A Serious Concern About A Lack Of Human Subraces

After a month or so of thought, I am ready to present my full argumentation of why I believe Humans should be treated no differently than other races in terms of racial trait design.

1. 4E had a design point of trying to make the game less human-centric, which I like. Humans were in the Monster Manual. They were given a unique niche of character like other races. (Dwarves were solid but stubborn, Eladrin were skilled but arrogant, Humans were daring but corruptible, I think is something like how it went). To emphasize the fantastical elements of the game, I think portraying humans as just another race is a wonderful idea.

2. Interracial Balance would be less of an issue / more clear to compare. Quite a number of threads have been devoted to discussing whether the ability bonuses of humans are better/worse than the combined traits of a race and subrace. Giving humans a race/subrace treatment puts them on par with the others, and the discussion more easily moves from "humans are better than X, worse than Y" to "humans are better at X, worse at Y," which is the same as other races and subraces.

3. Here's the clincher: Having any one race whose traits are not formatted like the others limits that race from potential future modular options. Let me give you the example that sparked this thought. Half-dragons. Imagine a module where, at character creation, you pick a subrace that any race has access to. Half-dragon would work like this. You'd get your racial traits, and your half-dragon subracial traits. Vampiric and Lycanthropic, any kind of mixed parentage (see Half-Elf, below), "raised-by" options... all of them can be rolled into subraces this way. Except you'd have to figure how how to make a Human version for each one, unless humans already have subraces. And this is just one option that I thought of accidentally - how many other options are out there that would have to be modified for humans?

4. Fantasy is rife with human subraces. Why wouldn't D&D have them? Lord of the Rings, from which (let's face it) we derive the Core Four (human, halfling, dwarf, elf), has human subraces. The Gondorians and Rohirrim are Men, where the Dunedain are descendant from elves, but have so little elvish blood left in the line they are for all intents Human and not Half-Elf. Elrond is closer to Half-Elf than Aragorn. Maybe not the best example, but the point is, humans can have subraces.

5. Campaign Settings become easier to handle for humans. We want an Athasian halfling to feel different than a Forgotten Realms Halfling than an Eberron halfling, etc., but a human in each world will feel exactly the same. Subraces can be made for campaign settings to describe the races as they are in that world, except for humans. Humans may be diverse in one sense, but in another, they're the same all over the multiverse. That feels wrong to me.

My overall point, I suppose, is that the modularity of D&DNext breaks down with the racial features of humans as they are now. This why I believe we, as designers and playtesters (because I feel that the playtesters are designers, too), need to develop humans with subraces.

Now, to address the most apparent counterargument (that I see): How can we make human subraces without offending any real-world cultures, past or present? This is a legitimate concern - we want to avoid as much as we can offending anyone's culture and/or heritage. Perhaps a Human can initially have only 1 subrace, presented something like this:

Human
[traits, traits, traits]
Subrace
Humans don'e exactly have subraces, but the following traits count as subracial traits for the purposes of character creation options.
[traits, traits, traits]

This way, humans don't fluff-wise have subraces, but can still mechanically and RP-wise take advantage of other options. Designers: Stuck on how to make a human with traits comparable to other Races? Ask the forums. Within a week, I guarantee you'll have more human options than you can playtest in a year. (The good options will only take about a week. ;)

Half-Elf- This idea occured to me as I was writing, but is more of a sidebar:
Choose Human or Elf. This is your Race. Choose a subrace from the Race you did not choose.
(Proponents of the "Half-elves are their own race" movement may hate this, but it is just a thought.)
"Our idea of rules modules has a wide range of scope; sometimes, our rules modules might just be small tweaks and variant rules, while other times they could be large-scale changes and entirely new subsystems. We want people to make the game their own, and that means provided a whole array of possibilities based on what you, the players, tell us that you want." -D&DNext Q&A Blog, 8/29/12, Answer #3.

