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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Barbarian in the Playground

    Join Date
    Jul 2010

    Default Logistics of Significant Character Size Differences

    This is more of a fluff discussion, yet looking at some of the crunch is fine too.
    To begin, the size difference here is not a normal 6ft character vs. a 3ft one as that discussion has been done numerous times already. This is more of a look at the logistics and structure of a game where characters can be 9-10 inches in size.
    Running a campaign that features a playable race the size of a typical house cat (or even one that's smaller) is something that has intrigued me recently, though it has some worrisome implications:

    1) How would the race interact with regular human-sized characters?

    Let's face it: humans aren't exactly known for being a tolerant species. I know this doesn't pertain to everyone out there, however historically our race is extremely prone to xenophobia, violence, domination, and subjugation of others, be it ethnic groups, tribes, countries, or even animal species. Being literally ten times the size of another intelligent race makes it very hard to justify these groups existing on equal terms, so the question pops up as to how this smaller race would be viewed and what rights they would have.
    Even in a setting where somehow both races are equal in rights, that doesn't exactly stop the larger one from discriminating against their smaller counterparts. So, what relationship could both species have in this circumstance?

    2) What kind of dangers would the race come up against?

    The problem of disproportionate seizes is no small issue (pardon the pun). Issues that are trivial at our height would be monumental for a race like this. Humans (and similar races) already face pretty large threats in fantasy settings, even if it's something as mundane as an attack by a bear (that is, mundane compared to other fantasy creatures since bears are something dangerous no sane person would willingly face head-on). Looking from the perspective of something much smaller, the average dog (something like a german shepherd or a doberman) would seem as monstrous as a lion would to a full sized human. Plus, minor inconveniences like a large puddle could be as insurmountable as a lake to someone the size of a doll. This would beg the question: what roll would this species serve in a group of adventurers, and how would their challenges differ?

    3) How would the architecture and lifestyle change?

    One of the more overlooked issues with size differences is how the race would shape their environment. There are many considerations to be made for this point, such as where they would get their food, how they would get around, and how architecture would need to be adapted. This can include little things such as tiny ladders, miniature rope bridges, secondary doorways, elevated walkway ledges, and even trained animals like dogs that serve as organized transport over longer distances. Then there are laws that would need to be passed, such as what jobs this race can hold, and what i expected when interacting with them. There is a lot to consider, and many ways that these things could be implemented. So, how would a world with such a small race be different from our own?

    What are all your thoughts and ideas for something like this? I'd like to hear your views here.

    EDIT: One thing I forgot to add here is that the smaller race is still Humanoid and could look and act similar regular human (think Borrowers for smaller cases or people the size of porcelain dolls for larger ones). The other thing is that this race is playable, so I would appreciate how PCs in a mixed group (some regular humans and some smaller ones) might interact, and how one should go about building adventures so that neither side is left out or neglected.
    Last edited by ZeroGear; 2017-03-22 at 05:25 PM.
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  2. - Top - End - #2
    Ettin in the Playground
    Join Date
    Sep 2009

    Default Re: Logistics of Significant Character Size Differences

    1) Look at how humans in real life interact with cats, crows etc. small animals.

    It's entirely possible the size difference puts one species in a niche completely different from local humans. Which means there won't be much competition over land or resources, nor is there strong incentive for interaction. You might have one species living its life relatively apathetic of the other.

    2) Same as above: a big enough size difference puts a species in an entirely different niche. Some large predators which are hostile to humans might ignore, or live in symbiosis with, smaller species. On the other hand, some small predators which are usually non-issues to humans (rats, weasels, crows etc.) might prey upon the small species.

    Don't overestimate environmental obstacles. Due to the way square-cube law works, smaller animals are often proportionally stronger than humans, meaning they can swim, climb, leap etc. over things. A puddle would not be remotely as big of a concern as a lake is to a human, a sufficiently light animal of the proposed size could literally run across water.

    Now, human-sized creatures can obviously lift much more in absolute terms, so construction and buildings made with humans in mind might pose some navigational problems. Long-distance travel is another thing where bigger animals usually triumph. At short distances, small creatures can be as fast or faster than humans, but they consume energy at a faster rate, meaning they have to eat more relative to their size, and will get exhausted sooner.

    3) look at how things like ants, mice, rats and crows manage to co-exist in human-built environments and what they do to make their nests in human dwellings. Do not just think "humans but small".

    For inspiration outside nature or tabletop RPGs, you might want to take a look at Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap.
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  3. - Top - End - #3
    Titan in the Playground
    Knaight's Avatar

    Join Date
    Aug 2008

    Default Re: Logistics of Significant Character Size Differences

    I'd actually recommend looking into precedent here - I can give details, but they aren't going to be comparable to the tens of pages that are relevant from, say, Mouseguard.
    I would really like to see a game made by Obryn, Kurald Galain, and Knaight from these forums.

    I'm not joking one bit. I would buy the hell out of that.
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  4. - Top - End - #4
    Ettin in the Playground
    Join Date
    Feb 2012

    Default Re: Logistics of Significant Character Size Differences

    Some of the stuff asked about will depend heavily on game mechanics. Famously, the house cat of 3.X is a very dangerous animal perfectly capable of murdering a human commoner. But since you're asking the questions, I'm kind of presuming this isn't the case. The small beings, even if they gang up on the humans, stand little to no chance in a fight, and even if they win, they'd suffer serious casualties, which would not be worth it.

    If this is the case, I would expect the small folk to hide as a matter of course. When I look out my window, I can see creatures of those rough sizes. I see cats, because humans don't actively harm cats (most of the time). I see pigeons, gulls and crows, who can escape us quickly and so are willing to risk having us within a certain distance.
    What I rarely see are hares, mice, rats and foxes, though I know they're out there in considerable numbers. They hide and avoid humans as much as possible.

    So I would expect the small folk to act according to custom in the area. If they coexist peacefully with one village, they can be seen walking in the streets (though they might well shy away from strangers, especially if they came close). Elsewhere, you would rarely see them, because they hide in the woods and scrublands, and perhaps prefer to come out at night (especially if they have keener senses than humans). Humans could find companionship with such small people useful in many crafts where our big ahnds and fingers are clumsy compared to the small folk. And they could subsist on much smaller salaries than humans.
    Indeed, they would have numerous advantages in being small. They can have a far higher population density compared to humans, because they need much less space to live on, they need to cultivate much less land per person, and/or they need to hunt and gather much smaller amounts. They could have very different domesticated animals, such as rodents where we keep cattle, sheep and goats, though it is possible that they can keep some pigs, cows or horses much like we keep elephants.

    In a party, they could contribute with stealth and infiltration better than humans, and with knowledge presumably on a similar level as humans. In fights they would need to have magic or poison or something similar to be of much use aganst most foes, some sort of size equalizer. On the other hand, they would be unlikely to be targeted until their human friends were down if they had no particular impact on how the fight went.
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