Why do people love being 'normal' in a Fantasy Setting?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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Ninten wrote:

One thing I've noticed about this discussion is that people equate Humans with being a weaker option mechanically, or in the lore. They are neither. In Golarion, as well as most other D&D settings, Humans are the most populous race, on the rise, the empire builders, etc. If you look at a "who's who" of the highest level and most influential NPCs in a given setting, they are mostly Human.

Case in point, Elves live flipping forever as someone said- 12 times a Human's lifespan. Yet, the incredibly ancient and powerful Elven Conjurer could be nine hundred and level 18. A Human Abjurer reaches level 18 by... 70? 50? Less? There is something remarkable about Humans.

Ye, thats something I also find confusing. Humans are in no way weak or underdog, besides being pretty much the best race(outside of super specific specialization min-maxing) for most classes, in setting they are dominant as well even if it doesn't really feel like it makes sense.

Just to note, I'm tired of idea that human's race hat is "they are different from each other and adaptive and such unlike those other races who are all stereotypical and s~&@", I much prefer when their hat is something like "they are the weakest of other races, but they still hang around whether its due to luck or sheer tenacity" :P


Boomerang Nebula wrote:

I like contrasts.

In a realistic setting like modern earth I prefer to play the: alien, robot, superhero, vampire or other exotic fantasy creature.

In a fantasy setting like Golarion I prefer to play humans or standard human-like races.

So you like to be difficult >_<..

I keed. I Keed.


Icyshadow wrote:
Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:
I go primarily for culture when choosing races and human races tend to have the most interesting cultures in most settings, and they mostly avoid the race-based cultures (which can be fun if done right but are often monolithic and boring).
That is actually a point I attempted to address in the campaign setting I made for my own games; there's more cultures for each race than just one. So instead of one elven nation like in Golarion / the Inner Sea, there are like three of them, but they are not very similar to one another since they are rather different culturally. Same goes for the humans, dwarves and most other races in each continent of said world. The Underdark / Darklands are their own can of worms to deal with, but that's neither here nor there at the moment, even if there are a few Drow settlements above the surface in my setting, mainly to do some trade with slightly more reasonable folks.

This is one of the reasons I like Mystara. A dominant culture in a region will often color every race living there. The not-Mongols of the Known World, for instance, are primarily humans but have ogre, goblin, hobgoblin and orc variants in the same area. When you have race specific cultures there is a good in-game reason for it, and for explaining why they don't act like everyone else in the area.


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Vidmaster7 wrote:
Boomerang Nebula wrote:

I like contrasts.

In a realistic setting like modern earth I prefer to play the: alien, robot, superhero, vampire or other exotic fantasy creature.

In a fantasy setting like Golarion I prefer to play humans or standard human-like races.

So you like to be difficult >_<..

I keed. I Keed.

Perhaps! :P

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Rise of the Runelords:
2 humans
1 dwarf
1 halfling

Skulls'n'Shackles
2 humans
1 suli reincarnated into a half-orc
1 gnome
1 tiefling

Reign of Winter
2 humans
1 aasimar
1 dwarf
1 elf

Hell's Rebels
2 humans
2 tieflings
1 aasimar

Strange Aeons
2 humans
1 halfling
1 dwarf
1 dhampir

Yup, it's humans or close-to-humans or classic fantasy races mostly here.


I just like to say I'm disappointed there is no sentient magical bags on that list... tsk tsk...


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After you've watched Gorbacz in action, anything else is but a poor sad copy.


Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
Yet the more odd idea is people seem to think that otherwise creative, intelligent people simply turn into potatoes running a stereotype when they come to the game because they picked Grippli? Is it so hard to believe that said person had an interesting character idea they wanted to explore and that they didn't in fact take leave of their creativity the moment they wrote Grippli down on the page?

I can't speak for other people, but for me it does make it harder to create an interesting and unique character.

Either I'm playing the stereotype version of the race: "Hello, I'm Gimmlee. I look and act like you'd expect a dwarf to look and act."

Or I'm playing a deliberate anti-stereotype version of the race: "Hello, I'm Fauntleroy, a dwarf with no beard. I have a delicate and sensitive disposition, and I suffer from claustrophobia. Please be kind to me."

Or I'm ignoring the expectations for my race, and effectively playing a human with certain mechanical differences.

Playing a human frees me from all that.


Where I come from, beardless Dwarves (yes, I've played one or two of those) are generally convicted criminals branded and banished... My Viga-Gunnar Bearchin won't be kind to your Fauntleroy, seeing him as a fellow convict, and he doesn't like criminals (g+@%%&mit, , it swas self fracking defence !!)

and humans ... the most fun I've had with a "human" character was with a guy who, in modern terms, would be called a tiefling.


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I hope this doesn't come off an an attack, it's just my opinion on a consistent theme I've observed in this thread. The idea that races other than human only have one personality and if you don't conform you may as well be a human.

