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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default What if Generic Medieval European Fantasy was brave enough to commit to it?

    I'm proposing, here, a setting in which you can play as, say, a brave Frankish knight, a holy crusader in service of Lord Pelor, fighting back the Norman scourge. And the Normans/Vikings are Orcs, because Viking Orcs is simultaneously very obvious and yet something I've never seen anyone do.

    For the most part, the fantasy races are pretty well spread-out and intermingled without regard for national border, because it's usually a bit uncomfortable to point at someone's real world nationality and say "You? You're not human." The Fantasy Scandinavians aren't all Orcs, and neither are all of the Viking Raiders they send out; it's just that they happen to have a larger Orcish population than the norm, and the raiding parties generally compose mostly of Orcs, because Orcs have inborn talents that lend themselves well to killing people and taking their stuff. So yes, "Orcish Viking" is a stereotype and it's a stereotype for a very good reason, but if you wanna play as an Elven Skald or a Dwarfish Shieldmaiden or whatever, that's completely fair game.

    As for running a game in this setting, I'd say you start with a historical war or something like that which interests you, do some research on it and discuss with everyone else what parts of this war they wanna focus on, and then feel completely free to totally ignore the entire historical record after your campaign starts, because what's the point of being a Frankish knight fighting Vikings if the DM says no matter what you do, the Vikings conquer Normandy, and you either roll over and accept it or you somehow end up dying in the mud.

    As a side note, I strongly recommend playing this sort of game with the E6 ruleset if you want to be a knight fighting vikings, and playing with normal D&D rules if you think it'd be funnier to have a Blastificer Empowered Maximized Chained Lightning Bolt the Viking Fleet or whatever.



    So, what do y'all think?

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    Default Re: What if Generic Medieval European Fantasy was brave enough to commit to it?

    That would all be fine - if you have a player base who are all happy to buy into it.
    The social expectations, sensitivities, and maturity of all concerned is a big determiner in the success, or horrible failure of such a setting.

    Now that's out of the way...

    I love this idea.
    This is sort of a thing that I'm looking to make myself - but without the common fantasy races. I want an almost exclusively human setting, with only a very few monstrous creatures, and even fewer humanoid PC "races".

    I get where you're coming from - the fantasy races are more or less common around the setting, so they appear more or less frequently in given populations. It's a decent way of allowing diversity of PC species choice, without sinking into the "all elves are French" silliness that can arise from such an idea.

    I'd be happy to play in this setting.

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    Default Re: What if Generic Medieval European Fantasy was brave enough to commit to it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Altair_the_Vexed View Post
    That would all be fine - if you have a player base who are all happy to buy into it.
    The social expectations, sensitivities, and maturity of all concerned is a big determiner in the success, or horrible failure of such a setting.
    Well, obviously. Left unspoken in pretty much every RPG brief is "Step Zero: Convince your friends to play along with this." My suggestion for getting player buy-in is telling them "Y'know Rollo the Walker, the first Duke of Normandy? Yeah he's a 6th level Orc Barbarian, and he's the final boss of this campaign. You in?"
    Quote Originally Posted by Altair_the_Vexed View Post
    I love this idea.
    This is sort of a thing that I'm looking to make myself - but without the common fantasy races. I want an almost exclusively human setting, with only a very few monstrous creatures, and even fewer humanoid PC "races".

    I get where you're coming from - the fantasy races are more or less common around the setting, so they appear more or less frequently in given populations. It's a decent way of allowing diversity of PC species choice, without sinking into the "all elves are French" silliness that can arise from such an idea.

    I'd be happy to play in this setting.
    Yeah, what I'm going for here is to lean a bit more into the fact that we're using the D&D ruleset for this setting. D&D, in my opinion, has always been at its peak when it was indulging in some twee shenanigans. I mentioned a high-level Wizard doing horrible things to the fleet, and I didn't mention it to be mean or anything. I mentioned it because I firmly believe that's a perfectly valid and fun way to play D&D in a historical setting. You want accuracy, go read a textbook. This is D&D, I'm a Wizard, and I cast Disintegrate on the gates of Constantinople.

    (Incidentally, this is why I recommended using E6; if you want to play with history, you're probably also going to want to play with rules that let you try the stuff you read in the history books without feeling like you're wasting your time. Laying siege to a city or castle feels more meaningful and impactful if even a 6th level Cleric of Elemental Earth can't blow all their Stone Shapes in one go to put a breach in the wall. It's fine if you don't want that, but I think it's reasonable to assume you do.)
    Last edited by HorizonWalker; 2019-07-15 at 10:24 AM.

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    Default Re: What if Generic Medieval European Fantasy was brave enough to commit to it?

    I'd say it's a great idea.

    Kick around the idea that the demi-humans and humanoid races are actually humans with different backgrounds, so elves may be archers and woodsmen from low-population frontier regions, orcs human commoners from war-torn regions, dwarves sappers from trained military forces, hobgoblins mercenary soldiers, goblins human bandits, and so on.

    Let their various bonuses and penalties apply without describing them as anything but human. So instead of a kobold attack, the PCs encounter wretched, lice-infested commoners equipped with weapons scavenged from a battlefield who are desperate enough to attack armed men in the hopes of a quick death or enough coin to buy something to eat. They prefer to use traps and they live and hide in caves behind prepared defenses.

