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November 22, 2005, 9:52 pm

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Why I don't want to modify Elves and Dwarves

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My issue with modifying/removing dwarves and elves is that the PC’s may want to play them.

My issue with modifying/removing dwarves and elves is that the PC’s may want to play them.

In my campeign setting there is no real wonder of the elves/dwarves because they’re so intermixed with humans that they’re a common enough thing to see. I think that should be the case in any game unless your world has a lot of segragation.

If you want the PC’s to have a tolkenesque respect for elves, bring in grey elves, and let some elven NPC tell the party how amazing the grey elves are. You can do the same with dwarves.

If you want mystery, that race should be something new, and hasn’t been on the plane for long. Add a new species of your own creation, or something obscure from the Monster Manual. Then come up with why they’ve just recently arrived on the prime material. Anything that has been arround for centries isn’t going to have too many secrets.

I use a mostly standard game setting because of the huge ammount of infromation that would be “common knowledge” amunkst the people of the world that would have to be distributed to the players who are allready framiliar with the way the world works in most games.

If you start deviating too far from the standard setting, you’ll have players who are peeved at their inability to predict what is going on. A wizard should know, for instance, that the plane of fire is uninhabitable unless you have special protection. If in your world, it is habitable then you need to explicitly tell him that before he constructs any plans arround it



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Comments ( 19 )
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Strolen
November 22, 2005, 21:53
0xp
All depends on your campaign and especially on your players. Everything you described doing with a different race could just as easily be done with elves and dwarves.

I personally use a human heavy world with all the other races being fairly rare. If elves and dwarves are as common as humans then they turn into humans with different bonuses and you don't play them as they are. You lose a lot making them common in my opinion.

Yes, the players may play the dwarf well or the elf, but when you go to town then they turn into a human, as in everybody in town treats them equally so they might as well be human. That, to me, takes away from the purpose of playing a unique race.

Taking away the 'standard' setting (which is not standard in my opinion) could change around the whole roleplaying experience and add a new level. Then they would have to actually think about how to play their character depending on their race instead of just using the race as an extra + in dexterity or whatever.
CaptainPenguin
November 22, 2005, 21:53
0xp
I, personally, am in favor of removing the "Standard Tolkien Setting", or changing it around. The regular D&D formula never seemed that interesting to me.
D&D is based a lot on Tolkien, right? And Tolkien's elves were almost demigods. They were quasi-mythical, talked about but never seen by common eyes. The dwarves were similar, if not quite so impressive, but still folkloric in stature (I mean social stature, not size).
In my settings, if one of the players is an elf or dwarf, and they just stroll into a village like they're human, they're met with fear, amazement, even worship (occasionally).
draco aardvark
November 22, 2005, 21:53
0xp
I like the idea of making them role play their race. None of the DM's I've had have made that an issue, so I've not experianced it. I think it would be rather neet to actually make a diferentiation.
MoonHunter
November 22, 2005, 21:55
1xp
Think of it this way: Think about all the difference between people in one area of the world when compared to others. Greeks vs Turks, Northern Californias vs Southern Californias. Texans vs Oakies. English and French. Now these are differences of the same species. Imagine if other species where thrown into the mix?

In most cases, you just need to properly define the world and the people in it. If the GM bothered to set up their world properly, people from different areas would have different opinions and values... just like the real world.

Each region should have a thumbnail sketch of what the "people" are like in the region, and what opinions they generally have.

So in the Elven lands of Foresthold, they tend to treat humans as we would treat 5 year olds... cute, but not good for anything really and live in the endless now of all the immortal elves. The Elven folk in Cliffhold, a mere 200-600 miles away, live in "human time" and work with their humans. (The change in attitude has to do with the fact that Human's pragmatic adaption to situations and not requiring ritual and tradition allowed them to save Cliffhold from falling away into the sea). If any Elf travels to Forthland they will be treated as a novelty- like we would treat a 8 foot fuzzy giant alien, as no elves grace that island continent. If they travel to Secondland and Thirdland, they will be treated with some honor and respect, as these lands know that they are somehow related to the Elven Emperor (though on Thirdland, they will not make concession for Elven time, unless the Elf can prove they are a High Elf).

How to the players get to know that? The GM just creates a world pack.
http://www.strolen.com/content.php?node=1274

This allows them to pick and choose the opinions, and players to know what to expect from others when they play another race.
This way, if the players do not "roleplay" or react to the way the world is, you can dock them experience points or appropriate mechanism.
draco aardvark
November 22, 2005, 21:56
0xp
Cultural boundries are a nice toutch. Wouldn't they break down in a high-magic world though? Teleport sorta ruins isolation.

