Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Of the Tabletop, and other, lesser varieties.

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby rrwoods » Fri Jan 22, 2010 8:18 pm UTC

Ooh, a D&D thread. I just started a campaign recently.

I'll post full character stats in a couple hours when I have the character sheet on-hand... but, from what I can remember of it:

Hengeyokai (Fox) Fighter 1 [ECL 2*]
Str 16, Dex 15, Con 13?, Int 11?, Wis 9? (-2 racial penalty), Cha 10
+1 longsword, chain shirt
Improved Initiative, can't remember second feat atm

* I'm going to use the -XP -level adjust rule when it becomes available (at L3 I think).
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby Xanthir » Sat Jan 23, 2010 4:24 am UTC

SecondTalon wrote:Just keep in mind that you'd have to get all the rogue levels out of the way before you started taking any Paladin ones, due to the whole multiclass rule thingy.

Alternately, forget about that ridiculous bullshit, since multiple designers of 3e are on public record as saying it's a bad idea that they only put in because the 2e playtesters demanded it.
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby rrwoods » Sun Jan 24, 2010 5:12 pm UTC

rrwoods wrote:in a couple hours

Or a couple days, as the case may be.

Hengeyokai (Fox) Fighter 1
Can shapechange level + 1 times per day between human, hybrid, and animal forms (full round action)
Low-light vision in animal and hybrid forms
Level adjust +1

[animal] (hybrid)
Str 16 [13], Dex 14 (16) [19], Con 14, Int 10, Wis 8 (-2 racial penalty), Cha 10
Initiative +6 (+7) [+8]
+1 Longsword (1d8+3, 19-20/x2)
Fort +4, Refl +2(+3)[+4], Will -1
AC 16(17)[15]

Escape Artist - 0 ranks, total +2 (+7 - racial bonus) [+4]
Listen - 2 ranks, total +1
Search - 2 ranks, total +2

Improved Initiative
Weapon Focus - Longsword
31/M/taken/US
age/gender/interest/country

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby Klapaucius » Tue Jan 26, 2010 4:43 pm UTC

SexyTalon wrote:Just keep in mind that you'd have to get all the rogue levels out of the way before you started taking any Paladin ones, due to the whole multiclass rule thingy.
There's a race in Fiendish Codex II called Hellborn, who are more or less dragonborn for infernal creatures, who have paladin as their favored class and can come back and forth from it at will.

They also get crazy powers, like blindsense at level 1, but with the penalty of looking super evil and being nigh-impossible to resurrect.
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby Bulvox » Wed Jan 27, 2010 5:09 am UTC

Klapaucius wrote:
SexyTalon wrote:Just keep in mind that you'd have to get all the rogue levels out of the way before you started taking any Paladin ones, due to the whole multiclass rule thingy.
There's a race in Fiendish Codex II called Hellborn, who are more or less dragonborn for infernal creatures, who have paladin as their favored class and can come back and forth from it at will.

They also get crazy powers, like blindsense at level 1, but with the penalty of looking super evil and being nigh-impossible to resurrect.
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby Goldstein » Wed Jan 27, 2010 8:42 am UTC

I hate you guys. Play typical Humans, and make them awesome through their deeds.
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby Sir_Elderberry » Wed Jan 27, 2010 2:05 pm UTC

Goldstein wrote:I hate you guys. Play typical Humans, and make them awesome through their deeds.

I never play humans in any RPG that gives me the choice. I'm a human in real life, I may as well explore the possibilities.
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby The Utilitarian » Wed Jan 27, 2010 5:01 pm UTC

Goldstein wrote:I hate you guys. Play typical Humans, and make them awesome through their deeds.

While I do often end up playing Humans, it's generally for the statistical advantages (extra feat and potentially Able Learner). Honestly since playing in Eberron I have quite the love for Halflings. The Talenta dinosaur riding tribal badasses are just too cool to pass up, and with the Strongheart Halfling variant for the extra feat they stack up to humans.
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby Yakk » Wed Jan 27, 2010 5:42 pm UTC

Sir_Elderberry wrote:
Goldstein wrote:I hate you guys. Play typical Humans, and make them awesome through their deeds.

