Why do you play non-human races?

Kurotowa

Adventurer
One part is having been raised on a heavy diet of science fiction so that "imagine a character with an alien perspective from a human" comes naturally. One part is, I'll be honest, picking the racial game mechanics package that supports the class I want to play that campaign.

Really though, I myself am a non-violent introvert who takes forever to make decisions. Is role playing an elf or a woman really more of a stretch than role playing a decisive and charismatic leader or a ruthlessly pragmatic mercenary?
 

Azzy

Cyclone Ranger
Uh, because playing humans all the time would get boring. Also, they're neat and you get to be something different from your\self and try to look at things from a different perspective. And it's fun.
 

Aebir-Toril

Is lukewarm on the Forgotten Realms
Because why not, I suppose. I play this game because I can become, and really, truly embody an Elfin Maiden for a few hours.

Often, the reason for playing a non-human character is, for me, a combination of mechanics and flavor.
 

MGibster

Adventurer
One part is having been raised on a heavy diet of science fiction so that "imagine a character with an alien perspective from a human" comes naturally. One part is, I'll be honest, picking the racial game mechanics package that supports the class I want to play that campaign.
From a human standpoint, which of the playable races in D&D has an alien perspective? And how is this reflected in game play?
 

Jd Smith1

Explorer
I don't play other races because as already noted, they're just cosmetic changes. I'm more interested in running a Human with a good backstory.

I've very rarely seen a player represent a race other than human very well for the long haul. There have been a couple exceptions, but overall it's a pointless addition to the game,
 

Kurotowa

Adventurer
From a human standpoint, which of the playable races in D&D has an alien perspective? And how is this reflected in game play?
Well, most of the PHB races aren't that alien. As people have pointed out, they're not much stranger than your average Star Trek aliens are. If you want to play up that angle and make your game play reflect it, though, fluff books like MToF will try to delve deeper into the cultural and psychological differences. Then for the really inhuman options you've got to go to lizardfolk and other more monstrous Volo's Guide offerings.

Having the "No, you're not just a human with a few special tricks" show up and matter is a mix of both player investment and campaign style. If you're just dungeon crawling it doesn't come up a lot, and some people don't actually want to explore the different emotional spectrum a half-orc experiences they just want to be strong and tough looking.
 

Aebir-Toril

Is lukewarm on the Forgotten Realms
I don't play other races because as already noted, they're just cosmetic changes. I'm more interested in running a Human with a good backstory.

I've very rarely seen a player represent a race other than human very well for the long haul. There have been a couple exceptions, but overall it's a pointless addition to the game,
Interesting perspective. Out of curiosity, would someone be allowed to play a non-human race in your campaign, or do you restrict race choice to human in most campaigns?

In my campaigns, at least, the 'race' of your character is not solely cosmetic, but carries cultural implications as well.
 

Jd Smith1

Explorer
Interesting perspective. Out of curiosity, would someone be allowed to play a non-human race in your campaign, or do you restrict race choice to human in most campaigns?

In my campaigns, at least, the 'race' of your character is not solely cosmetic, but carries cultural implications as well.
I allow non-Humans in fantasy settings. A couple of my players like them, but most just run Humans. I make sure my settings have racial implications, good and bad, for your racial choice, but very seldom do I see a player bother with roleplaying his race after a couple sessions.

I would much rather see a developed character. Pointy ears or a height restriction isn't something that translates well in a non-visual game.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
From a human standpoint, which of the playable races in D&D has an alien perspective? And how is this reflected in game play?
The most obvious answer is that a sentient creature with a lifespan many times that of a human- like dwarves and elves- will have a radically different perspective on long term vs short term planning of all kinds, including weighing the necessity of acting now or later....or at all.

Races that consider other sentient beings to be edible will have different interactions within the party and with NPCs than will PCs that don’t.

How differences in races will manifest in game play depends on the gamers in question.
 

Jd Smith1

Explorer
The most obvious answer is that a sentient creature with a lifespan many times that of a human- like dwarves and elves- will have a radically different perspective on long term vs short term planning of all kinds, including weighing the necessity of acting now or later....or at all.

