How far from human do you enjoy getting the chance to be in an RPG?
I’m picking another from the list of alternative questions. It has been extended on the Casting Shadows blog, just in time for Day 24, which asks about pay-what-you-want publishers, a subject about which I have no comment to make.
To the matter in hand then.
I’m less concerned about playing humans than I am with playing characters that I can relate to and hopefully do justice with from my humble human perspective.
Most alternative races in fantasy games I have come across typify a subset of the broad spectrum of human emotions, ticks and drivers. At least, they tend to be expressed as a limited palette of the scope of humanity, or at least heavily emphasising some elements to the exclusion of others.
That sounds like a limitation, but I certainly don’t object to it. The constraints help me focus on a particular aspect that I might want to explore with a character. It’s a great opportunity to exaggerate or subvert the tropes. And as much as I enjoy the versatility, potential and fragility of playing a human, alternatives help to quickly settle on a characterisation and keep the portrayal sharp.
If I want broad scope options, I’ll play human. If I have a clear character concept and there’s a non-human that fits, then that’s always a possibility to entertain.
What I am unlikely to do is take a non-human for the sake of it, and I’m particularly turned off by non-humans that are basically just anthropomorphised in a universe that is essentially just human-populated. It seems particularly prevalent with sci-fi or crypto-Egyptian settings. Thundercats was great fun to watch, but the feline biped and its animal kingdom variants as playable species just niggle me. Almost as much as humanoids with just enough bumps, lumps or alternative patterned skins to mark them as something … alien. Star Wars and Star Trek have a lot to answer for. And don’t get me started on Babylon 5. Or I’ll set Mumm-Ra onto you.