I never play humans in any RPG that gives me the choice. I'm a human in real life, I may as well explore the possibilities.

I don't know. You aren't wearing a hat.
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby Chen » Wed Jan 27, 2010 5:53 pm UTC

The Utilitarian wrote:While I do often end up playing Humans, it's generally for the statistical advantages (extra feat and potentially Able Learner). Honestly since playing in Eberron I have quite the love for Halflings. The Talenta dinosaur riding tribal badasses are just too cool to pass up, and with the Strongheart Halfling variant for the extra feat they stack up to humans.


Didn't halflings in Eberron have some ridiculous halfling only weapon that was absurd? Like 2d6 damage and x4 crit or something?

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby The Utilitarian » Wed Jan 27, 2010 6:02 pm UTC

Chen wrote:
The Utilitarian wrote:While I do often end up playing Humans, it's generally for the statistical advantages (extra feat and potentially Able Learner). Honestly since playing in Eberron I have quite the love for Halflings. The Talenta dinosaur riding tribal badasses are just too cool to pass up, and with the Strongheart Halfling variant for the extra feat they stack up to humans.


Didn't halflings in Eberron have some ridiculous halfling only weapon that was absurd? Like 2d6 damage and x4 crit or something?

Talentan Sharrash, yes, but it was errata'd down to x2 crit (and the base damage was only 1d8 or something to begin with. Ostensibly it was a misprint but in illustrations it looked a heck of a lot like a Scythe so it seemed to make sense at the time. Realistically neither the Sharrash nor the Tangat are perticularily good weapons. Like most Exotic Weapons not generally worth the feat. There's a Talentan Warrior feat that gives you proficiency with both plus the Boomerang and I think some extra damage while mounted, but if you're going to be fighting mounted chances are you'll want to be using a lance anyways so it's kind of moot.
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby BigMcStrongmuscle » Wed Jan 27, 2010 6:52 pm UTC

Hate seems too extreme a reaction, but definitely humans FTW. Even in versions before they had any racial advantages. It's just so much more badass and satisfying when the dragon is slain by a normal guy armed only with a sword and shield and his wits than when a six-hundred-pound half-demon-half-ogre sorcerer/monk blasts it to death with his ice breath. Although this is also why fighters have been my favorite class for almost two decades.

There's certainly something to be said about exploring the possibility space. I definitely went through a few years where I did a lot of that. Thing is, humans explore a much wider - and to me, much more immediately interesting - range of it than elves and dwarves and fox-people do. There's always preconceptions about playing a character like that that limit the possibilities they can explore without feeling strained. Honestly: How many dwarf characters have you ever seen, that didn't have Gimli's accent, wield an axe or a hammer, and drink a lot? How many elf barbarians have you met? Or wise, elderly half-orcs? For the most part, non-humans tend to devolve into the same batch of shallow fantasy stereotypes.

I'd blame it on poor role-playing, but I've played with some absolutely fantastic role-players, and they do it too. Humans account for about 90% of the best characters I've ever had the privilege to game with. I think the reason is that non-humans get predictable and stale much too quickly for me, and I prefer to play the same character for a nice long time - ideally, several years. I find humans are just the only ones with the staying power to remain fun for more than a few levels.
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby Goldstein » Wed Jan 27, 2010 7:14 pm UTC

I reckon you hit the nail on the head. It's about defying clichés and not simply taking everything you're offered. The last character I roleplayed, I was in an online game where every other person was a pirate, so I played a naval officer; he came from a wealthy background, had no trouble making friends, and could be just as much of an asshole as anybody else, but with the added satisfaction that I wasn't trying to be Jack Sparrow. It just feels gratuitous to try to tick as many 'cool' boxes as you can during character creation; let them be judged on their actions!
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby thecommabandit » Wed Jan 27, 2010 7:45 pm UTC

BigMcStrongmuscle wrote:I'd blame it on poor role-playing, but I've played with some absolutely fantastic role-players, and they do it too. Humans account for about 90% of the best characters I've ever had the privilege to game with. I think the reason is that non-humans get predictable and stale much too quickly for me, and I prefer to play the same character for a nice long time - ideally, several years. I find humans are just the only ones with the staying power to remain fun for more than a few levels.

