Advanced Race Guide - Discussion

jkason

Visitor
I've not gotten very far in it, but since it sounds like folks have already started pondering over in the General thread, I thought I'd throw in a placeholder here to get things started / try to centralize the discussion so it doesn't get lost over in general.
 

jkason

Visitor
I would say that one thing we can decide before really reading through is that, due to the nature of the book, we probably want to amend the normal "approved in 6 months if no one objects" rule. I think it's safe enough to implement that for already-approved races, since I think we should be able to review those elements in time, but I'm for inverting the rules for races which aren't already approved: i.e., any rules content involving previously non-playable races must be explicitly approved, or else it's assumed excluded regardless of the passage of time.
 

Qik

Visitor
I agree with jkason as well.

For the new races, my question is, do we want to decide how many new ones we want to take, and go from there? I feel like having a target number at least would help whittle things down. But others may want to take a different approach.

One thing I think we should do is rule against traditionally-evil races as being approved for PC use. So:

- Goblins
- Hobgoblins
- Kobolds
- Orcs
- Duergar
- Svirfneblins

I also think the (new?) Strix fit this bill as well.

I would vote NO to using these races for PCs.
 

Qik

Visitor
No harm in broaching the subject.

On that topic, though, the only thing I've seen thus far that I would consider banning for LPF is the mermaid's alternate racial trait that gives them 15' land speed.
 

jkason

Visitor
For the new races, my question is, do we want to decide how many new ones we want to take, and go from there? I feel like having a target number at least would help whittle things down. But others may want to take a different approach.
While I understand the idea of trying to limit the expansion, a target number feels a bit arbitrary to me. I'm not sure that adding X races is a good measuring stick, and part of me wonders if that might not push us to accept more than we should (if we're 'under the limit'), though I could certainly be wrong. YMMV, of course, but I think when we get to the point of starting to consider new races, we might be better off agreeing on a good standard on what makes a race 'playable' in LPF.

I'm probably being a little redundant, since I think I talked about this in the Wayang proposal, but I figure it doesn't hurt to toss it into the general thread so it's part and parcel of the archive. So:

***The uniqueness continuum***

* A new race that doesn't really bring a lot of new flavor to the table doesn't seem worth the time to me. There's already a lot of choices to make when creating a character, so if we can avoid too many options that are 'just a little different,' I think we should.

* Some races may also be TOO oddball, however, or have a flavor which is decidedly at odds with LPF for any of a number of imaginable reasons. If we can't come up with a reasonable place to fit culturally, that's a solid strike against it.

* Then, too, a race--oddball or not--may fit best as a rare species. I think we need to make approvals with the assumption that any new race will suddenly become the only race people choose. If it strains credibility to have the Dunn Wright packed with X species looking for work, I think we should be especially careful about giving it a thumbs up.

* It's entirely possible that, despite not having a readily available 'place' in E'n as it exists, a race might spark the imagination. If it doesn't have a place, but the flavor (from the book or modified by whomever is championing it) is especially inspirational from a character / adventure hook angle, that strikes me as a plus.

***Power Scale***

* Flavor aside, a fair amount of racial decision will be based on the mechanics of an intended build. Races whose statistics and racial alts make them decidedly more or less powerful than existing races come with a big red warning sign (see above for my 'assume everyone will take the new race' suggestion). I have less to say in this regard because I'm definitely not as confident in my math skills on this one, but obviously I think it has to come into play.

* Modification - Power level seems to me an easier thing to adjust. If a race 'feels' right for players / regular adventurers, but one or more elements of its math are just plain wrong, nixing those seems a fairly straightforward solution.
 

jkason

Visitor
Okay, here's the things that niggled at me in the Core Races chapter. I'm not violently opposed to anything, but they seemed odd enough to me to warrant mention, at least. I think it should be obvious, but any expansions on rules content already excluded (e.g firearms, crafting) are de facto excluded with regards to Advanced Race Guide.

* Forgemaster (Dwarf archetypes, pg. 16) has multiple craft-based abilities. They seem to be additions rather than replacements, so I’m not sure it hurts the archetype to just dump them.