I feel like going at it from the perspective of "ignoring the expectations for my race" might not be the best mindset to have, my brother makes a lot of dwarfs and he's done the stereotype and not done the stereotype. He's never deliberately railed against the stereotype though.

The none stereotype ones were still grounded in being a dwarf, they knew their culture, and where they came from, but they left to do other things. They ended up with different character traits, like one for example was a very gullible ex soldier who got into all kinds of trouble I won't go into here. But my point is that by not observing the typical stereotypes, he didn't become a human with other mechanics, he was still a dwarf.

The only people saying that each race can only have two personality types otherwise they're a human are the ones explaining why they just play a human anyway. But it's not really true nothing anywhere says a dwarf can't be a dwarf and also be big into ... chess for example and enjoy strategy games, they don't have to become a human in all but name to do those thing. For what's it's worth you can have a human with dwarf personality(Carrot anybody?), but I'm pretty sure people wouldn't say "just play a dwarf".

If playing none human isn't for you that's fine by all means you do you and I hope you enjoy it, but I don't really agree with this idea that races other than human should have pre defined personalities.


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IMO the more humanish races act as a touchstone for many players, a common point of reference through which they can experience sense of wonder and exploratory elements in a relatable way, because, well, we're human. :)

Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
so for some people being an Aasimar precludes them from exploring a fantasy world? O.o

Related to this, stories can be tricky to pull off where EVERYTHING is fantastical -- the people, the places, the situations, to the point where it is difficult to become emotionally invested in your character OR the story if you can personally relate to none of it. To paraphrase the old line from The Incredibles, "If Everything is special, then nothing is."

So, IMO you can more easily tell a story about a very fantastical character in a common relatable world and how they find their place in it, OR you can tell a story about a fantastical world and its differences from ours, but telling both at the same time can be tricky if in the end there are no touchstones to ground you in it. And if your fantasy race just becomes a human with a funny suit on because everyone treats them the same as every other race, then they run the risk of becoming just as boring. That's why I think there's a preference.

Dark Archive

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Relating to that thought of train that Durgon was talking about, I feel like describing my Kingmaker character personality wise and asking what they feel like to you. Well, at least my GM and players seem to only remember the "they are always drunk" part of personality so dunno if I'm portraying them badly or I don't know what personality means, I guess I just want to babble and to hear if other players are right to think their only major character trait is being drunk all the time. Anyway

So as I said before, the character is wandering drunken swordman. She started traveling at young age after bloody mess of shipwreck that killed her parents and she drinks to forget about it and her other fears. She is afraid of blood and water and can't fight lethally while sober with humanoids, but can put it aside for intelligent monsters or things like gremlins that while humanoid-ish aren't while still feeling icky about it, especially since she has honed scent for carrion. So yeah, she is kinda cowardly and needs that booze courage, but she can't stand to leave anyone behind to die even if they are really violent barbarians or zealous "hang all bandits" inquisitors. While she is disgusted by smell of blood and rot, she isn't above scavenging corpses or robbing to survive so she doesn't begrudge bandits for their way of life. She doesn't really get why humans/elves/orcs/such consider each to be that different from each other since they are all primates to her(and they are all kind of intimidating since they are like 50+ centimeters taller than her) and she feels sympathy for humanoids of more monstrous nature(such as kobolds who are seen as pests) since she feels they and her aren't that different in respect how more dominant races think of them. Out of character I always refer the character as "they" to see how long it takes someone in character refers them as male in earshot so she can react "...Wait, you thought I was guy for the whole time?"

So umm yeah. I don't really think that character sounds like "lol I was writing a tengu", but they don't really sound like "human with crow head" either. They just are a person if you ask me with their race being part of their life and history.


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Yeah, that sounds like good tengu characterisation, better than I could do.

And I can relate to the problem of creating a complex character, and then having the rest of the group being unaware of the nuances, either because it doesn't come up in play, or because they're not paying attention.


CorvusMask wrote:
Relating to that thought of train that Durgon was talking about

I'm hungover right now and reading this boggled my mind xD

Quote:

I feel like describing my Kingmaker character personality wise and asking what they feel like to you. Well, at least my GM and players seem to only remember the "they are always drunk" part of personality so dunno if I'm portraying them badly or I don't know what personality means, I guess I just want to babble and to hear if other players are right to think their only major character trait is being drunk all the time. Anyway

So as I said before, the character is wandering drunken swordman. She started traveling at young age after bloody mess of shipwreck that killed her parents and she drinks to forget about it and her other fears. She is afraid of blood and water and can't fight lethally while sober with humanoids, but can put it aside for intelligent monsters or things like gremlins that while humanoid-ish aren't while still feeling icky about it, especially since she has honed scent for carrion. So yeah, she is kinda cowardly and needs that booze courage, but she can't stand to leave anyone behind to die even if they are really violent barbarians or zealous "hang all bandits" inquisitors. While she is disgusted by smell of blood and rot, she isn't above scavenging corpses or robbing to survive so she doesn't begrudge bandits for their way of life. She doesn't really get why humans/elves/orcs/such consider each to be that different from each other since they are all primates to her(and they are all kind of intimidating since they are like 50+ centimeters taller than her) and she feels sympathy for humanoids of more monstrous nature(such as kobolds who are seen as pests) since she feels they and her aren't that different in respect how more dominant races think of them. Out of character I always refer the character as "they" to see how long it takes someone in character refers them as male in earshot so she can react "...Wait, you thought I was guy for the whole time?"

