Human Physiology in Fantasy

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    • Human Physiology in Fantasy

      A cursory glance at fantasy will tell you that Humans tend to be the default species, compared to which most sapient races are better in whatever areas they happen to excel at: Elves are keener of sight, quicker of limb, nigh-immortal and highly intelligent, and generally also better artisans. Dwarves are sturdier of body, relentless of energy, nigh-unbreakable and very much better at crafts, mining and engineering. Orcs & Goblins are warlike to the core and superior at reproduction. And so on. Humans tend to be versatile all-rounders, and sometimes their fervent religiosity or penchant for organization marks them out from the rest.

      Which begs the question: Is there anything which fantasy Humans are especially good at, in comparison to other thinking & creative species?

      This is largely outside the scope of the tabletop game, but could make for some interesting quirks built into the background of a setting such as the Ninth Age.

      A couple of possible areas of physique where Humans are exceptional, at least in comparison to Elves (who most resemble Humans and thus are in most need to be made distinct from them):

      Elves, being rather cat-like, are quicker than Humans at shorter distances, but lacks the Human ability to keep up the pace over longer distances (see, for example, Human persistence hunting). For campaigns of warfare, this means that many Elven victories over Human adversaries have been won by rapid tactical manoeuvres on the battlefield (often combined with chess-master-like cunning), while conversely many Human victories over Elves inland have been won by strategically outmanoeuvering the enemy on long marches. Elven naval movements along the coasts or on navigable rivers, or in controlled forests, could of course offset this stamina disadvantage for Elven infantry. Dwarves would however be the most relentless of all on foot over long distances, with a stamina and stubborn endurance that makes the turtle beat the hare: Resting is for sissies.

      Humans could possibly be the world's finest sapient mammalian divers, with an exceptional diving ability in contrast to such others as Dwarves and Elves. Near-shore foraging and pearl diving could be a Human specialty.

      Thoughts? Criticism? Ideas to share? :)
    • From my knowledge on the topic, the actual conception about fantasy’s races cames directly from Tolkien. Now, discussion is pretty hot because of divergent political sides that claim the heritage of Tolkien (here in Italy at least, it’s claimed by the communist of socialismo patriottico / patria socialista, by the far right and by the catholic traditionalists), but it’s pretty safe assuming that he used the races as a metaphora of the social classes of the England between the end of 1800 and the beginning of 1900.

      Following this cocenption the elves are the aristocracy (obviously, a very idealized one), hobbits are farmers, humans are the bourgeoisie and so on. That’s why, I think, usually in fantasy settings (see also d&d) humans usually excel in creative matters, innovation, technology and entrepreneurial (and why they’re also greedy and usually not so much emphatic). I don’t think that, in such contest, humans could credibly excel in a physical way - they’re very role is to be able to do great things despite beeing phisically inferior to everyone else, and so beeing forced to use instead they’re mental resources in new ways in order to achieve something in their short life spawn (they have an counterpart in Warhammer, short-life rational beeing with 0 physical advantages - the super technological skavens).

      I think that it’s possible rethink humans in order to give them some physical advantage over other races, but we should rethink they’re society too, they’re technological level and so on, to be focused on they’re new role.
    • What do you mean, 0 physical advantages? The Skaven have speed, endurance, disease resistance, a tail, fur, extremely good ears, a keen sense of smell... really, the others just can't compare.
      Harald Vidarsonn, Herse der Hrodgarlinger
      Er plünderte die sieben Ufer,
      Er vernichtete die drei Könige
      Er verheerte Miklagard
      Harald Vidarsson, Krakenblütig,
      War wie die See,
      Stärke der Schlangen
      Wut des Wintersturms.
    • Eldan wrote:

      What do you mean, 0 physical advantages? The Skaven have speed, endurance, disease resistance, a tail, fur, extremely good ears, a keen sense of smell... really, the others just can't compare.
      We have a skaven player in our community that keeps saying those things. It must be having a skaven army change something in people’s brain XD they’re rats XD
    • Actually Dwarves being short and stubby are horribly suited for long distance land travel. The position of their butts is all wrong. Presummably they have denser bones and that is also detrimental. To move over land for a long time they would need better than human ability to sweat and breath. They are not built for physical endurance in terms of over land movement. Maybe carrying weight isn't meaningful for them, but actual distance requires rapidly moving their feet back and forth more often than humans, moving more often means expending more energy. So it doesn't make sense. So, no there isn't a physiological reason for Dwarves to have a higher march rate than humans. The only explanation is magic. the person with the longer legs, always has an easier time moving further distances without expending as much energy. A smaller body also has a harder time cooling itself, stores less energy, and has less oxygen available for fuel.

