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Author Topic: Just How WEIRD is D&D?  (Read 2257 times)

Zelen

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Re: Just How WEIRD is D&D?
« Reply #30 on: January 11, 2022, 09:25:00 PM »
5E as a system is (deliberately) shallow, and adding new races is one of the few things they can publish to fill pages without directly adding complexity. Every new race is new artwork, new culture sections, new quirks and backgrounds.

I'd also keep in mind that 5E as a system is simplified to the point where choosing race & class are the only meaningful mechanical choices you can make. If you're rolling up your 10th Fighter character and want to create something with mechanical differentiation from the previous characters, you're naturally going to gravitate to a different race.

There is obviously a cultural element too. But 5E's system actively encourages this because you basically have to.

D&D 3E actually solved this problem by making Human more-or-less the mechanically best race. Yes, there were a ton of races published, but at least in my own campaigns it was common to see Humans just because they were (marginally) better than most other race choices.
If I were running a 5E game I would probably houserule to disallow anything other than standard Fantasy races & give human characters a culturally-relevant extra background, or some other kind of perk.

Omega

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Re: Just How WEIRD is D&D?
« Reply #31 on: January 11, 2022, 09:27:33 PM »
Obviously not all games are like that, but there certainly seems to be... "more" of the freakshow. So this gets me to eyeballing people of my vintage that play in the OSR...

Do others look at D&D as being as weird? I spent decades running Spelljammer - so weird shit is par for the course for me, but context is context - Spelljammer (and Planescape) is SUPPOSED to be weird. Are their OSR games that do contextually weird stuff? And if 5e collapsed - could the OSR reclaim these young players that play this way?

1: Its mostly because 5e is mostly set in the Forgotten Realms which is pretty much anything goes. I mean theres dog people, turtle people, Flying squirrel people, clockwork people, and more. And that goes back to 2e at the very least. Then theres Eberron which was another anything goes allowance due to the weird magitech of the setting.

2: If anything the OSR can be even weirder depending on what materials are drawing from. BX and BECMI alone opened up the doors to dozens of monsters as playable with its Creature Crucible line and any given Dragon article, and more. AD&D had plenty of odd races too from various sources.
OD&D allowed for players playing pretty much any monster. See some of the original players comments on the crazy stuff they played. And thats not even getting into the crossovers with Gamma World and Boot Hill that carried over to A and 2e.

x: If any thing, so far 5e is the LEAST prolific of all the settings. The actual new races that are AG allowable is not as big as some like to complain about.

Chris24601

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Re: Just How WEIRD is D&D?
« Reply #32 on: January 11, 2022, 09:53:01 PM »
Lets take Tieflings. You cannot have Tieflings in a setting unless you also have (or have had) a demon/devil incursion into that realm because Tieflings are hybrids. It is similar to the half-orc problem. Any kind of demon/devil incursion large enough to create a population of Tiefling hybrids will also be a major event in that realm's history which does affect the setting. Same with half-orcs.

This is what I hate most about Tieflings. I hate Dragonborn with a passion, cuz they're made up D&D fanservice, but at least there's demon-hybrids in folklore. But unless there's an invasion of rapy infernal beings leaving a bunch of demon-hybrids on its wake as part of the setting backstory, Tieflings have next to NO place in a regular campaign. Otherwise I'd have no problem with them.
On the other hand, if your setting includes, say a Demon Empire that reigned for a thousand years before it was overthrown by the forces of light at dawn of recorded history… having Tieflings be a common race (more common than elves even) would make sense for that setting.

My personal feeling is that if you’re presenting yourself as a generic fantasy toolkit (vs. say, Forgotten Realms the RPG) then you should have a broad range of species available from mundane to weird because it’s a lot easier to exclude from a list than it is to create new options (and to have consistency across tables when the same thing is used… vs. Tieflings at Table X being completely different than those as Table Y).

You just need to make it clear that it is expected that GM’s will probably only allow 1-5 options from the list as available in their world.

Because I could see a setting where the three dominant species are humans, dragonborn and tieflings; the 4E Points of Light setting basically set such a thing up with both tied into a significant historical event in the campaign region.