* Gauntlets of Skill at Arms (Elven Magic Equipment, pg. 28): fluff text says "gloves" all over the place. I'm assuming this is a typo.

* Gloves of Elvenkind (Elven Magic Equipment, pg. 29): +5 seems like a large bonus for less than 10,000 gp, but the DCs on casting defensively seem pretty steep, anyway, and there aren't a lot of other ways to boost your bonus, so this might not be out of line.

* Knack w/ Poison (Gnome Racial Alt, pg. 32): One of the benefits here is to a craft skill, which is probably why one of its replaced elements is Obsessive. I'm wondering if the LPF version should just remove the craft bonus and only replace Illusion Resistance? Or is a bonus vs. poison good enough that it needs a higher cost?

* Obsession Log (Gnome Equipment, pg. 37): Since we changed the racial trait, I'm inclined to just nix this piece of equipment, though I suppose it could always just be a gnome-fluffed MW tool for a Gnome's racially-bonused skill.

* Paragon Surge (Half-Elf spell, pg. 48). +2 to two ability scores and any feat (with prereq restrictions) seems like a lot to get for a minute / level. It only works on half-elves, but does seem like there's some spamming potential for a spontaneous-caster half-elf. Maybe I just have a poor sense of the 'circumstantial' feats, though, and this isn't nearly as useful as I think it is.

* The flavor of the Blood God Disciple (Half-Orc archetypes, pg. 53) abilities might be questionable, especially given that, as written, the eidolon could be munching on helpless foes. PC's can (and do) still coup-de-grace, though, so I'm not sure this isn't just a more graphic instance of an already-occurring practice.

* Resilient Brute (Half-Orc Feats, pg. 57): I'm split on this one. Crits are rare enough that you probably don't need to use this more than once a day, so the limit doesn't seem like much of a limit to me. On the other hand, the rarity of crits may make its own case for the power level of the feat.

* Half-blood Extraction (Half-Orc spells, pg. 59): If I'm reading this right, the spell permanently (instantaneous duration) changes a half-orc (playable race) into an orc (non-playable race). I'm inclined to nix it for that reason, rather than argue with folk about a spell that turns their PC into an NPC. I suppose, though, we should take a hard look at the Reincarnate spell if my argument stands, since it has the potential to do the same thing (though the target race is randomized in that case).

* Risky Striker (Halfling feates, pg. 67): The basic feat seems like a modified Power Attack mechanic, but the scaling on this feat only increases the bonus (to damage), without increasing the penalty (to AC). Seems off to me.
 
* A new race that doesn't really bring a lot of new flavor to the table doesn't seem worth the time to me. There's already a lot of choices to make when creating a character, so if we can avoid too many options that are 'just a little different,' I think we should.
One thing that has been bothering me about this point of view is whether or not the judges of Living Pathfinder would be opposed to the inclusion of Ethnically different parts of pre-existing races.

For example one of the reasons I am highly favorable to the inclusion of Variant Racial Traits is that it allows a creative player to come up with a custom version of a given race that is potentially unique to a given region of the world of E'n. In point of fact I could even see an argument being made for sanctioning certain packages of racial variants so that there are pre-existing ethnic groups that are native to E'n. This way we don't have to worry as much about the whole thing with people wanting to play races that are similar yet not all that different from pre-existing races... because the pre-existing races already have different ethnicities within them that are sanctioned.

The reason I want variant ethnic groups is because this system would very heavily reflect REALITY. For example there is no single one type of human being. There are Chinese Humans, Indian Humans, African Humans, Arabian Humans, Caucasian Humans, and many many more. Each of which has evolved a different subset of traits that is unique to the region where they originally came to live. I feel it is just as likely that a similar set of evolutionary traits would exist in the various species of creatures on E'n. For example the Elves of two different forests would likely be slightly different in skin pigmentation, and possibly also in how they interact with their respective forests. Humans who live in the high Mountains would likely have evolved a lighter skin tone than humans who live in the deep desert. Etc... Etc...
 

