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Conners
2012-08-02, 03:32 PM
It's fun to add a twist to standard fantasy elements, or to tropes in general. Or, sometimes you just want to take something form pop culture and fit it into your game world (whether it be characters, races, adventures, or monsters).


What things have you done this with? Did you take Tolkien-esque elves and give them a twist? Make an adventure based off an anime episode?

How did you do it mechanically and fluff-wise?

T.G. Oskar
2012-08-02, 10:37 PM
I'm trying to do it with races, but so far the only critique I've received is utter scorn.

For dwarves, I decided that they could make some nice "living statue"/silicon-based creature. Keep, and further explain, some of their base traits (they can subsist out of ale because of what causes fermentation, they favor creation because it's a sacred duty and because their creator was a god of creation, etc.) Mechanically, they're living constructs with some natural armor.

For elves, I really cranked up their fae flavor and made them the fae equivalent of humans, with some plant-like and animal traits. They gain sustenance from nature, have sharp senses and a degree of natural resilience, but allergies to iron. High elves have even more animal traits and bits like damage reduction and spell-like abilities.

On gnomes (and to an extent salamanders) I went with the concept of "rogue elemental", harkening to Paracelsus' ideas about all elementals. Gnomes are strongly aligned to earth, but specifically metal and jewels, and are small but incredibly sturdy. I did made them your usual "tinkerers", somewhat aloof and devoted to their work.

Halflings have more cultural differences. I scrapped the idea of Hobbits and went with 3.5's idea about halflings (a hint of Roma) and two variants, one similar to the Amish and the other almost fully nomadic.

Orcs (and by definition half-orcs) have the least changes, but I added a tiny bit of WH40K into them. They aren't plant-based idiot savants with a race-wide psychic field, though; instead, they're demi-humans with traits of human and boar, with an innate ferocity as if consuming fire. While orcs have a racial rage ability, half-orcs are much, much better as warriors than before.

Alas, it seems I need to refine all these concepts so deeply that they make sense. I really want to go with the "shock" factor, but when the only response you get is scorn, logically impossible, physically impossible and violating all sorts of conventions regarding fantasy races...well, it gets a bit disheartening. I really want to work with these races, even if they don't end up in a table anywhere, just because I feel the Tolkien traditional races need a serious uplift (nothing like, say, turning dwarves into furries and gnomes into futuristic robot-like beings).

erikun
2012-08-02, 11:20 PM
Alas, it seems I need to refine all these concepts so deeply that they make sense. I really want to go with the "shock" factor, but when the only response you get is scorn, logically impossible, physically impossible and violating all sorts of conventions regarding fantasy races...well, it gets a bit disheartening.
Well, I could see problems if a player has a specific character in mind and the two ideas conflict. A player who wants to play an unusually agile dwarf that doesn't like booze probably won't appreciate that their character is a walking rock that lives off fermentation.

On the other hand, changing their physiology radically but not changing their attitude can have the same reaction but from the other direction. If dwarves are basically walking statues who survive off fungus living in their gut, then why would they be armorsmiths? Why would they interact and trade with other races? There is really very little that humans or elves could offer them, and if they are so interested in creating, they'd probably stay down in caves crafting the walls or enchanting gemstones.

(Which brings up another point - their specialities would probably shift with their different lifestyle.)



Back on topic for a moment, here are a few of my ideas on the races:
- Dwarves have the best hair care products, and are the most vain about their appearances.
- Elves are some of the biggest classical grognard critics, always complaining about how nothing today lives up to the greats of yestercentury.
- Gnomes are inherently magical, and will take on the properities of the locating they live in after a few generations.

Lohj
2012-08-02, 11:26 PM
I'm trying to do it with races, but so far the only critique I've received is utter scorn.

For dwarves, I decided that they could make some nice "living statue"/silicon-based creature. Keep, and further explain, some of their base traits (they can subsist out of ale because of what causes fermentation, they favor creation because it's a sacred duty and because their creator was a god of creation, etc.) Mechanically, they're living constructs with some natural armor.

For elves, I really cranked up their fae flavor and made them the fae equivalent of humans, with some plant-like and animal traits. They gain sustenance from nature, have sharp senses and a degree of natural resilience, but allergies to iron. High elves have even more animal traits and bits like damage reduction and spell-like abilities.