Human
[traits, traits, traits]
Subrace
Humans don'e exactly have subraces, but the following traits count as subracial traits for the purposes of character creation options.
[traits, traits, traits]



Greyhawk has human subraces (Flan,Oerid, Seul, Olman, ...) 


That's a perfect example. The Core has its 1 human type. Greyhawk adds those other for that setting. It would be a bit more awkward trying to distinguish those four (or more?) using just the current human trait format.
"Our idea of rules modules has a wide range of scope; sometimes, our rules modules might just be small tweaks and variant rules, while other times they could be large-scale changes and entirely new subsystems. We want people to make the game their own, and that means provided a whole array of possibilities based on what you, the players, tell us that you want." -D&DNext Q&A Blog, 8/29/12, Answer #3.
With all of the real life racism issues that exist, i don't see differently statted human subraces ever getting any traction. YMMV
I agree, Electricbee. I think different human races, at least in the core books, would be a rather touchy subject. Would you tie traits like skin/eye color to those racial groups and then also give them different ability score bonuses? Would those options tend to mirror certain prejudices that exist in the real world, or perhaps over compensate the other way and seem patronizing?

No. The only acceptable option is to allow humans to possess many different physical traits with nothing tied to certain abilities. If a player wants their character to look like them they shouldn't be forced to accept what someone else thinks "those people" are good at.

This has come up a few times and my personal opinion is people (or perhaps the publisher? dunno) are perhaps too worried about offending people with human subraces. I understand that you don't want any overt, specific mention of a given living human culture, but there are plenty of dead civilizations we can work with and you won't offend anyone by using them. After all, you can't slander the dead. Also, there are plenty of general references one can make to human cultures without actually overtly referencing a specific one. D&D's all about abstraction, so that kind of writing to build human subraces makes perfect sense.


And, as it's all ready been pointed out, there are plenty of human subraces to pick from. How did they manage to publish those if this was such a concern? My guess is any concern was rightly dismissed and it never came up after the fact.



It's a really good point that mechanically it causes inconsistencies as well. Probably the down and dirty quick fix would be to get rid of the human's +1 all attributes and leave it at +1 to an attribute of their choice.


I find the human race to be decent to play but really bland anyway, it might be nice to bring in a more interesting versatility trait besides "lotsa points."

Knowing WotC and their stance on anything even potentially offensive, I doubt I would ever get my ideal for this situation, but I would like to see more human subraces closer to real world counterparts. I'm not saying literally use the real world sub-races but it seems most things seem intentionally to avoid human races unless its the big few who it seemingly is OK to have problems with (your typical, kill Americans, Germans, British or Russians). I know its not about killing things but thats what most games go for now sadly.

Of anything I have ever played, computerised or tabletop, the only thing that has ever had any real bite in this regard is Valkyria Chronicles, it has a very close to the mark portrayal of some of the big issues in the world wars, and is surprising for a sega game how serious it is, for a game with a cutesey face.

 Its such a shame what we can include gets influenced by fear of offending people.
I think the best way to hande human sub races is to include them in campaign books and not in rulebooks
I think the word the OP wanted to use is ethnicity.
Knowing WotC and their stance on anything even potentially offensive, I doubt I would ever get my ideal for this situation, but I would like to see more human subraces closer to real world counterparts. I'm not saying literally use the real world sub-races but it seems most things seem intentionally to avoid human races unless its the big few who it seemingly is OK to have problems with (your typical, kill Americans, Germans, British or Russians). I know its not about killing things but thats what most games go for now sadly.

Of anything I have ever played, computerised or tabletop, the only thing that has ever had any real bite in this regard is Valkyria Chronicles, it has a very close to the mark portrayal of some of the big issues in the world wars, and is surprising for a sega game how serious it is, for a game with a cutesey face.

 Its such a shame what we can include gets influenced by fear of offending people.



It's a shame because when you keep your words in check for fear of whether someone else doesn't like it, you deprive yourself of some very cool, legitimate, avenues for creativity.