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    Default Re: What if Generic Medieval European Fantasy was brave enough to commit to it?

    Quote Originally Posted by brian 333 View Post
    I'd say it's a great idea.

    Kick around the idea that the demi-humans and humanoid races are actually humans with different backgrounds, so elves may be archers and woodsmen from low-population frontier regions, orcs human commoners from war-torn regions, dwarves sappers from trained military forces, hobgoblins mercenary soldiers, goblins human bandits, and so on.

    Let their various bonuses and penalties apply without describing them as anything but human. So instead of a kobold attack, the PCs encounter wretched, lice-infested commoners equipped with weapons scavenged from a battlefield who are desperate enough to attack armed men in the hopes of a quick death or enough coin to buy something to eat. They prefer to use traps and they live and hide in caves behind prepared defenses.
    I went halfway down that road with the setting you've been contributing the great story bits for. With one exception, the known Peoples are just human cultures / ethnic groupsl, or an interfertile subscpecies in one case.

    There's a strong argument to be made for alternative-to-standard of dropping or mostly dropping the different species thing, and concentrating on the cultural aspects.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

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    Default Re: What if Generic Medieval European Fantasy was brave enough to commit to it?

    If you’re willing to go even further into homebrew, how about a Latin/Germanic divide?

    Medieval Europe can be VERY roughly thought of as having a “Latin” South and a Scandinavian-Germanic North. D&D’s fantasy aesthetic draws in a large part from the Latin Matters of France and England (courtly tales of knights, monsters and enchanters) while the races of elves and dwarves are more from the North (where Tolkien derived them).

    It would be neat if a similar divide was represented in your world. Sail the Northern coasts and you will meet elves and dwarves galore. Head down into French and Italian territory though, and you start running into the creatures they believed in. Skiapod’s race alongside cavalry while Panotti merchants wrap their ears around their bodies like cloaks. Everywhere are wonders straight out of Pliny.

    If interested, I highly recommend the book “Baudolino” for more ideas on creatures and medieval legends.

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    Default Re: What if Generic Medieval European Fantasy was brave enough to commit to it?

    Two major points I'd like to make.

    One, I'd like to reiterate that I strongly discourage painting D&D races and real-world cultures as analogous. However, I'd also like to make the case against refluffing the different races as just slight variations on humans, influenced by background. D&D is fantasy, and you really can just have orcs, elves, and dwarves in fantasy without having to explain why. This is a world where magic is real, you don't have to say "oh well of COURSE they're not ACTUALLY orcs, they're just particularly strong and uneducated humans!" That's a copout, and while of course you're not required to have non-humans in your game, I strongly urge you to consider why you're trying to cut out the non-humans, and be willing to have a slightly silly and/or fantastical setting. Let the guy playing an Orc play as an actual Orc, not just a weirdly buff human who lived in the woods for a while.

    Two, I'd also like to make clear that I don't mean a fantasy setting that draws more direct inspiration from european folklore that isn't already in D&D. I mean a fantasy setting where you're directly playing out specific events and such from real-world history, except in D&D. The core experience here isn't fighting a Spanish Pixie or whatever, it's fighting Rollo the Walker, first Duke of Normandy, except he's a high level Ogre Barbarian.

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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: What if Generic Medieval European Fantasy was brave enough to commit to it?

    Quote Originally Posted by HorizonWalker View Post
    I'm proposing, here, a setting in which you can play as, say, a brave Frankish knight, a holy crusader in service of Lord Pelor, fighting back the Norman scourge. And the Normans/Vikings are Orcs, because Viking Orcs is simultaneously very obvious and yet something I've never seen anyone do.

    For the most part, the fantasy races are pretty well spread-out and intermingled without regard for national border, because it's usually a bit uncomfortable to point at someone's real world nationality and say "You? You're not human." The Fantasy Scandinavians aren't all Orcs, and neither are all of the Viking Raiders they send out; it's just that they happen to have a larger Orcish population than the norm, and the raiding parties generally compose mostly of Orcs, because Orcs have inborn talents that lend themselves well to killing people and taking their stuff. So yes, "Orcish Viking" is a stereotype and it's a stereotype for a very good reason, but if you wanna play as an Elven Skald or a Dwarfish Shieldmaiden or whatever, that's completely fair game.

    As for running a game in this setting, I'd say you start with a historical war or something like that which interests you, do some research on it and discuss with everyone else what parts of this war they wanna focus on, and then feel completely free to totally ignore the entire historical record after your campaign starts, because what's the point of being a Frankish knight fighting Vikings if the DM says no matter what you do, the Vikings conquer Normandy, and you either roll over and accept it or you somehow end up dying in the mud.

    As a side note, I strongly recommend playing this sort of game with the E6 ruleset if you want to be a knight fighting vikings, and playing with normal D&D rules if you think it'd be funnier to have a Blastificer Empowered Maximized Chained Lightning Bolt the Viking Fleet or whatever.



