RANT Race: To be or not to be

Discussion in 'All Things LitRPG' started by RauthrMystic, Jul 28, 2018.

  1. RauthrMystic

    RauthrMystic Elf Beta Reader Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    I'll preface with this: I'm a reader. Avidly so. Not to say I don't write, but I get in my own way so nothing gets done. With that said here is my pseudo rant; I hate humans.

    In nearly every LitRPG I've read, there are some arbitrary race options and then inevitably our hero decides to be human. Seriously?! In a place like 'Ready Player One' I kinda get it. In that world virtual and actual reality merge in the common consciousness. (plus 'race' is arbitrary there). Now to be fair I am an Elf. Or I would be if I wasn't human. So of course I'd love to see every hero be an awesome magic wielding Elf of some form. What I would like to see though is some serious worldbuilding done on the culture of the various races. I'd like the 'race' choice to be more than 'eh I'll just be human'. If human must be a choice let it have meaning! Like in "Dragon Seed".

    In fact "dragon seed" is the only novel I can think of in which you gain an actual 'history' with character creation. Meaning that you get another life downloaded to you based on your choices in character creation. It also impacts you when you learn skills (you suddenly remember how you learned the skill). It gave the race meaning (even if it was a type of human).

    So the question for my fellow enthusiasts: How would you implement lore and world building in the character creation process? can you make it matter?

    PS: I'm not saying you have to get particularly creative in races themselves.
     
  2. Jay

    Jay Hiatus. LitRPG Author Beta Reader Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    That is something that always bugged me a bit in LitRPG. All these cool possibilities in a fantasy setting and yet the MC always ends up being just a human. I did like the way they did it in Dragon Seed though. I'm actually pretty fond of that series; although it has a few things in it that I'm not crazy about. 85% of it though is really fantastically done and I like it a lot.

    I really did enjoy that series' worldbuilding for the races/species.

    Off the top of my head, I can only think of two other books/series that has "nonhuman MCs". One was the Weirdest Noob, but it never seems to matter much. It's mentioned it's a super rare species, etc. but no other players mention it or seem to notice, etc. So it was mostly just...pointless? It never really mattered or came up.

    The other I'm having trouble remembering since it's late (which is a shame because I rather liked the series), but the MC is a type of elf? But again, it's not really important and there's very little impact in the story. It gets mentioned once by another player character of "oh, you didn't go human? How surprising!" but literally never mentioned again.

    It's actually something I'm considering in my new little project (since I feel like I've stalled a bit on the older one I was working on). An MC that's not human and how it might affect someone to suddenly be a different species. I have some ideas, but I do kind of worry it won't be a good choice simply because so many MCs are human. Is having the MC be a different species make it harder for the reader to connect with them perhaps?
     
  3. Dragovian

    Dragovian Over-enthusiastic Tank wtb Pocket Healer LitRPG Author Beta Reader Citizen

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    I think a lot of it is the wish fulfillment nature of much LitRPG. In game, you get to be you, but a stronger, sexier version of you.

    That said, my MC chose an ursine as her avatar, because I, too, hate humans and never play as one if I have a choice.
     
  4. RauthrMystic

    RauthrMystic Elf Beta Reader Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    Dragon Seed did it well. I appreciated that though it wasn't a huge part of the plot there was still an effort to show that there was a difference in culture. It made the world feel bigger. Race choice should matter.

    I think it would depend on how you went about it in terms of writing. But if you've a human character that becomes an elf then you have a perfect opportunity to show not only the differences but time it takes to acclimate to the 'nonhuman' aspects. (if the elves have amazing hearing). Plus would the story involve them going in and out of the other reality? if so you've another way to show the difference (not being able to hear as well for example). Could also be neat to be a catlike race. Your adding a whole new appendage! how weird would that feel? *grins* Oh you simply MUST write it. even if it's just as an exercise!
     
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  5. RauthrMystic

    RauthrMystic Elf Beta Reader Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    Perhaps that is one of the biggest disconnects? That in the vast number of LitRPG it is simply an Avatar choice with no real impact. And i'm glad to find another....dehumanist? no idea but still! Hello!
     
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  6. Dragovian

    Dragovian Over-enthusiastic Tank wtb Pocket Healer LitRPG Author Beta Reader Citizen

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    I think it's the oldschool D&D player in me. I would much rather play with abilities like Enhanced Perception being a matter of "this race has better hearing and sense of smell than humans" and the leveling up being a matter of the player learning to interpret the cues the game's giving them ("huh...what's that weird smell? HOLY SHIT SPIDERS!" developing into "Oh god, I smell spiders," for example), than simply have a human who's getting told by the game, "Hey, there's spiders over there."

