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D&D 5E Unearthed Arcana: Gothic Lineages & New Race/Culture Distinction

The latest Unearthed Arcana contains the Dhampir, Reborn, and Hexblood races. The Dhampir is a half-vampire; the Hexblood is a character which has made a pact with a hag; and the Reborn is somebody brought back to life.

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Perhaps the bigger news is this declaration on how race is to be handled in future D&D books as it joins other games by stating that:

"...the race options in this article and in future D&D books lack the Ability Score Increase trait, the Language trait, the Alignment trait, and any other trait that is purely cultural. Racial traits henceforth reflect only the physical or magical realities of being a player character who’s a member of a particular lineage. Such traits include things like darkvision, a breath weapon (as in the dragonborn), or innate magical ability (as in the forest gnome). Such traits don’t include cultural characteristics, like language or training with a weapon or a tool, and the traits also don’t include an alignment suggestion, since alignment is a choice for each individual, not a characteristic shared by a lineage."
 
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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
It's very useful. A standard, PH elf is graceful; otherworldly; beautiful; ancient and wise;, have low affect; prefer to solve problems with diplomacy or by outlasting the problem but can be violent if the need arises; typically live in natural surroundings; are very artistic; are even more magical; prefer staying away from outsiders but are sometimes prone to wanderlust; and dislike it when things change to quickly. This, of course, is a very brief synopsis of their description in the PH and doesn't include any of the info from Mordenkainen's, or that was written about them in earlier editions. And obviously, if there was a setting or group of elves that are sufficiently different from that--for instance, the typical evilevilevil Drow, or the elves of Dark Sun--then the fluff would be necessary to differentiate them.

That tells me a lot of what I need to know to run an NPC elf. The elf's job and purpose in the adventure will tell me the rest--including where to put their stats, if I actually need to stat the elf out. That's the part I, the DM, make up.
If the stats in the writeup aren’t true, then none of it means anything. The stats are part of the writeup.
 

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Faolyn

Hero
I address those things. Sorry if you missed it (it was directly after a reply first to Chaos which might be the reason), here is what I said directly after quoting you:
No, you didn't. You continue to claim its about us wanting to minmax, and that the races are too "similar" without the racial ASIs. Even though both Chaosmancer and I have repeatedly refuted this thought, you have ignored us and continued to claim that these things are the problems.

I really would like to conduct this character creation experiment. Who Knows, maybe I am wrong? But I would like you to give me a race/class combo (outside of the magical 16) that can't be created through racial ASIs and point buy.
We have never said you can't create a character just using racial ASIs.

What we have said is that players have more freedom to create characters of the type they want.

This is either a strawman or you completely misunderstanding our position. Which is it? Because it literally can't be you arguing honestly.

You want some examples of race/class combos that don't have 16s (actually 17s) in their "prime" stats? OK, here's a few for you, using the standard stat array of 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8 and the prime stat not over 16... even though with +2 point buy, stat maximum is 17.

Aarakocra Wizard (primary stat: Int), where the player wants to be an enchanter, and is quite personable, healthy, and intelligent, but also physically weak (a "typical" hollow-boned aarakocra), prone to doing dumb stuff, and sometimes klutzy.
  • Racial ASIs (Dex +2, Wis +1): Str 8, Dex 14, Con 13, Int 15, Wis 11, Cha 14
  • Floating ASIs (Con +1, Cha +2): Str 8, Dex 12, Con 14, Int 15, Wis 10, Cha 16
Notice how I didn't touch Intelligence, didn't turn it into a 16 or 17 even though I could, even though it's this character's primary attribute. And yet, I created a character that better suits the idea I had in mind.
 


I didn't. I even stated:

I specifically said it is being debated as though your platform were viewed by you as a house of cards. Meaning it is defended so adamantly, that it's as though it is a house of cards. And notice at the end there - where I say it isn't a house of cards. It is a perfectly fine vantage point, and the argument doesn't fall apart either way.
This is another way of saying both sides are correct.