I could also see a campaign with heavy fey themes where only fey (elves, eladrin, gnomes, pixies, etc.) and those touched by the fey (half-elves) are allowed (i.e. no full-blooded humans).

Or one with dragon riders are the main focus where the only racial choices are humans and young dragons.

A toolkit list of races including oddballs will allow a GM to assemble any of those using available material. Cutting it down to just the Tolkein-clone standards means they have to put more work into designing their own races and so will probably just default to the same old boring pseudo-Tolkein expy that 99% of fantasy settings end up being.

jeff37923

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Re: Just How WEIRD is D&D?
« Reply #33 on: January 11, 2022, 10:43:19 PM »
Lets take Tieflings. You cannot have Tieflings in a setting unless you also have (or have had) a demon/devil incursion into that realm because Tieflings are hybrids. It is similar to the half-orc problem. Any kind of demon/devil incursion large enough to create a population of Tiefling hybrids will also be a major event in that realm's history which does affect the setting. Same with half-orcs.

This is what I hate most about Tieflings. I hate Dragonborn with a passion, cuz they're made up D&D fanservice, but at least there's demon-hybrids in folklore. But unless there's an invasion of rapy infernal beings leaving a bunch of demon-hybrids on its wake as part of the setting backstory, Tieflings have next to NO place in a regular campaign. Otherwise I'd have no problem with them.
On the other hand, if your setting includes, say a Demon Empire that reigned for a thousand years before it was overthrown by the forces of light at dawn of recorded history… having Tieflings be a common race (more common than elves even) would make sense for that setting.


That sounds a lot like a demon incursion to me.
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Jaeger

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Re: Just How WEIRD is D&D?
« Reply #34 on: January 11, 2022, 11:45:08 PM »
One of the observations I have about 5e, which has been talked about at LEAST since 3e, but possibly earlier is the freakshow factor of D&D. Snowflake races/classes always existed, and it's a tried-and-true baby GM right of passage to learn how to reject such characters at the table.

The freakshow has always been there - but it was largely in supplements.

So most GM's hand no problem excising stuff by just saying PHB races only.

Of course the desire was always there; just look at how much Gygax letting one of his early players play a Balrog keeps getting brought up as "proof"  of: "See, it was OK with Gary!!!"...

But largely it was the core 4 - with a decent human majority.

But nowdays... The freakshow is directly in the core. You can see the steady creep since 3e.

I Blame Eberron.


Do others look at D&D as being as weird? I spent decades running Spelljammer - so weird shit is par for the course for me, but context is context - Spelljammer (and Planescape) is SUPPOSED to be weird. Are their OSR games that do contextually weird stuff? And if 5e collapsed - could the OSR reclaim these young players that play this way?

I never saw the appeal of Spelljammer or Planescape.

Default D&D has always been a Gygaxian Gonzo Kitchen Sink Fantasy.

It has stuff from Weird fantasy, Sword and sorcery, with a vague Tolkienesque veneer all thrown in together...


I like my Medieval Fantasy more of a mishmash of: Lord of the Rings, The Witcher, and the first three books/ and first six seasons of a Game of Thrones. You toss in a dash of The adventures of Robinhood, Brothers Grimm, Norse sagas, with a touch of the 13th Warrior, and you are just about there.

So yes, I Dial even B/X D&D wayy back.
« Last Edit: January 12, 2022, 12:55:53 AM by Jaeger »
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Chris24601

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Re: Just How WEIRD is D&D?
« Reply #35 on: January 12, 2022, 01:01:39 AM »
Lets take Tieflings. You cannot have Tieflings in a setting unless you also have (or have had) a demon/devil incursion into that realm because Tieflings are hybrids. It is similar to the half-orc problem. Any kind of demon/devil incursion large enough to create a population of Tiefling hybrids will also be a major event in that realm's history which does affect the setting. Same with half-orcs.