I blame it on people who make settings thinking that each race has one culture, and that culture determines personality. In the core books it's pretty much stated that elves are elegant and distant, dwarves are merry and violent and gnomes are fun-loving and mischievous. Humans are "varied". As they would say on TV Tropes, it's All There In The Manual. The way to discourage this is to have NPCs that deviate often from the racial characteristic: an elven gang leader who personally beats anyone up who disagrees with him; a devout and stoic dwarven cleric that refuses substances that cloud the mind (alcohol) and believes only in fighting when absolutely necessary; a gnome alchemist that screams at anyone who disrupts him when he's working and has no sense of humour. If you get a significant amount of these kind of people then the racial norms that the players have will be eliminated and they can make more interesting and less pigeon-holed characters.
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby The Utilitarian » Wed Jan 27, 2010 8:08 pm UTC

That's actually one of the reasons I really like Eberron, they went out of the way to create some very different racial archetypes for the traditional fantasy races. Fierce, normadic dinosaur riding halflings! Spooky death loving elves! ruthless warrior horseman elves! Crafty diplomatic genius gnomes! Really the only race that stayed in line with the normal image was the dwarves.
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby BigMcStrongmuscle » Wed Jan 27, 2010 8:14 pm UTC

thecommabandit:

I agree with your premise, in theory. Actually pulling something like that off in such a way that feels like breaking stereotype rather than just inverting it is harder than it sounds. This is partly because sometimes those elaborate lists of traits and behaviors just don't come up; other times it's because the players will assume that this guy is a weirdo; still others because you just don't use enough non-human NPCs to do this consistently.

Also, I'm talking about as a *player*. If you're DMing, you have a great deal of control over the setting. If you are playing, you control one character. The DM is the one who dictates what dwarves are like, not you. You can certainly play a character who is an inversion of everything dwarfly, but that in itself is a pigeonhole too. And, I for one am not going to devote my entire play experience to a quixotic crusade against sterotypes of races that don't exist. :-P

For me, having to define my character by what my race is (or isn't) isn't fun. I'd rather just play a human and let my actions show my qualities, rather than obeying or constantly fighting the assumptions of half the players at the table.

EDIT: There's one other thing that gives me issues with this. The whole reason behind putting in fantasy races is to give you an archetype to hang your character on. But if I don't want to play to that particular archetype in SOME way, why would I play a character of that race in the first place?

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby Chen » Thu Jan 28, 2010 2:52 pm UTC

The Utilitarian wrote:Talentan Sharrash, yes, but it was errata'd down to x2 crit (and the base damage was only 1d8 or something to begin with. Ostensibly it was a misprint but in illustrations it looked a heck of a lot like a Scythe so it seemed to make sense at the time. Realistically neither the Sharrash nor the Tangat are perticularily good weapons. Like most Exotic Weapons not generally worth the feat.


It wasn't just the x4 crit but it had a crit range that was the same as a greatsword (or possibly a falchion making it even more broken). An errata down to x2 does make it kinda useless though as an exotic weapon (since a Falchion is better then).

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby Xanthir » Thu Jan 28, 2010 3:29 pm UTC

Honestly, it's like they don't even know that constructing weapon stats is a solved problem.

(I got a thumbs up from Sean K Reynolds over that, so it's legit to at least one balance-minded 3e designer.)
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby The Utilitarian » Thu Jan 28, 2010 10:06 pm UTC

Xanthir wrote:Honestly, it's like they don't even know that constructing weapon stats is a solved problem.

(I got a thumbs up from Sean K Reynolds over that, so it's legit to at least one balance-minded 3e designer.)

Spiffy. Aside from the "flexibility" options, it does seem pretty much in line with how many of the existing balanced weapons in 3.5 work. It is missing a couple functions though, for instance, since weapon damage types are a.. +0 you have no reason not to have your weapon be simultaniously bludgeoning piercing and slashing. The rules need to be expanded to properly value weapons that do simultaniously multiple damage types (piercing AND bludgeoning), as well as those that do alternative multiple damage types (piercing OR bludgeoning).

