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Fantasy Races


Jarulf

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Like many others I'm rather bored with the standard fare of Dwarves and Elves. I've always liked LOTR but the fact that so much fantasy is more or less based on Tolkien's take on fantasy races gets a little boring.

Anyone who wants to break from the mold has several options, a few come to mind.

Go completely human. Forget about fantasy races and develop distinct human cultures, after all fantasy does not have to have elves to be fantasy.

Go back to the roots. Elves, dwarves and other beings from folklore tend to be strange and unpredictable, and in a general sense unknowable by humans. Used this way they are probably better used as NPCs.

Go weird. Try to come up with races that feel less like caricatured humans, Glorantha does this pretty well and I'm sure there are other settings out there that do as well. But don't make them too weird if you want to make them playable. And call them something else than elves.

Go evolutionary. A middle way between no non-humans and and having them. Let the other races be other types of Homo. There are many ancestors and cousins to build on. The ever-popular Neanderthals, the tiny Floresiensis (yes, I know the jury is still divided on what they really were). Imagine if they survived.

Anyone have any nice example of what you've done in RQ/BRP?

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Like many others I'm rather bored with the standard fare of Dwarves and Elves. I've always liked LOTR but the fact that so much fantasy is more or less based on Tolkien's take on fantasy races gets a little boring.

Anyone who wants to break from the mold has several options, a few come to mind.

Go completely human. Forget about fantasy races and develop distinct human cultures, after all fantasy does not have to have elves to be fantasy.

Go back to the roots. Elves, dwarves and other beings from folklore tend to be strange and unpredictable, and in a general sense unknowable by humans. Used this way they are probably better used as NPCs.

Go weird. Try to come up with races that feel less like caricatured humans, Glorantha does this pretty well and I'm sure there are other settings out there that do as well. But don't make them too weird if you want to make them playable. And call them something else than elves.

Go evolutionary. A middle way between no non-humans and and having them. Let the other races be other types of Homo. There are many ancestors and cousins to build on. The ever-popular Neanderthals, the tiny Floresiensis (yes, I know the jury is still divided on what they really were). Imagine if they survived.

Anyone have any nice example of what you've done in RQ/BRP?

/totally agree

Moorcock has some interesting humanoid races in his books. (eg Melnibonean)

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There a LOT of other cultures on Earth with interesting folklores to explore... personally I've got a growing interest in Hindu mythology... it's wild and colorful and passionate and chock-full-of-flavour.

My own fantasy campaign, going way back, is and eclectic mishmash set on 'the planet with a thousand names'...

There are several distinct human cultures...

A few different groups of large centipede/grub like creatures...

Airborn nuedebranch/jellyfish that enslave/partner with the smaller cousins of the centipedes...

and lots of 'magic' created object-spirit-creatures (such as horseless chariots that are sculpted to look like demons and birds or baroque metal jars that can be ridden through the sky)...

and mutants spawned in a huge 'magic' disaster.

None are just elves/dwarves/orcs under different colors...

Other games I've played have been set in much stranger places... and then there is the whole 'urban fantasy' thing too... stuff like Hellboy and Beauty And The Beast (the tv show) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer...

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If we explored the REAL folklore for elves and dwarves and such, we'd find plenty of color and flavor.

A few RPGs that use a historical base (as in the middle ages, but Dragons and Elves were real, etc.) provide very rich and interesting versions of elves, etc.

I used to run a RQ campaign set in Ireland, and drew on the old celtic myths and legends. The players found the setting very rich and colorful, more so because they had no knowledge of the setting or the stories I was drawing from.

Fortunately, Chasoium rarely publsihes the waterd down generic fantasy cultures.

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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I once did a basic write up in which reptilian and amphibian humanoids were ancient and ruled the world. Their kingdom was challenged by upstart mammals.

On the cold blooded side, there were things like brutish crocodile men, mystic serpent men, gregarious frog men, thieving chameleons and the lizard men high lords who rode on the backs of flying dragon-like creatures.

Opposed to these forces were a ragtag group of homo erectus and cro magnon. HE was the brains, CM, the brawn. There were a variety of ape like beings as slaves. The 'knights' ride giant, tree dwelling gorillas. etc.

70/420

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A race of demonoids which has specialization as a racial feature like insects...scouts, warriors, flyers, queen, drones. But are reptilian. Anyone remember Almuric, by Robert E. Howard?

Morlocks, for a different underground race.

You can rip off Tekumel, there are some very bizarre and different races in that, for sure. Like the Ahoggya.

Make elves just as good as the Tolkien elves, but throw in a monkey wrench like having them take double damage from cold iron. No wonder they are declining in the face of human civilization and use bows...

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I've done a bit of thinking on Dwarves and Dwarven culture... and Elves too.

And the thing is, that I can't think of any good reason why all members of a given species would all have the same culture everywhere in the world.

In my game, I have a particular continent with 3 different Dwarven societies, 5 different elven societies, 8 different human societies, 1 halfling, 1 centaur, and 1 idiyva (feline) society.

