D&D General Flipping Race And Background Altogether

Reynard

Legend
NOTE: This can apply to any edition of D&D with a few changes in specific me habits, but let's assume most folks are going to be thi king of in term of 5E.

I have been getting caught up on Netflix's The Witcher today and while it includes elves and dwarves, it shows that how a character grew up was far more important than their race from an imagined mechanical perspective (although race matters culturally and socially). This got me to thinking about how that would translate and I landed on the idea that we should flip Race and Background from mechanical perspective.

Currently Background gives some gear and a proficiency or two and a broadly defined, probably rarely used boon. That is what one's racial background should provide.

Background on the other hand should include your Ability Score mods (you worked your whole life as a soldier? +2 strength) and proficiency and special abilities related to skills. Things like dark vision probably need to stay with race for simulation purposes, but in my perfect world we would eliminate non human PCs entirely.

Thoughts?
 

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Oofta

Legend
Don't we pretty much already have that with Xanathar's? A dwarf raised by elves was given training in bows from the time they were a toddler but never used a hammer in a fight. They don't know dwarven from pig Latin but speak elvish fluently.

Or am I just missing something?
 

Davies

Hero
Currently Background gives some gear and a proficiency or two and a broadly defined, probably rarely used boon. That is what one's racial background should provide.

Background on the other hand should include your Ability Score mods (you worked your whole life as a soldier? +2 strength) and proficiency and special abilities related to skills. Things like dark vision probably need to stay with race for simulation purposes, but in my perfect world we would eliminate non human PCs entirely.

Level Up doesn't go quite as far as this, but it goes part of the way in this direction.
 

MGibster

Legend
Background on the other hand should include your Ability Score mods (you worked your whole life as a soldier? +2 strength) and proficiency and special abilities related to skills. Things like dark vision probably need to stay with race for simulation purposes, but in my perfect world we would eliminate non human PCs entirely.
Sure. It doesn't quite explain how a 3 ft. 40 pound halfling is just as a strong as an 7 foot 250 pound Goliath but it's a start I guess.
 


Lyxen

Great Old One
I have been getting caught up on Netflix's The Witcher today and while it includes elves and dwarves, it shows that how a character grew up was far more important than their race from an imagined mechanical perspective (although race matters culturally and socially).

If you create or emulate a world where at least some humanoid races have very little difference from humans, being basically "funny hats" (and thankfully the Witcher has many more qualities than this, by the way), then yes you can go that way, and yes, as some have pointed out, this is basically where Tasha is leading 5e.

On the other hand, if your prefer a fantasy world where other race options for the PCs are well differentiated in particular with strong powers and different characteristics, you can stop using the options of Tasha and stay with the original game or even reinforce the races as defined.

YOu can do whatever you want in the game, it's just that, for me, the Witcher - again despite its many qualities - describes a very specific world, one where magic is globally passing away, not a high magic setting like most of the D&D worlds.
 

The simplest thing would be to just combine race and background.

Eg. Elven hunter, Elven battledance, Dwarven runesmith, Halfling riverfolk, Human soldier etc.

This basically helps communicate where the different groups generally fit into the setting and what they're like. Something that risks being lost.

Like backgrounds now, make it clear that you don't have to use these but can recombine to make your own.
This way the combined backgrounds actually make it clear what a human who was raised by elves and recieved elven battledancer should be. You already have both halves of the equation - you just need to pull them out of their existing spaces and put them together.
 

If you create or emulate a world where at least some humanoid races have very little difference from humans, being basically "funny hats" (and thankfully the Witcher has many more qualities than this, by the way), then yes you can go that way, and yes, as some have pointed out, this is basically where Tasha is leading 5e.

On the other hand, if your prefer a fantasy world where other race options for the PCs are well differentiated in particular with strong powers and different characteristics, you can stop using the options of Tasha and stay with the original game or even reinforce the races as defined.

YOu can do whatever you want in the game, it's just that, for me, the Witcher - again despite its many qualities - describes a very specific world, one where magic is globally passing away, not a high magic setting like most of the D&D worlds.
Apparently, people like reading and watching low-magic fantasy, but don't like playing it.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Apparently, people like reading and watching low-magic fantasy, but don't like playing it.

