HD&D: Character Races

You will remember from my post on Making Characters, that I intend to treat character races in much the same way as fourth edition. All races are balanced because all races get the same bonuses: +2 to two attributes, +2 to two skills, +1 to one defence and two feat-like racial traits. While this works from a mechanical point of view, does it break the suspension of disbelief. Shouldn’t a dragonborn PC be stronger than a hobbit?

In this post, I’ll do my best to explain (and to justify) my current stance. If I don’t convince you, then please do your best to convince me of a better alternative.  We’ll also examine the role of racial traits, and look at the races I want to convert into HD&D to begin with. Obviously, the seven third edition races (Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Halfling, Half-elf, Half-orc and Human) are the priority, but I would also like to give time to the fourth edition dragonborn, tiefling and genasi. If there’s time we can eventually cast the net wider, but we’ll concentrate on those ten races to begin with.

Character Races

The differences between third and fourth edition in the way they deal with character races is profound. In third edition everything is built from the same base. NPCs, Monsters and PCs use the same mechanics. The result is a system that at least gives the illusion of being consistant. In fourth edition monsters and NPCs are built with a shorthand system, with abilities that player characters can never aspire to. PCs use more indepth and complicated rules.

I think the third edition method is much better. As I have said before a minotaur NPC shouldn’t have abilities that a minotaur PC can never hope to acquire. Neither should things like hit points be different for NPCs simply because of the way those characters function in combat. I can see why the rules work that way in 4e, but this is not the goal for HD&D. Everyone starts on a level playing field, and there are no abilities or powers out there that player characters cannot eventually gain.

However, if we are going for a degree of ‘realism’ and consistency in HD&D then what am I doing mucking about with a 4e-like bonuses and abilities for character races? A half-orc is strong. He gets +2 to strength. A minotaur is stronger. He gets +8 to strength. Surely that’s more realistic?

The Need for Balance

On the whole I am not a great believer in game balance. I’ll happily set a couple of angry wyverns on a party of 1st level third edition characters because I know they’ll have to be creative to get out of the situation. But one area where I think there has to be balance is between members of the same party. If nothing else, HD&D has to achieve a better level of PC parity than third edition. I don’t aspire for it to be as balanced as fourth edition, as that level of balance actively works to the detriment of the game.

Part of my proposal is to give all starting races +2 to two skills, +1 to one defence, knowledge of four languages/scripts and two racial traits. Vision, speed and mundane natural attacks (claws, not breath weapons) don’t really matter in the great scheme of things. A dragonborn might be able to do 1d6 damage with his claws. So what? Every other member of the party will have a weapon that can inflict that, and the circumstances when using a claw offers an advantage over using a weapon are remote.

I don’t think that anything I mention in the above paragraph is objectionable. This is just a formalisation of all many of the benefits that races have enjoyed in all editions. The main bone of contention (I believe) is doing this with attribute bonuses. I don’t think it matters too much, but I sense that some of you will need convincing. Let’s do just that.

Attribute Bonuses: The Minotaur

The Minotaur is more powerful than a normal PC race, and likely to have exceptional attributes (largely in its Strength and Constitution). We also have stats for the minotaur as both a monster and a PC race for both third and fourth edition. This is therefore a good example to take.

The Third Edition Minotaur

In third edition the Minotaur was a published in the original Monster Manual. He’s also in the SRD, and you can find his full stats online here. In third edition the minotaur was a 6 HD (sixth level) creature with the following stats:

Str 19, Dex 10, Con 15, Int 7, Wis 10, Cha 8

Third edition assumed that the stats of all the monsters in the Monster Manual were average for that race. They assumed that those were the stats you got if you took the average of a 3d6 roll (10.5) for each attribute. By that principle, a PC minotaur with the above stats would be the same as a PC human having Str 10, Dex 10, Con 10, Int 11, Wis 11, Cha 11:  i.e. incredibly average.

