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Donnadogsoth
2016-02-14, 10:37 PM
Every RPG that I've heard of casts humans as a kind of "mucky middle" or overpoweringly average race, with the advantage of being more versatile and possibly more prolific than other races. Have any of you heard of a game where humans are NOT this way, but have some kind of non-average skew to their abilities? For example, suppose humans are just geniuses compared to other races, or conversely very stupid, or have incredible stamina--something I've read about humans in real life have compared to almost any other given animal--or an affinity for magic.

Genth
2016-02-14, 10:43 PM
Well in my campaign I'm worldbuilding for, Humans are alien. The world itself is highly magical, and all the native races have innate magic, being drawn from awakened animals or other creations. Humans (called 'Kind' in the setting) are from another realm, and are unique and 'special' in the setting because they do not have such innate magic (they can't, for example, be sorcerers save for a very specific Noble Bloodline). They also have another thing which sets them apart - their gods. For all the other races, their gods do not provide spells or direct support - since they were 'pre-built' with magical ability. In fact, some of the Kin (Elf-like races) believe that the clerical powers of humans are simply the expression of their particular innate magic, but that's just speculation.

Kid Jake
2016-02-14, 10:53 PM
At one point I was working on a sci-fi setting where humans would have been a non-playable option. Numbering only a few billion, after the destruction of their homeworld and colonies they became a little...crazy, as a species. Basically becoming a bunch of suicidal space pirates that can't seem to understand that the entire universe isn't responsible for their misfortune, and hellbent on making pretty much EVERYTHING pay for what they've lost.

When humans come into a system you don't look them in the eye, you just hemorrhage valuables in the opposite direction as your wives and children and hope that they take the bait/offering and leave.

Mechanically, humans would have had a chance to ignore death for a round; and almost to a man they try to blow themselves (and everyone else) up with their last breath. Ensuring that there's never a winner in a fight with a human, just occasional survivors with different degrees of maiming.

Genth
2016-02-14, 10:57 PM
I think the thing about making humans 'non-vanilla', is that it entirely depends on what the norms of the setting are. If the setting is high magic, make humans non-magical. If the setting is WAR!, make humans the best diplomats. You can change humans from what they are to make them more special, but there does come a time when you're not talking about 'humans' any more.

Cultural traits are likely easier to do than 'hard-coded' traits, so as with Kid Jake's example, to make humans special they need to be an insular group without much cultural separation.

*edit* I really wanna play that game of yours, Kid Jake :D

Lvl 2 Expert
2016-02-15, 01:12 PM
As Genth says, the best way to do this is probably to design a setting that's not made for making humans average.

In the "standard" fantasy or sci-fi setting almost every species can be typed as "humans, but (more) X". X can be large, small, aggressive, calm, logical, old, philosophical, magic, differently magic, yet again differently magic, fast, slow, hungry, ugly or anything else you'd like to name. Most species can be described using about 3 X's at most.

The easiest way to make humans not the standard is to define a new standard. Kobolds could be the new standard. Most races are reptillian, most races are small, most races are easily enraged. Humans are kobolds but large, mammalian and bad with traps. Gnomelings are kobolds but smaller and they like stealing. Trollollos are kobolds but ugly with lots of snot and strong. Not different enough? Birds are now the standard, or whales, or naturally grown supercomputers like the forest in Avatar (the movie). Designing a setting without a standard is harder, because human writers tend to gravitate to humans being average. One way to help yourself is to define several groups of creatures first. About one fifth of the universe are bug-like, another fifth are rodent like, setting several standards instead of one. Just don't set the standards with humans as an average between them. Finally you could try to think of what you want the human specialization to be. Make all or nearly all other species less of that.

Yes, among earth animals we are pretty good at the stamina thing, even though we're slow. We're also good at throwing stuff and at thinking and vocalizing different sounds (not lire bird good maybe, but pretty cool nonetheless)

And no, I don't really know any games designed with a philosophy like that. A lot of them aim for a broad fantasy world where you can be better than a human at pretty much anything.

AMFV
2016-02-15, 01:37 PM
As Genth says, the best way to do this is probably to design a setting that's not made for making humans average.

In the "standard" fantasy or sci-fi setting almost every species can be typed as "humans, but (more) X". X can be large, small, aggressive, calm, logical, old, philosophical, magic, differently magic, yet again differently magic, fast, slow, hungry, ugly or anything else you'd like to name. Most species can be described using about 3 X's at most.