Qik

Visitor
While I understand the idea of trying to limit the expansion, a target number feels a bit arbitrary to me. I'm not sure that adding X races is a good measuring stick, and part of me wonders if that might not push us to accept more than we should (if we're 'under the limit'), though I could certainly be wrong. YMMV, of course, but I think when we get to the point of starting to consider new races, we might be better off agreeing on a good standard on what makes a race 'playable' in LPF.
Point taken. I had suggested articulating a target number in part just to see if others had a number in mind. Given that some have expressed a hesitancy for adding races, I thought it might also be helpful for those people to weigh in on an amount they might see as unacceptable, etc. But I can see the logic with identifying a standard first, and then going from there.

I'm probably being a little redundant, since I think I talked about this in the Wayang proposal, but I figure it doesn't hurt to toss it into the general thread so it's part and parcel of the archive. So:

***The uniqueness continuum***

* A new race that doesn't really bring a lot of new flavor to the table doesn't seem worth the time to me. There's already a lot of choices to make when creating a character, so if we can avoid too many options that are 'just a little different,' I think we should.
Very, very much agree. Just by way of example, this was my main motivation for proposing the Wayang. I think they offer a unique identity - a reclusive people tied to the shadow plane - backed up/expanded by unique mechanics - non-charasmatic, non-weak small race. The options and fluff added by the ARG only supported these distictions, IMO.

* Some races may also be TOO oddball, however, or have a flavor which is decidedly at odds with LPF for any of a number of imaginable reasons. If we can't come up with a reasonable place to fit culturally, that's a solid strike against it.
I agree. There were a few in the ARG that stuck out to me in this way, although I may be hard pressed to make a properly-formulated argument against them. For instance, I don't think the Vishkanya would fit into our setting.

* Then, too, a race--oddball or not--may fit best as a rare species. I think we need to make approvals with the assumption that any new race will suddenly become the only race people choose. If it strains credibility to have the Dunn Wright packed with X species looking for work, I think we should be especially careful about giving it a thumbs up.
I think this is the sticking point for most people, and the most common argument against allowing so many playable races. For instance, I've been unexpectedly drawn to a lot of the elemental races in the ARG, especially the Oreads and Slyphs. In part, this ties into what I want to do with Illi Esse - integrate the planes into our setting in a way that allows access from all levels, not just high ones. In a place like Illi Esse, where humans have been intermixing with planar beings for hundreds of years, having Oreads and Slyphs and the like makes a lot of sense.

At the same time, I think we can agree that such beings are relatively rare in the wider world of E'n. But at the same time, so are sorcerers and rage-empowered barbarians and magically musical bards and on and on. My point being: we're all already playing outliers, so I'm not sure it stretches incredulity any further to play racial outliers as well. And while I understand that having 50 Ifrits hanging about the Dunn Wright Inn would be odd, I don't think we'll end up with a situation like that. Look at LPF as it stands: even though monstrous races like tengu and merpeople and tieflings are in play, most of the PCs I see come about are the core races. And lots of humans. I don't think adding a few exotic races as playable would skew the currently-acceptable ratio, if for no other reason than people will continue to view them as exotic.

One thing that has been bothering me about this point of view is whether or not the judges of Living Pathfinder would be opposed to the inclusion of Ethnically different parts of pre-existing races.

For example one of the reasons I am highly favorable to the inclusion of Variant Racial Traits is that it allows a creative player to come up with a custom version of a given race that is potentially unique to a given region of the world of E'n. In point of fact I could even see an argument being made for sanctioning certain packages of racial variants so that there are pre-existing ethnic groups that are native to E'n. This way we don't have to worry as much about the whole thing with people wanting to play races that are similar yet not all that different from pre-existing races... because the pre-existing races already have different ethnicities within them that are sanctioned.