      Humans are the greatest long distance endurance runners of all land mammals. The current theory is that human beings are evolved to outrun other land mammals as their proffered method of hunting. This means that human beings were built to run four hours at a jogging pace until the prey died of exhaustion. And, it has been proven effective even today.

      scienceblog.com/479691/imaging…ners/#F4uY6ZkviJprr4qS.97

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    • Anomanderake wrote:

      Eldan wrote:

      What do you mean, 0 physical advantages? The Skaven have speed, endurance, disease resistance, a tail, fur, extremely good ears, a keen sense of smell... really, the others just can't compare.
      We have a skaven player in our community that keeps saying those things. It must be having a skaven army change something in people’s brain XD they’re rats XD
      It's because we hollow out your skull and put a tiny rat spy ins... I mean we humans love our rat armies because they are so much fun to play.
      Harald Vidarsonn, Herse der Hrodgarlinger
      Er plünderte die sieben Ufer,
      Er vernichtete die drei Könige
      Er verheerte Miklagard
      Harald Vidarsson, Krakenblütig,
      War wie die See,
      Stärke der Schlangen
      Wut des Wintersturms.
    • @echoCTRL you made many nice points regarding differences found in human physiology however many of these amount to mechanical advantages. We could certainly get really deep and get into differences between so called fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers but I wont geek out to much, partly due to it has been years since studied some of these details. Suffice it to say if differences such as mechanical or even molecular level ones exist within the same species what is to say that in fantasy world a race like dwarves could still not be the superior endurance race even with its mechanical disadvantages? What if dwarf muscle composition was 100% slow twitch. Human red blood cell transport O2 to the rest of the cells of the body, however red blood cells themselves can not derive ATP (energy), from oxidative phosphorylation which can ultimately produce more ATP per molecule of glucose. That is not to say that red blood reliance of less efficient means of getting ATP doesn't have its own advantages or that this somehow effects muscle performance and overall whole body endurance but simply an example how dwarves could differ in a significant way. This leads to efficiency of metabolism and if dwarfs somehow have other more efficiency engines if you will

      All of which is to say dwarfs in fantasy world could have genetic differences that could be used to explain why Dwarfs might historically have higher Constitution despite other short cummings :)

    • Karak Norn Clansman wrote:

      Humans tend to be versatile all-rounders, and sometimes their fervent religiosity or penchant for organization marks them out from the rest.
      You nailed it in this sentence.
      Religion and organization is what allows humans to achieve deeds which no elf nor dwarf would consider conceiveable.

      Elves may be smarter, nimbler, etc, if they don't accept to live in large cities and share their science in universities, they cannot compete collectively in the long run.
      Dwarves may be tougher, if they lack theological speculation, they won't try what requires faith.

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    • Humans are stronger and tougher than elves, faster than dwarves, and smarter than orcs. I might go so far as to say that humans and dwarves are smarter than elves, while elves are wiser and more instinctive.

      Humans are better than any other race at adapting quickly to new situations, thinking on their feet. Their traditions aren't as rigid and hindering as those of elves and dwarves, and their society and religion drive towards innovation and progress more than the other races, even while the church might cry out heresy a bit too eagerly at times.
      "You need to believe in things that aren't true. How else can they become?" -Death
      Phae's Pointy-Ear Blog: Elves in a Corner
    • Calisson wrote:

      Karak Norn Clansman wrote:

      Humans tend to be versatile all-rounders, and sometimes their fervent religiosity or penchant for organization marks them out from the rest.
      You nailed it in this sentence.Religion and organization is what allows humans to achieve deeds which no elf nor dwarf would consider conceiveable.

