17 March 2015


One of the first things I house-ruled in the first days of my campaign were the various non-human player-character races. These are now referred to as demi-humans to distinguish them from the humanoid bad guy races, but in the boxed rules both were collectively referred to as man-types. And, no! I did not eliminate demi-human level limits as part of those changes. I understand the objections some have raised over them but understanding does not imply agreement. I've found those who came into the hobby from a wargaming background are generally more accepting of these.

CHAOS TINGED The Law and Chaos dichotomy was a big part of the background picture of The Shattered Lands campaign. I liked the notion of segregated human and demi-human civilizations and used the idea of a strong aversion to Chaos resembling the Communist paranoia of the 1950's in USA history ... they are among us, they look like us, but they are not us. I didn't make this a strong element, one in which those accused of being minions of Chaos were dragged from their homes in the middle of night. It was more like a case of assumed suspicion until proven otherwise, particularly in less urban settings. Chaos Tainted (or tinged) is not the same thing in the minds of common man as Chaotic. Calling someone Chaos Tainted means it is believed the person in question is Lawful or Neutral alignment but they are influenced, in sometimes subtle ways, by Chaos. It should be noted the demi-humans are not Chaotic in my campaign, at least as a group.

This suspicion was especially heavy upon the eldest races, the High Elves and the Dwarves. The former due to their historically strong but now waning connections to magic and all things fey, as well as their odd dual nature as both Fighter and Magic-User. In the latter case due to their delving deep into the earth, associated with the underworld and the Oldest Powers of Chaos. This cue was taken from the association of infravision being granted by a mysterious and non-specified underworld power in the printed rules. Wood Elves and Gnomes were slightly less distrusted by humanity. In the case of the Wood Elves, though still of fey origins, their association with woodlands and growing things is seen as more pure. Gnomes are a similar case, in my campaign associated with normal and giant varieties of normal burrowing animals. This coupled with the fact their burrows did not delve as deeply into the earth as Dwarves made them seem less menacing. Their shorter stature no doubt aided in this regard.

And last of all, Hobbits. Their bucolic communities and epicurean ways made them seem innocuous to the humans. Hobbits faced no suspicion of Chaos taint the other man-types faced, though the general suspicion of strangers still needed to be dealt with.

In general terms during NPC interactions? Humans would deal with Hobbits, Gnomes, and Wood Elves in the group; speaking only to High Elves or Dwarves with necessity. This would quickly ease with repeated dealings, and might be relaxed if the individual demi-human had a high Charisma or somewhat local good reputation. 

NOT LIKE US I downplayed the more insular nature of medieval communities in my campaign. I felt it an impediment to fun. Not that player-characters were treated as long lost brothers, but spending lots of game time trying to prove to the natives one is a good Joe seemed to be a useless exercise. In 40 years of gaming I've never had anyone raise this objection.

PLAYER-CHARACTERS INTERACTIONS ARE DIFFERENT It was assumed none of the general suspicions regarding trust or mistrust between the races was a strong player-character dynamic. In my campaign, for instance, Dwarves and Gnomes are bitter enemies whose nations are in a state of Cold War constantly threatening to break into open conflict. Players are not expected to evince this dynamic and are, in point of fact, encouraged to work together in a spirit of cooperation. 

SHORT GUYS Fans of mythology had no issue with this, but fans of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings were a bit taken aback to discover elves weren't tall, beautiful, ideal realizations of the human form. Neither variety of PC Elf exceeded 5' in height, Dwarves were 4.5' tall, Gnomes 4' tall, and Hobbits were 3.5' tall.

  • High Elves had the abilities generally outlined in the rules. When they achieved 4th level as a Fighter and at least 5th level as a Magic-User their dual nature integrated into one and he was able to function in both classes simultaneously and without restriction. Until then they acted as one class or the other.When I adapted the Chance to Know Spells percentages from Greyhawk, I allowed High Elves to know any spell of all their usable levels.
  • Wood Elves early on were Rangers of a sort in much the fashion of Strider from Lord of the Rings. When the official Druid PC class came out I gave them the spell-casting abilities of that class, though I did not grant them the other special powers of that class (e.g. skin-changing). Because of their association with forest and outdoors, Wood Elves were also given low light vision similar to that of animals, this is not the infravision ability of the chaos tainted Underworld denizens. This ability made Wood Elf eyes reflect light in the darkness in the manner of cats and other creatures. 
  • Dwarves were used pretty much out of the box except I increased their level cap by one, to 7th level. This granted them access to 2 attacks per round per my house rules. As a side note: calling a Dwarf a Hill Dwarf (see Gnome, below) is a grave insult likely resulting in bloodshed.
  • Gnomes were not just a hill dwelling variety of Dwarf. They lacked the nearly supernatural architectural ability of the Dwarves but kept the giant fighting abilities. Gnomes were given the skills of increased accuracy in gem appraisal. They also had the ability to communicate with all normal and giant variety of normal burrowing animals, gaining a +2 to all reactions rolls when dealing with same. 
  • Hobbits were used pretty much right out of the box with one exception. They could be either Fighters, as laid out in the rules, or Scouts. Scouts were my campaign's Lawful variant of the Thief.