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Author Topic: Non-Racist Interesting Boring Traditional Fantasy Races  (Read 794 times)
Squark
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« on: December 30, 2017, 04:43:10 PM »

Hi friends, been lurking here for a while and really love this community, really an oasis of genuine friendliness and maturity out here on a very polarized and impatient internet.

To clarify the title, all my fantasy world-building revolves around what were originally DnD games and still broadly are in theme and setting but have been refined based not on any unified concept of a created
setting but just what me and my buddies like to play in. So while I fully understand that it's not such an intriguing idea for a setting or game, the purpose isn't to innovate and rethink the fantasy form. While I absolutely appreciate
and would love to at some point try my hand at rethinking the form and insist on the potential to do so (recently saw https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yeelen and read about though haven't yet read A Wizard of Earthsea, both definitely did a lot to temper my cynicism about fantasy, as well as ASOIAF doing good things with pseudo-historicism), as of now my fantasy efforts and world-building are purely creative downtime fun that I'll do on my time off from work and serious writing and reading.

With "whatever me and my friends find fun and cool and appealing from the archetypal pseudo-medieval fantasy game" as the backing philosophy, one of the things that we find really silly is the way race is handled. If we were talking about serious approaches to rethinking fantasy as a genre, I don't think there's a way to do the old Tolkien-derived fantasy races in a way that is satisfying unless it is a really creative deconstruction of those Tolkien-derived fantasy races, which is hard for me to imagine without it devolving into another shitty and awkward transplant of human ethnic tensions onto conflict between literal different species of humanoids. So my goal here is to try and reconcile what I like about these generic fantasy races with a more consistent world.

Though obviously Tolkien's setting incorporated a lot of xenophobia and racism, ultimately it is enough of an ascientific mythology that the mystically fair elves and savage corrupted orcs overshoot any realistic racial parallels to such an extent that it's easy to acknowledge that subtext and move on with enjoying it. But the DnD & friends settings that are like 12 times removed from Middle Earth have become more gritty and realistic, and that as well as the many attempts to create new interpretations of the Tolkien races while still keeping a ton of their essence and signifiers (haughty elves, gruff dwarves) is such a fucking mess it's hard to know where to start. I wouldn't even say the problem so much is racism in relation to actual human ethnicity anymore, tho there's still awkward stuff like drow and flat-nosed-slant-eyed-savage orcs, but moreso the silly assumptions made about these races in general. One that bugs me the most is the entire race having a unified culture, and in the case of a different culture, there is always a physiologically separate sub-race even tho the differences seem to only be stuff like skin color and environment but then humans with the same differences are different ethnic groups with the same physical capabilities as you would expect. Tho this clearly seems like an effort to dodge racism, it's inconsistent and an awkward avoidance. Beyond that, the explanations for cultural and physiological differences are never distinguished. We get something like, "dwarves are naturally tough due to their harsh environment and strong because of their militant culture", or "elves are lithe and agile, xenophobic and mysterious in their forest homes". This is just free form word and trait association taken for granted in such a way that the inherent +2 to Dexterity elves get can be equally attributed to their graceful cultural ways or their ancestors traversing of the forest. Which returns us to, then why do the various human cultures never have significant differences in stats? If dwarves' bonus to constitution and toughness is even partially related to their culture established around those things, wouldn't humans from very cold environments have racial cold resistance, etc etc?

This is the kind of inconsistency I'm trying to avoid. So, to move forward, I want:

1. Inherent physical differences in fantastic humanoid species have a major influence on culture but culture never influences the inherent differences between species. (No bonus to Charisma for half-elves because they find themselves in positions as diplomats, but elves having infrequent periods of fertility has a major effect on their culture of sexuality -- a culture that influences and will be adopted and altered by humans without that physiological difference in fertility.)

2. Statistical differences (whatever those may be when I get around to doing what will be very barebones crunch) can only be invariably tied to a race if they are based on aforementioned physical differences. Cultural differences may manifest themselves in statistical differences, but must be a further part of character creation dependent on character backstory. (Something like "elven bow proficiency" can be taken by an elf, but is not automatically granted, as opposed to an agility that comes from being physically lighter and coordinated.)