I have never once seen any say "they are arguing as though it is a house of cards, but it isn't" as a compliment. That seems to be the most circuitous way to say what you meant.

I have payed attention. And have pointed out numerous examples.
Do this for me, please.
Tell me a character to make. Any character. Any class. Any race. Tell me what you want in the attributes.
I will use racial ASI and point buy to create it. Any vision you have within the ruleset can be created - except for a 16 in the primary attribute.

So I am by no means creating a strawman. I am pointing out that it is about that extra +1.
  • You say it is about player freedom.
  • I point out that you have all the freedom except for an extra +1.
  • You say it is about letting players create a character they want, not a racial trope.
  • I say, the only trope with point buy is in your imagination, except for that extra +.
  • You say people are against you and your way.
  • I say no one is against you. You want to start with 16, go ahead. Cool.

The point is: stop blaming other people. No one here says the optional floating ASI rule shouldn't be used at your table. Stop blaming the need for floating ASI as player creativity and freedom. It's not. It is, in the end, to get an extra +. Why? Because you can build anything you desire using point buy and racial ASIs - except that 16 strength halfling, or the 16 intelligence half-orc or the 16 constitution elf or the 16 dexterity dwarf. Everything else CAN be built.

So my premise is no strawman. It is the actual fulcrum of the argument.

You know, I was reading this same debate on a different thread, and a new perspective was shown to me. Since we've argued the "worse at your primary job" angle a lot, let's point out another aspect of the current system. Making the off-beat race feel less like their primary role. This was actually an interesting thing they did.

So, take a Rock Gnome and take a Half-Orc. Make them both wizards, use Standard Array. No feats.

Rock Gnome Wizard -> str 8 / dex 10 / con 16 / int 16 / wis 13 / cha 12
Half Orc Wizard -> str 10 / dex 10 / con 16 / int 14 / wis 13 / cha 12

So, is the Half Orc stronger? Yes, but as a wizard who never goes in melee swinging your Quarterstaff at +2 for 1d8+0 is... pathetic. Neither of you will use that option, even with your low INT +4 to hit with a cantrip is far better.

Level 4 and level 8, get ASIs, leads to this

Rock Gnome Wizard -> str 8 / dex 10 / con 16 / int 20 / wis 13 / cha 12
Half Orc Wizard -> str 10 / dex 10 / con 16 / int 18 / wis 13 / cha 12

So, still behind, but here is something odd that happens at level 12. The Half-Orc is going to go for 20 INT, right? What does the Gnome do? What happens if they an ASI to Con?

Rock Gnome Wizard -> str 8 / dex 10 / con 18 / int 20 / wis 13 / cha 12
Half Orc Wizard -> str 10 / dex 10 / con 16 / int 20 / wis 13 / cha 12

Now, the Gnome is no longer smarter, but he is tougher than the Half-Orc. Level 16?

Rock Gnome Wizard -> str 8 / dex 10 / con 20 / int 20 / wis 13 / cha 12
Half Orc Wizard -> str 10 / dex 10 / con 18 / int 20 / wis 13 / cha 12

Gnome is still tougher. Something they actually use, and the Half Orc is... well, they aren't tougher, they both match in intelligence, and while the Half Orc is stronger, they are still weaker than the Elf Fighter, so they aren't really feeling strong either

The thing people advocate for, the banner they hold up is that you are making a trade-off, but in the end, neither one of these characters is strong. And the Gnome is no longer Smarter than the Half-Orc, he is tougher than the half-orc, famed for its toughness.

This is the other side of the problem, in working to "catch up" constantly, you end up neglecting anything else. And what you get in exchange is... effectively nothing because you still suck at anything involving strength. You don't feel like a half-orc in anyway, except for your traits, which aren't going to change whether you use Tasha's or not.

Edit: and after I posted, I realized something even more amusing. Take it one more time. To 19.