It's basically letting the censorous people winning, 'cause while of course you don't want to antagonise people, you shouldn't be held responsable for what someone else might do. Offense at a game like this really can only happen if people allow themselves to be offended, barring any total break with reason on the part of the creators.

Except you are responsible for what someone else might do when you're being intentionally reckless and confrontational for the sake of being confrontational.

"Your Honor, I shouldn't be held responsible for the stampede that happened when I shouted there was a fire in that crowded theater, they should have known I was joking."

No.  Actions have consequences, and writing off the consequences of your actions by saying "well they shouldn't have responded like that" is cowardice.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
In that case, ethnicity wouldn't convey any difference to inherent abilities. Just let the players create their own original ethnicity that suits them best. Maybe with a suitable background that fits that society?

Sociologists have pretty much destroyed the concept of race in the developed world. I'm not one who agrees entirely but I understand how race consciousness is enormously magnified by the social constructs we carry with us. It takes a lot of conscious effort to see what is really there rather than what is perceived in the fun-house mirror. Any physical differences are minor in comparison to the differences we perceive or transfer onto others.

People like to think that they are immune to race perception and they resent when others take offence to their "innocent" comments. They think intention is all that matters and they should be able to say what ever they like. Some day we may live in a post-racial society, but it isn't today.

@Mand12,

Not cowardice, but certainly lacking a degree of empathy.
At the moment, each race has two subraces. In the core book, we won't ever have to worry about "offending" anybody, because we only need two subraces. Let's call them "Civilized Human" and "Savage Human". All you need to do is note that either human subtype varies just as much in culture and appearance as the human race as a whole.

And this makes it easier to drop the human ability score boosts, as well. I've noticed that some of the other races seem really cool... but it's really hard to give up that +8 total adjustment, even when I know I don't strictly need it. I don't think it's too powerful, I just think that the nature of the number-based game makes it too tempting, power concerns aside.

Human
Versatile
Gain a bonus trained skill or proficiency with a single weapon of any kind. Gain a bonus feat, which must be a feat that is granted by the first level of any specialty that you would normally be able to choose.

Human Spirit
Whenever you fail a saving throw against an ongoing fear or despair effect, you may repeat the save at the start of your next turn, at the original DC. If this second save is successful, then the effect ends (but any instantaneous effects, such as damage, remain).


Civilized Human
Gain +1 to Dexterity, Intelligence or Charisma

Appropriate Ability
Sorry, I can't really think of anything specific to civilzation that would make sense for a racial ability. I'm sure someone could think of something, though.


Savage Human
Gain +1 to Strength, Constitution or Wisdom

Harsh Living
You gain advantage to all saving throws to resist the effects of starvation, thirst, fatigue and exhaustion, and environmental effects such as storms or hot/cold weather.

I'm not going to engage in any further discussion on censorship here, but if anyone wants to PM me about it I'll be happy to share my views.


Suffice to say that in America (varies with country) you are entitled to say and publish anything that is not intended to incite, and likely to incite, people to imminent lawbreaking. As long as only one of those things are true (BOTH things must be untrue for any consequence to them), the company has absolutely no obligation to deal with any consequences for anything they say apart from their market share.


As a private company they have to remain sensitive to their audience and their reputation, but they have no obligation whatever to avoid offending anyone and, in my view, exploring the environments humans live in and the impact that has on hypothetical human cultures in a fantasy setting cannot possibly cause offense to any right minded person.


That's my view. If you want to discuss it, PM me.


I think the word the OP wanted to use is ethnicity.




What about a world in which the neadrathals still exist?  Would they be considered a sub race of human?

If it's just enthnicity, then I do agree that the idea of human subraces will cause controversy, especially when they incur ability modifiers like -2 INT .   


Knowing WotC and their stance on anything even potentially offensive, I doubt I would ever get my ideal for this situation....
 Its such a shame what we can include gets influenced by fear of offending people.



It's not "potentially offensive."  It's offensive.  WotC is not in "fear of offending people."  They're not being racist jerkholes.  good for them.

