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The Race Race

Ever play with those guys who seem to want to play the exotic races of whatever D&D world the campaign is in, and never the normal, every day ones? I have, and what makes it worse is when they have difficulty playing a human, and still insist on playing the exotic races. On top of that, a recent forum post over and Pen and Paper Games this is discussed a fair amount and it’s amazing the number of people who have moved away from core races as time has rolled on.

Now, obviously, my brand of fun isn’t the same as everyone else’s. But my question is, to the players, why? And to the DMs, why allow it?

Even with the introduction of 4th Edition, the core races have enough “cool” in them to keep someone busy for quite some time. Also, the role play is regardless of race…or at least it mostly is, so why play something odd and unusual when you can do the same thing within the framework of the core rules? Of course, by way of answering my own question, one reason to do it is that it can open up some role play opportunities. For example, playing a drow should put the player in situations where they are attacked on sight and only his/her companions can calm the crowd down that this isn’t an evil drow!

As for DMs who allow this, again I have to ask why? Obviously, homebrew worlds will have some odd races. Mine has minotaurs, so I can relate. To that world, they’re core though. However, I’ve played with tons of DMs who say “if you can find it, I’ll let you play it” and while it was cool back then, now it kind of bugs me. After all, you’ll have to have every race on your world to make this plausible, and frankly some of them might not fit with your world concept.

Now, I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s fun here, but I honestly don’t see the fun in playing an odd race. Instead, all I see are the advantages that one can seize and create uber-characters. Frankly, I’ll admit that maybe the guys I’ve played with over the years has colored my opinion, but power gamers love these races, especially with inexperienced DMs who use the “if you can find it, you can play it” rule. They can run roughshod over the DM with something that the DM is unfamiliar with.

As I now seem to have more people reading this blog than just my Mom, I’d love to hear your opinions. What races do you play, and if they aren’t core races (and please mention what edition so I can tell what’s core and what’s not 😉 ), why do you play them? I’d really like to get some serious input here, so comment away!


July 24, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 2 Comments

Party Versus a Group of Folks

I think part of the division in the D&D community between 3.5 and 4e may boil down to this simple preference. Some prefer the idea of a party over a group of individuals, and some prefer it the other way. While many of the rules are annoying to me, they could easily be house ruled and make 4.0 a game that would be worth trying for my group. However, it’s the emphasis that I think gets people fired up. Now, while I’m not a 4e lover by any stretch of the imagination, I think it’s important to understand where it’s coming from and why.

Most D&D is played with a group. Solo and two person campaigns happen all the time, but usually they are secondary to the “big game” for most groups. As such, WotC decided to make the game more about the party. Is this bad? It really depends on your style of play. I read in an interview where one of the developers said that while rogues get all these skill points, they’re expected to blow 2/3rds of them on a specific set of skills (typical thief skills), so they revamped the system so they wouldn’t have to do that. Granted, it still depends on the rogue having these skills, but the cost is less.

On the other hand, my groups have always had a tendency to create each character in a vacuum. No one knows what your character’s skill set is until the game has started. This prevents players being urged to take specific skills to appease the rest of the group. Now, this creates problems. For example, your party’s rogue could be more of a con man than a disable traps kinda guy. This creates a less than ideal situation when you’re in a dark and scary dungeon and need to disable the pit trap before the whole party falls the hundred or so feet to their deaths.

4e is about the party over individuals within a group context. This isn’t necessarily bad either. For example, if the campaign is based on the hook of a military commander selecting a group of people to carry out a mission, he would try to fit together a party that functioned as a party rather than two fighters, a ranger, and a wizard that gets called a “party”. On the other hand, it can also feel a bit contrived when four people who randomly meet in a tavern fit together like cogs in a clock. Sure, it can happen, but after a few times, it feels off to me.

Of course, understanding this principle may make it easier to understand why some people love 4e and some don’t. Perhaps if we all made the effort, some of this animosity would die a horrible death.

July 23, 2008 Posted by | RPG | , | Leave a comment