Friday, May 20, 2011

Demi-Humans and Weird Fantasy Role-Playing

The common cry: "They don't fit!"

Which is true in the common interpretation of the implied setting of the game. Hell, I'm moving towards just using Earth as the setting (against my own advice, as it will only end in tears!).

But... there's mileage in them shorties, beardies, and point-eared bastards yet. Last summer I released Weird New World featuring some demented elves, and Hammers of the God featuring some demented dwarfs. I still have my halfling thing that will come out sooner or (probably) later. The whole Pembrooktonshire thing, which I think is very representative of my style, depends on an elf and dwarfs as background for the shenanigans that occur in and around that town.

I don't think in any of those cases that switching out the demi-humans for "different human cultures" really works at all (except maybe in the case of Mrs. O'Shaunnessy).

Weird Fantasy Role-Playing isn't expressly Howard, or Lovecraft, or any of the elf-less pulp authors (or historical) any more than it is Tolkien.

Even if they aren't part of the mainstream of my campaign worlds (you don't find demi-humans in civilized areas, pretty much ever, in my game), the demi-humans do exist out on the fringes of civilization. I still have adventure ideas that rely on the common understanding of elves, dwarfs, and halflings.

They're not just in the game out of some sense of old school solidarity.
Sure, maybe I could be lame and make them "NPC-only" races in the Referee book or something, but that's not my kind of bet-hedging.

You don't want demi-humans in your campaign? Say "No non-humans!" and it's done. Or re-skin them (dwarfs as rough highlanders, elves as a human F/MU multiclass deal, and the halfling as a scouter dude or something). Or whatever. It's your campaign!


  1. I'm getting tons of resistance to the game in my group because of the 'demi-humans don't really improve with level' thing. All the human classes get better at what they do every level. Elves do too (spells) but dwarfs and halflings improve VERY slowly in thier 'skills' and very little in combat (HP and saves yes, but not to-hit, which makes my players see them as untenable). Personally I'm not all that sympathetic to "dead level" complaints but I put my players above the rules in terms of priority so I need to find sometihng they'll at least try.

    I know you're talking about how demihumans tie to the setting, not the mechanics, but the mechanical disincentive LOOKS intentional and to be saying, much like Gygax in OD&D, "well, here's this demihuman class if someone actually wants to play one for some reason..."

    My preferred fix would be to say: You wanna play a dwarf wariror in LOTFPWFRPG, play a Fighter and write "dwarf" in the description and say dwarf soldiers lose their racial heritage abilities because they didn't spend thier adolescence in the mines & forges but instead were drilling and marching and learning to fight (etc.) I guess my players want to see the demihumans gain attack bonuses, and everyone including fighters get some skill points.

    Just out of curiousity, have you been playtesting an extended campaign? It seems like the publishing has largely displaced the gaming in your personal life. While I like the aesthetics of the strong niche protection in the rules, I guess i just don't quite see the dwarf or halfling niche *in a party* as opposed to in the *game world*. Totally different issues, I know. Sorry to go off on a tangent.

  2. To me, "multi-year campaign" means getting to level 6 or 7. I don't think I've played a game with PC levels higher than that in 20 years, unless we're talking pre-gens to run a module.

  3. I like demi-humans in the campaign world in only two cases:

    1. a campaign set on Middle-earth

    2. an OD&D Gygaxian game ran by-the-book using only the 1974 rules with Supplement I: GREYHAWK

    Other than that, there are NO demi-humans in my games.

    That said, I'm getting more liberal, and I will allow demi-human PCs with the understanding that PC demi-humans are the ONLY demi-humans in the campaign world. They were somehow transported to the campaign world from elsewhere. Everyone will think they are freaks, and will treat them accordingly. How do you think a sub-Saharan African would have been treated if he were suddenly dropped in the middle of 11th-century London? It would be twice as bad for a dwarf or an elf.

  4. 25 sessions into a B/X campaign run largely by-the-book (except that I do ODD 1 HD = 100 XP and allow some money to be spent on training for additonal xps) I had two PCs hit 6th level, but we play weekly and I occasionally give out oversized hauls.
    All I'm saying is that some people do have campaigns where levels are gained, and players vitiated by d20/3rd ed./etc. tend to expect tangible improvement for that in terms of getting better at fighting, or skills, or whatever the class's niche is.

  5. I'm thinking of reskinning the Demihuman races, but NOT into human cultures. Instead, the "Elves" (with almost no modifications) would be characters of noble origin who still carry with them some Serpent-Men blood within their veins and thus have both sorcerous abilities and fighting prowess; and, with some modifications, the Dwarves will become Lizard-Men who were once the Serpent-Men's slave until they rebelled and brought about the destruction of most of their former masters. Halflings I'll simply remove (or make into Rat-Men).