The easiest way to make humans not the standard is to define a new standard. Kobolds could be the new standard. Most races are reptillian, most races are small, most races are easily enraged. Humans are kobolds but large, mammalian and bad with traps. Gnomelings are kobolds but smaller and they like stealing. Trollollos are kobolds but ugly with lots of snot and strong. Not different enough? Birds are now the standard, or whales, or naturally grown supercomputers like the forest in Avatar (the movie). Designing a setting without a standard is harder, because human writers tend to gravitate to humans being average. One way to help yourself is to define several groups of creatures first. About one fifth of the universe are bug-like, another fifth are rodent like, setting several standards instead of one. Just don't set the standards with humans as an average between them. Finally you could try to think of what you want the human specialization to be. Make all or nearly all other species less of that.

Yes, among earth animals we are pretty good at the stamina thing, even though we're slow. We're also good at throwing stuff and at thinking and vocalizing different sounds (not lire bid good maybe, but pretty cool nonetheless)

And no, I don't really know any games designed with a philosophy like that. A lot of them aim for a broad fantasy world where you can be better than a human at pretty much anything.


That's actually a pretty interesting strategy. It'd be kind of like developing an evolutionary group or family for each group of races. Maybe you'd have the Humanish type races, which would be the standard fantasy fare, and then you'd have things are completely different in other groups. Maybe you'd have bugs be the dominant force in one part of the galaxy. You could also emphasize differences of scale, there's not a reason that tiny bugs couldn't build large machines, and use them in large groups (think Ants but on an absurdly large scale), particularly given sufficient intelligence. A whale sized intelligent species would be profoundly interesting as well. Humans might not be ordinary in that they're unusually sized or what-not. Maybe most sapient species are herbivores, and humans are seen as outright monsters. That could be interesting. There are so many things you could do with this sort of system.

Mark Hall
2016-02-15, 01:58 PM
Basically, decide what your baseline is (it doesn't have to be a singular species, but it could be a variety of traits), and how humans vary from that. I like making humans a charismatic race, compared to others, because it fits in well with how they work in many game worlds... they make the biggest cities, they interact with everyone (who is friends with dwarves AND elves AND gnomes and makes friends with orcs and hobgoblins and others from time to time? Humans), and so a charisma bonus feels like a natural fit. It doesn't mean that elves are uncharismatic... it just means that humans are more charismatic than the baseline of elves, halflings, etc.

Necroticplague
2016-02-15, 02:26 PM
In one setting I worked on a bit, I made death-related things humanities hat. Their warriors were infamous berserkers who were would fight far past when other races would have succumbed to fatigue or injury, their casters were the best necromancers in the land. They were also the only race from which undead spontaneously arose, something they frequently took advantage of in war.

The core of this difference was that the major races 'hat' was based around an elemental affinity. The elements exists as location-gods from which the first examples of the major races stepped from into the world. Humans had an elemental affinity of Void, so being close to death means they're closer to their power source (in much the same way a Sparkling [race with elemental affinity for fire] is more powerful in a volcanic region). Since the location-gods epitomized/were their element, the Human's god doesn't exist, and never did.

Segev
2016-02-15, 02:56 PM
In a space opera setting I never wrote a lot about, the sentient races of the galaxy had long assumed that telepathy was a prerequisite for sapience. That anything without a mind that could be reached or reach out (either was sufficient) wasn't really "thinking," but was just some sort of biological computer with adaptive behaviors, at best.

One particular race was studying Earth as an uncommonly interesting example of highly-advanced tool-usage amongst non-sapient animal life. Imagine their horror when this non-sapient life finally detected them and blew them up with fully-constructed tools of war.

To this day, there remains speculation amongst alien races whether humans really are a unique, mind-blind form of intelligent life, or are what amount to "philosophical zombies" that only need to be dealt with as if they were people due to realpolitik reasons: getting them to behave how you want requires it, and they're a particularly dangerous animal if you try to imprison or kill them.

Only some species can really master human languages (and humans have picked up some aboriginal pop-click languages more commonly to make it easier to speak with some particularly chitinous aliens who lack the apparatus to make more fleshy noises).

Humans are valued as go-betweens, because their mind-blindness makes them impossible for most races to "read" any tells, so they can get the best deals without giving away pertinent information. They also can't be probed telepathically for secrets.

Telekinesis turns out to be crucial to most FTL technologies; humans lack it, so humans usually hitch rides on other species' vessels rather than building their own.

Donnadogsoth
2016-02-15, 06:34 PM
In a space opera setting I never wrote a lot about, the sentient races of the galaxy had long assumed that telepathy was a prerequisite for sapience. That anything without a mind that could be reached or reach out (either was sufficient) wasn't really "thinking," but was just some sort of biological computer with adaptive behaviors, at best.

One particular race was studying Earth as an uncommonly interesting example of highly-advanced tool-usage amongst non-sapient animal life. Imagine their horror when this non-sapient life finally detected them and blew them up with fully-constructed tools of war.

