In the comments of yesterday’s article on Gnomes, Zzarchov mentioned “mono-cultures”, and how he never liked them. I agree with him—as much as I dislike the practice of divvying Gnomes/Elves/Dwarves into countless sub-species (High Elves, Wood Elves, Sea Elves, Dark Elves, Blood Elves, etc.)—I am guilty of this myself at times, to include my current campaign world of Irrin. Why? Because it’s a quick identifier, a way to say “these aren’t those kind of Elves, they’re these kind of Elves”. It’s a crutch, but if it works, hey, great (and if your campaign is anything like mine, if you pulled out all the crutches, you wouldn’t have much left!).
This is where I think the practice of Race-as-Class (your Race working as an effective definer/limiter of ability, ala Dwarves, Elves, etc., in Basic D&D) possibly clash with fighting monoculture. You’re effectively limiting the definition of that race via Race-as-Class. There are many good reasons to do this—to set demi-human characters apart as something fey and alien, and to line up the expectations of that race with common fantasy literary sources—but it also puts an expectation that only a single type of representative of that race will be seen while adventuring. For some games, that might work to perfection. For me, it’s always been one of the things I’ve struggled with when it comes to Race-as-Class, which is why I generally prefer a more open-ended approach from later editions. I want that variety—I want the full representation and possibilities of Elves, Dwarves, etc. The drawback to no limitations, of course, is that these races tend to be played as pointy-eared or stout humans with merely different stat bonuses.
For me, I think the best way through this is Favored Classes or simply playing the stat bonuses as they are—a bonus or hindrance for playing a certain type of class, but few in the way of absolute limiters. The races have different abilities, but all societies will have their warriors, their healers, their sages. It’s about interpreting what those are for each race and culture. For myself, I favor the wide-open approach of many cultures within a demi-human race for my campaigns. I know others feel differently, and I’d love to hear some examples of each working well (or not) in your campaign.