Teleport is the only reason I allow there to be something even remotly resembling "common" - a tounge spoken by nearly everyone. The elves in my game all speak the same elvish, etc. It doesn't feal very logical for isolationists like dwarves and such to all
CaptainPenguin
November 22, 2005, 21:57
0xp
There you go again, draco.
I can see that you are obviously a D&D trained player.
Voted MoonHunter
November 22, 2005, 21:58
0xp
Quote from: "draco aardvark"
Cultural boundries are a nice toutch. Wouldn't they break down in a high-magic world though? Teleport sorta ruins isolation.

Teleport is the only reason I allow there to be something even remotly resembling "common" - a tounge spoken by nearly everyone. The elves in my game all speak the same elvish, etc. It doesn't feal very logical for isolationists like dwarves and such to all speak the same language.


How many people actually teleport around the country? Do they have permanent gates around that anyone can use? Probably not. Nope, the number of gate users would be a pitance when compared to the population on whole. The number would be similar to those who flew on Jets in the Early 60s... i.e. the elites and the rich.

The cultural differences are still here today, given 50 years of highspeed travel AND TELECOMMUNICATION. Traditions and ingrained beliefs take a while to set up and longer to remove.

As for common... I have a three word answer LATIN and FRENCH (French replaced by English since 1980s). In earlier times a Latin speaker could be understood by someone in just about any area of the world. Not only was it the language of Religion for about half the world, it was used by those in the Western Asia and Europe as a trading tongue. After the 1600s French was the common tongue of Europe and North Africa (and parts of the Americas), though Latin was still strong until 1880s. Asia had Manderine Chinese, which like Latin someone with any education would be able to speak (to some degree) anywhere in Asia since 3000 BC on.

Dwarves probably speak variations of True Dwarvish. The same situation occured with High German and Low German (or Manderin Chinese vs all the local dialects). All the langauges are based off the high language. The regional dialects use different pronuciation and some different words. A German speaker can understand someone speaking another dialect of Low German, most of the time. When Germans from different areas speak, they usually shift into High German. So your Dwarves probably do the same thing... and should get Deep Dwarvish and Regional Dwarvish langauges for free.

You are probably going, but these are not like common. You are right. Common is a "convenience" a total fiction that has no place in a realistic world. No language has managed to obtain enough commonality and dominance (not even English, though we are getting there) that Common or Trade Talk does. Most Gamers do not want to bother with actually trying to communicate with people, so common tongue/ tradespeak was a convenient game bit that DnD threw in.

Note: If magic is tied to the mystic sylables that must be uttered, wizards and magic users have the core of a common tongue that any culture that has magic has access to. So if Ti-Na-Govah is "Creates fire" Govah becomes the common word for Fire and Ti'na becomes the common world for Create or Creation.
Voted Mourngrymn
November 23, 2005, 10:56
0xp
Not to completely harp on the subject at hand. But it does appear to be a whiped D&D trained player to make any remark close to that.

That is why I backed away from D&D twelve years ago and started making my own system.

I have humans, and they populate probably 62% of the civilized lands. The other 38% are a mixture of my other six races. Which can at times be similar to the traditional elves and dwarves, but are completely different. Why are they different?

Look at our cultures. We are all humans, just with a sub-culture. Our cultures are our individualism. That makes us the real world equivalent to fantasy races. English and Americans can be viewed as the humans and half-humans (half elves perhaps). Asian cultures could possibly be viewed as the elven races for their spiritualism. Germans or russians could be dwarves. And while we are all the same, we are all different.

If I were to walk into Japan today, I would be looked at with curiosity. Why? Sure I'm American but I am still not japanese. If I tried ot speak I would be looked at with contempt. Why? I don't speak but twenty words in japanese.

So, I have created races, that while may hint at, "Hey those are sort of like elves." They are not like elves and definately my dwarves are not dwarves. WHo is to say that every fantasy planet in the universe has elves and dwarves? Or even humans for that matter? I have no gnomes, no halflings, no kender, no half-elves, half-orcs, or half-dragons for that matter. Like the typical D&D/TSR/Wizards/Hasbro fiasco has done to the genre.

I am in no way bashing your opinion. I never say someone elses opinion is wrong. I however just don't agree with it.

Talking about language barriers. In my world if you do not have the native language of the country that you are in, you might find someone to speak your language but probably not. I have a Traders Common, but it fails to harbor conversations and is used for merchants to sell to customers who don't speak their language. It is a mixture of mainly the human dialect and others combined for simple transations purposes only. You don't speak the same language as your party members, then your screwed.

