View Full Version : Why would a monster race be a PC?

04-03-2008, 01:00 PM
When I was working on my current setting, I was trying to have a slightly greater range of races available for certain terrains, while limiting others. One way to do this was to make made of the +0 level adjustment races available for play. Two example I'm going to pick on today are kobolds and goblins. Before I said, "they are available" I tried to come up with both reasons why they would 1, be adventurers in any case (in general, not specific pc's) and 2, be alignments other than evil, as I don't allow evil PC's. I came up with reasons for the above two, and was wondering what (if any) reasons other monster races might have. (+0 or +1 only).

Kobolds: I changed their culture to that of Japan. Using bits from published settings, I made all kobold clans desire to serve a dragon as their master. Why, well, kobolds ARE dragons after all, and in my setting, kobolds actively serving a dragon have higher rates of dragonwrought kobolds being born. This also allowed for kobolds of other alighment that evil, because there could be kobolds serving silver, bronze, or even gold dragons. They still hated gnomes, but it was more intollerance than instant combat. "You father's sins are not your sins" was the phrase I has one saying, but he still didn't like them. Why kobold adventurers.... they could be on missions for their liege, or treasure hunting for the horde.

Goblins: I left their culture and added one bit. Goblins love to hunt. Not just got prey, but for treasure, a piece of knowledge, the next homeland. This is why goblins liked wolves so much. they say them as the top group hunters. Why non-evil goblins.... I just had them able to integrate little better with other races. Sure, they were looked down upon by others, but that wasn't unexpected by players.

Also used these ideas to breathe new live in the the cliche monsters. PC's might hesitate when they came across a neatly ordered village in the mountains that was mostly inhabited by kobolds, and a couple stray humans. They can find out that the kobolds were the real source of the iron local merchants had been selling to the local town, and realize that the town's economy would fail if their iron source vanished. Also, they could be directed to a local goblin ranger who has been helping the local town hurn down stray animals and the occational lost child.

04-03-2008, 01:09 PM
i've always found it natural to have the sentient races be culture and civilization building peoples. in my campaigns, all such races have their own little section(s) of the world(s). which they may or may not currently hold, depending on history and so forth. assuming that they survived at all on a given world. ^^

04-03-2008, 04:00 PM
Well, some "monsters" are really "bad guy" humanoids, so if you don't believe in "Always Chaotic Evil" (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AlwaysChaoticEvil) then it makes sense that goblins, kobolds, lizardmen, etc. might find common cause with humans, elves, etc. (Finding lodgings and other "civilized" comforts might be a little trickier, if NPCs still believe in "Always Chaotic Evil".) There's also the excuse of Drizzle Drow-Angsty, or whatever his name is: after a childhood filled with indoctrination, your character rebelled and realized Evil is Bad.

On the other hand, the excuse for Mind Flayers, vampires, etc. is a little more strained. "Hi, I'm Kshloork the Ilithid. As long as you don't try to kill me, I won't eat your delicious brain. You have my word."

04-03-2008, 07:10 PM
Though this post addresses the crunch rather than the fluff, one aspect of the Dawnforge campaign setting that I always liked was that it expanded upon the number of races you could start out as. The way it handles this was to basically strip away most of their abilities and feed them back to the characters over their first 10 levels. By tenth level, players of all races have an ECL of around 12, due to their extra feats and racial abilities. Races that don't normally have bonuses get some extras, too. It's a fairly high-powered campaign setting anyway--the underlying theme leading characters to become legendary.

04-03-2008, 08:16 PM
Political/ethical differences are a good hook as well. I once DM'ed a half-orc that ended up Lawful Good - and still wanted to make sure the Orcan Nation became dominant in the world (humans didn't use Law properly, believing more in the Chaos that is personal rights).

It worked beautifully!

Edited to add:

He started out because he thought it wasn't right to slaughter human villages as the Orcan army defeated the garrisons. He preferred to have them relegated to second-class citizenry (non-voting, of course!!). He could still rescue the Elven princess (to build alliances), and pillage (to build wealth for the Horde).

