Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Origin Benefits

I haven't had many pure campaign thoughts lately, but this has occasionally teased at me.  One of the benefits of running the real Earth as a world, as I do, is that there comes a lot of social baggage that turns useful now and then.  For example, that the weapons that exist in the world can be identified with a locality.  The spear or the dagger with the Italians, for instance, or the pike with the Swiss, the axe with the Germans and Scandinavians, the short bow with the Turks, the scimitar with the Arabs, the busacca of Arica and so on.

Some time ago, on pressure brought from my players, I got rid of level limits for non-human races . . . which I balanced with my mass hit point system, that gave marginally more hit points to humans because they're bigger and therefore more meaty.  But still, humans have no special bonuses, unlike elves, dwarves and so on, and I was thinking that perhaps a bonus might be offered for the weapon (or possibly other cultural benefit) associated with where the human comes from.  I already use a table that determines the origin of characters (based upon where the character is found in my world, similar to the manner in which goods are distributed), so that means the bonus would be randomly generated also.

If your human character turned out to be from Russia, you might be tempted to make the pole axe your choice weapon, simply because you received an automatic +1 to hit with it, like an elf with a long sword:

It really does make sense.  If you're a fighter, trained in your native land, it's only natural that your training would more likely be in the use of native weapons.  It follows from there that a Russian would be more adept with a partisan that a Spaniard, who would perhaps find it easier to use a rapier and dagger simulataneously (the dex penalty would be reduced, rather than offering a 'to hit' bonus for either weapon).

This makes sense to me.  It also makes sense that Norwegians, Swedes, Finns or Russians might be better at fighting bears, while Egyptians, Berbers and Sudanese would be better at fighting elephants.  There might be a whole host of little benefits, some of those being additional benefits being applied to dwarves, elves, half-orcs and so on.

Haven't settled down to any design, but I think it would be a fun angle to play around with.


Oddbit said...

An interesting angle.

Perhaps regional bonuses to certain types of knowledge?

I mean, you may not have settled on your current knowledge system, but a handful of extra points on creation, or one on every advance might make a reasonable difference.

And of course, if you DO expand knowledge to more classes be about as useful to the race as a whole as say... infravision or darkvision.

Matt said...

I find that generally most games and house rules that give bonuses to humans lend themselves far too well to stereotype and racism. There is something a bit more off-putting to the thought "You come from Russia, you get a bonus to your bear fighting!" than "You're an elf, so you can see in the dark!"

This is probably because Russians are real, and Elves are not.

I do like the idea of Humans getting something for their trouble though. In my games that something is usually the ability to walk into pretty much any town without too much trouble.

So yeah, I am a bit put off by the idea of a rule seeming racist, and then turn and practice fantastical racism in my world. Again, it is probably because Elves aren't real.

Clovis Cithog said...

Racism is when variants within the same species cannot get along amically .
It is the natural order for different species, such as dwarves & elves OR wolves & bears to compete – that is NOT racism.
It is racism when a variant of humanity (Germans vs. French) or elvenkind (wood vs, high) hold preconceived hostility and attitudes.

IT iis perfectly natural for elves to msitrust the intentions of gruff and greedy dwarves

It is racism or nationalism when a German refuses to parley with a French “cheese eating surrender monkey.”

Alexis Smolensk said...

Very well. For the sake of good relations, I'll concede the point. But giving a Russian character in my world a +1 bonus for hitting a bear is not demonstrative proof of hostility towards other peoples.

David Eglinton said...

Very interesting, you could take this concept even further, if I recall in MERP the various races of man each had there own benefits, and could yield very different types of characters based on their knowledge and lore, skills and abilities etc. So each country could in fact be a distinct choice at character creation.

Look beyond just combat bonuses, If your idea of humans is anywhere near mine they are adaptable, hardy and almost everywhere (the cockroaches of fantasy land) so ensure that different regions offer different survival skills. And humans coming from lands that aren't as wild perhaps enhancements to their diplomacy and social abilities.

When your creating bonuses for different countries of origin I suppose one has to be somewhat diplomatic - but I would imagine it to be fairly clear to the reader what is created with good intentions, even if you are essentially (and very abstractly) labelling a group of people as being more proficient in certain activities.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I'm a real asshole, David, for if I did include this, I wouldn't allow players to 'choose' their place of origin. Who does? If they got a bonus for a weapon they didn't want to use, then that too would be a character building trait, wouldn't it? "Yes, I'm from Russian. No, I don't use a pole-arm. Yes, yes, I was trained in the use of one, we all were, but I hate the damn things and I'm not going there."

Jomo Rising said...

Related, how do you handle the age question? By human standards, Elves seem to have a lot of time to learn whatever weapon or skill. Seems a better justification than race or nationality.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Long ago, for reasons of keeping Earth history, I dumped all the rules about long life-spans for non-humans. Everyone has a human lifespan.

Total effect on the enjoyment of my players playing non-humans? Zip, zilch, zero. I don't think I've ever had a player so much as mention it once I explained it, much less complain.

In reality, I believe everyone thinks its a stupid idea.