…is that there are too any of them.
No, not as in “howling hordes that overwhlem the civilized races” it’s too many as in there are too many different evil humanoid races for there to be any sort of working ecology (ala Gygaxian Naturalism). Let’s just look at the general evilish or neutral, intelligent humanoid creatures all vying for space and resources – and ignore the demihumans and the ones that are totally off in their own ecosphere (like Morkoth).
- Humanoids – Bugbear, Ettin, Gargoyle, Giants (Cloud, Fire, Frost, Hill, Stone, & Storm), Gnoll, Goblin, Harpy, Hobgoblin, Jackalwere, Kobold, Locanth, Lizard Man, Medusa, Mind Flayer, Minotaur, Ogre, Ogre Mage, Orc, Rakshasa, Sahuagin, Troglodyte, Troll, Umber Hulk, and Yeti
Note that this ignore things like Beholders, Lamia, and Nagas because they’re not “humanoid”. Now lets add all of those faerie-type creatures that are neutral or good-ish:
- Brownie, Centaur, Dryad, Dwarf (Hill and Mountain), Elf (Grey, High, Sea, and Wood), Gnome, Halfling (Harfoot, Stout, & Tallfellow), Mermen, Nixie, Nymph, Pixie, Satyr, Sprite, Sylph, Titan, Treant, and Triton
That’s 30 “evil” and 23 “good” races (counting sub-races) and doesn’t include the aformentioned Beholders, etc. nor things like lycanthropes. How in the hell do you make a world like that work? But wait, it gets better:
- Humanoids – Adherer, Algoid, Bullywug, Crabmen, Dakon, Dark Creeper, Dark Stalker, Dire Corby, Elf (Drow), Ettercap, Firenewt, Flind, Forlarren, Frost Man, Galltrit, Gambado, Giants (Fog and Mountain), Gibberlings, Githyanki, Githzerai, Grimlocks, Hook Horrows, Jermlaine, Kelpies, Kenku, Kuo-Toa, Lamia Noble, Lava Children, Lizard Kings, Meazels, Meenlocks, Mites, Needleman, Nilbog, Norker, Ogrillion, Quaggoth, Qullan, Screaming Devilkin, Skulk, Snyad, Sussurus, Tabaxi, Tiger Flys, Trolls (Giant, Giant Two-Headed, Ice, & Spirit), Umpleby, Vodyanoi, and Xvart
- Demihumans – Aarakocra, Booka, Killmoulis, and Svirfneblin
And who knows how things like an Enveloper should be classified?
Monster Manual II
- Humanoids – Banderlog, Boggart, Boggle, Cyclopskin, Crimson Death, Derro, Drider, Duergar, Giant (Formorian, Firbolg, and Verbeeg), Grippli, Foxwoman, Margoyle, Merrow (Aquatic Ogre), Mongrelmen, Muckdwellers, Myconids, Ophidian, Pseudo-Undead, Quicklings, Scrag (Marine Trolls – Freshwater and Saltwater versions), Shade, Spriggan, Taer, Tasloi, Thri-Keen, Vegepygmy, Wemic, Wolfwere, and Yaun Ti
- Demihumans – Atomie, Buckawn, Elf (Grugach & Valley), Grig, Korred, Nereid, Pech, Selkie, Sirine, and Swanmay
So, all told, just in the three official books (and ignoring things like Goblin Spiders from Oriental Adventures) we have roughly 114 evil humanoid races and 38 good demihuman/faerie races all fighting over living space and resources. Plus humans who are supposed to be domiant over all of these…
As a DM you really have to decide pretty quickly what the heck you are going to do if you are building a sandbox campaign with any hope of a working balance of power, let alone naturalistic ecology (Gygaxian or not). My solution was to split Faerie into it’s own demi-plane (rather like WOTC ended up doing with Shadowfell and whatever the “good” elf realm is called – I just did this in the late 80’s, early 90’s) so it could have it’s own independant ecology of sorts. I also took a long look at some of those evil “races” and decided that if I absolutely needed to use them at some point, they made much more sense as some sort of evil human cult that granted it’s members special powers (Frost Men, the Dark Creeper/Stalkers, and Qullan fit this idea rather well in this model), and then finally I just scrapped the whole idea of such a wide variety of humanoids and in wanting to get away from Tolkein in some ways (Orcs? We really need them why?) but at the same time capture better a more “high fantasy feel” I made the following changes:
Goblins pretty much remained as written but hobgoblins became “Redcaps” – the warrior elite of the goblins. Bugbears, nominally supposed to be some sort of goblin cousin in canon, are now “Black Goblins” and are genetic mules of a sort that are rare and used as shock troops by the goblins. This is my primary “evil humanoid race” and gives me a nice range of hit dice (1-6HP, 1+1, and 3+1) and I have always used an old Dragon magazine article on “giant-sized weapons” that tweaked damage up for weapons of size L creatures which makes the Black Goblins tougher as well (plus I considered them to 18/76 Strength for a +4 damage bonus – making them stronger than even Redcap chieftans)
Next, I kept Ogres pretty much as written, but made Ogre Magi the long lost “High Ogres” that were much feared by even their cursed and debased remnants. Ogre Magi were bad freaking news in my campaign – smart, tough, and magical they are pretty much as bad as you can get for a non-extraplanar set of baddies.
I had never exactly liked Trolls for some reason, I think it was mainly that when I think of trolls I think in more traditional terms (ala Tolkien’s trolls) not some super-regenerating thing. I was also underwhelmed with the way that giants worked as written so I essentially “re-envisioned” the giants as they were written.
Now there are Forest and Marsh Trolls (ala Verbeegs), Hill Trolls (Hill Giants), Rock Trolls and Cave Trolls (Stone Giants). These have the same hit dice as the giants, but get strength bonuses as thier strength, plus use “giant-sized weapons” from the same article as mentioned above. They also take one third (1/3) damage from elemental sources (fire, cold, lightning, etc) and regnerate 3HP per round until they reach 0 HP. So they are big, tough (5+5, 8+1-2, and 9+1-3 HD), and pretty hard to kill either by simply beating on them or by spiking via the common magical damage spells. Rock Trolls were also changed to a much more organized tribal/clan-based culture with it’s own kingdom, Forest Trolls are neutral race that is somewhat reclusive and nomadic, while Marsh and Cave trolls are the fearsome and more solitary nasty creatures get all the bad press.
Giants as a “race” were relegated to Mountain Giants and Formorians, and pretty much left alone ability-wise (Formorian’s have Fire Giant Strength while Mountain Giants have Frost Giant strength). There was also a fey race of giants known as the “Mist Giants” which were essentially Fog/Cloud giants (with Cloud Giant strength). Fire, Frost, and Storm Giants were pretty left the same but became elemental creatures rather than “natural ones” and thus are outside the natural ecology – the main change other than that was all of them can throw bolts or balls of thier “element” (but more often than just once per day, that always struck me as really odd for the Storm Giants) instead of throwing boulders.
Githyanki and Githzerai merged into what became called “the Old Race” – essentially a (now) evil psychic proto-race of humanity that lived on in other realms of existance with a hunger for vengance and revenge against what I replaced the Mind Flayers with – the Ichnuemon Vorre. These are modeled on a pretty horrific mix of Predators and Aliens, with a dose of Legend of the Overfiend mixed in for good measure. I’ve always had a pretty good flavor of Lovecraftian menace in my game, so one thing that was also included were Deep Ones to replace all of the various “evil underwater humanoids”.
Pretty much everything else was dropped or relegated to “one-off” monsters or scenario-driven curses/mutants rather than full blown races with an ecological niche. Faerie races (but far fewer than are listed above) are off to Faerie and a collection of humanoid/demihuman races from the Shadowlands each have thier own ecologies rooted in those demi-realms though all of them can show up in the Mortal Realm at times due to gates between the realms.