In RPG’s Do We Even Need Races?

Elf

Dwarf

Hob..Halfling

Half-Orc

Gnome

The classic fare of all fantasy gaming. Do you need them? I don’t think we do all the time. It’s a mask we put on that allows us to act a specific way. Humanity in its extremes. That’s all the races really are, or is it?  Let’s look at the pro’s and con’s of these beloved archetypes.

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Let’s start with the elf. What makes them unique besides characteristics that some humans possess already? Ephemeral, quick, embedded in nature, wise, vengeful of their homelands. Master crafters, dwellers in harmony. These are all traits that a specific kind of human could have. It’s a common archetype. The sage, the wise ones, the woman as goddess figure, the trickster, the hermit, the magician, Anaris, Eris, and Harmonia. These are things that are all built into the human psyche.

Now what is it about elves that aren’t built into the human psyche explicitly? They are liminal beings, immortal or nearby, fickle, dangerous, defenders of mysteries we cannot fathom. They are keyholders to doors we want to open, but shouldn’t. This makes them things we cannot accurately display with a mysterious human.

dwarf_thane

Good lord I Love, LOVE Warhammer Fantasy dwarves. Look at him.

Now dwarves, what traits do they possess a human does not? Stubborn, enduring, worker of great endurance. Veteran warrior, bearded, prone to violence, capable of feats of engineering, greedy, prone to grudges. Honestly you could easily play a stereotypical viking and you could be all of these and more. It’s a simple archetype.

Or maybe it isn’t. Their craft in some myths are awe inspiring even unto the gods. They transcend mortality through sheer will alone. Counting on no one, needing nothing from the world at large. They dwell in darkness, always busy. They keep track of every slight and they damn well mean to avenge them. This is a level of intractable I don’t believe humanity is capable of achieving.

bilbo2

Hobb…err Halflings

The smallfolk that praise good food, good wine, and a well tended crop. Workers of the agrarian type, lovers of simple pleasures, diminutive, family oriented. Peaceable. They keep their noses down and keep out of the affairs of others.

I cannot genuinely find any mythical qualities they possess that humans do not. That’s why you’ll never see a hob.. halfling in any of my settings.

Half-Orc

adzdrl

No. It’s a monster not a PC.

ar-16768-2

Gnome (I own this doll. I liked David the gnome as a kid. Come at me bro)

This fantasy race has always had a weird position in gaming and it just keeps getting weirder the longer we go. It’s an elfish dwarf? A dwarfish elf? It has the traits of both but the strengths of neither?

This is one of the few races I believe work in RPG’s but strictly as background characters. I envision them as secretive, tending their gnome gardens. Which are always out of view. Hidden to the sight of those not of fae birth. Maybe I just think of them as Keebler Elves too much. But look at this pic and argue that this isn’t much cooler than the lame D&D gnome idea.

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Those are just some arguments for races and against them in narrative gaming. Do you really need a race in your fiction or are you just using it as an archetype. A way of saying, “This is WHAT this represents.”

I hope you enjoyed this post, it’s much lighter in tone than my normal fair. You can thank the Enya album I was listening too while I wrote it I guess.

Godspeed friends,

ESM

6 thoughts on “In RPG’s Do We Even Need Races?

  1. An interesting question, and perhaps why the original D&D only had, what Human, Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling? And they were classes, right (I never played anything other than 3.5)?

    As for the Hob…ling class, I might put forward their resilience. Humans and elves can be stealthy and graceful. But if you go back to Tolkien, probably the Hobbit’s most notable unique quality was demonstrated in Frodo (and Sam’s?) resistance to the evil magic of the Ring.

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  2. In modern RPGs, it seems like races are just there for specific stat boosts (great for power gamers) and people who want to play something exotic instead of playing an interesting personality. Cutting back on player character races and focusing on what truly makes them different from human is a good choice. It forces the players to be good role players rather than just assuming that certain cultural assumptions about their race will carry the character concept.

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  3. To me, I feel like races such as the ones you listed are used as a framework. Pre-existing inspiration to build a character upon. Calling it a mask is pretty accurate because we are playing a part outside of who we are and outside of our daily lives.

    The type of character you decide to play can influence how you proceed when making decisions. If I were to choose a race known for snap decision making and bulkiness, I would probably play it more absentmindedly and rash regardless of the class.

    Visuals are also very important to me and races, as well as classes help one to visualise what they are and what they’re up against.

    Not that this would be viable, but…A ninja can look a number of different ways, but a gnome ninja? Now that gets the brain working in interesting ways. Lol

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  4. Pingback: PC Koshinbun: Castalia House and the PulpRev scene are bustling! – PC Bushi

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