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Old 03-27-2019, 04:26 PM   #1
Phantasm
 
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Default Received Complaints About My Own Twists on Fantasy Races

Kind of a tangent deviation from the "Why are Dwarves Scottish?" thread.

In my own setting, I've had people grump and complain that I'm "inverting the tropes for the sake of inversion" when I put my own twists on fantasy races. Most notably, the Dwarves: my Dwarves are German, not Scottish, in culture and accent, and build cities upwards on the outsides of the mountains rather than living in the mines. I tried to explain that the Dwarves share their territory and cities with my winged folk who also like the mountains, but apparently they believe that Dwarves should live in dark sprawling underground cities - because deviating from Tolkien is being contrarian rather than original.

Also my Halflings. I've received more than one complaint about them being Gaelic/Irish/Scottish, rather than English. Of course, they don't seem to like my response of "Ever hear of leprechauns?"

And then there's my vegetarian Minotaurs. And Kobolds that live in jungle huts rather than in trap-filled caves. And basically any "monster race" not living in caves (including Viking Orcs).

And don't get me started on dragons being color-coded for convenience. Every time I mention that mine aren't, I get odd looks and basically told I'm "doing it wrong" or "why?"


Many of these people knew my setting when it started as a D&D 3.X setting. D&D was not able to handle my vision of the setting - I'd've had to house-rule the guns to make them more than "reskinned crossbows", for instance, plus a few unique races that D&D would have slapped a level adjustment onto - so I converted to GURPS. I've been happy, but apparently I've alienated a lot of folks - most of whom when I've brought up a game in the setting clamor for "make it a D&D game!"



So, am I being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian, inverting the fantasy tropes for the sake of inversion, or do they just not want anything that's not D&D-land?
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Old 03-27-2019, 05:07 PM   #2
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Default Re: Received Complaints About My Own Twists on Fantasy Races

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Originally Posted by Phantasm View Post
Kind of a tangent deviation from the "Why are Dwarves Scottish?" thread.

In my own setting, I've had people grump and complain that I'm "inverting the tropes for the sake of inversion" when I put my own twists on fantasy races. Most notably, the Dwarves: my Dwarves are German, not Scottish, in culture and accent, and build cities upwards on the outsides of the mountains rather than living in the mines. I tried to explain that the Dwarves share their territory and cities with my winged folk who also like the mountains, but apparently they believe that Dwarves should live in dark sprawling underground cities - because deviating from Tolkien is being contrarian rather than original.

Also my Halflings. I've received more than one complaint about them being Gaelic/Irish/Scottish, rather than English. Of course, they don't seem to like my response of "Ever hear of leprechauns?"

And then there's my vegetarian Minotaurs. And Kobolds that live in jungle huts rather than in trap-filled caves. And basically any "monster race" not living in caves (including Viking Orcs).

And don't get me started on dragons being color-coded for convenience. Every time I mention that mine aren't, I get odd looks and basically told I'm "doing it wrong" or "why?"


Many of these people knew my setting when it started as a D&D 3.X setting. D&D was not able to handle my vision of the setting - I'd've had to house-rule the guns to make them more than "reskinned crossbows", for instance, plus a few unique races that D&D would have slapped a level adjustment onto - so I converted to GURPS. I've been happy, but apparently I've alienated a lot of folks - most of whom when I've brought up a game in the setting clamor for "make it a D&D game!"



So, am I being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian, inverting the fantasy tropes for the sake of inversion, or do they just not want anything that's not D&D-land?
Oh, I'm sure there's an unhappy medium where both of these things are true simultaneously.

On one hand, these guys do sound like they want something very specific. Objecting to dwarves being fake-German instead of fake-Scottish is beyond my ability to comprehend. Maybe it's just me, but Alberich from Wagner's Ring cycle is as much a prototype of dwarves as anything from Tolkein, and you don't get more German than that. Make them sit through fifteen hours of opera to get them acclimatized. Alternatively, threaten them with fifteen hours of opera if they don't shut up about it.

It does sound, though, a bit like at least some of these changes are for the sake of being different, perhaps because I'm not seeing a payoff in making them different. The original minotaur of classical myth killed and ate people, making him an excellent monster. What's the upside to making minotaurs herbivores? Do you have a different taxonomy for dragons if they're not color coded? If any dragon could have any set of capabilities, they're in danger of becoming a random tactical threat rather than something legendary and memorable. If your halflings sound more Celtic than English with leprechauns being the justification, why not call them leprechauns and be done with it?