3. Cultures are not tied to specific races and all cultures present in the world are the result of exchanges hostile, friendly, or otherwise, that take place between both different humanoid species and the different ethnicities within them. Culture and ideology do not directly correlate to or shape reality but are imperfect interpretations of a reality none have access to.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2017, 04:47:15 PM by grovelwine » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2017, 08:30:14 PM »

Tangentially relevant, the system we'll be using will use 4 main traits, something like "Strength", "Agility", "Awareness", and "Presence." My goal with these is to try and make a system that doesn't reduce the many different kids of charismas, intelligence, and wisdom into something that can be numerically represented. It'll be d20 but something like point buy where you start with 10 score in each main trait and each point above ten allows for a subtrait.
There would probably be something like 25 point buy that would be allocated to those main Traits as well as to "Skills" which would be specific knowledge and training, how to use a waraxe or ride a horse, and "Features" which can be helpful, unhelpful or neutral, but are constructible by the PC and are where things like "Battle Rage" or "Magic-User" would be chosen for an appropriate amount of points.)

So for Agility with an 11 you could add "Balance", which isn't to say that you wouldn't be capable of balancing otherwise or that you have extraordinary Balance, but rather that that is one part of the otherwise unhelpfully broad category of Agility. With 12 you could have Balance and Aim, and you now have a +1 to Agility checks related to Balance or Aim. These will be dynamic and intersect, so that climbing a ladder requires an Athletics or Stamina subtrait of Strength if you are carrying an exceptionally heavy load, but if you have better Agility and only average Strength you make up for it with being well balanced while ascending. Or, as a positive combination, you can try to roll a Strength check in addition to an Agility check for Aim while using a longbow for a more steady shot.  Presence is probably the weakest and I'd like something to replace it with, some other vague, non-physical trait preferably allowing for a bridge to traditional charisma as well as other interpretations, such as high Awareness would be highest stat of someone who wanted traditional intelligence and/or wisdom, but also could be the highest stat of an absentminded dipshit who nonetheless is incredibly observant of surroundings so is good at finding traps and treasure.

So attached here is the environmental map representing the "contemporary" age. The biggest problem with it is that my tropical rainforest and hot desert are almost identical colors but not that crucial for right now. This is going to be a broad and informal overview not a fluffy write up, just trying to throw ideas around and see what people think.

General idea for the logic of the races: evolution happened more or less how it did in our timeline however that happened, and the world follows basically biological and materialist rules. Magic is a natural force as far as it exists and its mysterious laws could theoretically be accounted for but will never be due to the scale of the task of even constructing instruments to measure magic in a meaningful enough way. It's understood by most as otherworldly and unnatural tho it does have considerable presence in most places in some way or another and is a focal point of most cultures.

Some million or so years ago, there were something resembling homo sapiens and something resembling homo neanderthalis. The climate in general was far more permitting. Magic existed in ancient phenomena like will-o-wisps and similar oddities, but if it was ever manipulated by humanoids it was in incredibly rare circumstances. The most familiar instance of magic in these times, and well as for most in contemporary times, is the presence of ghosts and the undead, the heightened presence of ghosts and phantoms during certain times of year, the cultural trend of properly disposing of a body, which tho hardly ever necessary has been terrifying enough in the times it was to warrant a tradition.

The "neanderthals" were mountain and cave dwellers, mostly on the northern continent and with the largest population on the large island in the middle sea. The sapiens occupied nearly everywhere else. Again, these are working names and I'll later come up with in-character legends with fluff names when I get the out of character stuff ironed out. Neanderthals were less fertile and physically smaller than the sapiens, so were out-competed in terms of land use and hunting grounds. They took to the fringes of fertile lands, mostly the mountains, passes and high plateaus, and followed herds of mountain goats and giant cold weather tortoises, over a time becoming the first herdsmen as they were able to direct flocks themselves, the landscape making it easier to defend such flocks against wolves, cave-bears, and megalania. They were also the first to build permanent architecture in the form of altered caves. Most sapiens, occupying all those plains and forests, river deltas and coastlines, did fine as hunter-gatherers following herds as nomads, making camp and tools out of their furs and bones, but where the environment permitted some did adopt the lives of herdsmen or cave-dwellers -- certainly in many places influenced by neanderthal cultural exchange, but also likely arising independent of such exchange when sapiens found themselves in similar conditions.

