Friday, August 20, 2021

#RPGaDAY2021 Day 20 Lineage

RPGaDAY2021 Day 20

Today's alt-word has been on my mind a lot lately.  I have been wanting to talk more about it so today feels like the day. 

Day 20 Lineage

Since its inception, D&D has had race as a feature of the game.  However, since its inception race has been more or less been misused.  Really Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, and Humans are different species.  Now while it is true humans can interbreed with elves and orcs I am going to stick with the notion here that they are species.  

Race, as a term, has a lot of negative connotations about it.  There is the idea of ethnic or phenotype determiners of race. There is the colonialism notion of races, and how that was used to justify all sorts of crimes against humanity for centuries.  There are even the Theosophical ideas of races which seem to be the well that D&D has drawn from.  In the end "Race" is not only not even the proper word, it is a woefully loaded word.

I like Species myself.  But you might say "but species can't interbreed!" except of course when they do.  There are sterile hybrids between species, there are even fertile ones. These range from plants to animals and even mammals.   Even in humans, there are fossils that may be human-neanderthal hybrids and many scientists think that we may have killed all the other archaic hominids or we may have bred with them until their genome was absorbed into ours.  We know from mitochondrial DNA scans that Neanderthals share more alleles with Eurasians than with sub-Saharah Africans.  

I also remember having debates in my Philosophy of Science class that species only serve the needs of scientists making taxonomic nomenclature.   

So can all the D&D Player Characters be different species? Of course. Can they interbreed? Absolutely some of them can.  But this is not really the full picture either.

Let's take the term used by the latest D&D 5e book, Lineage.  

Lineage has none of the baggage that race does. Nor does it have to overly complicated scientific logic that species does.  Lineage allows you to build what your character is.  

From Tasha's Cauldron of Everything:

At the first level you choose:

  • Creature type. You are a humanoid. You determine your appearance and whether you resemble any of your kin.
  • Size. You are Small or Medium (your choice).
  • Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
  • Ability Score Increase. One ability score of your choice increases by 2.
  • Feat. You gain one feat of your choice for which you qualify.
  • Variable Trait. You gain one of the following options of your choice:
    • Darkvision with a range of 60 feet.
    • Proficiency in one skill of your choice.
  • Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and one other language that you and your DM agree is appropriate for your character.

Simple.  You can rebuild any race you want.  

Just prior to Tasha's Arcanist Press released their Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e.  A fantastic guide.  Where Tasha's uses "Lineage" this uses "Ancestry," which is in my opinion just as good.  But this product also includes "Culture" in the mix.   So what if you are a human raised by elves?  Or in the case of my own Sharis Val, a drow raised by dwarven clerics in a monastery.  It can even explain the already established differences in the three types of halflings/hobbits with fallohides/tallfellows having halfling lineage and living near elven culture.  Yeah, they are taller and the like, this is a blog post not comparative biology. 

Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e

You can also vote for Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e for the 2021 ENnies awards. It is up for:

Pathfinder 2nd Ed also does something with all of this too.  Their system is more mechanically oriented.

Personally, I prefer this over the systems we have been using.  

I would adapt these to Old-School play, but I am going to wait to see how Chromatic Dungeons does it first. 


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