|Mike McArtor Contributor|
|Mike McArtor Contributor|
In many recent posts I note that groups seemed often to be comprised of PCs like Half Vampire Fighters, or Human Werewolf Clerics, etc.
In my games I don't really allow anything beyond the base races and classes (although perhaps an occasional prestige class here and there is allowed). My players never complain about this and employ extra effort to customize the background of their characters. Our games always seem to be highly creative and unique, and I don't believe the roleplaying suffers either.
I simply enjoy the archetypical roles more than the fantastical. A werewolf or a half-vampire pc is completely lost on me.
Am I alone in this? Just curious.
Well, this is not an attempt to flame or anything like that, but am unsure how to put this delicately so am just gonna throw it out there; please take in best light.
It is my thought that many new gamers or young gms mostly stick to the base races; but for many of this who have been playing for a couple decades; well, we look for a bit more variety; we can get a lot more story milage out of a half vampire who can be a tragic character in a light no normal human could approach. You could of course make one over the years of having your character become a vampire or mate with a vampire and then play the offspring, but most people just write a background for a character ready made; we like to think of all the alternative races as role playing situation we just havent explored yet. There just isnt much left for the base races that we havent done or explored; the opening of ther race canon has been a great way to breath some life into a game that had gotten more sterile as we all started playing rpgs that allowed other races.
Basically, I let anyone play just about any race they have encountered in my game that they can write a good background for and for which they have a solid role playing theme. The game is for the players as well as myself so I let them play what they want and adjust the game accordingly.
There just isnt much left for the base races that we havent done or explored...
Which is why nobody writes novels about humans these days.
(As you might guess, I have a different opinion from that expressed by Valegrim.) My next D&D campaign will only allow humans, elves, dwarves, halflings, hobgoblins, and goblins as PC races. And I don't see any problem with restricting a campaign even further -- say, allowing only human PCs.
Restriction is the mother of imagination.
Valegrim - No...that is not the case at all. I am 40 and have been playing since 1978 or so...I don't consider myself a novice with the game. I, and others in my group, have gone in the opposite direction from what you suggest. Our initial PCs were quite intricate as to race and class. We have evolved into what I described above, preferring "simpler" PCs....not for simplicity's sake, but perhaps for other reasons. I've yet to figure out what those are...heh.
I think as a kid I'd mix it up more. We got the Fiend Folio with the githyanki on the cover and said, "why don't we make up a crew of drow fighter/mu's, fighter/clerics, fighter/mu/thieves, or whatever?"
Oh, you mean its easier to make an attention whore? I keed, I keed. A little. At my last session, the forst of a new campaign with all new players, I kept handing a PHB to several of the guys saying they should really read it before they play DnD. Tongue in cheek, mostly, but c'mon. Most of the 1/2 were-touched pseudo-humanoid goblin-kin PCs I have run into were for one of 2 reasons:1. Min/maxing. Kill these.
2. Bad DMing. And by that I mean no direction, world info, theme/flavor info, etc. If you are running FR, tell your players where in FR you are running. Tell them what is available, and what you'd rather not deal with. Most players, in my experience, will play along if you have a plan and open it up to them a little bit. Sometimes they will surprise the hell out of you by picking some minor point and expanding it beyond your wildest fears. Just my $.02.
To take the middle ground in this, I'm not sure it has anything to do with the age of the players or DM, but merely their boredom with same ol' same ol'. I actually kinda suspect that newer, younger players are most likely to want to play non-core races, since the fantasy most of them grew up with isn't as humanocentric as the fantasy older gamers grew up with.
My current campaign is all human, but it's also set on real-world Earth in 2012. If I ever DM standard D&D again, I'm sure the races will be restricted to those in the Player's Handbook. Classes... well, that's different. But definitely a restriction on races.
I've tried DMing the "play whatever you want, woohoo!" Savage Species-esque campaign, and it breaks down in a hurry.
