- I like the juxtaposition, in Skyrim, of the Empire's Renaissance-level tech with the Nords' Migration Era material culture and sensibilities. That Stormcloak officers wear bearskin cloaks makes me inordinately happy. So in my campaign, the pantheon worshiped by the humans is a number of totem animals. And class training (I use the gestalt-character idea from the 3.5e Unearthed Arcana) is provided by initiation societies, many of the initiates wearing the skins of their totem animals. They have two societies that train barbarians—one gestalt barbarian-bards, the other barbarian-rogues—and their totems, and the skins they wear over their armor, are polar bear and wolf, respectively. I'm probably going to come up with another society of paladins (eagles, maybe), but the current one I have is all-female, gestalt paladin-fighters, and worships She-Bear, the totem animal of protection and motherhood.
The elves and dwarves are also gestalt classes, but worship more elemental things—the elf pantheon is headed by the Trunk Father and Root Mother, gods of the world-tree and all of nature, while the heads of the dwarf pantheon are Mother Earth and Father Fire. Both of them have both clerics and druids in their priesthoods (and druids don't regard other societies' druids as comrades—there's no secret druidic language in common to all of them, in my setting, though they can use Sylvan for most of its purposes). The elves' druids, as I mentioned, become treants rather than elementals, and their other gestalt class is barbarian. Also, elf paladins gestalt with sorcerers, while dwarf ones are also clerics.
- I like gestalt characters, but it creates some interesting social issues. Basically, I decided, a setting with gestalt characters has three tiers rather than just the usual two (made up of people in NPC-only classes, and people in PC-classes). Exceptional people in every society are gestalt classes, then there's a second class of adventurer classes like fighters, clerics, and sorcerers (I think certain things, like paladins and druids, only happen in their gestalt combinations), and then finally there's the NPC classes of commoners and experts (warrior and adept having been replaced by their PC-class equivalents).
Or at least, that's how it works for humans. I think the goblin and ogre races (the former including hobgoblins, the latter including orcs) have very few gestalt characters, since they lack the social organization necessary for that sort of cross-training. Meanwhile the demihumans only have gestalt and PC-classes, to reflect the fact that they've got multiple human lifetimes to train. One thing I always preferred about the original D&D is that the NPC elves have the stats of PC elves (who at that stage were basically fighter-mages). In my setting, every dwarf goatherd or elf hunter is a full-fledged fighter or ranger, not a commoner.
- I use a mix of 3e and 3.5 e—which mix I call 3.25e, because I'm a nerd. See, there's things I like in 3.5, like how call lightning doesn't need a pre-existing storm. But I don't like the 3.5 monsters getting huge hit-point boosts, essentially neutering the entire Evocation school (since it didn't make the spells more damaging to match), and I'm on the fence about the "mass X" versions of spells. On the one hand, I see the use of it. On the other, it just seems like it was added in along with the explicit miniatures-rules, which were a blatant sales gimmick (I express ranges in feet, punk, not squares—and you're lucky I don't do it in yards, I learned on 2e don't let's forget). There are just elements in the 3.5 rules that presage the dark age that was 4th Edition.
WotC, back when they weren't just the miniatures-selling arm of Hasbro, and still had a lot of TSR vets on the staff, went to quite a bit of trouble to playtest 3e. 3.5e was, by all accounts, significantly more hastily-assembled. Why? Money, dear boy. They needed to sell us another set of rulebooks; if you didn't buy adventure modules (yes that's still what they're called, I don't care what they say) or campaign settings, and went third-party for your miniatures needs, well, they basically only got $90 of your money, when you bought the three core books. I don't know what the profit-margin was on nigh full-color books, but if college textbooks are any indication $30 per must've been damn near at-cost.
- So I was watching the new My Little Pony with my sister (I only watch that show socially), when I noticed Twilight Sparkle is a wizard, Rarity's a sorcerer, Fluttershy is a ranger, Rainbow Dash is a druid, Applejack is a fighter, and Pinkie Pie is a bard. That last one, provably—her song about laughing at your fears is demonstrably a use of bardic music to counteract a magical fear effect.
