Racial abilities & stereotypes.

Which better represents racial abilities and stereotypes?

  • Ability bonuses and penalties best represent racial stereotypes!

    Votes: 16 17.0%
  • Powers/feats, etc. best represent racial stereotypes.

    Votes: 19 20.2%
  • I want a combination of the above two.

    Votes: 53 56.4%
  • Lemon racials.

    Votes: 6 6.4%

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I don't mind penalties. Just crippling ones.

I should be able to put an 18 in a class's primary ability score, subtract racial penalties, and still have an effective character with core elements.

Half orc wizards
Halfling fighters
Dwarf sorcerers
 

log in or register to remove this ad

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I should be able to put an 18 in a class's primary ability score, subtract racial penalties, and still have an effective character with core elements.
This, right here, is my biggest problem with character creation: the need expectation of starting the game with an ability score of 18 (or higher, in some cases).

Using the original 3d6 character creation rules, it was very hard to get a score of 18. (The probability was less than 1%.) Rolling an 18 was so rare and beautiful that if you rolled one, you would play the character even if all your other scores sucked. An 18 was awesome. And everyone wanted one.

So under the red-box Basic Rules, they softened it a little bit: now, your prime requisite could go up one point for every two points that another score went down. (That score became known infamously as the "dump stat.") Everyone could start the game with an 18 now, but it could be very expensive.

Then the "point-buy" method came along, which allowed players to basically tell the DM what ability scores they wanted for their characters. There were exceptions, but by and large, the first thing the player did was burn all their points to get an 18, and then spread the rest out to avoid serious penalties. Now, not only did everyone get to start with an 18, they all had more or less the same stats.

Then there came the 4d6 method, which helped break the monotony of point-buying and brought randomness back. But old habits die hard: players had come to expect starting with at least one score of 18. So they added racial bonuses. Thus, if a player had at least one starting score of 16 or better, it meant (s)he would be playing an elf. (I believe this was the main contributing factor behind the "31 flavors of elf" concept. "Rats, I really wanted to play a barbarian, but I've gotta be an elf if I want an 18. Can I move my +2 bonus to Strength? and change my favored class? And move that Constitution penalty?" But I digress.)

And that is where we are today. For whatever reason, players need expect to start the game with at least one ability score of 18. And that is all fine and good, so long as that super-high score is somehow balanced with penalties. It is not difficult to imagine how a character with a high intelligence would have sacrificed her physical training in favor of academia, after all. But that is not the case. Now, there are higher and higher starting ability scores, with fewer and fewer penalties or other drawbacks to offset them.

It comes as no surprise that most of the threads in this forum are on the subject of "game balance."

Now I am not saying that we need to turn back the clock and start using the old 3d6 rules for character creation. But I do think we need to look long and hard at the power creep in ability scores, and find a way to compensate for it. All bonuses with no penalties will break the game.
 
Last edited:

El Mahdi

Muad'Dib of the Anauroch
Nah. I just don't see the logic in it.

For example, if Elves are capable of having a strength of 18 (or even 19), then if any Elf is going to have it, it will likely be a PC Elf. But applying a penalty at character creation puts that score out of reach, which is illogical.

If one wanted to be more accurate, you'd place a limit on ability scores for certain races, instead of a penalty. So, instead of saying: since no Elf can have a Strength score of 20, we'll give them a -1 to Strength. You simply say: No Elf can have a Strength score over of 20 or higher...period...and then let the player make the character they want - such as an Elf with 19 Strength.

So I can see the logic for bonuses and feats, but not for penalties. Limits...Yes. Penalties...No.

B-)


*(The above is just an example, and not based on any actual restrictions. Just an example to show the difference between penalties and limits.)
 

Sigdel

First Post
I don't mind racial penalties. Just have them make sense. For example, elves are supposed to be some of the best wizards around, but they get a +2 dex and a -2 con. They get a +1 to AC and ranged attacks, but at the expense of 20 HP by level 20? And their favored class sports a d4 for HP?! WTF?!

I could go on a tangent on how D&D has never been able to figure out if elves are the woodsy xenophobes or metro spell-slingers and how 4e finally separated the two types into elves and eladrin, but that's a rant for a different thread.
 

El Mahdi

Muad'Dib of the Anauroch
This, right here, is my biggest problem with character creation: the need expectation of starting the game with an ability score of 18 (or higher, in some cases).

Why are such expectations a problem? They're simply expressions of personal/group preference, and just as valid a playstyle or preference as yours or anybody elses.

Why can't the game be made with variable expectations (dials) just like the designers have said they want to?

You can have your game set where nobody can have an 18 at 1st level, and those that do want to have them can.

Sounds like a win-win to me.

I'm not seeing the problem in that...

B-)
 

aurance

Explorer
Hmm. Races should have tangible game effects due to biological/sociological tendencies. But I think you're right - reflecting them via mechanics other than a simple plus or minus ability score would be pretty creative, and solve some class balance issues. I like it.
 


Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
This, right here, is my biggest problem with character creation: the need expectation of starting the game with an ability score of 18 (or higher, in some cases).
I never said I expect an 18. But I shops be able to make an effective character with any race/class combo.

Orcs can be dumb. Most too dumb to be wizards. But I should be able to pay the one of a million orcs with more than half a brain big enough to be a wizard. A -2 isn't too bad as it allows for an Int of 16.

But if the game has no ability boost from levels, my orc wizard can't cast spells higher than level 7.

Pick a -4 Int race? Can't make a functional arcane scholar. Why does the world hate hill giant wizards?
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Why are such expectations a problem? They're simply expressions of personal/group preference, and just as valid a playstyle or preference as yours or anybody elses.

Why can't the game be made with variable expectations (dials) just like the designers have said they want to?

You can have your game set where nobody can have an 18 at 1st level, and those that do want to have them can.

Sounds like a win-win to me.

I'm not seeing the problem in that...

B-)
If you don't notice a problem with it in your games, then that's fine. You should continue enjoying the game you play. But a lot of other people (mostly frustrated DMs like me) have been grappling with this problem for years now, and it is only getting worse.

The problem isn't that the players all expect to start the game with an 18. The problem is that they expect high ability scores without any penalties to offset them. As much as I hated the Point Buy method, at least it was balanced: you could have your 18, but at a price.

Otherwise, why not just bring this topic to its logical conclusion and let everyone start with 18s in all stats? That seems to be where the trend is heading.

Ability score bonuses are extremely important in creating a heroic character. But we must not overlook the importance of ability score penalties, either...from game balance to story development, heroes need hardship in order to shine.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
This is a bit of a straw man, isn't it? There are a lot of ways to make races matter, other than racial mods.
Indeed. But just for clarity--when I say "racial modifiers," I am not just talking about ability score mods. I am referring to modifiers of all stripes...save throw mods, skill mods, all that jazz. But yes, your point stands. Modifiers just happen to be the easiest.

And calling people out as "straw man" is also a bit of a straw man, isn't it?
 

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top