Many folks have leveled the criticism (correctly) that non-human player options in D&D and its lookalikes are mostly humans with accents and funny hats. Solutions to this have been posited: removal of non-human player options, making everyone human but different species of human, or the much more labor-intensive method of applying major mechanical changes. I've dabbled in all three of these at some point or another and all have their place.
So here's a thought experiment to add to the pile: the title of the blogpost.
Before I get started, I'm going to establish a baseline premise. This is all within Generic Vernacular Fantasy D&D Land. There is a monarch, a military aristocracy, a church, and everyone else. Society is broadly patriarchal. There are old pagan gods worshiped out there in the hills and forests. There used to be an empire, or maybe it's still around and just too far away to matter. Ruins of bygone civilizations filled with monsters are everywhere. There are distant lands of which little is known and most of that is either misrepresentative or outright lies. Gunpowder and the printing press are Not Appearing In This Film Just Yet. It's theme-park medieval and that's all it needs to be for right now.
- Freed from the obligations of the land-liege system; may own land in common among themselves as equivalent to a barony. Lands so held are not subject to marriage or succession-based changes in ownership
- Freed from military obligations, at cost of additional taxation.
- Permitted to maintain heterodox religious practices, on grounds that such practices are not among those banned by the Council of Taragon. Accepting official baptism within the church nullifies this privilege.
- May not gain or be given aristocratic title, church office, or government position.
- Have no specialized forms of address.
- There are a limited number of positions allotted for elves - they are, in essence, a social Veblen good.
- These positions are either purchased or gifted, and limited to a subset of the nobility.
- May hold political, military, or church office, though most elves will give up these when assuming their position - it is considered unseemly for an elf to labor at anything. If they so desire, they may appoint a non-elf in their stead.
- Few individuals will remain elves for their entire lives - either by their own choice or from lack of funds.
- The church is ambivalent-to-hostile regarding elves, finding their idle pleasure-seeking to be fertile ground for sin and moral dissolution.
- Among the lower classes those who live as elves but who are unable to afford the position (or the exemption fees for sumptuary laws), are derisively called "half-elves" and are commonly the targets of contempt and often violence.
- Elves are referred to only by title and name; it is a grave social offense to use any pronomials. The appropriate address is chatelier / chatelaine (formal), or affixing preem / pree to their chosen name (informal, by express permission only). "This one" and "that one" are approved for convenience.
- Are treated as men in regards to their rights and obligations under the law, regardless of sex.
- Treated as free members of the third estate, and may own property of their own, but may not serve as liege-lord to any non-dwarven tenants
- May be granted noble office, though with the same restrictions.
- Inheritance of property is by election, and not limited to family lines.
- The church facilitates a separate set of sacraments for dwarves, and will permit participation in general services without
- All dwarves take the praenomen "Urist" upon their dedication, in addition to a chosen individual cognomen.
- All dwarves, regardless of sex, use the pronomial set *khé* / *khén* / *khénnu*
- Limited to times of open warfare. No one may live as an orc during peacetime.
- The number of orcs is capped at a percentage of a lord's total levied forces.
- Any adult might become an orc, regardless of sex.
- Orcs make no distinction between station of birth, recognizing only deeds in combat as the basis for their hierarchies.
- Are freed from the restrictions of the Truce of Gods, and accordingly have no right to imprisonment, trial, or ransom if captured by the enemy.
- Orcs may take a doubleshare of booty recovered from battle.
- Service as an orc typically comes with significant financial recompense given to the chosen's non-orc family - debt forgiveness being the most common.
- May not receive any sacraments of the church.
- Those who live as goblins live in a precarious position outside of the social hierarchy entirely. They are freed from all obligations of law or propriety, but likewise have no protection under the law. They may go where they wish, speak as they wish, act as they wish, and there is nothing - officially - that anyone can do about it. Unofficially, there is usually a mob involved. To avoid such violence, goblins usually band together in large groups and form their own living spaces, or forge close bonds with those who might offer them protection.
- Goblins have no specialized forms of address beyond what they with for themselves.