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TheSessionTapes
2019-07-16, 04:18 AM
Okay, folks... here's a good discussion topic for you;

Racial languages/religions/alignments.

I personally really dislike the "homogenous" races idea which seems to be present in a lot of TTRPGs, (D&D in particular). The idea that an entire race follows the same pantheon or speaks the same language, regardless of where in the world they're from just doesn't ring very true to me. This is why the idea of "racial" anything seems very incongruous to me. I have a hard time believing that the Elves of Silverymoon and the Elves of Cormyr speak the same language, let alone worship the same pantheon or have the same cultural structure.

Throughout history, we've seen dozens of instances of similar ethnotypes or even communities deeply (and sometimes violently) divided by language, religion, or cultural mores. So why not fantasy worlds? The Forgotten Realms in particular, the only race which seems to follow any sort of "realistic" ethnic divergence are humans. Everyone else seems to just get a new subrace thrown at them for each new region discovered.

As for Alignments, I don't use them anyway... I think they're WAY too "mechanical" to reflect true morality. I think the devs themselves even realised this; adding characters like Drizzt and gods like Eilistraee to pay lip-service to "moral complexity" within the cultures. But for people who use them, do you ever have issues with the idea of an entire race having the same moral compass? Or does it just not come up?

TL;DR, I'm looking for other people's opinions of the "WizardDidIt" way in which non-human FRPG societies seem to be racially homogenous across the world. Is this something you're okay with? Do you mix it up? Take different approaches? What are they?

(Oh, and don't even get me started on the fact that there's a language called "Common" :smallsmile:)

Grim Portent
2019-07-16, 05:36 AM
I'm with you on this front, I think it's silly to have 15 subraces of elves who all speak the same language and worship the same gods scattered about the world.

I lean more towards multi-racial realms with their own cultures and often their own gods, unless there's a particularly powerful creed that's spread around. The elven ghetto in a given city might not be the same as the human neighbourhoods around it, but they're probably more similar to the locals than to the elves from three kingdoms over. Every language has local dialects, there's no 'common' tongue shared by everyone. The gods also vary by location, even religions that span through multiple lands change based on the customs and former religion of the locals.

There is a trend for cultures to spread through multiple lands, inspired by things like the German panoply that dominated Europe in the early middle ages, or the Celtic diaspora that dominated central Europe and Britain prior to that. So there might be multiple kingdoms of 'X' culture, but each has its' own language from the same family, differing customs and some variation in how they revere the gods.

gkathellar
2019-07-16, 06:31 AM
Of course it's silly. It's also really convenient, both from a worldbuilding and an in-game perspective, because it cuts out a lot of hassle.

Draconi Redfir
2019-07-16, 06:50 AM
i think the idea is that the different races kind of count towards the non-homogenized thing sortof.

like say in a more realistic setting, you might have two tribes of humans. one who speaks Spiggish and likes to pasture animals while praising Nir, the goddess of nature, while the other tribe speaks Gibber and likes to hunt and scavenge for their supplies while praising tol, kol, and bol, the ancestral spirits of stone, wood, and dirt. These two tribes tend to fight a lot, and have trouble understanding one another.


in common D&D, you just take one of these tribes and make them Orcs or something. same thing, they just look different.

MoiMagnus
2019-07-16, 06:56 AM
Okay, folks... here's a good discussion topic for you;

Racial languages/religions/alignments.

I personally really dislike the "homogenous" races idea which seems to be present in a lot of TTRPGs, (D&D in particular). The idea that an entire race follows the same pantheon or speaks the same language, regardless of where in the world they're from just doesn't ring very true to me. This is why the idea of "racial" anything seems very incongruous to me. I have a hard time believing that the Elves of Silverymoon and the Elves of Cormyr speak the same language, let alone worship the same pantheon or have the same cultural structure.

Throughout history, we've seen dozens of instances of similar ethnotypes or even communities deeply (and sometimes violently) divided by language, religion, or cultural mores. So why not fantasy worlds? The Forgotten Realms in particular, the only race which seems to follow any sort of "realistic" ethnic divergence are humans. Everyone else seems to just get a new subrace thrown at them for each new region discovered.

As for Alignments, I don't use them anyway... I think they're WAY too "mechanical" to reflect true morality. I think the devs themselves even realised this; adding characters like Drizzt and gods like Eilistraee to pay lip-service to "moral complexity" within the cultures. But for people who use them, do you ever have issues with the idea of an entire race having the same moral compass? Or does it just not come up?

TL;DR, I'm looking for other people's opinions of the "WizardDidIt" way in which non-human FRPG societies seem to be racially homogenous across the world. Is this something you're okay with? Do you mix it up? Take different approaches? What are they?

(Oh, and don't even get me started on the fact that there's a language called "Common" :smallsmile:)

1) I personally like "Common". Well, to be fair, I don't like it from a world-building point of view (because it doesn't make sense), but from a gameplay point of view, I almost never enjoyed any of the consequences of not being able to talk the same language as other creatures. The only situation where I enjoyed it was in a parody of RPG where it was used for comical purposes, and only during one session. Language barrier is something that just restrict your options without giving you anything interesting in exchange. That would be like having different money system each time you travel around the universe, and have to deal with conversion rates, inflation, forgery, ... [Moreover, most DM don't have the linguistic knowledge to actually make foreign language works in a realistic way, so they it doesn't even give me additional immersion]. As a consequence, if the whole "language" stuff could be deleted from D&D (no list of languages, no number of language known, ...), I would be pretty happy.

2) This is not reasonable to have a universe with 10 or more major races, each of them with a large variety of behavior and complex culture. First, this is a monumental work for the DM, and second, that's too much information for the players. To this problem, I see 3 solutions:
+ Every race is homogeneous. You have countless race, since you essentially have one race per kind of behavior. This is the easiest to write, most players have no problem with it, but does not lead to a very deep universe.
+ Races are complex and well-developed, but you only have 3-4 of them that are relevant. This is probably the best if you want a well-written world, but some players might be frustrated by the apparent "lack of variety".
+ Races are essentially all the same, without strong cultural differences between them. However, their cultures are as complex and various as the real world culture. In other words, "fantasy race" is essentially "real-world hair color", you have some stereotype for some of them, some have some region of the world where one is dominant and one is rare, but there is more differences inside the groups than between the groups.

NRSASD
2019-07-16, 07:33 AM
1. Common works from a gameplay perspective. It can kinda be handwaved as "the trade language everyone knows at least a little", but yeah, it's not super realistic. Ah well.

In my own setting, racial languages are the "Common" of other species. Most nations have their own language. Human Common just happens to be the most prevalent.

2. Of the three options proposed by MoiMagnus, I'm definitely a fan of option 3. If you strip culture away from the character races, it's very hard to make them distinct without accidentally being "racist", because you're implying that their species has a bigger influence on their behavior than their training or culture; which is a massive, wriggling bucket of worms I have no interest in opening without very specific plot-centric reasons.

In my setting, almost all nations are mixes of races, and an elf from the not-roman empire to the north is more likely to side with the not-romans than with an elf to the south. Culture is definitely the dominant trait, although some species' traits do shine through. Like the fact that elves are renegade fey and not really subject to things like disease, or that dwarves are prone to going mad if they go too deep.

MarkVIIIMarc
2019-07-16, 08:16 AM
A couple random thoughts:

When I DM i'll follow the stereotypes to some extent. Once I had halflings and orcs working together though and it blew my player's mind. Honest, the back story made it make sense!

In a longer campaign mixing in non typical characters keeps things fresh in my opinion. Make it noteworthy if you have a lawful good female drow who just wants to run an honest overnight childcare facility in a village though!

Far as the language thing goes, I've played with isolated continents no one knew about where the players had a heck of a time communicating with the ppl because of a language difference. The way high level magic characters can zip around different planes I'd at least have the more educated of every culture be somewhat likely to speak common.

Max_Killjoy
2019-07-16, 08:51 AM
I've long thought that D&D's "race" should be split into Species and Culture. So for character creation, it would go Species, Culture, Background, Class, etc.

Problem for D&D is that it's trying hard to be THE fantasy RPG, and that makes getting into potentially setting specific things like culture a tight rope to walk.

Pleh
2019-07-16, 09:17 AM
To be fair, racial diversity should depend somewhat on the species' relative longevity.

The Elves, living for centuries, would branch off and and diversify far more slowly than the relatively short lived humans.

With humans, we're barly speaking the same language as relatives from 200 years ago, but for an elf, that's just the difference between their teen years and their adulthood, speak nothing of the fact that they can probably go across the street and talk to their grandparents who were born in the last millenia.

Elves living in human cultures (or cultures shared with humans) would be more adapted to the rapid rate of change in culture, but that wouldn't mean they had forgotten the older ways they used to live. In fact, humans that live alongside elves in commune likely would see their culture change more gradually, since they would have reliable access to neighbors who are consistently "old fashioned".

I mean, America is about 200 years old. Imagine if a portion of American society were young in those days and nearing retirement today? Sure, they've learned to adapt to the change of each century, but imagine how well they would preserve the old ways things used to be done?

awa
2019-07-16, 09:51 AM
1) I personally like "Common". Well, to be fair, I don't like it from a world-building point of view (because it doesn't make sense), but from a gameplay point of view, I almost never enjoyed any of the consequences of not being able to talk the same language as other creatures. The only situation where I enjoyed it was in a parody of RPG where it was used for comical purposes, and only during one session. Language barrier is something that just restrict your options without giving you anything interesting in exchange. That would be like having different money system each time you travel around the universe, and have to deal with conversion rates, inflation, forgery, ... [Moreover, most DM don't have the linguistic knowledge to actually make foreign language works in a realistic way, so they it doesn't even give me additional immersion]. As a consequence, if the whole "language" stuff could be deleted from D&D (no list of languages, no number of language known, ...), I would be pretty happy.

2) This is not reasonable to have a universe with 10 or more major races, each of them with a large variety of behavior and complex culture. First, this is a monumental work for the DM, and second, that's too much information for the players. To this problem, I see 3 solutions:
+ Every race is homogeneous. You have countless race, since you essentially have one race per kind of behavior. This is the easiest to write, most players have no problem with it, but does not lead to a very deep universe.
+ Races are complex and well-developed, but you only have 3-4 of them that are relevant. This is probably the best if you want a well-written world, but some players might be frustrated by the apparent "lack of variety".
+ Races are essentially all the same, without strong cultural differences between them. However, their cultures are as complex and various as the real world culture. In other words, "fantasy race" is essentially "real-world hair color", you have some stereotype for some of them, some have some region of the world where one is dominant and one is rare, but there is more differences inside the groups than between the groups.
edit some of this was ninja i did not write this quick

I would say you can do a combination of the three, a major race like humans that is diverse and dominated by culture, a few diversified by race and culture (like elves wood, grey, high) and then a number of isolated races that have little cultural variety.

If I had to pick one of the three, 3 would be my least favorite, I prefer species to matter. A dwarf should not just be a short human with a beard and if it is.

Also just to nip this in the bud yes D&D uses the word race wrong it uses a lot of words wrong, but there are very real differences between these species and it seems more or less inconceivable that say an elf centuries old would act the same way as a nezumi who is middle aged at 15. You have differences in life span differences in whether they function best during the day at twilight or at night. All these things would affect how they act and react even if everything else about them fell within the human spectrum. Only a very specialized culture could accommodate each of these varied needs.

