It’s Tolkien all the way down
More thoughts as I re-read 5e… For some reason it’s just now striking me as kinda absurd how ubiquitous is the presence of Tolkien’s races in so much fantasy media. I’m reading the Races chapter, and the opening bits of fiction from various TSR novels — and the race descriptions themselves — all crib so heavily from Tolkien. Maybe the feeling is enhanced by my having recently re-read Feist’s Magician, which itself is cribbed form D&D (and thus cribbed from Tolkien) and so the presence of these races (save hobbits) and their attendant stereotypes doesn’t even bear explanation; it’s a fantasy world, so of course there are gruff dwarves with Scottish accents* and lithe elves who live in the forest.
I dunno. I’m not sure why this hasn’t stuck me as forcefully before. Why do so many games and stories have these races, and why are they almost universally the same? Is it all D&D’s fault?
I mean, SF has tropes like these as well — warrior races, cat people, aloof races — but I don’t feel like they all draw on the exact same source as do fantasy sources.
I also am now finding silly the idea that each race has very specific behaviors and trope, except humans, who are basically “whatever”. I mean, why aren’t elves “whatever”? It sort of makes me long for Iron Heroes, which was a human-only game, but part of charges was picking cultural tropes/abilities for your PC, essentially rolling your own “race” that reflected whatever the heck you wanted.
I dunno. This seems a day late and a dollar short, and expecting more from D&D is probably unwise.
* Some digging says the Scotts thing actually comes from Poul Anderson’s Three Hearts and Three Lions, which was another primary influence on D&D.