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Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e
by Nirav S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/29/2020 13:07:55

This is an excellent approach to dismantling the inherently colonialist "races" system in 5e. Excited to use this and see more in the same vein!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e
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Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e
by John W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/21/2020 21:11:12

Love this approach! Is it perfect, no, but neither is the game it supports. But nearly all of us have been homebrewing to make it all work for our own unique groups for as long as we've been playing.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e
by Matthew D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/20/2020 15:10:55

Buyer Beware: This zine only covers character creation options available in the OGL. Meaning all discussion of options such as drow, stout "halflings", wood elves, and forest gnomes is absent. I feel it would have been appropriate for the product description to explicitly mention this.

That being said, I recommend purchasing both this zine and the separate purchase of "Custom Ancestry & Cultures". It broadens and enriches the player's palette of choices when it comes to character creation. The illustrations are well formed and the cover art is a gorgeous rendition of the roleplay anyone can experience 5e.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e
by Jim B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/19/2020 13:36:12

This is good stuff, addressing something that has been problematic for a long time. It bugged me way back when I read Lord of the Rings -- that the only good orc is a dead orc, and any cross-breeding was considered a vile and unnatural abomination. It was the language of out-and-out racism, but somehow it became okay when orcish inferiority was a fact of the setting. And then D&D inherited that view. From a storytelling perspective, sometimes you want clear Good Guys and Bad Guys, but the assumption that was still problematic was "they're all like that, they're born that way, they have no choice."

Separating ancestry and culture makes sense. It isn't hard to grasp.

I get the idea behind erring on the side of culture over ancestry, but even so, there's still room for a nature/nurture debate to decide which elements belong on which side of that divide. For example, you could split the dwarf's +2 Con modifier so that it's part ancestry (+1) and part culture (+1). This is especially true if you apply the same principles to NPC cultures; giants really are bigger and stronger than pixies. I much prefer having NPCs and PCs playing by the same rules and systems.

One could go a little farther and tie elements to backgrounds instead of monolothic cultures. For example, an elf entertainer and a dwarf entertainer might have things in common (e.g. +1 Cha) that a dwarf entertainer and a dwarf warrior don't. The cultural differences are in the menu of backgrounds a given culture offers. A rough, violent culture wouldn't offer the same mix of backgrounds that a kind, peaceful culture would offer. A sophisticated, urbanized, educated, wealthy culture wouldn't have the same mix as a scattered nomadic culture that's struggling to survive. High elves and wood elves might not have the exact same menu of backgrounds. This could add some complexity, but a) you might already have different background options for different cultures, and b) you don't have to map it all out in advance; you can build as you go.

My one concern about the ancestry & culture approach is that the minmaxers will take even LONGER to create their characters. The player who said "I'm a dwarf raised by dwarves" and the one who said "I'm a human raised by elves" are done, while we wait around for the minmaxer to read over every option, weigh every possible combination, and go on at length about turning themselves into the ideal super-character.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e
by Matthias B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/18/2020 15:38:48

I've bought this book and I am very disappointed. Instead of a couple of good rules which allow to create characters of mixed acestry and/or a different culture (like Pathfinder 1e did in the 'Advanced Race Guide'), simplly gives us just some examples how to split the a D&D 5e race into an ancestry and a culture (something 5e already did with most races). And they put the ability modifiers in the culture. This leads to the weird effect that a halfling raised in an orcish culture will be stronger than an orc raised among halflings. The only good thing about this book is most of the art. The rest should be replaced with sensible rules which allow DMs and Players to create their own species (I prefer species to ancestry because fantasy races are different species and not simply just different races or ancetsries) and cultures.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e
by Brian Z. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/17/2020 18:49:54

Like many, I would like to have seen the author take the ideas presented in "Ancestry and Culture" even further, but considering the design intent this is a fantastic piece of game design. This product takes some of the problematic elements of how DnD treats race and with a relatively simple tweak, shifts the burden over to "culture" (a reimagining of "subrace"). I highly recommend this as a addition to your game to replace the race rules in the PHB. It's an easy add, both mechanically and mentally. Arcanist Press will get me to purchase a 2nd Edition of "Ancestry and Culture" if they take the "anti-essentialist culture" in Appendix A and work those into the core of these rules, replace the term "mixed ancestry" with "shared ancestry" (too nitpicky?) and update the "diverse cultural traits" as "shared cultural traits" that also take into account subcultures and minority cultures (you grew up with your traditionalist elven family within a human dominated city). Arcanist Press will also get more of my money if they develop a DM's Guild version of this product that includes the rest of the PHB subraces and races/subraces from other DnD products! Thanks AP!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e
by George M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/12/2020 14:01:25

I got this book as part of the big Black Lives Matter bundle currently available- lots of good stuff for an excellent cause. As for this particular book, well: if you get strident when discussing whether or not orcs have 'piggish' snouts, then this probably won’t be your cup of tea. For most others though, there are some very interesting ideas here worth looking into that can enrich both your characters & NPCs.