It's really not that, I like lower-magic fantasy too, it's just that I don't think that D&D is the right system for it. Especially the later editions don't start with zeroes, but they are clearly designed for heroes in a high-fantasy world where there is a lot of magic. When we have a lot more time on our hands (might come again when we/I retire in a few years), our groups might go back to exploring different worlds and game systems. We will probably start Runequest again for a lower fantasy setting, although our exploration into Glorantha have quite often drifted into way higher fantasy with Heroquest. But Runequest is brilliant for low fantasy settings for example.
 

High/low fantasy and low/high magic are different things.
Runequest is low fantasy but high magic ( every PC casts spells).

DND has very predictable magic so is a terrible model for many TV shows.

I like the idea of race+background being a starter template .....so Dwarf Exile has non typical dwarf things.
You could squeeze say 60 of these in a PHB in 60 or 120 pages
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
High/low fantasy and low/high magic are different things.
Runequest is low fantasy but high magic ( every PC casts spells).

DND has very predictable magic so is a terrible model for many TV shows.

Glorantha's magic is extremely predictable as well, and is usually of the low caliber, even powerful Rune/Divine magic is well below most D&D spells of even level 2-3 in effect. But this is only considering that Runequest = Glorantha, there were excellent settings for Runequest, for example Viiking or Land of Ninja where magic was entirely optional, and where Runequest's excellent low fantasy combat system could shine without any magic.
 

Glorantha's magic is extremely predictable as well, and is usually of the low caliber, even powerful Rune/Divine magic is well below most D&D spells of even level 2-3 in effect. But this is only considering that Runequest = Glorantha, there were excellent settings for Runequest, for example Viiking or Land of Ninja where magic was entirely optional, and where Runequest's excellent low fantasy combat system could shine without any magic.
Well I play Openquest where a spell roll failure can occur, and be quite bad.
And I wouldn't call the RQ/BRP combat system excellent, (but this is verring of the OP thread).
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Well I play Openquest where a spell roll failure can occur, and be quite bad.
And I wouldn't call the RQ/BRP combat system excellent, (but this is verring of the OP thread).

Don't confuse RQ and BRP, in particular in terms of Combat System, and in particular for "Medieval" Fantasy, BRP is very simplistic. Also, RQ has had many different versions, some of which ("Warhammer" / Mongoose) where IMHO quite poor and other quite good, although of course YMMV and all that.
 


MGibster

Legend
What if that halfling is a powerlifter and that Goliath is sickly at the start of a game? Isn't that the point of 3d6 (or some variation thereof) scores; to illustrate the variable capabilities of all beings?
Sure. I just find it silly but that's okay because there's a lot of things I accept in D&D and all sorts of other games that are inherently silly. I just find this one particularly hard to swallow. It's a me thing but if it's something you're fine with then all I can say is more power to you. I'm sure there are things I readily accept that you probably think are silly.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Or simply remove the explicit mechanical benefits of both and leave is as a vague “gain advantage on relevant checks”. You’re a dwarf? Gain advantage on dwarf as race-based things. You’re raised by elves? Gain advantage on elf as culture-based things.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Or simply remove the explicit mechanical benefits of both and leave is as a vague “gain advantage on relevant checks”. You’re a dwarf? Gain advantage on dwarf as race-based things. You’re raised by elves? Gain advantage on elf as culture-based things.

And suddenly, without realizing it, your group started playing Fate. :)
 
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overgeeked

B/X Known World
And suddenly, without realizing it, your group started playing Fate. :)
Nah, they realized it. And it was entirely intentional. And they loved it. It's wonderful and freeing to not have dozens of pages of rules to cover something that can be fully detailed in a sentence or two.
 


Dire Bare

Legend
The simplest thing would be to just combine race and background.

Eg. Elven hunter, Elven battledance, Dwarven runesmith, Halfling riverfolk, Human soldier etc.

This basically helps communicate where the different groups generally fit into the setting and what they're like. Something that risks being lost.

Like backgrounds now, make it clear that you don't have to use these but can recombine to make your own.
This way the combined backgrounds actually make it clear what a human who was raised by elves and recieved elven battledancer should be. You already have both halves of the equation - you just need to pull them out of their existing spaces and put them together.
I've been working on something like this for my home game. When you choose a race for your character, the only thing that really means is what backgrounds are available to your character.
 

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