Rock Gnome Wizard -> str 10 / dex 10 / con 20 / int 20 / wis 13 / cha 12
Half Orc Wizard -> str 10 / dex 10 / con 20 / int 20 / wis 13 / cha 12

We know have two characters who are exactly identical... except the Half Orc spent every single level before this behind in an important stat. And the Gnome decided to get rid of their minus one on this last time instead of bumping say, Dex for increased AC. Even though the strength does nothing for them.

So, end in the same place... the half-orc just trailed at every single change. So if they end up identical in the end, why not have them start closer together?

And again, I have stated so many times: let's walk down the road of racial feats or racial traits together and see what we can come up with that will make the races feel unique if we're going to remove racial ASIs. But, my guess is everyone feels the races are unique enough with things like Darkvision, Menacing, Relentless Endurance, and Savage Attacks. To me, those just don't reach the level of uniqueness I want, but I guess I am in the minority there.

This is the first time you've mentioned traits, usually it is just feats.

And, I'd be hesitant to add too many new traits, because that would run the risk of making characters more powerful. Some need it, like Dragonborn, but I don't think Tieflings really need a lot more traits for your normal game.
 
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JEB

Adventurer
These statblocks represent NPCs. NPCs do not need Racial traits applied. Therefore NPCs and PCs having different sets of traits is supported by the game.
Sure, as long as you're fine with NPCs that have no racial traits, and only represent completely generic individuals. If you want a NPC to have racial traits - say, to be a dwarf commoner rather than a generic commoner - the Monster Manual and DMG both suggest you add racial traits, which include ASI that matches (or very very nearly matches) the PHB versions under the core rules. But you don't have to, if you just want a commoner that doesn't represent any particular race (thus allowing them to represent a humanoid of "any race", as it literally states in the statblock).

However, if they still thought that NPCs and PCs should have identical ASIs, why have they never released an Errata for the DMG chart?

If they simply redesigned their idea of the monsters, then why not release an Errata to reflect that, if they intended for PCs and NPCs to be treated the same? Why not add the new monster abilities to the new versions of the monsters in Volos?
I don't think they've ever released errata for older books to include material that's been featured in later books. Seems like that would be arguably giving things away for free if they did.

The Hobgoblin Iron Shadow doesn't have the Save Face racial trait, yet they were released in the same book. Also, for a race known for Con and Int, sure does have a lot strength, dex and Wisdom.
The Nilbog doesn't have the Fury of the Small
The Kobold Inventor doesn't have Grovel, Cower and Beg.

You mentioned that the original orcs had that +2 str, +1 con, -2 Int, right? Here are some fun statblocks to explain then
The ability score differences aren't particularly relevant, because the scores you see could have still had the ASI applied to them. Specialist NPCs aren't required to start with all 10s, and in fact probably won't, both for flavor reasons and so they can make sure they have the right attack bonuses, DCs, etc.

As for the other missing racial features, the Nilbog isn't exactly a normal goblin, so its lack of standard goblin features is easy to explain. The others suggest a difference for those specific NPC builds, but not a suggestion that a typical hobgoblin or kobold NPC, such as a commoner, wouldn't normally have those default features. You can't use exceptions to prove rules.

Flipping this around, care to explain why the orc NPCs in Volo's all do have darkvision, the Aggressive trait, and Intimidation proficiency? (Excepting the Nurtured One of Yurtrus, which is basically a mutant.)

So... they only designed one way to apply a set of traits for customizing, therefore we are supposed to assume that all NPCs have these traits because that is the only way presented to homebrew them?

Dead wrong actually. You could use the rules from 'Modifying a Monster" on 273. With the Chart of traits on 280 you could then apply many monstrous abilities to whatever statblocks you wanted.
Sure, if you're building a creature that isn't a typical member of the species. That's different from building a commoner that has the racial traits of a PHB race.

I guess if you want to argue that they only offered one way to add these specific traits that existed in only one form in one place... well, duh? How many other elven abilities would they have tried to give people when elves only had one write-up and it was in the PHB?
Yes, that is basically what I've been pointing out. They provide one approach to having NPCs reflect racial traits, and that approach points to the PHB or DMG traits. Which means that by the core rules, a NPC will have the same traits (or nearly identical traits) as the PHB race, to include ASI. You can always build an exception, but by definition, those aren't typical members of the species.

