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Old 06-04-2019, 11:25 PM   #1
Mysterious Dark Lord v3.2
 
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Default What if Fantasy Races weren't "Races"?

In many DnD-esque worlds, there are "races" like Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, etc. each one is assumed to have some racially-pure homeland and unique culture. This affects every aspect of worldbuilding such realities.

So let us remove that assumption ... What if these "races" didn't breed true?

Assume that there are ... let's say seven "races" in a fantasy world. But they are not "Races" - we'll call them "types" for now.

Any couple of the same Type has a 25% chance of producing offspring of the same Type as themselves, but a 75% chance of producing offspring of any one of the other six Types.

Any couple of two different Types has a 25% chance of producing a child of the same Type as one of the parents, and a 75% chance of producing offspring of any one of the other Types.

In this circumstance, Types lose the distinctions that make fantasy races. A large enough family can have all Types. A pair of Fraternal Twins could be an Elf and an Orc.

The concept of "Race" would have no biological component. Instead the definition of "Race" would be entirely cultural, much like people sometimes speak of "the German Race" or "the French Race". There would be no "Dwarf Nation" or "Elf culture" because there is no way to guarantee the next generation will have the same Type.

How would this affect the design of a typical fantasy milieu?
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Old 06-04-2019, 11:44 PM   #2
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Default Re: What if Fantasy Races weren't "Races"?

Two parents of the same type have only a 25% chance of breeding true? That's some... interesting genetics there. :)

It could, however, be intriguing to have a fantasy realm where the "races" are indeed merely ethnicities, in a fashion similar to human variations only much, much more so. You wouldn't get an elf from two orcs, or an orc and a dwarf (unless there was enough elf ancestry on both sides for the gene complex to dominate), but easy intermixing of the "races" could give some fascinating sociological results.
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Old 06-05-2019, 12:13 AM   #3
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Default Re: What if Fantasy Races weren't "Races"?

If we still have distinct elfs and orcs in the same family instead of half- and quarter- etc it can't really be explained by genetics. It would have to be magic/divine intervention.

As for the result, there would be cultures based on location. Types would be ignored in social situations (unless some types would all have some stereotypical traits, e.g. orcs being thugish).
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Old 06-05-2019, 12:53 AM   #4
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Default Re: What if Fantasy Races weren't "Races"?

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Originally Posted by Bengt View Post
If we still have distinct elfs and orcs in the same family instead of half- and quarter- etc it can't really be explained by genetics. It would have to be magic/divine intervention.
WHAT?!! Magic or divine intervention in a fantasy world?? INCONCEIVABLE!!

That's one of the reasons we play these worlds. As long as it's internally consistent, there's no problem.

Quote:
As for the result, there would be cultures based on location. Types would be ignored in social situations (unless some types would all have some stereotypical traits, e.g. orcs being thugish).
In reality, there are stereotypes based on gender and other traits, even hair color.

So it would be workable.
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Old 06-05-2019, 10:06 AM   #5
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Default Re: What if Fantasy Races weren't "Races"?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mysterious Dark Lord v3.2 View Post
In many DnD-esque worlds, there are "races" like Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, etc. each one is assumed to have some racially-pure homeland and unique culture. This affects every aspect of worldbuilding such realities.

So let us remove that assumption ... What if these "races" didn't breed true?

Assume that there are ... let's say seven "races" in a fantasy world. But they are not "Races" - we'll call them "types" for now.

Any couple of the same Type has a 25% chance of producing offspring of the same Type as themselves, but a 75% chance of producing offspring of any one of the other six Types.

Any couple of two different Types has a 25% chance of producing a child of the same Type as one of the parents, and a 75% chance of producing offspring of any one of the other Types.

In this circumstance, Types lose the distinctions that make fantasy races. A large enough family can have all Types. A pair of Fraternal Twins could be an Elf and an Orc.

The concept of "Race" would have no biological component. Instead the definition of "Race" would be entirely cultural, much like people sometimes speak of "the German Race" or "the French Race". There would be no "Dwarf Nation" or "Elf culture" because there is no way to guarantee the next generation will have the same Type.

How would this affect the design of a typical fantasy milieu?
It would be the same as an all-human campaign. Some of them would just have pointy ears, or be short, or rugose.
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Old 06-05-2019, 11:22 AM   #6
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Default Re: What if Fantasy Races weren't "Races"?