Just my opinion.
axlerowes
April 21, 2009, 17:58
0xp
D&D is gamer common. You travel to a new city-out of character, you got to meet a new group, you go to the standards. Trying to push the world and system you and your hometown friends worked on for years on is something you should really save for the 3rd date.
MoonHunter
April 21, 2009, 18:22
0xp
Or you should have it all written up for your new player... and give it to him a week or so before the game. Then you should walk him through pieces of it when you are with them to create the character that fits the campaign.

Well I guess it is the third date, but by that time, it is the first play session.
axlerowes
April 21, 2009, 20:03
0xp
Well role-playing is a lot like sex, everyone who enjoys it thinks they're good at it, and most people are little worried and doubtful when people try to something new and different. When you get new group, unless they are new to gaming, they likely have a lot of ideas about how they want the game to go down. I find it best to try a few neutral or warm up games first, and then drop your Henry Darger stuff on em.
Scrasamax
November 26, 2005, 15:50
8xp
Scrasamax mounts his soapbox.

Ahem...where to start?

There have been a number of threads about reinventing many of the popular fantasy races. On one hand, we want to change them because everyone knows these basic races inside and out, and there is no wonder or mystery left to them. So we come up with new, innovative and really interesting new races. Except that no one is going to use them. Why not? Aren't they better than the old races?

In a word, no. The four traditional fantasy races, the elf, dwarf, human, and orc all have associations that transcend racial bonuses and abilities. More often that not, one of the first things that is changed is that certain thig, that certain element that links them to the human psyche.

To anyone who has toiled at hard, and seemingly insurmountable work, can you not find a common link to the dwarves? They burrow deep into the mountains, and hew out great works, and they are beset by trolls and giants and dragons. How is this so different that one of us going away to a menial job where the weight of work and responcibility seems like the mass of a great mountain itself. We are beset by challenges from coworkers who want our promotion, or our position, and by outside rivals who want to topple our company to make room for their own. In the end, we labor alone, why alone? Are there dwarven women? Logic says yes, but fantasy says no. There are no comely dwarven lasses, they only have the works of their hands as their prize and comfort.

The elves, is there a race more despized? Immortal, ever young and capable beyond our simple reckoning. They are unmoved by death, untouch by frailty, and illness. Tolkiens elves had a strong religious tone, akin to Angels, even to the point of a great fraction of them revolting against the gods in the name of pride and hubris. We fear sickness, and death, and even fear to defy that which we are not even sure exists, but they do not. They are unbound and unfettered to the material world in which we meager humans are shackled.

The orcs/goblins whatever you want to call them are the great and terrible enemy. They are the shadow of our psyche. They are free from the tillage of the soil, free to rape and pillage and plunder and burn and in this they are the dark reflection of who we really are as a people. Yet all to often they fall under dark sway, and are bent to evil purposes. How often have we been led astray, from fear or cowardice, nationalism or blind simple greed?

And last but not least are the humans. No matter the skin color, they get along, they speak the same language. They hold the gates against the enemy while the elves play and the dwarves delve ever deeper into their mines. Who could we be? We could be these humans, who stand a little taller, and are unbiased by creed and nationality. These mutable creatures able to adapt to any class and set of skills.

Enough of that.

The Common Language

The universal language is mathematics, the common language is money. Everyone understands gold. Right now, the US is the predominant economic and military super power. The world speaks our language, in some countries children are required to learn English. Some countries actively deny anything of our western culture in the same manner that some satanists would invert any and every symbol of Christianity to deny God. In thirty of fifty years, China could very well take our place at the top of the heap, and then the common language is going to be Chinese. Or a garbled mix of english and chinese, like English is a garbled mix of Gaelic, French, and Saxon.

now for the last battle. TSR, and Dungeons and Dragons. Yes, it has lost its roots in the soil of it's birth, now consumed by the megalithic corporations. Yet, despite its many flaws, and its many shortcomings, there is one thing that cannot be denied. It was the first. For many of we gamers, it was what drew us into the world of gaming. Sure, some of us had read the Hobbit, and seen some keen movies, but it was that book that drew us in. Mine was the glossy black 2nd ed. While she (D&D) has fallen on worse days, it seems both moraly wrong and an affront to the hobby in general to make such sport of bashing such a grand old lady who brought so much entertainment and frustration to two generations of gamers, and compared to the cost of movies, cable television, and prostitution...asked so little in return.
Murometz
April 29, 2006, 21:47
0xp
Jumpin Jehovah!! I have long since abandoned elves, dwarves, gnomes, hobbits, and orcs, and have chosen the worlds of Lord Dunsany, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, Fritz Lieber, Michael Moorcock, Harry Turtledove, and George R.R. Martin for my fantasy inspiration, among MANY others (but those spring to mind first).

