Content of the article: "The problem with the ever-expanding list of playable monster races."
Monster races serve a very particular niche. They allow us to fight other humanoid creatures, akin to fighting actual humans in terms of tactics and weaponry, but without all the moral implications of killing an actual human being (or elf/dwarf/halfling/etc equivalent).
There is less moral weight behind slaying an "evil" goblin than bandit Joe who is an ex-farmer down on his luck. Maybe you can reason with Bandit Joe, help him get his life back on track. If you do fight him, maybe you will feel a tinge of regret, knowing his life didn't have to end this way, that he made a series of bad choices that led him here.
Enter playable monster races.
When players can play as beast races, they can be just as smart, cunning, kind, and compassionate as other races. A player may choose to RP certain racial traits/stereotypes, but in general a hobgoblin or kobold PC is no different than a dragonborn or dwarf PC.
Can we really view playable monster races as monsterous anymore? Is the difference between a kobold and dragonborn greater than that between a human and gnome? Why is it morally acceptable to wipe out a kobold clan in cold blood but not a gnome village? Is it just because they were aggressive? What if you were tresspassing on their turf? BHow does racial stereotyping then fit into this new equation if these "evil" races are just as sentient as others?
(The same thing could be said of robots and AI in a sci fi setting. Robots are often an enemy type the team can blow to tiny pieces without feeling any remorse. But what point do machines become sentient and deserving of rights?)
When monstrous races become mainstream, we are then forced to find new monsters that our intrepid team won't feel bad killing, but if PCs want to play as those races, the cycle will continue.
I actually like the idea playing monsterous races, so I'm not criticizing it per se. However, it leads to the moral questions noted above. What is an appropriate way to integrate this into a game without racial stereotyping but still having monsters for the team to fight? Have you thought about this subject, and how do you handle it at your table?
- Having innately Evil races is not a bad thing.
- Worried about homebrew monster balance? Reflavor. Reflavor. And then Reflavor some more.
- My setting is almost entirely focused on the politics of humanoids and their realms. How do I add more interesting Monsters to the setting?
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