On top of that for some of these extremes races these variations in biology would heavily interact how they exist in the society. Letís take a life time appointment to a government position, a nezumi reaches adulthood by 6 (minimum starting age) and is always dead by 40 while an elf could hold that position for over 500 years. Think about that, imagine if a portion of the population was alive when Columbus arrived in the new world and was acquiring wealth that entire time. If one of the founding fathers was still alive imagine of Cortez was still alive with all the cultural baggage their long distant upbringing entailed.
Think about the culture divide when some of the populationís generational time is 15 years and some of it is nearly 2 centuries.
Saying while an elf or elan American is basically interchangeable with a nezumi or orc American makes no sense

numbers taken from 3rd edition

Jay R
2019-07-16, 09:56 AM
I personally really dislike the "homogenous" races idea which seems to be present in a lot of TTRPGs, (D&D in particular). The idea that an entire race follows the same pantheon or speaks the same language, regardless of where in the world they're from just doesn't ring very true to me. This is why the idea of "racial" anything seems very incongruous to me. I have a hard time believing that the Elves of Silverymoon and the Elves of Cormyr speak the same language, let alone worship the same pantheon or have the same cultural structure.

This problem disappears if you don't make assumptions about the 99% of the world that the adventurers never see.

The goblins nearby speak a language that you call Goblin, and are an evil raiding tribal culture. On other continents there may be peaceful goblin farming communities, or goblin trading empires. I don't care, and I don't guess.

The elves in the nearby forest speak a language that you call Elvish, and they call Sindarin. There are other elves elsewhere who might speak Quenya, Khuzdul , Dothraki, Valyrian, Osage, Old Norse, Basque, Attic Greek, Hittite, Martian, Hero's Tongue, Kryptonian, Na'vi, Klingon, or English with bad French accents. Since they never show up on stage, I never have to decide what language(s) they know.

The gnomes you will meet worship Garl Glittergold, Gelf Darkhearth, or a few others. But there could be gnomes you don't meet who worship Loki, Coyote, Gwydion, Bugs Bunny, Gaea, Osiris, Ba'al, Moloch, Manitou, Rao, Chernobog, Lolth, Crom, Yog-Sothoth, Aslan, Shardik, Galactus, Sredni Vashtar, or The Powers That Be.

The homogenous race problem is strictly DM-created, by making an unneeded and unused assumption about the vast majority of peoples who are on that world but not in that game.

Particle_Man
2019-07-16, 10:31 AM
They tried different languages with 7th Sea first edition and then had to backpedal with a linguist advantage and pidgin language rules. Players want to talk to each other and to important npcs.

As for variants, Kingdoms of Kalamar did a good job with six types of humans. And drow do seem different from other elves in most versions of D&D.

Anonymouswizard
2019-07-16, 10:48 AM
Of course it's silly. It's also really convenient, both from a worldbuilding and an in-game perspective, because it cuts out a lot of hassle.

The average campaign probably Covers am area roughly equal to England, maybe France. Yes, there are campaigns over a larger geographic area, but most stay within that rough area.

So, major ethic groups in 1200s British Isles. I count:
Anglo-Saxons
Normans
Scottish
Welsh
Irish
Probably still some Norsemen
Maybe a smattering of smaller ethnic groups.

In terms of cultures that's about six. Less than the number of races in the Player's Handbook, but I'm probably missing some and we likely already have more cultural differences developing. If anything the problem is too social groups once you take into account subraces.

Max_Killjoy
2019-07-16, 11:32 AM
This problem disappears if you don't make assumptions about the 99% of the world that the adventurers never see.

The goblins nearby speak a language that you call Goblin, and are an evil raiding tribal culture. On other continents there may be peaceful goblin farming communities, or goblin trading empires. I don't care, and I don't guess.

The elves in the nearby forest speak a language that you call Elvish, and they call Sindarin. There are other elves elsewhere who might speak Quenya, Khuzdul , Dothraki, Valyrian, Osage, Old Norse, Basque, Attic Greek, Hittite, Martian, Hero's Tongue, Kryptonian, Na'vi, Klingon, or English with bad French accents. Since they never show up on stage, I never have to decide what language(s) they know.

The gnomes you will meet worship Garl Glittergold, Gelf Darkhearth, or a few others. But there could be gnomes you don't meet who worship Loki, Coyote, Gwydion, Bugs Bunny, Gaea, Osiris, Ba'al, Moloch, Manitou, Rao, Chernobog, Lolth, Crom, Yog-Sothoth, Aslan, Shardik, Galactus, Sredni Vashtar, or The Powers That Be.

The homogenous race problem is strictly DM-created, by making an unneeded and unused assumption about the vast majority of peoples who are on that world but not in that game.

To me that's drawing an artificial distinction where "we're just telling you about the goblins that make for good mooks and foes".

PhoenixPhyre
2019-07-16, 12:07 PM
This is something I've worked hard to avoid in my setting. Things I've done:

1. Languages. There is a Common, but it's explicitly only for people in the main area[1], and it's a second language for some of them. And it results from a very strongly dominant empire that broke up a while ago. There are significant dialects within it, but it's still basically mutually understandable. All player characters get it because of how the central campaign premise works[2]. And I do enforce language boundaries for player/NPC interactions.

2. Racial lifespans. There are no super-long-lived player races in my setting. That's actually a recent historical event--200 years ago, as part of the consequences of a cataclysmic event, the longest-lived race (high elves) got knocked back to ~200 years max. Everyone else tops out at the ~150 range (dwarves), ~100 range (wood elves), ~80 range (just about everyone else), ~60 range (goblins, sort of).

3. Races and Cultures. There are no mono-racial nations. Each has a group of races that participate. Some races are only found in one nation (e.g. halflings, yuan-ti, dragonborn), some are more wide-spread. Many racial groups are pretty small, worldwide. There are only a few hundred thousand halflings, period. Possibly fewer dragonborn. There are lots of humans, orcs, wood elves, dwarves, and goblinoids (all the more ancient races). The total number of kobolds is in the low 500 range (they were just created about 10 years ago).

And each of the nations has one or more different cultures in it. For example, the humans and wood elves of Byssia share a common culture and there are lots of half-elves there. The Council Lands are much more racially and culturally diverse, but the humans and halflings there share a common culture, while the elves (both kinds) and dwarves are more culturally distant. In the Stone Throne, the humans and elves have interbred so much that everyone has at least a bit of elven heritage. The "half-elves" there are those in whom the heritage manifests visibly, while the "humans" are those where it didn't. There are no true elves there at all, really. Etc.

4. No racial alignment. Alignment isn't a thing for me at all, and fixed/dominant alignments are right out. Orcs are just as often good people as bad people. Sure, they have a racial tendency toward uncontrollable anger, but some of their cultures/tribes glorify that and others find ways to bind it to service. Even dragons, while they may be elementally color-coded, are not alignment-coded at all. Heck, even outsiders aren't aligned in any fixed way. Sure, demons[3] tend to be nasty, but that's because they chose to become that way.

[1] an area about the size of Western Europe-ish. Where all the PCs are from, 4 nations that have formed an international cooperation agreement.
[2] PCs are all Sanctioned Adventurers, "troubleshooters" for the international pact organization. They see trouble, they shoot trouble.
[3] demons, for me, are what happens when someone replaces their normal soul-operation-system with the devoured souls of others. Not generally considered polite behavior.

Pleh
2019-07-16, 12:46 PM
The average campaign probably Covers am area roughly equal to England, maybe France.

Right up until it's time to go to the other Planes. Another reason the Planes often bother me in TTRPGs is we see barely a fraction of the material plane before we level past its siginificance.

VoxRationis
2019-07-16, 12:48 PM
This is not reasonable to have a universe with 10 or more major races, each of them with a large variety of behavior and complex culture. First, this is a monumental work for the DM, and second, that's too much information for the players. To this problem, I see 3 solutions:
+ Races are essentially all the same, without strong cultural differences between them. However, their cultures are as complex and various as the real world culture. In other words, "fantasy race" is essentially "real-world hair color", you have some stereotype for some of them, some have some region of the world where one is dominant and one is rare, but there is more differences inside the groups than between the groups.

I'm not very fond of this option. It not only lends itself, but wholeheartedly offers itself to the "humans in funny hats" idea, which makes the inclusion of fantasy races at all seem rather superfluous. If there's no particular difference between a halfling, a human, and an orc and every NPC could be rotated between those three without changing their role in the setting and story, what's the point?

Moreover, from a purely in-universe perspective, such a setup doesn't make sense unless in a very modern sort of setting where a large amount of migration and urban mixture has taken place. It stands to reason that in most cases, most cultures are going to develop as racially homogeneous (in the D&D sense, which I will be using for "race" here). If a tribe of 50-150 individuals is composed of humans and elves, for instance, either a) the two will interbreed, being interfertile, until they become a largely homogeneous population of half- (or likely quarter-) elves, or b) the tribe is actually composed of two populations which are not interfertile, each of 25-75 individuals, and the stochastic nature of population dynamics makes it likely that one or both of them will go extinct because each population is that much closer to 0 and cannot be reinforced with individuals from the other half of the tribe. These two outcomes also assume good faith and no competition or animosity between the two populations, and if that does exist, it only makes the homogeneous outcome more likely. Therefore, for so long as you have people living in small units, which is true for most of the human population through history and prehistory, those units are likely to be mostly made up of the same race. Cultures will develop based on assumptions about biology and common experiences, and while some more open cultures may be fine with having individuals in the group that don't fit those assumptions, the overall pace of life will still reflect the majority. A village of elven orchard-keepers may be fine with the halfling family that moved in, but their cultural practices are still going to reflect the assumption of a centuries-long lifespan and their physical environment will be built for taller individuals. (They might include accommodations if they're being particularly considerate, but they still will be going out of their way to do so; when they make something, they will be naturally inclined to make it for the use of someone 5-6 feet tall, not 3 feet tall, so they'll need to actively decide to make it for the halflings if the item is to be useful for them.) Those cultures, initially separated due to reasons of demography and ergonomics, will then be likely to diverge from each other in ways that aren't purely because of these elements of necessity, but rather due to their separation. There's no particular intrinsic reason why the orcs wear quail feathers in their hats and their gnomish neighbors do not (certainly, orcs are not biologically obligated to wear quail feathers, and gnomes are perfectly capable of doing so), but each culture developed its particular customary headgear without feeling the need to consult the other, and now norms have been formed. These norms, in turn, serve to help reinforce group identity and make the gnomish and orcish cultures more distinct from one another.

Now, larger communities are going to be more willing and able to support diversity, but those communities developed out of smaller, homogeneous communities, either due to natural population growth or immigration, and so they will, at least initially, bear those elements of distinction which defined the cultures they stem from. People moving to the big city will be inclined to treat each other at least partially as members of another race and culture, not just equivalent fellow city-dwellers. Moreover, fantasy races tend to have reasonably significant distinctions in physical and mental capability which lend themselves to not blindly filling all roles in the community in the same way, particularly if those roles are competitive or naturally restricted to a small portion of the population. An unusually intelligent orc might be smarter than 90% of the elf population, but he's not competing with them for space as a wizard's apprentice or entry into some intellectual field; he's competing with the top 5% of the natural elven talent pool, probably combined with another good portion of applicants trying their hand because of their social positions. The rare orc who does break into such a field will be very much an exception, and even in an accepting environment free from racial animosity or stereotyping, which is unlikely, will draw a lot of notice and probably some degree of comment. Conversely, the unusually strong, bulky elf who wants to become a mercenary doppelsoldner, hewing through the front lines in heavy armor, will find the field full of people who can fight in that way better than he can; since military units are always in need of bodies, they might accept him without too much question, but he's unlikely to find noteworthy success. Consequently, you'll see people gravitate to particular fields and patterns of living, and this will be inevitably exacerbated by stereotyping and social norms.