The book starts by delving into the deep historical and cultural (as well as racial) roots of the race designations in the worlds most favorite RPG, pointing out its inflexible and arbitrary limitations. Most of the book discusses how to split the current racial designations into parts that relate to physical characteristics, and parts that can be looked at as being culturally or environmentally rooted. Bifurcating the two gives characters more flexibility in design and in characterization: a halfling raised by orcs, or a human with some dwarfish ancestry has a different outlook and abilities than the out of the box models. The example list they give os broad, but incomplete; the methodology they use is explained clearly enough that it can applied to most any race in 5e with little work. All of this fits well on the current 5e without much fuss; it’s individually optional as needed to suit.

Overall I like the design and feel, and the options are worthy to consider for those players or NPC that are looking for a bit more depth or complexity. Recommended.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e
by Miles M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/11/2020 20:46:39

Really excellent stuff. Iv'e spent a lot of time doing balance work on the 5e races and subraces for my homebrew world, and this product is a big eye opener. Its very well designed, the mechanics are sound, and its both DM and player friendly. Hats off!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e
by Christian Z. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/11/2020 19:43:36

I am so happy that this product is out there! I just echo all the good stuff everyone else is saying on here. Smash racial essentialism with this parsimonious system!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e
by David F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/11/2020 18:21:00

This product is great! It does exactly what it sets out to do - it gives players and game masters the tools to split racial abilities into those the character is born with, and those the character learns or develops as a product of their upbringing immersed in a race's culture. It lets you mix and match the two, providing great customization and removing some of the more problematic aspects of the source material. I am very glad I bought this (and the expansion book, too) and I look forward to using these rules to drastically improve my next campaign.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e
by Sascha K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/11/2020 04:34:02

This is the worst product I bought for quite some time. I wish I could get a refund. Please, let me explain why.

Game Mechanics What mechanics? They copied the OGL and exchanged the word race traits for ancestral traits and cultural traits. Then “choose what you want” and “check for game balance”. That is, it. I mean there could have been a hybrid table for attributes and cultural influence like in High Adventure Roleplaying (HARP). Or it could be a point buy approach like Hero/Tristat/BESM/GURPS. It could even be an approach after geography or zones of the forgotten realms. Or in the fluff text, like in Wicked FATE. But just reprinting the PH information without modifying? This is the laziest approached that I have seen.

Philosophy The ‘Orcs are people, too’ debate is going on for nearly four decades and my first approach to it was in an adventure called ‘Under the misty mountain’ from the German RPG Midgard in 1983. In the early 90’ I gmed a RM yearlong campaign where the only difference between monster and not monster was the ability to dress correctly. In the group we got a Sphinx, a Uruk-Hai, a Xenomorph, a Skaven and other interesting monsters and only one human. I gmed Beast: the Primordial and several transhumanism games with uplifted species. As a team leader of an international helpdesk I help people from all over the world on a daily basis.

In this product we find a one-sided argumentation that plays to the sensibilities of the author(s). This is not the first time in the RPG scene that this kind of political correctness is asked for. Everyone has different sensibilities and if we all would censor our imagination because of it, then no horror novel, movie or game would ever be present. The same argument, that the RPG games hurt the sensibilities of a certain group and that D&D should be banned we heard a lot in the 80’ from Christian groups. Even the same reasoning that killing imaginary monsters would make us all to killers (or racists in this case) apply.

In the public opinion (as indicated by movie profits) is it worse to harm an animal than a human. Should we not stop to kill those poor animals in RPGs? Be careful the next time your groups encounter wolves or even worse, those sad looking gorillas.