From my experience, allowing one character of a non-standard race (like drow or lizardfolk) is quite enough for most parties. :)
I am with you! variety should come from history and personality, not some stats on a paper - I truly found this out by forcing all players to play run-of-the-MM Orcs without classes or cools SAs. Amazingly, they varied more than when I allowed players to play just about anything. Then, the only diffrence was in the stats and SAs, just like a bunch of Pokemons (no offense to the pokemons on these boards) - "I use the dagger of anguish attack! I cast ebony death! Picachu I pick you!Now, being run-of-the-MM orcs (the kinf you meet in random encounters and dismiss as minor annoyance) they have to be diffrent through their actions rather than their sheets, one is a cowardly thug and and a drunkard, the other is deeply superstitious religious fanatic, the third is a dreamy nature lover.
I think that every DM who is into role-playing and not roll-playing should demand the players to have more complex concepts than adventuring (of course it makes adventure designing far more difficult...)
Mike McArtor wrote:
You're the Associate Editor of Dragon Magazine and you wrote, "If I ever DM standard D&D again..."??? Wow, I didn't expect that! Not an indictment, but...wow!
Thanks for the replies, all! I think Mike has it right. The "play whatever you want" campaign would easily break down in my group, but every group is different.
Our current campaign has 2 humans, a shifter, a warforged, an air genasi, and an Aasimar (set in Eberron). A lot of this has been "let's see how this all works".
I am pretty much "play what you want" as long as it makes sense (background is fairly solid), but I do have some limits. As a DM I would have a hard time running a group with a mind flayer in it. I could probably run one with a half-vampire in it, though.
More often than not, however, the Level Adjustment really steers our players away from most of the half-dragon, half-fiend, half-troll combinations that a lot of people post about.
I enjoy both extremes (and the middle ground, too). I'm currently playing in two campaigns. In one, I'm a core-only human wizard. In the other, I'm an aquatic gray orc druid variant.
I don't go for the half-races, though. They're cheesy, IMO. Vampire? Cool. Half-vampire? B!$#!!~s.
I run an AoW campaign in FR, and the group just slew Shukak and liberated the Twisted Branch tribe from his cruel rule. My party currently consists of the following:
-Celendil: CG male moon elf scout 7 (moving toward deepwood sniper from Masters of the Wild)
Two PCs are monstrous:
-Kragg: NG male half-orc werewolf ranger 3/stalker of Kharash 2 (Exalted Deeds)
Kragg, a skilled hunter and seasoned woodsman, became the favored of Kharash (thus, the Favored of the Companions feat) while defending citizens of Diamond Lake from various foes, keeping the surrounding countryside safe with his work and his axe. During his trek through the Lizardmarsh, hunting orcs while his companions trekked to the Twisted Branch tribe, he was confronted by a pack of black-furred wolves and a good-aligned werewolf known only as Blackwolf, who is a favored of Kharash. Commanded by Kharash himself, Blackwolf ravaged Kragg, infecting him with lycanthropy, blessing the half-orc with the gifts of the canine. Kragg now strives to hunt down and destroy evil (especially undead) in all its forms. The combined scent and scent evil abilities make the werewolf/stalker of Kharash combo perfect.
-Kel-drak: NG male lizarfolk druid 5 of Silvanus
Kel-drak's father was the lizard king of the Twisted Branch before Shukak (a draconic lizardfolk barbarian 7 in my campaign) killed the king and assumed power, bringing a group of draconic henchmen with him to cow the tribe. To ensure his rule, Shukak also had all the other heirs killed, except for Kel-drak. Before Shukak could have Kel-drak slain, Kel-drak's mother spirited him away to the egg chamber and showed him the black dragon egg. She bade her son flee and seek help outside the lair, hoping that he might one day return and reclaim his birthright and save the tribe. As Kel-drak swam away, his mother was captured and put to death. Roughly 9 months later, Kel-drak and the above party returned, killed Shukak, destroyed the dragon egg (and, of course, uncovered more clues concerning the Age of Worms), and Kel-drak relinquished his birthright to Shumeska, an aged and wise lizardfolk champion who aided the party.
