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Old 06-07-2019, 05:30 PM   #21
Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: New Zealand.
Default Re: What if Fantasy Races weren't "Races"?

In my main fantasy world I play with the concept of non-genetic races.
Orcs are created by a process "knowledge of the process to create an orc is not uncommon, however most people who know how to create them possess enough moral scruples to not do so"
The orcs take inspiration from Terry Pratchett's interpretation of them as well as a dash of Tolkien and Frankenstein.
Its also noted that those who create orcs almost invariably geld them in the process.
All the questions this creates are left to be explored in play should they come up.

Elves (at least in the central playable time period, but thats a side issue) do not exist, but "Elven blood" which is to say an elven ancestor does exist. This does not follow any of the traditional laws of genetic inheritance and anyone with it may or may not have any or all of the elven characteristics.
Waiting for inspiration to strike......
And spending too much time thinking about farming for RPGs
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Old 06-10-2019, 11:24 AM   #22
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Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: North Carolina
Default Re: What if Fantasy Races weren't "Races"?

In Shadowrun, or rather the UK sourcebook, it was rumored that the heirs to the throne turned into Orcs. This led to them being euthanized before they recovered from the transformation crisis/fever. I could see lots of people killing or getting rid of orc babies. It could be a major civil liberties crisis.
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Old Yesterday, 11:39 PM   #23
Join Date: Sep 2011
Default Re: What if Fantasy Races weren't "Races"?

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?
Even if there is no biological component, it doesn't end up being entirely cultural.

First, I'm not convinced that there is no "biological component" to race. No genetic component? Okay, I can deal with that but as is, it's almost entirely expressed physically and that argues that if people are biological organisms there has to be a biological component, even if that biological component involves magic/the gods.

Second, given that the types occur in all families, though not uniformly and some types may be absent from any given specific family, there is no cultural concept to any given type. An orc-type raised in a family in France will be French, or maybe more specifically Norman, in culture and one raised in England will be English, or maybe more specifically East Anglian, but there won't be an overarching English orc-type culture unless the orc-types are excluded from normal society and forced to live with other orc-types and if you're going to do that, you might as well have them be separate races that breed true because it doesn't amount to a change at all.

One approach that might get you what you're aiming for is to have humans be the only race that actually has children. All seven races/types are expressions of the individual's nature (possibly rooted in morality). Races/types kidnap children and/or babies and, if not rescued, will by the time puberty hits, become a member of their "parent" race, though they can be returned to being human until they reach adulthood (it just gets harder to accomplish after puberty hits). As a final issue, while within a wyrd area, any adult human will shift towards being a non-human type any time he exhibits a trait strongly associated with that type. So, for example, each time he gets angry, he becomes a little more orc-like, every capricious act makes him more elf-like, and being dour makes him more dwarf-like. As long as he doesn't get all the way over to being a given type, he reverts to being human when he returns to a "home" area. But he returns to his last status the next time he returns to a wyrd area, so there's a real danger that an adventurer may not come back but be trapped as a changed race/type. For an added thrill, maybe an adult can flip past the known types if his behavior in a "wyrd" area is extreme enough, becoming a dragon, unicorn, phoenix or sphinx.

The key milieu changes are that humans will be motivated to enter "wyrd" areas where the other races/types live, to rescue human children and teens. Humans will be wary and reluctant to deal with even "good" races such as elves and dwarves. There would probably be an element of horror in any combat with a non-human race/type. Whatever they are now, at one time they were as human as you or I.

Last edited by Curmudgeon; Yesterday at 11:47 PM.
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