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Many campaigns assume that the various non-human racial groups living in human civilizations keep most of their cultural attributes intact. This is not an unreasonable assumption, especially if you consider that, unlike human “races” which are basically defined by genetic traits, different humanoids are actually different genetic types, and one would logically expect for them to keep many of their core personality traits.
Even so, the concept of assimilation is ignored by many campaigns. Basically, if one cultural group becomes a part of or interacts with a larger group, the cultures tend to merge. This isn’t universal, of course, but historically it has happened—except when the smaller cultural group has a very strong ethnic identity or uncompromising religious or social trait. Please also note that modern democratic cultures are much more tolerant and accepting of multipluralistic subcultures than they were in ancient and feudalistic Middle Ages.
When developing campaign worlds with a well-defined history, one should at least consider the possibilities. You can have your dwarves in the mountain kingdoms and elves in their forest clans, but there will likely be groups who have accepted and melded with humans (or other humanoid kingdoms). If one human city has a huge population of dwarves living in a major city (say refuge from a war 800 years ago—now making up 20% of the population), one should expect at least some assimilation. It would be very likely that such a population would keep their dwarven traits, but likely adapt to the culture of the overall kingdom, worship the regional human pantheon and so forth. It would also depend on the race. Elves usually have very long life spans and an exotic culture and are more resistant to assimilation than, for example, halflings. Of course, to be accepted into the community, some amount of assimilation would be necessary, or else there would be continual conflict, and the different group would not only be shunned and persecuted, but eventually driven out or even killed.
Gary Gygax’s Living Fantasy


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