Mark Hall
2019-07-16, 01:02 PM
Possibly.

Consider, for example, that having a singular pantheon of deities would help to make the long-lived elves even more culturally conservative than a race who lives forever is likely to be in the first place.

One of the factors in human diversity is relatively short generations, combined with the challenges of living. I need to find a way to deal with the place I am living in now, in ways that make sense for the current climate (physical and political), using the tools I have available. My grandparents are likely dead by the time I am an adult; my great-grandparents almost certainly are. This creates a cultural churn, as new ideas come in, old ideas fade away, and then get rediscovered, possibly with new vocabulary or shades of nuance.

When you're talking extremely long-lived, magically-capable races, however, this pressure lessens. If an elven generation (from birth to reproduction) is 150-200 years, on a lifespan that may regularly reach 1000, that churn of culture slows way down. If they are communicating with actually immortal beings (gods), that's another conservative pressure on culture... you talk to the gods in Elven, and they talk back in Elven, then Elven is going to drift a lot less. Since you're talking to your great-great-grandmother in Elven, and she spoke to her great-great-grandfather in Elven, and he spoke to HIS great-great-grandmother in Elven, you're looking at a linguistic history that stretches back to when MY ancestors were speaking proto-Indo-European. Add in magic as a means to overcome a lot of difficulties, and you don't have to reinvent science to adapt to new situations... Control Weather controls weather, whether it is a long drought or a flood season.

You also have the reality of the deities to deal with. If Labelas Enoreth wants to be worshiped in a certain way, he can unambiguously tell people across the continent. In a way, you can actually see this in modern culture, with the English language. While not gone, you see fewer people with pronounced regional accents these days, because of standard American English being used in all the shows.* If the medium of exchange is a God, well, that adds a bit of force that you don't get from kids learning to talk from Sesame Street.

So, while you might have a degree of drift, and probably have more than you see in standard D&D, you also have a lot of conservative pressures on language and culture... things that will tend to keep language the same, and cultures defragmented, in ways that just don't happen in a mundane world of short-lived hominds.

*Funny story: If my kids watch too much Peppa Pig, they start picking up a BBC-voice accent for a while.

awa
2019-07-16, 01:06 PM
More things that would complicate a mixed society preventing the different races from being interchangeable

Another aspect disease resistance something like a nezumi with both a good con and an additional bonus against disease and a short life span is likely not going to worry about disease in the same way that an elf with a con penalty and an extremely long life would.

Even if they did the literal rat person covered in fur is likely going to have to work real hard to overcome a reputation for being dirty.

Another thought how would a society deal with mixed groups where some have innate weapons or combat magic. Do you want your children going to school with the lizard man, hes got scary claws and teeth. How do the guards deal with it, a lizard man cant disarm.

Honest Tiefling
2019-07-16, 01:15 PM
To be fair, racial diversity should depend somewhat on the species' relative longevity.

The Elves, living for centuries, would branch off and and diversify far more slowly than the relatively short lived humans.

I don't disagree with this point, but I think this is often handwaved via fey connections or godly intervention. In many editions of Dungeons and Dragons elves are touched by fey magic, so spontaneous subraces probably make more sense if you just assume that fey magic just plain does that.


I'm with you on this front, I think it's silly to have 15 subraces of elves who all speak the same language and worship the same gods scattered about the world.

This...Could be a very foreboding plot point in a setting. Why do the elves all worship the same god? What happens to those who don't? Why do they not stray in huge numbers? But yes, it is quite silly when it ISN'T supposed to be a creepy aspect of elves.

In the Points of Light setting for 4e, I think many of the 'racial' gods of older settings were re-purposed as gods that often appealed to that race, but were also a part of the main pantheon and had plenty of followers outside of that race. It worked well for a setting with a smaller focus, I think.


To me that's drawing an artificial distinction where "we're just telling you about the goblins that make for good mooks and foes".

Again, not disagreeing with you, Max_Killjoy, but there is going to be a lot of cases where you need to introduce things slowly. Goblins being more neutral might pan out really badly for some players learning about the setting or tabletop RPGs in general.

Mordar
2019-07-16, 01:23 PM
Of course it's silly. It's also really convenient, both from a worldbuilding and an in-game perspective, because it cuts out a lot of hassle.

And frankly I think it makes some degree of sense historically as well...in "developing" worlds the culture/religion spreads with the migratory pattern of the people. A particular kingdom supporting a particular religion had a much greater role in expansion to a given southern locale, while a different kingdom supporting a slightly, but significantly, different religion had a greater role in expansion of a more northerly locale. Those impacts are still easily visible hundreds of years later and people currently transitioning from one locale to the other carry their religion with them. Migration across island chains shows a similar pattern.

Basically look at our world 500-1000+ years ago. Clear and distinct religions and cultures in certain areas, and many of those people attempting to maintain their cultural identity even when in non-traditional areas. And that's with people that are all the same race (from this discussion's intent of "race").

That said, the more developed/cosmopolitan things become the more room there is for elves worshipping dwarf gods, or halflings from the equivalent of Australia worshipping Thor and Odin.

- M

awa
2019-07-16, 01:29 PM
This...Could be a very foreboding plot point in a setting. Why do the elves all worship the same god? What happens to those who don't? Why do they not stray in huge numbers? But yes, it is quite silly when it ISN'T supposed to be a creepy aspect of elves.



Why would it be, if the elven gods literally made the elves why wouldn't they worship them. Why would they stray to a more generic god when their own works perfectly well. Combined with how elves generally consider themselves better than "lesser" races and the fact that long lives would equal vastly slower cultural changes it makes perfect sense that all the elves would worship the same gods.

Mechalich
2019-07-16, 01:31 PM
One thing about racial monocultures is that, in the average D&D setting, the non-human races simply aren't very numerous. The Forgotten Realms, according to the 3e FR Campaign Setting, only contains about 100 million people in a Europe-sized area, and the number of those who are members of any given non-human sub-race are actually quite small. In fact the total elven or dwarven population of the realms is probably smaller than that of individual populous human states like Calimshan. Considering that magical communication means that there's far less reason for geographic cultural fragmentation, it's actually quite reasonable for all of maybe a quarter-million Gold Elves to have a single culture, there are plenty of historical ethnic groups in that size range. Non-PHB races are going to be even less numerous. When I did the demographic design for Resvier - a nation of around 15 million people - I included all the playable PF races as having stable populations, but in order to make that work mathematically, the majority of those races had tiny relic populations of a mere 10,000 or 20,000 individuals, which meant they were concentrated in a county-sized homeland.

If you want to have a lot of cultural contrast between non-human ethnic groups, you need multiple isolated homelands with large populations and a lot of settings simply don't have enough non-humans to do that. An interesting comparison point here can be taken from Tolkien. In LotR all the elves and dwarves act with considerable cultural similarity - because they've been worn down by millennia of warfare and only exist as tiny relic populations that have necessarily homogenized. In the Simarillion, by contrast, there are large and significant cultural differences between the various elven kingdoms (and the dwarves also, though they get far less words) because they are so much bigger and most of the continent is under elven control.

Jay R
2019-07-16, 01:34 PM
To me that's drawing an artificial distinction where "we're just telling you about the goblins that make for good mooks and foes".

Yes, of course. That's a feature, not a bug.

When the PCs travel through a forest, I draw a similar "artificial distinction", for the same purpose. I describe the bears, centaurs, ettercaps. leopards, treants and wolves that make for good foes, and ignore the deer, weasels, foxes, robins, crows, rabbits, and butterflies that don't. Are there magical creatures like griffons, hippogriffs, and chimeras but are herbivores and ignore people or flee from them? Probably, but there's no reason to describe these duckbunnies, molesparrows, and platypuses.

Similarly, there is no reason to describe the culture or language for the goblins who are not encounters for the party, and therefore no need to create the homogenized race problem. Peaceful farming goblins aren't an interesting encounter, so I don't put any in the way of the PCs.

And once you accept that idea, you can create the occasional offbeat adventure with one of the exceptions. I am currently creating a hidden valley filled with dwarves who are 8 feet tall. Since that height doesn't work well in underground mines, they are pit miners instead. I intend to introduce the idea by having the party discover some ruined carvings showing humans that are smaller than dwarves.

Someday I want to drop a party in a continent they've never heard of, in the middle of a human-goblin war. Over time I want them to be able to see that the humans are invading the lands of the peaceful goblins, not vice versa.

Anonymouswizard
2019-07-16, 02:24 PM
Right up until it's time to go to the other Planes. Another reason the Planes often bother me in TTRPGs is we see barely a fraction of the material plane before we level past its siginificance.

Other planes of existence? People use those when not playing planescape?

In all seriousness, I'm currently running a game of Unknown Armies where otherspaces are fairly important. Specifically a Fairyland that's representative of the local psychological state, and in unspecified 'egological realm' that had to do with the campaign goal. But both were in there at the very beginning and don't have a 'you must be X level to interact' sign, crossing over between them is a primary pay of the game (the PCs just straight up don't have the rituals needed to let them cross at will yet, despite being the indirect cause of one of them).

I heavily dislike the idea of 'moving onto the Planes' because, as you say, there's almost always more of the world to explore. I care about them only on relation to in-setting religions.

Beleriphon
2019-07-16, 04:07 PM
To be fair, racial diversity should depend somewhat on the species' relative longevity.

The Elves, living for centuries, would branch off and and diversify far more slowly than the relatively short lived humans.

With humans, we're barly speaking the same language as relatives from 200 years ago, but for an elf, that's just the difference between their teen years and their adulthood, speak nothing of the fact that they can probably go across the street and talk to their grandparents who were born in the last millenia.

Elves living in human cultures (or cultures shared with humans) would be more adapted to the rapid rate of change in culture, but that wouldn't mean they had forgotten the older ways they used to live. In fact, humans that live alongside elves in commune likely would see their culture change more gradually, since they would have reliable access to neighbors who are consistently "old fashioned".

I mean, America is about 200 years old. Imagine if a portion of American society were young in those days and nearing retirement today? Sure, they've learned to adapt to the change of each century, but imagine how well they would preserve the old ways things used to be done?

Never mind the USA. Some settings have elves living for as much as 2000 years. Imagine a being able to talk to somebody that actually met Charlemagne, or saw the sack of Rome by Visigoths. That's a person that doesn't really see the need for all this fancy moveable type book business, handwritten scrolls works just fine thank you very much.

jjordan
2019-07-16, 04:28 PM
1) I like Common. But I think of it, and treat it, as a creole/pidgin language created by the gathering of many cultures into one place or as a trade language used by several cultures that incorporates elements of all their native languages. It can be a crude pidgin (Him fella give lots gold or this fella chop-chop) or a complex creole (Du me geben oro au me te mata) And sometimes I redefine it. In one setting 'common' is Orcish. It's a language that's simple, consistent, and easy to learn. So it gets used by traders.

2) I mix my groups up. I have a setting with elves that consider they are superior to other species. This can take a lot of different forms. There are groups that are quite happy to work with humans, super polite, and still think they are superior. There are others that treat humans like non-sentient animals. At one level my elves are quite homogeneous, but at other levels quite different. In another example, they all all speak the same language. But their speech is littered with cultural references that leave it incomprehensible to people who don't share 150 years of extensive exposure to their culture. Variations in cultural references between different groups mean that some groups effectively speak separate languages. Which doesn't even begin to address the way humans and other groups speak Elvish or the reactions of the various Elvish groups to their attempts to communicate.