To this day, there remains speculation amongst alien races whether humans really are a unique, mind-blind form of intelligent life, or are what amount to "philosophical zombies" that only need to be dealt with as if they were people due to realpolitik reasons: getting them to behave how you want requires it, and they're a particularly dangerous animal if you try to imprison or kill them.

Only some species can really master human languages (and humans have picked up some aboriginal pop-click languages more commonly to make it easier to speak with some particularly chitinous aliens who lack the apparatus to make more fleshy noises).

Humans are valued as go-betweens, because their mind-blindness makes them impossible for most races to "read" any tells, so they can get the best deals without giving away pertinent information. They also can't be probed telepathically for secrets.

Telekinesis turns out to be crucial to most FTL technologies; humans lack it, so humans usually hitch rides on other species' vessels rather than building their own.

Outstanding. That's worthy of a properly done-up SF story. I can use it in my sci-fi game, too; thanks.

Segev
2016-02-15, 07:46 PM
Outstanding. That's worthy of a properly done-up SF story. I can use it in my sci-fi game, too; thanks.

Thanks for the compliment, and you're welcome to steal the base idea. There are more elements (including two sub-cultures of humanity that do things...differently...without quite breaking those rules) which I didn't bother elaborating on, as that part is the core of "humans as different in the setting," insofar as this topic is concerned.

Enjoy!

Necroticplague
2016-02-15, 07:51 PM
Outstanding. That's worthy of a properly done-up SF story. I can use it in my sci-fi game, too; thanks.

Speaking of sci-fi examples, I remember wandering around imgur when I saw a long series of ones that were somewhat like this in sci-fi settings as short stories (actually, I think one was kinda similar to that, on the whole 'psi-immune scares the crap out of everyone else' level).


EDIT: Found it. (http://imgur.com/gallery/w3nA4)

Segev
2016-02-15, 07:57 PM
Speaking of sci-fi examples, I remember wandering around imgur when I saw a long series of ones that were somewhat like this in sci-fi settings as short stories (actually, I think one was kinda similar to that, on the whole 'psi-immune scares the crap out of everyone else' level).


EDIT: Found it. (http://imgur.com/gallery/w3nA4)

I always love re-reading the "Humanity: Heck Yeah!" stories.

Jay R
2016-02-16, 12:35 PM
The fact is this: All designers of games, and all gamers, have experience with one and only one intelligent race. That's going to be the default for what a sentient being is like, because even if you decide to make prootwattles the vanilla race, you will need to define prootwattles. And whether you intend to do so or not, you will explain how they are different from humans.

You won't have to explain how they are the same. If they use sight as their only targeting sense, we will assume it. If they only have one nose, you won't mention it, but if they have two noses and one eye, and can aim a bow by scent, you will have to tell us that they are different in that way.

Once you've done that, you can define dwarves as "like prootwattles, but shorter, underground smiths, preferring axes, two eyes and only one nose, targeting by sight, and with +2 STR and -2 CHA".

You can even define humans based on prootwattles, but we'll never think of them as prootwattles with two eyes, one nose, and targeting by sight. Humans will remain the standard race in our minds, and all races except humans will have been defined as how they are different from humans, taking two steps instead of one.

I am a human. Every player at my table is a human. Therefore the default sentient being is a human.

AMFV
2016-02-16, 12:47 PM
I am a human. Every player at my table is a human. Therefore the default sentient being is a human.

You seem awfully defensive about that, are you hiding something?

Khedrac
2016-02-16, 01:37 PM
Gamma World edition probably 2?

Playable were mutant animals, mutant (humans) and pure strain humans (psh).
Because psh were seen as weak in the first edition they upped their hit dice from d6 to d8 (everyone got their con as their number of hit dice) and iirc gave them a boost on resistance rolls.

I am not actually sure if that made it into an eiition of the rules, it was the rules errata in the second module for Gamma World.

Segev
2016-02-16, 01:54 PM
You seem awfully defensive about that, are you hiding something?

Yes, and if you'll look right at this red light at the end of my innocuous-seeming pen-like object, all will be made clear. :smallcool: *FLASH!*

Jay R
2016-02-16, 02:54 PM
You seem awfully defensive about that, are you hiding something?

OK, you got me. One of our players is actually a dwarf.

Well - he's almost to a dwarf, only six feet tall with no beard, and with -2 CON and +2 CHA, , land speed 30, no darkvision, stonecunning, stability or other racial bonuses, and with extra skill points and an extra feat.

AMFV
2016-02-16, 03:02 PM
OK, you got me. One of our players is actually a dwarf.

Well - he's almost to a dwarf, only six feet tall with no beard, and with -2 CON and +2 CHA, , land speed 30, no darkvision, stonecunning, stability or other racial bonuses, and with extra skill points and an extra feat.

Are you sure it's not two Ghostwise halflings in a trench-coat?

JoeJ
2016-02-16, 04:36 PM
You seem awfully defensive about that, are you hiding something?

