The Red Box Blog

Ramblings about D&D.

Turning Clichés on Their Head – Part 2

For the most part, using clichés is looked down upon in DMing almost as much as it is in writing; we have all heard groans when we’ve gone used one a few too many times. But there can be times that using clichés can be a great bonus. One of those times, which I am going to be exploring in this series, is to elicit a particular expectation from your players, with the intention of breaking that expectation; make the players think you are going the cliché route, only to take a different path entirely. (In case you missed part 1)

The Racial Cliché

There are more clichés associated with the long standing races in D&D than I could ever hope to list; many of these clichés come from the fantasy genre as a whole, not just D&D. In particular dwarves, elves and halflings, because they are so ubiquitous in fantasy all have scores of clichés associated with them. But in many cases the same sort of techniques can be used to turn over any or all of a races cliché.

Don't bother with D&D movie drinking games; you probably can't swallow fast enough.

The Part Player

This is a character who for one reason or another grew up away from his native culture, and so is very different than the typical member of his race. However, he has a strong desire to be a part of the culture of his people. Unfortunately, he doesn’t really understand what the culture of his people is; he only knows his people through the same lens that other races view them. As a result, he plays out his desire to be a part of his races culture by acting out various stereotypes.

For example, you might have a dwarf who was raised by halflings, and carries a very halfling like attitude towards life. But it an attempt to be more like what he feels a real dwarf should act like he makes constant mining analogies, complains about elves, and seeks out strong dwarven ales.

The Family Heritage

Something you can observe in some real life immigrant families is that their image of their homeland becomes frozen in time at the moment the family left. As the years and even generations pass the family does their best to carry on the traditions of their homeland. Meanwhile the homeland is not frozen in time and has continued to grow and progress in its own way.

This can be used in a game setting if you apply the assumption that the clichés of the various fantasy races were once true in your world, but they are not any more. However, even though the homelands of the elves, dwarves and halflings have moved on from the clichés that were true in the past, members of those races who have been living in human lands still carry on those clichés because that is their heritage and their connection to the past.

Have any other ideas on how to use racial clichés in an original way? Let me know.

Have an opinion about this article? I love comments. Please feel welcome to leave your thoughts.

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November 26, 2010 - Posted by | Dungeons and Dragons, RPGs | ,

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