Do note though, that when the Eladrin option came out in the Mordenkainen's, the Eladrin monster statblocks are impossible to make with just the Eladrin PC options.
Mordenkainen's being even more recent than Volo's, of course. Also, the existence of different types of eladrin with different abilities actually goes back to 2E.

Counting each Dragonborn color as a subrace, when they are not labeled as such, is disingenuous. It also proves my point. Because if you think Dragonborn have multiple subraces under a single statblock, then making a race with a single statblock to represent multiple subraces has been done and is perfectly fine with you.
Really, you're suggesting that I'm not honestly suggesting that you could count the dragonborn varieties as subraces? (Personally, I probably would, since they actually have physiological differences - they're actually better suited to the term "subrace" than many of the other subraces.)

And sure, all ten of those dragonborn variants have the same default ASIs. If we accept those as subraces, that demonstrates how "there are subraces!" would not be an excuse to claim an entire species wouldn't have typical members, such that defaults couldn't be suggested.

I think there is ample evidence. Your side is the one lacking evidence. There are few "commoner" "noble" or "guard" statblocks for these races printed. Most of them that are point to my argument. The tables are innacurate, there are multiple routes made available, not just one. Monster Statblocks pretty much never match their PC counterparts in any book.
The only nonhuman version of a standard NPC statblock we have in an official source that I'm aware of is the lizardfolk commoner, which 1) came out in 2019 and 2) doesn't really support either argument. The other two (goblin commoner and kobold commoner) are only on D&D Beyond and, as I pointed out, could be mistakes on D&D Beyond's part.

As for NPC statblocks not based on generic NPCs, those aren't typical members of the race and, as I pointed out previously, also do often have traits matching the race's defaults. And they don't really have a bearing on what a typical member of the species might be like as far as ASIs, since ability scores can vary.

Besides, I've been primarily talking about what their intention was as far as the core rules, not what might have came later. (I already granted it's possible they had changed their mind as early as Volo's; I just also pointed out that it's very possible they didn't.) As far as PHB races, I'm not aware of any examples of complete statblocks for race-specific versions of generic NPCs. In fact, every time we see a "drow commoner" or the like in the vast majority of books, they never tell you how to depict them. So they must assume you'd follow the guidelines in the Monster Manual for NPCs... which suggest applying racial traits (which include ASIs) when you want them to reflect a character race.

You can keep believing what you want, but you have no solid evidence that your way was the intended way.
And you can keep believing what you want, even in the face of the evidence provided in the core rules.

I mean, we can keep going on this, but at this point it seems more worthwhile to agree to disagree.
 
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Faolyn

Hero
Sure, as long as you're fine with NPCs that have no racial traits, and only represent completely generic individuals. If you want a NPC to have racial traits - say, to be a dwarf commoner rather than a generic commoner - the Monster Manual and DMG both suggest you add racial traits, which include ASI that matches (or very very nearly matches) the PHB versions under the core rules. But you don't have to, if you just want a commoner that doesn't represent any particular race (thus allowing them to represent a humanoid of "any race", as it literally states in the statblock).
The Commoner is generic. If I want a dwarf commoner, I have two choices:

I can use the Commoner statblock and speak in a bad Scottish accent while pretending to stroke a beard, knowing full well that my players are never going to engage with this particular dwarf in a way that actually requires a full statblock writeup because my players don't go around trying to murder nameless Commoners.

Or

I can take the Commoner statblock and add any number of dwarfy traits, which can be real from-the-PH dwarf traits, or dwarf traits I make up. Like, Xorn have the trait Treasure Sense which lets them smell gold, I've seen that trope used in various fantasy media before. So hey, PC dwarfs may not have that trait, but why not give it to an NPC dwarf? Of course, by that point, this guy is no longer a nameless NPC and I've probably already given them a backstory and a hobby and a pet aurumvorax.