Races that consider other sentient beings to be edible will have different interactions within the party and with NPCs than will PCs that don’t.

How differences in races will manifest in game play depends on the gamers in question.
In theory, yes.

In practice, since the players running them lack the perspective, it boils down to a cosmetic change.

Races are like stats; just because you're running a PC with a high charisma does not mean you can actually be glib and charming.
 

PsyzhranV2

Adventurer
From a human standpoint, which of the playable races in D&D has an alien perspective? And how is this reflected in game play?
That question's answer changes from setting to setting; it isn't consistent. For an example from one specific setting, I'll raise you Dhakaani goblinoids.

Rising from the Last War unfortunately didn't go in too much depth about this, so I'm not sure how strictly canon any of this is anymore; this is more the way Keith Baker personally presents them.

Once, the continent of Khorvaire was dominated by the Empire of Dhakaan. Goblinoids from the underground Kechs who can trace their lineage unbroken back to this empire hold an instinctual bond with each other that can be roughly described as eusocial. From this Dragonshard:
Heirs of Dhakaan said:
One of the major differences between the Dhakaani and the other goblinoids of Khorvaire is the degree of interracial cooperation within a clan. Among the Ghaal'dar and the Marguul, the strong rule the weak. Leadership is founded on fear, and the weaker races hate the stronger tyrants.

Among the Dhakaani goblinoids, this is not the case. Each species has a role to serve in society, and each embraces this role. The hobgoblins rule not through force of arms but because the goblins and bugbears respect their ability to maintain structure and discipline. The strength of the bugbears is turned against the enemies of the clan. These racial roles are examined below.
And from Keith Baker's personal blog:
Dragonmarks: Goblins said:
So the first step in differentiating goblins and orcs was the idea of orcs as passionate and chaotic, with goblins being practical and more lawful. But there’s another thing that distinguishes goblins: multiple subspecies. There are at least three goblin subspecies – goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears. There could easily be others that were around in the age of Dhakaan and have died out on the surface, goblin subtypes humans have never seen. To me, this is a fascinating aspect of goblins that’s rarely explored in any depth. It reminds me of eusocial species like ants, bees, and naked mole rats – and in such species, the different subspecies all serve a particular role within their society and work together.
Dhakaani goblinoids work together with levels of coordination and efficiency unseen in other races. While they do not have a telepathic hivemind or the pheromone communication systems of hive insects, they nonetheless live, work, and fight less as individuals but more as parts of a greater whole. Each Dhakaani, no matter goblin, bugbear, or hobgoblin instinctually knows their place in the world and their relation to other Dhakaani, and serves that role to the best of their ability not just out of obligation but as their self-fulfillment.

At their very base level, they are not motivated by individual survival but by the common good. Dhakaani culture revolves around the virtues of duty and honour -- in their tongue, Muut and Atcha, the responsibilities that are expected of them and the personal glory that comes from exceeding expectations. While other humanoid races and cultures may hold these virtues in high regard, for the Dhakaani it is the ingrained in the basest of their biological drives. It's stronger than simply love for their fellow man, yet not so strong that it robs them of free will and moral agency. But it is strong enough that it once united an entire race and empire as one, prevention the evils of corruption and ambition that plagued other empires from taking hold in the Dhakaani Empire.

The city goblins that were once enslaved by the humans of Khorvaire, and the Ghaal'dar and Marguul clans that currently rule the nation of Darguun do not share these traits. The interspecies bond that once united them was broken long ago by the daelkyr when they invaded Eberron from Xoriat. While the daelkyr ultimately lost the war against the Empire of Dhakaan, they placed a curse on the goblinoid people, driving them into madness and internal conflict. No longer did Muut and Atcha hold any meaning for them, and from that point the goblinoids that remained on the surface turned against each other, shattering their empire in but a few generations and leaving them easy pickings for human settlers and conquerors from Sarlona. Only the Dhakaani clans that fled underground and sequestered themselves in the Kechs were able to escape this fate. In the thousands of years that followed, each Kech turned to its own path and own culture; the Kech Sharaat hone their martial skill while the Kech Volaar instead focus on keeping the bardic traditions of their people alive. But they never forgot the glory of the empire they once held, nor the fact that they are strongest not alone but together.

