2018/05/15

OSR: Revised Table of Races + 10 Neural Network Races

In a medieval setting it's hard to get players to care about the petty regional feuds between people from not-Wessex and not-Sussex, but they immediately "get" the local friction between froglings vs flylings. There might be bunch of races but they're all from the same country, effectively. One worldview. In a standard setting they'd all be one race.

Each race has a minor bonus and a minor weakness. They also have a stat they can reroll during character creation and take the higher result. I think it works better than a flat bonus. The bonuses and weaknesses are designed to encourage old-school tactics, weird combinations, clever plans, and interesting differences between otherwise identical characters. I deliberately left the races vague; the players filled out the details as they came up during play.
Bréviaire de Renaud de Bar, MS. 107 (1302-1303),
fol. n.c., Bibliothèque de Codecom, Verdun.
Side Note: In my view, the primary medieval category for reactions is rank, not race or nationality. This starts to change by the mid 14th century as national identities coalesce, but for western Europe before the 14th century, or Italy before the 12th and the rise of the city-state, people were generally sorted people by rank, not origin.


The King of the Dog-Headed People fits into the "King" category first before he fits into the "Dog-Headed People" category. If you meet him, treat him like a king. This goes for nobles of all ranks and sizes. Doesn't matter if they are elves from across the sea, if they throw babies into furnaces, if they wear silly hats. Sort them by your worldview into Kings, Queens, Princes, Lords, Barons, Knights, Bishops, Priests, etc. and react accordingly.

Even if you hate the Welsh, you'll grant them princes and lords. You might be at war with a hated foreign enemy but you're going to treat a hated foreign prince closer to the way you'd treat a local prince than to the way you'd treat a local peasant.
Amazons, Le secret de l'histoire naturelle
France ca. 1480-1485 (BnF, Français 22971, fol. 2r)

Tactics my groups have used:
-making a Slugling a mobile anchor for a rope ladder
-gnomes evading pursuit by turning invisible just around a corner
-giving the hawkling magic night vision goggles


Things we have learned:
-Antlings are detailed in this post. They look like formians, but tidier. They think everyone is female unless told otherwise, and they hate being left alone or being excluded from social groups.
-Spiderlings are basically medieval jewish driders. The rich urban spiderlings weave, lend money, and live in walled districts filled with smaller spiders, web-branches, and nests. Poor rural spiderlings are distrusted by everyone. They have their own religious code, keep strange holidays, and associated mostly with each other. If there's a mob, someone will inevitably suggest burning the local spiderlings.

-Elves are beautiful. They own beauty like mer-folk own the sea. Elves need to Save vs Ugliness. If they see something particularly ugly, badly made, or gruesome they tend to run away, stare, drop whatever they are holding, burst into tears, or go into a murderous rage. Sometimes it's a mix of several options. Elves have several dozen names. Nobody else cares. They have an innate and almost unshakable self-confidence. An elf in the middle of a disaster will smile and assume it will all turn out well; there's simply no way Creation could harm them. An elf will never admit incompetence or failure.

-Sluglings put on genders like other people put on hats. Everyone else pretends not to notice.

-Houndlings look like humans with the faces of bloodhounds. Jowly, docile, snuffling, but obedient. "Fetch" jokes are not treated kindly. They are cheerful thugs.