Just goes to show how terrible the Greatclub is o_O

Also doesn't take into account cost of weapon, which is sometimes relevant. Also fails to take into account strength bonus for ranged weapons (mighty composite bows).
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby EmptySet » Fri Jan 29, 2010 12:54 am UTC

BigMcStrongmuscle wrote:Honestly: How many dwarf characters have you ever seen, that didn't have Gimli's accent, wield an axe or a hammer, and drink a lot? How many elf barbarians have you met? Or wise, elderly half-orcs? For the most part, non-humans tend to devolve into the same batch of shallow fantasy stereotypes.


In the last campaign I played, I was a dwarven conjurer, and one of my party members was a half-orc sorcerer. You don't have to be a walking cliche if you don't want to.

That said, there is also a reason those stereotypes became cliches in the first place. It's actually quite amusing to create an entire party of stereotypes and ham it up, providing everyone has a sense of humour.

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby Xanthir » Fri Jan 29, 2010 1:27 am UTC

The Utilitarian wrote:
Xanthir wrote:Honestly, it's like they don't even know that constructing weapon stats is a solved problem.

(I got a thumbs up from Sean K Reynolds over that, so it's legit to at least one balance-minded 3e designer.)

Spiffy. Aside from the "flexibility" options, it does seem pretty much in line with how many of the existing balanced weapons in 3.5 work.

Yup, that was the point. There was clearly patterns employed in balancing 3.5 weapons, so I just distilled them.

It is missing a couple functions though, for instance, since weapon damage types are a.. +0 you have no reason not to have your weapon be simultaniously bludgeoning piercing and slashing. The rules need to be expanded to properly value weapons that do simultaniously multiple damage types (piercing AND bludgeoning), as well as those that do alternative multiple damage types (piercing OR bludgeoning).

I note that in the comments at the end - multiple damage types are *not* priced any differently than single ones. That's simply the way things work, if you want to assume that most weapons are balanced (that was my guide during the creation of it - there's only a very small number of weapons that are wrongly-powered). You just have to be reasonable about it.

Just goes to show how terrible the Greatclub is o_O

Indeed. It's fucking horrible. I can't believe they actually wrote that thing in.

Also doesn't take into account cost of weapon, which is sometimes relevant. Also fails to take into account strength bonus for ranged weapons (mighty composite bows).

There is no consistent pattern in prices, so it's not amenable to an algorithmic approach. You just have to assign something reasonable. Str bonus on mighty bows is also solely a matter of cost, though in this case there *is* a pattern.

I'm also not taking into account a handful of abilities, such as the ability to use a weapon while mounted. That's the balance point of the shortbow, which right now is rated as underpowered. But then I have to rebalance crossbows, and maybe more - if I recall, the ripple effects were large enough that it was easier just to declare the shortbow underpowered officially.
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby d0nk3y_k0n9 » Fri Jan 29, 2010 3:30 am UTC

Xanthir wrote:
Just goes to show how terrible the Greatclub is o_O

Indeed. It's fucking horrible. I can't believe they actually wrote that thing in.


Usually, when you're taking a Greatclub, you're taking it for flavor reasons, not because it's good. At least, I hope people are only taking it for flavor reasons and that nobody actually likes the darn thing.

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby Xanthir » Fri Jan 29, 2010 4:52 pm UTC

That's still not an excuse. There's nothing wrong with having a two-handed Martial bludgeoning weapon. If you want it to be fairly unique, give it 2d8 damage and a x2 crit - that'll put it at the same balance point as the greataxe and greatsword.

There's just no reason to ever make a weapon that weak. Even a two-handed Simple weapon would be stronger than that if you follow the patterns. If we wanted to patch things up, we could call it both Simple and Improvised, which would then justify its damage and crit.