04-04-2008, 12:07 PM
What is a monster? That is your first question. The D&D definition is "anything the players contend against" So the 20 Cha female half-elven sorcerer that wants to rule the world, or at least them, is a monster.

In ditching alignment I had to come up with other reason why the various humanoids are what they are. So I did. There is no real reason that you couldn't play anything sentient in my world, other than power and who is accepted. You could play an Orc, if you don't mind getting constantly run out of town. (Angry peasant rule)

No dragons, too powerful to balance the party. I don't suggest Orcs, they are universally reviled and reviling. They don't consider anything but an Orc people, and Orcs not of their tribe are suspect.

Between the two we will discuss it.

04-04-2008, 07:32 PM
What is a monster? That is your first question. The D&D definition is "anything the players contend against" So the 20 Cha female half-elven sorcerer that wants to rule the world, or at least them, is a monster.

To expand further upon this, in the 2E monster manual, you will find listings for all of the races listed in the players manual. Also, "friends" are where you find them. In the Dragonlance series books, there is a minotar that "befriends" Tas.

04-04-2008, 08:02 PM
With the changes I've made to orcs in my campaign, it would be very simple. Going off of old editions having orcs as lawful evil, orcs are now effectively Klingons in my world. Their politics and society are based just like ST:TNG, and it has worked out very well.

04-05-2008, 04:23 AM
I agree with some of the others that any sentient race could have a background different than the D&D norm. The staple "bad guy" races are made to be vile so players don't mind killing them in droves, but who says that every goblin and orc has to fit into the mold, when each could think for themselves?

Carrying on the brainstorm, here are a couple reasons why kobolds/goblins could be friendly:

1) A village, tribe of goblins could have been visited by missionaries from a good God, who they first tried to eat, but realized they were actually entertaining and interesting folk so kept em around. Eventually the missionaries won them over, and now they tow the line of that God, and have built friendly relations with the human/elf/dwarven villages nearby they used to sack every few years. I'm sure there would still be bad goblins, and I'm sure there's plenty of people that don't accept that they've changed, so could make for some interesting dynamics.

2) Long ago, a humanoid nation defeated a kobold nation and brought them into slavery. Over time slavery became decentralized, with the rulers finding them too unreliable and weak for their projects but allowing their citizens to have household slaves. Some people mistreated their slaves of course, but others went so far as to free them. The kobold culture in general changed to that of eager to please servants who realize that their captors give them protection, housing, food, and even wealth (possibly sometimes unknowingly to the kobold thieves that have sprung up). So here you have kobolds being a distinct part of the humanoid society, allowing for some plot hooks.

3) In times past, a great evil surfaced, creating undead armies that destroyed all living, orcs, humans, elves, goblins, and kobolds alike. To face this threat, the humanoid races had to band together, with the leaders of those nations forging alliances. Working as a common force, the humanoids prevailed and drove the undead back to recesses in the world, but the alliances remained. While the leaders remain firmly committed to the alliances due to lucrative trade relationships and personal friendships, the peace is more uneasy in the younger generations who see their race as superior and the older generations who's prejudices die hard.

04-06-2008, 01:43 PM
I've used #3 before.

An ancient treaty that only Lizardman shamen knew about - and the PC's ran into an old parchment with the story written on it. When push came to shove (and the PC's needed the help!!), the party mentioned the treaty and won the support of the "bad" guys just as they were supposed to be overrun.

Great plot hook, as long as it isn't over used.

Digital Arcanist
04-06-2008, 02:38 PM
Kaz the minotaur is cool......just saying.

I agree with Tesral in his conjecture that anything in your way is a monster. I also see no reason why nature must always win out over nurture....with the possible exception of demons and devils.

04-06-2008, 08:29 PM
Kaz the minotaur is cool......just saying.