So for the PC version, the above “average” stats were converted into attribute modifiers. The way this worked in third edition was to subtract 11 from every odd attribute, and subtract 10 from every even attribute. This gave the minotaur PC the following attribute modifiers:

Str +8, Dex +0, Con +4, Int -4, Wis +0, Cha -2

Obviously stat modifiers like that gave a PC minotaur an horrendous advantage over his fellows party members. Anyone playing the minotaur in its idiom would play a fighter-type, and undoubtedly put their highest stat into Strength. If that was an 18 then the minotaur PC would have a Strength of 26. An extra +4 to hit and +4 damage beyond the beefiest human fighter.

Of course, this is not the whole story in third edition. The minotaur is 6 HD, so it immediately has to be a sixth level character. Additionally the rules state that the minotaur is more powerful than your average sixth level character. In fact a 6 HD minotaur is about as powerful as an eighth level character. Therefore the minotaur was given a +2 level adjustment, and an Equivalent Character Level (ECL) of 8th.

Basically, a standard 6 HD minotaur should only be fielded with an eighth level party. The minotaur would still only have six hit dice, but his ECL meant that he would have to earn enough experience for 9th level to advance to level seven.

I’m not going to get into a discussion about how broken and unnecessarily complicated the ECL system was. However, there is one thing I would like to underline. There was little provision for playing a minotaur from level one. This basically meant that everyone who had an idea for playing a minotaur (or any monstrous character) had to wait until an appropriate point in the campaign, or they had to break down the minotaur into eight racial levels. This was messy, time consuming and rather annoying. And it didn’t work very well either.

I think the problem here comes from assuming that the Monster Manual contained average attributes. What if it didn’t? What if the attributes in the MM were a true reflection of the race specialised in one particular direction – mêlée combat on the part of the minotaur. This was the approach that fourth edition adopted.

The Fourth Edition Minotaur

The fourth edition minotaur is found on pp190-191 of Monster Manual 1. However, it doesn’t give us one version of the minotaur. It gives us three. They are as follows:

Minotaur Warrior (Level 10)
Str 23, Con 18, Dex 10, Int 9, Wis 14, Cha 13

Minotaur Cabalist (Level 13)
Str 22, Con 17, Dex 12, Int 13, Wis 17, Cha 16

Savage Minotaur (Level 16)
Str 24, Con 20, Dex 12, Int 9, Wis 19, Cha 12

These are obviously not average minotaurs. In fact, in 4e, there’s really no such thing as an average minotaur. The above tells us that a Minotaur Warrior of 10th level will have these stats. Now, in 4e 10th level for a Monster or NPC is not quite the same as 10th level for a PC. But what if it were? In HD&D we are going to assume that it is.

In fourth edition a Minotaur PC starts at 1st level with + 2 Strength and +2 Constitution (his racial strengths). Assuming you use the standard array (16, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10) for his stats, and assuming you want to play a Fighter then the chances are the stats of Minotaur Fighter (Great Weapon Build) in fourth edition will look like something like this:

Minotaur Fighter (1st level)
Str 18, Con 16, Dex 12, Int 10, Wis 13, Cha 11

Now, PCs get stat advances. They get +1 to two attribtues at levels 4, 8, 14, 18, 24 and 28; and +1 to all attributes at levels 11 and 21. If we take these into account, this is what this Minotaur looks like as he advances through the tiers:

Minotaur Fighter (4th level)
Str 19, Con 17, Dex 12, Int 10, Wis 13, Cha 11

Minotaur Fighter (8th level)
Str 20, Con 18, Dex 12, Int 10, Wis 13, Cha 11

Minotaur Fighter (11th level)
Str 21, Con 19, Dex 13, Int 11, Wis 14, Cha 12

Minotaur Fighter (14th level)
Str 22, Con 20, Dex 13, Int 11, Wis 14, Cha 12

Minotaur Fighter (18th level)
Str 23, Con 21, Dex 13, Int 11, Wis 14, Cha 12

Minotaur Fighter (21st level)
Str 24, Con 22, Dex 14, Int 12, Wis 15, Cha 13

Minotaur Fighter (24st level)
Str 25, Con 23, Dex 14, Int 12, Wis 15, Cha 13

Minotaur Fighter (28th level)
Str 26, Con 24, Dex 14, Int 12, Wis 15, Cha 13

Look at the Minotaur’s stats during this advancement, and then compare them back to the stats of the minotaurs from Monster Manual 1. It is quite possible to see that by 10th, 13th or 16th level the PC minotaur can feasibly have very similar statistics.

It doesn’t quite work – but that’s because we’re looking at 4e. In HD&D it will work. In HD&D all races will start first level on a par. As they advance in level some  races will “grow into” the stats as presented in the Monster Manual. The attributes of Monster Manual denizens are already exceptional for their race.

Coping with Ridiculous Stats

Well, that’s all very well and good I hear you cry, but what happens when you’ve got a race that doesn’t fit that model? There might be some races (such as dragons) where the magnitude of their attributes outstrips their level. Anything that has a attribute of higher than 28 falls into this category, but the attribute ceiling for low level creatures is less. If there is no way a PC can get a stat that high by that level (assuming they only start with a maximum of +2) then we have a problem.

My first response is that PCs don’t play those sort of races, but dragons are an extreme example. One can imagine that there are quite feasible races (perhaps yet to be published) that suffer from the same problem. My solution? Give the PC a stat boost by way of a racial talent. Maybe a PC dragon can choose a talent that gives them (e.g.) an extra +4 to one stat.

This gives the player character the choice (see below) to advance the race in a traditional manner. It also frees the hands of the games designers (that’s us, by the way) to give monsters whatever stats we think they deserve, without worrying too much what would happen if a player ever got their grubby little hands on the race.

My post on Monsters is a long way off. But when we get there, we’ll see how this works in practice. The important thing to underline is that character races and monsters are connected, and they must use the same inherent mechanics, resources and calculations otherwise the integrity of the game is diminished.

The Importance of Player Choice

Using a system of +2 to two stats (whether prescribed or not), and doing away with attribute penalties gives the player more freedom. Dwarves are normally gruff and dour, which is why they have traditionally had a penalty to Charisma. Doing away with the penalty doesn’t mean that most dwarves aren’t stll gruff and dour, but it does mean that we are no longer penalising the PC who wants to play a dwarven paladin.

Now it will still be quite possible for players to have attibutes of less than 10. Low stats are important – low stats can define a character as much as high ones. However, players will have to choose to have a low stat rather than being lumbered with one from their choice of race. Surely this is better?

Next

Okay, time to climb down from the soapbox. This post is already 2000 words long, so we’ll draw a line here. Next time, I’ll post the stats for some of the ten races, as well as their racial traits (the things they get for free) and some of their racial talents. Until then.

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17 thoughts on “HD&D: Character Races

  1. Could we have a system where NPC races have specific +2 bonuses to two ability scores such as CON and WIS for a dwarf, but PCs get to choose their 2 ability scores regardless of race? That way if you wish to create a nerdy bespectacled dwarf you could swap the CON bonus to INT instead. The option to create a “typical” dwarf is always there if you want to go down the racial norm route. However since PC’s are not supposed to be the norm why bother hindering their character creation with any sort of limitation?
    I know that I could still generate a dwarf with an INT of 18 by spending extra points on that stat, but why should my character be hindered in doing so when it would cost so much less points to create a eladrin character with an INT of 18?
    I think this system would allow for a greater diversity of characters and personalities for the game.

  2. That’s an interesting idea. Rather than having +2 to two prescribed stats, we just suggest which two stats you should apply the bonuses to. PCs can put them where they like. Ultimate choice for race and class combinations. We could do the same for the skill and defence bonuses.

    Does this diminish a race’s identity? Does it make humans an unattractive choice for players? Discuss! Discuss!

