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[Let's Read] The Complete Books of Demihumans and Humanoids

s/LaSH

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A modern, well-researched work on "tribal life" could invert plenty of the awful lazy worldbuilding at play here. Long story short, portray its richness and sophistication properly.

OK so barbaric cultures owe a lot to Rome. No, not the slave-holding militaristic dictatorship that executed dissidents by torture thousands at a time and built whole architectural wonders dedicated to showing the populace regular performances of people getting killed, that's noble civilization. We're talking about their enemies, the Celts.

Celtic culture was pretty much most of pre-Roman Europe; it may have originated in Austria, definitely included the Gauls, and still survives in part in the British Isles. As such, it was important for Rome to paint them as dangerous and primitive enemies, so it would be justified to dominate them. So there's plenty of art of Celts running around naked in the snow, wearing animal skins, etc. This isn't entirely inaccurate! But y'know, Italians didn't always wear clothes either. And it completely leaves out all the advanced Celtic technology.

Because the Celts were sophisticated metal-workers. Trade networks had crossed Europe for thousands of years, moving amber and tin, and supporting advanced alloys. The barbarians made beautiful art and competitive arms and armour.

Other cultures contributing to the barbarian/savage stereotype include:

Norse, famous for their Viking raids, also a culture with a strong legal tradition and a great love of poetry and story.

Huns, about whom nothing is really known.

Goths, who imitated the violence of Rome and were condemned for it.

Vandals, who gave their name to smashing stuff, largely because they were running away from the Huns, but were just as sophisticated as other peoples.

Mongols, a bunch of horse-loving nomads too primitive to have cities, up until they took over the world and turned out to be really smart after all.

The Comanche Empire, formed by adopting horses around 1680 and becoming really successful with them.

And lots of other North American cultures, which we should probably read as post-apocalyptic adaptations after an era of invasion and massive epidemics from Europe destabilised the earlier civilizations of the region.

Here's the thing: a lot of these warlike-culture-dwelling-on-the-frontier folks are actually a post-civilization phenomenon. They wouldn't be in this situation if an empire hadn't rolled into town and swallowed up their previous territory, plus a lot of their farming and smithing infrastructure, leaving only the more mobile members to leg it for the hills. I understand there's anthropological debate as to precisely how far this goes; it might go pretty far indeed. The modern hunter-gatherer tribes we think of as relics of distant human past may in fact be post-civilization themselves.

And I haven't even mentioned Africa, the most diverse continent on Earth.

In passing, I'd also like to call out the term "witch doctor". It's usually deployed to indicate a primitive and superstitious people. Now, granted, there have been plenty of tribal cultures with healers who take on a spiritual role, and plenty of those blame sorcerers or evil spirits for disease and misfortune. But the specific term "witch doctor" originates with a particular language and culture, and I suspect it has been passed on to other cultures around the world using colonialism as a vector.

Let's just say that a famous witch doctor once operated in their native Yorkshire.

I mean, I could post a video of John Oliver ripping into the multi-billion-dollar TV psychic industry, but I hope my point about superstition and primitivism is clear enough already.
 

mindstalk

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The modern hunter-gatherer tribes we think of as relics of distant human past may in fact be post-civilization themselves.
I've only seen that suggested of Amazon tribes, where there's physical and cultural evidence of past civilization, and maybe some Plains Indians. Both residuals of collapse after European-introduced plagues.
 

Dalillama

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I've only seen that suggested of Amazon tribes, where there's physical and cultural evidence of past civilization, and maybe some Plains Indians. Both residuals of collapse after European-introduced plagues.
You might take a look at Seeing like a State, The Art of Not Being Governed and Against the Grain for more on how this played out in other parts of the world.
 

mindstalk

Does the math.
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You might take a look at Seeing like a State, The Art of Not Being Governed and Against the Grain for more on how this played out in other parts of the world.
I haven't read them, but I note that lots of nomads are not hunter-gatherers.
 

SuperG

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In passing, I'd also like to call out the term "witch doctor". It's usually deployed to indicate a primitive and superstitious people. Now, granted, there have been plenty of tribal cultures with healers who take on a spiritual role, and plenty of those blame sorcerers or evil spirits for disease and misfortune. But the specific term "witch doctor" originates with a particular language and culture, and I suspect it has been passed on to other cultures around the world using colonialism as a vector.
It's also worth noting that it's not a term that's "safely in the past". In the past X years, laws were passed in at least one nation banning them.

So consider how comfortable you would be with using terms from other extant religious traditions as the word for "primitive superstition".

