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D&D General What Main Factors Draw You to Playing a Fantasy RPG Race?

What Main Factor Draws You to Playing a Fantasy RPG Race?

  • Overall mechanical effectiveness

    Votes: 10 23.3%
  • An iconic trait or ability

    Votes: 14 32.6%
  • Attractive appearance

    Votes: 3 7.0%
  • Powerful appearance

    Votes: 3 7.0%
  • Unique appearance

    Votes: 6 14.0%
  • Dangerous appearance

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Identify with the race in some way

    Votes: 15 34.9%
  • Want to roleplay as someone unlike yourself

    Votes: 14 32.6%
  • Background lore for the race

    Votes: 26 60.5%
  • Influenced by a character from other media

    Votes: 9 20.9%
  • Other (explain)

    Votes: 8 18.6%

  • Total voters
What main factor draws you to playing a fantasy RPG race?

For me personally, my favorite race to play is the gnome (especially the deep and forest gnome varieties). The two primary reasons for this are, I think,

1) I identify with gnomes on some level. Or at least, how I'm come to conceive of gnomes. They seem to be a race that is prone to hyper fixation on subjects that they find interesting. For rock gnomes that is often machinery, for forest gnomes it is often nature, and for deep gnomes it is often mining. However, I can easily envision gnomes more than other races as enthusiastic nerds (who are also more likely to be kind and welcoming than IRL nerds can be).
2) I find the magical traits of deep and forest gnomes in particular interesting and fun to use. I'm always tempted by the gnome racial feats Fade Away and Svirfneblin Magic.
3) Background lore for the race. The svirfneblin are noticeable for being one of the only Underdark races that isn't evil, though due to their harsh environment they also are more cynical and prone to dark humor. Various sources also paint them as paranoid, untrusting, and isolationist. They construct their homes as mazes with multiple traps and hidden passages. Even outsiders the svirfneblin trust are rarely shown much of an enclave for fear that allies might spill a community's layout and defenses under threat of torture or mind control. To sum it up, they're people just trying to survive in a deadly environment with many neighbors that would do them harm.

My second favorite is (variant) humans, but for a less interesting reason:

1) Overall mechanical effectiveness. A free feat is extremely tempting and honestly the only reason I ever make a human character. In games I DM I actively counteract this by giving every PC a free feat.

My third favorite is the duergar (it's also the only race I haven't actually played but very much want to):
1) Attractive appearance. Elves are usually considered the hot ones, but check this rad duergar lady out:

Of course, beauty is in the eye of the Beholder (which is why adventurers should be harvesting their eyes).
2) Background lore for the race. From my investigations into duergar-related content as part of the Underdark campaign I'm running, duergar society is orderly, pragmatic, and cold. Though they trend Lawful Evil, said evil is usually more mundane and utilitarian than pointlessly cruel. The 3E third-party splatbook The Slayer's Guide to Duergar also adds some interesting ideas: individuals worth is tied to wealth and determines a duergar's fate after death, duergar must prove their value and survival ability by embarking on and returning from a solo pilgrimage through the Underdark called the Lonely Year, and duergar are just as likely to use their Invisibility to hide from political rivals and hold whispered communications with allies as they are to use it for an ambush. 4E took the 3E durzagon and effectively made it the default duergar for that edition, introducing devil-worshiping duergar whose greatest enclaves are stone citadels covered in hellfire that rise from deep rifts. 5E brings back Laduguer but ties him to Asmodeus (with Rime of the Frost Maiden even featuring a duergar ruler who believes he serves Laduguer but is actually a puppet of Asmodeus) while also introducing new interesting bits of lore, such as the idea that alcohol elicits pleasant ancestral memories in dwarves but inflicts the ancestral memories of oppression by the mind flayers.
3) Want to roleplay as someone unlike myself. Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes provides guidance on roleplaying duergar as being raised as perpetually unsatisfied to keep them from ever growing content, spurring them on to constantly amass proof of their worth as an individual for all their days. This coupled with their dour seriousness would be an interesting roleplaying challenge for someone like me.

In typing all that out I think I just realized I like duergar even more than I thought I did.

Now that I've given three examples, I'm curious to see how others respond.
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I tend to play halflings and dwarves. Some from the Tolkien books and movies as they have always been part of the fantasy D&D game from the beginning. I can identify with the traits and types of style they have. I like that they are not that far from the normal human that tends to dominate the world in most games. I find that it lends to working together since they look alike enough.

