Comments on 2021-04-13 Against EDO mono-culturalism

EDO is probably the biggest reason why we run Zakhara where orcs etc are just part of the population. Basically the only difference is what ears you have. Sort of like a Duckburg except green. No-one bats an eye at an Ogre walking down the street. The lines of conflict are more planar.

– Sandra Snan 2021-04-14 05:45 UTC

Haha, I like the idea of ears being the important differentiator. Like Star Trek aliens, or Goblinoid Games’ Forehead Friday back in 2012.

– Alex 2021-04-14 06:39 UTC

This is why I find myself using elves in my games a lot more than dwarves or orcs even though I find dwarves and orcs infinitely more interesting than elves. The way elves seem to adapt to their environment (wood elves vs sea elves, dark elves vs high elves) means you can easily set one group of elves apart from others while still retaining one general feel for the entire species. They all share the same building blocks - haughty, magical, obsessed with nature - but the differences between a wood elf and dark elf are massive even though they’re still the same on the most basic level.

Individually, of course, it’s relatively easy to avoid every character being the same, but when talking about whole communities, you have to walk a fine line between what people like and expect from each species and what can be unique and surprising but different. If you go too rigid it gets uncomfortable, but if you go too loose you start to wonder why you don’t just replace dwarves with a human mining town.

– Malcolm 2021-04-16 07:59 UTC

Good point about the dwarves and the mining town, I agree. Perhaps the use of demihumans in Fantasy games is a way for us to make it easy on ourselves. Operating with prejudices and putting people into neat categories just makes it easier all around: the inexperienced player has a better idea of what their character’s personality might be like, the others have an immediate opportunity for interaction, after all: don’t all elves and all dwarves quarrel all the time? It’s how we started our elves & dwarves interactions as kids, in any case. 😀

As I think about it some more and as I consider my current Traveller campaign (the Tau Subsector), which doesn’t feature any aliens (no wolf-people, no lion-people, no Psionic-people), I wonder: why would I introduce aliens? What plots would they further? They definitely don’t fill the roles of elves, dwarves and orcs, at least not for me, since I’m absolutely clueless regarding their lore. They can’t serve as shortcuts for characterisation. So it would have to be an interesting first-contact story, or a “find the home world of the ancients” story, or an “explore strange sexuality” story.

A mono-gender race, the asari are distinctly feminine in appearance and possess maternal instincts. Their unique physiology, expressed in a millennium-long lifespan and the ability to reproduce with a partner of any gender or species, gives them a conservative yet convivial attitude toward other races.” – Asari on the Mass Effect Wiki

– Alex 2021-04-16 11:50 UTC

I agree with you entirely regarding including or not including aliens, because of the five main non-Imperial races in Traveller’s default setting, it’s the Zhodani and Solomani who’ve always interested me the most - even though they’re as human as the Imperials (moreso, arguably, since the Solomani are descended directly from us Earthlings).

It’s hard to roleplay a truly alien alien, so most PCs and NPCs alike are going to wind up being rubber-forehead types, who are more less just humans with one or two unique traits. Which means, in my eyes, that the more “human” of Traveller’s aliens - the Vargr (wolf vikings) and Aslan (lion samurai) - aren’t really all that distinguishable from the literally human “aliens”, who wind up being as interesting as them, if not more, even though their only differences from the Imperium are cultural.

I still like aliens (and elves/dwarves/orcs, for that matter) because I like the biological and surface-level cultural differences, but I think they’re better used as Star Wars-style “average galactic citizen who happens to be amphibious” characters than Star Trek-style “entire civilization defined by their love of war/peace/science/hats/etc” characters.

Malcolm 2021-04-17 05:16 UTC

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