Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Gamer ADD: Fiend Folio Part 2

No Dwarf, Elf or Halfling PCs

There are no halflings or halfling-derivative races within the FF. The only elves are Drow, who live deep beneath the earth and have little incentive to come to the surface (all their cool toys are broken once they see the light of day). The only dwarf-relatives are the svirfneblin of which we know this from the flavor text:
Only males have ever been seen and those only deep beneath the ground.
Given that in other editions, the various demi-humans that were available as PC races or classes show up in the monster sections, a Basic edition using the FF as its monster section would not have any dwarf, elf or halfling PCs. The latter due to a complete absence and the first two because there is no justification for drows or svirfneblins to go wandering with surface dwellers.

While I am hugely tempted to leave this at that (in my old age I tend to lean toward human-centric campaigns), I am guessing that (like me) there are gamers from every generation whose very first character was something other than a human. In order to scratch that itch (and to start making assumptions about what a generic D&D world might look like through the lens of this hypothetical rule set), there are several candidates for non-human PC race-as-classes:


Even though this is one of the few good creatures found in the FF and it is reasonably anthropomorphic and has a hit die comparable to the elf in the MM, I have to reject it out of hand. The reason is found in the flavor text:
Aarakocra are extremely susceptible to claustrophobia.
Since Basic D&D is all about exploring dungeons, a PC race that won’t go underground sort of defeats the purpose.


Although the base damage for these intelligent apes seems high (1d10 x2), the base damage for an elf in the MM is 1d10, the HD 1+1 and they can use spells. Dakon also have an HD 1+1, are lawful, speak common, are on good terms with lawful humans and can be found in a variety of environments except near bodies of water. One flavor text I very much like is this:
…the dakon will never attack except in self-defense or to recover stolen treasure from it.
This immediately brings to mind the dwarves of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and suggests that the dakon will make a very good substitute for dwarves. In fact, one could simply use the same basic stats or (as I might be tempted to) use the White Ape Class from the RCC.


Again, the base stats for these bird-men appear to be on the powerful side; however, using the MM elf as a model, it is an easy thing to say to the average player: sure you start out worse, but you are going to end up being a whole lot better. There is even a flavor text that suggests that younger (and therefore weaker) kenku are far more prone to going on adventures:
Particularly adventurous kenku have been known to use [shape shift] to assume the form of a god and accept offerings from credulous worshippers, and this is but one example of the bizarre uses to which the kenku, and particularly the younger of the species, have put this power.
Since kenku can cast spells, they make an interesting stand-in for elves; however, some of the elven abilities would need to be traded out for the kenku abilities:

  • Flight 18”
  • Shape shift 1/30 days for up to seven days in a row.
  • Pass as human via a disguise 50% of the time.
  • They don’t appear to be able to speak, though they seem to speak to each other via telepathy. (For purposes of making them PCs, this last one can be done away with or have PC versions be a minority that can speak.)

Though these might be a bit on the powerful side, given that kenku are mischievous and prone to kidnapping as a means of making a living, there would be a powerful social stigma that PCs would have to deal with.


These white, shaggy bipeds have an HD 1+2, are neutral and speak common (if haltingly). PCs could represent either the most intelligent of the quaggoths or half-breeds. Though they are much taller (7’ +), the fact that quaggoths are immune to poison suggests that they are a good substitute for halflings (and could therefore use these stats). Another alternative is to use the White Ape Hybrid Class from RCC (which combines fighter and thief abilities).

If used, these race-as-classes firmly move the generic D&D world away from high fantasy and a medieval european analog. In essence, these three are intelligent ape-, bird- and bear-men, suggesting a science fantasy world in the distant future where these races evolved through either mutation or experimentation. Such a world would have more in common with Vance’s Dying Earth and CAS’s Zothique than REH’s Conan or Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. One might even be tempted to characterize it as a more serious/less gonzo version of Gamma World/Mutant Future. This leaves much room for introducing sci-fi elements and explaining various magic effects in terms of technology (Maliszewski’s take on wands, for example). For me, this is one of the most compelling aspects of this experiment, because it nicely scratches the science fantasy mash-up itch that I usually have to suppress or keep under wraps in most D&D games.


Tzimiscedracul said...

Great post. Keep posting your ideas... I might make a FF-based alternative world just to throw some new weirdness at my players (all of whom don't know nothing of AD&D prior to the 2nd).

Gordon Cooper said...

What is the "RCC"? I've been playing Dungeons & Dragons since about 1981, but I don't recall those initials.

FrDave said...

Thanks for the kind words...if you ever do get a chance to throw some of that weirdness, let me know — I'd very much like to hear about it.

FrDave said...

Sorry, Gordon for the confusion. RCC refers to the Realms of Crawling Chaos by Goblinoid Games — a loving homage to HPL that I have heavily used in my own games. Here is a post about my initial thoughts:

Gordon Cooper said...

Oh, of course! I own the PDF! I just didn't make the connection. Thanks!

Tzimiscedracul said...

I sure will. I though about a similar project: an alternate setting with new races (except human), for Pathfinder. The idea was to use Humans, Ghouls (from Dreamquest to Unknown Kadath), Deodands (Dying Earth), Tharks (Barsoom) and Voo Klangan (Amtor) so far; but your idea of using the FF is a lot better.