MoiMagnus
2019-07-16, 05:20 PM
I'm not very fond of this option. It not only lends itself, but wholeheartedly offers itself to the "humans in funny hats" idea, which makes the inclusion of fantasy races at all seem rather superfluous. If there's no particular difference between a halfling, a human, and an orc and every NPC could be rotated between those three without changing their role in the setting and story, what's the point?

I understand your position. And I was not trying to convince you that this option was the best. All 3 options (on top of others that didn't come to my mind) can be used as a base of interesting campaign.

Though there is a point to the 3rd option compared to "no races": player experience. From my limited experience, players are much more happy in a medieval fantastic where races just exist as funny hats (so they give mechanical bonuses, but have have as much influence as a family name on the universe, which mean it rarely matter but sometimes it adds a lot to the relationship between the characters), rather than a universe where there is only humans.

World-building for a RPG, compared to "pure" world-building, has a social component (interaction with players), so appearances matters.
[And mechanics too, a lot of players actually care more about having a special power from their race than about "is the race has a place different than humans in the society".]

If you build a medieval-fantastic world, your players will expect to be able to play non-human races, independently of their relevance to the universe. While you can go against player expectations, you usually need a good reason to do so, and I don't think "races are useless worldbuilding-wise" is a reason good enough to not have races. The question then is:
+Do you worldbuild by taking in account all those different races with different cultures, at the cost of having less time to handle the details of each culture (and potentially reaching the maximal complexity you can handle as a creator before having finished)?
+Or do you restrict the number of relevant races in order to be able to have complex and interleaved cultures for each of them.
+Or do you concentrate all your energy on what make the cultures of the world deep (power struggle between families, empires, guilds, cities..., the different ideologies, the economic development, the past, ...) but disregarding the different races so that you don't need to artificially increase the number of different cultures above what you can manage.

Luccan
2019-07-16, 05:29 PM
My problem with tossing out racial languages is now you have to replace them with something else. But a lot of games don't have a great many nations planned out or know what will be useful later in the adventure. If I know Goblin, I can always speak to goblinoids. If I know Amdelese, well that was useful in Amdel but now we're on the other side of the continent and none of us know any useful languages (even if they were an option at the beginning of the game). Fine for some games, not the majority of them. Plus, removing something like Common is just a good way to get PCs that can't actually communicate with each other.

As for deities and alignment, they kind of reinforce each other. Corellon is CG, elves are CG. It helps that in most settings, it is significantly easier to prove the gods exist. But I also think these are broad strokes to provide the basis of the game when you pick it up. It works fine most of the time and something more intricate in the rule books might feel restrictive, while just saying "do it yourself" from the get-go might feel overwhelming.

Max_Killjoy
2019-07-16, 06:02 PM
Yes, of course. That's a feature, not a bug.

When the PCs travel through a forest, I draw a similar "artificial distinction", for the same purpose. I describe the bears, centaurs, ettercaps. leopards, treants and wolves that make for good foes, and ignore the deer, weasels, foxes, robins, crows, rabbits, and butterflies that don't. Are there magical creatures like griffons, hippogriffs, and chimeras but are herbivores and ignore people or flee from them? Probably, but there's no reason to describe these duckbunnies, molesparrows, and platypuses.

Similarly, there is no reason to describe the culture or language for the goblins who are not encounters for the party, and therefore no need to create the homogenized race problem. Peaceful farming goblins aren't an interesting encounter, so I don't put any in the way of the PCs.


I guess it's just personal taste, but I don't like worldbuilding that's distorted to the "player gaze".

Max_Killjoy
2019-07-16, 06:22 PM
1) I like Common. But I think of it, and treat it, as a creole/pidgin language created by the gathering of many cultures into one place or as a trade language used by several cultures that incorporates elements of all their native languages. It can be a crude pidgin (Him fella give lots gold or this fella chop-chop) or a complex creole (Du me geben oro au me te mata) And sometimes I redefine it. In one setting 'common' is Orcish. It's a language that's simple, consistent, and easy to learn. So it gets used by traders.


Three settings I've done serious work on.

1) "Trade" exists because there's a strong international traders' guild. Whatever their native language, guild members also speak Trade, and those who want to do business with them find it most reliable to also speak trade, and it trickles down so that most people who do any traveling or trading or soldiering know at least enough Trade to buy and sell things, find a room for the night, engage in "interpersonal encounters", etc.

2) "Common" (by a specific name) exists because there was a continent-spanning empire for many centuries, at some point in the past, and this is one of the lingering effects.

3) "Common" (by a specific name) exists because there was a continent-spanning cultural hegemony for many centuries, at some point in the past, and this is one of the lingering effects.

Xuc Xac
2019-07-16, 06:23 PM
In a world where the gods actually exist and answer prayers regularly, I think it makes less sense for the elves of Silverymoon and the elves of Goldensun to worship different pantheons. If one group drifts away from the elvish orthodoxy, Corellon is right there to say "Yo, priest dudes! Nuh-uh!"

If gods have power worldwide, they should be worshiped worldwide. Cultures might vary locally but the gods shouldn't. If the goddess of the hearth insists that her followers gather in groups once a week to share a meal of soup and baked goods to appreciate the warmth and community of the hearth, then everyone everywhere should be doing that. Maybe the elves are having stewed venison and lembas bread while the dwarves are having potato chowder and buttered rolls, but everybody is having their hearth meal.

Is Thor really the god of thunder if he's only the god of the thunder between Finland and Britain? Doesn't the rest of the planet have thunder too?

Regarding languages, this is what I usually do: Common is a trade language with limited vocabulary. You can use it to negotiate prices when you buy a horse or hire a prostitute, but you can't use it to write a book on veterinary medicine or compose a love poem. You can write a shopping list, a shipping manifest, or a warning sign in Common, but there are no songs in Common. As Charles V was credited with saying, "I speak in Latin to God, Italian to Women, French to Men, and German to my Horse." I tend to let PCs be as multilingual as a European or a Star Wars character, but if you don't know the local language then you can get by in Common.

Max_Killjoy
2019-07-16, 06:26 PM
In a world where the gods actually exist and answer prayers regularly, I think it makes less sense for the elves of Silverymoon and the elves of Goldensun to worship different pantheons. If one group drifts away from the elvish orthodoxy, Corellon is right there to say "Yo, priest dudes! Nuh-uh!"

If gods have power worldwide, they should be worshiped worldwide. Cultures might vary locally but the gods shouldn't. If the goddess of the hearth insists that her followers gather in groups once a week to share a meal of soup and baked goods to appreciate the warmth and community of the hearth, then everyone everywhere should be doing that. Maybe the elves are having stewed venison and lembas bread while the dwarves are having potato chowder and buttered rolls, but everybody is having their hearth meal.

Is Thor really the god of thunder if he's only the god of the thunder between Finland and Britain? Doesn't the rest of the planet have thunder too?


What if there's a god of Thunder, but to Thunder, it's most important that you pay reverence and homage to Thunder, rather than that you get the details perfect?

Beleriphon
2019-07-16, 06:30 PM
Three settings I've done serious work on.

1) "Trade" exists because there's a strong international traders' guild. Whatever their native language, guild members also speak Trade, and those who want to do business with them find it most reliable to also speak trade, and it trickles down so that most people who do any traveling or trading or soldiering know at least enough Trade to buy and sell things, find a room for the night, engage in "interpersonal encounters", etc.

2) "Common" (by a specific name) exists because there was a continent-spanning empire for many centuries, at some point in the past, and this is one of the lingering effects.

3) "Common" (by a specific name) exists because there was a continent-spanning cultural hegemony for many centuries, at some point in the past, and this is one of the lingering effects.

The funny thing about this as much as people bag on Forgotten Realms for being goofy it does have regional languages, some of which are much more common (see what I did there?) than others. Common still exists, but its explicitly described a trade language that borrows words and grammar from elven, dwarven, and several human languages. It outright doesn't have the nuance for philosophy or complex discussions, you have to use a regional language for that. Even "elven" is properly Espruar, an elven lingua franca.

Your character can learn Chondathan, Tethyrian, Cormanthan, Illuskan, and a bunch more. You can also learn Yipyak, the language of kobolds.

Here's a list of all known languages in FR.
http://oakthorne.net/wiki/index.php/Forgotten_Realms_Languages

Max_Killjoy
2019-07-16, 06:56 PM
The funny thing about this as much as people bag on Forgotten Realms for being goofy it does have regional languages, some of which are much more common (see what I did there?) than others. Common still exists, but its explicitly described a trade language that borrows words and grammar from elven, dwarven, and several human languages. It outright doesn't have the nuance for philosophy or complex discussions, you have to use a regional language for that. Even "elven" is properly Espruar, an elven lingua franca.

Your character can learn Chondathan, Tethyrian, Cormanthan, Illuskan, and a bunch more. You can also learn Yipyak, the language of kobolds.

Here's a list of all known languages in FR.
http://oakthorne.net/wiki/index.php/Forgotten_Realms_Languages

FR may suffer from a bit of "detail fatigue", with SO MUCH crammed into relatively small areas. If I were going to use a list of languages like that, I'd have to come up with something like HERO's optional language similarity groups.

The settings I mentioned have other languages, I was just listing off ideas for how a "trade" or "common" language could have some believable underpinning for it's concession to playability.

I just doubt anyone* would enjoy playing "Tower of Babble, the RPG". (* For rhetorical values of "anyone".)

Beleriphon
2019-07-16, 08:06 PM
FR may suffer from a bit of "detail fatigue", with SO MUCH crammed into relatively small areas. If I were going to use a list of languages like that, I'd have to come up with something like HERO's optional language similarity groups.

The settings I mentioned have other languages, I was just listing off ideas for how a "trade" or "common" language could have some believable underpinning for it's concession to playability.

I just doubt anyone* would enjoy playing "Tower of Babble, the RPG". (* For rhetorical values of "anyone".)

I understand, its just somebody for FR decided to go all in and just make a bunch of related language groups.

https://forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Faer%C3%BBnian_languages

That link has a wiki block at the bottom with the languages by group, it makes way more sense looking at it that way. That said, yes "common" as a trade language makes the most sense, and there are lots of ways to justify doing so.

Xuc Xac
2019-07-16, 08:18 PM
What if there's a god of Thunder, but to Thunder, it's most important that you pay reverence and homage to Thunder, rather than that you get the details perfect?

If you get the details too wrong, it's not reverent or respectful anymore. If the actual god of thunder is Zeus, and you think he's the north American Thunderbird? "No problem. Strength and power is definitely my thing and I do turn into a bird sometimes. This is fine." If you think he's Thor? "I do like smashing things and I have a cool beard, but I am not a cross-dressing buffoon! *smite*" And if you think he's the Vietnamese Thunder God who's a loud-mouthed bully who's all bark and no bite (because Lightning is another guy with actual power), then you're really in for a smitin'.

