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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    GnomeWizardGuy

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    Default Are the races the same species?

    This came up in a game and I wonder what everyone here thinks.

    If humans can interbreed with elves, orcs, Tieflings does that make them all the same species? I mean they are called races and not species. Can all of the races interbreed then?

    What do you think?

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Troll in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

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    Default Re: Are the races the same species?

    It seems humans have very few inhibitions about their sexual partners and are very broad minded. From what I have seen this is not true of all the other races. Elves, dwarfs, fiends, celestials... there are probably some fey-lovers out there as well.

    Of course this does not mean that they are not different species - it depends on if they have genetically viable offspring or not.

    It is also conceivable that the different organisms have a cline type gradient to different characteristics with humans in the middle such that they can interbreed with elves and dragons whilst the two extremes do not interbreed.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Are the races the same species?

    D&D world isnt governed by the same scientific principles that govern ours. That's the only true answer to this question.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

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    Default Re: Are the races the same species?

    I would assume humans in dnd are the exception to the rule.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Are the races the same species?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bobthewizard View Post
    This came up in a game and I wonder what everyone here thinks.

    If humans can interbreed with elves, orcs, Tieflings does that make them all the same species? I mean they are called races and not species. Can all of the races interbreed then?

    What do you think?

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: Are the races the same species?

    Quote Originally Posted by Trask View Post
    D&D world isnt governed by the same scientific principles that govern ours. That's the only true answer to this question.
    This ^

    There's no comparable genetic mechanism in animals on our world. The only way you could try to apply any scientific understanding to the half-humans in D&D would be to consider orcs, elves, humans etc. to have a recent common ancestor and a continual gene flow between the different sub-species, then they'd be like ligers and other hybrids. But given the lore, that doesn't seem to work within the D&D world.

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Clistenes's Avatar

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    Default Re: Are the races the same species?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bobthewizard View Post
    This came up in a game and I wonder what everyone here thinks.

    If humans can interbreed with elves, orcs, Tieflings does that make them all the same species? I mean they are called races and not species. Can all of the races interbreed then?

    What do you think?
    The rule that different species can't produce fertile offspring isn't considered true anymore...

    Coyotes, jackals and wolfs can interbreed and produce fertile offspring. The same goes for brown and polar bears. Several species of felines can interbreed and produce fertile offspring...

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: Are the races the same species?

    I just turned 'half' races into unique ones and not half-breeds.
    Halfelfs are just elves who are born outside of there related realm like felwild and what not.

    Half orcs are wri-orcs. They share some characteristics but are as different as gnomes and halflings are.
    what is the point of living if you can't deadlift?

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  9. - Top - End - #9
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Are the races the same species?

    Magical things like tieflings and dragonborn break the rules because magic. Owlbears exist in D&D, and few people think that you can get them from just introducing an owl to a bear and pumping in some smooth jazz.

    The main remaining catch is that humans can interbreed with elves and orcs, but elf-orc crossbreeds don't exist. Either you have something akin to ring species, or you add just a touch more magic. In one of my sketched out campaigns, elf-orc unions can produce a child, but millennia of racial animosity has seeped into the genes to the point that the baby poisons the mother. Nobody has bothered to see what might happen if such a pregnancy comes to term; few people have the magical might to keep the mother alive through such torment, fewer still are cruel enough to complete an experiment that necessarily involves the horrible torture of the subject, and the vanishingly few who combine both are more likely to do something like graft on octopus tentacles and then try interbreeding you with a dinosaur instead.

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: Are the races the same species?

    Quote Originally Posted by Clistenes View Post
    The rule that different species can't produce fertile offspring isn't considered true anymore...

    Coyotes, jackals and wolfs can interbreed and produce fertile offspring. The same goes for brown and polar bears. Several species of felines can interbreed and produce fertile offspring...
    They all have very recent common ancestors: canis, panthera, and ursus subspecies are all genetically very close with other members of their genus. For comparison, coyotes and wolves diverged from a common ancestor less than 1.5 million years ago compared to the last common ancestor of humans and chimps which was about 6.5 mya.

    The majority of species cannot interbreed. Exceptions prove the rule! :)
    Last edited by Sparhafoc; 2020-01-08 at 04:41 PM.

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Are the races the same species?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bobthewizard View Post
    This came up in a game and I wonder what everyone here thinks.

    If humans can interbreed with elves, orcs, Tieflings does that make them all the same species? I mean they are called races and not species. Can all of the races interbreed then?

    What do you think?
    I do not believe there is an official stance on this and aside from the fact that "race" is largely a holdover from olden days when race was actively used to describe what many now would refer to as "species" and the fact that the lore expressly says Dwarves and Elves were created but makes no mention of how humans came to be, the only real answer is "do what is best for your own game".