So umm yeah. I don't really think that character sounds like "lol I was writing a tengu", but they don't really sound like "human with crow head" either. They just are a person if you ask me with their race being part of their life and history.

Aside from the boggling however, thanks for illustrating my point beautifully, your character sounds wonderful.


Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:
Icyshadow wrote:
Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:
I go primarily for culture when choosing races and human races tend to have the most interesting cultures in most settings, and they mostly avoid the race-based cultures (which can be fun if done right but are often monolithic and boring).
That is actually a point I attempted to address in the campaign setting I made for my own games; there's more cultures for each race than just one. So instead of one elven nation like in Golarion / the Inner Sea, there are like three of them, but they are not very similar to one another since they are rather different culturally. Same goes for the humans, dwarves and most other races in each continent of said world. The Underdark / Darklands are their own can of worms to deal with, but that's neither here nor there at the moment, even if there are a few Drow settlements above the surface in my setting, mainly to do some trade with slightly more reasonable folks.
This is one of the reasons I like Mystara. A dominant culture in a region will often color every race living there. The not-Mongols of the Known World, for instance, are primarily humans but have ogre, goblin, hobgoblin and orc variants in the same area. When you have race specific cultures there is a good in-game reason for it, and for explaining why they don't act like everyone else in the area.

I can think of reasons things would start to differ - a long lived race might be slow to pick up trends from shorter lived races just because it's the same generation of people doing what they have always done rather than a new generation picking up changes. So for example if everyone was basically Victoria's England and then massive social changes happened over the course of a generation among the main populace it would seem that, for example, the elves would be less likely to pick the changes up leaving them Victorian and the shorter lived ones surrounding them something else.


RDM42 wrote:
Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:
Icyshadow wrote:
Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:
I go primarily for culture when choosing races and human races tend to have the most interesting cultures in most settings, and they mostly avoid the race-based cultures (which can be fun if done right but are often monolithic and boring).
That is actually a point I attempted to address in the campaign setting I made for my own games; there's more cultures for each race than just one. So instead of one elven nation like in Golarion / the Inner Sea, there are like three of them, but they are not very similar to one another since they are rather different culturally. Same goes for the humans, dwarves and most other races in each continent of said world. The Underdark / Darklands are their own can of worms to deal with, but that's neither here nor there at the moment, even if there are a few Drow settlements above the surface in my setting, mainly to do some trade with slightly more reasonable folks.
This is one of the reasons I like Mystara. A dominant culture in a region will often color every race living there. The not-Mongols of the Known World, for instance, are primarily humans but have ogre, goblin, hobgoblin and orc variants in the same area. When you have race specific cultures there is a good in-game reason for it, and for explaining why they don't act like everyone else in the area.
I can think of reasons things would start to differ - a long lived race might be slow to pick up trends from shorter lived races just because it's the same generation of people doing what they have always done rather than a new generation picking up changes. So for example if everyone was basically Victoria's England and then massive social changes happened over the course of a generation among the main populace it would seem that, for example, the elves would be less likely to pick the changes up leaving them Victorian and the shorter lived ones surrounding them something else.

That's one thing, certainly, but if everyone else in the city and country where you live does things one way, you tend to pick it up fairly quickly. Again to use Mystara as an example, you have the Alfheim elves, which I like to call the Amish elves. In short, as a reaction to the rapid technological development of Blackmoor (which came from a crashed spaceship), a bunch of elves rejected the high tech culture and went back to the 'original' (read: primitive) life of the old elves. Hunting, gathering, primitive agriculture, heavy emphasis on magic to create immense forests, with simple buildings and little taming of nature. Very little by the way of permanent structures, and crafts that don't use much by the way of metal.

Add in your two patron gods being the founder of the movement and the founder of your kingdom respectively, both with a strong religious presence in the land, and you have an insular and reserved (or elitist, depending on your interpretation) and culture that won't change very much over the centuries because it actively rejects many/most outside influences.

Compare this to the elves of the Red Steel area and many/most Alphatian and Thyatian elves, which are largely or entirely part of whatever dominant culture they grow up in. They take part in the fads and the changes of the culture they live in. I'm sure plenty of them are more resistant to change than others, just like humans, especially when they get older, but it's not like they are by nature resistant to change.