-Toadlings and Froglings are feuding.
Roll Race Reroll Bonus Weakness
1-15 Human Choice Start with 1 extra random item -4 to resist being mutated or transformed
16-20 Elf CHA Eat half as many rations Save vs Ugliness or shun it
21 Gnome INT Can become invisible if you close eyes, hold breath, don't move -2 to DEX for Move
22 Spiderling DEX Can secrete 30' of rope per day Cannot see more than 30'
23 Magpieling DEX Always knows the approximate value of mundane items Must Save or pick up shiny objects
24 Eelling INT Take half damage while grappling Cannot see anything nearer than 1'
25 Antling CON +2 to STR for Inventory Slots Save vs Fear when alone
26 Hedgehogling WIS +2 Defense Cannot wear armour on chest or limbs
27 Deerling CHA Antlers (as a club) When afraid, will run instead of freezing
28 Slothling STR Cannot be Frightened Always Surprised
29 Mouseling WIS Can very convincingly play dead -2 to Strength for Inventory Slots
30 Boarling CON Tusks (as a dagger) Constant snuffling. -2 to DEX for Stealth
31 Hawkling INT Can see detail at a great distance Must eat uncooked food
32 Houndling CHA Can track a creature by smell Save vs Commands
33 Beetleling STR +1 Defense, half fall damage Cannot wear armour on chest or limbs
34 Fishling CON Can hold breath for 5 minutes Drink twice as much water as usual
35 Swanling DEX Can shout and sing incredibly well Cursed. -2 to Save.
36 Owlling WIS Can rotate head 180 degrees Cough up disgusting pellets after every meal
37 Slugling STR Cannot be pushed in combat Salt is deadly to you
38 Flyling DEX Can eat rotten food as rations Will never notice details unless they move
39 Rabbitling DEX Jump twice as high When afraid, will freeze instead of running
40 Gooseling CON Prehensile neck, can fit through small spaces When afraid, Save or attack enemy
41 Ravenling CHA Can eat rotten food as rations Must Save or pick up shiny objects
42 Weaselling STR Can crawl through narrow spaces Must eat uncooked food
43 Frogling CHA Prehensile tongue (as a whip) Drink twice as much water as usual
44 Toadling STR Jump twice as high Contagious warts
45 Ratling INT Can crawl through narrow spaces Save vs Fear when alone
46 Goatling DEX No Move penalties for broken or hilly terrain Pervasive, unique stink
47 Foxling WIS Half time taken to forage Cannot tell the direct, blunt truth
48 Wormling INT Can shrink or grow from your base height by 25% as an Action -2 to STR for Inventory Slots
49 Flealing STR Can drink blood as rations Cannot wear armour on chest or limbs
50 Batling WIS Can roll Wis to "hear" walls and major fixtures in the dark. Will never notice details unless they move
Mauro Belfiore
Croissantling?

10 Neural Network Races

Here are 10 races generated by Janelle Shane's neural network (and voted on by you).

I probably wouldn't roll on this table in under normal circumstances, but maybe if the player's last character died in a spectacular and horrible way I'd allow it.
Roll Race Reroll Bonus Weakness
1 Catkolin DEX Take 1/2 fall damage. Save or disobey any direct commands or orders
2 Copper Knight CON +6 Defense Cannot wear armour. Must eat 100cp as rations
3 Elf (Warper) WIS Take 1 damage to teleport 10' in a random directionStart with -2 HP. Save vs Ugliness or shun it
4 Fetchling DEX Can appear as a copy of a person looking at them Save vs Fear against bright lights
5 Necropolion WIS Immune to disease and weather effects. Save vs Fear against holy symbols.
6 Orcane INT Take 2 damage to reroll 1 MD on a damage-dealing spell -2 to Save
7 Poreborn STR Can drink blood as rations -2 to Strength for Inventory Slots
8 Short Dwarf CON Reduce all incoming physical damage by 1 2' high. All armour must be custom built
9 Tireling STR Produce 1 cubic foot of rags per dayDouble damage from fire.
10 Wordzing CHA Can read all languages Save or read aloud any text you see.

1. Catkolin
There are very few "catlings" Around Here. Maybe there are some in Foreign Parts, where they war with dog-headed kobolds and live in the shadow of the Sphinx. Yet, in some regions, you can find solitary Catkolins. Their fur is dark and drinks the light. Their eyes are large and yellow. They would make excellent assassins if it wasn't for their habitual disobedience, laziness, and pettiness. They are disgusted by work, contemptuous of rank, and easily bribed by luxuries, vanities, and trinkets. Seen at night, it is easy to imagine why villagers mistake them for demons and drive them away with arrows and torches.

2. Copper Knight
In the hills, where ancient stone roads are still visible beneath the scrub, you can sometimes find Copper Knights. Their villages are always found near rivers. Despite appearances they are living things. Cut them open and, so traveler say, you will find a sort of crab or worm inside. They spin armour like a shell. They are proud warriors, fiercely independent, and they live where no one else will, so their settlements are rarely disturbed. They trade olives, wine, and apricots for copper and silk. Their armour is elaborate and strong. It weighs nothing to them. They fight with a duelist's grace and tact; a maimed opponent will be spared. They grow in different shapes; some with protected shoulders, some with spiked arms, some with slab-faced helms and hammer fists. 

3. Elf (Warper)
Elves are difficult to make. Sometimes things go wrong. Intensely magical, Warper Elves are jittery, unstable creatures. They have a manic and haunted look. Something seems to swim beneath the skin, half-real, half visible, dragging them through life at an uncomfortable pace. They can flicker in and out of existence, potentially avoiding damage or injury, but often flinging themselves into danger, into the path of allies, or off cliffs. 

4. Fetchling
In their true form, or if seen in mirrors or through leaded glass, Fetchlings are small, stick-thin humanoids with horse-skull faces. They live on a few rocky and treeless islands surrounded by stormy seas. Unnervingly, to mortal eyes, they appear as shimmering duplicates, spectral copies of the viewer. Their appearance is usually enough to send superstitious sailors screaming back to their boates. Despite church propaganda, relatively few Fetchlings become necromancers, and those that do rarely raise embodied undead.