  3. It shouldn’t diminish race identity as NPCs keep the sterotype and those traits are well and truely ingrained into our minds after years of playing D&D, but by definition players are not necessarily stereotypical.
    I don’t think this will make humans a less attractive choice, as for our group we tend to like playing “characters” rather than stats. If anything it might decrease the use of races other than humans, as now there would be little or no advantage to being a particular race.

  4. I like the idea of races having two ‘traditional’ +2 stat bonuses, but the ability to move them about, much like the example James DH makes of a dwarf with a taste for magic rather than melee.

    I don’t think it diminishes a race’s identity as they will still have skills, racial defense and racial feats to define them as a race. It just doesn’t penalize a player for wanting to play a class different to a race’s stereotypical role (i.e. favoured class from 3rd ed).

    It won’t make humans unattractive, it will just give players more freedom with character concepts.

    • This just in from Neil:

      Hmmm, whilst I agree that a player should be able to have a bookish Dwarf or a strapping Elf I do think that races should inherently be different, there’s a reason stereotypes exist afterall. The other poiint is that yes, I do believe that it diminishes humans as they are no longer anymore versatile. Basically you have relegated race to a choice that doesn’t influence the mechanics of the game, simply adds a bit of colour. Except of course for racial talents. Are humans to have these as well? If so what will they be? If not why would I want to play a human?

      Not wanting to play a human is the biggest problem with this proposal. However, it does solve the problem of humans being too good (which was recently argued).

      While you might think “why should I play a human?”, you might just as logically think “why shouldn’t I play a human?”

      Racial Talents and Racial Feats are available to all races – including humans. Although, it will be interesting to work out what they are. Most of the Human Feats in 4e allow humans to play with action points more efficiently.

      Assigning racial talents and feats for humans are hard. After all, what makes a human a human? Unless we say something like a human doesn’t have any racial talents but he can choose talents from another class without multiclassing or something like that. Which is in itself a little unbalanced.

      I don’t know. I really don’t. James’s suggestion seems like a neat solution to avoid pigeon-holing PCs into certain roles. If you have a good idea for a dwarf wizard, why should rules penalise that choice?

  5. And again from Neil:

    I agree it’s very difficult and I don’t profess to have the answer. You say you can just as validly ask “why not play a human?”. Well if I had the choice between playing two fighters and one could, for example, breathe fire or see in the dark, everything else being equal why wouldn’t I pick this fighter? However, you have said that humans can have racial talents and feats so then picking a race is all to do with the background of that race and the inherent fun of playing something a bit different from yourself. All in all, assuming the availability of decent human talents/feats, making every race even allows for maximum flexibility and the only reason to pick any particular race (including human) is because you have an idea of what and how you want to play, and that, I believe, is what you want. I would add that this means no race is likely to pre-dominate PCs and it may even have the effect of attracting more non-human PCs since their backgrounds, particularly if playing against type, are easier, and more fun, to create.

    One other thing, there is no way this would be published by WotC!

    Well, I’ll take that as a good sign!

    One thing to point out is that all those fab racial talents (like dragon breath, armoured skin or the ability to breathe under water) are taken at the expense of your class talents. So all things won’t be equal. Perhaps a human character would be more defined by his class than by his race.

    Maybe I could cope with more non-humans in a party. Though I tend to think that humans would be the default choice if you couldn’t think of a reason to play a (e.g.) dwarf or a dragonborn. There would be no disadvantage in choosing a human, after all. Still it sounds as though you might be coming round to the idea – as long as we can produce some pretty hot human racial talents and feats.

  6. First, I must say I like the way 4E deals with PCs / Monsters, as it makes my job as a DM much easier :) But, to the helpful part:

    Instead of having floating stats for the other races, you could allow change of just one of the two stats. So, a dwarf having +2 Con and +2 Wis could choose to change one of them (either keeping it within the same subset of “physical” or “mental” stats, or changing freely). You could even say that each race could only change one stat.

