Generic, “adaptable” Humans in TTRPG settings, is a sign that the writer of same doesn’t actually understand how diverse groups in the world work

36 thoughts on “Generic, “adaptable” Humans in TTRPG settings, is a sign that the writer of same doesn’t actually understand how diverse groups in the world work


    Take a look at Grazillax’s guide to ancestry.
    Not only does it diversify humans but it also eliminates cultural stereotypes by decoupling stat bonuses from race. Not all gnomes are good at math, not all elves are graceful , not all orc are strong but stupid. Dm has to pick the stat variant. I use +2 to abilities as the players choose and an asi at level 1 that can also be used for racial traits. Oh and it provides rules for crossbreeding every thing, take that bards! Go ahead and seduce my bbeg, they’ll be back for child support.

  2. Odessa Vassar says:

    I’m really confused as to what rabbit means… isnt the whole point of having an adaptable human to be able to customize it to fit your needs for the character’s culture and background without the writers trying to cover every conceivable variation that anyone might think of? Sorry if I’m completely missing the point here but it doesn’t quite make sense to me.

    • John Paine says:

      It seems like the issue they have isn’t “adaptable” humans, it’s the fact that ever other race is NOT “adaptable”. Basically, it’s the D&D equivalent of the “white savior” trope.

      In this trope, non-European peoples live in homogeneous mono-cultures, and some random white guy comes along and learns all the wisdom of the non-Europeans culture and becomes better at their culture than them. Because unlike the the non-Europeans, who can only be what they are, random white guy can be anything he puts his mind to.

      This is the same way Dwarves all love jewels and tinkering/smithing, or Elves are all graceful and expert archers, but Humans can be whatever you want them to be. Just like “white savior” stories, this robs characters from the other cultures of their individuality, and reinforces the idea that people from other groups aren’t really fully people in their own right seperate from their group.

    • Bob says:

      This, exactly. Everyone seems to really hate the “adaptable humans” default, but no one seems to have bothered to either explain WHY it is bad, nor offered a better alternative… Humans being average in everything makes perfect sense, from a gameplay aspect. They are the connection to real life that allows us to understand and judge what the differences in the other races are. We get it, Orcs are naturally stronger and tougher than humans humans on average, Elves are more graceful, Gnomes are exceptionally clever, etc. had a set +1 to int or str, that just makes it all the more confusing to visualise what those bonuses mean in other races. Why are people getting legitimately angry over this?

  3. Bar says:

    The alternative to the adaptable human is that of stereotyping – which whether positive or negative is a form of racial discrimination.

    It’s a slippery slope from this to giving all female characters a negative modifier to strength, because, after all, giving the exact same stats for males and females implies that the writer has no concept of biological differences between the sexes either.

    “all humans are equal and can be anything they set out to be” is infinitely preferable than profiling.

  4. David Folts says:

    The point of versatile humans as a baseline is that real players are human. If they want to play a character that looks more like they do, they can do that regardless of what class they pick. You can always create custom racial stats for your setting, but if anything I would make the other races MORE versatile. Let the differences be in culture and choice, not mechanical bonuses.

  5. Frankie Blankenship says:

    This was originally done so as to avoid racist stereotypes that were hard coded into the rules. The lack of human “races” was a progressive acknowledgement of the diversity of humanity. Interpreting this as not understanding diversity is completely and utterly wrong.

  6. Confused in Candlekeep says:

    Is this a rsnt anout stereotyping non existent races? In a game of make believe? If not I apologize for misreading. If so
    .I am flummoxed. I have loved and have played TTRPGs for 40 years. I have always been an inclusive DM and staunch proponent of free and fair play… For real people with real feelings. I loathe to see real world prejudices in any way, shape. or form but this really has me questioning how fat we have gotten away feom having fun.
    What am I missing?

  7. jeffrey lewis says:

    Now the problem with that thinking spawns at the writers viewpoint. Take Pathfinder for example. They’re not creating a world to explore, they were providing the building blocks for a DM to design a world to explore. Not to mention the need to expand to a wide audience. Orcs, Dwarves, Elves, Gnomes, they all had a preconcept thanks to J. R. R. Tolkiens book series. When the audience asks for one of these races the majority thought process is that of Tolkiens designs. Usually to create a character around that specific design. Plus if you elimanate the uniqueness of the other races you limit the race to being a purely cosmetic feature. While some might enjoy that I’d consider it quite boring. Why make all the races superficial when you can just get creative and let the player be a unique race that fits what they want to be? Pathfinder has even given building blocks for background traits and the sort. Why limit creativity? This is fantasy, not reality. Explore the unexplored, explain the unexplained, and have fun doing it. That’s what I do as a dm.

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