D&D: Oh…The Humanity

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Humans are by far the most popular race in D&D. But did you know that most players don’t choose feats either?

Humans are the most popular race in Dungeons and Dragons. In other news, water has been found to be wet, the sun confirmed to be hot, and cheese has been awarded best truck in its class by J.D. Power and Associates. We’ve seen this news before, when 538 did their analysis of D&D Beyond’s userbase. However, Jeremy Crawford, lead rules designer (and Lead Design on the PHB) for 5th Edition has more than just D&D Beyond data to go on. So when he took to twitter to talk about the most popular race by far, he meant across any edition.

And what started off as an interesting point of data quickly caught on and led to some neat insights into how the designers think about D&D. And, apparently, how the majority of the playerbase does as well. I’m talking about that last statement in the tweet up there: Story & aesthetics often appeal more than power. This is an interesting point to take in.

Now, admittedly, I’m a little biased here–I spend a lot of my time rummaging through D&D Forums and trying to figure out how the game works. And, as a result, a lot of my perception of “the community” is informed by that. You spend a while arguing about why Great Weapon Mastery doesn’t really add that much to damage per round (or why it’s totally worth it every time) and you’ll get the idea that everyone thinks like that.

But, that said, I think this is great–but would like to point out there’s nothing wrong with powergaming, and there’s plenty of room for Spikes at the table, indeed they can make for some of the most memorable moments in a campaign. But it’s interesting to see that what’s captivating a lot of people is the ability to play the character they want to play. And that a lot of what drives player choice tends to be the ability to lean into an archetype.

And looking at the source material that goes into building D&D’s mythos, it’s no surprise that Dwarves, Elves, and Humans should be the most popular. It doesn’t get more iconic than Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas, after all. And then of course there’s your Conans and Red Sonjas, your Galadriels and Elrics. Your Xenas, Gabrielles, and and Morgauses. And then of course there’s Varric, who did what I thought was the impossible and got me interested in playing a Dwarf for the first time ever.

And according to Crawford it’s little to do with mechanics. Most players don’t even use feats in 5th Edition (another one that I find surprising).

But I suppose that’s a pretty cool way of looking at it. You can read the whole thread here…and it’s encouraging to see that there’s a variety of play styles supported in this edition. There’s no one right way to do it. 5th Edition encourages the marriage of story and mechanics, giving everyone a place at the table. So keep that in mind as we head into the weekend folks. And now, I want to know:

What goes into the characters you play? When you sit down to make a character, what goes through your head?

  • euansmith

    I’m always the dwarf character.


    • Matthew Pomeroy

      I am Always “Hello Kitty” 😀

      • euansmith

        Hello Kitty Island of Adventure is da bomb!

  • BaronVonYoloing

    Never understood why people use humans. For me it always has to be something more esoteric. After all I’m already a grubby human myself I want something different damnit!

    • Xodis

      Just allows for a different focus on the narrative. I mostly play Humans simply because I dont need to think about how a “Human” would act because I know it, so I can focus on how my “characters personality” would act, plus I get to focus on how the other magical and unnatural things going on in the game react.
      I wont lie, most characters are “better” than me, and some “worse”, which adds a new aspect of reaching for the stars, and letting out some aggression.

  • Xodis

    I fall into the “Play as Human” category, but require Feats. Feats are just too awesome for flavor to NOT use.

    Human Cleric + Feat (Spell Sniper) = Simon Belmont
    Human Eldritch Knight + Feat (Polearm Master) = Final Fantasy Dragoon
    Human Barbarian + Feat (Great Weapon Master) = Conan the Destroyer

    Its just fun.

    • Jay Arr

      Agreed, they are a ton of fun. I love the Eldritch Knight as Dragoon idea–that one seems pretty cool to play around with

      • Xodis

        Yeah, my group said they keep imagining me bouncing around like Oberyn Martell in GoT, even though I was describing it very FF like lol. Either way it sounded fun and we all had a blast.

  • EnTyme

    I definitely build based on archetypes and not for power. If I’m talking a feat, it’s because it helps me build the archetype I’m looking for.

  • Koen Diepen Van

    NO.. Ppl like to roleplay in their roleplaying game go figure.

  • Logandarksky

    I like playing demi humans like half orcs, or half elves. My absolute favorite charicter to play is a half orc paladin named richard, Think terry cruse with pointed teeth and ears. (pathfinder) and a teifling named simon in D&D, that was human but got him self cursed.

    • Jay Arr

      Glad to see both half orc and half elf love over here. I am drawn to those two more often than not.

  • For me it all starts with two things:
    1. A towel, cause you always need to know where your towel is
    2. Rope, cause Charlie Bronson had rope.

    After that my mood and how I feel about the game and the story and the party that is almost surely already built (I’m very bad at starting early or being prepared for a game) drive the character I’m going to play.

    I’m partial to dwarves and tend to not play elves and will always play a side race if a piece of art grabs me or something like that.

    … then I ask my friends what to do to not be terrible in the character I want to play. Having had the luxury of building a character in a few parties GM’d by JayArr as well as StableAbe, there is never a lack of awesome knowledge to be had.

  • Jayce Corza

    I would use feats, but forcing me to choose between a feat and a stat increase means the feats need to be pretty compelling, and frankly, they just aren’t, at least not to me. As for races, I definitely prefer human for its immense flexibility, but my wife will never play a human, she hates that idea. So I guess we cover the spectrum.

    • Jay Arr

      Hah, I definitely have phases where it’s “anything but human” and at times, the weirder the better. Other times, it’s just nice to have that flexibility of the human, especially if I want to play an…experimental (weird) character build.

  • Drago

    I’m always all in for Dragonborn. Coolest idea for a race up to date IMHO.

  • David Clift

    It depends on the World. In some Humans are in the minority or despised which makes it a very different experience from this world.