    The other thing I was thinking was that the PC party did not have to reflect the population at large. You could have 90% humans across your setting, and only have one in the party. These are, after all, heroes – is this not an unusual occupation in your world? A disadvantage of not being human could simply be that the party do not integrate with society as well…?

  7. I thought I’d like the way 4e dealt with the NPC/PC dynamic as well. I thought, “this’ll be less work!”. Then I realised I never properly statted things out for third edition anyway, so I wasn’t really saving any time.

    You’re right. Adventuring parties are exceptional – they don’t have to reflect the predominant society. I guess the only way to see what effect this has is to pick and up run with the rules. Do we get more humans or do we get less?

    Moving one attribute is a compromise option. Let’s put it to the vote. Should all non-humans have:

    1) +2 to two prescribed ability scores.
    2) +2 to any ability scores of their choice.
    3) +2 to one prescribed ability score, and +2 to another ability score their choice.

  8. The following message from Marc covers a few of the topics that we have recently been discussing, but I think it’s most at home in this discussion thread:

    Either espouse flexibility universally or do not, choose. You cannot claim to have consistency when you prescribe class as possessing these talents, hp bonus, etc. and only members of that class can have them, and then for race… as long as you have a good in character reason go for it…

    Either you have a race and class based system or you do not, don’t make the mistake of being too flexible. We are players, we want the best for our characters, if we can have a system that easily lets us play out of type without penalty then good for us, but that does not mean it promotes good roleplay (definitely playing towards humans with rubber masks) or verisimilitude. In 4e (and for that matter 3e) humans possessed versatility (which was their advantage, and was balanced by the fact it was in one stat and extra choice in powers, I prefer this to two floating stats). your suggestion completely removes this as an advantage. Do you want verisimilitude? or balance? Make your mind up because you are vacillating faster than a politician, and heading to a world of potential cherry picking. I mean your smart and puny gorilla is still going to be out-thought by an average human and still will be able to rip the arms off same said person, stats modifiers aren’t just a mechanical kick they are supposed to illustrate the racial (i.e. biological) difference from the prescribed baseline. If you want an agile dwarf, best stat into dexterity, but remember he still won’t be able to slam dunk. Lets forget the old “adventurers are special” argument, have you seen your stats… are they average? (just look at the human rabble and the definition of an average stat is still around the 10-11 mark)… I like playing against type and I suffer the consequences, but they are minor, +1 (a skill focus feat alone will take care of that and give some bonus on top considering the way that the mechanics are headed), and only crippling if you have three stat classes where your race has no bonus in any of those stats. Now if you trust the PCs enough to play fast and loose with race, open up classes in the same way, if it can be justified then it can be taken. I’m sorry but if I can build a human fighter and an elven fighter and the sole difference is that the elf can also see in the dark why bother with human.

    Aging another issue, of course it should be in there, just have characters that can’t start in middle age plus. The body does indeed get frailer as you get older as well as the fact you have more life experience to draw upon. In D&D you could never start at middle aged, it was you that opened that Pandora’s box.

    Which brings me to does having claws, darkvision, etc. mechanically matter? Answer: yep, again against the McClaean, How many times have we wondered about in the dark or at night, low light vision meant that things were spotted first, or only those characters could see it coming; it only doesn’t matter if everybody has it (A Game of Souls). The claws – prison, noble courts, just after a shipwreck, don’t have to conceal it… it is very easy for you as a GM to say “in the grand scheme of things” but you HAVE placed us in situations where having a natural weapon would matter because we had no access to weaponry. Bundle these abilities together as a ‘minor’ boost if you must but once again these are racial traits, and humans should have some sort of compensation (standard “breeds like rabbits” doesn’t work since goblinoids and orcs outdo humans in that regard and are not the dominant race).