...I miss aurumvoraxes. They were cool. I also miss osquips.

As for the other missing racial features, the Nilbog isn't exactly a normal goblin, so its lack of standard goblin features is easy to explain. The others suggest a difference for those specific NPC builds, but not a suggestion that a typical hobgoblin or kobold NPC, such as a commoner, wouldn't normally have those default features. You can't use exceptions to prove rules.
What I've been saying, at least, is that these specific NPC builds indicate that typical non-human NPCs don't have to have those default features, and they don't need to have all of them. It's not that they "wouldn't normally," it's that, in terms of game mechanics, they're not necessary. Unless you have PCs who regularly go around murdering them.

Flipping this around, care to explain why the orc NPCs in Volo's all do have darkvision, the Aggressive trait, and Intimidation proficiency? (Excepting the Nurtured One of Yurtrus, which is basically a mutant.)
But they don't have Powerful Build.

Honestly, I'd guess they all have darkvision because it seems to be a requirement in this edition for (almost) all monsters to have darkvision.
 

JEB

Adventurer
The Commoner is generic. If I want a dwarf commoner, I have two choices:

I can use the Commoner statblock and speak in a bad Scottish accent while pretending to stroke a beard, knowing full well that my players are never going to engage with this particular dwarf in a way that actually requires a full statblock writeup because my players don't go around trying to murder nameless Commoners.

Or

I can take the Commoner statblock and add any number of dwarfy traits, which can be real from-the-PH dwarf traits, or dwarf traits I make up. Like, Xorn have the trait Treasure Sense which lets them smell gold, I've seen that trope used in various fantasy media before. So hey, PC dwarfs may not have that trait, but why not give it to an NPC dwarf? Of course, by that point, this guy is no longer a nameless NPC and I've probably already given them a backstory and a hobby and a pet aurumvorax.
Right, I don't disagree with any of that. I've just been talking about what they expected in the 5E core rules. And whenever we get around to a 5.5 or 6E, I expect they'll tweak the guidelines to be more explicit that when adjusting NPCs to reflect races, any or all of the features are optional or replaceable.

...I miss aurumvoraxes. They were cool. I also miss osquips.
Utterly off-topic, but apparently 5E aurumvoraxes are in Original Adventures Revisited: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, and 5E osquips are in Original Adventures Revisited: Into the Borderlands. (Only reason I know is because I've been going through monster sources from various editions lately, for reasons.) Neither are technically official, though. It sure would be nice if Wizards officially brought back more of those wacky minor monsters... but I digress.

But they don't have Powerful Build.
True, but they might not consider that worth noting on NPC stat blocks, same as they don't list equipment for generic NPCs or provide their tool proficiencies.

Honestly, I'd guess they all have darkvision because it seems to be a requirement in this edition for (almost) all monsters to have darkvision.
Yeah, "nearly everything has darkvision" bugs me too. But it's certainly easier than having two or more varieties of super-vision, I guess.
 

DnD is not a wargame. In most wargame, race or faction is the key identity.
To do so DnD should offer racial spell, classes, feats, weapons, skill, background, etc..
In a wargame with a limited number of races it is possible. In DnD it would become a nightmare.
So in DnD race is a minor identity flavor, its impact on gameplay diminish as level go up.
Racial ASI make almost no difference once expertise and level ASI becomes to kick in,
size is easily bypassed,
dark vision can be acquired through invocation, spell, magic item,
some feat duplicate racial traits, race is only there to flavor your role play.
 

