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Level Up (A5E) Point Buy Races?

Zardnaar

Legend
Conceptually this has been done back in 2E Skills and Powers. Each race gets a basic template. Eg Dwarves get Darkvision.

After that you pick some abilities. Want an intelligent boost for a Dwarf wizard, spend the points. Opportunity cost no weapons training perhaps (idk on point cost).

Reasonably simple at least in concept.
 

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Point buy for races is pretty much inevitably dreadful, looking at the many games which have attempted it. Skills and Powers certainly had a pretty lame implentation.

It's fiddly, unsatisfying, and potentially strongly encourages the worst, least-interesting kinds of min-maxing. On top of that, it's extremely vulnerable to bad "pricing" decisions from the designers. I mean, that already happens a bit - for example low natural ACs and weak natural weapons, together with largely-pointless combat abilities (due to the action economy causing huge opportunity costs) are wildly overvalued by WotC, balance-wise, but it's not formal. Once you formalize it, it becomes even worse, as races can quickly become drastically over/under-valued.

Flat values are bad too, because a lot of racial abilities are amazing for a certain class or subclass, but totally worthless for another. Weapon proficiencies, for example. Even things like Darkvision are pointless if your subclass grants the same or better (as a number of subclasses do). Whereas other ones can be amazing but only for certain classes - the Wood Elf hide-in-plain-sight thing is amazing for a Rogue due to the action economy and the Rogue bonus action feature (I forget the name), but it's going to be nearly completely useless to a lot of classes.
 

Point buy for races is pretty much inevitably dreadful, looking at the many games which have attempted it. Skills and Powers certainly had a pretty lame implentation.

It's fiddly, unsatisfying, and potentially strongly encourages the worst, least-interesting kinds of min-maxing. On top of that, it's extremely vulnerable to bad "pricing" decisions from the designers. I mean, that already happens a bit - for example low natural ACs and weak natural weapons, together with largely-pointless combat abilities (due to the action economy causing huge opportunity costs) are wildly overvalued by WotC, balance-wise, but it's not formal. Once you formalize it, it becomes even worse, as races can quickly become drastically over/under-valued.

Flat values are bad too, because a lot of racial abilities are amazing for a certain class or subclass, but totally worthless for another. Weapon proficiencies, for example. Even things like Darkvision are pointless if your subclass grants the same or better (as a number of subclasses do). Whereas other ones can be amazing but only for certain classes - the Wood Elf hide-in-plain-sight thing is amazing for a Rogue due to the action economy and the Rogue bonus action feature (I forget the name), but it's going to be nearly completely useless to a lot of classes.
One point to take into consideration here is that this is a new game being designed by a different group of designers and therefore has the opportunity to change the flaws you have outlined.
 

Conceptually this has been done back in 2E Skills and Powers. Each race gets a basic template. Eg Dwarves get Darkvision.

After that you pick some abilities. Want an intelligent boost for a Dwarf wizard, spend the points. Opportunity cost no weapons training perhaps (idk on point cost).

Reasonably simple at least in concept.
I totally support this as it definitely has the potential to ensure that each individual of a certain race/ancestry is unique. As a real world example I have 4 friends coming over later tonight, besides all being Caucasian males between the ages of 30-50 and being from the same geographic location, our family backgrounds and upbringings, talents, education and professions are all very different. Even if its not necessarily a point buy system and some other form of customization I'd prefer that over a standard system. I dont even care if they arent 100% balanced with each other as long as the gap between some is minimal.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Flat values are bad too, because a lot of racial abilities are amazing for a certain class or subclass, but totally worthless for another. Weapon proficiencies, for example. Even things like Darkvision are pointless if your subclass grants the same or better (as a number of subclasses do). Whereas other ones can be amazing but only for certain classes - the Wood Elf hide-in-plain-sight thing is amazing for a Rogue due to the action economy and the Rogue bonus action feature (I forget the name), but it's going to be nearly completely useless to a lot of classes.
Racial abilities should not be considered in combination with classes. Their racial abilities. That racial darkvision you mention? It has a point. Your character had it and used it from birth up until the point where he acquired redundant darkvision from the subclass. A redundant ability isn't a big deal, and if it is, don't choose the subclass that is at fault. I also disagree that the wood elf ability to hide in light obscurement(not in plain sight) is useless for non-rogues. Often over the decades I have had a PC who would have killed to have that ability. Bounded accuracy makes it useful for any class. It's okay for racial abilities to not match your class and/or subclass.
 


