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D&D 5E PHB Humans are the most mechanically boring race. How do we fix this?

Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
Supporter
Mechanically? Off the top of my head, give them 2 backgrounds. So you don't just have a Noble, you have a Noble Scholar. You don't just have a Criminal you have a Criminal Sailor (ie a Pirate).

I have no idea if that would work but I can think of a bunch of combos that don't seem overpowered but offer a lot of color.

This is my solution for fixing rogues....
 

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MechaTarrasque

Adventurer
I figure that humans should be the best at multiclassing. The best way to do that is that the first time a human multiclasses and does not have an ability score that is the minimum needed to multiclass, they get a +2 to that score. Sure that isn't great at level 1, but it is a pretty standard fantasy trope that humans are late bloomers compared to other fantasy races, and suddenly being really dexterous when you add a level of rogue to your paladin at level 5 is pretty cool.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
All of the races are boring mechanically. There left very little design space for races to have meaningful features. If the races had more they would both be an actual pillar of character design, like touted, and there would be enough that we could have non-standard races like large centaurs or tiny flying pixies and it would be fairly balanced against the opportunity cost of not getting everything a more common race gives.

And this is the problem with the human as well. They gave them a unique ability mod - no other race has +1 to every ability score, fantastic for MAD and some multiclassing. But to do that they had no design space left to give them anything more.

The variant human also had a unqiue ability until Tasha's, that of starting with a feat. That gave them unprecidented flexibility in expressing themselves as well as being quite powerful.

So fix the root cause - not enough design space for any of the races, and the human will naturally follow.
 

I think the "good all arounder" concept would be served by a free choice extra skill or two, but basically I think they're fine. The core "problems" I think are that they are built in a way diametrically opposed to min-maxing and don't interact well with standard array. Naturally internet discussion, which is disproportionately dominated by min-maxers and which disproportionately disfavors rolling for stats, is never going to have a use for standard human, but they play fine.
 


ph0rk

Friendship is Magic, and Magic is Heresy.
I am of the opinion that variant humans were probably meant to be humans and they painted themselves into a corner when they decided to make feats an optional rule. Once stuck there, they phoned in non-variant humans, and the result is... not good. How on earth don't they have a few extra proficiencies, at least? Maybe giving them two backgrounds would do the trick and track with a sort of human versatility angle that's pretty old school (the original dual-classers).

Two extra proficiencies and another set of background features wouldn't break the game, but would be pretty cool.
 

DeviousQuail

Adventurer
I created a variant human 2.0 for a futuristic game but it works for standard 5e with a couple modifications. Since humans were the only playable species I needed them to be more varied.

All humans start with two languages (common and a free pick). Then you choose up to 5 of the following options with a maximum point cost of 4. Cannot choose options that overlap (e.g. Impressive (Strength) and Superior (Strength) or multiple instances of Quick)
  • Impressive, +2 to any attribute (2)
  • Superior, +1 to any attribute (1)
  • Inferior, -1 to any attribute (-1)
  • Natural, prof with any skill (1)
  • Expert, expertise with any skill (2)
  • Incompetent, treat all rolls of 11-20 as a 10 with one skill (-1)
  • Adapted eyesight, darkvision 30 feet (1)
  • Quick, +5 movement speed (1)
  • Responsive, +2 initiative (1)
  • Slow, -5 movement speed (-1)
  • Dull, -2 initiative (-1)
  • Resilience, prof with a saving throw (2)
  • Mutlilingual, learn an additional language (1)
  • Monolingual, lose extra language from being human (-1)
  • Basic Training, prof with two simple and two martial weapons (1)
  • Adept, 1 wizard cantrip using Int (1)
  • Magical Studies, learn a 1st-level wizard spell you can cast 1/LR (1)
  • Devout, 1 cleric cantrip using Wis (1)
  • Clerical Training, learn a 1st-level cleric spell you can cast 1/LR (1)
It'd be pretty easy to add or remove options based on the setting.
 


ad_hoc

(he/they)
I am of the opinion that variant humans were probably meant to be humans and they painted themselves into a corner when they decided to make feats an optional rule. Once stuck there, they phoned in non-variant humans, and the result is... not good. How on earth don't they have a few extra proficiencies, at least? Maybe giving them two backgrounds would do the trick and track with a sort of human versatility angle that's pretty old school (the original dual-classers).

