Friday, December 03, 2010

Of Campaigns Past: A Multitude of Races...

Good Evening, All:

Work has been quite hectic of late, and I haven't had much of an opportunity to focus on gaming as I would have liked. However, I know that I need to make at least one more post this week, so I'm taking a few minutes to discuss the races of my previous campaign settings, as part of exploring my past games for items to mine for my own elusive "perfect milieu". In this post, I figure I'd list some of the many races I've used frequently in games past.

First, though, I think I'll briefly mention my use of races. In most of my campaigns, I tend to offer a lot of races, particularly in the beginning of my GMing career. I believe I was influenced by a wide variety of sources. Star Wars, in particular, was one great influence. At a young and impressionable age, I enjoyed the cosmopolitan nature of the many species of the cantina scene, among others. My favorite novels growing up were Planetary Romances, often populated by a wild and diverse range of races.

Common Fantasy Races: A majority of my worlds have had a number of common fantasy races. I always have humans as an available character option. In addition, I often include elves (often with an asian flavor), dwarves, halflings and orcs. I truly dislike gnomes, because I've never seen them played well, so I don't include them as options.

Common Planetary Romance Races: I often have one or more races that are inspired by the Sword & Planet novels I enjoy so much. For example, exotic humans with skin tones of strange hues, such as cerulean or crimson, are common in many Planetary Romance adventures. In my case, I've frequently used a blue-skinned human race I call the Merimen, who are exceptional merchants, as well as a crimson-skinned human race known as the Merokee, who live in a tribal society similar to that of the Native Americans of the Great Plains. Inspired by the green men of Barsoom, I commonly use a four-armed giant humanoid race I often describe as having ogre-like features, save for the four arms and a much fairer complexion. These four-armed giants are known as the Tarthani, and are perhaps the most frequently encountered non-standard race of all of my campaigns.

Uncommon Races: There are other fantasy races I've allowed as character races in previous campaigns, including minotaurs, goblins, kobolds, hawkfolk, serpentfolk, mantisfolk, lizardfolk, catfolk, dogfolk and even ratfolk. In particular, I found a good number of the races from Fantasy Flight Games' Mythic Races to be wonderful additions to my campaign worlds. In particular, I enjoyed using the Coivald, Rezorbek, Artathi, Ooloi and Siarrans (like medium-sized Tarthani).

While I've tried worlds with fewer races, I always seem to come back to a more cosmopolitan world. I suppose that means the ultimate "perfect milieu" for me would have to include a wide variety of racial options, beyond the standard handful that often are the only races described in a Player's Handbook. The hard part about it, I guess, would be to create a cohesive whole for all of them in a world where each have their place. That reminds me of the setup behind the Nine Kingdoms of Arn campaign, which I will dive into sometime next week.

So, what kind of races do you like in your campaign worlds? Do you play with unusual races, and if so, would you mind sharing some thoughts on them? What races have given you the greatest sense of enjoyment as a player? As a Referee?

With Regards,


Johnathan Bingham said...

I used to like incorporating many races. However, I tend to find in the past few years that I much prefer using very few races. In fact, my prefered gaming style right now is to only have humans as a PC race and other races are very rare and mysterious and have a pretty alien outlook on things. Not sure why that is but I've become incredibly humanocentric in my gaming (maybe I'm just getting old, hehe).

Flynn said...

I find that games which focus on a reasonably small area are enhanced by fewer races. It gives campaigns set in those areas a very distinctive feel, which is something that I strive for with every campaign I run. The problem I've encountered is that players prefer to have options that often don't lie in the small selection of races that I create for a given region.

For example, in the Madlands campaign I'm running right now, the common races in the area are humans, orcs, artathi and giantkin. My party is made up of one human, one orc, two dwarves and one halfling. The three "outlanders" all have different reasons for being in the region, mostly given the adventure-rich nature of the Madlands and the cosmopolitan nature of Fellgorge, and I'm cool with the story they've created. However, it demonstrates that players often want options that aren't normally available.

I've ran a few short campaigns that were humanocentric, and they were a lot of fun for me. I find that they capture the Sword & Sorcery feel very well, and in my case, the games bordered more on historical fantasy than traditional high fantasy. They were short-lived, though, as the players grew tired of worlds that focused on human-based issues and craved more monster encounters and supernatural challenges. Granted, at the time I ran them, I wasn't as experienced in diversifying my adventure content. I used to drive a region's theme into the ground; now I use multiple themes and try to balance between the different themes in terms of adventures offered.

With Regards,