One point to take into consideration here is that this is a new game being designed by a different group of designers and therefore has the opportunity to change the flaws you have outlined.
I noted that:

Point buy for races is pretty much inevitably dreadful, looking at the many games which have attempted it.
This is not something that someone tried once and screwed up. This is something countless people, in countless gains, have tried, and not done well with.

Now, if you can explain specifically how they'd deal with the problems it causes, sure, that'd be interesting. And yeah there's always a chance they'll just hit upon some cool system, but I am pretty skeptical.

Racial abilities should not be considered in combination with classes. Their racial abilities. That racial darkvision you mention? It has a point. Your character had it and used it from birth up until the point where he acquired redundant darkvision from the subclass. A redundant ability isn't a big deal, and if it is, don't choose the subclass that is at fault. I also disagree that the wood elf ability to hide in light obscurement(not in plain sight) is useless for non-rogues. Often over the decades I have had a PC who would have killed to have that ability. Bounded accuracy makes it useful for any class. It's okay for racial abilities to not match your class and/or subclass.
This isn't an actual argument you're presenting, rather an unsupported opinion (indeed, some of it is outright illogical - the "had since birth" thing in the context of a points-based balance discussion is beyond irrelevant). I presented an actual argument - flat values are bad, because the actual utility of abilities varies wildly to different characters.

I'm not saying they need to be tied to classes, because that would be impractical, but my point is, once you start putting flat values on racial abilities, and letting people buy and sell them from their "version" of a race, you inevitably favour certain subclasses and certain races in a pretty unreasonable way that isn't currently a problem. This isn't an argument in favour of non-fixed values. This is an argument against points-based races.

The only argument I can see in favour is that if they were done well, you might make it so that some wildly underpowered races (Genasi, for example) got a lot more discretionary points to spend than the more stacked ones (most Elves and Dwarves, for example), assuming there was a fixed "race and culture" budget. But my experience, as I've said, is that these things are not typically done well. Usually some stuff will be unreasonably valued, either high or low, which can be particularly bad when races combine fixed and variable elements.

Re: Wood Elf ability, it would have functioned so differently in different editions that it's not reasonable to compare it. It's not particularly useful for other classes, because of 5E's action economy combined with the slightly tricky conditions for it to work. I say that having played Wood Elves, note.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
The reason I went with point buy us because 5E doesn't have racial feats.

Which I'm not a big fan of in PF2.
 



Pathfinder uses points if you want to create your own race, in the advanced race guide.

5th Ed has got racial feats, at least in Xanathar Guide.

Ancestry and society feats are right, but we should take care about abuse by munchkins.

* What about echolocalitation as racial trait? In the real life some blind people can be trained to learn it, and I mean ordinary humans.
 


TheSword

Legend
Supporter
PF1 Advanced Race Guide had rules for building your own race with points...

... it was a car crash of rules.

The rest of the book was awesome just not that bit.
 

I would rather pick from about 4 arrays.

Something like

• 18, 14, 10, 10, 10, 10
• 16, 16, 12, 12, 10, 10
• 16, 14, 14, 14, 10, 10
• 14, 14, 14, 14, 14, 14
 
Last edited:

Xeviat

Adventurer
Supporter
I don't like how flat the races feel in Pathfinder 2 at level one. I like my character having little abilities from my face (like stonecunning) that I didn't choose the race for but may still prove useful later.

But it is frustrating to, say, get weapon proficiencies from a race and have those do nothing because my class gave me the same thing. So an amount of choosing how your racial abilities grow would be cool, but I wouldn't want it to restrict what they start with at level one.

Aside from ability scores. I'm totally down to debate moving ability score bonuses to class and background.
 

Point buy for races is pretty much inevitably dreadful, looking at the many games which have attempted it. Skills and Powers certainly had a pretty lame implentation.

It's fiddly, unsatisfying, and potentially strongly encourages the worst, least-interesting kinds of min-maxing. On top of that, it's extremely vulnerable to bad "pricing" decisions from the designers. I mean, that already happens a bit - for example low natural ACs and weak natural weapons, together with largely-pointless combat abilities (due to the action economy causing huge opportunity costs) are wildly overvalued by WotC, balance-wise, but it's not formal. Once you formalize it, it becomes even worse, as races can quickly become drastically over/under-valued.
Fiddly and unsatisfying is exactly how I'd describe it. It takes a lot of time to do and it doesn't accomplish much because racial abilities are often small potatoes.