    So, what do y'all think?
    What do you need orcs for? Human Vikings can be vicious and brutal and just as much of a challenge for player characters as orcs. If you want a semi-historical D&D game setting, here is what I would do. About 90% of all surface dwellers are human. Anyone other than a human is rare on the surface. Orcs and other goblinoids tend to remain underground during the day and only come out to do their raiding at night. Orcs do not like Viking longships, they don't like sea travel at all, the main reason is their eyes are adapted to darkness, and daylight hurts their eyes and they fight at a disadvantage during the day. If they are out on a boat or ship they must go below deck during the day, and if they are below deck, there is no one to man the sails so their ships would be vulnerable. If orcs go out on boats they only go on short excursions, so they can get back to their caves before the sun rises.

    Elves are a reclusive race, they tend to stay away from areas settled by humans and in Europe, that means they stay away from towns, villages, farms and especially cities, they live in wilderness areas, typically in mountain valleys and wild forests far away from human settlements.

    Dwarfs live in mountains and hills, particularly in underground mines, they tend to shun human settlements as well.

    Gnomes are reclusive as well, they live in forests in their own communities.

    Halflings live in rural communities on the fringes of human civilization, while some of them live in human cities pretending to be children and live most often by stealing things.

    Giants live in remote areas, Dragons live in remote areas. In the oceans there are kingdoms of merpeople, these are descendants of the legendary lost civilization of Atlantis.

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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: What if Generic Medieval European Fantasy was brave enough to commit to it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Altair_the_Vexed View Post
    That would all be fine - if you have a player base who are all happy to buy into it.
    The social expectations, sensitivities, and maturity of all concerned is a big determiner in the success, or horrible failure of such a setting.

    Now that's out of the way...

    I love this idea.
    This is sort of a thing that I'm looking to make myself - but without the common fantasy races. I want an almost exclusively human setting, with only a very few monstrous creatures, and even fewer humanoid PC "races".

    I get where you're coming from - the fantasy races are more or less common around the setting, so they appear more or less frequently in given populations. It's a decent way of allowing diversity of PC species choice, without sinking into the "all elves are French" silliness that can arise from such an idea.

    I'd be happy to play in this setting.
    You could include a standard Underdark in a Fantasy Europe campaign, the humanoids and other things usually stay underground, but occasionally go above ground to raid human villages in the dark of night, that is what I would do. In a European style campaign it is usually humans versus humans, some humans can use magic, come are clerics, some are wizards or sorcerers. Magic use is rare, and cannot easily be taught to others, and of course the Church frowns on it. A chosen few of the clergy can cast spells and are of the cleric class, those people are referred to as saints, they can work miracles, but are usually not recognized as saints by the church until after they die. People who can work magic are often hunted down by the church before they rise to a high enough level where they can properly defend themselves with their magic. Magic is often associated with witchcraft, and there are true witches as well, but most of the people burned as witches are not really witches, and most real witches are wily enough not to get caught by the church authorities, so there is some doubt as to whether witches really exist. Some witches are evil, and some witches are actually hags as listed in the moster manual, but other witches are human, but they keep their magic a secret whenever possible.

    That is what I would do.

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    Default Re: What if Generic Medieval European Fantasy was brave enough to commit to it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Kalbfus View Post
    What do you need orcs for?
    This is the wrong question to ask. See, this is still Dungeons and Dragons, and in Dungeons and Dragons, orcs are an expected part of the milieu. You don't need a reason to include orcs, they're in there by default. At first, my reasoning for Orcish Vikings was "it sounded cool."

    Of course, now it's currently "Considering my stated focus on having the players participate in historical conflicts, I need to have the Demihumans well-integrated into mainstream society, otherwise they don't really have a reason to participate. An Orc who lives in a cave and doesn't know what France is can't really meaningfully participate in the Hundred Year's War, and that means the Hundred Year's War campaign won't really include Orcs. That's a problem because it makes the NPC population more homogeneous."

    Now, there's the fact that you, personally, might prefer to have "civilization" consist almost entirely of humans. Ultimately, I can't stop you. But I can tell you that sounds boring and uninteresting, to just take every race that isn't human and declare that they don't get to play in the sandbox, and instead just live Somewhere Else, only to be allowed in play when the DM needs a random encounter with bandits or raiders that's largely inconsequential to the plot. And I can tell you that I strongly advise you to reconsider, and embrace the fact that you're playing D&D, rather than try to fight it.





    (On a side note, please refrain from double-posting in the future. It's poor form.)

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    Default Re: What if Generic Medieval European Fantasy was brave enough to commit to it?

    Quote Originally Posted by HorizonWalker View Post
    This is the wrong question to ask. See, this is still Dungeons and Dragons, and in Dungeons and Dragons, orcs are an expected part of the milieu. You don't need a reason to include orcs, they're in there by default. At first, my reasoning for Orcish Vikings was "it sounded cool."

    Of course, now it's currently "Considering my stated focus on having the players participate in historical conflicts, I need to have the Demihumans well-integrated into mainstream society, otherwise they don't really have a reason to participate. An Orc who lives in a cave and doesn't know what France is can't really meaningfully participate in the Hundred Year's War, and that means the Hundred Year's War campaign won't really include Orcs. That's a problem because it makes the NPC population more homogeneous."