    Possibly, this is a sign I should just be writing fantasy rather than LitRPG, since I know the game intrusion aspect is a big part of the draw for many readers.
     
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  7. Jay

    Jay Hiatus. LitRPG Author Beta Reader Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    That's pretty much my take. I almost never play humans because I have to be human all day. Why would I want to be one if I had the choice to be another species/race?:p I love the Cathar in SWTOR. Normally do trolls in WoW. Etc. I like the most "inhuman" choices 9 times out of 10.
     
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  8. Viergacht

    Viergacht Thunderdragon LitRPG Author Roleplaying Beta Reader Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    SAME. I've got a couple of things simmering in the writing department and none of the MCs is human (or remains human for very long).
    As Wyvern said, you have to be human all the time, if you get to be in a fantasy world why not be as fantastic as possible? Same reason I usually don't watch movies that don't involve werewolves, magic, aliens and whatever - if I'm gonna watch something not real, I want it to be VERY unreal. If I wanted to watch a drama about real people facing real problems, I'd watch the news.
     
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  9. Simon Fiasco

    Simon Fiasco Bringer of the Avocadopocalypse LitRPG Author Beta Reader Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    It’s funny, when I play games, I generally don’t play human characters. I find them boring. In World of Warcraft, for instance, of the twelve characters on my main server, only one is human. Three are Draenei. Two are Pandaren. Two are Dwarves. Two are Night Elves. One is a Gnome. One is Worgen. The human and the Worgen, who is also technically human, are the ones I play the least.

    Despite this, the main character in my upcoming book is human, at least in his initial incarnation. There are other races available to select; I’ve already introduced orcs and goblins, for instance, and there are some non-standard races in the world, too. It really isn’t wish fulfillment for me, so much as writing something that is familiar. Maybe a future story I will include a more exotic main character, but for my first story, it’s a matter of reading what I know.

    I know how to be a human.
     
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  10. Jay

    Jay Hiatus. LitRPG Author Beta Reader Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    Nothing wrong with writing human and having a human MC doesn't ruin a story for me. So I'm not meaning to come across as grumbling at anyone whose more comfortable writing a human MC. As I said before, I assume that's probably why most MCs are human. The writers are comfortable and the readers find it easier to connect with the human MC.

    However, I always thought it would be pretty interesting to have race or species be at least a minor part of a story. Dragon Seed is the only series I've read that actually has worldbuilding to do with the MC's new race/species and has it have an effect on the character and story, at least to some degree.

    I think it could be a lot of fun to have an MC not only have to figure out a new world, but things like dealing with new or sharper senses, having a tail, maybe having four legs (centaur MC maybe?), or something like that. Just adds (for me anyway) to the whole experience of fantasy and a new existence in a game or world.
     
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  11. Simon Fiasco

    Simon Fiasco Bringer of the Avocadopocalypse LitRPG Author Beta Reader Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    Here’s the other thing: there is always the matter of marketability. As writers, we are told two things about the audience for whom we write.
    1. Write for your audience.
    2. You are your audience.
    These two things don’t always match up. The reason Star Wars, for instance, always focuses on human characters (outside of the budget and special effects of the late 70s and early 80s prohibiting realistic aliens) is because marketing teams don’t feel like audiences, on the whole, will have as much empathy for non-human characters. If we ever see a Star Wars film with a non-human main character, it will likely be a near-human, like a Chiss or Twi’lek, so there is still some recognizable humanity.

    Still, most fantasy races really are near-human in that way. Take Warcraft as an example. Orcs are burly green humans with anger issues. Goblins are diminutive humans with outsized facial features and excessive greed. Elves are tall humans with long ears and glowing eyes who just happen to live a long time. Dwarves are short, stocky humans with Scottish accents who like to blow things up. To truly make a story different, there should be something more to the character, to the race.

    If we do that, however, we risk alienating our audience. So we can choose: write for ourselves, or write for a wider audience.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2018
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  12. Viergacht

    Viergacht Thunderdragon LitRPG Author Roleplaying Beta Reader Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    I think there's a huuuuuuuuuuge untapped marketplace for nonhuman MCs.

    Have folks who say this done any type of scientific survey? Or are they just barfing up the stuff they've heard and taken on faith? Have they even looked at how big the furry fandom is? Or whatever you call the fandom for people who like monsters? I think there's plenty of evidence, from Second Life to Shape of Water's Oscar and the tremendous popularity of nonhuman characters show that's not true.

    Also, LitRPG is hardly mainstream. And it's based on games which often have very popular nonhuman character options.

