Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Do You Allow Humanoids as PCs in Your Campaigns?

In the latest episode of The Brainstorm Podcast we discussed using humanoids / monsters as PCs in your campaign.

From my perspective, it can work if the campaign is built upon the concept of humanoids (orcs, goblins and the like) in positions of power, influence and integrated into society. It may be a society in which humanoids are dominant or one in which they are subservient (slaves and / or servants).

Much of this is due to default alignments - demihuman societies are presumed to be neutral to good whereas humanoid alignment is assumed to be evil. Actually, there is a whole 'nother post hidden in the previous sentence.

So, do you allow humanoid PCs in your campaigns? Have you run an all humanoid campaign? Let us know.


  1. Yes but very reluctantly. The player has to give me a really good reason to play as a goblin, orc, kobold, other and that character can only be a replacement character, not a starting character. The best I've seen so far was a player who played a Knight of the Desert Rose who fell in battle while defending the homesteads of a group of dwarven colonists from goblin raiders. One of the goblins became the new character for that player in a "debt that will never be repaid".

    The Knight spared this goblin's life after he disarmed him (actually cut off his arm), telling the goblin to make something of himself, a few moments later the goblin's own people attempted to finish the job, but the knight stopped the attack and drove the other goblins back. After the Knight died the goblin took up the Knight's sword and waded into battle on the side of the players.

    Originally the Goblin was meant to become an NPC after that interaction. Little did I know the player did all that sparing and talking on purpose because next week he came to the game with a goblin and explained that he was now the goblin that he saved. Named him Graz Debt-Bound.

    Graz was probably the biggest roleplaying character I ever had since stat wise he sucked! Because he lost his good arm all attacks where made with a -2 and he received negatives on almost every social roll due to his goblin nature. Goblins also received a +2 bonus on attacks against him because of pure hatred!

    Eventually Graz was recognized by the Knights of the Desert Rose who accepted him into their order as a Page.

  2. In a dungeon crawling game, fuck yes. Hell, I have a Gibbering Mouther character class for my home games.

  3. Once we charm personed a hobgoblin who became a henchman and then eventually integrated into the society of Men. But I don't think we ever had a humanoid PC. Not that we wouldn't...

  4. My son played a kobold back in the 3e days. It was fine.

  5. I ran a short-lived 2e AD&D campaign where the players played humanoid characters from The Book of Humanoids. I think i just allowed good-aligned races. One was some kind of forest giant, one centaur and... i can't remember the last PC. We had fun though it turned out to be short-lived.

  6. Yes, although depending on campaign setting you may get different effects. The best use I had for this was in a campaign about a decade back when the players rolled up regular PCs and then also rolled up humanoid monster PCs; I had a lot of "off screen" stuff I thought would be more interesting to see in actual play and this seemed like a way to do it. We alternated between the two groups each session, and the players gradually figured out that the heroes who were tracking down the big bad villain in one game were playing the henchmen of that same big bad in the other game, until a major event happened and they found out the evil Big Bad was going to harvest the souls of all the monsters in the city to become a demigod. They mostly tried to escape when they found this out.....and those humanoid characters went from being a "plot twist side story" to long-remembered favorites as a result.

    1. In fair disclosure I was letting people play orcs, hobgoblins and doppelgangers (among other things) back in 1981. I took Gary's advice and approach to heart back then.

  7. I have done it twice. Once in a 2E game, used a splat book for a mostly humanoid party. Had a firbolg giant, a aaracokra(sic), sea elf, a human ranger and another human whom I can't remember. It was island hopping adventure that lasted for more than a few sessions, yet stopped when I killed off the bird man.

    Then, we just recently stopped a 5E game in which we had a hobgoblin, orc, kobold and humanoid yuan-ti thing. It was fun, was a off-the-cuff kind of game.

    I don't mind doing it once and again. Though, some of the races in the later editions, dragon born I'm looking at you, have a weird place in the races section. I would allow, and have in the past, yet not sure if I will let them start off with that as an option.

  8. If the rules support it in the game we're playing I'll consider it. For instance, in DCC, with the necessity of the funnel, I'd have to create a chart with humanoid 0-level professions, so I don't allow it there. But in Dungeon World, where race essentially doesn't matter I'm much more open.
    All that said, it depends on the power level of the race and what the game does to accommodate that, In BECMI, powerful races had their own racial classes that sometimes started at negative level (I'm thinking of the Sphinx from Top Ballista), I'm much more open to that than to 3e's system of adding a level adjustment to the racial hit dice to arrive at the equivalent character level, thus ensuring some races will never be available at standdard st level character generation. Though, to be completely fair, I'm less inclined to allow anything beyond level adjustment +2 races with no racial HD)

  9. It depends on what kind of game everyone wants to play. I'm not generally a fan of humanoid or monster PCs, but it's not just my game. If the players all want to allow it, I'll consider allowing it.

  10. im still running a bx based zero ed game and have allowed it occationaly. Had a bugbear raised by halflings who accidently killed his dad in caves of chaos dungeon and replaced him as boss with moms help. Curently a player married another players orc henchwoman (from a 6 breasted strain os warrior she orcs) and later allowed a orc shaman to turn him into a orc. Has only just realised his life span diminished so looking to fix that problem. Party helping LE orcs vs Chaos orcs.

  11. I'll let you be nearly anything, so long as you give me good reasons for what you want to do.

  12. There are no "humanoids" in our game.

  13. Yes, but with good motivation from the player and I told him that he will have to suffer all the consequences of behavior and attitude when it has to do with society hostile or openly hostile to the race chosen.

    I do not know if it applies, but at the moment I am conducting a campaign where all the PCs are half-orcs.

  14. Sure I do! I usually offer flavor detail and reasons why said PC would not be attacked on sight in most towns. For example, many gnolls would be nomadic pilgrims who pray to the local deities of the area and leave offerings at waystation shrines. In addition to trade, this makes them popular with religious orders who appreciate the donations and respect.


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