The Dwarven societies are totally hostile to each other due to religious differences. They are separated by human lands, and occasionally clash with them as they travel to annihilate each other. To outward appearance, the cultures are the same, the languages are slightly different, and the religion seems the same. They differ on particular points of dogma, much like Catholics and Protestants, which is nearly incomprehensible to those not well-versed in the culture.

They are not based upon Viking culture; they do live underground, so do not use axes (what do you chop underground, anyway?), they use hammers and picks. Farmers are the most respected members of their community, for they would quickly die out if the farmers of the high surface did not supply them with needed food. Clothing is difficult to manufacture using underground resources, so one of the cultures eschews it completely. One of the other cultures believes clothing is required by holy writ, and the third uses it on occasion.

The elves are separated into four nations.

One, extremely hostile to humans due to the human tendency to rape the land for resources, builds stone cities in their forest, 'stealing' that forest from the more primitive elves living there. They herd these elves into controlled areas that are safe for them, so they can retain their culture and lifestyle while allowing this elven nation access to all the resources of the forest. (somewhat like 19th century USA)

Another, of lordly appearance, build the classic natural cities in the heights of the trees. More accurately, they force their slaves to construct them. The more primitive elven race here is used as a labor force to allow the elven nation to focus on arts and trade and magical pursuits, but the society has instead sunk into decadence, and is on the decline. (like the late Roman Empire)

A third is comprised of dark-skinned elves in and under a huge mountain range. Their god is money and power, and they are extremely industrious. They trade with the dwarves in their mountains, and are allied with them against invasion, but do not support their assaults. They have enslaved orcs and humans and some other races in the area, using them as miners and serf farmers in the high reaches. They pursue magical and scientific study, they have bred a new race ideally suited for mining operations, they are consummate merchants - everything is for sale in their society, for the right price, everything is legal, if you have the right permits and licenses.

There is a nation of centaurs and halflings who coexist in a hilly region, defending their territory competently using halfling missile troops mounted on centaur cavalry.

I always felt that it was important that nonhumans were treated with the same amount of thought as humans; their societies should not be simplistic, cookie-cutter things, copied from Tolkien or not. Our historical cultures always followed linguistic and religious lines before racial ones (sometimes 'race' is determined by language rather than ancestry - see Europe for examples of this).

The very existence of flamethrowers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said to themselves, "You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I'm just not close enough to get the job done."

George Carlin (1937 - 2008)

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I've done a bit of thinking on Dwarves and Dwarven culture... and Elves too.

And the thing is, that I can't think of any good reason why all members of a given species would all have the same culture everywhere in the world.

Well, the standard explanation is that they all derived from the same root/mythological source and so would share a common culture or have very similar cultures. In Glorantha elves come from Aldrya and dwarves from Mostal. In M Iddle Earth, they have common ancestry but have slightly different cultures.

But, there's no reason why they can't have as radically different cultures as humans do.

In my game, I have a particular continent with 3 different Dwarven societies, 5 different elven societies, 8 different human societies, 1 halfling, 1 centaur, and 1 idiyva (feline) society.

What, no Orc societies? You mention enslaved orcs, so why don't they have a society? Not bugging you, just interested.

I always felt that it was important that nonhumans were treated with the same amount of thought as humans; their societies should not be simplistic, cookie-cutter things, copied from Tolkien or not. Our historical cultures always followed linguistic and religious lines before racial ones (sometimes 'race' is determined by language rather than ancestry - see Europe for examples of this).

My view of society is that it comes down to Us and Them in the end.

Historically, Us were differentiated from Them most easily racially, as that made things obvious. Language also differentiated Us from Them fairly easily. Religion differentiates Us from Them, but is more subtle.

When a language/culture became dominant, it was more difficult to separate Us from Them because Us could include many conquered or allied people of different race, language or religion, so culture became important.

But, there has always been a gut-deep feeling of Us and Them in any society.

One thing that has bugged me for a while is this. Why are non-humans normally all the same race? Sure. Glorantha has different types of elves, but they are more of a sub-species than a race. Most other settings have elves, dwarves, orcs and whatever but no races within them.

Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

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Guest the Bromgrev

One thing that has bugged me for a while is this. Why are non-humans normally all the same race? Sure. Glorantha has different types of elves, but they are more of a sub-species than a race. Most other settings have elves, dwarves, orcs and whatever but no races within them.

Maybe they do ... it's just that they all look the same to me. ;)

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Wow! Sounds like a cool setting! :)

Sverre.

Thanks! My players sure seem to like it; probably because I add all their ideas in there somewhere - ok, not ALL, but it's been built upon bit by bit...

What, no Orc societies? You mention enslaved orcs, so why don't they have a society? Not bugging you, just interested

...

One thing that has bugged me for a while is this. Why are non-humans normally all the same race? Sure. Glorantha has different types of elves, but they are more of a sub-species than a race. Most other settings have elves, dwarves, orcs and whatever but no races within them.

