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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Where do short humans fit into a society with humans, dwarves, and halflings?

    So I was thinking of a fairly simple character.

    A human fighter that is somewhat short. He was self conscious about his short height so he exercised thoroughly to become really muscular to compensate. He is also irratible and reacts poorly to comments about his height.

    Maybe a bit cliched but this was going to be a minor support characters. Sometimes simple characters get the job done.

    But anyway I thought. A short stocky human that is muscular and irritable would easily be mistaken for a tall dwarf.

    If I was casting a movie in a fantasy realm with lots of fantasy races, I would avoid casting a "human" that has the build of a dwarf or an elf. I'm less sure about an RPG or novel but I still feel I would be biased towards making most humans have "average" builds so humans are better differentiated from demihumans.

    What about stocky elves, tall halflings, lanky dwarves. They would probably often be mistaken for humans. How does this look like on a societal level?
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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Where do short humans fit into a society with humans, dwarves, and halflings?

    I hate to be unhelpful but that entirely depends on the society and details of the races in question.

    How multicultural is it? How different do the various races look from human (there are settings where the elves, halflings etc. look notably different from humans)? What sort of history do these various races have, both internally and with other races? is there some sort of genetic, inherent mentality to the various races to consider?

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    Default Re: Where do short humans fit into a society with humans, dwarves, and halflings?

    It depends on how you want it to work - with some discussion with your GM, you can apply anything to the game world that you like.

    Me, I like that we humans are massively varied. I think this should carry over into our fantasy settings - blond to black hair, pale to dark skin, skinny to big, short to tall.

    For the classic line-up picture of PC species, I plan to use something like this for the human:

    Olympic athletes line up (2012)

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    Maybe in contrast, the non-human PC species are more uniform? All elves' variation is in the slim and tall range, etc, etc.

    EDIT: I guess on a societal level, this means that the same sort of stigma apply to humans with outlying body types or other unusual features as we have in the real world - we have a dreadful habit of teasing, bullying or even outright persecuting people who seem different! But, as the OP suggests, there'd be a fairly real risk of being actually mistaken for another species.
    This could be somewhat similar to real world prejudices around appearance - those dumb assumptions that people so often have, like that a guy in a wheelchair isn't mentally able, or that a person of colour must be foreign rather than born locally (probably more common a generation ago in Europe, than it is now, or ever was in the US).
    Last edited by Altair_the_Vexed; 2019-09-14 at 03:22 AM.

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    OrcBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: Where do short humans fit into a society with humans, dwarves, and halflings?

    I think it would be funny if everyone kept calling him a dwarf and that ticks him off.

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    Default Re: Where do short humans fit into a society with humans, dwarves, and halflings?

    Figure out what you want t do with the character, and build the cultural reaction in that location to make it work.

    And you don't have to assume that how he is treated in one village is how he will be treated in another.

    [Perhaps later on, deep in the forest, he discovers a pygmy-like village, and they are more welcoming of him than of the rest of the party.]

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    Default Re: Where do short humans fit into a society with humans, dwarves, and halflings?

    With elves, there's always been an element of elves who don't live up to elven "beauty" standards tent to be treated poorly, depending on your specific lore or society in question, this can range anywhere from simply being "low class" to outright abuse, banishment or death.

    There is some element of this in dwarves as well, though it's less in terms of form and more in function. Dwarves who aren't hairy, dwarves who aren't good fighters, dwarves who aren't good craftsmen/miners. Dwarves are seemingly stuck in a perpetual "manliness" contest, even the women are held to many of these same standards of "what makes a dwarf" being their ability to drink, their ability to fight, and their skill with a hammer (in mining, crafting and again, fighting).

    It's one reason dwarves and elves are often socially counterposed in fantasy. While the elves do have excellent skill, there is a focus on form, and dwarves have a focus on function. Anyone can be an elf if you're pretty enough. Anyone can be a dwarf if you're tough enough.

    Socially speaking you'd have very similar elements at play in both societies, though elves would likely be more passive-aggressive about it (excepting situations where it became socially acceptable to mock outliers) and with dwarves being very "in your face" about not being dwarfy enough. Ostracized members would likely tend towards extremes of "I don't care what you think!" and obsessive body-image-issues.