This is what I hate most about Tieflings. I hate Dragonborn with a passion, cuz they're made up D&D fanservice, but at least there's demon-hybrids in folklore. But unless there's an invasion of rapy infernal beings leaving a bunch of demon-hybrids on its wake as part of the setting backstory, Tieflings have next to NO place in a regular campaign. Otherwise I'd have no problem with them.
On the other hand, if your setting includes, say a Demon Empire that reigned for a thousand years before it was overthrown by the forces of light at dawn of recorded history… having Tieflings be a common race (more common than elves even) would make sense for that setting.


That sounds a lot like a demon incursion to me.
Yes. The point I was refuting was that Tieflings don’t have a place in a core book because a setting where there was a demonic incursion is not, supposedly, a “regular” campaign.

I resent the assumption that Tolkeinish elves and dwarves and halflings must always be the default… that including those as player options is a given instead being just as setting dependent as say, playable sapient golems.

Because elves (particularly the Tolkein-ish D&D variety) most certainly are not some universal cultural myth that belongs in every setting, nor are 4’ tall dwarves who are good at mining and engineering and aren’t some type of nature spirit. Nor are 3’ tall hairy-footed humanoids found anywhere in broader myth and legend other than in Tolkein’s works.

Worse, the presumption thaf elves, dwarves and halflings must be included leads to setting creators having to figure out how to include them in the setting… vs. just using species that actually make sense for it.

And worse, to try and make their setting feel less like a Tolkein rip-off, they decide to radically reinterpret the race in some fashion; ex. cannibal halflings of Dark Sun.


Opaopajr

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Re: Just How WEIRD is D&D?
« Reply #36 on: January 12, 2022, 01:23:52 AM »
It's no longer weird for the generations younger than us. Remember, they grew up on CCGs, JRPG Video Games, and Isekai Harem Anime, and those cultural touchstones hold more resonance. Each of those play up to archetypes hard while desperately trying to stand out in their straightjacket, and thus end up painfully similar. (This is the part where I say, "I was over anime and what you now call 'ships & stans' before you were even born..." 8) )

There's a reason my signatures about MtG and Katamari Damacy are there, and are quite old at this point (IIRC over ten years at this point). It's what happens when all the surrounding context weight melts away, you are left with what looks like myopic narcissism. When all is selfies, 'Onlyfans' counts. Sell, sell, sell, baby, and maybe you too can be a star!

(Yes I have a very dark humor viewpoint. ;) )
« Last Edit: January 12, 2022, 01:26:43 AM by Opaopajr »
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Greentongue

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Re: Just How WEIRD is D&D?
« Reply #37 on: January 12, 2022, 07:01:13 AM »
More recently (last five years) every 5e game I've encountered has featured characters that more properly belong in a monster manual. DM's now make no effort to suggest the world make sense. They have either given up or are young enough not to have ever read a fantasy novel and have no concept of setting or verisimilitude. My impression is that 5e play has shifted from exploration of fantasy worlds to exploration of fantasy characters. The setting is only needed as a blank canvas that cannot be allowed to interfere with players' weird character concepts.

I think you nailed it though, I personally have no context to determine.

Added to that thought is the online "Character Builder" sites to min-max a character.
Why would you play a sub-optimal character when you can take some of this at this level and some of that at that level?
Lot's of online gaming has tuned people to using the tools to make the "prefect" character.

Character just from play seems to be an alien concept. Follow the build guidelines.
« Last Edit: January 12, 2022, 07:09:03 AM by Greentongue »

Persimmon

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Re: Just How WEIRD is D&D?
« Reply #38 on: January 12, 2022, 08:42:10 AM »
I think in many ways, it is a slightly more subtle 'wokism' in that tropes aren't fitting a fantasy flavored medieval Europe, and more Seattle-dipped anime.

Yeah, I think this is certainly part of it, perhaps in hand with the Planescape stuff people referenced earlier.  From the 90s in particular the early exposure to Anime and other aspects of genericized Japanese/global cultures, not to mention the proliferation of RPGs that aren't D&D and are influenced by other cultures/mythologies has created a new pop culture soup that the younger generation draws from and this has made its way into D&D.  It's pretty interesting to hear my college students getting into Anime lore and connecting it to 5e yet not having the slightest clue that the ogre mage of 1e is really an oni. And most have never read the major Appendix N authors with the possible exceptions of Tolkien or Lovecraft, though even in those cases it's more likely they know them from movies or other cultural mediums.  So I think the pop culture milieu of teens is just a lot different than it was for us back in the 1970s.