At some point, maybe 500,000 years ago, some event or shift happens, something magical in conjunction with something natural like a solar flare or comet,  so that for some few hundred thousand years significantly changes the rate and manner in which evolution occurs. I'm not sure exactly what this should be because I really don't want the setting to contain the implication that an actual cosmic world shattering event is on its way, I would rather those sorts of predictions and myths be specific to societies and precipitate the ends of particular societies. Drawing on my layman's understanding of Jeremy England's ideas about energy dispersal as the mechanic of evolution (https://www.quantamagazine.org/a-new-thermodynamics-theory-of-the-origin-of-life-20140122/) and linking it to magic as natural force that seems to behave nonetheless inconsistently, a sort of expedient natural selection with magic as an 'x' factor creating strange deviations in life that are viable as a species but don't exactly line up with our understanding of natural selection as predictably contingent on environment and ability to pass on genes. (This is more applicable for bestiary creatures than to humanoids, like intelligent but hermetic dragons that love gems for no particular reason, or creatures like bullettes that developed a strange, biologically inexplicable need to both burrow underground incredibly quickly and retain their size and diet)

But this also had a profound effect on the evolution of the then two species of humanoids.

The most immediately obvious was the manifestation of magical powers in seemingly random individuals of the sapiens species, some overt and some discovered later in life. The neanderthals developed no such powers.

Animal and plant life began to in many places and ways diverge from sensible adaption and gave rise to strange and alien forms, some very dangerous -- some populations of the natural wyverns, venomous flying reptiles that nonetheless had the intelligence of wolves, branched off into the species of dragons with the intelligence of crows and the temperament of wasps.

The fertile sapiens, spread across both the northern and southern continents and the many islands and archipelagos among them, began to have a non-immediate but noticeable over six or so generations if one were able to see the change across them -- exaggerated epigenetics led to quicker and more "efficient" natural selection. Within a few hundred thousands years this rate of change peaked and then declined until it has vanished, but it left the world populated by a variety of separate humanoid species.

K'umeti, Humans

On the plains and prairies that made up much of the southern continent, the Human developed, a foot taller than their sapien predecessors to see above the high grasses, and with a stamina that allowed for chasing herds that could not be so easily snuck up on, as well as helping to flee from the new beasts now prowling. They have better eyesight than other races and are less disturbed by transitions from dark to bright light and vice versa. They retained the high birth rates of the sapiens, and due to their increased ability to hunt across the plains soon drove the herds of many areas to extinction and experienced early plagues and famines that encouraged the adoption of agriculture and the first permanent human settlements, and established early sails to replace the prior raft/canoe seafaring, allowing them to settle among many islands and archipelagos. Humans have the highest degree of polarized genitalia and the physical experience corresponding to it, perhaps related to their high birth rate, or only an accident of genetics, but it has led most human cultures to a brutal hierarchy between gender roles, which perhaps precipitated the tendency for humans in particular to put great stock in their heritage and legacy, as evidenced by the ridiculous and doomed campaigns of conquests and obsession with royalism as a form of governance.

Nosiros, Halflings

Many islands and archipelagos were settled by humans in full just before the onset of a few thousand years of that early humanity being racked by plagues and famine, and by the time contact and trade was reestablished, it was established by the natives of the islands and archipelagos who now resembled humans exactly in nearly all ways save for their smaller size. These were the Nosiros, or Halflings, who developed to a life amongst the islands and on the sea. They don't get motion sick, are well balanced, and have a good sense of direction and the weather, but besides that hardly differ from humans beside that their average height is about four foot.  