    What humans and human society have is variety, not averageness. Humans come in all shapes and sizes, put any two next to each other and they'll look nothing alike. Their ears are different, their noses are different, they're short, they're tall, they're fat, they're light, they're tan, so on. Of course, historically speaking medieval society was definitely not multicultural....

    So really, it depends on how you want to present your human society. A short, fat, stocky human might just be regarded as "human". But if your human society is bigoted and oppressive, they might be labeled as a dwarf even if they're not, as a way of identifying them as a non-person. If your society is multicultural, the "outliers" from other races might be referred to as "human" as a way of showing that they're all included in human-lands.

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    Default Re: Where do short humans fit into a society with humans, dwarves, and halflings?

    This leads to other questions. What if an unusually short halfling or dwarf? Or would only humans have this sort of variation?

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    Default Re: Where do short humans fit into a society with humans, dwarves, and halflings?

    I've taken some cardboard miniature pdfs and enlarged them. I intend for my party to find an abandoned area in which the friezes indicate show humans that are smaller than dwarves.

    Eventually, they will discover a hidden valley populated by 7-8' tall "dwarves".

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    Default Re: Where do short humans fit into a society with humans, dwarves, and halflings?

    Quote Originally Posted by BWR View Post
    I hate to be unhelpful but that entirely depends on the society and details of the races in question.
    I was hoping to get some general thoughts so I could tailor this to each area.

    Quote Originally Posted by BWR View Post
    How multicultural is it?
    So far nations tend to be 75% to 90% of one race with human as the usual dominant race. Cities tend to be more cosmopilatian with about 5% to 10% bigger minority population than the general area.

    Quote Originally Posted by BWR View Post
    How different do the various races look from human (there are settings where the elves, halflings etc. look notably different from humans)?
    In my setting they look pretty similar. The gods used the same basic mortal template to make elves, humans, dwarves, and gnomes.

    Quote Originally Posted by BWR View Post
    What sort of history do these various races have, both internally and with other races? is there some sort of genetic, inherent mentality to the various races to consider?
    Genetic wise: dragons, elves and humans in my setting were created by ALL the gods working together. Every other race was created by a single god or a small group working together to make a specific morta race to embody their ideals (the god of metal work made dwarves for istance).

    Every"half" race has to involve humans, dragons, or elves for at least one half. Half breeds are always sterile unless they are human-dragon, human-elf, or elf-dragon.

    Quote Originally Posted by Altair_the_Vexed View Post
    It depends on how you want it to work - with some discussion with your GM, you can apply anything to the game world that you like.

    Me, I like that we humans are massively varied. I think this should carry over into our fantasy settings - blond to black hair, pale to dark skin, skinny to big, short to tall.

    SNIP

    Maybe in contrast, the non-human PC species are more uniform? All elves' variation is in the slim and tall range, etc, etc.
    I hadn't considered it until now, but I could easily justify that humans, dragons, and elves have lots of variations in appearance because the whims of nine gods and goddesses are all manifesting unequally in them while the races created by one or two deities would show less variation.

    I think I'll go with that. Humans, elves, and dragons have lots of variation since they were created by nine deities. Most races are pretty uniform because they were created by one god or goddess. Orcs have two creators, gnomes have four creators, they would show more variation than most.

    Quote Originally Posted by Altair_the_Vexed View Post
    EDIT: I guess on a societal level, this means that the same sort of stigma apply to humans with outlying body types or other unusual features as we have in the real world - we have a dreadful habit of teasing, bullying or even outright persecuting people who seem different! But, as the OP suggests, there'd be a fairly real risk of being actually mistaken for another species.
    This could be somewhat similar to real world prejudices around appearance - those dumb assumptions that people so often have, like that a guy in a wheelchair isn't mentally able, or that a person of colour must be foreign rather than born locally (probably more common a generation ago in Europe, than it is now, or ever was in the US).
    Well short men get a raw deal...poor bagel guy.

    I'm not sure how racism factors in. I believe that in general the presence of "The Other" offsets internal divisions. If you are war with orcs you are probably going to not care much if a fellow human looks differently. Unless they happen to look like orcs.

    Even if you are not at war with a different species, the mere possibility of conflict with another species would create an in-group preference that negates discrimination of the in-group...in theory. I suppose fear of msyogenation could mean that in a world with "The Other" people are less tolerant of variation within their group rather than more.

    I'm not sure which effect would be bigger.