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I see it as a two-stage process. When you're first trying out roleplaying, picking a nonhuman race for your character is a good way to feel 'different' from yourself. And as you get more familiar with the world's most common races, the more exotic ones--catfolk, tengu, nagaji, etc.--remain a quick and easy way to get your "This Character is Different" fix.

But later on, you find that creating interesting personas and backstories is all it takes to make your character fun and interesting to play. At that point, racial selection becomes less important, unless you have a setting-specific backstory or motivation in mind.

Or, as one player in our group put it, "If you've got a good character concept, you don't need to staple on wings and glitter to make it special."


The out of touch elf is fun to play. I had a huge amount of fun in a 3rd edition Forgotten Realms campaign. I dug out the original, boxed, Forgotten Realms setting books and based my character's knowledge from those.


I would also like to add because too many "special snowflakes" end up making everything seem so mundane and not special anymore that these things are supposed to be fantastical become uninteresting.

If everyone is a half-fiend or half-celestial actual fiends and celestial become a lot less intriguing.


that's more of the 'how to make PCs say F-' line, but being confronted at low level with beings like a Marilith, Balor or Molydeus might make things interesting, especially if it's not an excuse for instant TPK.

Jon Brazer Enterprises

My first character, ever, was a grey elf fighter-magic user (Xavier was his name, incase you are wondering). I played him like a human because back then I didn't know what made an elf different.

I've played your standard elven ranger, elven wizard, a dwarven cleric, a human paladin, and so on... All of them exactly as you would expect, even if they did have decent character arcs. At the end of the day, however, they all felt like I was playing just another elven ranger, dwarven cleric, human paladin, etc.

I've played a human ranger that took his signature weapon, an orc double axe, from the first creature he ever killed. I've played a halfling necromancer that hated necromancy but did it because he was good at it even if he hated his job. I made a dragonborn barbarian that was the comic relief, shunning written words and always opening doors that were trapped. I played a human warlock that was an aristocrat that never got his hands dirty. I've played a gnome spell thief that constantly found his way into trouble. I played a human hexblade in the service of Orcus. I've made an elven fighter that once a member of the royal guard but was outcast for reasons the character would never explain. All of these and more were memorable, but I feel I have made all the characters I want with them. I feel I have graduated beyond those stories.

I played a minotaur barbarian with a chip on his shoulder for being discriminated against by humans. Honestly, that may very well be the one non-PHB/core book race that I ever actually played. I use to read the MM/Bestiary dreaming of the day I can game as an aasimar—wanting a bit of angelic blood in me, a helbred—to be one of the redeemed from hell itself, a whisper gnome—one of the ultra serious gnomes that are the assassins and silent protector of their kind, a dhampir—part human part vampire sorcerer of death, and so many others. I no longer just read the book and dream it, now I write about it, helping those lucky enough to be able to play such characters in their games.

My God, that minotaur was 20 years ago this autumn.

While the minotaur character could have easily been played by a half orc, the rest really are race specific stories. However, their stories would have mostly appeared like one of a hundred other similar stories where a human or an elf played them. But it is how I think about it when I am not at the gaming table, how I remember the character years later, that is the difference.

Kingdom of Heaven wrote:
"Does making a man a knight make him a better fighter?" "Yes."

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Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:

I hope this doesn't come off an an attack, it's just my opinion on a consistent theme I've observed in this thread. The idea that races other than human only have one personality and if you don't conform you may as well be a human.

I feel like going at it from the perspective of "ignoring the expectations for my race" might not be the best mindset to have, my brother makes a lot of dwarfs and he's done the stereotype and not done the stereotype. He's never deliberately railed against the stereotype though.

The none stereotype ones were still grounded in being a dwarf, they knew their culture, and where they came from, but they left to do other things. They ended up with different character traits, like one for example was a very gullible ex soldier who got into all kinds of trouble I won't go into here. But my point is that by not observing the typical stereotypes, he didn't become a human with other mechanics, he was still a dwarf.

The only people saying that each race can only have two personality types otherwise they're a human are the ones explaining why they just play a human anyway. But it's not really true nothing anywhere says a dwarf can't be a dwarf and also be big into ... chess for example and enjoy strategy games, they don't have to become a human in all but name to do those thing. For what's it's worth you can have a human with dwarf personality(Carrot anybody?), but I'm pretty sure people wouldn't say "just play a dwarf".

If playing none human isn't for you that's fine by all means you do you and I hope you enjoy it, but I don't really agree with this idea that races other than human should have pre defined personalities.

When creating a PC (and some NPCs), I usually approached it from the perspective of which sterotypes are true for this character, which does she/he/they subvert, and why/why not for both. Then I'd sit down with a copy of Shadowrun's 20 Questions and start fleshing out the character's past, outlook, and choices.