The reason I want variant ethnic groups is because this system would very heavily reflect REALITY. For example there is no single one type of human being. There are Chinese Humans, Indian Humans, African Humans, Arabian Humans, Caucasian Humans, and many many more. Each of which has evolved a different subset of traits that is unique to the region where they originally came to live. I feel it is just as likely that a similar set of evolutionary traits would exist in the various species of creatures on E'n. For example the Elves of two different forests would likely be slightly different in skin pigmentation, and possibly also in how they interact with their respective forests. Humans who live in the high Mountains would likely have evolved a lighter skin tone than humans who live in the deep desert. Etc... Etc...
While I see where you're coming from, DC, I would be against this. I think it would limit fluff - saying races with X characteristics only come from such-and-such a place would restrict those races to that culture and location. And I wouldn't like to set something like that in stone. I don't like the idea of us creating such a strict fluff-to-mechanics ratio that would limit options for someone new to LPF who joins us on down the road. Basically, I want E'n's fluff to open possibilities, not limit options, and what you're recommending sounds to me like it would limit options.

For instance, there are a lot of alternate racial traits that tie elves to water. But there could be a lot of explanations for this - elves tied to the sea, elves tied to a river, elves tied to a specific lake in a specific mountain, etc. So if we say, "Elves with the Spirit of the Waters trait come from a specific culture or specific people living along the Ohm river," we've linked those two in a way that could deter, say, someone wanting to make a sea elf.

Whew. Hopefully all that makes sense. Friday is a hyper-early morning for me, so my thoughts aren't always congealing by this point in the day...
 

Qik

Visitor
My mistake. I had included them on my list of races I don't think should be playable because of their extreme reclusiveness and antisocial behavior. But you're right - they're grumpy, not evil.
 

jkason

Visitor
One thing that has been bothering me about this point of view is whether or not the judges of Living Pathfinder would be opposed to the inclusion of Ethnically different parts of pre-existing races.

For example one of the reasons I am highly favorable to the inclusion of Variant Racial Traits is that it allows a creative player to come up with a custom version of a given race that is potentially unique to a given region of the world of E'n.
I'm not entirely sure I take your meaning here. I was explicitly talking about ostensibly-distinct races which aren't so distinct. On the alternate racial traits, so far LPF allows all of them, and I don't imagine anything that's not considered 'overpowered' would be nixed insofar as Advanced Race Guide has added to already-approved races. From my perspective, there's already availability to customize your specific character's racial abilities as you see fit within the rules.

If Qik's reading of your question is correct, then I'd go with him on that score. Personally I see it as more rather than less inspiring to pre-build racial alts and lock them to locations / cultures. (I'm going to set aside arguing anything based on real-world ethnicities, because I think that kind of talk can get offensive amazingly quickly without any intentions of moving that way).

I agree. There were a few in the ARG that stuck out to me in this way, although I may be hard pressed to make a properly-formulated argument against them. For instance, I don't think the Vishkanya would fit into our setting.
Oddly enough, I think they may be one of my favorites of what I've read. I thought they might actually fit really well in Heth (land of plague and poison) and/or Rhat'matanis (a bit more eastern-themed, where they might have been bred by the sorcerer-priests). Of course, the latter may have to do with the fact that, as soon as I skimmed over them, I thought "darnit, Ru would have been a great Vishkanya." :)

we're all already playing outliers, so I'm not sure it stretches incredulity any further to play racial outliers as well.
This is a good (counter)point. Technically, PC classes in general are supposed to be exceptions to the rule of normal life, so being odd in form as well as function might be logical, and part and parcel of a motive to take up such an exceptional lifestyle.

And, yes, I think I've seen someone else point out before (SK, maybe?) that LPF players have a tendency to stick to core / human. I think there was a surge of the four bestiary races right when they were approved, but they've largely regularized since then.
 

jkason

Visitor
Hopefully I'm not spamming the thread too much. I guess this is the first big 'judge-y' thing we've had since I came on board, and since I've not been super-productive in other areas, I wanted to be proactive in this. :)

So, as part of considering races, I thought I'd try to do some broad categorizing of those in the book. I didn't edit out already-included or -excluded races, since I thought having them might actually be useful for comparison (see my final thoughts below). While there are various theories on the value of races as 'variations on a theme,' it seemed at least mildly useful to try to identify the major themes in playable races. There seem to be three, at least as I see them. Others' categorization may vary:

Half-X / X-blooded. Mind you, there's a lot of variety in what's being mixed with humans, but the trend in "race derived from humans hooking up with another race" is kind of undeniable:

Aasimar (Celestial), Dhampir (vampire), Ifrits (fire elemental), Oreads (earth elemental), Sylphs (air elemental), Tieflings (fiend), Undines (water elemental), Changelings (Hag), Sulis (genie),

Dark X. For a value of dark, I suppose. There's a bit of a mix of 'evil,' 'underground,' and 'shadow plane,' but all of them seem to be versions of a core race that for whatever reason shun the light:

Drow (Elf), Fetchling (Human), Duergar (Dwarf), Svirfneblin (gnomes)

Animal-folk. Some have more creative names than others, but there's as much a trend toward "humanoid animal" races as any of the others:

Catfolk, Ratfolk, Tengus (crowfolk), Gripplis (frogfolk), Kitsune (foxfolk), Nagaji (nagafolk), Vanaras (monkeyfolk)

Standard Monster Races. It's probably natural that the other monstrous humanoids would wind up thrown into the mix. Fantasy fiction is rife with 'creature trying to prove his race isn't innately evil' bits:

Goblins, Hobgoblins, Kobolds, Orcs, Merfolk

And the rest.... I found a handful of races that probably evoke fantasy archetypes of various stripes, but didn't fit into any kind of trend. As I think I mentioned earlier, this may be a strike for OR against inclusion, but from my perspective, these are the "don't fit a trend" races from the book:

Gillmen, Samsarans, Strix, Vishkanyas, Wayangs

**************************

I didn't include the random examples in the race builder section. There's some interesting stuff in there, but the 'races' seem more like either examples of how the system works or odd experiments; neither is developed enough that I think we should spend a lot of time considering it.

Like I said, hopefully this doesn't just seem spammy. I just thought it might help in future discussions. Specifically, if we decide we want to include a specific representative from a certain category, it might be helpful to compare it to others in the same category: is the race 'better' than others in an attributable way? Why this race and not another being excluded? ... that sort of thing.
 

Qik

Visitor
Not spammy at all; your breakdown is very helpful. I had actually done the exact same thing, and I agree that it might be most worthwhile to expand LPF on a number of these fronts, rather than, say, disproportionately approving anthropomorphic races. That's my take and disposition, anyway.
 
On the existing races, I really didn't see anything major on the pre-approved races in the alternate racial ablitites, feats, or favored class bonus aside from the one mermaid one. The other races, I believe that one of the proposals for the Great Chasm worked in the elemental humanoids, and could probably handle the suli as well. I'd steer clear of the dark races for now just because we already have enough to develop on the surface of the world; I don't think we need to open the can of worms that is the underdark just yet. The monster races, I could see allowing kobolds, as they tend to be a lot more organized and civilized, for lack of a better word, than the others. They may still be evil, but they are evil that can get along with the rest of society without that much difficulty; just don't go invading their dens.
 
I wasn't trying to suggest that we limit characters to a specific set of pre-packaged racial traits when selecting their characters. Rather I was suggesting that for flavor purposes we take a page out of various campaign settings from throughout the history of Dungeons and Dragons and various other campaign settings alike, and have a set of "OPTIONAL" pre-packaged racial traits set up, in case a character wishes to play one of said pre-packaged racial trait set ups. This way we can say a character with said pre-packaged racial traits is descended from a particular culture. However I would not be indicating that it is by any means required to have that set up as the only way to select a character's racial traits.
 

Qik

Visitor
Hmm - I'll have to check out the Great Chasm proposal - I think that was slightly before my time.

In that case, DC, I feel like that's what we're already doing, no? HM's Horselords of the Pell, for instance, suggests a fluff that characters with certain abilities would gravitate towards. By creating fluff, we're already creating cultures which suggest certain tie-ins to the mechanics.

I'm not trying to be snarky - I feel like we're already doing what you're suggesting (at least as I understand it), if in a disorderly and ad hoc way (which probably can't be helped).
 

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