D&D General How many mechanical features does a race need to feel "right"?

Scribe

Hero
Centaurs are bad archers now? That seems like a odd choice, given that it's their traditional weapon, historically. (Well that and the club.)
Fair enough, give them some other penalty to reflect the fact they are a bloody horse in 'human shaped' spaces.

I am not paid to do this, Wizards (presumably) are.
 

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DND_Reborn

Legend
A bit of a thread-jack, but what I find more interesting is how little I see races played as races and not just a set of traits and mechanics...

I hardly ever see it with my own players nor in games I have seen other groups run.

For the most part, if I try to picture a scene in a game, the PC races could be just about anything...
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
Everyone keeps talking about playing races as alien and not 'humans in costumes' but no one addresses that xenofiction is a very specialized writing skill and trying to demand that from a casual player is like asking every bard player to actually play their instrument at a national symphony level.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I have a slightly different take on this. When you eliminate ability scores, there is precious little power in racial features. This leads to issues where there isn't enough design space to do races with somewhat powerful abilities. Centaurs are really medium-sized pony-people, who can't even be ridden by normal sized folk. And remember the outcry when the first race with unlimited flying came about?

All in all, if trhere were more meaningful features for play, there would be an opportunity cost for picking a race that focused these into just a few powerful abilities, like large size (Centaur or Half-Ogre, anyone).

So I don't think it's the number, since I can easily see some with a selection of features and then somethign with just a few features but it can fly. But I do think that the whole amount of power and meaningful play impact from races needs to increase so they are truly a pillar of character creation.
 



A bit of a thread-jack, but what I find more interesting is how little I see races played as races and not just a set of traits and mechanics...

I hardly ever see it with my own players nor in games I have seen other groups run.

For the most part, if I try to picture a scene in a game, the PC races could be just about anything...
On the other hand, my experience is that almost everyone does play their race, even when they forget about mechanics.
 

Horwath

Hero
5 or 6 traits would be enough.

Traits:

darkvision 60ft
extra skill proficiency, 3 max
skill proficiency+expertise, worth 2 trait "slots", 1 max
2 tools or languages or weapons, 3 max
+1 armor level of starting class, None->light, light->medium, medium->heavy, heavy->extra class skill
+5ft move speed, 2 max
extra cantrip, 2 max
1st level spell once per long rest, 1 max
2nd level spell once per long rest, worth 2 trait slots, 1 max
advantage and resistance vs diseases and poisons
+1 HP per level, 1 max
sentinel rest: long rest is only 4hrs(1hr of light activity) and you are aware while you "rest,
resistance to one type of damage that is not bludgeoning, slashing or piercing.
climb speed equal to walk speed,
swim speed equal to walk speed,
water breathing,
fly speed equal to walk speed, worth 3 slots.
burrow speed equal to half walk speed,

"negative traits"
-5 ft base speed, max 2
small,
light sensitivity, worth 2 negative traits
 

ART!

Legend
When I've designed 5E races (for my own use, haven't gotten around to publishing), it just made sense to me to give cantrip and spell choices to races that had innate spellcasting. I usually had 3-5 to choose from at each innate spellcasting "tier" (1st, 3rd, 5th).

I think doing the same for most other racial features could eliminate the need for sub-races or different-but-related races. At chargen, choose 1 of these 3 major racial features, 2 of these 6 minor racial features, 2 of these languages, and 2 of these skills or tools - or whatever. The lists to choose from help to keep the race thematic, but there's lots of room to differentiate.
 


aco175

Legend
At what point would certain races eliminate other races that are in competition with them? Why are monsters- monsters? Mostly because they do not look like us or act like us. This leaves us with humans, elves, dwarves and halflings. Tieflings and Dragonborn likely would have been hunted to extinction. This is likely a 1e/2e position.

In order to have races be equal, there should be enough to make them different and fill a role/need. Do we need a flying race, or another one? If you think yes, then add one. When your homebrew races are picked over the PHB ones, you have gone too far. I do not think there need to be more PHB races.

33 races in the new book as official is more than twice what I would think. We are doing away with ability score tweaks. We do not need a large, strong race or a smart race or a quick, small race. Everyone could be just variant human at this point.
 