    Quote Originally Posted by Drache64 View Post
    I think it would be funny if everyone kept calling him a dwarf and that ticks him off.
    That is a good idea. It would be very amusing. I think eventually the Not-Dwarf will decided to completely shave off his body hair to better distinguish himself, only to be called "a shaved dwarf."

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    Figure out what you want t do with the character, and build the cultural reaction in that location to make it work.

    And you don't have to assume that how he is treated in one village is how he will be treated in another.

    [Perhaps later on, deep in the forest, he discovers a pygmy-like village, and they are more welcoming of him than of the rest of the party.]
    That is a good idea.

    Quote Originally Posted by False God View Post
    With elves, there's always been an element of elves who don't live up to elven "beauty" standards tent to be treated poorly, depending on your specific lore or society in question, this can range anywhere from simply being "low class" to outright abuse, banishment or death.
    I had not considered this. I had considered elves that find the attitudes and values of their fellow elves irksome and oppressive (wood elves that like cities for instance) but I hadn't considered elves being outsiders for aesthetic reasons.

    Intriguing idea...

    Quote Originally Posted by False God View Post
    There is some element of this in dwarves as well, though it's less in terms of form and more in function. Dwarves who aren't hairy, dwarves who aren't good fighters, dwarves who aren't good craftsmen/miners. Dwarves are seemingly stuck in a perpetual "manliness" contest, even the women are held to many of these same standards of "what makes a dwarf" being their ability to drink, their ability to fight, and their skill with a hammer (in mining, crafting and again, fighting).
    You are mainly describing actions and aptitudes, not appearance. I guess that fits for dwarves, the value actions over appearance. That's why other races accuse them of poor hygene.

    Quote Originally Posted by False God View Post
    It's one reason dwarves and elves are often socially counterposed in fantasy. While the elves do have excellent skill, there is a focus on form, and dwarves have a focus on function. Anyone can be an elf if you're pretty enough. Anyone can be a dwarf if you're tough enough.
    I'm not sure I agree with your conclusion that it would be relatively easy to adopt an honorary elf or dwarf, but your argument is well reasoned. I will consider it.

    Quote Originally Posted by False God View Post
    Socially speaking you'd have very similar elements at play in both societies, though elves would likely be more passive-aggressive about it (excepting situations where it became socially acceptable to mock outliers) and with dwarves being very "in your face" about not being dwarfy enough. Ostracized members would likely tend towards extremes of "I don't care what you think!" and obsessive body-image-issues.
    I figure a lot of these outsiders would move to human lands. A sub-par dwarf miner could probably get hired to be a foreman of a human mining crew that doesn't know any better. Shadowrun (a modern setting where dwarves have reputations as good engineers) mentioned dwarfs with no engineering experience being the "face" of a fix-it shop where non-dwarves do all the real work. That could work in a medieval setting too where the dwarf is selling the metal work made by humans.

    Quote Originally Posted by False God View Post
    What humans and human society have is variety, not averageness. Humans come in all shapes and sizes, put any two next to each other and they'll look nothing alike. Their ears are different, their noses are different, they're short, they're tall, they're fat, they're light, they're tan, so on. Of course, historically speaking medieval society was definitely not multicultural....
    Agreed, but I don't want to be historically accurate if doing so wouldn't make sense in the contest of magic, demihumans and monsters.

    Quote Originally Posted by False God View Post
    So really, it depends on how you want to present your human society. A short, fat, stocky human might just be regarded as "human". But if your human society is bigoted and oppressive, they might be labeled as a dwarf even if they're not, as a way of identifying them as a non-person. If your society is multicultural, the "outliers" from other races might be referred to as "human" as a way of showing that they're all included in human-lands.
    That is interesting. Especially if the local humans identify an elf as being "human" as a sign of respect, but the elf is offended by the label.

    Quote Originally Posted by Particle_Man View Post
    This leads to other questions. What if an unusually short halfling or dwarf? Or would only humans have this sort of variation?
    I guess I talked myself into elves having lots of variation, but most other demihumans would have very little variation.

    I had thought of another racial variation which I put forward in this thread. Short version, certain traits are considered fiery, others are watery, airy, or earthy. People in warm climates tend to take on fiery traits, people in cold areas tend to take on airy traits. People who live near the coast tend to develop watery traits, and people who live far inland tend to look earthy.