A dragonborn and tiefling look like monsters and likely would have had wars with the more human-like races over time. Maybe they now can get along, but I find that it is harder to identify with that. Similar to how the new books have orcs and drow as PC races instead of monster races. I can get the drow more since they are human-like in appearance. A more cosmopolitan game or campaign may have an anything goes race pool, but I tend to stick with what fits.


When I do play, I almost pick human or dwarf. The earthiness and practicality of dwarves appeal to me. Humans because the roleplaying is frankly more familiar and accessible for me.


Limit Break Dancing
"Mechanical advantage," usually means a +2 bonus to an ability score (which in the grand scheme of things, only amounts to about a 10% improvement over baseline.) Nice to have, but not enough for me to build an entire character around. There are other mechanical advantages to consider like darkvision, proficiencies, and cantrips, and those are much more interesting to me. So that was my second-place vote.

But I'd say the most important consideration for me is the lore. I like to know how my character will fit into the world, and what kinds of historical, cultural, and political vibes they are gonna bring along with them. We tend to focus more on social and exploration than we do on combat, so this stuff comes up a lot more often.

And the least important for me is the appearance (of any kind). It's malleable enough that nearly any race can look like any other, if you and your DM are flexible. I once played a tiefling warlock that looked completely human in every way except he had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot. (His family tree got a little tangled up with Griz'zat, you see.)

All of the above? I play characters of different races for all sorts of different reasons.
That is admittedly a pretty significant weakness of this poll. I'd pretty much have to make one for every single PC race to be more comprehensive, though I'm curious what the results would be for each one.

For example, I understand that the 2020 D&D Beyond data indicated dragonborn are the third most popular race (at least among people who use D&D Beyond to make characters) despite 5E having so far put very little emphasis on dragonborn and a dearth of lore for them (even Critical Role hasn't added much to them). There is the possibility of 5E players stumbling upon 4E-era lore and using it for their dragonborn, admittedly.

I imagine the appeal of 5E dragonborn would be linked to their breath weapon and unique appearance as opposed to mechanical effectiveness or lore, though the upcoming book on dragons hopefully gives them more to work with in 5E in terms of backstory.
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Guide of Modos
My first consideration is: how will other characters view my choice of race? This is important to some character goals, like "do I want to blend in" or "do I want to stick out?" So when I chose dragon(born), it was because I wanted to stick out.

The "background lore" is important to me because it plays into race relations, but it also makes suggestions about cultural influences like: I think singing and prancing through the woods are cool.

In the end though, I just want to play female Gelfling so I can dreamfast and fly 🤓


Mostly so I can be something other than myself.

Except when I‘m playing dwarves. Grumbles and gets back to word“smithing”


Two Stories

Every race should be interesting to play

Current player thought about rolling up a halfling, but he had a real hard time wrapping his head around why, much less how, to play one. The PHB isn't too descriptive on what makes a halfling, well, a halfling. It's got ability score modifiers, bad art, and some subtypes. So does everyone else.

So, we went looking at AD&D material (the book of halflings and gnomes). We found some art that fit the concept, as well as attitudes and philosophies, seeing their size as a strength in life, mythology, resilience to getting drunk, finding the time to enjoy life (efficiency matters, they're not lazy), the thick hairy feet. We picked a racial name (the "Hin", aka "the folk"). We used the Golarian setting's treatment of halflings (slave nations prey upon them for household labor chores and farms).

And voila, halflings are cool to play for him.

Setting Matters

In a past Curse of Strahd campaign, everyone mutually agreed to limit our choices to human, half-elf, and no more than one elf or dwarf, to fit a Romanesque setting that matched the art and flavor of the area (thinking classic horror, Dracula, etc.) It felt a lot more "real" than if a dragonborn popped in and started breathing fire on everyone. Add in background where players created a story of being related, and we were off. So, put this under an "other." It's not that anyone was drawn to a "human" more than anyone else, it just made more sense for sake of the overall story.


I typically like races that are unusual and distinctive.