TwoSix

Unserious gamer
A bit of a thread-jack, but what I find more interesting is how little I see races played as races and not just a set of traits and mechanics...

I hardly ever see it with my own players nor in games I have seen other groups run.

For the most part, if I try to picture a scene in a game, the PC races could be just about anything...
Which is why it's weird people make a big deal out of it. A race has to be WAY out of the norm to even make a dent in the overall experience of the game.

We all play it as window dressing anyway (cue comments of "Not our group!"), so why is the rules prescription for it so important?
 

Prompted by the discussion/debate over in the List of All 33 Races in MMotM thread, I'm curious:

For your tastes, how many mechanical features does a race in D&D need to feel "right", worthwhile, not-oversimplified, or whatever? One? Three? Five? More? None?

Does it matter what the features are? Do they need to include ASIs? Do they need to include movement? Save modifiers? AC modifiers? Proficiencies? Advantage or Disadvantage? Languages? Feat-like abilities? Innate spellcasting?

Good question!

I would think perhaps two or three would be sufficient. Mostly what I want is what makes [X] different from [Y], usually in a biological sense. I don't mind if there are cultural aspects in the racial description because that culture is what is encountered at the beginning of the game. Once the PCs travel that cultural aspect can be changed. If it's a theme that dwarves are excellent at crafting in general then the dwarves of the mountains can know Stonecunning and the dwarves at the coast know Woodwise. Whatever.

I have no problem with an attribute adjustment as part of biology, although I do limit it to physical attributes. Given that I don't use ASIs for gaining levels, starting attributes will change little, and the B/X bonuses, gaining a +2 to something doesn't seem to have the consequences that other people mention (not having orcs wizards because of inefficiencies, &c.).

But ultimately I want a description to state how they are different from humans. If they aren't any different, then there is no point in having them.
 


Which is why it's weird people make a big deal out of it. A race has to be WAY out of the norm to even make a dent in the overall experience of the game.
And some of the races being offer seem like they should, but they can't because "balance."
We all play it as window dressing anyway (cue comments of "Not our group!"), so why is the rules prescription for it so important?
IMO, the difference comes form roleplay a lot more than mechanics, which is why "racial traits are all ribbons" is a valid (if lukewarm) design concept. Dwarves don't need any mechanics for people to play them as dwarves.

But if slime-people use the same rules as dwarves, that would be ... odd.
 


As many as needed.

My approach would be simulationism, tempered by some balancing. But perfect balance is not needed, this is not a completive game. Decide what the species is like, then give them rules that simulate that. If this means they're slightly better at something than some other species, so be it. However, it would be best if the traits of species wouldn't be too heavily clustered supporting specific classes. Each species should have something that is useful regardless of which class they choose. But not everything needs to be optimal, and it is perfectly fine to have some features that are 'wasted' on certain classes.
 

Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
Supporter
For my tastes, it's however much will be needed to make playing the race a meaningfully different experience.

1. I'd like each race/lineage to have something that makes playing the race distinct that ties to some mechanics. The gnome's magic save; half-orc's relentless endurance, and lizardfolk natural armor all check this box; Dwarven stonecunning, or Elvish Keen senses, Trance, Fey Ancestry, and Weapon training do not. If it were more rare, Darkvision would fit here too.

2. I'd like physical size to be a more meaningful variable (so that playing a small character means you are physically weaker than a medium character, and did more than indicate how tightly you could squeeze and whether you can use a heavy weapon.) 5e chose not to pursue this because of (claims/perceptions of) balance between the races; I'd be much more interested if there was a flat -4 to strength, and there was no sense that needed to be balanced out.

3. If something points to a niche, then I want that niche to infect other character builds, rather than support the niche. (The best example of this is the Goblin in 5e, where with Nimble Escape every class gets to play a little like a rogue; the High elf's free cantrip can have this effect).

4. I'd like there not to be multiple languages that are only spoken by a single species (a Halfling or Gnome language adds little to the game; goblinoid and draconic are much richer). There are lots of changes to languages I'd like, though.
 

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