What would we have to hide from our fellow Earth humans? Are we not all one species here? The very idea is ridiculous.

Earth is a fine planet to be from, don't you agree fellow human?

raygun goth
2016-02-16, 05:16 PM
Made humans the magic-powered elder race in my setting. Gave us really great stamina, too. Their "generic overpowered"-ness come from being so magically powerful they can exert authority over things you're not even supposed to be able to order around, like grammar. Or mountains. Rest of the setting fell into line as an animistic industrial thing.

FabulousFizban
2016-02-16, 05:22 PM
Yes, 5th edition. The variant human's 1st level feat is just stupid good. I see no reason to play anything BUT human in 5th (so long as your DM allows variant).

and yeah, humans IRL have more stamina than just about any other animal on earth. Everything about us is built for stamina: bipedalism, sweatglands, metabolism, just... just everything. Our earliest hunting strategy was just to follow prey until it collapsed exhausted.

TeChameleon
2016-02-17, 06:37 AM
*shrug*

Pretty sure I've mentioned it elsewhere on the boards, but one of the settings I've written has the 'standard' for intelligent races being cat-sized prey animals, with the only known exception prior to the discovery of humans being a race of ~3 ft. tall bug people that vaguely resemble bipedal hercules beetles. Said bug people have conquered a significant chunk of the known universe simply by showing up and proving that they can, in fact, kill off the predators of whatever species they're looking to take over (and then eat said predators).

Naturally, this strategy doesn't exactly work as planned when they try it on humans. The first line of the first story is "By her fifth talk-show appearance, Brood-Queen Sh'vk'k was beginning to suspect that her people's conquest of Earth was not being taken seriously." :smalltongue:

Should I ever get around to writing more in that universe, it will probably focus on the largely unintentional chaos, mayhem, and disorder caused by humans wandering blithely out into the galaxy at large and, well, being human.

... something I've always considered somewhat telling about our species is that one of our strongest reactions to fear is "That thing is terrifying! How do I kill it?"

Ashtagon
2016-02-17, 06:54 AM
Here's my old thread on the topic: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-190157.html

I settled on a mix of humans are warriors (though not as good as dwarves or orcs) and humans can survive deprivation better than others. The latter helps explain how we survive in a wider array of environments.

I'd probably re-design various aspects of that old race design were I to re-do it today.

Jay R
2016-02-17, 12:03 PM
Are you sure it's not two Ghostwise halflings in a trench-coat?

Positive. I asked, and they both said "No."

Sam113097
2016-02-17, 01:00 PM
In one of my settings, humans are unique because of their mutability compared to other races. Elves and dwarves tend to be unchanging/stubborn in most settings, but humans are usually characterized as the "doers" of fantasy worlds. Because of this, the humans of my setting embody change. Exposing them to extreme magic, other planes, or the power of gods/demons causes humans to mutate into other forms. There are races in my setting that look like living shadows, walking statues, and people with animal characteristics, but all were once human, and it is possible for normal humans to be mutated into a different race.

Lvl 2 Expert
2016-02-17, 01:02 PM
*shrug*

Pretty sure I've mentioned it elsewhere on the boards, but one of the settings I've written has the 'standard' for intelligent races being cat-sized prey animals, with the only known exception prior to the discovery of humans being a race of ~3 ft. tall bug people that vaguely resemble bipedal hercules beetles. Said bug people have conquered a significant chunk of the known universe simply by showing up and proving that they can, in fact, kill off the predators of whatever species they're looking to take over (and then eat said predators).

Naturally, this strategy doesn't exactly work as planned when they try it on humans. The first line of the first story is "By her fifth talk-show appearance, Brood-Queen Sh'vk'k was beginning to suspect that her people's conquest of Earth was not being taken seriously." :smalltongue:

Should I ever get around to writing more in that universe, it will probably focus on the largely unintentional chaos, mayhem, and disorder caused by humans wandering blithely out into the galaxy at large and, well, being human.

I like that setting.

Might not be terribly realistic for space faring life to still see predators as their number one problem, but got a big smile out of me just the same.


... something I've always considered somewhat telling about our species is that one of our strongest reactions to fear is "That thing is terrifying! How do I kill it?"

Could be worse. If we had been smaller there would have been more natural enemies in our earlier development, and if we could fly ancient warfare could have been a nightmare, with no way to keep armies away from civilian targets. Both conditions could potentially lead to way more aggressive sapient.

nedz
2016-02-17, 08:21 PM
Call of Cthulu - well humans are vanilla, but that may as well mean flavoured.

Paranoia - more questionable, but there are a lot of commie mutants about.

Feddlefew
2016-02-17, 08:36 PM
My campaign setting's humans are primordial kin. It's probably best not to think about how this works.