Friday, August 20, 2021

Demi-Humans In Race-as-Class TSR East

 I'm still not 100% sure that I want to go back to demi-human classes, at least not for my main West Marches game (I and the players are pretty happy with separate race and class there), but if I ever wrap up West Marches and start East Marches (or start running it as a side campaign), I am leaning toward that, as discussed in my previous post on classes for a pseudo-combined Flying Swordsmen/Chanbara type game. 

The problem I'm having is that I need to pare down the list of demi-humans. Sticking to core rule books, not supplements, BX/BECMI has just three. AD&D has six. AD&D OA has three, but one of them is really a dozen different types, and another has three subtypes. 3E OA has an additional two or three races added on to AD&D's OA races. 5E has the AD&D races plus two more. But AD&D, both versions of OA, and 5E all have separate race and class. So the precedent is for only a few demi-humans in a race-as-class set-up. Sure, I could have more, but then if there are more demi-human classes than human only classes, will it really be a humanocentric campaign? Probably not. 

So, my options, from 1E OA, 3E OA, Chanbara, and my TSR-East rules are: 

Dokkaebi (Korean version of Japanese oni, more or less), big scary looking guys who are sometimes mischievous goblins and sometimes punishers of the wicked. 6-7' tall. Red, blue or yellow skin. Wild hair. Tusks and horns. [TSR-East]

Gumiho (Korean fox fairies, also spelled kumiho, equivalent to Japanese kitsune), tricky creatures with lots of magical powers, who most often are after human souls in the legends, but occasionally are helpful. 4' tall. Red or white fur, but able to transform into human form. Nine tails at full power (more tails = more magic in the legends, and the name is literally "nine tailed fox" as just regular fox is "yeou"). [Chanbara, TSR-East]

Hengeyokai (Japanese for transforming spirit/fairy), animal shapeshifters in OA, but in Japanese legend could be anything from a rock to an animal to a household tool! Gumiho and Tanuki would actually fall under this race if I added them in. OA has the forms they transform into as one of a dozen animal options (mammals, birds, fish), a human form, and a hybrid form. If I add them in, then I'd probably limit the number of forms to animal and hybrid only, and have fewer options for animal type. [1E OA, 3E OA, TSR-East]

Kappa (Japanese water imps), small water creatures resembling a cross between a turtle, frog, and monkey. They like wrestling, cucumbers, and sucking the souls of drowning humans from their buttholes in the legends. 3-4' tall. Green skin. Shells on their backs. The tops of their skulls are concave, and hold magical water that gives them strength in the legends. [Chanbara]

Koropokuru (Ainu fair folk), dwarves. 1E OA has them as gruff barbarians, legends have them as similar to primitive but pastoral gnomes or brownies. 3' tall. Typically tanned skin. Generally good hearted but suspicious. [1E OA, 3E OA, TSR-East]

Naga (Hindu snake-spirits), which are the same name as a monster type, but also pretty much just like yuan-ti. From 3E OA's Rokugan/L5R material, I have no desire to add these guys, but put them on the list for completeness. 10-15' long. Humanoid torso, snake the rest of the way down. [3E OA]

Nezumi (rat-men made up for Rokugan/L5R as far as I can tell), which again I don't feel the need to include these guys, but they appear in one of the sources for this list so here they are. 4' tall. Furry. Stinky. Long tails. Kinda like wererats who can't transform or infect people and not immune to normal weapons. [3E OA]

Shenseng, or Spirit Born (or Spirit Folk in the OA books), which in my estimation should be based on Japanese tales of spirit foundlings like Momotaro, Kaguya-hime, and Kintaro, but are basically half-spirit/half-human "elves" in the OA books. OA has them as bamboo, river, and ocean subtypes. 5-6' tall. Human-like, but prettier. Get benefits from being in the environment of their subtype in OA. Get benefits to interaction/followers in TSR-East.  [1E OA, 3E OA, TSR-East]

Tanuki (Japanese raccoon-dog fairies), are again sometimes tricksters and sometimes protectors/benefactors to humans, depending on the story. Some legends give magical powers to their oversized scrotums, others say they can transform into human form. 3' tall. Raccoon-like fur, dog-like faces (hence the English name). [Chanbara]

Tengu (Japanese crow-men), usually depicted as wild mountain goblins and tricksters in legends, but occasionally legends tell of them training swordsmanship to humans they take a liking to. Kotengu (small tengu) have crow or kite heads and wings, while daitengu (great tengu) have humanoid heads, usually red skinned, with very long noses. 3-4' tall. Feathered bodies with wings and bird heads (or red-skinned and long nosed winged humanoids). [Chanbara, TSR-East]

Vanara (Indian humanoid monkeys), although in myths they are usually described as beast-like, not necessarily monkeys, the most famous mythical vanara is Hanuman, who is always described/depicted as a humanoid monkey. Probably also the inspiration for Son Wukong (Son Goku - yes, this name may be familiar to some of you), the Monkey King of Chinese legendary novel Journey to the West. 4-5' tall. Brown to grayish fur. Prehensile tails. Curious and friendly (at least according to 3E OA). [3E OA, TSR-East]


So obviously 11 races in addition to humans is too many, especially when there are only 5 human classes (although with subclasses there are really 16). I already mentioned I'll not be considering the Rokugan races of Nezumi and Naga because they just don't thrill me. So that's down to 9 options unless people in the comments really convince me to keep one or both of these. Also, if I use hengeyokai, again as mentioned above, gumiho and tanuki are already included there so that takes it down to 7. If I don't use hengeyokai, 8 options remain. 

TSR-East already has the Dokkaebi, Gumiho, Koropokuru, Spirit Born, Tengu and Vanara with stats for separate race and class, so it wouldn't be hard to manipulate those into classes, but it's still a few too many options. 

At the playground with my son yesterday, I jotted down an idea to cut it down to Dokkaebi, Koropokuru, Shenseng (spirit born), and Vanara. That's easily doable, but while I don't want to overdo the demi-humans, I also feel like I'm leaving out some cool options. 

So, I'd like to ask you readers what you think. Which of the races listed above would you consider the top three "must haves" for an Asian fantasy inspired campaign? Or should I just stick to humans only, as in Flying Swordsmen or Chanbara minus the last page?

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