    Now, there's the fact that you, personally, might prefer to have "civilization" consist almost entirely of humans. Ultimately, I can't stop you. But I can tell you that sounds boring and uninteresting, to just take every race that isn't human and declare that they don't get to play in the sandbox, and instead just live Somewhere Else, only to be allowed in play when the DM needs a random encounter with bandits or raiders that's largely inconsequential to the plot. And I can tell you that I strongly advise you to reconsider, and embrace the fact that you're playing D&D, rather than try to fight it.





    (On a side note, please refrain from double-posting in the future. It's poor form.)
    Sorry, I'm rather new to this site.

    Main thing is though, Europeans are rather clannish A Viking would have more in common with an Italian or a Spaniard than it would with an orc, especially back in the middle ages when the population of Nordic countries weren't quite as diverse as they are today. A typical Viking, even if he did live by raiding coastal villages, would view an orc as a monster! I don't think human Vikings and orcs would work well together.

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    WhiteWizardGirl

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    Default Re: What if Generic Medieval European Fantasy was brave enough to commit to it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Kalbfus View Post
    Magic use is rare, and cannot easily be taught to others, and of course the Church frowns on it. A chosen few of the clergy can cast spells and are of the cleric class, those people are referred to as saints, they can work miracles, but are usually not recognized as saints by the church until after they die. People who can work magic are often hunted down by the church before they rise to a high enough level where they can properly defend themselves with their magic. Magic is often associated with witchcraft, and there are true witches as well, but most of the people burned as witches are not really witches, and most real witches are wily enough not to get caught by the church authorities, so there is some doubt as to whether witches really exist. Some witches are evil, and some witches are actually hags as listed in the moster manual, but other witches are human, but they keep their magic a secret whenever possible.
    That’s really more of an Early Modern (late-15th to early 16th) attitude towards magic than a medieval one. The mass burnings we associate with witch trials happened long after the Middle Ages.

    The attitude of the Catholic Church towards magic in the medieval era was complicated and varied by place and time. The other problem is that your average peasant or priest of the time probably wouldn’t have understood what we mean by “magic”. There wasn’t the division we have between the natural and supernatural; the medieval worldview was fundamentally supernatural and there were “right” and “wrong” ways to navigate it.

    D&D style magic, as an observable and testable phenomenon, doesn’t conflict with this worldview. If anything I’d think monasteries and universities, with the focus on preserving knowledge and transcripting texts, would be ground zero for wizards.

    This is getting long-winded, but if you really want to commit to a realistic Middle Ages, and you want the Church to be against wizards and sorcerers, you first have to explain why the Romans and classical Greeks were against them as well. The church fathers were mostly well-off Roman citizens trained in the classics, and Early Christian philosophy is basically just late-Roman philosophy with some names swapped around. Aristotle, Archimedes, Galen, etc. formed much of the bedrock of the Catholic Church’s worldview. What was Aristotle’s explanation for the origins of a fire bolt spell, and why did someone like Augustine of Hippo reject it?
    Last edited by TripleD; 2019-07-17 at 12:15 AM.

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    Default Re: What if Generic Medieval European Fantasy was brave enough to commit to it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Kalbfus View Post
    Main thing is though, Europeans are rather clannish A Viking would have more in common with an Italian or a Spaniard than it would with an orc, especially back in the middle ages when the population of Nordic countries weren't quite as diverse as they are today. A typical Viking, even if he did live by raiding coastal villages, would view an orc as a monster! I don't think human Vikings and orcs would work well together.
    A historical European from the real world wouldn't have much in common with an Orc, no, but remember, this isn't the real world. This is D&D, where Orcs are just as natural as humans, and if you grew up in a village that was half populated with Orcs and half populated with humans, then you wouldn't think there's anything particularly weird about Orcs.

    People can get used to some weird stuff, if they grow up around it.

    Quote Originally Posted by TripleD View Post
    That’s really more of an Early Modern (late-15th to early 16th) attitude towards magic than a medieval one. The mass burnings we associate with witch trials happened long after the Middle Ages.

    The attitude of the Catholic Church towards magic in the medieval era was complicated and varied by place and time. The other problem is that your average peasant or priest of the time probably wouldn’t have understood what we mean by “magic”. There wasn’t the division we have between the natural and supernatural; the medieval worldview was fundamentally supernatural and there were “right” and “wrong” ways to navigate it.

    D&D style magic, as an observable and testable phenomenon, doesn’t conflict with this worldview. If anything I’d think monasteries and universities, with the focus on preserving knowledge and transcripting texts, would be ground zero for wizards.

    This is getting long-winded, but if you really want to commit to a realistic Middle Ages, and you want the Church to be against wizards and sorcerers, you first have to explain why the Romans and classical Greeks were against them as well. The church fathers were mostly well-off Roman citizens trained in the classics, and Early Christian philosophy is basically just late-Roman philosophy with some names swapped around. Aristotle, Archimedes, Galen, etc. formed much of the bedrock of the Catholic Church’s worldview. What was Aristotle’s explanation for the origins of a fire bolt spell, and why did someone like Augustine of Hippo reject it?
    On a related note, the Roman Empire is also a great way to explain certain things D&D introduces. "Where'd all these dungeons come from?" "They used to be Roman fortifications but now they've sunk into the earth, and also into disrepair." "What about these high-level magic items, when the highest level Wizard we've ever seen was 7th level?" "Leftovers from the Roman Empire, which had the infrastructure to produce mighty Archmages."
    Last edited by HorizonWalker; 2019-07-17 at 02:33 AM.