    So, IMO....

    I run that all races were magically created via their respective gods (Pelor is the human creator god in this case), all as "lesser images" of some long lost proginator race (in my setting, Empyreans/3.5 called the Titans). Basically, one god (they argue over who) found the original "specs" to that race, tweaked them and created their own race. Another god stole those plans, made their own, rinse and repeat. Io/Tiamat/Bahamut and some of the other animal-styled races are the only ones who went far enough to say "Nope, all your weird little fleshlings can't breed with our weird little fleshlings."

    Tieflings represent a "taint" on the design, all races have tieflings, but the taint overrides the base to create a tiefling who may bear some resemblance to their original species, but is more tiefling than anything else. Aasimars, genasi, etc.. are the same thing. A touch of something greater that overrides the base.

    I use "Star Trek" rules more or less. Humans represent a sort of "middle point" hence why they can breed with almost anything. But elves and orcs are on opposite ends, so it's harder to to have viable pregnancies. Dragonborn, Lizardfolk, Aarkroa(sp), Tabaxi and the like are off on their own spectrum. Purposefully made "too different" by their gods to breed with any other race. Powerful magical creatures (like dragons, elementals, demons and angels) have powerful magic to "help things along".
    Knowledge brings the sting of disillusionment, but the pain teaches perspective.
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  12. - Top - End - #12
    Troll in the Playground
     
    ElfPirate

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    Default Re: Are the races the same species?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sparhafoc View Post
    The majority of species cannot interbreed. Exceptions prove the rule! :)
    "Prove" here is an archaic way of saying "test." It doesn't mean prove in the modern sense of the word. IOW, claims of exceptions are how you test the supposed rule to determine whether or not it really is a rule.

    It's also important to realize that "species" is a category of analysis. It's a framework used to interpret the data about the variety of living creatures, not something actually found in the data. And it doesn't necessarily have any relevance whatsoever to the creatures inhabiting a fantasy world.
    Quote Originally Posted by MaxWilson View Post
    I've tallied up all the points for this thread, and consulted with the debate judges, and the verdict is clear: JoeJ wins the thread.

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Librarian in the Playground Moderator
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    Default Re: Are the races the same species?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sparhafoc View Post
    They all have very recent common ancestors: canis, panthera, and ursus subspecies are all genetically very close with other members of their genus. For comparison, coyotes and wolves diverged from a common ancestor less than 1.5 million years ago compared to the last common ancestor of humans and chimps which was about 6.5 mya.
    Conversely, according to lore, most of the races in D&D are fairly recent creations by deities... like, not even millions of years of evolution, just a bunch of gods made things a few tens of thousands of years ago.

    Their MRCA is "gods" and that's only a handful of generations, for some.
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  14. - Top - End - #14
    Orc in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Are the races the same species?

    They are different species. Sometimes magic/the gods let's them interbreed anyway.

  15. - Top - End - #15
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Are the races the same species?

    Humans actually have an innate magical power that allows them to have children with any living thing.

    At least, that's my headcanon.

  16. - Top - End - #16
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    Beholder

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    Default Re: Are the races the same species?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hytheter View Post
    Humans actually have an innate magical power that allows them to have children with any living thing.

    At least, that's my headcanon.
    That certainly fits with the idea that humans tend to be depicted as an ever encroaching species, spreading outwards and contaminating ever-...

    Oh snap, I think Agent Smith may have been right. >_>

  17. - Top - End - #17
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Lizardfolk

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    Default Re: Are the races the same species?

    Humans are dragons.

    Greedy... Like... Insanely so. More so than other races.

    Territorial.

    Will bone anything and make offspring. However, dragon x human relations have produced the most varied of offspring (Silverbrow Humans, anyone?)

    Humans and Dragons, in D&D, share a common ancestor.

  18. - Top - End - #18
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: Are the races the same species?

    Quote Originally Posted by JoeJ View Post
    "Prove" here is an archaic way of saying "test."
    I know, little aside:

    Not really. It is a proverb that stems from latin legal procedures and Cicero quote with the meaning of "confirm". The same saying can be found in languages other than English with their current unambiguous "confirm" equivalent being used.

    The fact that the phrase has been used in more recent years "improperly" - under quotes - should not make it forget what the original meaning of the proverb is (as is in places where people aren't Anglophones.)
    Last edited by ThePolarBear; 2020-01-09 at 08:20 AM.

  19. - Top - End - #19
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: Are the races the same species?