The Dhakaani see the city goblins, the Ghaal'dar, and the Marguul as corrupt abominations, with many, though not all Dhakaani Kechs advocating for their eventual extermination. As well, they see the humans that have colonized Khorvaire in their absence as defilers that must be pushed aside if Dhakaan's glory is ever to be reclaimed. Currently they watch from the shadows and test each others' mettle to see which Kech is worthy of leading the rest. If the Dhakaani can reunite under one emperor, they will then turn their blades towards the rest of the world, which has little idea of how much force the Dhakaani can bring to muster.
 
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MGibster

Adventurer
The most obvious answer is that a sentient creature with a lifespan many times that of a human- like dwarves and elves- will have a radically different perspective on long term vs short term planning of all kinds, including weighing the necessity of acting now or later....or at all.
Has that ever had a significant impact on game play? Have you ever had a party comprised of long lived races decide not to do anything about a group of human bandits because they'll all be dead in a few decades anyway?

Races that consider other sentient beings to be edible will have different interactions within the party and with NPCs than will PCs that don’t.
We've had actual human cultures that engaged in ritualistic cannibalism. So we're not talking about something alien here.

How differences in races will manifest in game play depends on the gamers in question.
How is it encouraged by D&D though? Throughout it's history what campaign material has encouraged dwarves and elves to be radically different from humans?

And, look, I'm not arguing against the inclusion of demi-humans in fantasy games. While I think of them as humans with funny makeup that's a good thing to me. It allows us to tell fundamentally human stories.
 

Jd Smith1

Explorer
(Bolded for emphasis.)

You're assuming all players are incapable of role playing that kind of perspective. I can assure you tat is not the case.
I'm sure that you have a few theatrics majors or gifted players who can act out some personal concept of the part, but that's about it.

It isn't going to be anything of substance, because they have no valid reference or experience for such a role. No one does. It's just superficial make-believe.
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
I'd like to say there are other reasons, but normally I choose a race that's mechanically good for whatever I want to play. Occasionally my concept focuses on the race first, then I choose a class best suited for my concept based on the race.

In any case, I always try to focus my character's personality and actions based on my race and ethnicity, even humans. I don't want to just be a reskinned human; I want to be something different!
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Has that ever had a significant impact on game play? Have you ever had a party comprised of long lived races decide not to do anything about a group of human bandits because they'll all be dead in a few decades anyway?
In a sandbox campaign, one group decided (by vote) to ignore a particular plot hook- not brigands- because time would solve the problem, yes.

We've had actual human cultures that engaged in ritualistic cannibalism. So we're not talking about something alien here.
Ritualistic cannibalism is different than viewing all others as sentient cattle.

How is it encouraged by D&D though? Throughout it's history what campaign material has encouraged dwarves and elves to be radically different from humans?
Any guidance has largely been subtle- 2Ed’s non-sleeping Elves; early edition age charts describing 150 year old beings as analogous to teens or children; some subspecies being more hostile to outsiders for reasons X,Y and Z.

But what does it matter? At any given table, the DM & players are going to keep or ignore whatever they want.

For a lot of groups, a lot of weapons & armors in AD&D were never used because a certain few were “better”...but a lot of those groups ignored things like weapon speeds, etc. And those were big old explicit tables, (On the flipside, other groups felt the combat rules weren’t dangerous enough and added hit locations)

Even if D&D had made explicit rules regarding the psychology of those races making them very different from humans, I guarantee that not everyone would have followed them.
 
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Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
I'm sure that you have a few theatrics majors or gifted players who can act out some personal concept of the part, but that's about it.

It isn't going to be anything of substance, because they have no valid reference or experience for such a role. No one does. It's just superficial make-believe.
What’s your point? The whole game is superficial make believe. If the end result of the elf & dwarf characters’ actions is other than you’d expect from a party of humans, and it meaningfully impacts the campaign, then the difference is- by definition- consequential.

Besides, just because YOU may not be able to do a thing, it does not follow that others- possibly in great numbers- are similarly limited.
 

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