Browsing through a much-neglected shelf a couple of weeks ago I came across an old D&D supplement, a collection of articles from TSR’s much beloved Dragon Magazine from way back in the day. Not remembering actually buying this little trove my curiosity got the better of me, so I naturally started thumbing through the pages to see what was inside. Upon initial glance, not much caught my interest, a lot of it being about dragons and various gods and pantheons which I usually tend to make up for myself when I run a game. But stuck in the middle of everything were a few little tidbits that made me take notice, those being a series of articles that detailed ideas and viewpoints about some of D&D’s more extraordinary demihumans and how they perceived the world. The authors wrote on elves, dwarves, halflings, and orcs, and how each saw the other and might interact with them, and it got me thinking.
Part of the appeal of D&D is the opportunity to be something that you’re not, and for many players the allure of taking on the role of an incredibly strong orc or a centuries old elf is part of the fun. Flipping through a Player’s Handbook presents the possibility of playing as one of many fantastic races, which makes it all the more odd when I think about myself and my tendency to always play humans. I’m always appreciative when another tackles the role of taking on one of D&D’s demihumans, as it’s inevitably a great contrast to the basic little meat sack I typically bring to a game. The few times I have ventured out and played something other than human I’ve never really had a lot of long term enjoyment with it, often taking it to the extreme and using it as an excuse to do something really off the wall in terms of roleplaying, which I think is exactly what the problem is.
See, when I do play another race, I often find it difficult to connect with it or wrap my head around a sturdy concept sometimes, often saying what the hell and just throwing caution to the wind and doing whatever I want. I admit that it can be entertaining for all involved for a short time, but the novelty and zaniness of the character often quickly wears off, along with my inspiration and desire to continue playing them. My demihuman PCs often become exaggerated caricatures of themselves or something opposite of what they were meant to be, and I am very aware that playing something that shallow will quickly lose its luster, so I tend to not do it out of courtesy to the other players and the DM.
Another thing is that I don’t really feel like I want to be something else, never really desiring the perks or added powers that come with playing something like an elf, half-orc, or dragonborn. I suppose I just enjoy taking my own viewpoint into games when I roleplay, trying to capture the experience of lifting myself up or sometimes just plain surviving in the world or setting that’s presented to me. There’s something about exploring my own flaws and inherent lack of things when I play too, finding a bit of therapy in gaming and taking things on as a human where they can sometimes be extremely hampered in ability when compared to some of the other races. This might be a bit of an underdog syndrome I admit, but when I can get my character over the hump and see them starting to progress it really motivates me to keep coming back session after session, especially if it’s a good story that I’m participating in.
I did mention, however, there were actually a couple of times that I rather enjoyed playing something a little bit different than myself. Those being a campaign where I played a half-elf that ended up becoming a totally evil prick, while the other was a Shadowrun game where I was a dimwitted troll that made a brick wall look like it was Einstein by comparison. The half-elf was in my much younger days when I first started gaming and would try to get away with any bit of evil stuff that I could, while the troll was a few years later and immediately drifted toward the big dumb muscle stereotype. I don’t think that I would have any fun playing the elf now at all, as being wicked just for the sake of wickedness would come off as very flat and quickly grow boring to me. But damn would I like to give my old troll another go around, as thinking back on it he became a heck of a lot more complex than originally intended, and I’d like to see what I could do with him now that I’m older and a lot more experienced, but those games are long done.
In the end, we’re all drawn to different things when it comes to D&D and our various RPG experiences, and that’s absolutely great because the diversity makes for a heck of a more interesting time than if everything was just the same, just like life. So, whether you’re drawn to elves, orcs, or beings born from dragons or demons, get out there and do some gaming, because it’s all in the name of fun and we could all use a bit more of that right now, but at a responsibly safe distance of course. As for me, I think I’ll always end up sticking to the humble human, mostly because I’d like to see how far I can take it with a character that’s stacked up against odds they shouldn’t be able to survive against, or perhaps someone that’s just had enough and is determined to remake the world. I guess that’s always been the draw for me when I roleplay, and I doubt that’ll change anytime soon, which is just fine for yours truly.
Until next time, happy gaming, gang, and be safe. And since we’re talking about races let me add a bit of hard gained wisdom. Whatever you do never cross a dwarf, unless you don’t mind having your kneecaps blown out from under you that is. Trust me, it’s not worth pushing the stunty bastards.