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    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: What if Generic Medieval European Fantasy was brave enough to commit to it?

    Orcs and humans living side by side with no social stigma to keep them apart will interbreed untill they are indistinguishable. Humans of the middle ages were not so egalitarian, even with other groups of humans.

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    Default Re: What if Generic Medieval European Fantasy was brave enough to commit to it?

    Quote Originally Posted by HorizonWalker View Post
    A historical European from the real world wouldn't have much in common with an Orc, no, but remember, this isn't the real world. This is D&D, where Orcs are just as natural as humans, and if you grew up in a village that was half populated with Orcs and half populated with humans, then you wouldn't think there's anything particularly weird about Orcs.

    People can get used to some weird stuff, if they grow up around it.



    On a related note, the Roman Empire is also a great way to explain certain things D&D introduces. "Where'd all these dungeons come from?" "They used to be Roman fortifications but now they've sunk into the earth, and also into disrepair." "What about these high-level magic items, when the highest level Wizard we've ever seen was 7th level?" "Leftovers from the Roman Empire, which had the infrastructure to produce mighty Archmages."
    You are asking a lot of the Vikings. I've met some of their descendents from Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, some of the most beautiful people in Europe are from there. A lot of the supermodels you see in Vogue magazine are descended from Vikings. Orcs are quite beastly. I am sure you are not going to see a lot of romances between Vikings and orcs. Orcs are hideous, they stand seven to eight feet tall, have tusks protruding from their mouths, and they are known to eat humans and each other at times.

    Vikings were basically pirates, they had longships, and I think orcs don't make the best sailors, mostly because sunlight is very painful to their eyes, and the Viking longships don't provide much cover from the sunlight during the day. Orcs are not going to like taking long journeys in them across the oceans, they can't take refuge underground as they are used to. The sunlight reflecting off of the water makes the situation even worse.
    Last edited by Tom Kalbfus; 2019-07-17 at 07:25 AM.

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    I'm mentioning this in case anyone else remembers this thread and knows keywords to search for and post a link.

    A while ago (maybe a couple years? less than 5 years), there was a thread about a setting like this. I think the designer had different races arise in different regions of the world, and that shaped the cultures and divides. Like -- and I'm picking this pretty randomly, not going from memory -- elves in Asia, dwarves in Africa, humans in Europe, or so on. And going with a pseudo-history of the races expanding, interacting with each other, and developing naturally, akin to how societies in real life did but with fantasy races and small-scale magic. (Definitely not a Tippy-verse, though I forget if it was magic was rare or there just wasn't a strong justification for magic not redoing a ton of things like agriculture, warfare, and logistics.)

    However potentially-offensive part of it was, and I think it was pretty well-done actually, it was a cool example of trying to do something akin to, if not fully in line with, your idea.

    ---

    You might also like looking at the lore of the Perisno mod of the game Mount & Blade. Link here: https://perisno.fandom.com/wiki/Factions
    It's not Europe, but it has countries run by different fantasy races, with history and politics akin to a European setting. Again, could give ideas, but it does assume all the major races are relatively civilized and on par with one another. (Maybe not the giants, but at least dwarves, humans, and elves. No orcs.)
    Last edited by JeenLeen; 2019-07-17 at 07:43 AM.

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    Default Re: What if Generic Medieval European Fantasy was brave enough to commit to it?

    Quote Originally Posted by brian 333 View Post
    Orcs and humans living side by side with no social stigma to keep them apart will interbreed untill they are indistinguishable.
    It's D&D, you can just make up any reason at all why that isn't the case. Like, uh... the existence of all the races is a relatively new thing, ala Shadowrun, and it happened because of the Romans. It's only been a few hundred years, which isn't that much time, genealogically speaking, and that's why there hasn't been enough interbreeding to make "Orc" a meaningless term.
    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Kalbfus View Post
    You are asking a lot of the Vikings. I've met some of their descendents from Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, some of the most beautiful people in Europe are from there. A lot of the supermodels you see in Vogue magazine are descended from Vikings. Orcs are quite beastly. I am sure you are not going to see a lot of romances between Vikings and orcs. Orcs are hideous, they stand seven to eight feet tall, have tusks protruding from their mouths, and they are known to eat humans and each other at times.
    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and something tells me that Northmen who value being the biggest and strongest around might take a liking to Orcs, who are even bigger and stronger than the biggest and strongest humans, and are so viciously lethal even their mouths are deadly weapons. How cool is that?

    (As for the cannibalism thing: that is flavor text with some specific assumptions. Orcs only eat people in settings where Orcs are "uncivilized savages.")

    Also, is it specifically Orcs you have a problem with? Because I proposed Elfish Northmen as well, and Elves are plenty beautiful, conventionally-speaking.
    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Kalbfus View Post
    Vikings were basically pirates, they had longships, and I think orcs don't make the best sailors, mostly because sunlight is very painful to their eyes, and the Viking longships don't provide much cover from the sunlight during the day. Orcs are not going to like taking long journeys in them across the oceans, they can't take refuge underground as they are used to. The sunlight reflecting off of the water makes the situation even worse.
    Consider the following: 1) Basic sunglasses are in fact very easy to make, if you need them. 2) Orcs can see in the dark. Do you understand how insanely valuable that gets to be at night, when you're out of candles and can't see that iceberg by starlight alone?