This is why I don't use sentient gods (except for local spirits). If I used D&D, I would say that the cleric domains exist independently and the gods and philosophies are just mortal constructs. Why do the dwarves of the north mountains think there's a Smith god of fire and earth while the humans of the eastern river valleys think that there's a Fire god who's an evil giant of darkness? Because Fire, Earth, Evil, and Darkness are existing power sources that can be tapped by clerics if they really believe in a deity that personifies them. This group has a God of Fire, Evil, and Darkness, while that group has paladin crusaders of Fire and Light who destroy the darkness, and a third group of philosophers venerate the Grey Lady of Light and Darkness. It seems contradictory to mortals and the gods don't answer questions about it ("Mysterious ways!"), but it's really just a bunch of uncaring, non-sentient forces getting mixed and matched in different combinations under different names. This also explains how gods can be combined and absorb each other's domains over time {SCRUBBED}

Max_Killjoy
2019-07-16, 08:33 PM
If you get the details too wrong, it's not reverent or respectful anymore. If the actual god of thunder is Zeus, and you think he's the north American Thunderbird? "No problem. Strength and power is definitely my thing and I do turn into a bird sometimes. This is fine." If you think he's Thor? "I do like smashing things and I have a cool beard, but I am not a cross-dressing buffoon! *smite*" And if you think he's the Vietnamese Thunder God who's a loud-mouthed bully who's all bark and no bite (because Lightning is another guy with actual power), then you're really in for a smitin'.

This is why I don't use sentient gods (except for local spirits). If I used D&D, I would say that the cleric domains exist independently and the gods and philosophies are just mortal constructs. Why do the dwarves of the north mountains think there's a Smith god of fire and earth while the humans of the eastern river valleys think that there's a Fire god who's an evil giant of darkness? Because Fire, Earth, Evil, and Darkness are existing power sources that can be tapped by clerics if they really believe in a deity that personifies them. This group has a God of Fire, Evil, and Darkness, while that group has paladin crusaders of Fire and Light who destroy the darkness, and a third group of philosophers venerate the Grey Lady of Light and Darkness. It seems contradictory to mortals and the gods don't answer questions about it ("Mysterious ways!"), but it's really just a bunch of uncaring, non-sentient forces getting mixed and matched in different combinations under different names. This also explains how gods can be combined and absorb each other's domains over time {Scrub the Post, Scrub the quote}.


Maybe, or maybe the deity gets the same "worship mojo" regardless of the details, and doesn't care. Depends on the setting.



I understand, its just somebody for FR decided to go all in and just make a bunch of related language groups.

https://forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Faer%C3%BBnian_languages

That link has a wiki block at the bottom with the languages by group, it makes way more sense looking at it that way. That said, yes "common" as a trade language makes the most sense, and there are lots of ways to justify doing so.

You could easily build the HERO-style language similarities out of that. I can't find a link that explains it, but at least in 4th edition, you have 0 to 5 points in a language, with each being more fluent in that language. But at the GM's option, there were related languages, as shown in a series of boxes of different line thickness, of related languages that gave you fluency of -1 or -2 or -3 your "score" in languages related to the language you had that "score" in.

Beleriphon
2019-07-16, 09:04 PM
Maybe, or maybe the deity gets the same "worship mojo" regardless of the details, and doesn't care. Depends on the setting.

I think this a good way to go personally, especially if your setting is operating on the principle that the deities are it and that's it. Everything is some variation of the set group. So Thunder is {Scrubbed} or some other deific name.

So each culture has its own version of Thunder, or Storm if you prefer, but in the end they all empower a single sapient deity. How that deity appeared to each culture, how it interacted with each culture changes their view of that deity. That's what I'm getting from Max's suggestion anyway.

False God
2019-07-16, 09:11 PM
Frankly, it doesn't bother me too much. Creating entire cultures, languages, societies from whole cloth is...largely wasted on 99% of players (big fat IME!). Most folks don't mind, much less even notice that Elf Society A and Elf Society B are nearly identical. Worse, taking existing cultures and modifying them tends to come out downright offensive, and folks are a lot more likely to notice the fact that you butchered their culture, or a culture they're familiar with, or a culture they enjoy that isn't theirs than they are to notice two groups of elves with almost no connection to each other are basically clones.

Beyond that, D&D worlds tend to be top-down creation, closer to Biblical creation stories that naturally growing worlds based on evolution, or naturally adapting societies based on IRL social principles. They tend to be strongly guided by their relative creator gods (except humans for some weird reason) leading to fairly consistent societies.

Max_Killjoy
2019-07-16, 09:11 PM
I think this a good way to go personally, especially if your setting is operating on the principle that the deities are it and that's it. Everything is some variation of the set group. So Thunder is {Scrub the post, scrub the quote} or some other deific name.

So each culture has its own version of Thunder, or Storm if you prefer, but in the end they all empower a single sapient deity. How that deity appeared to each culture, how it interacted with each culture changes their view of that deity. That's what I'm getting from Max's suggestion anyway.

That's pretty much it.

It's an option, an alternative to the more-common "there's one god of X for the whole world" and "there are 67 pantheons around the world each with their own god of X".

awa
2019-07-16, 09:29 PM
In someways I hate these types of discussion because I studied a lot of mythology in college and for fun and whenever it starts going in that direction i want to jump in but, Ive already got a warning on my profile and religion is a no no on this forum. Its kinda frustrating because I wanted to jump in about that whole {Scrubbed} thing but I don't want to risk it.

Yanagi
2019-07-17, 03:09 AM
Okay, folks... here's a good discussion topic for you;

Racial languages/religions/alignments.

I personally really dislike the "homogenous" races idea which seems to be present in a lot of TTRPGs, (D&D in particular). The idea that an entire race follows the same pantheon or speaks the same language, regardless of where in the world they're from just doesn't ring very true to me. This is why the idea of "racial" anything seems very incongruous to me. I have a hard time believing that the Elves of Silverymoon and the Elves of Cormyr speak the same language, let alone worship the same pantheon or have the same cultural structure.

Throughout history, we've seen dozens of instances of similar ethnotypes or even communities deeply (and sometimes violently) divided by language, religion, or cultural mores. So why not fantasy worlds? The Forgotten Realms in particular, the only race which seems to follow any sort of "realistic" ethnic divergence are humans. Everyone else seems to just get a new subrace thrown at them for each new region discovered.

As for Alignments, I don't use them anyway... I think they're WAY too "mechanical" to reflect true morality. I think the devs themselves even realised this; adding characters like Drizzt and gods like Eilistraee to pay lip-service to "moral complexity" within the cultures. But for people who use them, do you ever have issues with the idea of an entire race having the same moral compass? Or does it just not come up?

TL;DR, I'm looking for other people's opinions of the "WizardDidIt" way in which non-human FRPG societies seem to be racially homogenous across the world. Is this something you're okay with? Do you mix it up? Take different approaches? What are they?

(Oh, and don't even get me started on the fact that there's a language called "Common" :smallsmile:)

Well, there's the possible interpretation that fantasy species, being created by divinities to specification, may have predispositions built in on a spiritual level...but generally RPG settings go out of their way to say this isn't the case, because it's kind of a creepy concept. It also kind of trite, particularly in how it creates mook species.

Another explanation for monocultures is that fantasy settings and in particular D&D "solve" a bunch of philosophical problems that lead to rifts in culture. Gods are accessible so there's less need for speculation about the "meaning" of anything, the afterlife is knowable so there's not the same kind of existential crisis. And a bunch of structural aspects of culture codified in belief and superstition like...what is the significance of marriage, what is family, what is property...will also be encoded top-down. A population that isolates itself...and in a "real" world would then potentially start to develop different beliefs or dynamics...would still be connected to the supernatural component of shared cultural knowledge.

Also--Weirdos that don't fit in either go live with humans or become adventurers. Individual vectors for societal change...well, there's basically a socially-accepted method of pushing them out. And if you are a noncomfortist, the much easier path is to leave. No seriously..."adventurer" is such a strange cross cultural phenomenon, and one dimension of that is that there's this kind of demimonde of people who think different, act different, are sort of necessary to society but are set aside from other people.

So your average person of whatever species is left with a smaller window into the world, less room to safely wonder or speculate. As a consequence, there might generally be less curiosity, and thus more cleaving to existing explanations and beliefs...plus a fear that noncompliance with the existing paradigm might get you killed or otherwise imperiled.

Actually, that last bit could be expanded on a bit. Culturally straying from fantasy race monoculture occurs within the context of there existing a physically and spiritually transformed offshoot community that are a bogeyman of doing the culture wrong, curses, and in the case of evil species risking the anger of Divine Abusive Parent. On top of which, noncomformity is occurring in the context of endless threats--to your body, mind, soul--and quite often multiple instances of inter-species warfare. The pressure to cleave to norms would be enormous.

In a sort of technically-correct way, fantasy species monocultures could be explained by races being associated with specific living conditions--elves in woods, dwarves in mountains and caves, etc--since cultural changes are at least partly a matter of how you feed yourself and survive in your environment, and when you switch methods as you move, you develop different ways of thinking, cooperating, and new vocabulary. But it's really not a very good explanation because one mountain/cave would not be identical to the next; heck, forests and mountain ranges aren't even homogeneous within a geographically-continuous swath.

One last thing to consider is that D&D fantasy worlds, because of the supernatural elements, are far more developed than the basic technology everyone lives with would suggest. Between the prolonged lifespans, recording of information, high literacy, and relative ease of travel, fantasy species' cultures tend to be very...flat...in the way that resembles the effect of globalization of culture through shared media. For example, one could read the ancient history of elven Faerun...with the dark elves and the Crown Wars and such...as a moment when there were distinct elven cultures, and in the millenia since that time the diverse elven populations are now so much more in contact that there's formed a synthetic culture.

(I don't actually like any of these answers, but these are potential explanations. I'm not going to defend them in depth. I'm actually on team "culture should be a part of world design not just tropes pulled from fantasy pastiche" but whatever)

Kaptin Keen
2019-07-17, 04:17 AM
I feel that most if not all races should be as diverse as humans. This is a lot of work - but you don't have to do all of it. Until someone goes to the neighboring continent where orc populations have built democratic societies and invented advanced metalworking, you don't need that detail.

What I feel is important is that all races feel somehow unique - and that none are the 2-dimensional crap included in the books. Trouble is making the races interesting, diverse and unique without falling into the trap of making them all slightly different shades of humans. So .. take gnolls, for instance. They are the one race I've kept fairly close to standard, savage tribesmen who roam the open plains. But I've built a lot of details about their shamanistic beliefs, the nature totems they worship, the druids who lead them, and so on. I've designed a system of markers they use in raiding and migration.

Same for belief systems, by the way. Though I usually default to telling players that there is a nigh-endless profusion of greater and lesser gods, and that they should just invent something that fits their character. The important stuff isn't having a pile of gods - not to me - but having the organisations. For instance, the Grey Guards are an order of neutral paladins who uphold the law above all else.

PhoenixPhyre
2019-07-17, 06:48 AM
My current take on the gods and racial pantheons is that there aren't racial pantheons.

There are exactly 16 true gods (those that can make clerics). The current group is the 3rd to have existed, really, and the oldest has been a god for no more than 211 years. They weren't all mortals before that, but at least 3 were. And since the gods don't depend on faith, they're not too picky about worship. They're the middle-management of the planes, specifically the complaint department. They exist to handle mortals' prayers in specific areas.

There are also a host of other beings that are commonly worshiped, propitiated, venerated, etc. who can give mortals power (mainly of the warlock variety). Some of these (Ascended Heroes, basically individuals who spring-boarded off of their legends and veneration to become ascended immortals) depend on faith for their power, but have much freer (and more limited) hand for intervention on the Mortal plane. Others (demigods) serve the true gods. Yet others (kami, mostly) are spirits on the Mortal plane that can be bargained with and have varying degrees of power. Then there are the demons, devils, and elemental princes, all of which can give power (all with different costs).

