June 27, 2014
Iconic Characters: Humans
Lastly in our look at the most iconic races of fantasy role-playing games, we have humans. That’s right; humans. Ordinary humans just like you and me. Right off the bat, you might be wondering what makes humans so interesting to play. After all, we have to at least pretend to be human every single day of our lives.
Well, actually, that is what makes playing a human so interesting. When you play a human in a fantasy role-playing game, you are playing a person living in a fantastic world with elves, magic, dragons, and much, much more. How does an ordinary human deal with that sort of thing? What are they like? What traits do they have that set them apart as extraordinary? You see, unlike many of the other fantasy races I have talked about this week, human characters are innately relatable because of their humanity. We know what it is like to be human, and thus we understand what it is like for them. We know their limitations because we have them ourselves. A lot of really powerful role-playing moments can happen with human characters because of their humanity.
In many fantasy role-playings games, humans are said to be the most diverse and most populous of the races and this is because we, as a people, are very diverse. With the made-up races, you can describe them pretty easily. Elves are woodland folk with pointed ears who are graceful, wise, and aloof. Dwarves are stout mountain folk with big beards who are suspicious of all outsiders. Humans are… complicated. In addition to that, look at our population in the last few decades. If there is one thing we are certainly good at, it is breeding. There are a lot of us. In a fantasy game, these traits are advantageous to the human race, but also tend to make the other races look at us with some measure of uncertainty. They do not know how to feel about us. Should they trust us? Would we make strong allies or are we going to be nigh unstoppable enemies? Again, you can have a lot of fun with this in games. Does your character come from a purely human community? If so, how does your character feel about the inhuman races? What impression of our whole race does your character make on these other races? In game it can be a lot of responsibility to play the human.
Humans also tend to have several mechanical advantages as well. Normally, human characters have a good average of attributes, with no great strengths or weaknesses. We tend to be the average because it is in relation to us that we compare all others. Halflings are more dextrous than we are, but are also weaker due to their size. Elves are also more dexterous and often more intelligent, but also less hearty due to their thin frames. Dwarves are far heartier, but not nearly as charismatic. What this means in game is that humans can play as anything without any detriment forced upon them due to race. Using those examples, halflings have a somewhat hard time playing as fighters or other strength-based classes, elves suffer in the front line of combat due to their lower constitution, and you do not see too many dwarven bards or sorcerers in play. Humans, meanwhile can play as any character class without problem, adding to the fantasy stereotype of humans being a very diverse people.
Humans are, by far, my favorite race to play both mechanically and in terms of role-play and story. Every group needs your “ever-man,” right?
As always, thanks for reading and I wish you all good gaming.
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