In my experience these kind of point buy systems become about optimizing the features that work best for one class and then just hitting repeat over and over. People "give up" Elven sleep immunity for something like treating longswords as finesse weapons because how often does sleep immunity come up?

Flat values are bad too, because a lot of racial abilities are amazing for a certain class or subclass, but totally worthless for another. Weapon proficiencies, for example. Even things like Darkvision are pointless if your subclass grants the same or better (as a number of subclasses do). Whereas other ones can be amazing but only for certain classes - the Wood Elf hide-in-plain-sight thing is amazing for a Rogue due to the action economy and the Rogue bonus action feature (I forget the name), but it's going to be nearly completely useless to a lot of classes.
Along that same line, i'm certain that Mearls or Crawford gave an interview or an answer early on. The balance weight given to Darkvision was 0. It was assigned entirely based on what flavor made sense for the race, because in reality it's not difficult to just have a light source (i.e., it's a very overvalued ability) and Darkvision's penalty to Perception and lack of color is actually pretty debilitating if your DM is playing it right.

Ancestry is important, but I don't really want it to be a huge driver to the game or a major component of character development or progression.
 

Fiddly and unsatisfying is exactly how I'd describe it. It takes a lot of time to do and it doesn't accomplish much because racial abilities are often small potatoes.

In my experience these kind of point buy systems become about optimizing the features that work best for one class and then just hitting repeat over and over. People "give up" Elven sleep immunity for something like treating longswords as finesse weapons because how often does sleep immunity come up?



Along that same line, i'm certain that Mearls or Crawford gave an interview or an answer early on. The balance weight given to Darkvision was 0. It was assigned entirely based on what flavor made sense for the race, because in reality it's not difficult to just have a light source (i.e., it's a very overvalued ability) and Darkvision's penalty to Perception and lack of color is actually pretty debilitating if your DM is playing it right.

Ancestry is important, but I don't really want it to be a huge driver to the game or a major component of character development or progression.
Interesting. Did they say anything about natural armor and natural weapons? Because the usefulness of those features is very dependent on available gear and class proficiencies.
 

Along that same line, i'm certain that Mearls or Crawford gave an interview or an answer early on. The balance weight given to Darkvision was 0. It was assigned entirely based on what flavor made sense for the race, because in reality it's not difficult to just have a light source (i.e., it's a very overvalued ability) and Darkvision's penalty to Perception and lack of color is actually pretty debilitating if your DM is playing it right.
That's very interesting.

I wish they'd given zero balance weight to a lot of other features - I know I bring this up over and over, but natural weapons/low natural AC seem like the perfect thing to assign zero weight to. They're objectively worse than even stuff like shortswords in virtually all cases (shortswords can at least be used as finesse weapons). Yet if you look at the races which have them, and they're clearly treated as serious balancing points.

I think the general idea that it's okay to give a race an ability just for flavour is a good one though.

EDIT - lol I see Micah said the same thing!
 

Interesting. Did they say anything about natural armor and natural weapons? Because the usefulness of those features is very dependent on available gear and class proficiencies.
That's very interesting.

I wish they'd given zero balance weight to a lot of other features - I know I bring this up over and over, but natural weapons/low natural AC seem like the perfect thing to assign zero weight to. They're objectively worse than even stuff like shortswords in virtually all cases (shortswords can at least be used as finesse weapons). Yet if you look at the races which have them, and they're clearly treated as serious balancing points.

I think the general idea that it's okay to give a race an ability just for flavour is a good one though.

EDIT - lol I see Micah said the same thing!
I don't remember any follow-up being asked at all. It was either an early interview, a Twitter conversation, one of Mearls' Twitch streams, or an AMA on Reddit. It was just a one-off question that I can recall. I'm 100% certain that I saw it or read it, but I've done some searching and I've not been able to find it again. I remember it striking me as odd because I don't think any player I know would value darkvision at 0. It seemed like they were vastly underestimating a player's instincts to not rely on anything.

Heck, the reason I don't like to play Halfling rogues is because I hate scouting without darkvision.

It does maybe explain why Devil's Sight is so irritating.
 


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