5. Necropolion
Immortality at a price. The bog-witches know how to make them. Carve out the heart, pack herbs and dried worms into the cavity, stitch up the body, throw the heart into the bog. The victim rises, cured of any diseases. They will live forever. Not dead and not undead, but detached. Life's joys are muted. Life's sorrows fall heavily. 

6. Orcane
Orcs live in the north, where the snow never melts. If you spend a few months in a major city, you may meet someone who has met someone who seen them. They are remote. They do not fear the cold. They live in the sea and on the land. They have fought many wars.

Orcanes are their spies or agents or missionaries. No one is sure, not even the Orcane. Human sailors, shipwrecked, dredged, fed, healed. Branded on the back of the skull by orc-marks. Memories washed away by cold seawater.The orcs see through their eyes, hear their thoughts. Orcanes make powerful casters. They can draw on the strength of their distant patrons. 

7. Poreborn
The living blood. Someone falls sick, lies in bed, screams, sweats, and dies. A poreborn emerges with foggy memories of their host. They are apologetic. They did not mean any harm. They look like a person made of congealed blood. It's less horrible then you think; more like a statue made of wet stone. They are not strong. Most are killed immediately. Perhaps, in Foreign Parts, they are worshiped. They have a heart, a brain, skin, eyes. One type of cell rewritten to serve as many. 

8. Short Dwarf
Just another kind of dwarf, I suppose? Who can say. Creation is a vast place. Two foot tall but as broad and as heavy as a normal person. Compressed, like a squashed fruit. Wide mouth, drooping nose, wrinkled eyes, waddling gait. Helmet like a dinner plate. Some people joke that they were all crushed in a terrible mining accident. They talk with helium munchkin voices, but they are deadly serious, sober, and intelligent. They are used to fighting things much larger than them and crawling for miles through soaking mud-filled tunnels. You don't scare them. 

9. Tirelings
From "Attirelings". A heap of filthy cloth with bare human feet. Little eyes peer from beneath the hood. They come from far away and settle in cities. To most, they are just another variety of beggar, but this is their chosen mode of life. Beneath the cloth they are like stick insects. They love fabric. They love its texture, its softness, its weave. They lay their slow-maturing eggs in it and scatter them through the world. Inside the cloth shell, dozens of arms weave and unweave, miraculously producing rags from almost anything. 

10. Wordzing
Linguist-slaves from Foreign Parts. Humans, but pale and long-haired, with worn peg-like teeth. Their eyes have been replaced with enchanted opals. They see all languages and obsessively read text. Worth their weight in gold to some; a dangerous liability to others, for ciphers and codes unravel beneath their gaze. They are notorious for blurting out secrets. Some escape from their captors to find a life of their own. Some, reading orders for a revolt, an execution, or a trap, flee before the axe falls. And some find hints of treasure and power in ancient text, raise funds, and vanish into parts unknown.

6 comments:

  1. I really like this approach and also that it's very easy to just add on more races if your players find anything to be missing!
    I have two questions out of curiosity:
    1. Do you always ask your players to roll or do they get to choose sometimes; what are the pros and cons, in your experience?
    2. You have elves and gnomes, but no dwarves, a widespread fantasy archetype since JRRT and before. Any particular reason for this?

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  2. I said once that is a nice approach to use animals as race but now you gave an idea for something I am wondering for some time.

    I'm thinking about use my homeland (southern Brazil) as a setting but I wasn't sure how to make use of the many typical animals from here like the maned wolf, the capybara and the howler monkey.

    Well, maybe I should make a race table using these animals. I think that should give a stronger feeling of the setting than using the animals in some other way. I know some people would love to play as a "capybaraling".

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    Replies
    1. I'd love to see a table like that! If you write one, make sure you post a link. Flycatcherlings (Potoolings?) would be great.

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  3. I’ve been having my players submit races of this style to add to an extended list. It’s great what people come up with when they are not trying to min/max or reinvent the orc.

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    Replies
    1. That sounds great. Got a list posted anywhere?

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    2. It is a bit spread around at the moment, but on hand I've got a couple here:

      Goblin DEX Can roll Int to scavenge useful junk worth 1gp or less Save vs Fear when outnumbered


      Demi-Troll CON Can regrow a severed body part once Eat twice as many rations

      Yak-ling STR No penalties from altitude sickness Save vs Heat

      Masked One CHA Can change your face once per day Can't express emotions without the appropriate mask

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