Despite all that, Scras' soapbox speech has touched a nerve! YES, DAMN IT!! deep deep deep down inside I LOVE dwarves....their beards, their axes, their stolid nature, their dark ales. I love (even deeper inside) Elves and their haughty, forest-loving, long-lived ways!! And of course who wouldnt want to be a murdering, pillaging, dirty orc for a day!

Whats my point? I dont have one! But I give Scras' lecture a 9 out of 10 on the richter scale!
valadaar
October 18, 2006, 7:12
0xp
Here here onthis animated dicussion!

Turtledove? I am SO of two minds about that particular author, but that is for another venu.

:)
dark_dragon
April 21, 2009, 13:41
2xp
Hey, Its all for fun anyway, so have whatever races you and your players enjoy!

But,

{DUBIOUS RANT WARNING}

Different races are as believable as a moon made of cheese. Not for any physical reasons, oh no.

Hell, when the western world became aware of people with a different _skin color_ they viewed them as a different species. When the American settlers encountered native Americans, their reaction was "get off our god given land!". Just imagine their reaction to finding lizard men...

Realistically, cultures generally have a tendency not to support other cultures in cohabitation. The result when two cultures meet is either clash or subjugation. (There are so many examples throughout history I'm not even going to enumerate them. I can think of at least a dozen example of clashing/subjugated cultures in _today's_ world.)

Evolutionary tendencies at the genetic level tend to view competitors as animals to be slaughtered as quickly and efficiently as possible. Two sentient races trying to cohabit on the same continent would give the same result as putting two competing predators in the same cage (pack of hyena and a lion in a 5mx5m room) the only stable solution is enslavement or extinction.

====
ASIDE:

Peaceful subjugation through economic, cultural or religious means is possible, (eg: one specie worshipped as divine, one exporter of culture, or economic inequality) but that is only a more digestible form of enslavement and subjugation. One culture always comes out stronger, while the other one weakens. Tex-Mex is _not_ Mexican culture. It is a vague shadows that remains after subjugation and assimilation. It makes us feel hapy to know that we can "share". But we are being dishonest (See the poppadom paradox). Scras says that the US is the global economic and military superpower, and that this is why everybody speaks English. he forgets to mention that the US is also, and perhaps more importantly the world's largest Cultural superpower. Indeed, US culture has gone to places US soldiers could only dream of going. You can buy Coca-cola in almost every country on the planet. Same with MacDonald's, Starbucks, fast food, Rock and Roll, Jazz, free market, democracy, Nike, capitalism, Levi, free speech, etc... Indeed, The US tries to export its culture by Any Means Necessary(TM) And the it is incredibly good at exporting culture.

Have a look at http://www.millwardbrown.com/Sites/optimor/Media/Pdfs/en/BrandZ/BrandZ-2007-RankingReport.pdf

to see what I mean. How many are American? how many of them are consumer oriented? Why is it that fast food and luxury brands are growing the fastest? Can you name a Chinese run fast food brand? _not_ a chain of Chinese restaurant, but a Chinese-run fast food brand. I can't. Panda-Express is American.

I would argue that the west is as good at exporting culture as china is at exporting goods. (Disney goods made in china, for eg.)

(Don't get me wrong, I'm not passing judgement on any of these. I like free speech, fast food, democracy, Donald Duck and Rock and Roll as much as the next guy.)

The true fight of the 'War On Terror'(TM) isn't going to be won with mortar or bullets but with culture. Whoever can export theirs the best will win. Vulgarly: Radicalise or Capitalise.
====

The only hope for different smart races is that they do not compete for any resources (or culture). Algae harvesting mer-people might just cohabit with men. But genetic xenophobia would be so strong against another sentient species that I see very few palatable cohabitation strategies.

A simple look at the cold war will tell you what to expect. And that was a clash between two very similar cultures: similar family structures, similar traditional gender roles, similar technologies, hierarchical power structures (even if one side would have pretended the opposite) etc, etc...

The traditional fantasy idea about different races is all well and good, but not if you want your world to be realistic and reflect the way "we" would behave.

Fantasy humans are so far from who we truly are as to be a completely different specie in themselves.