That said, it sounds more like it's them than you. There's nothing wrong with doing things just because they seem cool to you, but you do have to be able to sell your vision to your players. This is something which [glances sidelong at some elaborate numismatic schemes] can be a challenge. Still, it also seems like they really, really don't want anything other than what they're used to. You may want to try renaming as you change attributes. Call the vegetarian minotaurs and Irish halflings something else so your players' expectations don't instantly clash with your novel ideas. That may not work, but at least it's a possible way forward.
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Old 03-27-2019, 05:25 PM   #3
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Default Re: Received Complaints About My Own Twists on Fantasy Races

Well, I lived on a cattle ranch for a while (my dad rents out his pasture to a cattle breeder), so meat-eating bovines seems odd to my mind, despite the classical Minotaur. I'm also looking at them as "wandering gentle giants unless riled" rather than "monsters", since they're meant to be a PC race.
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Old 03-27-2019, 05:53 PM   #4
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Default Re: Received Complaints About My Own Twists on Fantasy Races

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In my own setting, I've had people grump and complain that I'm "inverting the tropes for the sake of inversion" when I put my own twists on fantasy races.
I'm all for people exercising their own creativity! Go for it, I say. Though I'd also say that if your players aren't enjoying this aspect of the game, then it might not be entirely their own fault - if the GM and the players have different tastes, then there's obviously got to be a meeting in the middle somewhere.

For the record, when I read the examples you've mentioned, I, too, get the impression that you might be "inverting the tropes for the sake of inversion", as you put it. (Here I'm just quoting your words, but reformatting them into a list):
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phantasm View Post
  • my Dwarves are German, not Scottish, in culture and accent, and build cities upwards on the outsides of the mountains rather than living in the mines.
  • Also my Halflings. I've received more than one complaint about them being Gaelic/Irish/Scottish, rather than English.
  • And then there's my vegetarian Minotaurs.
  • And Kobolds that live in jungle huts rather than in trap-filled caves.
  • Viking Orcs.
Just judging by this list it does kind of seem as if your method is to take stock fantasy tropes, and then change or invert a key element while retaining pretty much everything else. As for whether that's a good or bad method, I don't know. Certainly it seems to be to your taste - great! But if it's not to your players' tastes, then maybe you want to explore what they enjoy, too.

Without wanting to be critical, I'll note that it's not really to my taste (and not because I just want to be playing D&D!). One or two of these inversions can be fun for me, I think. But a whole list like this would make me wonder why the GM is so keen on putting small, whacky spins on familiar stuff, rather than just making up his own things out of whole cloth. I guess I'm just one of those people who prefer either to have the classic tropes run in a way that breathes new life into them, without messing too much with the characteristics that make them instantly recognizable and special, or to be offered something entirely new. The risk of the middle road is that it kind of muddies the waters without producing any really new, clear, and satisfying flavor.

But again, that's just a matter of taste! And some people love this kind of thing - more power to them! The key thing would seem to be to try to find some middle ground between your own tastes and those of your players.

(And as a final note: I'm being very nitpicky here, just because you asked for feedback. In reality, if anyone is willing to GM a game for me, I just turn up with dice and thank them profusely, differences in taste be damned!)

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Originally Posted by Turhan's Bey Company View Post
If your halflings sound more Celtic than English with leprechauns being the justification, why not call them leprechauns and be done with it?

[...]

You may want to try renaming [...] Call the vegetarian minotaurs and Irish halflings something else so your players' expectations don't instantly clash with your novel ideas.
Yes! If I were a player in this game, that would help.
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Old 03-27-2019, 06:03 PM   #5
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Default Re: Received Complaints About My Own Twists on Fantasy Races

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Well, I lived on a cattle ranch for a while (my dad rents out his pasture to a cattle breeder), so meat-eating bovines seems odd to my mind, despite the classical Minotaur. I'm also looking at them as "wandering gentle giants unless riled" rather than "monsters", since they're meant to be a PC race.
I rather imagined the reason was some variation on "cows are herbivores," and that's not an unreasonable or implausible thing. Dangerous when riled is a very real phenomenon. But that does leave you with expectation clashes with players who seem more than usually attached to their expectations. Definitely try renaming.
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Old 03-27-2019, 07:54 PM   #6
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Default Re: Received Complaints About My Own Twists on Fantasy Races

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So, am I being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian, inverting the fantasy tropes for the sake of inversion, or do they just not want anything that's not D&D-land?
As long as it makes sense in the campaign, there is nothing wrong with inversion for the sake of it, provided the players know they aren't dealing with "standard" races.
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Old 03-27-2019, 09:15 PM   #7
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Default Re: Received Complaints About My Own Twists on Fantasy Races

