4) If D&D “Isn’t even human,” then what is it?
Alien, but still humanocentric.
I’ll start here with an admission which will be frighteningly easy to take out of context: I’m a bit of a racist when it comes to D&D. To clarify, perhaps I should instead call myself a humanist, which has a much better ring to it. What I mean is that I’ve always vastly preferred playing a human to any of the other fantasy races and honestly never really saw the appeal in playing any of the standard dwarves or elves or even them more esoteric races that came along later. I don’t mind them existing in my fantasy world, but I’ve always felt that humans are so wonderfully varied and so culturally diverse that there really isn’t much need for the demihumans and other player race options.
I realize now that my real problem with the races in D&D is not that they were unlike humans but rather that they were too much like humans. Truth be told, they always felt a bit like a racket to me, just a way to bump up an ability score or two and get some nifty special talent. If dwarves, elves, and the whole gamut of traditional fantasy races were going to be part of an authentic and interesting world, they should really be, for lack of a better term, alien. They should be distinct and fundamentally different from humans. Most importantly, we should be thinking in terms of culture.