Elfar, Elves

The northern continent, largely covered in dense forests of both plants and fungi, incubated the Elfar, who became extrasensitive to sound and light, hiding from jaguars in the understory and giant falcons in the canopies. They became skinnier and lost weight from their sapien predecessors due to the tight spaces and limited nutrition of their forests, but maintained roughly the same height as their sapien predecessors, an average of five feet give or take five inches. They remained primarily hunter-gatherers, but became such efficient hunters and gatherers in the rich forests that large food surpluses built up and allowed for more architecturally complex and hierarchical settlements. Elfar, for reasons unknown, became increasingly unfertile until the only period in which they were able to become pregnant was during the month surrounding the Spring Equinox. This happened in conjunction with the increasing androgyny of Elfar bodies -- the presence of facial hair, wide hips, muscle growth, and height became much less associated with the genitalia, and the genitalia themselves became more vague as a larger portion of the population was born with ambiguous genitals. This led to a more monist than dual conception of gender, and in tandem with the low fertility rate led to a veneration of birth and life moreso than in the sapien predecessors and humans who are able to take for granted a surplus population and for whom the state of pregnancy was a mark of weakness easily separable from the ability to impart the state of pregnancy onto another. The spectrum of genitalia growth present in the Elfar makes such a distinction between the pregnant and impregnator more difficult, and this combined with the rarity of pregnancy and birth has led in most Elfar cultures to a deep respect for everything involved in the process of birth, and also has made the concepts of genders and exclusive sexuality hard to translate. The Elfar have words for those with reproductive organs of a single sex, and have words for most things in between, but they are generally used in a practical sense to determine what someone's role will be in the process of birth. Some Elfar cultures have historically had hierarchies based on the extent in which someone represented a "more perfect conjoining" of features, with high priests those with both functioning organs allowing for both pregnancy and impregnation, but these were exceptions and now exist as fringe movements if at all.

Dwarves, Abankurri???
Dwarves I'm having a little more trouble with. I would like them to be similarly "alien" as with the elves, in that they are a humanoid species that has some relatively minor physiological difference (in elfar for example males and females look similar enough and there are enough intersex people that those categories disappear) that results in the creation of very different cultures but doesn't prevent mutual recognition and understanding between races, i.e. an elf and a human don't necessarily think entirely different just because they have very different assumptions. As in, an elf that is raised in human culture would not be incapable of understanding their gender role within it and could easily embrace it, these aren't hard wired differences in the brain so much, and if there are any such hard wired differences there's a large degree of plasticity in how they express themselves.

So the dwarves are the direct descendants of the neanderthal race, so have different starting origins than humans, halflings, and elves. They also had earlier civilizations, as they had had herding and sedentary agriculture before the sapien-races, and therefore also metalworking and fortified towns. Unlike the sapien-races, none of them manifested the ability to manipulate or conjure magic themselves. They did however gain a higher sensitivity towards magic, as well as a resistance to its effects. They were also effected similarly by the surge in epigenetic inheritance, and became better suited to the extremes of their environment. Over the many generations they came to need to eat and drink less, across their bodies their skin hardened into perpetual callous, and they developed a sensitivity to vibrations through stone and soil that allows for something like a crude sensing of the size and speed of what is approaching.  I am thinking that from contact with human diseases they may have early on been crippled and severely reduced in number, but reemerged from the deep cave networks with an extraordinary immunity to disease, as well as no negative effects ever resulting from incestuous births. This last point is certainly alien, but I'm thinking it needs to be made stranger to have an effect as profound as the elves, so perhaps the baby dwarf develops in a sort of fleshy egg outside of the mothers body after a very short gestation period, almost something like a kangaroo? And then is raised in a carefully maintained nursery by the community? This would explain the "clan loyalty" of dwarves and their less than sentimental attitudes, should I choose to keep those characteristics.

That sounds good and I'll sit on it and see what I think, but I'm more concerned about the dwarf cultures. Elfar-centric cultures will be based very broadly around Celtic and Icelandic culture, with some Hindu research for the mythology/ritual practice of the Indo-European religions practiced by Celts that we otherwise don't have too much record of. As both modern insular Celts and Icelandics admire elves historically and presently. Different from what Tolkien did with his Welsh-Aryan elves, I'd like these to embody some of the negative stereotypes typically associated with Celts, but in a way that is fully fleshed out and doesn't reduce them to savages. Instead has them as possessing admirable cultures based on OOC north european history but the admirable qualities, instead of high haughty civilization, would be those of the cultures white supremacists now consider savage but were nonetheless present exactly in those places the people considered the whitest come from. Not all Elfar would be white either, they would have various ethnicities and many belong to human-centric cultures or heavily human influenced cultures. I am just very broadly drawing from the Roman-era "savage northern barbarian" in the depiction of elves, so as to intentionally not make them incomprehensible alien forest people based on American Indians. That would be cool as well and I believe it could be well done, but to have the origin of the transplanted Amerindian culture and mythology to come from an inhuman people that embody naturalistic noble savage stereotypes isn't going to work. The Halflings (who are only short people anyway) will be inspired by Mediterranean Greece or Ireland depending on the population, and as well as the elfar based on broad celtic-norse influences, neither of these groups have had problems with being dehumanized in mass media recently. There will also be human ethnicities based on or heavily influenced by the cultures with origins in other races as well, and there's more humans in general anyway, so it's not to say "in this setting the elves are celts", I'm just using broad terms to indicate direction.

