Monday, May 31, 2010

Worldbuilding: Races, Part 1

New "art", you say?

Oh my.

Think of it as "making up" for the last month. You think you're clear, and then suddenly you need a new monitor and a new desk and you're graduating last Friday and you're getting a new high score in Nanaca Crash and I got a degree, by the way, but who reads this blog to hear about my life? I am actually slightly late but since that is because I was wrangling with the scanner I think I'll slip this in at the "end of the month".

I wasn't sure how to talk about races. My thoughts on them are kind of complicated. Eventually I decided to just dump my thoughts in one post and the actual races of this setting on the other once I make a few tweaks.

Okay, so.

I was introduced to D&D slowly. Originally I drifted onto the internet in my youth to find Nintendo 64 cheat codes, which led to posting on a Rareware forum, which... et cetera, et cetera. It's a complicated dance through forums and IRC servers and video games which nobody really cares about, and I will try to stick to the relevant parts.

At some point I made some friends who were into roleplaying, or at least a few friends who were into roleplaying and a few others who played along, and I joined in. Just freeform stuff, at this point, and I was terrible at making characters.

Most of the people involved were terrible, but I am pretty sure most of what I did was really, really terrible, so let's call it even.

I experimented with GMing a little, if you could call it that - I convinced the others to let me take the reins for a bit and ran some things in settings connected or related to the "setting" we normally ran with. I just wanted to try new things and experiment with new stuff, and wasn't in it for the long haul; I was still unsure whether I even wanted to GM in the first place. Only later would I discover D&D and my grim destiny the joys of DMing.

I used some of the characters I made in a webcomic during a period where I played around with webcomics and sprite comics (part of the winding path of personal growth I took through the internet involved the Bob and George community), a period which was terminated when I realised there are unnecessary thousands of the bloody things on the internet and most of them are either generic, terrible or both.

Eventually I got better, was introduced to D&D by some other friends, and almost immediately dived into DMing, which I was also terrible at. It took me a while to get the hang of it, partly because nobody I was playing with was any good at D&D.

I ran some games, and each game I ran was less terrible than the last until I reached a point where I could confidently say I am not a terrible GM. That's where the story ends, pretty much.

So, what does this mean?

Well, I love creativity. I like trying new things. I like variety. And settings are like webcomics - there are three million of the bloody things and they are almost all as interchangeable as the contents of a bucket of beige thumb tacks.

If you want to stand out from the crowd and make a game everyone will remember, a good way to do it is to make an engaging setting (if you're not using one already), and mixing up the race choices a bit is a good way to do it. Besides, it's fun.

On the other hand...

Well, what's the point? All the archetypes are there already, I want to make a setting I can throw anything from WotC's books into if I want, and there's such a thing as too much change. It's certainly not required to make an engaging setting and who the hell is going to remember your technicolour rainbow of humanoids with funny names spelled with punctuation in the middle?

Nobody, that's who.

The struggle between wanting to stay a little generic and wanting to experiment and try new things was easily solved, actually. Here is what I did:

I decided to use some of the standard races, tweak and change them a bit to make them a little different (this has Been Done (tm), but it's easier for players to remember) and added some homebrew races of my own.

Speaking of homebrew, I've been asked about adding races from other books or other people's homebrew ideas often. After some thought, I've decided it's okay IF:

  • The concept isn't retarded (e.g. "shota orcs", "an anthropomorphic version of that new mount in WoW that costs RL money", etc)
  • It's not a kender
  • The concept isn't broken
  • It's not a kender
  • It doesn't use rules I explicitly don't in the setting (e.g. incarnum)
  • The race isn't terribly written (mary sues, way too many details about what can be found in their trousers, etc.)
  • It can fit in the setting without large changes to the canon

The last is important, since the others come up very rarely. If I can insert a race without changing much - Warforged are particularly easy - it's in. Even races from other settings, with enough tweaking. I start to draw the line if the player wants his new elf subrace to have its own nation and customs, usually, but it depends on how much I like the idea.

I'm running even later so I'm going to come back ASAP with Otherworld's races, so far. Until then, please, drop a comment by with your thoughts on races and any races, "official" or homebrew, you particularly like.

Especially if they're not kender.


Greg said...

I like the idea of Changelings, possibly because of the whole 'you've been helped the whole time by the SAME DUDE' setup.

Hell, I was going to play a changeling rogue who, out of battle, was a bombastic bubbly type who was public about his race. ... But that session fell flat, and I wasn't feeling up for a 3.5 game at the time.

Blastcage said...

You should put dragonborn in all your games

Mozai said...

Which dragonborn? The 3.5e types that kissed Bahamut/Tiamat's ass with an rectal swirly so they got reborn as lizardmen with Mary Sue powers? do you mean the 3e "half-dragon" templates where your mom got raped by a dragon so now you have +8 Str, +4 AC, +2 everywhere else, most of an elf's racial benefits and a breath weapon?

I think you should include something that eats dragonborn as a staple of it's diet.

Mozai said...

While I'm here, you could use any tool-using & social monster as a playable race in your campaigns. Hell, your setting has to have villages of goblins and yuan-ti and troglodytes for the characters to raid and fuck their shit up... why not make any of them into a playable race? The party just has to share fluency in at least one language, and have compatible goals.

I thought 3rd Ed. made that easy with the "challenge rating" for each monster, which tells you how many equivalent levels the monster has from it's inborn abilities.

Our heroes: an otyugh, a trogolyde, a ghoul, and a human (who lost his sense of smell in the war) working together to recover the two-handed +3 Axe (Body Spray Of The Gods).

Jinti said...

I'm not entirely sure why, but I've come to adore Kenku. I once made a Kenku monk who was mute, save for kenku mimicry and the occasional Bruce Lee "WATAH".

The GM at the time, aparrently liked the thought, because he worked it out with me that ALL Kenku were mute like mine. The reason he put forward was that Kenku value their personal voice as something sacred, only speaking on their own to their closest friends, family, etc.

Very fun, especially since the GM had a habit of giving his NPCs a wide variety of accents that I had to match.

Fatum said...


Kyle said...

Funny enough, I don't actually mind 4e dragonborn conceptually, I just think their aesthetics are terrible.

It's no big secret that I like kobolds. Funny enough, after that, I'm pretty open on races, so long as it fits the sorta character idea I have. I don't think I've ever made a character built around the race aside from joke characters, but rather - and I suppose this is vaguely shameful - based on 1) what goes well with the character, and 2) what mechanically works well.

Yes yes, I'm a filthy powergamer :<

Honestly, there's a few races that I find rather interesting and I'd totally make a character based around them, except the LA system is utter shit. It doesn't help that WotC seems to decide LA completely on random, and it leads to things like Drow being hilariously weak (+2 LA? Really? Really?). I'm not a fan of 4e's method of just making every race boring and weak, either, mind you, so I don't really have any good suggestions on how to fix it. I just get frustrated when trying to play as a LIZARDMAN punishes you.

Urist said...

Raptorans. Yay balanced flight at no LA (because fuck LA) :D