So different groups
1) may worship the same gods, but do so differently. Some focus on the whole Congregation of gods, others on subsets down to the individual. Some respect the gods but really worship/venerate/etc. kami and/or Ascended Heroes/ancestors.
2) may not worship at all. There's a group of high elves who (at least the upper class) consider all those gods/etc. to be upstarts and posers. They restrict themselves to the arcane, choosing to trust their own wizardry.
3) may choose to focus on demigods, not the "true gods". Often, a true god will sponsor a cleric who follows a demigod that serves that god, basically "hoisting" the cleric.
4) may be confused about which god they're really being empowered by. {Scrubbed} , but are really being sponsored by the God of Trickery and Practical Jokes who thought it would be funny. He's a bit of a jerk that way, really. And since none of them have access to the higher orders of magic (levels 6+ spells), there's really not a good way for them to figure this out. If they somehow planeshifted and tried to ask Her about it, She'd reject them, sure. But none of them are that powerful, so it hasn't come up.

This allows me to have a wide variety of belief systems without requiring a profusion of gods. My setting isn't infinite in extent--it's one solar system. There's not room enough in the heavens for that many gods.

Jay R
2019-07-17, 02:24 PM
I guess it's just personal taste, but I don't like worldbuilding that's distorted to the "player gaze".

I don't either, and nothing is distorted by this. I am not building large parts of the world. They aren't distorted by anything; they are simply not determined at all.

This is not significantly different from the fact that when the party enters a village, I know who the bartender is, as well as the other patrons in the bar, the smith, the person running any shops they are likely to visit, and anybody who might want to hire them, or challenge them, or steal from them. But I haven't bothered to come up with a name or story for the laundress, fishmonger, stonemason, miller, chandler, cooper, or gongfarmer.

Even if the map shows everywhere, 99% of a D&D world is never built. I don't make assumptions about that 99% that would bother me. That's all.

And all it means is that even if the goblin tribe that you deal with at levels 2-4 are evil, that says nothing about the goblins you never meet.

Anonymouswizard
2019-07-17, 05:23 PM
I feel that most if not all races should be as diverse as humans.

I'm all for monocultured humans!

I know that's not what you meant, but it might fit D&D particularly well (as can getting rid of humans, the number of times I've seen all-elf parties). If you're not looking at too large a geographic area a strict 'one culture per species' rule might actually give you diverse enough cultures.


This is a lot of work - but you don't have to do all of it. Until someone goes to the neighboring continent where orc populations have built democratic societies and invented advanced metalworking, you don't need that detail.

The other thing I've seen work really well is cutting down on the number of races. Let's leave planetouched as a 'variant X' deal, and instead of giving each race ten different subraces, let's give them three or four different cultures. So let's say we have Humans, Elves, Dwarves, and Halflings, and we want to try and give each three distinct cultures. That's twelve cultures, and if we ignore cultural traits or try to balance all cultures we can even easily represent such things as an elf raised amongst humans.

Maybe I'll work more on this in the morning. Maybe I'll just drink coffee instead.

Kaptin Keen
2019-07-18, 01:09 AM
I'm all for monocultured humans!

I know that's not what you meant, but it might fit D&D particularly well (as can getting rid of humans, the number of times I've seen all-elf parties). If you're not looking at too large a geographic area a strict 'one culture per species' rule might actually give you diverse enough cultures.

High ideals aside, the way it usually works out for me is that there are a number of human cultures (my current campaign has Madripore, ∆hrengaard and Ul-Haq as the human nations (respectively a sort of proto-New-York, Norse and Middle Eastern cultures), while the other races have one or two cultures. There would be more, I swear, if my players ever travelled to another continent. The important bit is that I feel I create more interesting races than the publishers do.


The other thing I've seen work really well is cutting down on the number of races. Let's leave planetouched as a 'variant X' deal, and instead of giving each race ten different subraces, let's give them three or four different cultures. So let's say we have Humans, Elves, Dwarves, and Halflings, and we want to try and give each three distinct cultures. That's twelve cultures, and if we ignore cultural traits or try to balance all cultures we can even easily represent such things as an elf raised amongst humans.

I generally ban players from playing 'elder races' - that is, elves and dwarves. That gives me space to create elves and dwarves I feel are actually special, with elves being hyper magical and powerful - and also mostly gone from the world, there is literally just one elf left (well, as GM I know of one more, but that's irrelevant) - and dwarves being their entirely own thing, the majority of their realms having been dug so deep and far that they're not really on the prime material plane anymore.


Maybe I'll work more on this in the morning. Maybe I'll just drink coffee instead.

I do both.

Anonymouswizard
2019-07-18, 03:44 AM
High ideals aside, the way it usually works out for me is that there are a number of human cultures (my current campaign has Madripore, ∆hrengaard and Ul-Haq as the human nations (respectively a sort of proto-New-York, Norse and Middle Eastern cultures), while the other races have one or two cultures. There would be more, I swear, if my players ever travelled to another continent. The important bit is that I feel I create more interesting races than the publishers do.

This might be a difference of style, bud I tend to find that having too many cultures is a waste of time. This might be because I tend to ruin campaigns in very small areas, day a city and it's surrounding wilderness, and any additional cultures are represented by a handful of NPCs. PCs are the authority on their own cultures, as there's a decent chance that they're outsiders (in a lower technology level game it might be a group of villages under a lord).

Traveling games can be fun, but I've found that again it's better to build more than you need. Maybe it'll be exploring every last centimetre of six star systems and trading cargo, not going to a new system each week (alternatively it might literally be a new system each week, abs my prep time is mainly spent on the system and the culture).


I generally ban players from playing 'elder races' - that is, elves and dwarves. That gives me space to create elves and dwarves I feel are actually special, with elves being hyper magical and powerful - and also mostly gone from the world, there is literally just one elf left (well, as GM I know of one more, but that's irrelevant) - and dwarves being their entirely own thing, the majority of their realms having been dug so deep and far that they're not really on the prime material plane anymore.

Hey, I'm all for banning races. I tend not to include elves anymore, because of people's tendency to charge at them as the bestest and prettiest.

You wane a nature race? I have beast folk, they tend to embrace looser, more chaotic social structures (although a significant minority are anarchists), with an animistic belief system (and belief systems are much more interesting to design than deities).


I do both.

I don't need another project :smalltongue:

Kaptin Keen
2019-07-18, 04:52 AM
This might be a difference of style, bud I tend to find that having too many cultures is a waste of time. This might be because I tend to ruin campaigns in very small areas, day a city and it's surrounding wilderness, and any additional cultures are represented by a handful of NPCs. PCs are the authority on their own cultures, as there's a decent chance that they're outsiders (in a lower technology level game it might be a group of villages under a lord).

Traveling games can be fun, but I've found that again it's better to build more than you need. Maybe it'll be exploring every last centimetre of six star systems and trading cargo, not going to a new system each week (alternatively it might literally be a new system each week, abs my prep time is mainly spent on the system and the culture).

I'm the same way - I've just been playing several games in the same homebrew world for quite a long time, and thus the few cultures needed for each game means I now have quite a few. Also, I enjoy coming up with new ones. The main point of the setting is that nature is as strong as civilization. What that means is that humankind (and any other culture for that matter) have not succesfully tamed the world. Humans control three extended city states, but otherwise, the land is largely untamed. I've been wanting to expand the reasons and dynamics of this - it's primarily because a strong group of druids are supporting the status quo, but ... well, there's more to it, and the druids can use more depth =)


Hey, I'm all for banning races. I tend not to include elves anymore, because of people's tendency to charge at them as the bestest and prettiest.

You wane a nature race? I have beast folk, they tend to embrace looser, more chaotic social structures (although a significant minority are anarchists), with an animistic belief system (and belief systems are much more interesting to design than deities).

I've been looking for a race of ... animalistic humanoids. I have one already, the harn, a race of ogre sized knuckle walkers with psionic powers. But the harn aren't particularly feral. Eh - on the drawing board, but I'm not yet happy with my ideas for them.


I don't need another project :smalltongue:

Well - I find my projects require coffee. Always. Also my non-projects.

awa
2019-07-18, 07:24 AM
Hey, I'm all for banning races. :

I agree there are to many and when you get into the extra races in all the other monster manuals and supplements you run into the fact that their is way to much overlap.

Jay R
2019-07-18, 09:30 PM
I've been looking for a race of ... animalistic humanoids. I have one already, the harn, a race of ogre sized knuckle walkers with psionic powers. But the harn aren't particularly feral. Eh - on the drawing board, but I'm not yet happy with my ideas for them.

Well, there are humans. They are clearly animal-based, and quite feral enough.

Kaptin Keen
2019-07-19, 01:10 AM
Well, there are humans. They are clearly animal-based, and quite feral enough.

Well ..... yea.

They're not quite as 'animal based' as a guy with a rams head, though, wouldn't you agree? Sure, we're basically hairless monkeys, but we don't go around mistaking monkeys for hairy humans or anything.

Also, while morals and civility are variable, we don't generally hunt prey with our claws and fangs, and we don't tear into fresh, raw kills and rip out entrails with our teeth. Not generally, at least. Actually, I always kinda liked the idea of the Eberron Shifter race - in theory, though how they were implemented was pretty awful.

Xalyz
2019-07-19, 02:20 AM
When making my world, I made part of the character creator a choice of region of origin. Also I made my races basically human. For example instead of elves I put in humans with fey descent. If anyone is interested on hearing more, I can go into more detail tomorrow.

Bohandas
2019-07-21, 01:36 PM
Okay, folks... here's a good discussion topic for you;

Racial languages/religions/alignments.

I personally really dislike the "homogenous" races idea which seems to be present in a lot of TTRPGs, (D&D in particular). The idea that an entire race follows the same pantheon or speaks the same language, regardless of where in the world they're from just doesn't ring very true to me. This is why the idea of "racial" anything seems very incongruous to me. I have a hard time believing that the Elves of Silverymoon and the Elves of Cormyr speak the same language, let alone worship the same pantheon or have the same cultural structure.

I've got the opposite problem. I have a hard time believing that in many settings humans, even on the same continent, worship so many different gods. It gets especially sketchy when there's multiple different, demonstrably real, established, non-upstart, non-usurping gods all allegedly in charge of the entire sun

EDIT:
Elves also live very long time. Each millenium of cultural separation is only 8 or 9 generations, and thus to them something that happened 1000 years ago would not seem outright ancient to them, but rather would be more like how we would view something that hapoened between the american revolution and the civil war, and even something that happened 10000 years ago would only seem as ancient as Rome

EDIT:
Plus it's likely that many elven communities are seperate creations, so each would inherit its lanbuage directly from corellon

Bigmouth
2019-07-22, 02:32 PM
Not to get sidetracked by the whole deity discussion (too late), but...

If the argument for gods not being a force for homogenization is that they just don't care how you worship them, what exactly is the worship transaction? Do the gods get anything out of being worshipped. Does having clerics benefit them in any way? Why would they give their power to clerics who have completely different agendas?

If Orange Juice the Destroyer, God of War, CE, "Kill em all and let the other gods sort em out" is the same as Jellybean, God of War and Defender of all that is good, LG... What exactly is the bit of unnamed worship OJ/JB is getting? It's not the name, since the name doesn't matter, nor do the methods. So is it the physical act of being involved in war? If that's the case, why even have clerics? Why would OJ/JB not eradicate the JB clerics, who might be encouraging peace when possible (and sweet strawberry flavored holy war only when needed). Does the fighting of a war only count if you are singing OJ/JB's praises? If that's all that matters, why would OB/JB let his/her/its message get muddied when he/she/it talks to his/her/its clerics? She could at anytime tell all of her clerics, "Actually guys, my name is Wanda Warcraft and I don't care what you do as long as you holla "Wanda!" when you are killing stuff. Oh, and kill stuff as often as possible.