I encouraged the lizardfolk build simply because of the above scenario. With a lizardfolk PC in the group, the Twisted Branch encounter WAS NOT a slaughter-fest. It was one of our best games. The werewolf angle was my idea and it surprised the heck out of the player. I've always wanted a lycanthrope in the party, and the stalker of Kharash prestige class just begs to be used by a canine type.
Note the term "standard." I haven't run a standard game of D&D in more than five years. My current campaign is a d20 Modern/D&D bastardized hybrid and the one before it was a Savage Species play whatever you want campaign.
I certainly enjoy playing in standard D&D games, but not so much with running them. ;)
I am fimrly in the camp of those who feel that characters are best when cut from standard cloth (to qualify, I'm 19 and have been playing for about 3 or 4 years). I've run games (all short lived) where the races ran the gamut of those found in whatever monster books you could come across. There was no real substance. I'm not saying that this is a rule for parties with monstrous members, but it's been my experience. The whole thing just seems to revolve around the thrill of "Whoo! I'm strange!" Once that's gone, there's nothing.
Now, I have experienced this from the player's side, too. In our first and only Epic game ever, I played a Cornugon, of all things. No class levels, and I was actually the weakest one in the group (probably because I didn't really take into account the Great Teleport at will option). Anyway, there was also a doppleganger assassin and a mind flayer psion. We spent three hours each, buying gear for our character, then proceeded to play for a total of 30 minutes. I blame the Epic rules on the brevity of the game, however, not necessarily the racial choices. Actually, it birthed one of the most memorable moments of our old group. (To Sexi Golem: "Look what I can do! De-de-de dee de, de-de-de-de dee de....")
One of my best friends played a half-elf ranger for a long time, then in the subsequent campaigns for quite a while, wouldn't hardly touch the PHB for race inspiration, instead, aiming for things like pixie liches and crap. He hardly knew the ins and outs of the core races and still wasn't happy unless it was a centaur ranger or something on his sheet. However, this ended up pointing out the weakness of such highly Level Adjusted races, and ultimately brought about the end of the group's attraction to them. The were-bear gnoll samauri didn't have the base Fort needed to resist an advanced ghast's paralysis, and was quickly ripped to shreds by the monster and his friends.
I've gotten a lot more critical of races that I allow in my games. I've heard the comment before that, "Humans are boring." No, you've just failed to learn about the cultures available in the world. Elves and dwarves and other such races all have a stereotyped culture pachage included which appeals to many people. Humans don't, and can thus feel bland. However, just because the PHB doesn't set out any culture for them doesn't mean they don't have it. If you take the time to actually read up on the setting, or talk to your DM if it's a homebrew, you can get a good deal of information and make a character that's very unique, tied to the local scene, and straight out of the PHB.
I think what might help is that humans aren't boring per se, but when you approach other races you want to avoid psychological anthropomorphization. What do I mean by this? Like I know?
Here's a query: Why don't you let your players play whatever they want?
After all, it is a group game...
Old tune, old dance.
Would you feel comfortable with walking up to an artist and saying, "I really like that painting, but it doesn't match my couch. Could you do redo it in blue?*" This happened to an artist friend of mine; if you know any artists, her reaction was pretty predictable. (Let's just say that it didn't involve opening tins of blue paint.)
"Great world; can you make it so I can play Drizzt, but as a half-flumph?" is exactly the same sort of thing.
First of all, *insert a rouge pun here*. Whee, got that out of the system.
And for the actual discussion...
To get to play an offbeat character, you have to answer in minimum following questions:
Standard races are fun and do provide room for lots of interesting concepts but sometimes it is fun to dabble with something more exotic and alien.
I guess I agree with the majority.
Doug Sundseth wrote:
The artist analogy here is a poor one...tabletop RPGs are a collective experience, not a singular one. It may very well be offensive for the artist mentioned above and i would never ask that kind of question. The GM should never use verbiage such as "my campaign" "my adventure" "my players"...it implys ownership of the experience. To boot, it encourages dictatorial style GMing.This is a gaming philosophy and, of course, other modes of governance rule the RPG world. However, in a community setting, why subject a group of gamers to any other form of decision-making process other then democracy? If the group wants to play half-everythings, the dictatorial GM is only limiting the creativity of the individual gamers.
