designed for players to use, are not particularly alien nor are they meant to be. And that's fine. You can still use fantasy races to explore different perspectives and maintain plausible deniability that you're doing so. Science fiction writers have been doing that for years.
 

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