Are these real gods with real power? Did the god exist before its worshippers? Or are these 'gods' created by worship? Did the god exist, give some power to people it liked and from that a religion was sparked, or did a religion start and when it got big enough it created its god? Normally in fantasy settings its the former. So why let people call you the wrong name? When they were learning language in the beginning you would have been there.

If the god Lemon actually created the Lemonade people, why couldn't alignment and religion be hard coded into them?

Max_Killjoy
2019-07-22, 02:41 PM
Not to get sidetracked by the whole deity discussion (too late), but...

If the argument for gods not being a force for homogenization is that they just don't care how you worship them, what exactly is the worship transaction? Do the gods get anything out of being worshipped. Does having clerics benefit them in any way? Why would they give their power to clerics who have completely different agendas?

If Orange Juice the Destroyer, God of War, CE, "Kill em all and let the other gods sort em out" is the same as Jellybean, God of War and Defender of all that is good, LG... What exactly is the bit of unnamed worship OJ/JB is getting? It's not the name, since the name doesn't matter, nor do the methods. So is it the physical act of being involved in war? If that's the case, why even have clerics? Why would OJ/JB not eradicate the JB clerics, who might be encouraging peace when possible (and sweet strawberry flavored holy war only when needed). Does the fighting of a war only count if you are singing OJ/JB's praises? If that's all that matters, why would OB/JB let his/her/its message get muddied when he/she/it talks to his/her/its clerics? She could at anytime tell all of her clerics, "Actually guys, my name is Wanda Warcraft and I don't care what you do as long as you holla "Wanda!" when you are killing stuff. Oh, and kill stuff as often as possible.

Are these real gods with real power? Did the god exist before its worshippers? Or are these 'gods' created by worship? Did the god exist, give some power to people it liked and from that a religion was sparked, or did a religion start and when it got big enough it created its god? Normally in fantasy settings its the former. So why let people call you the wrong name? When they were learning language in the beginning you would have been there.

If the god Lemon actually created the Lemonade people, why couldn't alignment and religion be hard coded into them?


This is one of the reasons I don't agree with gods having alignments... the deity of war doesn't care about good or evil, they care about war.

PairO'Dice Lost
2019-07-22, 04:22 PM
If the argument for gods not being a force for homogenization is that they just don't care how you worship them, what exactly is the worship transaction? Do the gods get anything out of being worshipped. Does having clerics benefit them in any way? Why would they give their power to clerics who have completely different agendas?
[...]
Are these real gods with real power? Did the god exist before its worshippers? Or are these 'gods' created by worship? Did the god exist, give some power to people it liked and from that a religion was sparked, or did a religion start and when it got big enough it created its god? Normally in fantasy settings its the former. So why let people call you the wrong name? When they were learning language in the beginning you would have been there.

All that is entirely setting-dependent. In Planescape, the gods arose after "creatures" as a group existed, but the modern (demi)human(oid) races were created by the gods, and the gods like worship but don't need it. In FR, the gods did come first and created everything, but Ao retrofitted a "gods need prayer badly" setup (https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/GodsNeedPrayerBadly) (warning, TVTropes) onto the pantheon after they neglected their worshipers for too long. In Dragonlance, the gods were created by a higher god and created mortals in turn, and they want worship but can survive just fine without it (as they did between the Cataclysm and the rediscovery of the Disks of Mishakal). In Eberron, the answer to every question is "???" because they aren't even definitively known to exist, and it's entirely possible that new gods are created by worship given that you can channel divine power with any sufficiently strong belief. And so on.

Taking all the settings as a whole, though (including the implicit default setting derived from fluff snippets in the PHB and DMG), the "worship under the wrong name and/or dogma" approach doesn't seem to be the case in any setting where the gods definitely exist. The closest that comes to that is FR, but in that case worshiping Orange Juice the Destroyer under the name of "Jelly Bean the Defender" is likely to split off an aspect of OJ named JB, create a new demigod by the name of JB, and so forth, or if JB already exists OJ can spread the dogma that they're the same to steal worship from JB and eventually steal JB's divine power entirely; taking on a different name is something prompted by the god, not its worshipers, and is a deliberate strategy for spreading and accumulating mortal worship rather than an "Eh, I'm fine with either name" situation.


This is one of the reasons I don't agree with gods having alignments... the deity of war doesn't care about good or evil, they care about war.

Assuming you have just one god of war, of course. As in Bigmouth's example, you can have multiple gods of war that are more properly gods of combat, strategy, competition, conquest, defense, or similar, and the same for other portfolios (Boccob/Mystra, god of magic vs. Wee Jas, goddess of death and magic vs. Velsharoon, god of necromancy vs. Azuth, god of wizards vs. ...), and in many such cases giving those gods alignments makes sense, either to lean into a theme/trope (Licorice the God of Invasion and Conquest is a stereotypical scary-dude-in-black-spiked-armor kind of god, and fits squarely into the LE box) or to subvert it (gods of death are usually portrayed as either "necessary fact of life" Neutral or "spooky grim reaper" Evil, so making a "you only live once, make the most of it, and go out with a bang!" CG death god makes for a nice change of pace).

If you do have singular gods of War or Civilization or Nature or other Big Capitalized Concepts, then yes, those tend to make more sense as neutral because they would encompass multiple alignment stereotypes. When making my own pantheons, I tend to like to have those singular gods be more distant, Neutral figures and then give them all a handful of more meddlesome, strongly-aligned intermediary demigods to act on their behalf in various context.

Anonymouswizard
2019-07-22, 05:31 PM
This is one of the reasons I don't agree with gods having alignments... the deity of war doesn't care about good or evil, they care about war.

Or we could not have the existence of the gods be definitive one way or another. I feel this works especially well in 5e, by removing the Arcane/Divine divide the core book includes three ideal classes for spellcasting priests (Cleric, Druid, and Warlock), and most spellcasting classes can manage it.

On the other hand, I do like settings where the gods exist, but are relatively silent and religions can split into multiple sects, or other religions without spellcasting priests can exist alongside them. You just need to either explain why our make it all appropriately mythical.

Luccan
2019-07-22, 07:57 PM
This is one of the reasons I don't agree with gods having alignments... the deity of war doesn't care about good or evil, they care about war.

So they'd be neutral (not caring for good and evil, inspiring their followers with cunning strategies and tactics or guiding a warrior's blade in battle) or evil (not caring for good and evil, but wanting more war which leads to more death and destruction, definitely evil by D&D standards).

Edit: I realize this would make many gods from IRL pantheons that get used as good deities in D&D neutral or evil if their actual mythology was considered and... yeah, it would. Lots of them were jerks.

Particle_Man
2019-07-22, 08:12 PM
Well you as dm can always cut down on gods. I only one of the pantheons in the back of the fifth edition dungeons and dragons players handbook (and one language) and there just ainít any other gods or languages. Because itís easier. My players find it amusing since they have time travelled to the past, met time travellers from the future, met extra planar entities . . . and all speak the same language. :smallbiggrin:

jdizzlean
2019-07-23, 10:39 AM
The Mod Life Crisis: NUDGE: Any discussion involving religion on these boards can only contain material that is purely fantasy in origin. Do Not discuss real world religions no matter how long ago they existed. Please stay on topic to prevent this thread from being closed.

Mark Hall
2019-07-23, 12:56 PM
This is one of the reasons I don't agree with gods having alignments... the deity of war doesn't care about good or evil, they care about war.

I disagree, as this assumes that the "deity of war" is an anthropomorphization of the concept of war, not an individual for whom war is a particular interest, skill set, or even job.

Consider one of the best-known cases: Mystra. In 1e, Mystra was a LN deity of magic. She didn't care what you did with the magic, just so long as you followed her rules for using it. During the Time of Troubles, she died, and her essence was absorbed by Midnight, a NG human who, eventually, took on the mantle of Mystra, the deity of magic.

Because Midnight/Mystra was an individual who, essentially, was given the job "God of Magic" by Ao, how she approached that job was filtered, not simply through "magic is what I do", but also through her personal beliefs... to the point where she had to be talked out of preventing magic use by evil people.

Gods don't have alignments only if they are primal forces of nature, not individuals who have thoughts and feelings and jobs as deities of a given portfolio.

Bohandas
2019-07-23, 03:56 PM
edit:redacted

Max_Killjoy
2019-07-23, 05:54 PM
I disagree, as this assumes that the "deity of war" is an anthropomorphization of the concept of war, not an individual for whom war is a particular interest, skill set, or even job.

Consider one of the best-known cases: Mystra. In 1e, Mystra was a LN deity of magic. She didn't care what you did with the magic, just so long as you followed her rules for using it. During the Time of Troubles, she died, and her essence was absorbed by Midnight, a NG human who, eventually, took on the mantle of Mystra, the deity of magic.

Because Midnight/Mystra was an individual who, essentially, was given the job "God of Magic" by Ao, how she approached that job was filtered, not simply through "magic is what I do", but also through her personal beliefs... to the point where she had to be talked out of preventing magic use by evil people.

Gods don't have alignments only if they are primal forces of nature, not individuals who have thoughts and feelings and jobs as deities of a given portfolio.


I view an entity being "the god" of something a bit like an entity with existential monomania regarding that thing -- it becomes the central axis of their thought process and being. They master it, but it somewhat masters them as well. To become a deity is to become something of a force of nature, a fundamental force of reality.

But I don't think the people who wrote those tales of the Forgotten Realms really looked at it that way -- Midnight was a mortal who was gifted with the domain while retaining her essential self.

PhoenixPhyre
2019-07-23, 06:13 PM
I view an entity being "the god" of something a bit like an entity with existential monomania regarding that thing -- it becomes the central axis of their thought process and being. They master it, but it somewhat masters them as well.

But I don't think the people who wrote those tales of the Forgotten Realms really looked at it that way -- Midnight was a mortal who was gifted with the domain while retaining her essential self.

I'd say that most people I've played with take the second view toward the fictional gods. Their domains represent their area of power, but they're not so laser focused on one thing. They're people, just with more power. For example, the various FR gods of death have been massively different from each other in personality.

My setting's gods follow the second model explicitly--they're former mortals[1] who were "promoted" to be the universe's middle-management. Specifically, the complaints department. So Tor Elan, the "sun god", is more properly the god responsible for managing mortal relationships when it comes to the sun, or any of his other domains (honorable battle and summer, primarily). He's got his own personality and his own schemes[2], and that's what his clerics are for. Not for creating more "sun" (however that would work) or more honorable battle (although they are called to preside over battles and train for war), but to carry out his designs on the mortal plane. And to be there to answer prayers for others when necessary. Despite being a "good" god (supporting all the nice, honorable things everyone likes), he gets along fine with a lot of the "evil" gods because they have compatible goals. Heck, he's a confederate of the Hollow King, god of assassination (and premature death and ultimate justice), while his fellow seasonal god, Loran Hae, god of Autumn and the Moon (and hard work) is one of his more common antagonists despite also being a "good" god.

