The Lost Age – The Human Angle

As I work on two versions of the Lost Age campaign – one for the group including my kids among 9 players and another for my regular gaming group – I’ve been pondering the world a bit. When I started writing Lost Age Adventures with Vince, I deliberately decided that the PCs should all be human, but that they may not be the only species out there. And I knew it might raise some hackles.

Though traditional D&D has always included what I’ve thought of as the more magical races, such as elves, dwarves, and halflings, I honestly have never thought that the distinction was ever really all that clear. Ultimately they’re all humanoid races. Sure, they may have different histories and stat packages, but they are all really variations on a theme.

Standard humans rule the roost. Why? As a species, when given food, shelter, and the opportunity, we tend to reproduce pretty quickly. It’s taken a few thousand years, but somehow we’ve managed to create billions of ourselves and overrun the Earth.

Unfortunately we also have a nasty tendency to isolate anyone different than what we consider the “normal” population. Too tall? Too short? Too bad – you can’t play with the others.

That’s why I don’t really think that removing the “magical” races from this campaign really means much. You still have lots of variations on a theme. Groups of tall people. Groups of short people. Groups of people who like the great outdoors. Groups of people who like living underground. Sound familiar?

In the kids’ campaign, we have some characters who decided to be from the “short” tribes on the plains. They’re basically halflings, with the 5e adjustments (reduced speed, etc.). I also said that there was a tribe of very tall people who lived among the trees. They would be treated somewhat like elves.

But as I’ve started chatting with my main group, I know they are going to be throwing me all sorts of interesting twists and turns. We all have sick and twisted minds, so I expect them to test the bounds of this melting pot of humanity.

Ultimately this is the world I’ve created in my head. As we publish more adventures and supplements for it, folks will do with it what they want. There’s nothing saying they can’t have multiple “races” in their campaigns – do what you want! But I’m creating some limiting factors so I can more prominently show the outliers – the magical experiments, the chosen divine, and the monsters who have somehow survived the cataclysm and are hanging on by their fingernails.

Have you run into push-back when you’ve started new campaigns? I can’t be alone in feeling the resistance for trying something new that could potentially remove some of the crazy differences among characters and populations in a fantasy world.

How have you dealt with push-back? I don’t see myself changing this approach in the short term, but if there are good reasons for opening up the floodgates I’m definitely interested to hear them.

Let me know in the comments!

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3 thoughts on “The Lost Age – The Human Angle”

  1. It’s a lot easier to handwave demi-human races when they’re not fey-aligned. One of the issues of elves, dwarves, and even halflings is that in the bog-standard implied setting, there’s all sorts of race-relevant baggage, such as elves being a part of either a diminishing or resurgent Fey (including everything from sprites & fairies to greenskin races), Dwarves are an almost entirely diminished, often anti-magic race who, while part of a mythic past stand opposed to the resurgence of Fey (which puts them at odds with both elves and greenskins), and halflings are… well, halflings…

    If your elves, dwarves, goblins, orcs, halflings, whatever, are divorced from those fantasy conventions present in the implied setting, it becomes easier to lift those restrictions.

    In my own game, I had elves and I had “Elves”; players could play as elves, using the mechanics there in the book, but not “Elves”, who were an unknowable and dark mystery in the ancient depths and ruins of the haunted wood. I’m also a big fan of greenskin races, and like to swap out dwarves and halflings for orcs and goblins respectively. Of course by doing so, I have to use a setting where goblins aren’t an integral piece of chaotically aligned Fey as a sort of elf-kin, but I’m okay with that.

    1. @Cirsova – You raise some good points. Love the idea of elves vs. “Elves” and swapping races to keep things fresh. Thanks for chiming in!

  2. It always seems to challenge long time gamers when something in your campaign doesn’t match the “norm” or the stereotype. Like drunk scottish sounding dwarves. When you introduce them and they don’t fit the stereotype there is bound to be some pushback. However, I have found in my campaigns I really try to immerse the players into the “new” stuff. This seems to help them transition more easily and accept it sooner. When you think about the variety of humans on earth. The possibilities for all that variety, combined with all your imagination, can be pretty impressive. But I think the best rule is: The further from the stereotype the stronger the presence should be in the campaign. At least until it is “the new norm”.

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