There is an answer to my question above but instead of posting it here, i'll re-post it on the Place Your Rant Here thread...i haven't posted there in a while but this has inspired me to do so.
Ace I'm pretty sure it is democracy. We use the term "I do not allow" but I highly doubt that that takes on the oppressive tint you seem to suggest.
Me: I think that warforged, shifters, half vampires, half ogres, and psionics are junk. I do not like them in my campaign and have not made room for them in my home brew. So if four people wanted to play an all psionic party in my campaign the "artist analogy" would be completely accurate.
Now If someone wanted to play a half vampire then it would not pose nearly such a problem. However since I do not like them I still would not do it. If he has a truely unique and interesting background (not blade's story) then I could certainly be persuaded but I will explain my reasoning and try to get him to try something else.
I have never held the opinion that DMs should run their games like dictators but they are leaders. Leaders that carry extra weight from most gamers because they understand that they sacrifice a lot more time than any player for the group. Most DM's enjoy their work but it is still work and it is to be respected. The power from a DM should come from this respect not from some badge of imaginary authority.
As a DM I like characters to come up with a story, then I place them in the wourld design a few encounters and some NPC's and we play. I ask them not to use certain races and classes because I don't like them. They oblige because they as characters can have fun with any concept. As a DM some concepts are annoying and since they keep me from having fun my friends will not mind their exclusion. I don't use democracy or a dictatorship. Because D&D is not a government. It is a group of friends playing a game.
I completely agree with Ace. The DM's disproportionate amount of effort and time spent on the world shouldn't matter at all, nor should the precedent and even flat out statement in the core rules that the DM is the arbiter of the game, whose job it is to make decisions about what to allow and what not to allow. If a player wants to run a pseudonatural half troll xill psion/barbarian that rapes every third gnome and elf he comes across, who am I to object? Limiting such options can only reduce creativity. And I'm sure the game will run just fine with such a creature.
hehe; happy halloween; but back to the thread; why would I want to play a human; sheesh; I play at being one everyday. Stats dont really matter for out games as we mostly have not battles; seems we only have a fight once every couple months or so; most of the time is just roleplaying with a few skill checks for perception or whatnot. If I were going to make a limitation rule on playable races I would say no elves and no dragon or dragon offshoots only because I have yet to meet anyone who can play one well; if you curious what I mean check out my other posts about elves; playing a near immortal is a very hard concept to wrap yourself around.
Most novels, as one poster mentioned, are really just regurgiations of the same theme over and over and over with just a few simple twists or turns; ever taken a novel writing class? Well, there is a formula for a reason; characterization and plot are themes sure, but how many books have you read that can really stand alone. Most of our games now are no longer just a dungeon you can do in one or two nights, but these sweeping epics that take years to play. Best to play a character your going to like and want to spend time developing over years; sure you can start another character at just about any time, but you will be behind everyone else and have other problems like finding a way to fit into a very diverse group.
Its all good though, which is why i am still playing this game after a couple decades. Each dm brings different and exciting stuff; it the story not the character that makes the difference so play what you want.
The artist analogy here is a poor one...tabletop RPGs are a collective experience, not a singular one. It may very well be offensive for the artist mentioned above and i would never ask that kind of question.
I disagree categorically. Designing a world is work. And it is a sort of work that is directly analogous to that of any other artist. I have a vision of my world and you have no right to expect me to change that vision. If you want me to do work for you, you can offer to pay me and I can take the commission or not. Absent such an agreement, you have no entitlement to my effort, and expressing such an entitlement is boorish.
The GM should never use verbiage such as "my campaign" "my adventure" "my players"...it implys ownership of the experience.
My sandbox, my sand, my game. If you want your own sandbox, the tools are available. If enough players agree with your vision, you'll probably have lots of fun. But if you choose my sandbox, I decide when to add the water, what color sand to use, and what toys you can bring.
The word you are looking for is "auctorial"; "dictatorial" is offensive. You can leave at any time you want; if enough people leave, I won't be running my world.