      Elves may be smarter, nimbler, etc, if they don't accept to live in large cities and share their science in universities, they cannot compete collectively in the long run.
      Dwarves may be tougher, if they lack theological speculation, they won't try what requires faith.
      Agree.

      Also, strictly speaking from a wider point of view (then externally to t9a), human literary creation tend to describe mythological creatures - especially "heroic" ones (in the original sense - greek - of the word, which is not necessarily good) - as a specific alteration of human standard.

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      A jackal, O Karna, residing in the forest in the midst of hares regardeth himself a lion till he actually sees a lion.




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    • msu117 wrote:

      @echoCTRL you made many nice points regarding differences found in human physiology however many of these amount to mechanical advantages. We could certainly get really deep and get into differences between so called fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers but I wont geek out to much, partly due to it has been years since studied some of these details. Suffice it to say if differences such as mechanical or even molecular level ones exist within the same species what is to say that in fantasy world a race like dwarves could still not be the superior endurance race even with its mechanical disadvantages? What if dwarf muscle composition was 100% slow twitch. Human red blood cell transport O2 to the rest of the cells of the body, however red blood cells themselves can not derive ATP (energy), from oxidative phosphorylation which can ultimately produce more ATP per molecule of glucose. That is not to say that red blood reliance of less efficient means of getting ATP doesn't have its own advantages or that this somehow effects muscle performance and overall whole body endurance but simply an example how dwarves could differ in a significant way. This leads to efficiency of metabolism and if dwarfs somehow have other more efficiency engines if you will

      All of which is to say dwarfs in fantasy world could have genetic differences that could be used to explain why Dwarfs might historically have higher Constitution despite other short cummings :)
      This, all of this. Some allowance for fantasy biology must be made, if not else then to allow for things like flying monsters to exist.

      Don't just think in terms of designs using different real-world muscle types, but wholly new ones not existing in the real world.
      Sunna is not with the big battalions, but with the ones whose parts move with the best coordination.
    • Placing religion as a strength of humans is really funny. Are we talking about the same religion that accused Galileo of heresy?? I'm not going to write every single occasion in history where religion oppressed scientists. But to say the least religion would be the reason why humans are held back.

      I'd say hope, curiosity and appetite for risk (and similar mental prowess) are the foundation of human strength.
    • The very same religion which oppressed Galileo incited Spaniards to invest a lot of money to pay for an expedition across the Oceans and go convert the Indians. The head of the expedition was a certain Christopher Colombus whose maths were terrible, and whose proposal had been rejected by the more thoughtful Italians and Portuguese.

      Sometimes belief results in achieving what science tells to be impossible.

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    • If you referring to the accidental circum navigation of the world I'd speculate it was due to the fact that silk and spice roads were under Muslim control. So the drive was financial but addmitedly to get the illiterate people to join in to do the muscle work the merchsnts/state used religion.

      Nvm at the end of the day even a broken clock shows the right time twice a day.
    • Imo humans could have better humor, being better bards and storytellers, making them beloved by other races.

      Maybe heal better. Dwarfs and elves get injured less easy due to sturdiness / agility, but if hurt, their wounds take more time to heal. Humans heal relatively quick.

      Adaptivity - to different environments.
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    • my silly opnion on the matter is the creator always make the creature as he wants.
      If tolkien is the reference, he s a human cresting elves.
      Now we have lord of the rings and other similar stuff, while for humanity we have history and 10000years of improvements.

      What if elves,who lives forever, were today?
      Their senses are finer, they know magic.
      Real one. Humans have religion.
      How do u know they would not be superior?

      Dwarfes built empires in the mountains. Km^3 of rock empties for columns and immense rooms.
      They move rocks printing 1 rune.
      Chances are they discover materials underground we never find.
      Are they really inferior?

      The only thing i see is both has similar bodies. Hence humans and.dwarves and.elves are just cousins.
      What change is the.culture....and.life expectation. Port it in 2019 and do your considerations