(Note : agreeing with quoted poster, "you" is aimed at other readers)
 

VoidDrifter

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Okay, sorry for letting this fall slack again, guys. I want to get into writing up Chapter 3, but here's the thing; I was going to break it up into Warrior Kits, Wizard Kits, Priest Kits and Rogue Kits anyway, to make it more digestible, but is that enough? Should I break it up even further?

For reference, these are the kits by basic class group:
Warrior Kits:
  • Tribal Defender
  • Mine Rowdy
  • Pit Fighter
  • Sellsword
  • Saurial Paladin
  • Wilderness Protector

Wizard Kits:
  • Hedge Wizard
  • Humanoid Scholar
  • Outlaw Mage

Priest Kits:
  • Shaman
  • Witch Doctor
  • Oracle
  • War Priest
  • Wandering Mystic

Rogue Kits:
  • Scavenger
  • Tramp
  • Tunnel Rat
  • Shadow
  • Humanoid Bard
 

Lewd Beholder

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For all the faults of 3e, one thing it did right is said, all classes available.

now you don't have to build kits that act as workarounds.

and you don't get these cringeworthy kits.
 

VoidDrifter

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The Complete Book of Humanoids
Chapter 3: Humanoid Kits
Alright, it's been a while, so let's push on again. The Kits sections introduces a variety of new subclasses aimed specifically at humanoid PCs.

Warrior Kits
Warriors are the mainstay humanoid class, because what would you expect given that most of the races dubbed "humanoids" are portrayed as generically warlike, whilst the others frequently need to survive.

According to this book, all humanoids are restricted to the Fighter class; even those races that say they can take the Paladin or Ranger kit are instead Fighters with the Saurial Paladin or Wilderness Protector kit instead. Something about that rings wrongly, but I'm not really willing to go back over chapter 2 just to double check it. This subchapter contains six kits; the Tribal Defender, the Mine Rowdy, the Pit Fighter, the Sellsword, the Saurial Paladin and the Wilderness Protector.


Tribal Defender
This is the "generic humanoid warrior" kit, representing the trained, dedicated fighters of a humanoid tribe, settlement, clan or family; the guardians and protectors, who seek to keep kith and kin safe. They range from fulltime soldiers to part-time warriors, depending on their native culture. Whilst they can rise to power in many racial cultures, due to the respect that martial prowess brings, adventuring tribal defenders are generally considered cowards, traitors and outcasts - the kit's special hindrances revolves around this idea, and the notion that a tribal defender may actually be questing to help their tribe never crosses the author's mind.

Tribal defenders are found universally across the humanoid racial list, save for the Fremlins, and have no particular requirements - although, for obvious reasons, a humanoid from an oppressed gender probably shouldn't take this kit, since they are kept out of their group's armed forces. A female bugbear or bullywug tribal defender makes no sense if you're using the default lore from chapter 2.

To emphasize their roots, a tribal defender must spend all of their initial weapon proficiency slots on weapons available to their race, and must take the Hunting or Agriculture nonweapon proficiencies. Their only special advantage is a +2 bonus to proficiency checks made with their native territory and its inhabitants, whilst their only special hindrance is that complications will be more frequent in that same territory, due to their being outcasts.


Mine Rowdy
Mine Rowdies are... well, there's no way to put this gently; they're the overseers used to keep order amongst miners and other subterranean workers. Now, in fairness, whilst this does most immediately suggest itself as a slave master, the mine rowdy can also just be a manager for a humanoid mining crew... although I don't recall which if any of the races this kit is open to are willing to dig their own tunnels. And the fluff itself focuses way too much on the "slavemaster" interpretation for its own good.

The role of the mine rowdy demands productivity; they keep the workers working to mine or quarry out tunnels and lairs, and the vital nature of this work means that they need to keep a tight ship. If productivity drops, the tribal leaders will crack down on the mine rowdy with severe punishments, to the point that several of the suggested backstories revolve around the rowdy fleeing their tribe to avoid punishment for failure or dereliction of duty.

Weirdly, the author doesn't seem to have been able to make up their mind on if the rowdy is supposed to be just a slavemaster or not. It describes them as "strong, cruel and demanding taskmasters"... and then says that they can be of any alignment. It says that the rowdy is the first to leap into action to protect the work area from subterranean dangers, taking position at the forefront of the battle to lead the defense. And then there's this paragraph!

Members of this kit are tough, brave, forceful, and quick to action. They are used to being in command, and often throw their weight around even among their adventuring companions. if a job has to be done, they take it upon themselves to make sure the work proceeds. They have extremely developed work ethics.
So, yeah, they really didn't seem to be able to decide what they were working on in terms of fluff...

A mine rowdy can be a bugbear, a gnoll, a flind, a hobgoblin, a half-ogre, a minotaur, a half-orc, or an orc. It requires Strength 15 and must take proficiencies in a bludgeoning weapon, a piercing weapon, and Intimidation. They gain a +1 bonus to all die rolls when brawling, and suffer a -1 penalty to attack rolls and proficiency checks when in wide open spaces.