    Quote Originally Posted by JoeJ View Post
    "Prove" here is an archaic way of saying "test." It doesn't mean prove in the modern sense of the word. IOW, claims of exceptions are how you test the supposed rule to determine whether or not it really is a rule.
    That's literally how I was using it, and the point resides therein: 'specie' is a discrete unit of categorization we use to make sense of the mess of the real world. By and large, those units make sense in the context they're used, but when speciation is recent and genomes are very similar, even with very apparent visible differences, it's not exactly clear at what moment we should be deciding that 2 populations represent different species; what percentage of difference represents the Rubicon to cross.


    Quote Originally Posted by JoeJ View Post
    It's also important to realize that "species" is a category of analysis. It's a framework used to interpret the data about the variety of living creatures, not something actually found in the data. And it doesn't necessarily have any relevance whatsoever to the creatures inhabiting a fantasy world.
    That's what I was saying.

  20. - Top - End - #20
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: Are the races the same species?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    Conversely, according to lore, most of the races in D&D are fairly recent creations by deities... like, not even millions of years of evolution, just a bunch of gods made things a few tens of thousands of years ago.

    Their MRCA is "gods" and that's only a handful of generations, for some.

    MRCC (most recent common creator!)

  21. - Top - End - #21
    Troll in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

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    Default Re: Are the races the same species?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sparhafoc View Post
    That's literally how I was using it, and the point resides therein: 'specie' is a discrete unit of categorization we use to make sense of the mess of the real world. By and large, those units make sense in the context they're used, but when speciation is recent and genomes are very similar, even with very apparent visible differences, it's not exactly clear at what moment we should be deciding that 2 populations represent different species; what percentage of difference represents the Rubicon to cross.
    I think Specie refers to coinage?

  22. - Top - End - #22
    Orc in the Playground
     
    RogueGuy

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    Default Re: Are the races the same species?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Species

    My simple answer is YES the various races are different species. "Species" is more complicated than you would think and sometimes different species can interbreed. The canines are a great example of how it can get weird - a big coyote looks almost exactly the same as a small wolf, but domestic dogs are all one species and include Yorkies, Pugs, Whippets and St Bernards (humans have messed them all up), and they can all interbreed.

    BTW - Does it make a difference one way or the other?

  23. - Top - End - #23
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Default Re: Are the races the same species?

    Historically speaking, "modern" humans bred with Neaderthals. Which would mean that our DNA is compatible. Considering the applications here...I would say that humanoids are all the same genus, but a different "species." Some can interbreed, but others can't. This is why we see half-elves and half-orcs, but no half-dwarves or half-gnomes. Just my thoughts..

  24. - Top - End - #24
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Are the races the same species?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bobthewizard View Post
    If humans can interbreed with elves, orcs, Tieflings does that make them all the same species? I mean they are called races and not species. Can all of the races interbreed then?
    I think it's more like humans being at the core and various other species radiating out. So humans can breed with orcs and with elves but orcs and elves can't create offspring.

    In biological terms, you have a ring species where the field toads can breed with the forest toads and forest toads with mountain toads but mountain toads & field toads are too distinct to breed. Despite the name, the ring species doesn't need to meet up at the ends.

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    Lizardfolk

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    Default Re: Are the races the same species?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jophiel View Post
    I think it's more like humans being at the core and various other species radiating out. So humans can breed with orcs and with elves but orcs and elves can't create offspring.
    More elvish and orcish propoganda! The Voldur lives!

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    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Are the races the same species?

    At least one older edition source had the other races creator gods created their races and sometime later their leftover creation material, on its own, bundled itself up and became human with pieces of the other races integrated.
    I am the flush of excitement. The blush on the cheek. I am the Rouge!

  27. - Top - End - #27
    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: Are the races the same species?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sigreid View Post
    At least one older edition source had the other races creator gods created their races and sometime later their leftover creation material, on its own, bundled itself up and became human with pieces of the other races integrated.
    I was literally opening this thread to post something like that, glad to hear that it was official lore at some point!

  28. - Top - End - #28
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    DwarfClericGuy

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    Default Re: Are the races the same species?

    Quote Originally Posted by FilthyLucre View Post
    This is kinda how I went in my homebrew world, except the progenitor race is Changeling, and other races (I call them Breeds) arose when a changeling specialized to a specific purpose (gnomes are short to help delve into hills seeking gems; dwarves are a little larger and stronger because they delved deeper seeking metals; halflings arose as cities were developed, to take care of the infrastructure/sewers; elves sought magical secrets in the Astral Sea, becoming smarter (and when they found the Feywild and explored it, they came back as Eladrin). Everyone can interbreed (since they're all just basically changelings), but the offspring is always the same breed as the mother (to escape the Chihuahua mom/Great Dane dad problem).

