Sunday, November 22, 2015

Boring RPG Races

I've talked about fantasy races before. I mostly enjoy the classics, especially when they are done well. If playing a dwarf in your game feels very different from playing a human, even though it's the same ol' Tolkien-esque style of dwarf, that's a good fantasy race in my book.

And just like a good bartender, if you can put your own spin on a classic while keeping it recognizable, even better.

But what really makes me wince are the plethora of half-ass'd "other" races that show up in RPGs. These are generally based on a handful of over-used or copied ideas that are good once, or have had all their awesomeness sucked out of them in the process of making a facsimile.

Let's talk about these handful of dreadful ideas so we can all avoid them like the plague.

The Anthropomorphic Animal
You know what are badass? Lizardmen. And you know what else are badass? Lionfolk. And so are Tiger People. But you know what's lame? A game where all three of those races exist. This is one of those "one-and-done" situations. If you put one animal-human race in your game, it will be the cool, feral, bestial race that fills in a niche quite nicely. If you put in more than one, it will be a bad anime on steroids.

The Anthropomorphic Plant
These just have to go. Period. Ents are the coolest thing ever. But you shouldn't be able to play one. No, not even a little human-sized one. What did you say? Yours are made of leaves and twigs, not solid wood? I don't care. Call them what you will, twig people are always lame and not at all inspired by the actual lifecycle of plants. Does your entire race go dormant in the winter? Do you make fruit? Do you bloom? Could you become pregnant from pollen wafting through the air? No? Then you aren't really a plant, are you? You're a person in plant cosplay. Boring.

The Lycanthrope Wanna-be
Werewolves, man. Werewolves. I still can't decide whether they are better than vampires, or vise-verse. Either way, they are awesome. You know what's not awesome? Stupid werewolf wanna-be's. These include two kinds of things: first, monsters that also have some kind of "change into an animal at the full moon" kinda thing. You know, were-boars, were-bears, were-slugs, etc. Lame. It was cool once. You suddenly let every animal under the sun have some special disease that will turn humans into them once a month, and now you've gone and ruined it. Second is the half-were-people. Those human people who can turn fuzzy at the first sign of trouble and get some kinda power boost because of it. Most often called "shifters" or, heaven preserve us, "Animorphes." These are everything lame about half-orcs and half-elves, mixed with everything lame about the anthropomorphic animals. Not good.

The Tiny Race
Okay, what is going through peoples' minds when they decide to put pixies and fairies and chipmunks and whatnot into their games? The only cool thing about these races is that they are small. But most games already have a race much smaller than human, namely halflings, and that is their domain! What will the halflings have now? Hairy feet? Obsession with food? Come on. Three foot tall adventurers is already stretching my suspension of disbelief to its limits here. No need to bring in an insect sized thing to help me fight the dragon, thank you.

How exactly is a person made entirely of fire a suitable adventurer? If you can survive getting wet, or losing oxygen, then what about you is fire? Oh, I'm just a dwarf with a beard made of fire. Really? That is the basis for an entirely different race and culture? Flaming beards? You know what would be way more interesting? Regular dwarves who set their real beards on fire for some reason. I'd play to see that.

Perhaps the single worst idea for a playable race ever made. This race's role and identity is that they have none. It's like opposite day in the roleplaying world. When it's a super-assassin, made by an evil wizard to kill the PCs, and can look like anyone at anytime. THAT'S Terminator 2 levels of awesome and scary. When it's a player character trying to make a buck in a dungeon crawl, that's lame and might as well be a human who likes to wear disguises. Aliases are cool, not having an identity is not.

The half-giant
I refuse to accept that these creatures could ever exist. Also, being smaller than humans makes for an interesting underdog story. Being much larger is either a TREMENDOUS advantage, or you have nerfed it's mechanical advantage so badly that it isn't even worth it anymore. Just leave these out, please. Being gigantic is the realm of monsters. Keep it that way.

The Three-armed Thing
Ugh. [Insert rules for multi-weapon fighting style BS here.]

To be honest, I love the idea of a robot-type race. (Note: ROBOT, not half-human cyborg thing. That should not be a race.) Not only do I like it, but I have never found a game world with more than one of these robot races in it. So kudos there. BUT, how about we shy away from the "built for war, now the war's over" thing, yeah? There must be cooler origin stories out there for sentient robots. First thought, screw angels, the gods left these robots behind on earth to do their will. Or maybe there isn't a spirit world, but a clockwork realm that people go when they die, and these robots are those that have managed to come back, like ghosts. You get the picture. Just get those mental gears turning and you'll figure something out.

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