The whole thing is just an abomination, though. It was the result of someone going "I don't think a big piece of wood should do as much damage as a sword", and then forgetting that "big piece of wood" is a simple improvised weapon, not a constructed martial weapon. A constructed, martial piece of wood would indeed do as much damage as a sword, by definition.
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby Vaniver » Fri Jan 29, 2010 7:21 pm UTC

Xanthir wrote:The whole thing is just an abomination, though. It was the result of someone going "I don't think a big piece of wood should do as much damage as a sword", and then forgetting that "big piece of wood" is a simple improvised weapon, not a constructed martial weapon. A constructed, martial piece of wood would indeed do as much damage as a sword, by definition.
That line of reasoning is the cause of most of the balance problems with versions of D&D before 4th edition, as far as I can tell.
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby Goldstein » Fri Jan 29, 2010 8:00 pm UTC

I like the idea of the Greatclub doing 2d8 damage. In addition to bringing the weapon up to scratch, it gives it the sort of stats you might expect of a massive club. I guess the fear was that if it had this sort of damage, you'd see the Greatclub as regularly as the Greatsword, which might feel a bit silly. With the ever-implied constraint of "Only if your character actually would", it works great as a 2d8er.
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby The Utilitarian » Fri Jan 29, 2010 9:20 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:
Xanthir wrote:The whole thing is just an abomination, though. It was the result of someone going "I don't think a big piece of wood should do as much damage as a sword", and then forgetting that "big piece of wood" is a simple improvised weapon, not a constructed martial weapon. A constructed, martial piece of wood would indeed do as much damage as a sword, by definition.
That line of reasoning is the cause of most of the balance problems with versions of D&D before 4th edition, as far as I can tell.

Aye, I don't think there's anything wrong with the STATS of the greatclub per say, merely that it's a freaking MARTIAL weapon. It's a BIGGER CLUB, it needs to be a simple weapon like its miniature companion.

For 2h bludgeoning I really like the Maul in 4e. It's what all my 4e melee character builds used until they introduced the Executioner's axe. now THAT's worth an exotic weapon prof.
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby Sir_Elderberry » Sat Jan 30, 2010 4:51 am UTC

Ah, the Executioner's Axe. A more elegant weapon for--sweet Amaunator my arm!

My barbarian friend has one. Everytime he rerolls thanks to brutal, it comes up 10+. I swear. Truly a terrible thing to behold. My fighter I just made is going to roll with a mordenkrad, though. Dwarven-built warforged follower of Moradin and such.
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby BigMcStrongmuscle » Sun Jan 31, 2010 2:15 pm UTC

EmptySet wrote:In the last campaign I played, I was a dwarven conjurer, and one of my party members was a half-orc sorcerer. You don't have to be a walking cliche if you don't want to.

That said, there is also a reason those stereotypes became cliches in the first place. It's actually quite amusing to create an entire party of stereotypes and ham it up, providing everyone has a sense of humour.


Atypical nonhumans are certainly doable - no arguments there - but I guess what I'm asking is this: If I want to play a character who is not even remotely dwarfly, why would I make him a dwarf in the first place? The principle of the thing? Because I want to show up all those walking cliches out there? I could see doing it for a quick laugh, but making Santa Claus out of a dwarven wizard seems like a very thin premise for a long game.

And besides, playing normal humans is fun. If it's badass when a ripped half-orc barbarian utterly wrecks that ogre with his axe, how much more badass is it when it's done by a human warrior without all the half-orc's superpowers?

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby SecondTalon » Sun Jan 31, 2010 4:31 pm UTC

BigMcStrongmuscle wrote:If I want to play a character who is not even remotely dwarfly, why would I make him a dwarf in the first place?
The argument isn't that. The argument is "Why are the characteristics for Dwarves across all gaming worlds, systems, and styles decided by Tolkien?"

Being dwarfly in one game may mean that you come from the temperate plains and are culturally claustrophobic, paint protective runes on your body, and believe everyone should know the basics behind magic to the point of being able to recognize most beginner spells on sight and able to theorize on whether or not a "Natural Disaster" is just that, the work of the Gods, some anti-civilization Druidic cult, or just a pissed off wizard - even if they aren't a spell caster themselves. Being Dwarfly becomes not wanting to go into holes in the ground, bodypaint, and a scholarly tradition.
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby Xanthir » Sun Jan 31, 2010 10:53 pm UTC

I think the point that Big is trying to make is that, if you're going to define a civilization with those characteristics, why do you have to call them "dwarves"?