On gnomes (and to an extent salamanders) I went with the concept of "rogue elemental", harkening to Paracelsus' ideas about all elementals. Gnomes are strongly aligned to earth, but specifically metal and jewels, and are small but incredibly sturdy. I did made them your usual "tinkerers", somewhat aloof and devoted to their work.

Halflings have more cultural differences. I scrapped the idea of Hobbits and went with 3.5's idea about halflings (a hint of Roma) and two variants, one similar to the Amish and the other almost fully nomadic.

Orcs (and by definition half-orcs) have the least changes, but I added a tiny bit of WH40K into them. They aren't plant-based idiot savants with a race-wide psychic field, though; instead, they're demi-humans with traits of human and boar, with an innate ferocity as if consuming fire. While orcs have a racial rage ability, half-orcs are much, much better as warriors than before.

Alas, it seems I need to refine all these concepts so deeply that they make sense. I really want to go with the "shock" factor, but when the only response you get is scorn, logically impossible, physically impossible and violating all sorts of conventions regarding fantasy races...well, it gets a bit disheartening. I really want to work with these races, even if they don't end up in a table anywhere, just because I feel the Tolkien traditional races need a serious uplift (nothing like, say, turning dwarves into furries and gnomes into futuristic robot-like beings).

I am liking where you are going into the race category. There is no direct definition of what can and cannot be a race (I.E. Fourth Ed) I would wholeheartedly help you with this, if you need a wall to bounce off of.

nonsi
2012-08-03, 12:41 AM
@T.G. Oskar - count me intrigued.

Togath
2012-08-03, 12:42 AM
I came up with a few unique variations for a campaign setting I wrote up a little while back, and have been using some of the ideas for the rpg I've been making.

Elves: for the elves in the campaign setting, I made them somewhat like normal elves, but gave them a twist; first, they aren't weak physically, as only the strongest survived, instead they are generally naive. The elves's main twist was that they are non-native to the campaign world, having had their small forest village(containing a very small population) fall into what was basically a multi dimension sinkhole, which caused their village to appear 500ft. above the ground above the ocean about a half mile from a small island in the campaign setting, killing most of the elves as elves aren't known for their ability to survive falling out of the sky. About 500 years later they still haven't recovered and are one of the races with the lowest populations.

-For elves in the rpg I've been making, I decided to completely re-do them, making them tall(about 7-8 feet in height) and burly, the elves are also renowned for their skill at fishing and boat-building, they also enjoy ukulele and bagpipe music.
Both types of elf were meant to be unique, without ending up falling prey to the common tropes (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/OurElvesAreBetter)related to elves. (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MarySueTopia)

Dwarves: at least currently, neither setting has dwarves.

Trolls: both setting use the same trolls, though I do use a large variety of semi-related creatures called "trolls" which are as follows;

-Goblins: the weakest form of troll, standing only about 3-4 feet in height, and looking like small humanoids with rough grey skin, and pointed, bat-like ears and slits for nostrils, their eyes are solid black or dark grey, and they possess small, canine-like fangs. Goblins also possess good night-vision, comparable to a cat's. They are usually friendly, heroic creatures, and love sailing and exploring, they often wear brightly coloured cloths and many practice fencing, a martial art I cant remember the name of, it's a martial art from India(muay tai?), or quarterstaff fighting. The goblins are meant as one of the main player races in the campaign setting and rpg, and have a culture influenced somewhat by Spain. I also decided to make them just as common as humans, as it seemed like an interesting twist, they also, like most race sin the settings integrate with human societies, and the humans in the settings often integrate with other races as well, as it make sit seem more interesting.