    I guess putting this together, humans would manifest more extreme elemental traits than the other races. Gnomes were created by the goddess of water so they might be biased towards water traits even if their parents never saw the sea. Dwarves were created by the god of mining so they might be biased towards earthy traits even if tier parents were sailors.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    I've taken some cardboard miniature pdfs and enlarged them. I intend for my party to find an abandoned area in which the friezes indicate show humans that are smaller than dwarves.

    Eventually, they will discover a hidden valley populated by 7-8' tall "dwarves".
    Intriguing, but I'd need to come up with a good reason why these super dwarves dwarves are not ruling the world...
    Last edited by Scalenex; 2019-09-15 at 07:08 PM.
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    Default Re: Where do short humans fit into a society with humans, dwarves, and halflings?

    Quote Originally Posted by Scalenex View Post
    So I was thinking of a fairly simple character.

    A human fighter that is somewhat short. He was self conscious about his short height so he exercised thoroughly to become really muscular to compensate. He is also irratible and reacts poorly to comments about his height.

    Maybe a bit cliched but this was going to be a minor support characters. Sometimes simple characters get the job done.

    But anyway I thought. A short stocky human that is muscular and irritable would easily be mistaken for a tall dwarf.

    If I was casting a movie in a fantasy realm with lots of fantasy races, I would avoid casting a "human" that has the build of a dwarf or an elf. I'm less sure about an RPG or novel but I still feel I would be biased towards making most humans have "average" builds so humans are better differentiated from demihumans.

    What about stocky elves, tall halflings, lanky dwarves. They would probably often be mistaken for humans. How does this look like on a societal level?
    Are you talking about Steve? He's not bad, for a human. We don't call him Steven Dwarf-friend or anything, but he's always welcome round the alehouse. If he had a decent beard I might even let him date my sister.

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    Default Re: Where do short humans fit into a society with humans, dwarves, and halflings?

    Quote Originally Posted by Scalenex View Post
    Intriguing, but I'd need to come up with a good reason why these super dwarves dwarves are not ruling the world...
    My general answer to why any group is not ruling the world is that the world is big, and no single group has more power than the remaining 99.99% of the world. Even if one group was large enough to do it, a group that large is not going to all share the same goals, so it will soon splinter into factions.

    Similarly, why don't dragons rule the world? Because gold dragons and red dragons are not on the same side.

    Besides, why are these 8-foot dwarves more likely to rule the world than, say, ogres, trolls, or hill giants? "8-foot tall" is not inherently a world-conquering power, and even if it were, lots of races have it.

    My specific answer in this world is that they are an isolated tribe of less than 200.

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    Default Re: Where do short humans fit into a society with humans, dwarves, and halflings?

    Quote Originally Posted by Altair_the_Vexed View Post
    For the classic line-up picture of PC species, I plan to use something like this for the human:

    Olympic athletes line up (2012)

    Spoiler: Images
    Show







    Maybe in contrast, the non-human PC species are more uniform? All elves' variation is in the slim and tall range, etc, etc.
    It annoys me with those images that they do things to exagerate the differences. In the second image, where the 6'1 hockey player is standing beside the 5'1 figure skater, why to they show the hockey player in skates and not the figure skater if not to exaggerate the figure players smallness.

    Quote Originally Posted by Drache64 View Post
    I think it would be funny if everyone kept calling him a dwarf and that ticks him off.
    More than being funny, I'm sure that is what would actually happen.

    But not because they mistook him for a dwarf. Dwarfs are generally portrayed as differing from humans in more than height, and I think most people would not mistake him for a dwarf unless he deliberately disguised himself as one.

    Instead, I think they would call him a dwarf to wind him up - I imagine 'dwarf' would be a common taunt for short people, as 'elf' would for skinny people or 'ogre' would for large people.
    Last edited by Liquor Box; 2019-09-15 at 07:04 PM.

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    Default Re: Where do short humans fit into a society with humans, dwarves, and halflings?

    Quote Originally Posted by redwizard007 View Post
    Are you talking about Steve? He's not bad, for a human. We don't call him Steven Dwarf-friend or anything, but he's always welcome round the alehouse. If he had a decent beard I might even let him date my sister.
    I use a merit and flaw system where you get additional points for taking on flaws and you can spend points to take merits. One Merit I came up with was "Honorary Dwarf Clan Member." I hadn't thought about a human just having a knack for dealing with dwarves on a friendly basis without being adopted. I guess someone could take a specilization in Etiquette "Dwarves."