But I find this usually only works with races for which I have an affinity. I'm pretty cliched with dwarves, for example, except maybe the habit of giving them movie versions of Russian/Ukrainian accents.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I like playing a variety of different races, including humans, though I usually tend toward the less monstrous and more human-esque ones. (Though I did play a maftet once, modded to fit as a PC race. That was fun. I'd totally do it again.) I do like playing humans a lot because the Golarion universe has a bunch of neat human cultures, so I enjoy exploring those. I do have a fondness for playing certain races over others, though.

The race of my character usually influences the character concept, but doesn't define it.


In my 3 years of playing PbP I have played around 40 characters, and of those 9 are humans... and 20 more are part-human. That said I tend to pick by what fits the concept I have, what fits the aesthetic I have for the character, or most of the time actually just what sounds fun for this game. And sometimes yes, that will be the human, while other times it will be the catfolk, kitsune, or one time even Naga (think Lamia but not so gender-locked, a homebrew race.) Now sometimes my GMs will *prefer* I stick to X type of race (and once we were playing a game in the real-world that just happens to have traces of magic bleeding in so that game everyone had to be human), and I'm okay with that.

Now when I'm playing an exotic race that character's personality is defined by their backstory and the local culture generally. Now, since most of the games I have played in *have* taken place in human-dominant lands, and since I personally find it a *lot* easier to mesh into a campaign if playing a local, this will frequently mean my characters are part of a human-dominant culture. That's not to say they are "Human with different aesthetics" though. You can absolutely incorporate parts of their racial culture without becoming a stereotype, by incorporating parts while leaving other parts for their own personality. For instance, an elf. Still have some of that haughty, sometimes almost isolationist nature, but at the same time, incorporating some own ideas (like my Elf had an intense (one could almost say homicidal, as basically the party's Token LE) loyalty to her companions, and was definitely lacking in the patience one might expect of a one-step-from-immortal race). That said, even the ones that *do* wind up Mostly-Human-But-With-Bits I will do what I can to play up the bits, such as a Tiefling I had who was easy to read because her feelings were forever being expressed through the perkiness of her wings and activity of her tail, or the Dhampir that was more than happy to show off his fangs as a threat (which prematurely triggered our first fight in that particular attempt at Carrion Crown. Oops.) And admittedly even my Humans will often have some in-human trait, like my current Dragon Disciple Bloodrager, who's intimidating tooth-baring grins and almost-excessive greed read heavily of her Draconic bloodline even when *not* raging.

I will note though, that I never "play myself" as many appear to try to do. Heck, these days I almost couldn't because despite being a cis male 25 of my 40 characters are female and it actually winds up feeling almost awkward to play males now-days, at least in PbP.


Meraki wrote:
I like playing a variety of different races, including humans, though I usually tend toward the less monstrous and more human-esque ones. (Though I did play a maftet once, modded to fit as a PC race. That was fun. I'd totally do it again.) I do like playing humans a lot because the Golarion universe has a bunch of neat human cultures, so I enjoy exploring those. I do have a fondness for playing certain races over others, though.

That's a resume of one of the point in this thread, Humans have a wide variety of cultures and ethnicities, most of the other races tend to be homogenous in both, and variants tend to be alternate races, like drow.


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The fantastic stands out more against a backdrop of the mundane. If everything is fantastic then. in a way, nothing is. If player character monsters don't even raise an eyebrow in cities or even towns, then they aren't really fantastic.

That's why I prefer most player characters to be humans or demi-humans, with the occasional weird/exotic thing for spice.

The Exchange

Calybos1 wrote:

But later on, you find that creating interesting personas and backstories is all it takes to make your character fun and interesting to play. At that point, racial selection becomes less important, unless you have a setting-specific backstory or motivation in mind.

I think, that's my main point when it comes to it. I totally agree with those that say that just because you use a non-human race, your character doesn't need to fall into the typical racial stereotypes. I've played quite some of those, but not once did I play any of those characters just to not be a human. When I did, I did this with a backstory in mind that involved the race in question. So, in my portfolio, I have a Chaond, a Kalashtar (loved those) and a Khaasta, so I've done my share of exotic characters. And as I sometimes like to simply roll a dice for a class/race combination just to surprise myself, I might do something similar in the future. But if I have a character idea that isn't directly inspired by a racial description or something about that race I read and wanted to explore, I mostly go human, because actually I don't think that adding an exotic race just for the sake of it doesn't add anything valuable to my game experience that I don't already have with a human character.

Scarab Sages

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I find, in most cases, that those who require an uncommon or rare race to make an interesting character are either using it as a crutch, or are just prejudiced against humans.