-Troll-Feras/Feral Troll: a more standard troll, though much more beast like then most. they possess pointed, bat-like ears like all other trolls, they also possess very rough skin, with a stone-like texture. they mostly fight with their teeth, which resemble a bear's and/or with their claws, which are short but sharp and strong enough to tear through plate armour. troll-feras are capable of echolocation due to their large ears, though they also have vision as good as the standard human. They troll feras are meant to just fill the role of a strong tuff mook (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SmashMook)
-Troll-Magus/Troll Mage: these trolls look like humanoids with large bat-like ears and nostril slits, they possess the same front fangs as goblins, but most of their other teeth are more suited to foods such as nuts or plants. The skin of a troll is usually black or dark grey, though some are bright white mottled with specks of grey and black, and is a very rough texture, like raw granite. The troll magus are meant to be both oracles, (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MadOracle)or elderly spellcasters, or even just a terrain feature(as they can hibernate for centuries in an unmoving state which makes them look like a statue)

-Troll-Gigas/Giga-Trolls: troll gigas are incredibly ancient beings, often thousands of millions of years in age. troll gigas stand usually about 40 feet in height, and possess two legs, with a reptilian shape, two very long arms, proportionally twice the length of a human's, and a long tail, their back and tail is covered in huge dragonfly-like wings, which allow them to fly(through a combination of the wings and the troll gigas' magic), the skin of a troll gigas is covered in two layers of incredibly tough black or dark-grey scales. The head of a troll gigas is somewhat equine and possess one large unblinking eye that is solid black in colour, the teeth of a troll gigas are bear-like, with the lower two canines formed into small tusks that protrude slightly from it's mouth, troll gigas also possess very long prehensile tongues, as long as their body(including their tail).
The troll gigas are meant to fill the lovecraftian uber-monster (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/EldritchAbomination) role(at least i i udnerstand it correctly, the tarrasque in dnd falls into the category, correct?), and are more likely to come up as fluff rather then as an actual encounter.

those are the main races I have defined in my settings so far, and I also wrote much more then I expected about them(1005 words total, including these fewer words now)

nonsi
2012-08-03, 02:22 AM
.
Vulcan

Vulcans physically resemble a crossbreed between an Indian (Native American) and an elf. They're slender, as tall as humans, and have small pointy ears and an ever tan skin.
They originate from a volcanic land with radical weather shifts, frequent earthquakes, toxic fumes and other natural disasters.
Vulcan aging stages are twice as long as that of human's.
Vulcan's require rest only every other night. They have also learned to imitate elven meditative rest, which prolongs the time they can go without sleep for 3 consecutive days (72 hours) before they start suffering penalties stemming from sleep deprivation.


Racial Traits:

Ability scores: Str +2, Int +2, Cha -2. Vulcans are exceptionally strong. They have exceptional memory and an analytical mind. This stems from their recluse nature, which hinders their force of personality.
Vulcan base land speed is 30ft.
Cold, electricity & Heat Resistance: 5.
+2 to save vs. magical sleep & mind affecting spells/powers.
+4 to resist fear, poison & disease.
+2 to all Autohypnosis, Concentration and Lucid Dreaming (Manual of the Planes; p.203) checks. These skills always count as class skills for them. Vulcans are exceptionally contemplative and can easily recuperate from mental strain, distractions and physical pain.
Bonus Feat: A vulcan chooses one of the following feats to start with: Alertness, Blind Fight, Great Fortitude or Iron Will.
Instability: Inherently, vulcans have much more intense emotions than the other common races. During their adolescence they develop their recluse nature to keep their emotions under control. However, they never totally overcome this weakness. While enraged, a vulcan is automatically confused (no save). They stop being confused as soon as their rage dies out. Such condition is always accompanied with a sense of guilt that results in a -2 penalty to initiative checks and Ref saves until after sleep or meditation.
Automatic Languages: Vulcan, Common. Bonus Languages: Any.
LA: +1.
.

Milo v3
2012-08-03, 04:50 AM
Aasimar (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=232807): Tainted Children of the Divines who can tap into divine power.

Dragonborn (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=240625): A near extinct race of divine warriors who can absorb the essence of dragons with a touch. Also they are actually good at battling dragons.

Dwarf (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=240848): Small religous warriors who live in vertical cities over subterranen lakes. Upon the chins of the males are large bone horn, which must be hidden, causing most to grow beards or wear garments to hide it. They are infused with the element of fire and some can generate fire at will. The culture of the Dwarves are Caste based and they also have Athach as slaves.

Elves: In my setting their are two types of Elves; Dunesti (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=241088)and Newesti (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=243813). The Newesti were the originals and crafted from Fae. They are eternally connected to the Feywild, as each Newesti soul is actually a living fey which can be summoned as a familiar. In addition, as they age they slowly become closer to the Fae, eventually becoming one with nature.

