Thursday, December 2, 2010
Thought of the Day Thursday: Demihumans and Humanocentric Gaming
One of the things that really has been bugging me lately about the fantasy games I’ve campaigned in is the proliferation of demihumans. I’ve been just as guilty as anyone of forgoing creating a human character for creating an elf, or dwarf, or some other crazy ass humanoid like a litoran. Why? When I sit back and think about it, the thing that really bugs me is that folks tend to play nonhumans as simply humans in costume with some bonuses and extras. Kinda falling into the whole Star Trek paradigm where all nonhuman species are typically a monolithic culture and highly stereotyped. Now don’t get me wrong, I feel that there is a place for that. However, I also feel like that kinda thing has been done to death (as I’m sure bitching about it has been – but here I go anyway…). At any rate, I’ve just plain had it with demihumans as playable characters in my campaign. They tend to be overdone as a stereotype, or are used as a min/max tool, etc. Now I know this could all just be chalked up to bad roleplaying by folks I’ve gamed with, and to some extent, that’s probably true. But lately I’ve found myself really attracted to the idea of humanocentric gaming. I really relish the idea that humans are the sole playable race in my campaign and that any demihuman/humanoid species are 1) Rare and 2) mysterious and do not readily conform to understood patterns of human behavior. I really wood like to have the elves being a mysterious/magical fey that are almost never encountered, and when they are it is a striking experience. I like the idea of the concepts of good and evil really breaking down between the different species because there are different wants, needs, and value systems that may be completely alien (and get interpreted as being evil by humans). I mean, why the hell would a demihuman that lives many lifetimes longer than a human with completely different societal norms have anything even remotely approaching a set of human values? My guess is they wouldn’t. Hell, we can’t even get along in our own species due to cultural variations and other relatively minor things so I’d assume there would be some contention and more importantly misinterpretation of motives and deep seated suspicions among different intelligent species. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean war but it probably would if there is a competition for the same resources. As humans, we tend to like to classify, categorize and set things aside in little boxes. So it is easy for us to alienate a fellow human (and ultimately dehumanize them) if they don’t fit into one of our acceptable categories. So just imagine how great the gulf would be with someone or something that ISN’T human. So, yeah, pretty much I’m done with the whole demihuman bit. While I’m at it, I’m done with using any intelligent species in my game that I can easily replace with a human culture (i.e. replacing orcs with hostile, brutish humans maybe even with a cannibalistic fetish – that’s even more horrific in my mind!). I’d like to hear other’s takes on the demihuman bit in their games.