I once tried to play D&D with someone who had only ever played the first edition, the original D&D. At the time, second edition had been out for almost a decade and I didn’t think there was that much of a difference between the two. I showed up the day of the game with my second edition books and didn’t think twice. We made characters and I decided to play an elf because I hadn’t played a full blood elf at that point, and I thought it would be interesting. When I told everyone that I was playing an elf, this old-timer looked at me and said, “So, you’re playing a monster?” I hadn’t realized it at the time, but in the original D&D, elves were in the Monster Manual!
In later years I encountered a Dungeon Master who had made Orcs a player character class, only, his Orcs were a bit more Uruk-hai than your standard D&D type. This inspired me to NO END! Imagine it, MONSTERS can be available as a player character class! I absolutely went with it! And thus was born my D&D world! I have FIVE different Dwarven races, FIVE different Elven races, TWO different Orc races, THREE different Gnome races, TWO different Ogre races, THREE different Halfling races, and a race that is completely made up and would normally be considered a monster by most standards! And they’re all for my players!
This is something that I think game developers have finally understood. I mean, we’re playing make-believe here after all! Why play a boring human when you can play a Klingon? Isn’t the point of roleplaying games to get out of your head a bit and have some fun? So, why not play something that is completely different and outside the box? I know for some people, it’s just not their thing and that’s cool, but limiting what can be played in a game is also limiting the game’s overall creativity and excitement! Imagine it, being able to play some of the coolest creatures around!
Now, the downside of playing a monster comes with the role playing. If the world you’re playing in is predominantly made up of humans, playing a monster is going to have you sticking out like a sore thumb, to put it lightly! You’ll have to overcome an absolute ton of challenges in just navigating the world, much less having an adventure! In fact, just staying alive on a daily basis may be your adventure! Then again, that could be really fun! Just take a few tips from everyone’s favorite underdog hero Drizzt Do’Urden and don’t make the locals mad at you! But, you could also do your best to avoid humans and to not get mixed up in their business, how would that look?
This idea isn’t new to gaming, and some games take it further than others! With almost any futuristic game you always have alien races that you’re allowed to play, many of them having abilities far beyond the average human! And it’s no different when you’re playing a monster! The thing that you have to be careful of is the balance of things. No one race should have more advantages than the others. But other than that, I say you should go for it and have fun! The easiest way to do this is to compare the monster stats with those of a beginning human. Go slow, and identify all the differences, then “power down” the monster’s stats and abilities until they are roughly in the same range as the human. It’ll take some tweaking from there, but ask your friends to make suggestions, and eventually, you’ll get there!
However, if you want to be absolutely sure that you are making things as equal as possible, you’re going to have to spend a lot of time on your character and keep checking with people to be sure you are getting it right! The worst thing that can happen in a game is to have one player that is overpowered in comparison to the overall game group! I once heard a story about this very thing happening and the other players in that game group weren’t happy in the slightest! When it comes to D&D though, I liked using the Race Creation Cookbook by LPJ Design. They break it down for you and make it easy to create a Player Character version of Non-Player Character monsters in the books. Just don’t get your hopes up too much! I wanted to play a dragon and after it was all said and done, I was playing a weak hatchling of a baby dragon! But the fairy I designed worked out pretty good!
Overall I would say that playing a monster can be a fun experience, but it certainly isn’t for the newly initiated. If you haven’t been playing RPGs for at least a couple of years, you may want to re-think it. Otherwise, I say have at it! Just don’t be surprised if the locals pull out the pitchforks and torches when you get into town!
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