Truthfully, I didn't give Orcs a lot of thought in the first continent - they weren't encountered, ever.

On the next continent, where the story moved to...

(backstory: in another game (dnd :( ), the GM was trying to get us out of the city and back into the hole in the ground. We didn't want to go, but the NPCs were telling us rumors that the Orcs had gotten a charismatic new leader... We left the game soon after (or I got kicked out, I forget), but I always wanted to use that hook...)

...I actually had a PC paladin (read: holy warrior) of the night / moon / dreams deity who stumbled upon an Orc tribe who reacted with some hostility. She and the other PC (a mentalist) found that the Orcs were suffering repeated attacks by adventuring parties. The paladin managed to defeat the Orc Chieftain in single combat, and thereby became Chief, getting all his stuff, leadership of the tribe, and rights to his three wives. ;)

When the adventuring party returned, the Orcs were ready. The surviving members of the adventuring party said that they were told about the Orcs having a charismatic new leader... also they were led to believe the Orcs had seized this location with a holy temple and untold riches, both stories completely untrue.

The truth was, as the PCs learned after sallying forth, that the Elves had been using adventuring parties in an attempt to stamp out their nearby enemies.

The paladin PC was trying to figure a way to extricate herself from leadership of an Orc tribe, a situation I chose to complicate by having several Orcs express a desire to convert. :eek: :D

Sub-species was something I touched on a bit, but not much.

Elves I have divided up into Fair, Gray, Dark, Aquatic, and Rustic.

One important thing in my world is interbreeding; half-elves cannot produce children between themselves. if they mate with either an elf or a human, the children will be of the race of the pruebred parent.

I created this rule after realizing that after a few millenia, there would be more half-elves than pure elves. This ruling made half-elves self-terminating.

The very existence of flamethrowers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said to themselves, "You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I'm just not close enough to get the job done."

George Carlin (1937 - 2008)

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(92/420)

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Well, they DID say, "the Orcs have a charismatic new leader"... :D:D

In my world, paladins are not Arthurian chevaliers, they are the fighting force of a religion. Hence, they for the most part mirror the attributes of the deity and the deity's moral codes of cunduct.

The paladins of the Night / Moon / Dreams deity go out primarily at night. They have an elitist attitude, for they feel that they alone have the fortitude to go forth and hunt evil in its own element - the night. They are primarity stealthy; they are the ones responsible when you hear a noise at night, but by the time you get a light and go check, there's nothing there... they have already done their work.

Other paladins have other descriptions, other methods, but all are a martial aspect of their deity made manifest on earth.

The very existence of flamethrowers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said to themselves, "You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I'm just not close enough to get the job done."

George Carlin (1937 - 2008)

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(92/420)

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I have always been a fan of bi-pedal and bi-manual anthrophomric animal humanoids. I loved a little game called Justifiers because of the Beta-Humanoid concept. This concept has been done in many other games system as well, whether it was a fantasy or sci-fi system.

I basically created animal humanoid races for my fantasy campaign, Thonkar, using magic as the explanation. There were only humans before the Ani-men races were created. The Pomperiian Empire had grown decadent and bloated (like Rome in the last days) and the mages created a slave-race of animal-human hybrids. One of the side effects of the magic was that some of the ani-men were fertile and could breed.

In the campaign, there was a slave revolt led by a gladiator (a la Spartacus) that freed them from slavery. The ani-men fled into the wilds and corners of the Pomperiian Empire to rule themselves and create their own society. They formed a religion based upon the concept of Gaia.

BRP Ze 32/420

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I did, we played a campaign through. It works, with some things that take some getting used to as you can imagine. My wife's all-time favorite character was her Purrtier. Magic was very deadly. The mage in the group almost did a total party kill with a fireball. Overall, it felt a lot like BRP in actual play, even though it was missing some of the factors that make BRP what it is. I have often wondered if it started off as someones' homebrewed RQ game. Oh, and the gamescreen turned out to be the most useful one I have ever tried to use.

I haven't been able to get another group to try it, though. I bet you are not in Seattle, are you?

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hehe...no, I grew up in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, CA. I currently live in Thornton, CO.

You are probably right about it evolving out of someone's homebrew game. I like military-esk campaigns and games, so I really like the campaign world because it showcased a military aspect of the game. War is a great story-driver.

BRP Ze 32/420

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What where the changes from BRP? Was there some improvements that could be houseruled into BRP?

SGL.

One Fifth Cycle rule that I liked that could be houseruled into BRP was the "Rule of One".

Whenever you rolled a "1" for damage, the attack did 1 point and you didn't add any bonuses. This would be nice for BRP, allowing for the occasional .50 cal graze or scratch from a trolls greataxe.

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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If you're looking for some rich and indepth races and cultures that are non-standard fantasy (i.e. dwarves, elves, orcs, etc.), then check out the Talislanta RPG in any of its editions/incarnations. Their original marketing slogan was "No Elves!" Talislanta *is* the original d20 system, and could be easily converted into BRP.

BRP Ze 32/420

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