The Dunesti are the ancestors of Elves which didn't want to follow the gods. Half of this cult were slain by the Divines as punishment. The other half didn't heed this and raise the slain as undead. But instead of undead the fallen returned as the first demons.

In response to this horrid atrocity, the cult was exiled to the plains of Sumra. After a year of the Dunesti travelling through the plains a blight fell upon them, the land of Sumra was transformed from its former virgin soil into a near lifeless desert. Currently only a single mortal knows the cause for this severe change and he is currently being hunted by the Empire which the Dunesti formed in the waste.

Karmainian (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=241471): Formed from Elves by the Divine of Strength, the Karmainians are effectively humans except they are infused with Dead Iron, a material which disrupts magic.

Gnomes (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=242573): A race of tinkerers who found a race of eldritch abominations with amazingly advanced technology and psionic power. They worshiped these creatures in return for knowledge, eventually creating a race of crystalline titans who served as warriors for a war. After the war failed, the eldritch abominations exiled them, but because of the war only the Karmainians trusted them.

T.G. Oskar
2012-08-03, 11:41 PM
Well, I could see problems if a player has a specific character in mind and the two ideas conflict. A player who wants to play an unusually agile dwarf that doesn't like booze probably won't appreciate that their character is a walking rock that lives off fermentation.

It's a clear weakness of giving an extremely strong flavor to one race, without using the "just take another race, refluff as dwarf" notion. It's mostly a problem I can see with dwarves and gnomes, given that they're the ones with the most radical changes. Ideally, I want the changes to remain as radical as possible, perhaps sacrificing the wealth of playstyles attributed to them, but have each bit make sense. I refer to "sense" in the idea of "could be explained by fringe science" rather than "has to adhere strictly to the laws of physics" as you're already suspending disbelief on most occasions. It's the reason I referred to a silicon-based creature and why I found fermentation to be a key aspect of a dwarf. It's that same reason I got chafed in no less than absolute terms, tho.


On the other hand, changing their physiology radically but not changing their attitude can have the same reaction but from the other direction. If dwarves are basically walking statues who survive off fungus living in their gut, then why would they be armorsmiths? Why would they interact and trade with other races? There is really very little that humans or elves could offer them, and if they are so interested in creating, they'd probably stay down in caves crafting the walls or enchanting gemstones.

(Which brings up another point - their specialities would probably shift with their different lifestyle.)

Not necessarily. It's best to have a starting point regarding their society, see what might be a conflict, and then make changes from there. It's why I want to focus on the physiological aspects of the race, then the mechanics, and finally the other side of the fluff (society part).

That doesn't mean they can't keep the things that identify them. Armorsmithing is partly because of their creation and partly because, despite their resilient body, they are not invulnerable (that they're also less responsive to typical healing makes staving every wound a necessity, something that iron may offer). There's also a reason why they find a "human-like" shape useful, instead of a completely different shape (such as "badger-like", for example). If they can't be explained by any means, then it's probably best to do a radical shift and look from a fresh PoV.

I don't find problems in being...let's say "challenged" by the proposal or the problems that it may cause; sometimes it's best to say "the archetype will be difficult, if not essentially impossible, to play with" and sometimes it's best to say "perhaps the race needs some tweaking so that it can play well with others".


I am liking where you are going into the race category. There is no direct definition of what can and cannot be a race (I.E. Fourth Ed) I would wholeheartedly help you with this, if you need a wall to bounce off of.


@T.G. Oskar - count me intrigued.

Thanks for the offer. I'm slowly filling this wiki page (http://dnd-wiki.org/wiki/User:T.G._Oskar/Core_Races,_Retooled_(3.5_Race)) (don't worry, it's the good Wiki, not the bad one) with the fluff (so far) and the crunch of the races. It has humans (which are essentially identical), dwarves and elves complete, and the rest will come with time. I'm willing to reduce on the radical shift, but it's part of my intention to have a convincing argument towards each radical shift because it's part of a non-game based fantasy approach to them (one that's not built upon a D&D world but upon a mish-mash of d20 Modern, Aberrant, and various videogames as inspiration), and I want each race to be fundamentally distinct to the norm. If this means their game counterparts have to be completely different and closer to conventions, then I'll have to (grudgingly) follow that approach, but nothing along the lines of "you can make changes in the line of adding different weapon proficiencies and whatnot". It's part of the suggestion I got, and while I don't want to have that person feel bad, it's definitely not what I thought of when I wanted to tackle the races.

