Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Surfeit of Demihumans

I make no bones about being a fan of the Unearthed Arcana book, and one of the ideas behind Adventures Dark and Deep™ is that the additional rules, spells, classes, etc. will be "folded in" to the original rules from the DMG and PH, with the intent of making a seamless whole.

However, one of the things that just sticks in my craw are the enormous number of demihuman sub-races. To be perfectly honest, I'm not a fan of most of the sub-races in the Player's Handbook and Monster Manual. Why would anyone play a "regular" hairfoot halfling when you can play a stout and get infravision and detect sloping passages?

Just look at the plethora of demihuman sub-races:
  • Dwarf, Gray
  • Dwarf, Hill
  • Dwarf, Mountain
  • Elf, Dark (M)
  • Elf, Dark (F)
  • Elf, Gray
  • Elf, Half-
  • Elf, High
  • Elf, Sea
  • Elf, Valley
  • Elf, Wild
  • Elf, Wood
  • Gnome, Deep
  • Gnome, Surface
  • Halfling, Hairfoot
  • Halfling, Stout
  • Halfling, Tallfellow

(I break dark elves into male and female because there are substantive differences between the two.)

But seriously-- do we really need 17 different types of demihumans? Personally, I think there is a place for such diversity, but in the context of specific campaign settings. For example, the valley elf was originally a product of the World of Greyhawk Fantasy Setting; found, appropriately enough, in the Valley of the Mage. We also have gully dwarves from the Dragonlance setting, and others.

If a given setting has a need for such specialization, I am all in favor of it. But the wholesale porting of such specialties into the generic pool seems a bit of overkill to me. What, pray tell, is the need for wild elves and valley elves, other than a bit of minutae regarding level limits and class availability? Just have a group of elves that don't have clerics among them and call it a day, rather than inventing a whole new sub-race of wild elves.

Personally, I would keep the main demihuman races, include the underdark and aquatic variants, and probably keep it at that. Leave everything else to campaign-specific variation (although the rules would explicitly mention the possibility of such variations, and maybe include an example). Yes, you have to keep sea elves. I mean, they sell prosthetic sea-elf ears for LARPs. C'mon! Prosthetic ears!

Am I alone in this opinion? Do folks find the broad variety of demihuman options to be too much, or a welcome means of introducing variety?

EDIT: Hey! I just realized this is my 300th post. Go me!