    I'm not sure if a dwarf would let a human date his sister. I had the notion based on Athasian dwarves that human-dwarf crossbreeds would create offspring who have a human's height and a dwarf's broadness. That means the mother would be in for a very rough child birth and probably die if the midwife doesn't have healing magic.

    So because of the risk alone, dwarf-human coupling is probably taboo. If I choose to take the Tolkien lore item that was canon in D&D second edition that dwarf males outnumber females 2:1 dwarf society at large would be even less likely to be okay letting their women date other races. I'm probably not going to do that sex ratio though.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    My general answer to why any group is not ruling the world is that the world is big, and no single group has more power than the remaining 99.99% of the world. Even if one group was large enough to do it, a group that large is not going to all share the same goals, so it will soon splinter into factions.

    Similarly, why don't dragons rule the world? Because gold dragons and red dragons are not on the same side.

    Besides, why are these 8-foot dwarves more likely to rule the world than, say, ogres, trolls, or hill giants? "8-foot tall" is not inherently a world-conquering power, and even if it were, lots of races have it.

    My specific answer in this world is that they are an isolated tribe of less than 200.
    Fair enough. I'm assuming that these dwarves would be just as smart and industrious as the regular sized dwarves. I don't know if they would be ruling the world literally, but they would be probably be very politically powerful disproportionate to their numbers.

    Quote Originally Posted by Liquor Box View Post
    It annoys me with those images that they do things to exagerate the differences. In the second image, where the 6'1 hockey player is standing beside the 5'1 figure skater, why to they show the hockey player in skates and not the figure skater if not to exaggerate the figure players smallness.
    People pay money for photography degrees so they can learn these cheap tricks, but that is neither here nor there.


    Quote Originally Posted by Liquor Box View Post
    More than being funny, I'm sure that is what would actually happen.

    But not because they mistook him for a dwarf. Dwarfs are generally portrayed as differing from humans in more than height, and I think most people would not mistake him for a dwarf unless he deliberately disguised himself as one.

    Instead, I think they would call him a dwarf to wind him up - I imagine 'dwarf' would be a common taunt for short people, as 'elf' would for skinny people or 'ogre' would for large people.
    Once a bully finds out what her victim's specific trigger is, she will concentrate on that trigger. So yeah, that would be likely. Along those lines, I like the idea of gnomes having a cultural norm to respond to all comments on their shortness as a compliment.
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    Default Re: Where do short humans fit into a society with humans, dwarves, and halflings?

    I remember there was a human little person in at least one Pathfinder adventure path. The one I recall really hated being mistaken for a gnome, halfling or other Small race, and I feel that would be a pretty common reaction to greater and lesser extents.
    Quote Originally Posted by Calanon View Post
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    Default Re: Where do short humans fit into a society with humans, dwarves, and halflings?

    I have always assumed that humans and fantasy species are different enough from each other that you would not mistake one for the other in most cases. (Unless their face is covered, or they are far away, or something)


    They would be, at least, as different from one another as men are from women, and while men are on average taller than women, most tall women don't get mistaken for men. (Called men, sure, as an insult, but not truly mistaken from a close distance) There's other differences apart from the most obvious ones. Men's height is just a side effect of their reproductive biology, which also has the side effect of a deeper voice, male pattern baldness, stronger bone structure and a different body fat to muscle percentage.

    Likewise, elves' beauty would be the result of an altogether different biology, so there would be other differences. I would expect elves to also have voices that differ from those of humans, a supernatural glow to their eyes ... whatever. And a dwarf would be stronger than a short human of similar height, etc.

    And a short human would not automatically be welcomed among dwarves. They are likely to have a completely different culture - in the Discword novels, it is tall (and dwarf-raised) Captain Carrot who is a honorary dwarf, not short Nobby Nobbs. Even then, lacking that extra poison resistance D&D dwarves seem to have would make it rather difficult to drink with dwarves.

    Things get a bit muddier if you say it is fantasy races (not species) and that they can crossbreed not because of fantasy weirdness but because they are biologically close enough. There would be some overlap between short humans and half-dwarves, and one would be able to pass for the other.


    But the fact that all fantasy species mostly look like differently-sized humans in movies is because they are all played by humans - it is not how I really envision things to look when I read a book or play an rpg.

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