I haven't found one who builds a character where the race is a necessary or critical component of that character, but is rather a shorthand for stereotypical traits or a providing a mechanical benefit.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to play other races. But you need to be honest about it. I prefer dwarves and gnomes, and it shows in my character list. But I can't think of a single one whose race is what makes them interesting. I have a Dwarf who loves to take charge because, as a dwarf, he knows how to mundane things better. But it could just as easily be a human referencing his local region instead (think Chekov and Russia). The race isn't what makes him interesting, the personality is.

From a certain standpoint, my most boring Pathfinder (PFS) character is a Nagaji Brawler/Rouge. She is dumb as rocks (Int 6, after a level up boost), with a high strength (20+). In combat her primary attack is head butts. She owns a caravan to smuggle goods back to the Nagaji Empire, its the reason she adventures. She's pretty cookie cutter. But the Table and I have fun with her, because its the character that makes it fun, and the character isn't largely defined by her race.

My most interesting character is however a uncommon race, a Tengu. He's a Monk (Sensei) / Inquisitor (Preacher) of Irori. This character's motivation in life is a lot more tied into race - His goal is to elevate the Tegu people and make them stop being the dregs of society by encouraging the race to strive for self perfection. But if I wanted to play with this build in a game that didn't want Tengus? Its a different character, sure, but I could play it. I could find other hooks in the lore to work with. I've been playing D&D since AD&D 2nd ed, and I still haven't run out of unique personalities to work with. I play a uncommon race because it fits with my character or help define an aspect of the character. Not because I need the race to have any idea at all.

I had a friend who couldn't play a 'normal' character. They were boring. He had to have a gimmick. Children. A caster who got a rod of wonder and would use it to the exclusion of any other tactic. A pacifist involved in combatting the world destroying evil. It was weird. He was so upset when I ruled he couldn't play a kobold, because in my homebrew setting, many 'evil' races like kobolds were in fact *evil* races. In a cosmic sense, the evil races were created by the malevolent elder god "Destruction" (later to be revealed as Tiamat) with the goal of ending creation. There was no question cosmically of nature vs nurture in this campaign, Evil races were by their nature evil, and would not have been able to be on the PC side of the campaign arc, whose goal was to prevent the freeing of Tiamat and the end of creation. Told to restrict himself to just about anything else he couldn't do it. If he couldn't have his special snowflake Kobold, he literally couldn't find his character interesting (until he chose a child with no PC class levels). His character other wise was a bog standard rogue, taking little mechanical advantage of being a Kobold, and whose personality was easily transplanted into the child. It could have been a gnome or Halfling just as easily. But those were too "generic" and "boring". It needed to be something highly unique so he could highlight his uniqueness to everyone.

And that I find is the case with most people who need an uncommon or rare race - They demand to play a race that is in-setting rare and unusual, and then whine when it turns out that, like in the real world, uniqueness is not necessarily a positive trait to have when travelling from village to village.

Why do I insist on playing common races? I don't. But I don't reject playing them either. But I would imagine most people gravitate towards standard fantasy races because A) they are new, and the common ones are familiar, B) they are in fact common and therefore have fewer issues travelling, or C) They are in fact common and therefore it requires less explaining why they are present at the beginning of the campaign/adventure.


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Some of my favorite fantasy novels make humans the only sapient species, or the only really populous one. Frankly I think it detracts from a setting to have too many humanoid species.


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burkoJames wrote:

I find, in most cases, that those who require an uncommon or rare race to make an interesting character are either using it as a crutch, or are just prejudiced against humans...

...And that I find is the case with most people who need an uncommon or rare race - They demand to play a race that is in-setting rare and unusual, and then whine when it turns out that, like in the real world, uniqueness is not necessarily a positive trait to have when travelling from village to village.

YMMV, but that's not been my experience at all, or the apparently the experience of many of the people in this thread. If the group has a player who keeps trying to crowd the other players out of the spotlight and/or requires rules & setting to constantly be bent/broken just for them, then having non-core races isn't the problem at all. It's just one tool in their toolbox of being disruptive.

We all like what we like. As long as the players and GM all have fun, and everyone's PCs share the spotlight, who cares if some prefer core races and others prefer a less trod path?


I've seen both. My daughter picks her race based on what grabs her eye, or fits her character idea. And she's all over the map, Catfolk, Kitsune, Gnome, Human, Elf and dwarf.

But then her cousin is all about the numbers and always wants a Drow or Fetchling every time if allowed. However, he's super classy if you tell him no and picks something else.


My own attitude towards the various races changes over time, and often from campaign to campaign. I've played the misfit weird race in many games, and the normal, everyday human hero in others. It very much depends on what the group needs, and what character ideas seem compelling enough to invest in playing them.

(You also have to consider that for most of my gaming career, I've GMed at least as much as I've played PCs. So when I'm not the GM, I often look for character ideas that are notably different from any NPCs I've been running recently.)

In my wife's Earthdawn campaign, I play an obsidiman (a strong, tough, rock-skinned giant), which is the rarest of the PC races. That setting has very detailed cultures for each race, and the obsidimen were the first race that suggested a character concept that grabbed me (a wandering warrior whose purpose in life is protecting the smaller races, while learning all he can about them).

