Deoxyribose Nucleic Article

This idea came about from a discussion held around the gaming table shortly before play commenced last night. How do genetics work in roleplaying games?

We are told that a human and elf/orc pairing ALWAYS produces a half-elf/orc, and not a human with the traits of either, and that no matter what happens the child of this offspring will be a half-elf/orc. So are human genes weaker than those of other races? And what happens when/if a half-elf and a half-orc mate? What will that child be? Admittedly, this is very unlikely.

It seems to be an unspoken assumption in fantasy rpgs that humans will mate with only a few of the fantasy races (i.e. elves and orcs) and produce offspring, and I want to know why this is. Many races in most of the more popular systems and settings are humanoid, look mostly human, and are in frequent contact with humans. So why don’t more human/other pairings happen? I can understand why human/minotaur relationships don’t happen, but human/dwarf or even human/Halfling relationships should be possible. Both romantically and sexually.

It seems logical to predict, based upon precedent, that the children of these pairings would be half- dwarves/ half-halfings (which is a mouthful and should be referred to as a Quarterling, the obvious joke to make) and would be more dwarf/halfling than human. Of course, what this would mean personality-wise and culture-wise is up to the person writing the rules, but why haven’t these things been considered? Or if they have, why aren’t they at least admitted to being possible?

In the spirit of honesty, I am no expert on fantasy settings, I run horror and urban fantasy games more than I do fantasy and it is possible that there are caveats and fluff about this subject that I am simply unaware of, but I’m just curious.

My main question is; why don’t the half-elf/orc/whatever genes get watered down over time through pairings with humans? Or why don’t the human genes get watered down over time by pairings with the other parent race? Half-whatevers producing half-whatevers ad infinitum just seems strange to me.

But then, maybe it is because, as a roleplaying game, the emphasis is upon relatively short term play rather then the long term effects of things like this. Maybe this should be considered.

What do you think? Do genetics work satisfactorily for you in the context of a roleplaying game? Do you have any answers for me? Or any questions? Feel free to write them in the comments, or email them to us and we’ll try to get back to you.

Hope you enjoyed this brief article and thanks for reading.

Bubbles

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One response to “Deoxyribose Nucleic Article

  1. Human/dwarf hybrids were known in D&D Darksun setting as Mul, and were infertile; the hybrid did not appear in other settings, as far as I know. The case might simply be that mixing humans with humanoid races other than orcs and elves would produce infertile offspring, and the fear of bringing into the world one’s child who will be sentenced to childlessness might be enough to discourage serious romantic involvements. Then there might be cultural taboos as well, or sheer racism (on part of either or both races). As for human-halfling relationships: there seems to be a lingering tendency to describe and depict them as child-like (whether it’s their size or fondness for games or general cheerfulness), and therefore discussing relationships between an adult human and a ‘child-like’ halfling is just a PR disaster waiting to happen.

    As for half-elf, half-orc malarkey, I just go with ‘it’s no longer pure human’, and while it technically might be a human with traits of something else, or something else with traits of a human, it will be a half-whatever for the sake of expediency and clarity. It’s not so much the case of genes being weaker, it’s more to do with how you call them. If a native African has children with a native European,you won’t call their children white or black, either. Nor their children. At some point, the descendants might lose enough traits of one of the ancestors to be called white or black; it would take quite a while,though. Many books, films and games that were made a few decades ago have a hefty amount of what could be called racist by modern standards, but was hardly thought of as such earlier.

    D&D is full of leftovers of this nature: ‘always evil’ races and such, and they’re being kept for convenience’s sake. Someone has to be a valid target for robbery and extermination if an average group of murderous hobos (read: the adventuring party) is to get anywhere 😉 There is a strong tendency to steer away from using these stereotypes these days (moral ambiguity, etc.), and newer editions encourage such approach – that, however, has been slapped on to the older core concepts and designs, and it often shows.

    In other RPG systems, genetics tends to be omitted, for the most part, simply because it has little importance for the game-play. It appears in the world of Exalted, as preserving the purity of blood is of prime importance for the Terrestrial Exalted – barring dealing with demons and access to rare manses, parents’ good pedigree is the only factor that affects their children’s chances of exalting. Consequently, the matter of genetics is given some attention, but even here it is highly simplified.

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