VisionStorm

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Re: Just How WEIRD is D&D?
« Reply #39 on: January 12, 2022, 09:44:47 AM »
Lets take Tieflings. You cannot have Tieflings in a setting unless you also have (or have had) a demon/devil incursion into that realm because Tieflings are hybrids. It is similar to the half-orc problem. Any kind of demon/devil incursion large enough to create a population of Tiefling hybrids will also be a major event in that realm's history which does affect the setting. Same with half-orcs.

This is what I hate most about Tieflings. I hate Dragonborn with a passion, cuz they're made up D&D fanservice, but at least there's demon-hybrids in folklore. But unless there's an invasion of rapy infernal beings leaving a bunch of demon-hybrids on its wake as part of the setting backstory, Tieflings have next to NO place in a regular campaign. Otherwise I'd have no problem with them.
On the other hand, if your setting includes, say a Demon Empire that reigned for a thousand years before it was overthrown by the forces of light at dawn of recorded history… having Tieflings be a common race (more common than elves even) would make sense for that setting.


That sounds a lot like a demon incursion to me.
Yes. The point I was refuting was that Tieflings don’t have a place in a core book because a setting where there was a demonic incursion is not, supposedly, a “regular” campaign.

I resent the assumption that Tolkeinish elves and dwarves and halflings must always be the default… that including those as player options is a given instead being just as setting dependent as say, playable sapient golems.

Because elves (particularly the Tolkein-ish D&D variety) most certainly are not some universal cultural myth that belongs in every setting, nor are 4’ tall dwarves who are good at mining and engineering and aren’t some type of nature spirit. Nor are 3’ tall hairy-footed humanoids found anywhere in broader myth and legend other than in Tolkein’s works.

Worse, the presumption thaf elves, dwarves and halflings must be included leads to setting creators having to figure out how to include them in the setting… vs. just using species that actually make sense for it.

Demonic incursions are not a typical thing in most fantasy worlds. They can be a thing, but not frequently enough to say that demon-human hybrids are this common thing typically encountered in fantasy world. If anything they're more of a horror trope.

D&D also started out mostly as European style medieval/ancient world fantasy, with other cultures being secondary, since most of the inspiration came from European myth, with some sprinkles of Middle Eastern and North African elements thrown in, plus hints of Far East, cuz Martial Arts films. So creatures like Elves and Dwarves make sense as boilerplate samples of what "fantasy" creatures might look like. Halflings are pure Tolkien, though. Orcs should be Hobgoblins, cuz that's actual folklore, while the etymology of "Orc" is dubious and more related to Tolkien.

Still, there are pros and cons of including the entire kitchen sink right in the core books. While in the surface it might make sense from a strictly universal game system PoV (which D&D quite isn't), it can also overwhelm players with too many options that might not even exist in whatever campaign they're playing and fill their heads with ideas. Some of those races might not even work that way in settings that do have them, cuz fantasy races of the same type can vary so much by setting. They work mostly as GM tools that players don't need to know about, and when they do, they tend to complain when GMs either don't allow them, or handle them a different way than the "official" holy writ of the core rules.

A more concise list is better to provide players with a general idea, without overwhelming them with choices. The obvious con being that they fail to cover a wider variety of options that GMs might use, but that's why I don't like them right in the core books--cuz if GMs are the ones who're really gonna pick them, they're GM tools. So they work better as side supplements than cluttering the core rule manual.

To the degree that it can be argued that Standard Races stablish an expectation that they have to be included in every setting, though, imagine how much worse that would be if the Standard Race list was the kitchen sink. Then realize why this tread exists.

And worse, to try and make their setting feel less like a Tolkein rip-off, they decide to radically reinterpret the race in some fashion; ex. cannibal halflings of Dark Sun.

Except that Dark Sun is the greatest D&D setting ever created and Cannibal Halflings are awesome. So this not a good example of how standard races can make things worse.  :P
« Last Edit: January 12, 2022, 09:46:33 AM by VisionStorm »

Abraxus

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Re: Just How WEIRD is D&D?
« Reply #40 on: January 12, 2022, 09:48:14 AM »
Well it is pretty easy at least in 3.5 and after to make a poor character either by choice or design.