And so my problem with the dwarves is that I would like to draw on ancient middle eastern and egyptian culture for them, "Abankurri" something like Babylonian. My problem here is that all of these have semitic or related implications and I would like to get rid of jew dwarf implication entirely. I considered Byzantine-era Greek culture, but its too Roman for my taste. I considered some kind of merging of Babylonia and China, maybe? Maybe I'm too paranoid? I think an East Asian influenced dwarven culture would be fine, I'm just worried about having a world where a non-white culture was introduced by non-humans, if only even because in the course of play people normally go to their nearest stereotype when you describe a real life cultural association, so tho maybe it's not inherently racist as part of the setting, it doesn't lend itself to fleshing out the cultures in game if people don't know so much about Chinese culture and then a non-human race in the practice of the game becomes associated with the stereotypes of Chinese culture.

Hope that makes sense, not trying to be particularly hung up on and paranoid about the connection to real life racism, not asking for good boy points, but as I said in my stated intentions, it's about making the generic fantasy assumptions something of our own to better enjoy them, and it's more immersive and enjoyable for me to create and play in a world where the other sentient species aren't badly imposed human ethnicities.
« Last Edit: December 31, 2017, 10:52:40 AM by Hoers » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2017, 08:32:53 PM »

oops, heres the image



https://imgur.com/a/CRaZs
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Straight Outta Johto
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« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2017, 02:06:34 AM »

I didn't read through the whole thing for transparencies sake, but i did read enough. If it helps I made a Small Talking Animal Fantasy setting (Redwall, Secret of NIMH, etc), and I tried to base the entire thing around there physical attributes. Badgers were big and strong, Weasels were slippery, Otters were swimmers, etc etc. However, I also decided to add an element of, well elements. The otters were magically tied to the waters, and Badgers are attached to the earth. Weasels had an affinity for dealing with spirits, etc, etc.

You could add a supernatural twist to it, rather than a cultural one. Maybe there's something magical that gives Half-elves the unique traits that make them a race.

« Last Edit: December 31, 2017, 02:08:09 AM by LoA » Logged


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« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2017, 10:51:48 AM »

First off, thanks for joining us, and for taking the time to write that out. I made a small edit to your post regarding the elves, but only for the sake of keeping things a little more strictly child-friendly. I don't think it will affect what you are trying to convey, however.

I think you have touched upon an aspect of fantasy settings that many others struggle with as soon as they delve into the logic of their settings, and you've made some good progress on trying to make sense of them. I like the idea of making reproductive capabilities and/or strategy a bigger part of a racial identity, as this is a nice way to divide the fantasy races socially and spiritually without necessarily requiring significant differences in physical statistics, and I think you should keep trying to run with the implications of the racial differences, e.g. what only being fertile in a certain period of the year actually means for the elves, who'd likely keep very different calendars and social gatherings.

With the dwarves, you might actually want them to need to eat and drink more, given all of the resistances they've developed (maybe you could think of it scientifically as a much more active immune system and unusual metabolism, requiring a higher caloric intake). As for the dwarf incubation part, I would again sit down and think about what this means for a primitive dwarf society in terms of how they structure themselves, how they'd organize hunting and foraging, etc. and see where that leads you in terms of cultural practices. I think when you look at how human cultural practices evolved, much of our ancient, classical, medieval, and even modern behaviors could be argued to be tied to the ability to procreate and raise newborns whenever the resources and opportunities are most prevalent.

Lastly, I wouldn't worry so much about the ability of others to interpret your cultures as racist in any way - at the end of the day, this is a fantasy setting, and you have to draw from somewhere. If you are truly concerned and want to structure things organically, you could try writing down details for the particular human, elven, dwarven, etc. peoples of certain regions based on the environment around them, e.g. local flora and fauna, any animal migrations, types of ores available, amount of sunlight and seasonal variation in weather, etc. From there, you could do a bit of research on most basic technologies and cultural practices, such as basic agriculture, animal husbandry, food preparation, burial rites, and such, and try to build an ancient cultural concept of what the people were like. It might end up looking like a hodge-podge of one or more real-world cultures, but I don't think that'll be an issue.
« Last Edit: December 31, 2017, 10:54:27 AM by Hoers » Logged