In my friend's homebrew campaign, I'm playing a 7 foot tall humanoid with several arms sprouting from where his head should be. His race comes from the universe's dumping ground (think something like the Void, from Loki) and are made from "garbage" rather than being born. So he has the distinction of being part steam engine and part used car salesman, combined with a little dash of Zeus' deific essence, along with another assortment of various things (he doesn't actually resemble these objects - he's a humanoid with metallic, jet-black skin). His people have (from a human perspective) synesthesia, and therefore taste what we perceive as touch and feel what we consider audible. As a result, they value unique experiences over wealth. They'd rather run their hands over an old, pitted, bent tin spoon than have an unblemished spoon made of pure gold.

He's the equivalent of a fighter (the difference being that his armor and weapons are mostly scrap - his primary weapons are train spikes). However, because of his race he's one of the most enjoyable characters I've had the pleasure to role play. His personality isn't outlandish or anything, in fact he's usually very reserved - but his alien outlook is just so satisfying to portray and sink into, particularly after a long week.


For me it was 'Other reason', because if I'm making a character for a long-term campaign (not a one-shot)... I always want and need to get the campaign details beforehand and make a race decision based on what makes the most sense for the game and to tie me into the story as best as possible.

Usually I will default to humans because humans are more often than not the driving race for most campaigns my fellow players run... but might go with a demi-human selection if where the game is taking place makes that demi-human one of the main components of that environment. But I never will just select any old race to play and expect the DM to just "make it work"... that's doing a disservice to the DM and the world they are trying to put together.

By the same token... I also will then select a class that also makes the most sense for the race I've selected as well as the story we are undertaking. I have absolutely no desire to play something like a Shadow Monk in a game where the PCs are all young adults from some backwoods farm village, because that class selections makes no sense for who these characters are. I don't care about the "mechanics" whatsoever... so I have no need to look for "interesting" ones if the flavor and story of them are completely disparate from the flavor and story of the game.


Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I largely play different races because I can come up with a personality for them. But it's never just one thing.
  • Dragonborn: for some reason, every dragonborn I play has a deep south drawl so that's fun. That and they make great paladins.
  • Dwarf: this has been a favorite for a long time. Funny accent, tend to be extremely pragmatic and blunt almost to the point of rudeness.
  • Elf: eventually I'll have an elf that gets past 2nd level without dying. I did have a half-elf that got to 3rd. I'll probably try again soon-ish, after all 10th time's the charm, right? Right?
  • Gnome: fast talking prankster for when I feel like babbling.
  • Halfling: the underappreciated, positive and cheerful little guy that is frequently stupidly brave. That, and lucky is awesome.
  • Human: obviously, I know how to be a human so that is easy. In large part I take it because of the feat.
  • Warforged: who doesn't want to play an anthropomorphic robot? Always fun to be confused by biological needs. That, and they're all named something like TK-421 (the number changes depending on role).
So it's a real mix of reasons. Not entirely RP, not entirely mechanical. There are some races that just resonate that I can get into playing and others that I can't for whatever reason.


Elder Thing
I ask myself, is it a human? And if the answer is "yes," I'm golden!

Seriously though, I used to always play elves (lots of elves!) or dwarves. When Eberron came out I fell in love with Warforged.

But for the last decade or so I've just stuck to humans. I've come to the belief that if you can't make an interesting human character, you can't make an interesting character. YMMV, of course.

the Jester

When I make a character, I think one of the biggest considerations for me is whether I've played that race recently. I prefer to play a wide variety of characters, so I usually play something I haven't played in several characters. (The most recent pcs I've played are a dwarf, human, dragonborn, and gnome.)

But what attracts me to a given race is usually the lore and how it makes it differ from humanity.

I'm a little bit surprised that "Dangerous Appearance" hasn't gotten any votes. I guess there's a little bit of overlap with "Powerful Appearance", but I figured with the popularity of tieflings and dragonborn that resembling a dangerous being like a devil would be more of a draw. Maybe "Imposing Appearance" would have been a better option than "Dangerous Appearance" for the purposes of my poll.

Although, I guess there's the possibility that the draw with tieflings isn't necessarily that they look like devils but more that people think unusual skin colors, horns, and tails are cool. I wonder if they'd be more or less popular with hooves or something like pre-4E tieflings.

Li Shenron

My typical motivations throughout all the editionsI played:

  • has some unique special abilities that I want to try
  • has a cool background lore I think I want to immerse myself into
  • it will be challenging to roleplay properly
  • nobody else is playing it, and I have never played this one before
  • I rolled the race randomly

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