You can have short bearded people with all the qualities you mention, but using the name "dwarf" for them often feels like going against the stereotype for the sake of it.

As to individual players, there's some more leeway there. Playing against type is a valid rp method, just as much as playing *to* type is. One can also just be a normal sort of dude who is affected by the culture they grew up in, but not dominated by it. What's weird is just playing against type for no real *reason*, just like redefining the word "dwarf" to mean something entirely different and unrelated.
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby bigglesworth » Sun Jan 31, 2010 10:58 pm UTC

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby TaintedDeity » Sun Jan 31, 2010 11:26 pm UTC

In an ideal word every one of your players would listen intently while you tell them about the civilisations, guilds and Gods in your world and the DM would have perfectly realised a realm of imagination.
However, having the archetype of a dwarf or elf kicking about is useful for lazy DMs or lazy characters to fall back on.

Your players don't have to have read about the mighty Tilfern, a race of bodypainting scholars who favour magic over martial arts. They know what dwarves are already :D
Diverging slightly from that pre existing idea is easier and less cumbersome for some gamers.

Of course, creating a world from scratch and extensively researching a new character can be part of the fun, but that style of play isn't for everyone.
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby EmptySet » Mon Feb 01, 2010 1:09 am UTC

BigMcStrongmuscle wrote:Atypical nonhumans are certainly doable - no arguments there - but I guess what I'm asking is this: If I want to play a character who is not even remotely dwarfly, why would I make him a dwarf in the first place? The principle of the thing? Because I want to show up all those walking cliches out there? I could see doing it for a quick laugh, but making Santa Claus out of a dwarven wizard seems like a very thin premise for a long game.


Not being a walking stereotype doesn't mean that you are utterly undwarfly in every aspect. So my dwarf has a non-typical profession. Given how economics works the normal profession for a human character should be "peasant", but you don't see anyone complaining that human warriors are insufficiently stereotypical.

And this is the problem, really. People recognize that humans come in more than one flavour. Some might have dark skin, and some light, and some might come from an uber-religious theocracy where men have to hide their beards behind a veil lest they inflame the desires of women, and some might come from a country ruled by mage-lords, and others might come from some obscure tribe that worships nature or something. But apparently non-human races are expected to be a perfectly uniform mass. Not only is there a monolithic dwarven culture, apparently every single dwarf is a perfect embodiment of this culture, as if they were all churned out of a factory or something. Despite what economics might say, there are no dwarven cheesemakers or servants or tailors; every dwarf is a cleric, a smith, or a mighty warrior. Despite the natural variation inherent in most species, no dwarf is born too skinny to clank around in plate mail all day.

I mean, really. You're allowed to assign stat points for a reason: although dwarves get +2 to CON, they are not all the same. If a dwarf happens to have been born with 18 INT and 10 STR, what's wrong with him taking up magic rather than an axe? It's not a betrayal of everything dwarfy. It's just good sense. Moreover, even if a dwarf doesn't have certain stereotypical traits, there are always people in any society who do not fit the stereotype, or even actively oppose the existing societal norms. In fact, since stereotypes are usually a shallow exaggeration (to say the least!), most people in any given society do not fit the stereotype. Given that, it's kind of silly to say that there's no point playing a dwarf unless you're going to be called Bjorn Bloodaxe, swill copious amounts of ale, and wear full plate at all times.

And besides, playing normal humans is fun. If it's badass when a ripped half-orc barbarian utterly wrecks that ogre with his axe, how much more badass is it when it's done by a human warrior without all the half-orc's superpowers?


I would say not much, given that half-orc's "superpowers" consist of "being the big, dumb guy". Plus humans get an extra feat, which in many circumstances is more valuable than the half-orc's strength bonus. And there are (usually) no "normal human" PCs in D&D - everyone is an exceptional hero, and most of your superpowers are granted by your class rather than your race.