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« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2017, 01:41:14 PM »

I think that the biggest pitfall when it comes to racism in fantasy settings is a lack of diversity among the human population, which I think you've addressed. If a setting very specifically has the humans look a certain way, and then also has non-humans standing in for humans who don't look like that, there may be problems-- the main example of this in fantasy settings is to have white humans (more or less exclusively) from "fantasy Europe" but then have elves, orcs, and such who are representative of different cultures, and then that leads to situations where the savage orcs are obvious stand-ins for black people and everything gets dicey really fast. So, of course, the most direct fix for this is to not have nonhuman races as a stand-in for anything, because you've got sufficient diversity within the human population. It's also more fun to write about and play in, and this allows you to build in more real-world inspirations, too, so it's pretty much a win all around. "Fantasy Europe" can combine with "fantasy Africa" and "fantasy Asia" and whatever else. Granted, if you try to throw in too much, it becomes a little bit of a kitchen sink, but the threshold is pretty high as long as things plausibly flow from one to another.

I'm also against racial monocultures, especially as applied in games like Pathfinder where humans are the "varied" race and for some reason every other race has these defined traits. I do think that a differing biology could lead to a differing neurology which would lead to some broad traits, but, in those cases, humans would have them too! A long time ago I made a prehistorical setting where the most common race was a race of bipedal reptiles; humans were there but they were widely regarded as conniving and impulsive. (Sounds like us!)

As for crunch, that skill system is kind of cool but I get the sense that you don't actually have a list of skills anywhere, and players are more or less creating them on the fly. The main pitfalls with a system like that is that without a hard skill list you might end up with subskills that have the same cost but are of very different overall effectiveness, and that players aren't really sure what sort of activities the game's crunch is going to focus on. I can certainly sympathize with the difficulty of reducing all of the different sorts of personality traits and abilities that someone might have into numbers, but I'd recommend a more abstracted skill system that still had a definite (or at least, base) skill list, lest you run into all sorts of game balance issues. One thing I've done in my own systems is made most core tasks in the game doable with two or three different skills, allowing characters to be competent in a lot of things while still being able to be built in a way that feels like it matches their character concept.
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« Reply #6 on: January 03, 2018, 09:16:14 PM »

Thank you all for the responses, they're very helpful.

sparkletwist

So, of course, the most direct fix for this is to not have nonhuman races as a stand-in for anything, because you've got sufficient diversity within the human population. It's also more fun to write about and play in, and this allows you to build in more real-world inspirations, too, so it's pretty much a win all around. "Fantasy Europe" can combine with "fantasy Africa" and "fantasy Asia" and whatever else. Granted, if you try to throw in too much, it becomes a little bit of a kitchen sink, but the threshold is pretty high as long as things plausibly flow from one to another.

Yup, exactly! I'll have a somewhat isolated human culture based on a sort of imagined progression from mesoamerican antiquity if there hadn't been european contact, a coastal federation of mercantile city-states built from coral, based on the 15th century Mogadishu/Zanzibar/Mombasa as described by Ibn Battuta, as well as some human cultures without real world parallels like a black skinned eskimo/zulu arctic people who live in ice complexes, a light featured people based aesthetically on the early romans but as a horde culture on a tropical savannah, etc.

Glad to hear others agree this is a good way forward. And yeah I definitely agree it's more fun from a playing and world-building perspective for sure.

sparkletwist

The main pitfalls with a system like that is that without a hard skill list you might end up with subskills that have the same cost but are of very different overall effectiveness, and that players aren't really sure what sort of activities the game's crunch is going to focus on. I can certainly sympathize with the difficulty of reducing all of the different sorts of personality traits and abilities that someone might have into numbers, but I'd recommend a more abstracted skill system that still had a definite (or at least, base) skill list, lest you run into all sorts of game balance issues. One thing I've done in my own systems is made most core tasks in the game doable with two or three different skills, allowing characters to be competent in a lot of things while still being able to be built in a way that feels like it matches their character concept.

This is a good point. I'm tempted to just push the barebones roleplaying base as far as the d20 system can bear, and then see what needs to be filled in as it's used in game, but the lack of specificity of what subtraits are available and how they would differ from skills seems like it would be something that comes up immediately and should be addressed beforehand. So at the least I'll go in with a fully fleshed out list of examples and try to make them generally consistent in usefulness.