A friend of mine ran a 3E campaign in which the empire in which the PCs lived was ruled by ogre mages. All other races were second-class citizens, and the overall story arc was the PCs learning about the resistance to the current regime, joining the rebel cause, and eventually helping to take down the Emperor and free the conquered races. Because of that premise, and the DM starting us in a remote village in the hinterlands, almost all of the initial PCs were human, except for one half-orc and one halfling. In that game, the PCs gained exotic powers through multiclassing into psionic classes (the Resistance's secret weapon) rather than being a special race.

In a long Buffy campaign I played in years ago, I was originally recruited to replace two players who had been playing the party witches. The game was set in New England, so I proposed a character who was essentially a Deep One hybrid. The GM loved the idea, and hung a number of major plot points on my half-demon sorcerer's heritage. When I needed a character for a spinoff game, I chose his fully-human cousin, who I had already established in game. She had no supernatural abilities, just some fighting skills and a ton of attitude, which made her a great contrast to my first PC--which was much of the point. And of the two, she's the one I'd most want to play again (which surprised me when I first realized that).

When I joined PFS about a year ago, I decided to make my first character human partly for the racial bonuses, and partly because it helped integrate him into the world. (It was a lot easier to get into the mindset of a Keleshite than one of the nonhuman races, whose Golarion cultures I was still sketchy on.) My second PC was a dwarf paladin, and I largely fall back on stereotypes for him--he's based on a character idea for a friend's high-level one-shot that never happened (a stalwart defender dubbed "the dwarfiest dwarf who ever dwarfed" by my home group). As a change of pace, my most recent PFS characters are rather more exotic: a nagaji sorcerer and an oread brawler. The latter aims to become a living monolith, so an oread seemed perfect for that theme.


I'm 25 and have spent some time in parts of Sudan as part of a private company providing water security. If after a quarter of a century and direct contact I still struggle to put myself in the shoes of others of my own species, who may share the same gender, orientation and faith but happened to be born in a different part of the world then why even bother pretending to be anything other than human?


I find looking historically may be able to help. We have a rich and diverse history, and other species are metaphors for that. Orc culture represents humans at their worst, with nothing but violent bloodlust. Elves represent the intelligence, and more refined aspects of human history. Dwarves mirror our craftsmanship, innovation, and adherence to tradition (sometimes). Half-Orcs and Half-Elves represent the outsiders. For the most part, they aren't really alien, and generally represent specific human characteristics.

That's not to say you can't go against that representation. That even makes for a good story. It's just keeping in mind what the species themselves represent.


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I think there is also a significant subset of people who say "humans are boring" just to be fashionably misanthropic.


well, if it's a case of misanthropy, all sentient races should be boring.

Liberty's Edge

Naoki00 wrote:


Then, it comes back around to playing humans. I have never understood why people like to play humans in the game personally.

I aim for a grim and gritty gameworld, more consistent with our own, where the player races are, ideally, all human. I emphasize those aspects of Golarion, and de-emphasize those aspects of Golarion that are inconsistent with that concept and goal.

And yes, while there is "Man, Myth, and Magic" - there is Poverty, Pestilence and Inequality, too. The verisimilitude seems more realistic, more plausible. The more I can make the gameworld seem more like our own, or a magical medieval version of it that aspires to plausibility, the more real it all becomes.

Nothing drops me out of my escapist fantasy faster than somebody wanting to pay a Kitsune or Catfolk or a gnome. I actively avoid playing in such games now.

We clearly each want very different things from our RPG experience.

Grand Lodge

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Indeed. I don't want my games to cleave too close to reality. That's depressing.


TriOmegaZero wrote:
Indeed. I don't want my games to cleave too close to reality. That's depressing.

Yeah. It's one of the reasons why I stay away from games based in the real world past, like COC or any Western / Cowboy games. SuperHero or SciFi games I'm fine with because we can ignore certain aspects and proceed with the game. But my PC's all have some aspect of ME in them. And I'm not comfortable with hewing that close to reality with certain genres.

I pretty much play humans exclusively now. When I first started back in 82-83 I played Elves, then half-elf rangers or Ranger/Clerics. I liked the idea of the lone hunter ostracized by his community but occasionally needed by that same community as well as the long lived half-elf who kept a tenuous connection with humanity through his faith.

I like playing humans (or elves or half elves) and am not a fan all of the corner case races because they just seem there to be different for difference sake. That's great for other people and they should absolutely have fun with it but not so much for me.


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"Reality is the enemy, but we have the tools to defeat it."


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Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I prefer to play mastodons myself.