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So, am I being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian, inverting the fantasy tropes for the sake of inversion, or do they just not want anything that's not D&D-land?
Possibly all three? There's not much reason to use things named like some standard unless you plan to match the standard, though the standard might not be D&D. If I were instead using mythic sources:
  1. Germanic dwarves are entirely appropriate, though they're originally Norse.
  2. The name 'halfling' to refer to half-sized humans is a D&Dism, though it might be used for halfbreeds.
  3. Mythic minotaurs aren't terribly different from D&D minotaurs.
  4. Mythic kobolds are German spirits (can be invisible, or take the form of an animal, fire, a human being of about half human size, or a candle).
  5. Mythic dragons certainly aren't color coded, but they also don't have multiple breath types to start with, your choices are pretty much fire and poison.
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Old 03-28-2019, 06:40 AM   #8
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Default Re: Received Complaints About My Own Twists on Fantasy Races

Viking Orcs sound wonderful. Beware the sea orcs! (raiding and pillaging is the stereotype in both cases, right?)

I look at goblins, see "green skin" and drop them in a jungle. Kobolds, if blue, should live by the sea or something IMHO. But whatever floats your boat.

Of course minotaurs are herbivorous when used as a PC-race! (Mine are cowherd-nomads. They aren't vegan and are known for their cheeses prepared in magic pottery)

I've always assumed Germanic, Jewish, or Russian dwarves, on account of how I imagine their language. Not living underground is a bit odd, I suppose. I mean, if you're going to be mining out caves to build towers, might as well use the massive basement, right? But I also have dwarven shepherds living on the surface (which is also part of why I imagine them Jewish: I wanted a dwarven cleric, imagined him similar to Old Testament prophets, and away we went).

So long as the variations are a result of thinking out how a race might reasonably be, I would be fine with any variation. So, as long as you can explain the color-variations of your dragons independently of racial variations, I would be happy with it, but as a player I would ask the question.

Spitballing on dragon color: I would guess atmospheric compositions might have an effect, or some dragons might be colored in a manner so as to camouflage them better where they hunt. So either you would be able to tell the region of origin, the likely hunting grounds/tactics (A white dragon! Either from up north, or one of those dragons that sticks to the clouds...).

One should, of course, make sure players are aware of many of these divergences before play begins, and it sounds like you may want to ease players into it. Maybe start classic D&D-style and let the sea orcs raid a coastal village. If you can get your players to spontaneously think of tactics their enemies might be good at, so that they say "oh, these traits of kobolds would also work in a jungle!" that may help, too. It requires them to think at a more strategic level, though ("how do these kobolds actually operate?" rather than just "kobold? I attack!").
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Old 03-28-2019, 10:38 AM   #9
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Default Re: Received Complaints About My Own Twists on Fantasy Races

I have three fantasy worlds in various stages of back-burner development:
  1. A "conventional" fantasy world. One big difference is that the closest thing to a consistent "bad guy" race is probably the elves.
  2. A slightly less conventional fantasy world, with none of the standard fantasy races. There is a reptilian race and another based on civets, but humans are overwhelmingly dominant in population and story impact.
  3. A much less conventional one set in a world of vast oceans and archipelagos (and a few Australia-sized land masses), with technology akin to the 1920s and very low-powered magic.
I imagine anyone wanting to play in D&Dland to be disappointed in any of them.
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Old 03-28-2019, 11:25 AM   #10
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Default Re: Received Complaints About My Own Twists on Fantasy Races

Anytime you actually add detail to stuff some stuff gets broken

The Halflings not being Hobbits is hard to wrap my mind around as the only two strong 'little guys' examples are Hobbits and Kender and you don't want Kender either. So if you want something other than 'amorphous vagueness' it needs to be well detailed, since I don't have strong ideas on halflings. They aren't a major feels race like dwarves / halflings

Dragonlance had hill dwarves, Snow White had dwarves in a cottage, so if they want to build on top on mountains ah why not. And I've seen enough WW2 movies to do a bad German accent as easy as a bad Scottish one

Minotaurs - cow people, cows like grass. Groovy

What do your centaurs eat btw?

Orks with culture is weird, but why not? I suppose they can be Vikings

Kobolds if they are lizard style totally make sense in jungles

Dragons can be any color they feel like! HTTYD even has multiple colors of the same species!

People can still associate things with dragon color if they want like some tropes associate with hair color -Black dragons are lucky, green dragons are adorable forest kittens etc
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