What we have said is that players have more freedom to create characters of the type they want.
That is my point. Give me a character a player wants to create, but can't using racial ASIs and point buy. Give me a specific example outside of I want a 16 instead of 15. That is my entire point. Show me an example.
You want some examples of race/class combos that don't have 16s (actually 17s) in their "prime" stats?
No. I do not. You are not listening. I want an example of a character type that a player wants to play that racial ASIs cannot accomplish (outside of getting that beloved +3). That is your claim, that floating ASIs allows players to develop characters they couldn't have with racial ASIs. My contention is they can make anything, with the same stats, outside of a 16 in specific stats.
Aarakocra Wizard (primary stat: Int), where the player wants to be an enchanter, and is quite personable, healthy, and intelligent, but also physically weak (a "typical" hollow-boned aarakocra), prone to doing dumb stuff, and sometimes klutzy.
  • Racial ASIs (Dex +2, Wis +1): Str 8, Dex 14, Con 13, Int 15, Wis 11, Cha 14
  • Floating ASIs (Con +1, Cha +2): Str 8, Dex 12, Con 14, Int 15, Wis 10, Cha 16
By personable, I assume you want a high charisma. By healthy, I assume con, etc.
Now take your concept and use point buy w/ racial ASI.
  • Racial ASIs (dex +2, wis +1): str: 8, dex: 10, con: 14, int: 15, wis: 11, cha: 15 (You have EVERYTHING you want for your character that you claim you needed floating ASIs for - except for a 16! That extra +1.
Do you see how literally you have everything you said you needed - except for that 16 in charisma. That is why I keep saying over and over again, it is all about having a 16.
 

So, take a Rock Gnome and take a Half-Orc. Make them both wizards, use Standard Array. No feats.
I am talking about point buy, not standard array. Also, I am not talking at level 20. When I tried to point out that no matter what, everyone is equal by level 12, here was the response:
  • "Most campaigns don't go past level 8."
  • "Why ruin the experience for first level characters?"

There are so many variables after level four, that there is really no way to pin down anything, especially since different tables have different playstyles. I mean compare one tables 10th level wizard to another and it might be like comparing a grand wizard to a mediocre one just from the magic item situation. Point is, I am not discussing the complexities of upper levels. I have stated my claim over and over, it is, in the end, about having a 16 in the primary stat.
This is the first time you've mentioned traits, usually it is just feats.
I apologize Chaos. I wasn't being clear, and that is on me. Sorry. I really meant feats, traits, etc. Just anything anyone can think of that differentiates the races if we remove ASIs. I am truly and honestly okay with it. But, would like to see more of a distinction between the races using those other tools.
 

Faolyn

Hero
That is my point. Give me a character a player wants to create, but can't using racial ASIs and point buy. Give me a specific example outside of I want a 16 instead of 15. That is my entire point. Show me an example.
And again you ignore what we're saying.

We are not saying that we can't make characters.
We are saying we want more ability to control and fine-tune the character creation.

You are continuing to rely on strawmen here. You are continuing to insist it's all about 16s. so again:

We can make our characters more the way we want to make them
when we have floating ASIs.

Do I need to figure out how to make them flash different colors, or are you finally going to accept that what you think problem is isn't actually the problem?

No. I do not. You are not listening. I want an example of a character type that a player wants to play that racial ASIs cannot accomplish (outside of getting that beloved +3). That is your claim, that floating ASIs allows players to develop characters they couldn't have with racial ASIs.
Neither I nor anyone else in this thread have made that claim.

Because at this point, I've given up thinking that you're just misunderstanding me. You have got to be outright lying about what I've said. There is no way anyone could misunderstand me that badly.

By personable, I assume you want a high charisma. By healthy, I assume con, etc.
Now take your concept and use point buy w/ racial ASI.
  • Racial ASIs (dex +2, wis +1): str: 8, dex: 10, con: 14, int: 15, wis: 11, cha: 15 (You have EVERYTHING you want for your character that you claim you needed floating ASIs for - except for a 16! That extra +1.
Do you see how literally you have everything you said you needed - except for that 16 in charisma. That is why I keep saying over and over again, it is all about having a 16.
Here's what you said:

I will use racial ASI and point buy to create it. Any vision you have within the ruleset can be created - except for a 16 in the primary attribute.
I did exactly what you said. I put the 16 in a non-primary attribute--remember, I created a wizard, not a bard, paladin, sorcerer, or warlock--and here you are, moving the goalposts to claim any attribute. But fine:
  • Floating ASIs (Con +1, Cha +2): Str 8, Dex 12, Con 14, Int 15, Wis 12, Cha 14
Now they're a bit less of a ditz and not quite as good at talking to people. Or:
  • Floating ASIs (Con +1, Cha +2): Str 10, Dex 12, Con 14, Int 15, Wis 10, Cha 14
Still a ditz, not quite as personable, but are able to carry a backpack chock full of college textbooks.