Back to the ‘Orcs are people, too’. This wholly depends on the setting you are playing in. In a world where the gods create races, there are races, and some are better than other. You can read it clearly in Volos Guide where the Xvart described as inferior race as an offspring of a god. There is also this thing called alignment. In the early editions changing the alignment for a monster was not an option. If an Orc was chaotic evil, then every and all orcs were chaotic evil. And if you did not get mighty magic this would not be changed. Killing Orcs was the right thing to do, even Orc babies, because their alignment would not change, even if they tried. Or what about Warhammer, where Orcs are mind-hived fungi? Are those gamers then mycoistic? Then the quotation of NK Jemisin. Sure, that is one way to see things, but if it were so than we would never, ever have the Drow as player race or the Orcs. And was not a thing like ‘The Horde’ from WoW quite successful? Was this because of the racist stereotype everybody did see in the Orcs?

Let us assume in a setting this is not the case and ‘Orcs are people, too’ and this is just a cultural misunderstanding. Where do you draw a line? Does this include every humanoid? Every intelligent lifeform? Is a Mindflayer just another poorly understood alien with an alternative eating habit? Do we relocate the farmers, because the red dragon was the original native and it is his natural behavior to lay everything to waste around his lair?

And then the Tolkien and Gygax bashing. Ad hominin attacks against people who are dead. Do you have even proof of your claims? Painting miniatures is not really a proof. It was common in this time to reconfigure other miniatures because there were no other miniatures except the military troops from the cosim games. Any documents? Do you really have some correspondence or witnesses that shows that Tolkien saw in the Orcs an Asian aggressor or is it just speculation of Mr. Mendez? A lot of people interpreted the Lord of the Rings in a way that Tolkien never thought of and Tolkien even had to write a preface about it. Like that Sauron forces (including the Orcs) were not German Nazi soldiers and LotR was not all about WW2.

A lot of people, if not most of the player, do not play RPGs to be constantly reminded of the real-world problems. Sometimes an Orc is just an Orc and nothing else.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e
by Alec B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/09/2020 15:38:48

Having Kickstarted this, and its extended add-on which tackles custom made and non-SRD material, I can say I think the authors have done a solid first step, presenting useful examples on how to mechancially split ancestry and culture into decoupled parts, while attempting to be sensitive to the topic at hand, and aware of the real world problems and ideological fallacies that should not continue to be perpetuated, and should not have a hold in our gaming, which is an activity meant to bring people together, not divide them.

If I have one problem with this book, and its add-on, is that while I surmise that it was done in an attempt to maintain a sense of continuity and compatibility with the ruleset that it is designed for, and not with any malicious intent, that the book offers up "cultures" which are, unfortunately, defined and named by race. We have an Elven Ancestry, and an Elven Culture. The same for Dwarves, and Halflings, and Orcs. And while none are presented with inherent negative connotations, the fact is, by the very nature of the decoupling proposed and attempted, there should not actually be an elven "culture" - there should be a Woodmarch Culture, an UnderHaven culture, a Roundhill Culture, a Wasteland Nomad Culture, a Militant Redoubt culture, etc. You get the idea. Cultures, as such, grow and are generally defined by the resources, opportunities, pressures, and threats presented by their location or neighbors, or both. A Pastoral Culture would be defined by a mostly isolated society benefitting from bountiful local resources, limited environmental and external threats (natural or national), which may be due to external protection by forces outside the society's awareness, or imposing natural landmarks which prevent large scale threats encroaching, which would produce a bucolic society with limited focus on weapons, armor, and aggressive training or talents. But it is not inherent to halflings or gnomes, though many might pair it with such ancestry based on literary sources.

So, again, I think the core mechanical conceptualization is simple, streamlined, and functional, and will utilize it in my home games, off of which I will build cultures. If I have any wish, it is that though this product has just released, that the authors consider a 2nd edition as they continue publication of products, that pushes past the limit and boundary of an "elven" or "dwarven" culture, or any racial appellation to culture, and dives into a broader application of culture in the games we play.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
Thanks for your insightful words! I largely agree with you -- calling a culture "dwarven" or "elven" transfers the racial essentialism I am trying to combat over to a kind of cultural essentialism, which is why I included Appendix A: "Personalized, Anti-Essentialist Culture". I was hoping that this alternative would address the exact concern you raise. I chose to put that in an Appendix rather than in the main rules, however, simply because I wanted to balance transforming the character creation process with familiarity and ease of use. In short, I wanted these rules to be something folks were likely to try at their tables and, so, I wanted to minimize its complexity. Perhaps I should have used the anti-essentialist cultural option throughout, rather than put it in an appendix. I will *definitely* take your thoughts into consideration if or when I produce a second edition! Thanks for your engagement -- I appreciate it!
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