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby BigMcStrongmuscle » Mon Feb 01, 2010 4:52 am UTC

Xanthir more or less nailed it. If your dwarves aren't much like what everyone thinks of when you say dwarf, why are you calling it a dwarf? I'm not saying all dwarves have to be EXACTLY THE SAME RAAAR - variety makes sense - but there isn't much point making your plains-dwelling bodypainting claustrophobe a dwarf if you aren't getting *something* out of using the word.

The argument isn't that. The argument is "Why are the characteristics for Dwarves across all gaming worlds, systems, and styles decided by Tolkien?"


I believe the point under discussion was actually "Why would anyone play a human? Humans are boring." "Why, because I'd rather just play the damn game rather than get caught up in the What Is A Elf argument". It's just gotten a mite sidetracked. Nobody's arguing that you are required to be UBERDWARF to play a dwarf; just clearly, the word dwarf must have some connotation that you want. And since I usually don't want those connotations, I prefer humans.

Also, my group doesn't play 3.5, and we roll 3d6 for stats (It makes the math more sensible and makes it harder to twink up a gamebreaker). When your average character has a highest stat of 14-15, you'd damn well better believe "+2 to Strength" is a superpower. :-P

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby EmptySet » Mon Feb 01, 2010 6:32 am UTC

BigMcStrongmuscle wrote:I believe the point under discussion was actually "Why would anyone play a human? Humans are boring." "Why, because I'd rather just play the damn game rather than get caught up in the What Is A Elf argument". It's just gotten a mite sidetracked. Nobody's arguing that you are required to be UBERDWARF to play a dwarf; just clearly, the word dwarf must have some connotation that you want. And since I usually don't want those connotations, I prefer humans.


Well, if you look at the source books, humans have the same kind of description as all the other races. So it would make as much sense to say "Aha, a human! You must be brash, ambitious, and pragmatic" as it would to say "Aha, dwarf! You must be traditionalistic, dour and hard-working." And, of course, there is the connotation which you yourself has mentioned, that humans are the plucky muggles in a world of superpowered fantasy creatures, bravely standing on their own amongst quasi-mythical entities like dragonborn and tieflings, etc. etc.

Anyway, in general, I would say the word "dwarf" describes something which is biologically a dwarf: short, stocky, strong constitution, not likely to win the 100 metre sprint. They don't necessarily have to have the culture usually associated with dwarves. In the same way, all humans are biologically similar, but have vastly different cultures. We still recognize them all as human. The same also applies to the many varieties of elves (high elves, wood elves, dark elves, sand elves, the Fair Folk...), to a somewhat lesser extent.

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby Goldstein » Mon Feb 01, 2010 8:39 am UTC

It's not so much the case that it's hard to be an unconventional Dwarf, but that it's easy to find everything you do and are to be labeled either 'Dwarf-like' or 'unDwarf-like'. Ultimately, I see them as rough templates to apply a certain background to your character, much like telling the other players that your character grew up as a squire. It isn't necessary to be a squire -- You could simply explain that your character is honourable, law-abiding, responsible, well educated and martially skilled -- but it adds a great deal more background without the requirement to explicitly say so, and it gives a reason for those characteristics. It adds flavour. What's more, it adds a level of expectation that you can live up to, and that feels satisfying to witness. When we need the squire to make a great sacrifice in order to save the village, we expect him to do it and we feel that we "got things right" when he does; on the other hand, we feel betrayed when he doesn't. If we didn't know he was a squire, we wouldn't feel any of that tension, it would just be some guy doing what he feels like doing.

It would be the same with cultural descriptions for different groups of Humans -- They beget expectations, because we like to put things into categories and make sweeping statements like "All Dwarves like to drink"; not because that's what the campaign tells us, but because that's how our brains work. On the plus side, this only adds to the complexity of our interactions when we come across a Dwarf who feels indifferent to ale. What kind of reaction would we have to a Human who doesn't drink? It wouldn't be nearly as interesting, there'd be no "I thought you lads could 'old yer drink", no "Why don' ye jes' say what yer really mean, sonny?", no fist-fight outside later.