    I also introduced Constructs (Wayfinder Warforged) as an option. While they have the same stylized look as warforged, their physical characteristic takes after a specific breed. So, you can have dwarfy looking Constructs, or elvish Constructs, etc.
    Trollbait extraordinaire

  29. - Top - End - #29
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Zombie

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    Default Re: Are the races the same species?

    Quote Originally Posted by micahaphone View Post
    I was literally opening this thread to post something like that, glad to hear that it was official lore at some point!
    It was listed in the book on humans as a possible origin that explained why humans didn't have a creator god. Not presented as fact, but one of many myths/legends/theories.
    I am the flush of excitement. The blush on the cheek. I am the Rouge!

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Troll in the Playground
     
    Chimera

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    Default Re: Are the races the same species?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bobthewizard View Post
    This came up in a game and I wonder what everyone here thinks.
    If humans can interbreed with elves, orcs, Tieflings does that make them all the same species? I mean they are called races and not species. Can all of the races interbreed then?
    What do you think?
    I think that...

    Quote Originally Posted by False God View Post
    I do not believe there is an official stance on this and aside from the fact that "race" is largely a holdover from olden days when race was actively used to describe what many now would refer to as "species" and the fact that the lore expressly says Dwarves and Elves were created but makes no mention of how humans came to be, the only real answer is "do what is best for your own game".
    ...is the primary answer, with a bit also of this: D&D has for a long time tried (with uneven success) to split the difference between offering a specific game world to play around in and leaving anything unnecessary-to-define left undefined. This has gotten even more muddled once specific campaign settings have been introduced, and later when various ones (Known World/Mystara, Greyhawk, Nentir Vale, Forgotten Realms) have been considered 'default' settings for various editions. Thus the game system has some very conflicting information with regards to the various 'races,' their origins, and exactly what it means to be a D&D race.

    Beyond that, D&D is not concerned with modern scientific knowledge, nor how it fits into the game world (again, except where it needs to). Whether 'species' exist in D&D is an open question right up there with whether matter is made up of atoms of various periodic-table-style (as opposed to 'fire, water, earth, air') elements. D&D concerns itself much more with the genre conventions and tropes of fantasy (many of which by this point were invented by D&D, making this in-part recursive). To that point, humans, orcs, dwarves, and elves exist, and half-elves and half-orcs (both existing in Tolkien's works) exist. Thus, elves and orcs must be able to cross-breed with humans. Does this infer any further downstream consequences such as them being the same species (or interbreedingly-close species)? You have to decide for yourself for your game.

    Personally, I feel the need for half-orcs to be outdated (Gygax not wanting players to play the species he had set up as designated villains). I tend to use half-orc stats for actual orcs (whose stats in Volos are kinda disappointing) and omitting half orcs (the concept) as a distinct race (the occasional half-orc might exist in a given campaign world I run, if crossbreeding is possible, but there doesn't need to be a separate stat block for them, they can be whichever parental 'race' they most take after. Half-elves make a little sense, as they've developed this odd niche of long-lived humans but whose lives do not resemble elves very much. Whether that needs to be a discrete race or not, I'm not sure. Regardless, I define the existence of these half-races based on the tropes I want to see in my games, not based on some reference to biology.

    Quote Originally Posted by Clistenes View Post
    The rule that different species can't produce fertile offspring isn't considered true anymore...
    If I am remembering my History of Science course correctly, from all the way back to Linnaeus, it wasn't 'can't' but 'don't' -- that the European and North American black-striped Whatsit only do not interbreed because they don't run into each other did not mean they weren't different species because they don't run into each other. Since then we've added a whole bunch more asterisks to the definitions, but it's been muddied water for a long time.

    Quote Originally Posted by JoeJ View Post
    "Prove" here is an archaic way of saying "test." It doesn't mean prove in the modern sense of the word. IOW, claims of exceptions are how you test the supposed rule to determine whether or not it really is a rule.

    It's also important to realize that "species" is a category of analysis. It's a framework used to interpret the data about the variety of living creatures, not something actually found in the data. And it doesn't necessarily have any relevance whatsoever to the creatures inhabiting a fantasy world.
    To the later point, yes! Species is descriptive, not proscriptive. To the former point, that is only one of at least five regularly understood meanings to the term. Your take on what Sparhafoc meant could still make sense, if using Fowler's preferred interpretation: using 'prove' to mean effective 'establish,' and thus the term meaning roughly, the exception establishes the existence of a (general) rule, because if there was no general rule, the exception wouldn't be notable as such.'

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