However, in a community setting, why subject a group of gamers to any other form of decision-making process other then democracy?
"A camel is a horse made by a committee." Committee design of an art project doesn't work even that well. I know the secrets of my world, and what might be incompatible with them. I know the tone I'm trying to achieve, and am more likely than you are to understand what will disrupt that. And I do more work than you (the players) do on my world, so I get to make the decisions. If I make lousy decisions, I'll be playing alone.
If the group wants to play half-everythings, the dictatorial GM is only limiting the creativity of the individual gamers.
Completely incorrect for the vast majority of groups. Choosing from a bigger list of stereotypes is not creativity. And that's what nearly always happens when DMs travel the "everything goes" path. Uri Kurlianchik's report above is not aberrant, and it directly supports what I've been saying for some time: Restrictions support creativity; they do not limit it.
The most restrictive game I ever played was a friends attempt to run a "7 Samauri" campaign. Yup, we all had to be human samauri. We used Oriental Adventures, and the clans, so there was a source (see earlier post re; bad dming), and I have to say, they were a most diverse lot. Some were solely samauri, some were partial casters, all had different approaches to combat and motivations for adventuring. It was a lot of fun, but getting everyone together was too much work and it fell apart quickly.
That being said, choices have consequences. Want to play a 1/2 drow in the realms? Be preparred to deal with prejudice and hatred wherever you go. Want to play a (insert long creative and punny race here)? Be preparred to deal with the consequences, one of which is short character life span (its odd!! Kill it first, it may be stronger than the others!!!).
And democracy only works so far at the gaming table. The DM, by nature, is in charge of the game. they are responsible for having ideas ready and giving the players a framework. The players have to be willing to go along with some of the ideas, ad offer thier own as well. Its a give and take, bt its not democracy. That being said, no DM, no game. Its a lot easier to find players than DMs, simple truth. So to a certain extent, it IS the DMs game, you're just playing in it.
A few months ago, we started a new campaign. I asked my players if they would each roll up a fighter. I said I had a great idea to start the new campaign, that it would involve all the fighters to fight 'glatiator' style (to the death) and the winner would play on as the PC fighter, while the others made up new characters and team up with him a few months (the next session) after the arena incident.
I thought it would be a great intro for the fighter. My players disagreed, and I rethought the beginning of my campaign. What's the use of doing something that nobody wants to be part of?
I think the issue that many players have when they hear DMs say things like "MY world" "MY campaign" and the like is that those are the same justifications often used by railroading DMs. (My adventure arc is a work of art. By circumventing plot event X, you have destroyed it.)
I'm not saying that's what previous posters are endorsing at all. I'm saying players have a tendancy to cringe when they hear those words because of past negative experiences.
The setting, including geography, races, cultures, etc, really is entirely the DM's creation (although many DMs would be wise to listen to player imput when developing new campaigns if they want the most motivated, invested players).
It is the DM's prerogative to place the limits for their campaign.
It is the player's prerogative to vote with their feet, or run their own campaign, if the DM isn't offering the game they want to play (and players should take that to heart, you shouldn't spend 5 hours a week playing a game that you don't care for).
Both approaches (core only and all options) have merits. As was said in OA, it isn't what is RIGHT but what is RIGHT FOR YOU AND YOUR GROUP. If they have a compelling backstory to justify something that shouldn't be taken away without cause. I've said this before but it bears repeating: If you want to initiate a new campaign, close out the previous one (complete the quest, TPK, whatever method you want) then, at the same session when everyone is there, announce the rules for the campaign: what resources are in or out, what options are available and, MOST IMPORTANT, DON'T tell the players before hand about this. That way, they know the rules right from the start and will work within them rather than coming up with something compelling only to be told later "no that isn't usable". Also, NEVER underestimate players abilities to come up with innovative, nonlinear solutions to problems (check out the article on D&D humour in the design and development column on the official site and look for an encounter with a 3.0 iron golem for an example of player creativity)
I've played with friends who fall to both extremes. Zach tends to play the new cool races and runs games wide open at to races allowed. One of the campaigns he's proudest of talking about was one where his 4 armed war troll was on a quest for power, for divinity.