    And then we come to the idea of no monstrous race is inherently more powerful… Lies I say, all lies. I give you potent special abilities that are key to some races e.g. medusa’s petrifying gaze. Rather potent at low level? Accessing talents needs more thought and the understanding that at low levels everyone is universally poor, even monsters, but should there be a way to gauge ability or level of an opponent? – akin to the cold read ability in L5R using insight.

    ECLs did not work because they did not scale with level, a small boost at low levels works well, at high levels unnoticeable but costs the same? Putting the tiers in could alleviate this problem, reducing the ECL cost or bumping up/down the bonuses (much more workable and in keeping with the 4e ethos). Giving stat boosts as racial talents maybe the way to go as well as folding the powers in the MM into racial talents/feats. Also remember CRs were the measure of how effective the monster was against a party of adventurers – something else that was completely broken probably due to lack of playtesting.

  9. The Race and Class Based System

    Yes, I want to retain races and classes in HD&D. It wouldn’t be a D&D equivalent if we didn’t do this. For both races and classes, the choice of talent and feat is restricted. You can multiclass to get access to another class’s talents and feats, but you can’t “multirace” to get access to another race’s talents and feats.

    James’s proposal above doesn’t change that. All we are saying is that the bonuses to abilitiy scores, skills and defences is no longer dependent upon race. The race is defined by its choice of traits, talents and feats instead. But I can see where you’re coming from. I may even agree with you. I’m going to cast your vote for prescribed bonuses for races.

    Ageing

    Yes, there should be effects for ageing. I just don’t think that they should be automatic penalties to physical stats, and automatic bonuses to mental stats. If anything, all stats should decline as you age. I would prefer to deal with ageing using the mechanic for diseases. Old Age is something you catch at a certain age, you can fight it off for a while, but eventually you succomb.

    Vision and Natural Weapons

    Hmm. I really don’t think it matters. Even on those occassions when you have lost or your equipment or been wandering around in the dark, I don’t I can bring myself to consider claws, vision and speed as great advantages for a character to have.

    Low-light vision in fourth edition is more flavour than rules. It certainly doesn’t let you see in the dark – which is what third edition darkvision did. I’ll be keeping the 4e definition. And even if you don’t have any weapons, there’s still plenty of ways to improvise one. Yes, there might be a small benefit to the dragonborn fighting with his claws, but it wouldn’t last long. And there are always going to be sessions where the plot favours one character over another.

    Verisimilitude versus Balance

    This is the rub, isn’t it? It’s almost as if you can’t have both at the same time. Yes, even the most erudite and weedy gorilla is still going to be less intelligent and stronger than a human. However, it is my opinion that ability scores need to be very firmly balanced between player characters. How can we do this for races that are significantly beyond human level, like the minotaur?

    My idea is to take level into account. Most humans are 1st level and have X stats. Most minotaurs are 10th level and Y stats. A 1st level PC minotaur is going to unusually weedy for his race, but he’ll grow into his stats by 10th level, and then begin to exceed them. A human will exceed his racial norm far more quickly.

    Powerful racial talents such as dragonborn’s a breath weapon, or (as you say) a medusa’s petrfying gaze may not even be available from first level. Or they might start off poor and gain in power as the character gains levels. The logic is that “in the wild” you’re not going to meet a medusa or a minotaur of less than 10th level. These rules for lower level versions of this creatures are entirely for the PCs.

    Is that too abstract for you? A balance to far?

    If it is, what do we do instead? Do we just wash our hands of the matter and say that some races (anything that requires more than a +2 to any one ability score) is just too powerful for player characters and therefore it is never available. Or, do we find another way to correct it?

    If we are going to correct it in the system I have outlined, then it has to using Racial Talents. A Minotaur would start with +2 to Strength. If he wants the other +8 (to bring him into line with the Minotaur in the MM) then he needs to select racial talent(s). But then the PC minotaur is still getting stat advances as well, so he’s actually going to end up more powerful than the MM1 minotaur, isn’t he? Is that what we want. Sound a lot like third edition to me.