Hoers

First off, thanks for joining us, and for taking the time to write that out. I made a small edit to your post regarding the elves, but only for the sake of keeping things a little more strictly child-friendly. I don't think it will affect what you are trying to convey, however.

No problem at all, didn't realize that was the standard for posting but I'll remember for the future.

Hoers


I think you have touched upon an aspect of fantasy settings that many others struggle with as soon as they delve into the logic of their settings, and you've made some good progress on trying to make sense of them. I like the idea of making reproductive capabilities and/or strategy a bigger part of a racial identity, as this is a nice way to divide the fantasy races socially and spiritually without necessarily requiring significant differences in physical statistics, and I think you should keep trying to run with the implications of the racial differences, e.g. what only being fertile in a certain period of the year actually means for the elves, who'd likely keep very different calendars and social gatherings.

Yeah I started with thinking about making the common androgynous elf cliche having a more prominent and better explored role in distinguishing the race, and it seemed like a very natural way to define how a different humanoid species would behave, considering how determinate of behavior and cultures reproduction and how it's perceived/portrayed are, even within the boundaries of only human sexuality, so it makes sense that demihumans in a similarly biological world would have noticeable differences in reproductive habits. 

Your idea of constructing a culture from the ground up is very appealing to me, but just a little too much micromanagement, and ideally I think I'd like to imply that level of depth and association between culture and environment without necessarily building it from the ground up. I mean, ideally I would have the time and energy to build it from the ground up, but it would be tough to do now, lol. But yeah I see what you're saying, no shame in drawing from cultures as a point of reference as long as it's done tastefully. I am a little over paranoid about it, and not for any practical reason, just perfectionism about wanting to "fix" generic fantasy's more embarrassing holes.

LoA

I made a Small Talking Animal Fantasy setting (Redwall, Secret of NIMH, etc), and I tried to base the entire thing around there physical attributes. Badgers were big and strong, Weasels were slippery, Otters were swimmers, etc etc.


I've seen some of your setting, it's very cool. I am more or less going for the traditional conception of the races, elves as agile compared to humans, dwarves as tough compared to humans, etc. Just trying to justify those differences better than most generic DnD fantasies do, and by better I mean of course in a way that I prefer
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« Reply #7 on: January 04, 2018, 04:10:37 PM »

more spitballing, no permanence to any proper names, even they're generic they're more than likely a placeholder

Cultural Group:Tir Leau

Tir Leau is a group that encompasses the various peoples whose languages and customs originate with the Old Elfar of the northern continent and the Human settlers who adopted and adapted the languages and practices of those Old Elfar, either as the conquered or the conquerors. For a long while these Human and Elfar nations and peoples fought and allied amongst themselves all across the eastern forests, mountains, and fjords of the northern continent, with many of their own distinct cultural groups, religions, and languages within what we now collectively refer to as the Tir Leau, a category which would have then had no meaning. But later Human expansion into the northern continent, spurred on by the climate change desertification of the southern continent and the flooding of heavily populated flood plains, led to the slow domination of the migratory southern continent Human kingdoms who would come to assimilate Humans and either destroy or outbreed the Elfar. This isolated the once dominant peoples a couple thousand miles apart from each other so that there is no contact or identification between them, and they are linked only in the common origins of their many cultures and languages. Despite the success of the conquering peoples to eliminate identification with and use of the previously used languages and beliefs, even some of those more successful of the conquering peoples assimilated into their own cultures something of the Tir Leau cultures as a result of the assimilation of the Tir Leau peoples.

There are two main subgroups of Tir Leau: the Tyr-Vel Irien region, which remains largely Elfish, a vast forested wilderness spanning from one sea to another between two mountain ranges, and containing its own variety of cultures and competing kingdoms and tribes. Far to the north from there, also belonging to the Tir Leau cultural group is the primarily Human Donnaichvaile region that encompasses all of the fjords, forests, and marshlands of the northernmost island, and much of the northern sections of the Manchesthin Peninsula, the southern half of which is Chestish. The Chestish Kingdom of Manchesthin has been trying and having various levels of success in subjugating the Donnish peoples of the northern half of the peninsula, and they now exert effective military control over it and suppress Donnish cultural and religious practices.

https://imgur.com/a/BzGJk
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