Dead issue, and thank goodness it is.

   

Except you are responsible for what someone else might do when you're being intentionally reckless and confrontational for the sake of being confrontational.

"Your Honor, I shouldn't be held responsible for the stampede that happened when I shouted there was a fire in that crowded theater, they should have known I was joking."

No.  Actions have consequences, and writing off the consequences of your actions by saying "well they shouldn't have responded like that" is cowardice.



Yes and no.  You're responsible for the results of the actions that the others take.  You are not responsible for the actions themselves.  For example, if you dress up like an alien and sneak in to a buddy's house in the dead of night to scare him and the second buddy gets scared and shoots you, you are responsible for that result, not the actual firing of the gun.  If the second buddy had shot and missed you, but hit a priceless antique, you are again responsible for the damages.  However, if the buddy got scared and shot, missing wildly and sending the bullet out an open window resulting in no damage to anybody or anything, there is nothing for you to be held responsible for. 
Knowing WotC and their stance on anything even potentially offensive, I doubt I would ever get my ideal for this situation....
 Its such a shame what we can include gets influenced by fear of offending people.



It's not "potentially offensive."  It's offensive.  WotC is not in "fear of offending people."  They're not being racist jerkholes.  good for them.

Dead issue, and thank goodness it is.




I'm not pro racist which that seems to imply, I just don't like omitting things because of a few personal views. Take the PAX game where the drow had a french accent, people take no offence. There are some accents Mike Mearls could have used which would have gained huge complaints, just because of a few personal views. Its that sort of thing that really gets to me about the world as a whole, its just even more saddening when it affects something I love.

Moot point anyway. I would like to see sub races, made up or not.


I think the best way to hande human sub races is to include them in campaign books and not in rulebooks

I think this has merit. Human cultures in Faerun would be different from human cultures in Greyhawk. So would Elvish, Dwarvish, etc. So put the basic races in the main book and the subraces for each race in the world books. Greyhawk wouldn't have Numenorians, Rohirrim, and Southrons, and Middle Earth wouldn't have Drow.

If we MUST have subraces in the main book, make the human subraces fairly neutral, akin to Mountain and Hill Dwarves. The area a culture lives in affects the culture. So Plains, Coastal, Hill, etc. Plains people might have a Horsemanship ability, and so on.

In memory of wrecan and his Unearthed Wrecana.


I'm not pro racist which that seems to imply, I just don't like omitting things because of a few personal views. Take the PAX game where the drow had a french accent, people take no offence.



1.) It's not a "few personal views."  It's several thousand years of tribalism and racism which we're trying to outgrow as a civilization, thanks very much.
2.) Plenty of people were offended by the PAX game, and some much (MUCH) more so by the grotesque sexism in the YouTube published game from GenCon, earlier.  Chris Perkins should have kniown better.


Moot point anyway. I would like to see sub races, made up or not.



Happily, you won't.  Drop it.
Subraces aside,
I really like the OP's idea of Humans having a Primary and Secondary racial feature for the purposes he stated balance, conformity, etc.

But I REALLY like it for making half-breeds. How to Make A Half-Breed: Choose Human and another race, you gain the primary racial feature of one race and the secondary racial feature of the other. E.G. Pick the primary racial feature of the human (whatever that may be) and pick Hill Dwarf as your secondary. BAM you are a half-dwarf with human qualities but also you are Wise and Sturdy (+Wisdom and increased Hit Die size).

Plus this gives humans the distinct position of being the only race that can and does procreate with most other humanoids, which I think fits with most of the mythology of DnD. Don't see the offspring of Elves and Orcs to often, but either might mate with a human.
Hey folks,

This thread is getting into disruptive political territory, so the Community team decided we should lock it.

Please keep your threads and posts on topic and avoid controversial subjects.


Thanks,

Monica

Monica

Wizards of the Coast Online Community Coordinator

A friendly dragon.

Getting to Know Your Magic Online Client

Basic Dungeons & Dragons FREE