    And, finally... again, this is Dungeons and Dragons. Why are you so hellbent on stripping out the flavor brought to the table by orcs and tieflings and elves and such in order to bring the setting back to being generic and boring? Does it logically make sense to have orcs and tieflings and dragonborn intermixed with the general population? Maybe not, but who cares? It's cool as hell, that's all the reason we really need. It's fantasy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HorizonWalker View Post
    It's D&D, you can just make up any reason at all why that isn't the case. Like, uh... the existence of all the races is a relatively new thing, ala Shadowrun, and it happened because of the Romans. It's only been a few hundred years, which isn't that much time, genealogically speaking, and that's why there hasn't been enough interbreeding to make "Orc" a meaningless term.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and something tells me that Northmen who value being the biggest and strongest around might take a liking to Orcs, who are even bigger and stronger than the biggest and strongest humans, and are so viciously lethal even their mouths are deadly weapons. How cool is that?

    (As for the cannibalism thing: that is flavor text with some specific assumptions. Orcs only eat people in settings where Orcs are "uncivilized savages.")

    Also, is it specifically Orcs you have a problem with? Because I proposed Elfish Northmen as well, and Elves are plenty beautiful, conventionally-speaking.

    Consider the following: 1) Basic sunglasses are in fact very easy to make, if you need them. 2) Orcs can see in the dark. Do you understand how insanely valuable that gets to be at night, when you're out of candles and can't see that iceberg by starlight alone?


    And, finally... again, this is Dungeons and Dragons. Why are you so hellbent on stripping out the flavor brought to the table by orcs and tieflings and elves and such in order to bring the setting back to being generic and boring? Does it logically make sense to have orcs and tieflings and dragonborn intermixed with the general population? Maybe not, but who cares? It's cool as hell, that's all the reason we really need. It's fantasy.
    I'm not bent on anything, I am just giving you some advice on what I think works, don't take it personally. We won't always agree.
    I am working on my own spelljammer campaign similar to your idea. I have charts for all 8 planets in the Solar System, so if you like you can come take I look at what I posed and comment if you wish. this is an invite, I'm just mentioning it here and we can move on. It can be found at http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...lar-System-3-5
    Last edited by Tom Kalbfus; 2019-07-17 at 06:08 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HorizonWalker View Post
    And, finally... again, this is Dungeons and Dragons. Why are you so hellbent on stripping out the flavor brought to the table by orcs and tieflings and elves and such in order to bring the setting back to being generic and boring? Does it logically make sense to have orcs and tieflings and dragonborn intermixed with the general population? Maybe not, but who cares? It's cool as hell, that's all the reason we really need. It's fantasy.
    I swear this seems to be a question I find myself asking myself over and over when reading fantasy RPG web forums, lately there's just been this strange sort of vendetta against fantasy races where people demand you to come up with some big justification for why your fantasy world has fantasy races and if you can't give them a "good reason" they'll look down their noses at you with scorn for not "just using different human cultures" and frankly it kind of bugs me so kudos to you for standing your ground here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Enixon View Post
    I swear this seems to be a question I find myself asking myself over and over when reading fantasy RPG web forums, lately there's just been this strange sort of vendetta against fantasy races where people demand you to come up with some big justification for why your fantasy world has fantasy races and if you can't give them a "good reason" they'll look down their noses at you with scorn for not "just using different human cultures" and frankly it kind of bugs me so kudos to you for standing your ground here.
    Would you have problems with King Richard the Third being married to an orc? Imagine a female orc dressed up as a queen attending the royal court, and no one seems to notice that she wasn't human, and Richard the Third being a sort of villain who murdered two princes, doesn't seem to notice that his wife is an orc. Does that make any sense to you?

    How about people with evil alignments just like ugly? Where do you draw the line on what makes sense? It would change history if certain rulers of nations were elves simply because of their long life span. What if Augustus Caesar was an elf, how would that affect things?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Kalbfus View Post
    Would you have problems with King Richard the Third being married to an orc? Imagine a female orc dressed up as a queen attending the royal court, and no one seems to notice that she wasn't human, and Richard the Third being a sort of villain who murdered two princes, doesn't seem to notice that his wife is an orc. Does that make any sense to you?

    How about people with evil alignments just like ugly? Where do you draw the line on what makes sense? It would change history if certain rulers of nations were elves simply because of their long life span. What if Augustus Caesar was an elf, how would that affect things?

    See this is an excellent example of what I meant, you just posted a handful of fascinating plot hooks and ideas that you could only have with non-human races, but are instead painting them as badwrongfun.

    Using the Orc queen example, take all the political intrigue that would have happened in the real world when royalty married a spouse of a different cultures or ethnicity but now it's an even bigger deal becasue she's literally not human, and any heirs born of the union will not only not be "pure English blood", but they'll be Half-Orcs with a lower life expectancy (going by most settings I've seen anyhow). There's all sorts of angles this could take, nobles who value blood purity being even more against it than real world versions would, scheming relatives that see the shorter life span of any heirs to be a boon for getting one of their kids on the throne later, the tailor's guild that sees this as a potential gold mine from all the extra curtains they'll be able to sell the royal family to help the Orc Queen cope with her Light Sensitivity Racial Trait

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    I think Shrek would be perfectly at home in this world. Lets run with it!