I rather have everyone contribute equally at the table. Not be a burden for the rest of the party.

Case in point a player decided to play a purely ranged character as a Sorcerer. He was blinded by either the damage values or Critical Range  of a Heavy Crossbow. Given he had was it a 12 Dex he kept missing and wasting a full round reloading his crossbow. While also wondering why he kept missing the enemy kept targeting him and did I mention he loaded up on True Strike and no other spells.

Now it is understandable if it is a new player as they do not know much system mastery. If it’s a veteran who should know better you make a shitty  character your personal responsibility. Myself and others are under no responsibility as players to suffer such characters.

Now it is easier to avoid in RPGs who’s attributes are decoupled from everything else. Sure you can play a Fighter with 8 star just don’t expect to wear and carry much or do as much damage a CB player who takes a higher strength.

Shrieking Banshee

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Re: Just How WEIRD is D&D?
« Reply #41 on: January 12, 2022, 09:53:40 AM »
5E as a system is (deliberately) shallow, and adding new races is one of the few things they can publish to fill pages without directly adding complexity.

Yup. This guy gets it.

Ghostmaker

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Re: Just How WEIRD is D&D?
« Reply #42 on: January 12, 2022, 11:41:44 AM »
Well it is pretty easy at least in 3.5 and after to make a poor character either by choice or design.

I rather have everyone contribute equally at the table. Not be a burden for the rest of the party.

Case in point a player decided to play a purely ranged character as a Sorcerer. He was blinded by either the damage values or Critical Range  of a Heavy Crossbow. Given he had was it a 12 Dex he kept missing and wasting a full round reloading his crossbow. While also wondering why he kept missing the enemy kept targeting him and did I mention he loaded up on True Strike and no other spells.

Now it is understandable if it is a new player as they do not know much system mastery. If it’s a veteran who should know better you make a shitty  character your personal responsibility. Myself and others are under no responsibility as players to suffer such characters.

Now it is easier to avoid in RPGs who’s attributes are decoupled from everything else. Sure you can play a Fighter with 8 star just don’t expect to wear and carry much or do as much damage a CB player who takes a higher strength.
Hence why if your character options are extremely broad, your game should include retraining rules.

We had a guy similar to that who took NOTHING but attack spells as a sorcerer. Now, granted, you're going to have fewer spells overall (as opposed to more spells per day) as a 3E sorc, but until you get up in levels you're still casting one spell a round. He also, for some reason, wanted to specialize in whips.

No, I don't know either.

Funniest thing I've seen was him charging into a room and getting bitchslapped by a flesh golem, then instead of running like a scalded cat for the back of the formation, he tries to engage the golem in melee. With his whip.

Philotomy Jurament

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Re: Just How WEIRD is D&D?
« Reply #43 on: January 12, 2022, 12:46:28 PM »
Depends on the DM, and also on the system the DM decides to run (at least to some degree).

Personally, I like some "weird" in the setting and monsters and such, but I dislike much "weird" in the PCs. In fact, as the years have rolled on my tolerance for weird PCs is less and less. I far prefer an approach where most, or even all, of the PCs are humans and the "weird" factor comes from their opponents and the setting. More of a classic swords-n-sorcery approach.
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Banjo Destructo

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Re: Just How WEIRD is D&D?
« Reply #44 on: January 12, 2022, 01:12:27 PM »
I like Weird adventures and circumstances, but I don't like "Weird" characters, its good enough for me that everyone is human, and one of the 3 main classes.   Like.. its fun if players get picked up by a UFO, dropped off at a truck stop diner in an asteroid, accidentally touch a post-card without putting a stamp on it and get thrown into the galactic post-office dungeon for mail fraud.     And yeah you might have a quirky idea for your character, but you're just playing a strange person, you're not playing a tiefling, or celestial, or half centaur (yeah, really), or anything else properly if you're just ... eh like pundit said, you're either an elf or playing a human in a elf skin suit.