I prefer Kappa...BECAUSE

Silver Crusade

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As an autistic person, I find that being a human in day to day life is confusing enough, when I roleplay the last thing I wanna do is play a human. I really enjoy most of the fluffier races as well as Planar based races. Planar based races esp have a draw for me because there is a high feeling of being an outsider in your own culture and that's how I feel all the time. Expressing it in a place where I'm safe is really good for me.

Liberty's Edge

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TriOmegaZero wrote:
Indeed. I don't want my games to cleave too close to reality. That's depressing.

I'm sure there are many who share your view. But the increase in the popularity of so-called "Fantahistorical" fiction over the past two decades, particularly in the wake of the success of GRRM's A Song of Ice and Fire is just appealing to this preference in fictional settings.

It's not like I am setting my game in the slums of Mumbai -- or Cleveland -- or that the Paladin is all about stomping out the horrors of opiod addiction or the dangers of fentanyl. Let's not over-dramatize.

Still, lightly placing one's thumb on the scales so it tilts more to GRRM, less to Tolkien - as far as the high fantasy rules of a game like Pathfinder allow, is no vice. Nor is it an attempt to bring CNN to life on the tabletop.

The OP asked why; that's my reason. I think it is both coherent and easily understandable. You are not required to agree with it, nor adopt it.

Grand Lodge

Steel_Wind wrote:
TriOmegaZero wrote:
Indeed. I don't want my games to cleave too close to reality. That's depressing.
I'm sure there are many who share your view. But the increase in the popularity of so-called "Fantahistorical" fiction over the past two decades, particularly in the wake of the success of GRRM's A Song of Ice and Fire is just appealing to this preference in fictional settings.

Yeah, I had to stop watching the show because of that. I still haven't finished the latest book.


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Steel_Wind wrote:
TriOmegaZero wrote:
Indeed. I don't want my games to cleave too close to reality. That's depressing.
I'm sure there are many who share your view. But the increase in the popularity of so-called "Fantahistorical" fiction over the past two decades, particularly in the wake of the success of GRRM's A Song of Ice and Fire is just appealing to this preference in fictional settings.

I suppose that Steel Wind and myself have similar interest. I can't stand settings that stand too close to historical Earth. Game of Thrones is about where I can start enjoying them, but only because of the existence of magic, dragons, and completely different locales other than Earth. It creates enough of a separation between reality and fiction that I do not get bored.

I can't stand other "Fantahistorical" fiction that is mundane, like Reign.


Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I have noticed that I tend to play characters who count as and/or look human but actually aren't fully human.


It is just very hard to come up with a good baseline how other races ought to act.

When you are "just" a human, the character archetypes are laid bare. Character who could be described as "the weasel" ought to change somehow if you made him non-human. But exactly how and how much is kinda tricky to me. Because you want it to feel meaningful, but at the other extreme end lies making race stereotypes.

Jon Brazer Enterprises

Envall wrote:

It is just very hard to come up with a good baseline how other races ought to act.

When you are "just" a human, the character archetypes are laid bare. Character who could be described as "the weasel" ought to change somehow if you made him non-human. But exactly how and how much is kinda tricky to me. Because you want it to feel meaningful, but at the other extreme end lies making race stereotypes.

Might I recommend the Book of Heroic Races: Advanced Compendium. We tackled this issue right up front. Each race within starts off with a fiction piece to help you get into the mindset of the race and then we took the time to talk about how they think, how they feel, what their society is like, how they view things like adventuring, relationships, religion, and more. Wanting to go into real detail and make each race feel unique yet understandable was a serious goal of ours.

Rated 4.5 stars by EZG.

The Exchange

Steel_Wind wrote:
I aim for a grim and gritty gameworld, more consistent with our own, where the player races are, ideally, all human. I emphasize those aspects of Golarion, and de-emphasize those aspects of Golarion that are inconsistent with that concept and goal.

Interesting. To me it's the other way round. I like my worlds high-magic, and it's in these campaigns that I tend to go more on the human route (or at least, the common races). But the more similar a campaign setting is to our world, the more I find exotic options acceptable. It's kinda like I need an anchor that grounds the fantasy surrounding me a bit and that can either be the setting or the characters.

Though I also have to say that it heavily depends on a race's presentation in a setting. In Eberron, I had no problems whatsoever with all the Changelings, the Shifters, the Warforged and the Kalashtar, as they were presented as common races that were deeply entrenched in the setting's history.

Now in Golarion, it's the common races that get that much love, especially the humans. Which I totally love, but which also leads me to feel that later added races (see the Blood of...line, or a lot of those races in the ARG) feel like an afterthought to me, and ironically,while their write-ups are good enough for me to use them as the GM, it's not enough that I want to play them as a player.

Those entries are probably just too short, because as soon as they get a special treatment, like in Kobold Press' Advanced Race compendium or Everyman's Gaming Dynasty Races Compendium (and I guess I'll find out shortly if the Book of Heroic races does the same for me - well played, Dale^^) that can change immediately.

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