I think my post yesterday might have been misinterpreted, so I feel a clarification is in order: although it is true that half of me wants to have no playable races other than humans, the other half of me recoils at the thought. My position is entirely more ambiguous than the tone of the rant suggests.
I think the problem is that the fantasy genre is really two rather different genres which have somehow become entwined because of superficial similarities. (This is at least partly because the literati despise fantasy and know nothing about it other than "Isn't it all to do with swords and magic and goblins and other childish escapist stuff?") I like both of these genres equally, and want to represent them in my D&D gaming, and this is where the irreconcilable conflict between the banalifying systematiser noisms and the romantic mysterious dreamer noisms is fought out.
What are the two genres? You might call the first, loosely, the Scientifiction tradition and the second, just as loosely, the Romantic tradition; or, to summon up the spirit of Robert M. Pirsig, we could perhaps summarise it as Classicism vs. Romanticism. (In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Pirsig describes how his Romantic friend flatly refuses to study mechanics because he prefers to live with the mystery of how his strange BMW works, whereas Pirsig himself, the Classicist, likes to apply reason and rationality to his motorcycling hobby and spends much of his time studying mechanical engineering.) Let's expand on what I mean by these.
Classicist Fantasy, or the Scientifiction Tradition
Classicist Fantasy concerns itself with rationality, where made-up worlds work along logical and reasonable lines. It is the fantasy of people like George R. R. Martin, Dan Simmons, Phillip Pullman, Robert Jordan, Guy Gavriel Kay and Steven Erikson - writers who concern themselves with creating worlds which make sense on a rational level and where everything is ultimately explainable and explained (even if of course they contain such nonexistent things as magic and monsters). It isn't about making fantasy scientifically accurate - that would be a nonsense - it is rather to do with internal consistency. People behave as they do in 'the real world' and interact with things around them - boats, swords, dragons, wizards - in a holistic way, the same way in which we in our world interact with boats, guns, cars and aeroplanes. The human beings in A Song of Ice and Fire behave like human beings in our world, technology is roughly contemporaneous to that of England at the time of the Wars of the Roses, and we can easily imagine a person transported from York circa 1485 to Westeros feeling completely at home there. The fantasy is based on a rational view of the universe, in which everything makes sense to the people within it.
I call it 'Scientifiction' because it comes from the same impulse which drives the Science Fiction of people like Isaac Asimov. Asimov created imaginative other realities, but they were firmly grounded in reason: robots do this, because this. There was no mystery to proceedings, despite the fact that it is entirely imaginary. And I suspect this sort of fantasy appeals to people in the same way that Star Trek does - there is wonder and escapism there, but you can catalogue it and analyse it in terms of internal consistency and logic. It is fantastical, but comprehensible.
The Romantic Tradition, on the other hand, doesn't try to present us with a holistic, rational world; as with Pirsig's friend in Zen..., the point is not to understand, but to revel in the unknown and unknowable. Once you begin to comprehend, you destroy the fragile magic and weirdness, and shatter the mystery. You make it mundane. It is the fantasy of writers like Lord Dunsany, M. John Harrison, John Crowley, Michael Moorcock, and Mervyn Peake; writers for whom strangeness and other-worldliness is as much the point as are the plot and characters, and in which there seemingly is no internal logic or rational world. In Viriconium, the city and characters change from story to story and yet stay the same; in Little, Big the fairies are one thing and then they're another; in Time and the Gods the universe is governed by capricious beings whose true motives can only be guessed at. You're not supposed to bother approaching such books expecting them to make sense; you're supposed to revel in the fact that they don't - except perhaps on some intuitive, emotional level. They are about incomprehensibility and that is why they are fun.
For whatever reason, it's the Classicist tradition which seems to have come to dominate "D&D fantasy" as we have come to know it. I believe this is at least partly to do with the nature of gaming itself: there needs to be rationality in order for there to be a game with agreed rules. But I also sometimes think it is to do with gamers, because it is undoubtedly true that there is something within the nerdish, the bookish, and the dorkish (and I include myself in this) which seeks comfort in statistics and charts and tables and lists. Such things speak to our insecurities and anal retentive tendencies. We like control, and order. Many of us are socially inept, and bad at functioning in a group without the sort of guidelines and regulations which rulebooks provide. Classicist fantasy is more comfortable than the Romantic kind for people like us.
I like both traditions, and think there's a place for both. My recent posts have mostly been about trying to redress the balance slightly in favour of Romanticism, but there is value and worth in the other and I'd hate to imply otherwise. I like George R. R. Martin and M. John Harrison equally and couldn't choose between them.
(As an afterword, I don't think it's an accident that the greatest fantasy author - Tolkien - had his foot firmly in both camps. His linguistic creations and his obsessive chronicling were unquestionably Scientifictionalist. But his myth-making and his delight in Tom Bombadilesque mysteries point towards a dyed-in-the-wool Romantic. Maybe that's part of the weird chemistry that makes his books so enjoyable.)