I agree with Tesral in his conjecture that anything in your way is a monster. I also see no reason why nature must always win out over nurture....with the possible exception of demons and devils.

Even demons and devils generally will not go against their best self interests. On Thindacarulle devils can be dealt with, count your fingers toes and relatives afterwards, and never deal in souls or sacrifice and you are safe, enough. Demons less so, there has to be a strong current of "the demons gets something it really wants." out of the deal. Generally it's not safe to play those games.

"Humanoids" are an interesting problem. Without "Evil" to define them, you have to do a little development.

Orcs: The classic evil monster. I wanted to keep Orcs a problem, but did not want to fall back on "evil". I gave Orcs a very small "Us" button. Orcs do not see anyone else as people. If you are not an Orc
your are a smart animal, and good only for labor and/or food. (This actually makes Half Orcs a very rare thing as only the most desperate omega Orc with no chance at a female will mate with a talking animal.
It then requires that said woman get away from the Orcs as she, the child and likely the father will be killed once the pregnancy is discovered.)

Orcs approach everything in terms of strength. If you wish to make an impression on a band of Orcs, kill the biggest baldest Orc in the group and you will get a hearing. Respect, but not not acceptance. You will never get acceptance. Orcs have a strict honor code for the treatment of women and children. As long as women and children remember their place it is an unworthy act to harm either.

Orcs don't even like Orcs from other tribes. They are barely people. This tendency to regard everything as food or foe, including other Orcs keeps them at a primitive level. Orcs are violent, and aggressive, but have sufficient rules that their society works. However because of those self same rules they can never react with any other race except by violence. Orcs will never serve a non Orc overlord except from fear.

Hobgoblins: These are the not so bad humanoids. I graft the whole Klingon thing from Star Trek into the fantasy setting (minus the starships and phasers) Hobgoblins are a warrior culture. They can be dealt with unlike Orcs. They do not willingly bend the knee to other than their own kind, and the need for young warriors to prove themselves makes them uneasy neighbors. The Policies of Chief A might not be the Policies of Chief B. However, a strong military and a firm hand that respects them can maintain a relationship with Hobgoblins on the border.Hobgoblins will follow a strong leader of a different race that
respects their ways, even if they themselves do not follow them.

Goblins: Goblins want to be Hobgoblins. However most of the world is bigger than they are so they generally fail. Their society, left to their own devices will resemble Hobgoblins to a great degree, but they
are seldom left to their own devices. Goblins are usually left trying to scrape up some self respect while being kicked around by other races. This breeds resentment like nothing else, hence the reputation
of Goblins for being mean little backbiters.

Goblins treated well react well. Toyner Smith of Mumblingstone co-oped the local Goblin tribes with pay and respectful treatment, and now has Goblins loyal to him to the last.

Kobolds: Here is another race with a small "Us" button. Unlike Orcs which have a violent culture, Kobolds do not. They are kind and gentle among themselves. The problem comes when they react with other races. You just do not count. It isn't theft to steal from you, or murder to kill you. They know they are small and weak, so they hide from the larger predators and work by stealth. Kobolds will never serve a non Kobold master. If forced to it they will melt away as quickly as possible.

Gnolls: Gnolls are "beset" with an alien value system. They are closer to the Hobgoblins in culture, but closer to Orcs in the "Us" department. However, it isn't that you are not people, but you are not their people. It is possible to win one's self a place in Gnoll society. You have to go totally native and it isn't easy, but it can be done. Gnolls do not react with violence as their first option. They will speak and parley with almost anyone they do not see as an established foe.

Gnolls expect the world to come to them on their terms, and are not flexible in this. It is the reason they are still nomadic hunters amid all the technology enjoyed by other races. They do not adapt well to other lifestyles. Gnolls taken from Gnolls and raised as something else do poorly and never fit in.

Gnolls are at best sullen if forced to serve non Gnolls masters. They will seek to end the domination ASAP. They will work together to do so.