Monday, 30 January 2017

Races and Mono Culture, but is it bad?

TL;DR In World Building, there are several simple ways to make our worlds, as long as no-one peeks under the rugs, they won't notice, we try not to have 1 mega city on planets in space operas, but it happens. We try to be more interesting than Pseudo Europe Fantasy Worlds, We try to make our worlds Unique and Interesting, but possibly, in doing so, we break the realism, without knowing.

Not having posted anything from overthinking too many of my drafts, I decided to just publish my random thoughts on the topic of races and how come every game has 1 type of each.. 

While its cliche, maybe non-cliche is unreal

What I mean by mono-culture is the idea that all Klingon are warriors, all elves are aloof archers who live in the woods, or all Dwarves are greedy makers of metal-craft, things like that. Mono-culture is the idea that within a given species, people, or nation that all beings share the same traits.   In the real world this leads to all sorts of unpleasantness and badness, but in world building this is an issue as well. Even when you have a really solidly built world it can be easy to leave some cultures as Mono-cultures. Its easy, and sometimes people won't notice. And because they won't notice it is even easier to do.
Japan is Japan, because its an island on a volcanic rift, next to a flat terrain, surrounded by mountains. If The origins of the Japanese started in Africa, then surely they'd just end up evolving into Africans?!We try to be all unique and interesting by creating things that are different, things that just feel so "wow, thats cool!" Mongolian Orcs? done.. how about African Orcs? hmm, interesting.. Goblins? maybe they invent paper first and become the gnomish race, and gnomes get all crotchety and become the evil malicious beings as depicted in many old European stories. Asian Elves? French Dwarves? Australian ... Nah lol.. too hard to imagine any fantasy race as having a boomerang and drinking beer at a pub, instead of having wars..I talk of this recently because I'm looking at what races I could include in my books to add a bit more than just plain ole 'elves, dwarves, hobbits, goblins and orcs'.Now, I've started getting very specific, even creating charts..Just Based on Height, we already see some potential for races.. what would a tall gnome be? really short dwarves? dwarflings?
Generic Race4 foot5 foot6 foot7 foot?

Now, we could do all sorts of variables and come up with a bunch of races, 'bearded / not / can be", "muscled / lean".. is a Hob-goblin just a slightly taller, yet lean Orc? What would a 7ft tall lean, bearded dwarf be?

At the end of the day, its all a moot point, if no-one wants to 'play' that race.. We have the sets we have because they fit a 'set' and are easily identifiable, we can quickly assign steroetypes, and can get on with our life.. 

You're walking down the street, when you come across some gruff looking ... fill in the blank.. did you choose elves? less likely I'd say.. but since dwarves and orcs are usually gruff looking, why add gruff at all..

Ask your players.. 

You're walking down the street, when you come across some Dwarves.. describe them too me..

Your players are going to give you the classic tropes, even if your world HAS NONE of those types of Dwarves, they're so ingrained as gruff, bearded, stocky, armoured..

My Dwarven females have beards, because Terry Pratchett said so. I've justified it, I've argued for it, I've explained it, and I probably always will, players don't always expected a female dwarf to be bearded.. 

but that's also a great way to 'surprise your players' with new things..   If the humans of your world don't expect bearded women, then your players won't either...

But what I'm getting at is the need to make those niche races and how they drag a game to a halt.

Losing the Immersion to explain your world

At the end of the day, you want the immersion to continue, you want your players to continue to feel like they are 'in' the world, and breaking the 4th wall to explain the world or the rules.. or physics, is always going to be a problem.. so should we stop it?Some RP systems are less crunchy, for exactly that reason.. and I applaud the ideal of full immersion, no interruptions.. except that without that crunch, a lot of players are going to lose that immersion, the very second the GM does something or says something that goes against the players very notion of what is and isn't real"last week, the Orc was a matched battle, yet this week a similar, nay, even weaker looking Orc is defeating the whole group.. why? it seems so unreal? if the GM is trying to demonstrate some key.. Oh dang, I meta'd the situation, lost immersion... "
This is what I talk about when I talk about 'realism' and 'reality' in gaming.. but I digress..By sticking to the tropes, we can get players to continue with the flow of the game without losing too much time explaining.. Dwarves, righto, got it, Elves, sure, understood.. Snirfnebblin.. ok.. hang on what?So should a game have more unique races? should it have more interesting sub-cultures? sure, I am wholey on the side of teaching players more about the real world by using those references in game, but just be careful how far you stray from those norms..And remember.. if its unique and interesting for the players, their minds are going to go 'nutz' for information, so the most logical thing is to describe them with alot more detail and attention than you would for the generic races.. just like you'd notice big-bird walking down your street..

see what I did there?