    Maybe we can create stats for various fairy tale creatures. Lets start with Jack and the Beanstalk. The giant in the story is obviously an evil cloud giant, as he lives in a castle in the clouds, his famous saying is "Fe Fi Foe Fumb, I smell the blood of an Englishman!" So I deduce that England is at war with a bunch of cloud giants, as the giant takes the pain of identifying the nationality of Jack.

    Snow White is a German princess, that story seems to be derived from a greek myth, involving a jealous goddess Aphrodite.

    Cinderella is French. Pinnochio is Italian. An Ice Queen rules up North in what is now Norway. King Arthur rules the British Isles, and he has a problem with a band of Cloud Giants.

    Just some ideas.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Kalbfus View Post
    I think Shrek would be perfectly at home in this world. Lets run with it!

    Maybe we can create stats for various fairy tale creatures. Lets start with Jack and the Beanstalk. The giant in the story is obviously an evil cloud giant, as he lives in a castle in the clouds, his famous saying is "Fe Fi Foe Fumb, I smell the blood of an Englishman!" So I deduce that England is at war with a bunch of cloud giants, as the giant takes the pain of identifying the nationality of Jack.

    Snow White is a German princess, that story seems to be derived from a greek myth, involving a jealous goddess Aphrodite.

    Cinderella is French. Pinnochio is Italian. An Ice Queen rules up North in what is now Norway. King Arthur rules the British Isles, and he has a problem with a band of Cloud Giants.

    Just some ideas.


    I'm a little confused, you keep coming up with great ideas, but then stuff like the Shrek reference makes me think you're still being snide and dismissive at the idea that people might dare use fantasy races in their fantasy setting so I don't really know how to respond.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Enixon View Post
    I'm a little confused, you keep coming up with great ideas, but then stuff like the Shrek reference makes me think you're still being snide and dismissive at the idea that people might dare use fantasy races in their fantasy setting so I don't really know how to respond.
    Don't like Shrek? I think you are trying to find insult in my attempt at humour. I noted how the various races wouldn't integrate smoothly in a serious fantasy campaign, but not all fantasy campaigns have to be serious. The world Shrek lives in certainly isn't serious, it has all sorts of fairly tale characters comingled together, but one can certainly build a fantasy world by stitching fairy tales together in some sort of world that makes sense. One can go up a notch from Shrek and still not have a serious campaign.

    One thing Shrek world contains is a whole lot of modernism. Having fantasy races smoothly integrated into historical kingdoms is a modernism of a sort. Shrek has lots of puns and silliness. Another silly world is Xanth, by Piers Anthony. Nothing wrong with such a campaign is there?

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    Quote Originally Posted by HorizonWalker View Post
    And, finally... again, this is Dungeons and Dragons. Why are you so hellbent on stripping out the flavor brought to the table by orcs and tieflings and elves and such in order to bring the setting back to being generic and boring? Does it logically make sense to have orcs and tieflings and dragonborn intermixed with the general population? Maybe not, but who cares? It's cool as hell, that's all the reason we really need. It's fantasy.
    Honestly, for a lot of people (including myself), Orcs, Tieflings, Dragonborn are pretty darn boring. In my perspective, a game that shoehorns in all different kinds of wacky fantasy races is infinitely more generic than one that tries to honestly portray almost any real world human culture.

    Not saying that having fantasy races makes your game generic, but is it really exciting at this point in time to have fantasy races? Are dragonborn, tieflings, and orcs really "cool as hell" at THIS point. That just baffles me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trask View Post
    Honestly, for a lot of people (including myself), Orcs, Tieflings, Dragonborn are pretty darn boring. In my perspective, a game that shoehorns in all different kinds of wacky fantasy races is infinitely more generic than one that tries to honestly portray almost any real world human culture.

    Not saying that having fantasy races makes your game generic, but is it really exciting at this point in time to have fantasy races? Are dragonborn, tieflings, and orcs really "cool as hell" at THIS point. That just baffles me.
    There's also the question of whether the various species fit the atmosphere and origin cosmology of the setting, or are just there to be there.
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    Default Re: What if Generic Medieval European Fantasy was brave enough to commit to it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Trask View Post
    Honestly, for a lot of people (including myself), Orcs, Tieflings, Dragonborn are pretty darn boring. In my perspective, a game that shoehorns in all different kinds of wacky fantasy races is infinitely more generic than one that tries to honestly portray almost any real world human culture.

