A trend has arised in the gaming community, one that we could label as “orthodox”, as time passes since the launch of the DCC RPG; a trend that encompasses players and Judges alike, who spurn the non-human races and focus all their gaming and creative energies in what it’s called “anthropocentrism”, that is, milieus where most of the population, or at least where the population that matters for the purpose of tale- and adventure-making, are humans. There’s a frontal rejection towards elves, dwarves, and halflings, and in some extreme cases, towards the clerics, because they aren’t considered to be part of the Appendix N canon, the body of fantasy and sci-fi novels whose tone the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG tries to emulate.
Why so much hate? What’s the real problem with these humanoid races? In my opinion, said problem is not with the races themselves, but with the ever-present Tolkien canon. With his novels, the guru of fantasy literature laid the foundation for everything that came after (be it to follow that canon or to break free from it): the halflings are joyful and brave, the dwarves are dirty and troublesome, and the elves are mystical and detached. This served mightily well Gygax and associates to craft the first roleplaying game, but clashes headlong with the tone that DCC RPG has adopted until now.
But, why do we hate and take them away when we could adapt them?
Don’t you like elves? That doesn’t surprise me, neither do I, but let’s make the most of their traits to better adapt them to the tone of the game. The picture that depicts their class is the reason behind the general dislike towards them; according to the class’ description, I think that they’re closer to Moorcock’s Melniboneans than to Tolkien’s elves. The elves are defined by their immortality and their relationship with a patron. Therefore, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that such immortality could be the result of a pact made by the first generation of elves with their patrons, that still today an elf must follow. This should split their society in two castes: those who have an intimate relationship with their patron (level 1+) and those who don’t (level 0). Moreover, the different elvish communities should be defined, above all, by the patron they serve. Thus, apart from the typical wood elves who swore an oath with The King of Elfland or The Horned King (from DCC #72: Beyond the Black Gate), there’d be sand elves, favored by Azi Dahaka; swamp elves, allies of Bobugbubilz, etc. Being immortal, the elves would be cold and distant beings devoid of emotions, or at least those emotions that a human being could understand.
As it happened with the elves, the dwarves made a pact with some supernatural patrons but, unlike them, they broke it and had to hide deep under the earth to run from their wrath. They spent several centuries in their tunnels until they managed to placate their patrons’ ire. They were pardoned in exchange for their skills as smiths and jewelers, that could be required at any time, no questions asked. Thanks to that, their lifespans are quite long, but they don’t enjoy the elves’ immortality. They dwell in the deep and toil. They don’t like the world above and, although they can endure the sunlight, they loathe it. They prefer to sleep during the daylight hours and live during the nighttime and, when they can’t help it, they’ll wear a pair of smithy goggles to protect their eyes from the bright sunlight, and sunshades or parasols to shield their skin from the rays of sun. Every now and then they hear a call that forces them to make a pilgrimage to a precise place to take part in the creation process of an artifact requested by one of the supernatural entities they’re in debt with. Many dwarves sport burns on their bodies, because of the time spent in the forges, or a chronic cough, because of the time spent in the mines.
Finally, we could rule that the halflings were the creation of the serpent men or some other ancient race. Let’s say that in the beginning of it all the serpent men ruled over the planet and fed on humans. However, the humans were too big, too unwieldy, and sometimes even rebellious, and that’s why they modified them with magic and alchemy to create a race intended as food: small, easy to transport and to store and able to withstand even the hardest life conditions. So they created the first halflings, docile, manageable, and with a love for food, so they could get fat fast. And with really big feet, because feet are the tastiest morsel. The halflings lived for generations as trading goods and cattle. When the serpent men’s empire fell and their race devolved, the halflings, now free, formed tight-knit communities. This is why they don’t like being apart from each other and that, every time a serpent man or another reptilian being comes across one of them, it’ll immediately salivate and try to eat the halfling.
These are just a handful of ideas, but you get the drift: demihumans could be aliens trapped in this planet, a mad god’s creation, beings from another dimension or time… possibilities abound. It’s up to you to make them fit in your milieu.
We’ll deal with the cleric later, you whiners.