Pit Fighter
In a nutshell, a Pit Fighter is a humanoid gladiator who takes part, voluntarily or not, in gladiator fights. Usually ones that are illegal and being operated in the seedy parts of cities. That's pretty much the gist of it in a nutshell.

But there are a few interesting titbits. Firstly, female humanoids are particularly drawn to this kit, simply because of the freedom to excel that it grants and the fact that their exotic natures make them prized fighters. Secondly, pit fighters are amongst the most urban of the humanoid kits, because they have an accepted place in human society and can use their spare time to learn whatever they can.

There are no special requirements or restrictions on this kit, other than the fact that they must have a basic tribal weapon or shortsword proficiency and should use their remaining weapon slots on "exotic" melee weapons. They gain access to Close-quarter fighting as a bonus nonweapon proficiency. Single-classed pit fighters receive a free melee weapon specialization, whilst all pit fighters can specialize after first level by using additional weapon proficiency slots - they can even sacrifice nonweapon proficiency slots for this purpose. Finally, they can take rogue proficiencies without the normal exta penalty slot.

The drawback? Pit fighters are trained to make combat last, inflicting a -2 penalty on their damage rolls.


Saurial Paladin
Existing only because the author of this book felt they needed to make a complicated justification for Dragonbait rather than just letting a humanoid race take the Paladin class, despite the fact that Lupins and Rakastas were already capable of doing just that.

Because of this, Saurial Paladins have the same stat requirements and Lawful Good alignment requirement as a paladin, but the kit is restricted to Finhead Saurials. They must also take a Sword proficiency at first level and are forbidded from ever taking the Wild Fighting proficiency.

For advantages, Saurial Paladins gain the following goodies:
  • +2 to all saving throws.
  • Immune to all diseases.
  • Can "Lay on Hands" once per day to heal 2 HP per level.
  • Can Cure Disease once per week per 5 levels of experience.
  • Has an Aura of Protection (10ft Radius).
  • Can Turn Undead as if they were a Cleric 2 levels lower.
  • Can wield Holy Swords like a true paladin.
  • From 9th level, they can cast clerical spells as a 1st level spell caster.
  • Can Know Alignment 3 times per day.

For hindrances... here, the author really screwed up. Apparently, saurial paladins don't radiate Protection From Evil, they can't Turn Undead, and they can't cast Clerical Spells. If you're scratching your head here, don't worry, you're not the only one.


Sellsword
Just like the Pit Fighter, you can guess what the Sellsword is just from the name. They're mercenaries. Also they're the "professional warriors of the humanoid races", but I don't really get that. People distrust and dislike them, they'll go where the money is... it's pretty standard stuff here, though they really double down on the idea that humanoid mercs are super distrusted and disliked by commoners. The most unique trait is that a humanoid sellsword has their own scruples, with set lines they will not cross no matter how much money is involved. So at least they tried to give them a little credit here!

To become a sellsword, a humanoid needs any Neutral alignment, Constitution 12+, and proficiency in the shortsword and spear. They gain access to Survival (homeland) as a bonus nonweapon proficiency. When scouting for mercenary jobs, they gain a +2 bonus to their reaction rolls. When interacting with common people, they suffer a -2 reaction penalty - and inflict a -1 penalty to the party's reaction roll!


Wilderness Protector
There's... nothing really to report here. Wilderness Protectors are the humanoid equivalent of Rangers. That's it. That's the be-all, end-all of their entire identity and fluff. The only real difference is that Wilderness Protectors are described as being fanatical ecological crusaders, with even the races they come from thinking they're so intense about the whole matter that they're nuts.

Qualifying for this kit requires all of the same requirements as becoming a Ranger, and grants the humanoid access to all of the same special abilities and limitations as a natural Ranger. The only real differences are that the Wilderness Protector gets access to Survival (Woodlands) and Tracking as bonus proficiencies, and suffers a -3 penalty to Reaction rolls against NPCs.

This kit is restricted to Beastmene, Centaurs, Voadkyn, Minotaurs, Saurials, Satyrs and Swanmays.


Closing Thoughts:
...Wow, this was boring. The Saurial Paladin and Wilderness Protector literally have no reason to exist, whilst the Sellsword and Pit Fighter are generic to the extreme, and the Tribal Defender and Mine Rowdy are pointless. This is just so full of what I consider "Gygaxian" silliness that I'm pretty much ready to write it off from the get-go. We'll see how the other sub-chapters fare, but... yeah, the tiny gems of interesting ideas here do not make up for the general dross we're working with.
 
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