    You can’t have a party where some character’s stats are siginificantly higher than the assumed maximum. It makes skill checks too easy. If you are balancing the higher attribute off with a racial talent then it can probably be justified (as long as we get the balance right) but on the whole it’s a no-no.

    The reason you highlight is only one of the many reasons ECL didn’t work. My biggest bone of contention was that you were considered to be (e.g.) 8th level, but actually only had the hit points, spells, feat choices and skills of a 6th level character. At high ECLs that really broke down, and I’m convinced that recalculating the ECL for each tier would necessarily solve that.

    So what do you want to do?

    Conclusion

    You are saying that some races are inherently more powerful than others, and that reducing them all down to the same statistics and potential ignores that important fact.

    I am saying you are right. But if we don’t equalise races at 1st level, then more powerful races can never be player characters. Full stop. The system won’t survive it. Perhaps it was naive of me to think that it ever would.

    Or is there a third way?

  10. The two issues I am trying to get at are:

    1. All you have done is create a metaclass – race and a class – career each of which (with the exception of multiclassing – but you could always say half breeds could take traits of each race) has a collection of traits and feats associated with that class or metaclass. If we’re heading this way… just let humans pick two classes instead of having any racial traits no lost feat and takes the best benefit of each. Hold on radical idea, lets have the class Elf – back to red box set D&D people.

    2. I’m sorry for me all the flavour has gone, there is nothing to hang the perception of race. Labelling a number of what you perceive as minor advantages as valueless is like saying why don’t we make them aviliable to all. If we are neglecting variations from any base we had better get rid of any rules for small and large characters because those rules don’t get used very often (although the Halfling has better than average advantages as compensation). Allowing people to assign abilitiy scores, skills and defences is the first step in allowing powergaming, lets rack up those class race combos.

    It just feels for me that it is moving away from a system with character to one where you are keeping the headings but are not taking into acount what they actually mean. because you CAN generate the same character human vs any other race, and that other race will be slightly better. It may seem like a small point but for me its where the differences in races lies such that you are not playing a human in a rubber suit.

  11. I wholeheartedly agree with Marc. I’m totally against giving free rein to all races. I really can’t see a problem with the idea that some races are better at certain things than others. It ties the flavour of the game in to the mechanics which can only be a good thing. Dwarves can still be excellent wizards. They may not be quite as good as Elves but is that unreasonable? Dwarven wizards have other talents beyond the traditional. They can be tougher than elves and might have higher wisdom. Pretty useful. Maybe certain wizard talents come off Wisdom and would be perfect for a Dwarf. I would like to keep the bonuses to stats and skills fixed. I think it makes playing against type more interesting.

    Likewise, I think that the minor advantages described are pretty useful and easily counterbalance a Human’s flexibility. Low-light vision is at least as useful as, say, +2 to perception which would be seen as a big advantage.

    I don’t think we should make the system bend over backwards to incorporate particularly powerful monsters from level one. Medusae or Half-blood Yuan-ti are just too powerful to use at low-levels. Creating rules so that people can play the most puny Minotaur in the world seems a little pointless. I’m happy to have player character Minotaurs but not at first level. By all means make the powers of a monster come from racial talents but don’t let a player play one until they have taken a minimum number of those talents. So, for example, a Minotaur might have to have taken talents giving it a hefty strength bonus, and a gore attack. Give them the same advantages that basic races get for free then make them take, say, four specific talents as a basis for being a minotaur. All Minotaurs, PC or NPC, have these racial talents and by default would have to be level six in order to have taken that many talents. This would work like third edition when Minotaurs had to be 6HD, but wouldn’t cause a problem at any level if the talents were balanced with normal PC ones. This would mean a sixth level Minotaur is not very flexible but has access to some very good talents to make up for it. (This then is an extension of the rules for ‘demihumans’, as I love to call them behind their backs, which are more flexible than monsters but less flexible than Humans. The further away from Human the less flexible you become which helps explain the prevalence of Humans in the world.) Then, if a player was asked to create an eighth level character they could create a Minotaur, but not before. Otherwise you’re basically adventuring with a Minotaur child at first level. It’s the only reason I can think of to explain such a little weedy one.