On the other hand, Jim's big on limited races-- and the standard ones will have strong cultures that make them seem very different from the norm.
Both styles work just fine. I tend to work more on character background in Jim's campaigns, since he tends toward divisive competing races, while Zach tends towards large cosmopolitan empires. Long story short: Know your group and try to enjoy whichever style the group/GM enjoys.
Howdy all, back from the dead!
Wanted to add my two coppers here:
Mike McArtor said-"To take the middle ground in this, I'm not sure it has anything to do with the age of the players or DM, but merely their boredom with same ol' same ol'. I actually kinda suspect that newer, younger players are most likely to want to play non-core races, since the fantasy most of them grew up with isn't as humanocentric as the fantasy older gamers grew up with."
I have also noticed this trend in my own group. I have nine (9) current players and the most bizzare PC's are run by the more inexperienced players. It seems like the good old halfling or dwarf can't hold a candle to the Half dragon warmage/scout/rouge, or the Half ogre/half silver dragon (I'm not kidding) barbarian. Another player wants to run an Artificer/Rouge.... even though we are playing in Greyhawk.
I really don't have a big problem with most of the character choices, except for the fact that most players don't think that a Half Dragon walking into town will make any commoners blink or look twice. 10 foot tall half ogre? Nah, coudn't be any problems there, do you think innkeeper? Or Watch Commander?
I just wish these players would think a little. Yes, as a PC you are supposed to be special. I will be the first to agree with that. But you also have to be able to interact with your surroundings, and for 90% of the campaign worlds out there, that means getting past the city guards to visit the local healers. Or being able to bed down at the crossroads Inn to get a decent nights sleep.
My current game (AoW) has PCs limited to anything that could be an ECL 3 once racial HD & LA are accounted for. This works well, I think, since it outs Half-Dragons (ECL 4 with 1 class level and no racial HD) and most other creatures that, frankly, should elicit more than a raised eyebrow from the local populace. I ended up with a human warlock, a human cleric (Heironeous), a half-drow changeling rogue*, a human monk, an orc wizard**, and a young halfling rogue.
* which is funny since the player doesn't know about the HoHR, so his choice actually works in my favor really well :-)
** Using the wizard's staff variant (Dragon 338). With 32 point buy, she ended up with an 18 Strength and a 14 Intelligence. She uses all touch spells, channeled through her staff. Knocked a certain mad slasher from full to staggered in one hit! Unfortunately her AC and hp are really low at this point (lvl 2 now), so front-line fighting is very dangerous for her (though she does have mage armor and will probably pick up shield soon. As for hp, I guess she'll have to see about getting an amulet of health at some point!
Well, one of the gms here is gonna be starting a new first level game with our group; it will be interesting to see what races and classes peeps will play. It is going to be a save the world game where the pc start back in the rear with the gear; meaning in an isolated place away from the pc action from the several other games or groups from the past, but same world.
I usually pick my prestige class first and then find a starting class and race combination that will fulfill the requirements and work well within the group. I thought I would play the master of shapes class; since I have been thinking about it and haven't played it. That means I have to have shapechange or wild change to play this class; which means I either have to be a druid that gets wild shape; or a ranger variant that gets wild shape or a monk that gets wild shape or a changeling. If there are any other options; please let me know. Since the race is a 4hd monster, ie player race level is +4; each choice will be able to attain the master of shapes prestige class at 5th level and each has interesting benefits. If I choose the monk; which I am leaning to; I will want to play something to help out the monk features; like dex and wisdom for the armor class benefit. Once I get the physical stuff of the character done I will start working on his background with the gm; this is how i typically pick a race and class; this is of course modified by what other players choose to play. I usually dont play humans mostly because they have no night vision which is the same reason i believe most peeps in our group dont pick humans.
For the changeling, the archtype would be classical story literature of the spy. The human baby replaced at birth with a changeling, most everyone has heard this very old story, its a classic tale of the fey; but nobody ever hears about how that changeling grows up; well, I want to play that guy; the changeling that grew up with a human family; loves them and wants to save the world.