    Whoever writes the first furry LitRPG to get popular is going to be basically printing money, is what I'm saying here.
     
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  13. Jay

    Jay Hiatus. LitRPG Author Beta Reader Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    That's fair and something I think about. And I agree. A lot of MMO races are just "humans with x feature", which is kind of sad to me. I'd like a bit more "inhuman" in the other species/races. Normally if they're "inhuman" like Trolls or something, they just add something "taboo" and "gross" like cannibalism.:rolleyes: Now that said, I do think WoW and the Warcraft games have some good lore (although it's suffered a bit in recent expansions and years). The Troll Loa are fascinating. I like the idea of the matriarchal society of the Night Elves, even if it's mostly a Drow-inspired culture. The Tauren are a very neat race as well. Draenei are awesome and I wish they had a bit more lore to them. Etc.

    It's hard to make something completely inhuman because, well, we're humans. Writing completely outside one's experience is difficult to do convincingly and also can be hard on readers to connect with. Personally I love trying and I enjoy trying to imagine how being 300+ years would be, or having sharper senses, or being basically a minotaur, and other things. I get not everyone does, but I feel there is a market out there for that. I mean, I can't be the only one that enjoys that right?:eek:

    Furry LitRPG, huh? That's an interesting idea. The first idea that pops into my head is an MMO version of like...Disney's old Robin Hood with the fox and the bear and all the other animals.:D It could definitely have a lot of fun potential for animal races. Things like..wolves could have sharper senses of smell. Mice could be good at hiding and sneaking. Cats could have bonuses to climbing. Endless potential!

    I actually had a half-formed idea that I didn't mess with much, but something like a player getting put into a game like WolfQuest and having to learn how to survive as an animal, but with the LitRPG "flavor" of stats, combat, and abilities with levels.
     
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  14. Dragovian

    Dragovian Over-enthusiastic Tank wtb Pocket Healer LitRPG Author Beta Reader Citizen

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    I'm going to fess up to the fact that I've spent so many years role-playing non-humans (giant alien robots, Pandaren, Worgen, dragons) that I find it genuinely stifling to write boring old humans who don't have optics to brighten and dim, ears to angle back in annoyance or forward in interest, tails to lash or dorsal ridges to raise. Human body language is so LIMITED. :p
     
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  15. Jay

    Jay Hiatus. LitRPG Author Beta Reader Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    Ha! It really is when you think about it! 'Nonhumans' often have so many options for body language and expression that humans completely lack. Even "mostly human" ones like Blood or Night Elves can do ear wiggles and express with those long eyebrows!

    [​IMG]
     
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  16. RauthrMystic

    RauthrMystic Elf Beta Reader Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    I'm not sure I get it. Although seeing a character 'earn' a race could be quite entertaining. Or do some d&d 'bloodline' stuff. There are ways to make a human more interesting. (Though I'd still want to be an elf lol)
     
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  17. RauthrMystic

    RauthrMystic Elf Beta Reader Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    I agree on the Dragon Seed bit. The cool thing about LitRPG is that we get to put 'real life' characters in the games/genres we love. It's nice to be able to see that reflected in more than the ability to 'level up'.
     
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  18. RauthrMystic

    RauthrMystic Elf Beta Reader Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    I'm not entirely certain how I feel about logic being brought to the conversation! =-p People who are reading LitRPG are fantasy or scifi people...or both. It's hard for me to see them (as an audience) having a problem with a human playing a different race. As you said, it should be MORE. That being said I an only think of one story where a character becomes a different race..an elf of some sort (murky? murk? murkwood?) Regardless I've forgotten the title but even in that story there really isn't any discernible difference for the MC. I've really only seen the race actually matter in Dragon Seed. I'm rambling. I"m sorry. See what your logic has done?
     
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  19. RauthrMystic

    RauthrMystic Elf Beta Reader Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    I didn't even consider thinking outside of LitRPG. one of my all time favorite movies has a human who changes race: Avatar (James Cameron's) That was a huge blockbuster. I look forward to the second one...when he gets around to it.
     
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  20. RauthrMystic

    RauthrMystic Elf Beta Reader Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    This!!!! I think part of my problem with 'humans' as characters is they are always boring. They follow the d&d mythos that humans bring nothing to the table (adaptability?!) If the character has to be human at least put some effort into it. I mean it's all good slinging spells and such don't get me wrong but if humans are so adaptable then why don't we see any of that in the various human depictions?

    I know, I know. we know what 'human' is and it's easier to capture an audience if they can quickly connect with a character. *sigh* I'm just saying is all.
     
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