That's all rather pessimistic, isn't it? I guess it's why we _need_ to cohabit with elves and defeat orcs. Like Scras says, orcs and elves are just a thinly veiled mirror. It's why we need them, and heroes, and fantasy. To give us a slither of hope. To let us know that maybe, just maybe, we could do it. The self deception and hope is what it's about. It's why we play fantasy in the first place. It's why we'll casually accept a dwarf in RPG while not hiring a black guy in Real life.

(I'm sure a good portion of us would behave differently, but I hope you understand what I mean.)

So if you really want different races, go nuts, use whatever you like, however you like, because, cliché or not, you've already strayed so far from reality that it makes no difference. The humans cohabiting with elves in fantasy, no matter how you dice it, are so far from us as to be just that: fantasy.

#OOC# I don't know what to make of that, but since I wrote it, what the hell, it's going up. Crucify me if you must.
valadaar
April 21, 2009, 14:16
0xp
Excellent discussion DD. I'll have to add something to this dicussion!
axlerowes
April 21, 2009, 17:54
1xp
The not realistic argument always jars me. What people generally mean when they say it isn't realistic is that it isn't intuitive. I want to expand this beyond fantasy settings and apply this attitude to the community of speculative writers who feel the need to tackle issues of science, politics, culture and psychology; so all of them.

But before I can do that perhaps there are some questions to answer that would address dark_dragon conceits about humanity and history. First, I do suppose that dark_dragon would not suggest that logic or reason could be used a predictive meter for individuals. We all accept that individual behavior is varied and complex enough to be about as predictable as the weather. To describe you have to speak in likely hoods and thus when saying something isn't realistic what you are most likely saying is that things are not probable. A perverse, and by that I mean unpredictable, human being is so common that it no longer suprises us.

What dark_dragon is suggesting is that on a large scale humanity is extremely predictable, and on a large enough scale the observation of improbable behaviors is pratically impossible. Thus two intelligent species could not share a continent or at least could not share it with humanity.

On the whole I agree, but dark_dragon's conclusions do not include time in their equation.

At some point in time their is going to be co-habitation, cultural exchange and perhaps tolerance. The outcome may always be the same but culturel pluralism does exist , just not stably. Early Chicago was inhabited by indians, freed slaves, french-candians and frontiers men all living together and hanging at the wolf point tavern (not ideally for sure, violence was common, but there was not dominate culture). It wasn't until the new england yankee's came in and divided into lots that the frontier life was forced out. So perhaps before you look at your beloved world with its hobbit's, fairy folk and stranded aliens all living together in the Ghetto of a post-apocolyptic bronze age city at berate yourself for you intellectual simpleness (as dark_dragon and his kind would), you could

take comfort in the fact that you also capturing a moment in make-believe time.

Additionally, you have to decide if your species sharing an area are biologically compatible, because when ever there are two populations capable of interbreeding in contact there is interbreeding. There is data from the Levant that has been interpreted to suggest interbreeding between neandrethals and modern humans. The Bantu may have wiped out the Khoisan way of life, but was there not interbreeding? Certainly there was evidence of genetic and cultural exchange between the surviving !Kung tribes and the Bantu tribes as late the 1960s. The result of you a hetrogenous populations within an area of limited resources may be a homogenous culture, but there are many ways to get there and they may not all be dominance. It could instead be the de novo generation of new culture generated from the interface of multiple cultures, the Swahili are an example of such a culture. (If somebody says tries to tell you the Swahili are not a people, but it is just a non-tribal language tell him or her that as much truth to as the moon of cheese theory. Yes is there is a moon and there is cheese, but the similarities end there.)

Finally, Moonhunter already knocked this idea that magical travel would break down cultural barriers, but I want to knock it a different way as well. Geography is not the only thing that maintains cultural identity. That is so well know that I don't even need to give examples. But without things like formal education, transferable media and/or a highly inter-dependant economy cultural conversation would not be as easy as we observe it to be today.
Voted axlerowes
April 21, 2009, 17:59
0xp
the public isn't really consuming this as much as coughing back up.
Nobody
May 23, 2011, 10:44
0xp

Um, I would just like to say that the language of magic is a poor common language, and one which should not be spoken casually. It's a good way to shoot your eye out.

And for the record, I use tons of segregation in my D&D Games. 

Oh, and I increased the human lifespan. I can't stand the idea that Elves and Dwarves live 10 times longer than humans. How could they possibly contain similar mental stats if they had to live three lifetimes just to reach adolescence. I generally pull that comparison up to 2:1, or I make other races unplayable.

Also, I really do love dwarves and elves. They are just great races. I'm glad to have them.

 

-Nobody



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