[1] mostly, although it's not clear who some of them were before they ascended.
[2] he, in particular, is a conservative--he wants the gods to take a hands-off approach to mortals except to suppress any who get too powerful. Basically, he's a follower of the status quo. Rather stuffy and self-righteous, and doesn't have much of a sense of humor. He and Pinwheel, the God of Practical (and Impractical) Jokes (among other things) really don't get along. Loran Hae is an arch progressive, who wants to mold mortals into a "better way" by actively intervening and guiding through their clergy.

Mark Hall
2019-07-23, 06:18 PM
I view an entity being "the god" of something a bit like an entity with existential monomania regarding that thing -- it becomes the central axis of their thought process and being. They master it, but it somewhat masters them as well. To become a deity is to become something of a force of nature, a fundamental force of reality.

But I don't think the people who wrote those tales of the Forgotten Realms really looked at it that way -- Midnight was a mortal who was gifted with the domain while retaining her essential self.

You sure you're not an Athar (https://dungeonsdragons.fandom.com/wiki/The_Athar)? :smallbiggrin:

Max_Killjoy
2019-07-23, 06:27 PM
You sure you're not an Athar (https://dungeonsdragons.fandom.com/wiki/The_Athar)? :smallbiggrin:

Living in that setting, I might be.

Xuc Xac
2019-07-23, 10:43 PM
I view an entity being "the god" of something a bit like an entity with existential monomania regarding that thing -- it becomes the central axis of their thought process and being. They master it, but it somewhat masters them as well. To become a deity is to become something of a force of nature, a fundamental force of reality.

But I don't think the people who wrote those tales of the Forgotten Realms really looked at it that way -- Midnight was a mortal who was gifted with the domain while retaining her essential self.

What about the (totally fictional) Olympian pantheon portrayed in Greek literature? Poseidon is the god the sea and earthquakes and horses. That's hardly laser focused on one thing (unless that one thing is "stuff that makes a loud rumbling noise that shakes the ground"). Apollo is the god of prophecy, archery, music, poetry, the sun, and both curing and spreading diseases. Hermes was the god of messengers, magic, hobos, thieves, and nightwatchmen who guarded against hobos and thieves. In the immortal words of the Blue Raja, "There's no theme at all here!"

Not all gods are the personification of an abstract concept or field of endeavor. In a lot of pantheons, the gods are just really powerful beings who have particular hobbies and interests. Ares doesn't personify War: he's just a really strong and violent thug who likes fighting so he's always there whenever there's a battle. In ancient Greek literature, he shows up less as a super soldier and more often as the muscular jock who gets a lot of chicks because he's hot, but also gets punked constantly by the other gods because he's really dumb. (Seriously, in D&D, he's the god of War. In Greek literature, he has a lot of battle participation ribbons for fighting on the losing side a lot, but he has a long list of girlfriends and baby mommas.)

A lot of pantheons are less like a list of D&D domains and more like a superhero team. Instead of "The God of Smithing, who is Craftsmanship Incarnate (with Fire, Artifice, and Metal spells)", you have something more like "Tony Stark, super genius at all things technical (who also likes driving fast cars, partying with supermodels, and getting sloppy, falling-down drunk)".

Bohandas
2019-07-24, 09:35 AM
Is Thor really the god of thunder if he's only the god of the thunder between [redacted] and [redacted]? Doesn't the rest of the planet have thunder too?

storm gods are a bad example. A storm doesn't cover the whole world, and different areas have different types and frequencies of storms. Different storm gods are a good fantasy representation of this. One storm god may like thunder and lightning, another may be more big onmdriving rain, a third might fancy tornados

Jay R
2019-07-27, 09:46 AM
Here's how I handled it in my latest game. One cleric took advantage of the flexibility by becoming a priestess of Athena, able to use a short sword (since Athena is always shown with one).

There are two gods called together The Uncreated. Separately, they are The Lord and The Lady, and nothing is known about them.

Their first children were the sun, the earth, the oceans, and the winds. These four are either the creators of our world, or the stuff of which it was created - it's not clear which. They are, of course, the essence of the four earthly elements, the embodiment of the elemental planes, and the structure of the world. There is a fifth one, representing the quintessence, but since that cannot exist on our changeable and imperfect world, he/she has no influence here.

They have an abundance of names. The Sun God, for instance, is known as Apollo, Aten, Ra, Tonatiuh, Surya, Helios and many others. Similarly, every earth goddess is known to be the true earth, born of The Lord and The Lady - even those with known other parents, or those with no parents, like Gaea. Attempts to question the logic of this are met with the sacred chant, "Hakuna heigh-ho fragilistic bibbidy chim-cheree," which has been variously translated as, "It is not wise to question these mysteries, which are beyond the knowledge of our world," or "Die, you heathen scum, die!" In practice, there is no significant difference between the two translations.

The children/creations of these four are the only gods who will answer prayers or interact with the world directly. They include all the pantheons that have ever existed.

Except Lovecraft.

The Lord and The Lady have been identified as the embodiments of Good and Evil, or Law and Chaos, or Male and Female, or Light and Darkness, or any other opposing concepts.

Wars have been fought between those who believe they represent Good and Evil, and those who insist on Law and Chaos.

Wars have been fought between those who believe The Lord and The Lady hate each other with a hatred surpassing any passion on earth, and those who believe that they love each other with a love more true than any mortal could ever know.

Wars have been fought between those who know beyond all doubt that The Lord is Good and The Lady is Evil, and those who know beyond all doubt that The Lord is Evil and The Lady is Good.

All of the above will be available knowledge to the players. Here is what they will not know.

No arcane or divine magic will successfully find out any fact about The Lord and The Lady. I have three answers, all completely true, and mutually incompatible.

1. The Lord is Fate, and The Lady is Luck. Neither can exist without the other, and each action in the world, from a sneeze to the fall of an empire, is a victory of one of them over the other.
2. They are Yin and Yang, and the heart of each beats in the breast of the other. They represent complementary, not opposing, forces. Each is in fact all of the universe except the other, but neither one represents any specific principle (not even male and female), and whichever one represents goodness in one situation might be the evil in another. Together, they represent wholeness and balance
3. They are the Creators - the mother and father of the world, which they birthed and/or created for some great purpose which is not yet fulfilled.

No mortal can comprehend the true nature of any god. Therefore the image, history, and culture of any god are the simple stories people tell themselves about the gods, to comfort themselves into believing they know something.

Do you believe that your god is a Norse, hammer-throwing warlike thunder god with a red beard? Then that's what you see in your visualizations, and those are the aspects that your god shows to you.

So do you create the gods by your belief, or does the god who most closely resembles your belief respond to your prayers in the form you expect, or are they merely your own hallucinations that always occur as a side effect when invoking divine magic? One wise sage, Chicxulub the Philosophical, actually asked this question. He is said to have discovered the true answer after sixty years of study, prayer, and meditation, on March 23, in the year 643.

Incidentally, the largest impact crater ever discovered is the Chicxulub crater, which appeared on March 23, in the year 643. (Many have entered this crater to explore it. None have returned.)

Oh yes, and the fifth child of The Lord and The Lady, representing the Fifth Element? It turns out that he's not the stuff of the heavens, but of the hells. His children and descendants are all the demons, devils, and daemons. His creations are the evil spirits of the underworld. No, he's not out to conquer the world or destroy it or anything of that sort. He just likes to see war, strife, and pain.

darkrose50
2019-07-31, 10:34 AM
There could be an artifact that allows each race to have a racial language. Perhaps it was created to foster peace. A huge table with a seat for each race that allows everyone to communicate, but the artifact has the side-effect of giving each race one language that they each understand. Perhaps in theory this was in order to unite each race with one voice. The other languages spoken by each cultural group just fell to the side as it was more practical to spend time and effort learning other things.

Psyren
2019-08-04, 08:12 PM
I personally really dislike the "homogenous" races idea which seems to be present in a lot of TTRPGs, (D&D in particular). The idea that an entire race follows the same pantheon or speaks the same language, regardless of where in the world they're from just doesn't ring very true to me. This is why the idea of "racial" anything seems very incongruous to me. I have a hard time believing that the Elves of Silverymoon and the Elves of Cormyr speak the same language, let alone worship the same pantheon or have the same cultural structure.


I understand the disconnect, but you're missing the biggest difference between races of our world and races in most fantasy worlds - i.e. the latter know empirically who created them, and in most cases they even know why. I'll steer clear of real-world religion, but that difference does explain why religion in D&D settings would be as uniform as it is. All elves know that Corellon created them for example, and if they would ever somehow forget that fact, he's got plenty of clerics around to remind them, with the proof of that connection being in the powers he grants them.

The other thing you're missing is that D&D faith isn't quite as homogenous as you believe. Several gods do have different names, or are worshiped in different ways depending on location, in many settings. In addition, some gods that are thought to be separate entities by the world at large can end up just being aspects of each other, such as Sehanine Moonbow and Selune being revealed to be the same entity in 4e.



As for Alignments, I don't use them anyway... I think they're WAY too "mechanical" to reflect true morality. I think the devs themselves even realised this; adding characters like Drizzt and gods like Eilistraee to pay lip-service to "moral complexity" within the cultures. But for people who use them, do you ever have issues with the idea of an entire race having the same moral compass? Or does it just not come up?

I find it a bit ironic that you use those two as counterexamples to the alignment system when they fit so explicitly within it. In addition to having clearly defined alignments of their own, both of those characters just serve to highlight the "Usually" aspect of racial alignments. Drow tend to share a certain alignment, and Drizz't is simply a prominent being who does not, while Eilistraee represents an easy way to explain others following in his footsteps. (Note that she isn't actually his patron either, he follows Mielikki.)



TL;DR, I'm looking for other people's opinions of the "WizardDidIt" way in which non-human FRPG societies seem to be racially homogenous across the world. Is this something you're okay with? Do you mix it up? Take different approaches? What are they?

(Oh, and don't even get me started on the fact that there's a language called "Common" :smallsmile:)

For the reasons above, yes, I'm okay with it.

As for Common - that's more a gameplay/setting convenience than anything else. Without it, you'd probably need translation magic to get any large-scale trading accomplished, and both the players and DM would need to keep painstaking track of who speaks what language (both among the PCs and NPCs) a lot of the time. And even if you have all the necessary languages covered in the party, now you have to worry about what happens if a key player can't make it that day, grinding the campaign to a halt.

Bohandas
2019-08-05, 12:33 PM
I would find it implausible if the elves didn't all share some variant of the same religion, given that they were all created by Corellon Larethian. This same factor contributes to shared language and culture. Conversely, I find it implausible for the various local deities of given areas to be as powerful as they are given that thay have such limited followings and are often in competition with other deities for rulership of natural processes, celestial bodies, and other portfolio elements (I'm thinking that maybe a lot of the seemingly localized pantheons have more solid followings on other worlds, where their control of, for instance, the sun, is unambiguous)


As for different beings having the same range of cultural variation as humans. In addition to the factors listed above, it is inconceivable that a phylogenetically creature with different sensory apparatus, sleep patterns, etc would have the same umwelt and psychology as a human. So even of they had the same range of cultural variation it wouldn't vary around the same center (and thus from our prespective would appear strongly biased in a certain direction)

Mark Hall
2019-08-05, 01:05 PM
One argument for races being somewhat homogeneous is, of course, that they're frequently acts of special creation, if not the outright blood of the god. Elves are, according to one legend (in Monster Mythology (https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/16895/DMGR4-Monster-Mythology-2e?affiliate_id=315505)), the shed blood of Corellon, and every orc is the blood of Gruumsh. Even as generations go down, that's going to be a powerful influence on their culture and morality... in a sense, every elf is an Aasimaar, every orc is a tiefling.