- I realized that a very simple path around the OurDwarvesAreAllTheSame problem is to have them A) be friends with the elves, and B) have them be just as nature-minded/druidical as the elves, just in a manner appropriate to their different environment. Come to think of it, maybe (despite my love of Glass equipment in Elder Scrolls) I won't have my dwarves make stuff from red-glowing volcanic glass...but from some kind of fungus.
Of course, then again, both my elves and my dwarves are an unusual riff on the standard versions, by means of being genuinely inhuman—both are pure carnivores, nocturnal, and take on an elemental appearance (wood and lightning with elves, fire and stone with dwarves) when they use certain powers (barbarian rage, for one).
- Speaking of tropes, my world handily averts the FiveRaces. My dwarves and elves are both a mix of High Men with Fairy. The humans are Mundane, and the halflings (they're just pygmy humans—think I'll use Cantonese for their language, i.e. have it be a variant of "common") are Mundane with a small dose of Cute. Everyone partakes equally of Stout, since this world is in the midst of an Ice Age.
As for the FantasyAxisOfEvil, I play things a bit straighter; only the ogres (including orcs) are Savage, while the goblins (including hobgoblins) are a mix of Savage with Crafty. The remnants of a fallen human civilization are Humanoid mixed with Eldritch and Fallen. An evil subrace of dwarves that deliberately "dig too deep" in order to find things to make pacts with, and a subrace of elves who live on big river-barges and practice piracy, slaving, and elf-sacrifice, are Fallen mixed with Eldritch.
- Speaking of, the Ice Age? Yeah, it's magic. Deliberate, too, by the good guys. Nothing like keeping large quantities of your world's water locked up in glaciers to tip the scales when a sea-faring empire is threatening the balance of your world. Ice Ages have a tendency to drastically change coastlines, and seafaring civilizations don't do too well when all their ports vanish in the space of a few centuries.
I got the idea from Navajo and Hopi myth; in Hopi myth, for instance, witches were the reason the previous world had to be abandoned. In my setting, there were two worlds before this one; the elves destroyed the first with lightning when goblins and ogres began to rampage out of control, and the dwarves destroyed the second with fire after the evil elves and dwarves woke a whole passel of Eldritch Abominations. That fallen human empire I mentioned, decadent bunch that they were, is why the elves and dwarves caused the Ice Age in the current world.
- I always hated that humans are portrayed as all-rounders; in my toying with statting-up of my SF story's settings, humans have a favored class (Rogue) and get bonuses to hit with thrown weapons, as well as a bonus relative to other races in dealing with reaction engines (since nobody else uses those anymore). I don't remember if I took away their bonus skill points, but I probably should've—compared to the other species, whose evolution fast-tracked to sapience by virtue of being pack-hunters from the get-go, the leggy hairless apes are half-assing it.
In my D&D setting, while humans still have their D&D traits, they don't have a marked advantage over the demihumans; as I mentioned, all elves and dwarves are members of PC classes if not gestalt classes. Because seriously, people who live that long don't sit around with their thumbs up their butts. Humans also have a more specialized eco-niche—they only live on open terrain, with the dwarves owning the hills, caves, and canyons, the elves having the forests, mountains, and rivers, and the goblins and ogres getting badlands and swamps. Sure, demihumans don't much mind humans passing near or through their territory, but that's mostly because both they and the humans know humanity doesn't have a chance in hell of taking any land from them.
- I have expressed my distaste for half-orcs, since they're largely an excuse for adolescent numbskulls to indulge in rape-fantasies (or soap-operatic melodrama, which is almost as bad). Increasingly the same goes for half-elves (seriously, fellow nerds, have I told you lately what a disgrace you sometimes are?).
In my setting, the only races that can interbreed are humans-halflings, orcs-ogres, and goblins-hobgoblins...because those aren't different races, just different branches of the same races. Some evil mages indulge in experiments with hybridization that create half-orcs and half-elves, but those are the fantasy equivalent of test-tube babies.
Random ruminations and reflections on roleplaying, chiefly of the icosahedral variety, and that, chiefly pertaining to my personal campaign.