What we call a "race" among humans (when it doesn't just mean ethnicity as in "the English race") is a genetic strain if it means anything and "race" is basically a synonym for that among humans. "Racism" is either a synonym for ethnic bigotry, or a synonym for "racialism" that is pseudoscientific formalizing of genetic strains to justify ethnic bigotry. The acknowledgement of genetic strains as such among humans is just biology (you don't pair two Appaloosas in the real world and randomly get an Arabian). In most fantasy worlds there seems to be something of the kind intended by "race" although often to a far greater extreme (there are only three known pairings of men and elves in the Tolkien verse). A man and an elf are not genetically separate like a man and a woman from opposite sides of the globe, but more like a horse and a donkey except an elf in Tolkien has preternatural patterns in his or her genes (or whatever) that add complication.

If you wish to put your system into a fantasy world you are upending tradition enough that you have to put a backstory in.
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Old 06-05-2019, 11:29 AM   #7
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Default Re: What if Fantasy Races weren't "Races"?

Then you find the all elf or dwarf or human tribe... due to infanticide of "wrong" babies.
Rigid caste system that's "obviously" divinely ordained. Born an orc, you were born to a life of menial labor or military service. Your elf brother was just as obviously born for greater things. That he was given all the education and love certainly isn't the reason why he excels.
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Old 06-05-2019, 02:34 PM   #8
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Default Re: What if Fantasy Races weren't "Races"?

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Then you find the all elf or dwarf or human tribe... due to infanticide of "wrong" babies.
Rigid caste system that's "obviously" divinely ordained. Born an orc, you were born to a life of menial labor or military service. Your elf brother was just as obviously born for greater things. That he was given all the education and love certainly isn't the reason why he excels.
Tolkien kind of backtracked on that. What he really wanted was mooks and found out he had accidently reprobated an intelligent species.

One could argue that it is no different than traditional vampires who become evil because they got bit. But than that is rather a distasteful concept too.

My point is that the OP has a biologically clumsy way of solving the problem that requires more backstory. A more simple way is to eliminate orcs and replace them with human barbarians or bandits. The problem you speak of does not appear with elves or dwarves.
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Old 06-05-2019, 05:43 PM   #9
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Default Re: What if Fantasy Races weren't "Races"?

To have any type able to give birth to any other type, either everyone needs genetics for all of the types and something activates or deactivates specific combinations (you only need three on/off controls to generate 8 types; to get it down to seven types you might make one combination lethal).

For example, you might have:
Zero activated genes: baseline mundane.
One activated gene: one of three slightly exotic races.
Two activated genes: one of three highly exotic races.
Three activated genes: dead (or other problem).

Now, for inheritance, I would probably make the increased odds of the same race be strictly maternal, because if the trigger is environmental the father is remote enough that you probably don't get a meaningful contribution, and it also makes my math a bit easier.

Okay, if inheritance is entirely random, we'd expect a 12.5% chance of matching the parent (but one type is excluded, so overall 14%). If activation is instead a 60% match on the mother, we get a basic 21.6% chance of being the same, but a 6.4-14.4% chance of the excluded combination, for a net among survivors of a hair under 24%.
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Old 06-05-2019, 10:13 PM   #10
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Default Re: What if Fantasy Races weren't "Races"?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mysterious Dark Lord v3.2 View Post
In many DnD-esque worlds, there are "races" like Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, etc. each one is assumed to have some racially-pure homeland and unique culture. This affects every aspect of worldbuilding such realities.

So let us remove that assumption ... What if these "races" didn't breed true?

Assume that there are ... let's say seven "races" in a fantasy world. But they are not "Races" - we'll call them "types" for now.

Any couple of the same Type has a 25% chance of producing offspring of the same Type as themselves, but a 75% chance of producing offspring of any one of the other six Types.

Any couple of two different Types has a 25% chance of producing a child of the same Type as one of the parents, and a 75% chance of producing offspring of any one of the other Types.I

In this circumstance, Types lose the distinctions that make fantasy races. A large enough family can have all Types. A pair of Fraternal Twins could be an Elf and an Orc.

The concept of "Race" would have no biological component. Instead the definition of "Race" would be entirely cultural, much like people sometimes speak of "the German Race" or "the French Race". There would be no "Dwarf Nation" or "Elf culture" because there is no way to guarantee the next generation will have the same Type.

How would this affect the design of a typical fantasy milieu?
Shadowrun, at least in some versions, is something like this. All the 'metatypes' are actually Homo sapiens, but in the presence of high enough mana levels latent traits emerge and elves, orcs, trolls, etc. start being born to baseline humans. This happens whenever the mana level gets high enough, and it's why those forms are legends from the past, it's happened before.

When the mana level drops low enough, all the other 'races' vanish in one generation, because suddenly they all give birth to baseline humans.

In at least some versions of Shadowrun, IIRC, there's no guarantee that two members of a given 'race' will produce the same race, though that's the strong tendency. Humans can give birth any of them as the mana level first passes the critical point.
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