  12. This from Neil:

    I agree with Marc and Daniel, no point in playing a weedy Minotaur or whatever just limit powerful races to certain levels.

    As for the whole flexible attribute thing, well I can see both sides so I am voting for option 3; 1 prescribed and 1 “floating” for the various races. I agree with Marc and Daniel that races are inherently different to humans, and each other. Some are stronger, some are more intelligent. I understand where Neil is coming from with the whole party balance thing, I know it isn’t the same thing but Tam was ridiculous in the last game. It is infuriating to be relegated to side-kick at best and simply irrelevant at worst, which is why I think classes should be different from each other and give bonuses where appropriate, so that each player, or at least class, has their “moment in the sun”. Neil does a very good job with this in general, using player character backgrounds to create some truly memorable moments, but for the small stuff the mechanics have got to be right.

  13. There are two issues here. The first is what we are going to about applying the +2 racial modifiers. I’m going to solve that with an online poll. Get over and vote if you haven’t already.

    The second issue is trickier, and fundamental. We don’t need a solution (yet) as we’re not discussing monsters.

    Do we want “base stats” for each creature to exist in HD&D? And should that base be the same base as it was in third edition. For example, if we assume that “10” is the average ability score (because that is what you would normally roll on 3d6) then the average stats for a Dragonborn would be:

    Str 12, Con 10, Dex 10, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 12.

    Now a player character dragonborn would use the point buy system. They would start with 10 in all six stats, spend their 20 points and then slap on the racial stat modifier. That would make a PC dragonborn much, much more powerful than “average”.

    Or should all races everywhere have a base 10 in all their stats + 20 points through the point buy system + their racial ability score modifiers? Should the stats for the monsters I put in the monster manual reflect that?

    I seriously think that they should. I think that the 10th level minotaur you see in the Monster Manual should have stats that started at 10, been increased by the point-buy system to a certain level and then had their racial modifiers slapped on top, and then had the abilty modifier advances they got at 4th and 8th level. If you want to keep the obvious distinction between races then this has to the case.

    In HD&D (as in fourth edition) a human can start with a Strength of 20. That’s probably as strong as a minotaur would be if the stats in the Monster Manual are just 10 + racial modifiers. Do we want that?

  14. To answer Marc’s points specifically:

    1) I’m not sure exactly what you’re getting at here. Yes, all player character races start with a couple of minor abilities. All these abilities are equal so each race balances with one another. If the race has any more powerful abilities that would upset the balance, then the player has to choose to select them as a racial talent; but he selects it at the expense of one of his class talents.

    All races have racial talents (even humans). Although some races might have more racial talents than others. The character becomes a balance between race and class. How dwarfy do you want your dwarf to be? We could give humans access to a second class instead of giving them racial talents, I suppose – but I don’t think that it’s necessary.

    2) Is the perception of the race dependent upon where the attribute modifiers go? If so vote accordinginly in the poll. There are plenty of other (free!) elements to each race that they get at first level that should make them sufficiently different to humans. All races get two racial traits, neither of which is that wussy.

    I have so say that I still don’t think natural weapons, speed or vision are significant enough benefits to merit the need for balance. Size probably is, but not between small and medium-sized creatures. A dwarf moves at 25 feet per round, and an elf at 35. Without a battle grid is that important? Obviously you feel strongly about this, so it’s quite likely you’re seeing something I’m not.

    Next week, I’ll post up the stats to a few PC races – some of them have natural weapons and so on, some do not. I think I have human, dragonborn, tiefling, elf and dwarf on the verge of being finished. Have a look over them and see if they still look unbalanced, or lacking in individual flavour. Obviously I don’t want that! It might be easier to discuss when we have something solid to look at.

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