Two extra proficiencies and another set of background features wouldn't break the game, but would be pretty cool.

Maybe someone who followed the play test more closely can chime in but reading the rules I don't get the vibe that it was designed for feats.

The rules are written from the perspective of assuming no optional rules.

I do think it was designed assuming rolling without thinking about the standard array. There was also likely a goal of having all of the stats more useful than they ended up being.
 

guachi

Adventurer
Soon after 5e came out I changed the bonuses to +2/+1/+1/+1/+1/+0 instead of 6 +1 for the base human. Also, changed the bonuses for non-humans from +2/+1 in the listed stats to +1/+1 and then add +1 wherever else the player wants. The only outlier is the Dwarf that gets +2/+2 and in that case it's +2/+1 with +1 wherever the player wants to a maximum of +2.
 

MattW

Explorer
I can see Human characters getting "privilege", social" or "convenience" bonuses when interacting with the rest of the gameworld.

Example: Clothing and equipment is designed for humans. Any other race has to get their stuff specially made (which will cost more money).

Example: Some generic Magickal stuff is more likely to work for humans (or work more effectively). Potions, for instance, are designed for the human magic-alchemical-biochemistry. There may be some nasty side-effects if potions are used by other species.

Example: Racism. Perhaps something like "Non-humans have to leave the City before dark". Or "Non-humans have to pay special taxes". Or "only humans can possess weapons (or use magic) in the City".

Of course you could also use something really simple. Maybe humans are just favoured by the gods and get plus 1 on all saving throws or an extra spell per level
 

Tinker-TDC

Explorer
Just had this conversation with my group a few days ago. We focused on evolutionary traits that separated humans from other animals so there's no way to tell whether a fantasy species would have these. The big human advantages in no particular order are:
Tool Use: Can't make this the prime thing as it is clearly a big thing among the other ancestries and some (dwarves) are particularly known for making the best stuff.
Sweat: Allows humans to walk far longer than other species and literally chase prey to death. A neat thing but hard to design game mechanics around.
Body Proportions: Longer legs and shorter arms allow for throwing with some amount of force. Where other primates can sort of toss things they don't exactly have the potential to aim and throw hard enough to weaponize a thrown object. Now, the problem with this one is fantasy art depicting other ancestries with basically the same arm to leg proportion but it might be a fun little thing to play with.
Intelligence: By far the most important trait (though definitely aided by the other ones). However, in a post-Tasha's system simply giving the ASI to INT seems unmemorable. The main human ability should be somehow based around this and useful in general situations.

Final Results
Human
Asi: Tasha's 3-point system
Endurance Predator: You have advantage on saving throws and ability checks to resist exhaustion.
Versatile: Gain 1 skill proficiency, 1 tool proficiency, and 1 language proficiency.
Intuitive: When you fail an ability check, attack roll, or saving throw you may choose to reroll it. The reroll has neither advantage or disadvantage. Recharge 1/short rest or prof/long rest.

I prefer once per short rest, but it looks like 5e is heading in the direction of proficiency per long rest for class features (though I haven't seen the change go into racial features so maybe 1/short rest is the way to go.)
Originally Intuitive increased the number of inspiration a character could have but everyone plays (or doesn't play) inspiration wildly differently so I wanted to make it clearly separate.
Endurance Predator is the other unique feature but with the number of things in 5e that call for saves or checks against exhaustion it feels more like a ribbon.
I also considered a bonus to ranges of thrown weapons but ultimately it felt a little clunky and got cut.

Shout out to Tier-Zoo on youtube for applying game-logic to explain real-life things.
 

Horwath

Hero
Human having ability bonuses seem silly as they are the baseline.

So I'm having:

+1 skill,
+1 tool or weapon
common language, +1 any
+2 feats

Now, if you really want to have a +2 or +1/+1, pick specific 2 half-feats.
 