Inglenook
2012-08-05, 08:53 PM
The races in the RAW essentially boil down to "sort of like a human, except _____", so it's great to see an actual departure from Tolkien-y races. I personally love this, especially the dwarves as yeast-powered constructs.


Alas, it seems I need to refine all these concepts so deeply that they make sense. I really want to go with the "shock" factor, but when the only response you get is scorn, logically impossible, physically impossible and violating all sorts of conventions regarding fantasy races...well, it gets a bit disheartening.
Anyone who argues logical/physical impossibility in a setting where magic is thrown about willy-nilly needs a swift kick in the rear. :smallannoyed:

T.G. Oskar
2012-08-05, 09:19 PM
Anyone who argues logical/physical impossibility in a setting where magic is thrown about willy-nilly needs a swift kick in the rear. :smallannoyed:

Naw, I wouldn't go in such depth. I want a degree of verisimilitude on those races, because, after all, D&D has a very strong simulationist inclination. Particularly, it should have a reasonable yet interesting explanation if one were to do, say, a "Ecology of X" blurb (or page). It's really striking the balance. What really bothered me was the use of absolutes instead of trying to reach a proper medium; ditch the really bad and pointless, fix those who are bad but can make a point, keep those great things that define the new vision of the class, and check for new ideas that might explain some of the pitfalls. That D&D is a game (with more than one setting) where wizards often do it doesn't mean there's no explanation behind it; it just has to be one which can be willingly believed, even if it's pure hogwash.

Inglenook
2012-08-05, 09:28 PM
True. Rather: none of your race modifications break verisimilitude any more than the default races.

Calling them logically and physically impossible makes me think your players are simply set in their ways as far as fantasy conventions, and unwilling to change.

Waker
2012-08-05, 10:21 PM
The following racial descriptions are what I will be using in an RPG that I really need to get around to finishing. The game is kinda similar to Exalted in that you play as a mortal with exceptional powers. There is no difference between race/class, all characters are either humans with one of the classes or are one of the demihumans. Here is the super abridged explanation for them.
I'm having trouble finding notes, so I can't give the proper names for the all the demihumans that I wrote up.
PC Races:
Golems- Originally descended from humans, they made a pact to serve the Dwarf Lords in exchange for power. They have thick, stony skin, a stout and heavy frame and lack all body hair. The blood of a Golem is a corrosive similar to alchemists fire. The favored weapon of a Golem is their Orihalcon Cannons.
Coatls- After living in the remains of the dead Dragon God for untold centuries, the human inhabitants began showing signs of their deceased patron. Coatls appear mostly human but have talons in place of finger nails, slitted pupils, a fine layer of scales and hair colors that range across the spectrum.
Demonborn- Demonborn are human descendents of a cruel breeding program to create a race of soldiers. They appear like normal humans, but have the power to transform into a hulking abomination. All Demonborn are covered in a series of arcane tattoos that allow them to control their fiendish powers.
Changelings- Humans born of couplings with the Elves. They are paler and thinner than a normal human. The eyes of a Changeling appear as one solid color, lacking any pupil or sclera.

Non-PC Races-
Dwarf- Powerful lords of the earth, the dwarves endlessly build and expand their vast underground kingdoms. Of the immortal races, they are the most likely to encounter humans and are the least aggressive. One of the more unusual traits of the dwarves is their diet, which consists of materials like obsidian, gemstones and certain metals such as gold.
Elf- An immortal race tied to the forces of nature and the seasons. They are the lords of the fairy race and are one of the few stabilizing forces in the Fairy Courts. Though not outright hostile to humans, they are nonetheless dangerous due to their unusual customs and general disdain for humankind. At best, a human can hope to serve as a temporary (from the Elves perspective) paramour, though most often they are treated as pets.
Dragons- Once they served as gifted teachers to mankind, instructing them in the ways of magic and science. During the Immortal Wars however, the Dragon God was slain while the Dragons themselves were cursed to be nothing more than savage beasts. A dragon is possessed of a certain base cunning, but is ultimately no more than a clever animal.