Archer wrote:Very true, but every human culture, no matter how different, have a lot of common in that they still are human. If you take a human from 800AD France and place him in a room with a human from china 800AD, they still have enough common to be able to find a way to communicate, even though their cultures and languages are very different.
There is a philosophical can of worms here -- can you really "know" something that is alien, or do we have to translate it into human iconography? (a cultural application of the Uncertainty principal).
I think you overinterpreted my last part of the post, with the word "alien" I was refering to non-humans in a science fiction setting. Much like Star Trek, Star Wars, etc.
I was trying to illustrate why in sci fi series there has been so many aliens that looks like humans, and really are just an aspect of humanity. It brings a new perspective, a new point of view, and introduces a lot of complexity.
And on that note, your comment are actually relevant.
First of all, yes, there is a potential can of worms here. And we could argue this until the sun dies, but that was not why I made the post. I made the post just to try and explain why it is not necessarily a bad thing to play non-human characters.
As for the relevancy of your comment about us knowing something that is "alien". By the very definition of the word, something alien is something that we know nothing about, so when we finally know everything about it, it is no longer alien. And there we have a can of worms (lets not open that).
So to get to the point; Trying to make non-human races so strange so bizarre that they woul become "alien" quickly becomes a moot point. They will always be an aspect of humanity. So why try to make them as extreme as possible when it comes to how they look (except to make them look "cool")? let them be in large part humans with pointy ears when it comes to appearance (changing the way they look rarely makes them more alien). Instead go to the core of their culture, their values, their views upon themselves, and how they view other races. There is where you can make fundamental changes that brings something new, something unique, and something entertaining to the setting.
But even here, it is also important to not go to extreme lengths, as it is easy to make something so bizarre (not alien, just bizarre) that no player would be able to identify with or relate to the race in question.
A good example would be having a player play a race that thinks like bees, or have the same view on the world as a dog.
The most reasonable way to handle non-human races, and their cultures, values, etc. are by using what they already are; an aspect of humanity, and in some ways tweak it slightly here and there to provide a new and unique perspective on something that is part of human nature.
And frankly, while they are somewhat boring due to lack of detail, some examples here are a Vulcans (star trek) that are an aspect of humanitys intellectual thirst for knowledge, and tolkiens elves which are our want for immortality, youth, and beauty.
This is where you begin with creating something that adds a new perspective on an aspect of humanity, and by developing it further to give more detail and flesh them out more (culture wise), you end up with a race that a player can identify with and relate to.
That is how aliens in science fiction are made, and that is how playable non-human races should be made in fantasy. But that of course, is just my point of view, and as always there are other perpectives. The method I have described is however, something that I know is used when creating aliens in sci fi movies and series.
(There is even litterature about the subject, but at the moment I can not remember any specific books to recommend).
That said, I really, really, hope that I have made myself clear now (I strongly suspect that I have not).
That said, playing non-humans in Glorantha is quite fun, but it's not for novices. I think it works better if players experience the unique (i.e. non-Tolkein) demi-humans from the outside before fully exploring them from the inside.
After many years of playing RPGs, I think I can say that I do not think that playing even "humanlike" non-humans in any fantasy or science fiction setting are for novices. Novice players tend to play them because they look "cool", or have "cool" abilities.
But that is not really the strenght of using non-human races in a fantasy/science fiction setting in the first place. So I have to agree.
Would I start with a new group of players now, I would try to get them to start playing humans, and eventually start experiencing non-human characters as they become more mature role-players.