Li Shenron

Legend
Humans in the PHB, variant or not, are pretty mechanically boring in D&D 5e.

....

Variant human is much better in comparison to the normal human. They have two floating +1 ability increase (which is pretty common in the PHB, compared to races from later books), they get to gain proficiency in one skill (which REALLY should have been on the base human), and most interestingly of all, they get to gain a feat.

There are numerous problems with a variant human gaining a feat mechanically.

First of all, mechanically a lot of feats are pretty powerful.
Every race is boring when you've seen enough PC of that. +1 to 2 abilities of choice may look boring because it can be anything but +2 to one specific ability is boring because it is always the same for all PC of that race. Stonecunning is cool but millions of Dwarf with Stonecunning less so. That is also one of the reasons (not the only one) why lately the move towards more customizable races.

OTOH a feat at 1st level when others have to wait until 4th is exactly the kind of advantage that makes humans unique, even though its weight tends to fade at higher levels (but so do other racial abilities), but when you start the game at 1st level, it goes a long way in making human an excellent choice.

Indeed feats are technically optional, and they could have thought of a better feat-less option that +1 to all scores. +1 to 2 scores and an extra background is narratively a bit iffy but not a bad idea.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Humans are mechanically boring because

  1. Races overall are less important and weaer in 5e compared to 4e and 3e. In 3e, races could get bonuses above +2.in 4e every race had a racial power. However in 5e, every race is just a minor stat bump, a size, random proficiencies, and darkvision.
  2. Human is the baseline and the vanilla. Humans lack official nonsetting flavors nor subraces.
  3. Because humans are the baseline, they are also vanilla in mechanics. /humans ae what others are judged from and thus have no extraordinary features. As humans are the ordinary.
 

As pointed out elsewhere humans are the default. When it was acceptable to couple racial penalties to bonuses this was tolerable. These days, it is preferable to define differences solely with bonuses and capabilities. With this in mind, I determined what humans, dwarves, and halflings represented to me.

Again, as above, humans are pursuit predators. Humans are enduring.
I base my dwarves off of Neanderthals, who likely had larger muscle mass and mechanical advantage in their joint structure compared to humans. Dwarves are strong.
Looking to Denisovians for halfling inspiration, we really don't know much about them. There is a hypothesis that humans gained altitude tolerance from them. After a winding train of thought, I decided that my halflings could tolerate weather exposure and were stereotypically agile since they were small. Halflings are agile.

This lead to Halflings gain +2 Dex, can endure cold, altitude. Cultural default is seaborn nomad.
Dwarves gain +2 Str, can consume anything organic except wood and bone. Cultural default is cthonic city-dweller.
Humans gain +2 Con, +1 Exhaustion level (the one right before half move). Cultural default is temperate city-dweller.
 

Laurefindel

Legend
My favourite solution is not a popular one; I’d like a « boring » base human and a bunch of regional variations that can be more specific (and potentially more exciting).
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Basic human is much better with rolled stats, because you may end up with a lot o f odd scores, and +1 across the board could be a big boost.

Don't like rolling because you get uneven power level? The redric Roller, invented on EN world (!) is the solution:

 

Radaceus

Explorer
Personally I rarely play a Human, even back in 1E ( /shakes fist at the Paladin!)

But,
As long as Variant ( which now also allows Feats by default) is on the table, and assuming the PC has the option to roll for stats, it makes Humans even more versatile than most other races(looking at you Variant Teiflings); i.e., the PC rolls 11, 11, 13, 13, 15, 17, and the +1 bumps all the stats up a chart. Now should they want to point buy, or take the array, it may be better for the +1 in two stats and take a feat for some aforementioned build.

Don't allow feats, no Variant, the Humans +1 across the board evens out the baseline, that is, the human has by default better overall stats ( no matter which option is used to chargen) and makes them better for MCing.

Don't allow Multi-classing, and the Human just becomes the better all-rounder. In any event they are far from boring, quite contrary, as many of my players have exhibited.
 

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