    Not saying that having fantasy races makes your game generic, but is it really exciting at this point in time to have fantasy races? Are dragonborn, tieflings, and orcs really "cool as hell" at THIS point. That just baffles me.
    I'm of the opposite opinion, so I'll tell you my point of view.

    every time I see yet another human culture in fantasy, it doesn't interest me at all. the cultures are just as generic, just without any real distinguishing aesthetic biological aesthetic, its even more samey because of that, and I'm not a "less is more" person, I'm a "More is more" person. which is just a preference.

    like, human cultures when you get down to them pretty much fall into:
    1. decadent empire (often claims to be "morally grey" while they play the Imperial March.)
    2. warrior culture (becomes empire if too successful)
    3. nomads (dies to farming)
    4. divided bickerers (can come in useless diplomatic arguer or bloody warring states flavors, though the latter often evolves into the former)
    5. capitalism (which really is just empire but with less killing and more lying)
    6. isolated village (dies when exposed to other people)

    and the reason why the cultures come to be is almost always environment anyways, so once you know the environments, its pretty easy to figure what the culture is. and as far as I can tell, there has never been a truly peaceful culture in all of history, nor any human culture I'd truly want to be a part of if given a choice.

    when I play a non-human character, its to free myself from culture, not just human ones but whatever fantasy culture my character is apart of. The point is portray individuals to me, not someone who is a product of a culture, for I dislike the concept of culture, and don't much care for it aside from being a background tool. for being apart from culture is something I consider a more relatable state to me than being apart of it, even though one can argue that everyone is apart of culture due to invisible all controlling forces of social whatevers that I don't care for.

    the point of them in short, is not to portray a being that conforms to something that is external, but expresses something within. if your human, a human has to map to something humans do, something external that is known. the fantasy races are not human and thus you can choose them based on different reasons. (whether actually do so is another discussion entirely).

    its the option to opt out of all human societies you can name without doing the stupid "raised by wolves" thing.
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    I think about a character's culture a fair amount in my creation of them. I do think that copypasted "all members of x cultural/racial group are y" is lazy worldbuilding and character design, but I dont think it has to be that way. Those archetypes you listed are just that, archetypes, not hard and fast laws. You can play around a great deal within very small ranges.

    The problem with fantasy grab-bags like D&D is that you have so many races that a worldbuilder wants to think of cultures and divisions and sects between them to make an honest representation of an interesting fantasy race. But its hard enough to create realistic culture for just humans, let alone alien species.

    Obviously most people dont care and do go that far, but if you dont then whats even the point of having an alien race? Dragonborn, tieflings, orcs, theyre just setting dressing. Humans wearing costumes. They have no real defining characteristics.

    One of the best examples of an honestly and fully realized fiction culture imo are the Dunmer from TES III Morrowind. They feel actualized, drawing on many of the archetypes you listed above but not slavishly following any of them, and creating uniqueness through synthesis. Cultures, when built well, endure in the minds of people and they inspire art, philosophies, religions, folkways, sayings, weapon styles, and countless other things that make the game richer in my experience.

    Playing only as individuals existing as anomalies in a world that feels completely disconnected from them is just boring to me, its more akin to contemporary anime storytelling (a medium based primarily around wish fulfillment) than it is to any kind of real roleplaying, fantasy or otherwise.

    Not saying that playing games or characters like that cant be fun of course, but its definitely not my cup of tea and in my opinion its not the kind of roleplaying that endures and is easily shared with friends. Its a much more inwardly focused form of roleplaying that feels antithetical to a social game like TTRPGs are to me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trask View Post
    Not saying that playing games or characters like that cant be fun of course, but its definitely not my cup of tea and in my opinion its not the kind of roleplaying that endures and is easily shared with friends. Its a much more inwardly focused form of roleplaying that feels antithetical to a social game like TTRPGs are to me.
    My mindset is that if your friends can't handle what you express with those races and what you want to portray without having to be bothered with some annoying human culture thing they're aren't really your friends, because if you play as human, that human is an implicit commentary on that culture in some way. thats just how I observed they tend to shake out even when done well, and sometimes you don't want to make that commentary because no matter what you do, people draw parellels you don't intend and its best to avoid that.

    sure its a social hobby, but its also a space where ones individuality can hopefully expressed someplace without ridicule, which is apart of being social. and I do not find exploring other viewpoints that normally don't exist as wish fulfillment. if I can create a unique viewpoint, a new way of seeing the world that puts things a different light and makes people rethink things when they view it through it- I don't see anything bad about it. wish fulfillment to me is far less creative- someone being rich or a king or something stupid like chosen ones, y'know something privileged and not knowing much suffering, and those are common as dirt.

    a game where I'm forced to conform too much is not my cup of tea is all, we all have not our cuppas.
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    The thing is, creating cultures is hard. Creating cultures with which human players and readers can identify is even harder.

    In over fifty years of reading fiction I've seen it tried many times. Usually it fails miserably. Sometimes it doesn't kill the story. I've seen C. J. Cherryh do it well. Once.

    Why?

    Because humans understand one societal arrangememt and anything else is just confusing.

    Don't believe me? Watch someone interact with their dog. Invariably they will treat it like a human child. Dog trainers will tell you this is a mistake, and everyone will say they know, but almost everyone does it anyway.

    Culture is programmed at a very early stage of development and the unconscious assumptions we make hundreds of times a day happen at such a basic level of our consciousness that most of us never examine them.

    A writer of a new culture would have to spend enormous effort explaining the culture or the reader wil make assumptions and the entire effort will have been wasted. Not only that, but it risks losing the reader.

    So, what do the masters of new fictional cultures do? Mostly they go: "They are just like humans, (or a romanticized human subculture,) except..."

    Example: every creature in Tolkien's work was a version of one or another class of Englishman.

    Counterexample: Heinlein's Martians were never developed as a culture except through the lens of Smith learning to be human.

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