Friday, December 2, 2016


I'm not sure when it happened, but at some point it seems that all Dwarves got Scottish accents.  Perhaps it is Michael Meyers fault, between "So, I Married and Axe Murderer" and "Shrek" the idea of grumpy and bitter Scot-speak got matched with the grumpy axe-wielders.

It isn't just the Dwarves though.  Other Demi-human races have been homogenized and I see the same tropes popping up for them as well.  Gnomes all became steampunk, elves all became nice, non-violent nature lovers, Orcs (or Half-Orcs) became the noble savages.

I'm sure this all has to due with marketing at some level.  The more approachable/appealing you can make something the more likely it is to get used.  The problem I have with this is that as a result, all of the demi-human races become just variations of human.  Over all it causes a feeling that there is less difference between the demi-human races then there are between actual cultures in real life.  This ends up on the playing table as well, where quite often the extent of a what makes a race different is the stat bonuses, and the bit of art included in the book.

There should be a more fundamental differences in the way that the different races think.  Their cultural motives and what really separates them apart from each other.  After all, why is there a Dwarven, or Elven kingdom if everyone gets along so well?  Wouldn't simple economics have created a fusion of the races into co-habitated areas?  At the very least a "Dwarven Quarter" or the "Gnomish Ghetto" within larger multi-racial cities at some point? 

I've been toying around with this genericification of demi-humans, and my simple (and most likely temporary) answer has been to play in worlds with no demi-humans as PC races.  I don't think any player wants to get saddled with a laundry list of "can and can not" do for their character to make them more alien.  rather if they are eliminated then there becomes a bit of mystery about the cultures and even after they have been encountered, new and strange ideals can turn expectations on their heads.

I'm not advocating a complete rewite of each demi-human race, but perhaps just cranking up some of their original source material up to 11 to emphasize the differences.

For the "big four" some of my initial thoughts on where I would like to take them in my campaign world.

Elves- A midsummers night dream.  The elves really don't care about the humans.  They are tied up in their own world and pay not much more concern than the lord and ladies do to the village players who so poorly perform a play for them.   

Dwarves- Norse mythology.  The greed of Fafnir, and the cursed treasure, as well as them being clever builders and artisans.  Presenting the race as a society where avarice is a virtue.  This would easily spiral outward to the worst parts of indentured servitude and slavery.    

Gnomes- I go off the beaten track with this one a bit.  goblins and gnomes are actually the same race.  From the fairy lore books I've read, both goblins and gnomes are earth spirits of a sort.  They are both considered misshapen or ugly, so I decided to combine them.  The difference is one of environment.  If there is adequate resources then they are inventive, clever little things that are your friendly gnome.  If resources are lacking though, then they are spiteful hateful things that try to claw out their survival and will do so through theft and murder.  I figure their physical appearance will slowly change with their disposition.

Hobbits-   I'm a bit stumped on this to make them really different.  For the moment though:  How would a being behave in a world populated by giants?  For that is surely the world of a hobbit. While we don't eat them, we must do something equally repulsive, dangerous, or dreadful to keep the hobbits away from us.  Perhaps they will speak with vegetables and animals, be really tied to the earth and only eat the things that give them permission to do so.  Since they can talk to the plants and animals in human fields they know of the panic, and dread that our food goes through prior to being eaten.  

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