As EmptySet touched on with his comment about there being no Dwarven cheesemakers, it's almost as though a racial background is a stand-in for some other types of backgrounds, such as circumstance or profession. It's as though you could play a Human urchin, a Human farmer or Human blacksmith, a Human stableboy or scholar... Or you could play Dwarf, Elf, Halfling and so on. As with the Humans, it's the subtleties that shape their personalities and make them interesting, and so it should be for the other races. Unfortunately, it already feels like you're playing a specific sort of character when you pick a non-Human race, and so it doesn't then feel necessary to give them an unusual profession like cheesemaker. The 'other' category doesn't have subdivisions for what sort of other, because it's as though we've already strayed far enough.

... Would anyone like to be the Dwarven cheesemaker in my upcoming campaign?
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby Decker » Mon Feb 01, 2010 2:01 pm UTC

Goldstein wrote:... Would anyone like to be the Dwarven cheesemaker in my upcoming campaign?

*Raises hand*

My d and d group disolved.

I need to find another group.
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby Sir_Elderberry » Mon Feb 01, 2010 2:12 pm UTC

I think I want to play a monk who speaks mostly in koans, or at least profound-ish-sounding imitations thereof. Character description so far:

"The fish trap exists because of the fish. Once you've gotten the fish you can forget the trap. The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit. Once you've gotten the rabbit, you can forget the snare. Words exist because of meaning. Once you've gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can talk with him? "

After spending untold years in absolutely silent meditation in Akanul, Tarkush is...unused...to social life. He has a sense of justice, but in general is looking out for his own philosophical view of the world, although nobody can quite discern what that is. A desire to set the world in alignment with that vision, as well as pursuance of spiritual perfection, motivates him to adventure. Probably.


I envision conversations like, "I need you to go kill off these goblins that have been raiding our village." "Master Abak once spoke to a village. He replied that the bull's foot seldom missteps."
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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby Chen » Mon Feb 01, 2010 2:30 pm UTC

BigMcStrongmuscle wrote:Also, my group doesn't play 3.5, and we roll 3d6 for stats (It makes the math more sensible and makes it harder to twink up a gamebreaker). When your average character has a highest stat of 14-15, you'd damn well better believe "+2 to Strength" is a superpower. :-P


3D6 rolling can just hurt party balance I find. When one guy rolls up a +12 character (assuming 3.0) and another rolls a +2 character, you have some wildly differently power levels. This was even worse pre 3.0 when the high end stats were TONS better than the mid range ones (difference between a 17 str fighter and a 18/00 fighter anyone?). If everyone rolls average its not really an issue. But depending on your group size you'll probably end up with at least 1 who has significantly better stats than the rest (what generally happened in our group).

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Re: Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop RPGs)

Postby SecondTalon » Mon Feb 01, 2010 3:07 pm UTC

Indeed. The more I play with point buy, the more I like it.
BigMcStrongmuscle wrote:Xanthir more or less nailed it. If your dwarves aren't much like what everyone thinks of when you say dwarf, why are you calling it a dwarf? I'm not saying all dwarves have to be EXACTLY THE SAME RAAAR - variety makes sense - but there isn't much point making your plains-dwelling bodypainting claustrophobe a dwarf if you aren't getting *something* out of using the word.
Short, barrel shaped clannish bearded folks with an axe and hammer fetish, severe reverence for one's place in society and deference to leaders, strong work ethic and pride in one's craft, etc. Now, I will grant you that within the gameworld itself, I doubt I'd call them Dwarves. Probably something else, but on the character sheet? If the rulebooks all refer to dwarves, and the creature being played is physically identical to a dwarf, I'm not going to insist it's a Jherndar on the player's character sheet. I'm also not going to call them that when discussing it online, as people aren't going to have a frame of reference, and if I describe them (Shorter than humans, but stockier, bearded, not very fast but determined, can move in heavy armor essentially normally...) people are just going to say ".. you mean Dwarves?"

Granted, I'd likely take the easy route and call them Plains Dwarves, but you get the idea. But yeah, if I'm wanting to take the stereotypical Dwarven culture and physical characteristics and stick it on the plains... I'm going to continue to call them Dwarves. If I radically change their culture and physical characteristics.. then you're right, calling them Dwarves is stupid, as they have nothing in common with "Dwarves".
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