  6. oooo, I get to do a mini-rant!

    Someone can speak up if they think this is a BS statement, but I think my adventures make it clear that I really enjoy dashing players' brains upon the rocks of their expectations. (but that's intentionally screwing around - when it comes to d20/3e/Pathfinder, I've never played 3e in any form so the expectations those players may have aren't even on my radar)

    Honestly, when you said that "[LotFP] is not D&D", that was one of the best compliments I've yet received. That sort of thing justifies doing another separate game.

    LotFP is a reverse-Heartbreaker.

    The usual heartbreaker makes a whole new system and does backflips just to deliver the same D&D experience.

    LotFP's goal is to use the familiar backbone of rules via the OGL to produce a very un-D&D experience in play.

    ... and yet all of the ideas and bits from the blogs and modules and rules can all be switched in and out at will.


  7. Fair enough. Saying LOFTWFRPGGe was not D&D, was a value-neutral statement. GURPS and Fantasy Wargaming are not D&D either & I love them. I like LOTFPWFRPGGe a lot. I take it that players should only play demi-humnas if they value the experience of playing a demi-human and should not expect that their higher XP requirements are meant to "pay for" better abilities or anything like that. That's fine, balance is overrated. Didn't mean to rant all over your discussion; carry on.

  8. I'm really liking Omer Golan's ideas above. Those races are really starting to make LOTFP click for me, especially the idea of actually running the game. So far I've been treating the Grindhouse Edition as a thing of beauty to be admired and treasured and to show the other kids how cool I am for owning one. Removing the neo-Tolkienesque races opened up a floodgate and ideas are starting to gel. Those ratlings are gonna need an undercity which could be both a dungeon and present opportunities for social interaction...

  9. I like Omer Golan's ideas too -- but as something separate from LotFP and, even more so, some of its modules -- much as Carcosa is best when thought of as something completely separate from D&D.

    This is because one of the things I like most about LotFP and, even more so, some of its modules is how they challenge, undermine and subvert many of the comfortable assumptions about demi-humans that anybody who's played any form of D&D likely has.

    In other words, I like how LotFP and, even more so, some of its modules, especially "Hammers of the God", are revisionist fantasy.

    But that revisionism wouldn't work with regard to demi-humans if the demi-humans in the game didn't seem to be, at first glance, the same as the demi-humans in D&D.

    And "Hammers of the God" wouldn't work at all if it wasn't good ol' dwarfs who turned out to have a shameful, Nazi-like history.

    So I think its revisionist demi-humans are one of LotFP's strong points.

    But Omer Golan's Serpent-Men elves, Lizard-Men dwarves and Rat-Men halflings would be great in some other context.

    In fact, I think they'd be especially great in Carcosa.

  10. If I purchase LotFP, am I purchasing a setting or a game redesign of AD&D. Maybe both? I will be honest - why lie. I most likely will not care a jot for Reggi's world/campaign vision. That is his vision not mine. If I plop down cash it will be for his take on the old system.

    As he said himself - reskin them , kill 'em, NPC 'em, what the fuck does he care. Its your world, your vision run with it.

    On a side not I am not sure I am comfortable with Reggi's concept on warriors. Not that my Wizard needs to swing a sword nearly as well as the sword and board hero, but to eliminate any hope of improvement seems counter intuitive. It feels like one of those the GM says NO moments, that cripples gaming spirit. Really I can not get any better? Ever? Not even a little?

    Do options in Characters abilities/makeup make gamers a happier lot?

    Do gamers really want well defined/unique roles or something a bit more organic - something akin to Rolemaster in its take on class and skill.

    I babble. I most likely will throw Reggi cash just because he is not Hasbro and has a good taste and style.

  11. If this is inspired by my remarks in the thread on - I didn't say you shouldn't have done it, just that they don't fit 'weird fantasy'.

  12. I was taken aback at first by the "only fighters gain attack bonus" concept, but I am intrigued by its potential as a means of keeping fighters just as viable as M-Us as levels increase. Of course, M-Us aren't "artillery" in LotFP, either, so it's possible the balance doesn't need to be that severe.

  13. Well, the M-U is still VERY powerful in the hands of a skilled player even without Fireball, and now can use any weapons he wants to and wear any armour as long as he isn't Lightly Encumbered.

    And the Figter DOES need a major boost, IMHO...