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General Why do you play non-human races?

Big J Money

Adventurer
I would like to gather opinions on why folks like to pick a demihuman (non-human) race. I'm not even going to suggest a possibility or color folks' answers with my intention for asking; I just want to learn peoples' raw thoughts.
 
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dnd4vr

Tactical Studies Rules - The Original Game Wizards
I would like to gather opinions on why folks like to pick a demi-human race. I'm not even going to suggest a possibility or color folks' answers with my intention for asking; I just want to learn peoples' raw thoughts.
Can you specify what you mean by "demi-human"? I've seen it used differently at different times.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
A few reasons, sometimes in combination, sometimes not.

Perspective. I like to explore an inherently different perspective from my own. In a world that contains both humans and Goliaths, I can’t sleeve into the perspective of the biggest, strongest, stoic danger-bear in the room. Or the little guy who fools don’t take seriously because of his size and friendly demeanor.

Beyond that, a human simply cannot have certain perspectives, like leaving home as an expert with 80 years of study in a subject, who isn’t fully considered an adult, socially. Or being a person who grew up having conversations with small animals. Or whose whole family and society is magical.

The Look. I get an image of a small person riding a war dog in half-plate, talking to his falcon, and I want to play a Forest Gnome Paladin or Cavalier.
 



(Demi-human in the sense of part human)

It's a chance to explore, IDK, "tethered otherness," maybe, in a metaphorical context?

It's a character with built-in conflict?

In the classic game, it was the only way to access certain class combinations?
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
For the stat bonus. But from my perspective the majority of D&D races are just humans with funny makeup who might be taller or shorter.
I don’t mean this as a challenge or criticism, but it’s odd to me that this perspective can persist in the face of so many people over years explaining how the other races can be more than that.
 

PsyzhranV2

Adventurer
Sometimes I want to play as somebody with a closer connection to the setting or the DM's (meta)plot than the average Joe human Fighter. Maybe the dwarves of this setting have a conenction to the BBEG's plots in the past; I want in on that. Maybe the dragonborn and the gnomes in the setting have a rivalry that me and another player at the table want to bring to the forefront and the DM is willing to work into the session plans.

Sometimes I want to work out some issues that I'm dealing with in real life without turning the table into an outright therapy session. The "human, but also not" nature of demihumans provides both an allegorical hook and a safety filter to prevent those emotions from becomjng too debilitating. While I'm usually meh on playing tieflings myself, I can see and sympathize with how they're popular with people wanting to express their frustrations on being hated and discriminated against just for who they are. I prefer settings that acknowledge and accommodate these RP preferences, not just limited to tieflings but in general.

Sometimes I just want to play something weird or cool, and not being a human helps with that. I don't think that should be a black mark on my character or a judgment of my roleplaying "skill" by some gatekeeping standard as long as I'm not being obnoxious about it.
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
A few reasons, sometimes in combination, sometimes not.

Perspective. I like to explore an inherently different perspective from my own. In a world that contains both humans and Goliaths, I can’t sleeve into the perspective of the biggest, strongest, stoic danger-bear in the room. Or the little guy who fools don’t take seriously because of his size and friendly demeanor.

Beyond that, a human simply cannot have certain perspectives, like leaving home as an expert with 80 years of study in a subject, who isn’t fully considered an adult, socially. Or being a person who grew up having conversations with small animals. Or whose whole family and society is magical.

The Look. I get an image of a small person riding a war dog in half-plate, talking to his falcon, and I want to play a Forest Gnome Paladin or Cavalier.
In addition to those, sometimes the place in the world of a given race simply appeals to me or allows me to explore something that I wouldn’t be as close to as a human.

For instance, my gnome rogue/wizard is a swordmaster trained in an art from before the fall of the great northern kingdom of winter fey.
He also lives on the mountain where they ruled from, and his family line traces back to that kingdom and some of the heroes from the war that ended it.
His backstory involves a lich who came to the mountain for power, and a friendship with a clan of Goliaths in the high mountain.
Because my character is a gnome, his home town is higher in the mountain than the humans live in this region, his blood is tied to the ancient kingdom (a humans wouldn’t be, they’d be a relative newcomer to the region), he has a deeper cultural knowledge about the Demon War as it relates to the north, his Blade Song is tied to that ancient sword art (basically the Magical/Spanish/Thibault’s Circle with actual magic) that his uncle taught him, etc.

He’s part of the setting, his gnomish history is tied into his personal story and the campaign’s main villain, and I get to explore this whole culture and history. While some of that would be possible with a human, in order to have that history element he’d have to be from a very different place with a very different culture.

Finally, sometimes a race has themes that intersect with something I’d like to explore with the distance allowed by roleplaying a character who is kinda like me, but also very not.
 


doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Oh! Also, the stats suggest interesting differences of experience from a human.

A gnome, for me, is noticeably smarter than a human. A Tiefling has a noticeably more powerful presence. But also physical stats like Strength change how you can live. Strong Goliaths can carry enormous amounts without encumbrance. That changes how life works for them
 

In the majority of cases I play human characters.

When I played demihumans it's usually because I wanted to try and get into a different life perspective, for example how does a creature who outlives all other similarly intelligent races (Elf) thinks about time during quests, how does a creature whose legacy is to stick together underground for the sole purpose of amassing useless gems (Dwarf) relates to the rest of the world economies and values, how does a creature whose ideal in life is comfort and safety (Hobbit) handles being thrown into adventuring.

Monstrous races would be the next step, as they are even more alien. But then it's already very difficult to roleplay demihumans this way, and I don't blame myself for ending up roleplay a mere human in pointy ears.
 


Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Why play nonhumans (of any kind)?

Aesthetics, mechanics, exploration of otherness*, the in-campaign cultural tropes, humor, because it might bug someone else at the table, conforming to party theme, filling a gap, because it might enhance certain aspects of the campaign, because of an archetype, because it’s against an archetype...

Etc.




* I also play other genders and sexual orientations in part for this reason.
 


Ath-kethin

Adventurer
I played a thri-kreen back in 2e because I loved the idea of being a 7 foot tall bug, with a giant butt, eating elves. 5 attacks each round (one of them poisonous!) was pretty cool too.

I have discovered, however, that if you remove the stat bonuses from non-humans most players are no longer interested in them. Which surprised me a bit, honestly, but I think it also answers the question pretty effectively.
 

Big J Money

Adventurer
Can you specify what you mean by "demi-human"? I've seen it used differently at different times.
Sorry, it's a term that is so ingrained that I continue to use it even though it was probably dropped from the text a while ago.

I just mean any of the non-human races that are available to PCs, in any edition of D&D.
 

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