"Oh, but you made them into an enchanter, so Charisma is still important because most charm spells just make people friendly and you still have to Persuade or Deceive them," I hear you say. OK then, they're now a transmuter. But they took the Charlatan background. Or a diviner with the Sage background, who lectures at the university between adventures. Or maybe they're a necromancer with the Entertainer background, for a little taste of grand guignol. Remember, background doesn't benefit from or contribute to any attribute.

In any case, look ma, no 16s!

(and godsdammit, now I have to write up that necromancer for the next time I run Ravenloft.)

And in any case, I really have to ask. You said:
But, my guess is everyone feels the races are unique enough with things like Darkvision, Menacing, Relentless Endurance, and Savage Attacks. To me, those just don't reach the level of uniqueness I want, but I guess I am in the minority there.
How do you differentiate between half-orcs and minotaurs? You don't find their racial traits to "reach the level of uniqueness" you want, but they both have the same +2 Strength, +1 Con.

(Also: you guess? I've only been shouting this for pages upon pages now.)
 

Sure, as long as you're fine with NPCs that have no racial traits, and only represent completely generic individuals. If you want a NPC to have racial traits - say, to be a dwarf commoner rather than a generic commoner - the Monster Manual and DMG both suggest you add racial traits, which include ASI that matches (or very very nearly matches) the PHB versions under the core rules. But you don't have to, if you just want a commoner that doesn't represent any particular race (thus allowing them to represent a humanoid of "any race", as it literally states in the statblock).

snip

Yes, that is basically what I've been pointing out. They provide one approach to having NPCs reflect racial traits, and that approach points to the PHB or DMG traits. Which means that by the core rules, a NPC will have the same traits (or nearly identical traits) as the PHB race, to include ASI. You can always build an exception, but by definition, those aren't typical members of the species.

If your point is that if you want to give them a dwarven trait in the PHB you have to use the PHB... well, duh. That is blatantly obvious and also beside the point.

But also, man some of those traits are legitimately pointless for an NPC. For Example, Stonecunning. You are considered to have expertise in history when it regards stonework, but in reality, since NPCs will likely never roll for history, especially a dwarf for stonework history, it isn't worth giving to a dwarven character. Just like I don't bother taking a commoner and giving them Sleight of Hand to represent a street urchin picking pockets.

But, sure, I will admit that if I want an NPC to have a PHB racial trait, I need to refer to the PHB Racials Traits. And if I want them to have a magical item from the DMG I refer to magical items from the DMG.

The real point is though, that I am not required to use those, if I don't want to.

I don't think they've ever released errata for older books to include material that's been featured in later books. Seems like that would be arguably giving things away for free if they did.

Might be giving away things for free, but that tells us that the Orc, Goblin, Hobgoblin, Kenku, Lizardfolk, ect in the DMG were considered obsolete as soon as Volo's came out.

The ability score differences aren't particularly relevant, because the scores you see could have still had the ASI applied to them. Specialist NPCs aren't required to start with all 10s, and in fact probably won't, both for flavor reasons and so they can make sure they have the right attack bonuses, DCs, etc.

As for the other missing racial features, the Nilbog isn't exactly a normal goblin, so its lack of standard goblin features is easy to explain. The others suggest a difference for those specific NPC builds, but not a suggestion that a typical hobgoblin or kobold NPC, such as a commoner, wouldn't normally have those default features. You can't use exceptions to prove rules.

Flipping this around, care to explain why the orc NPCs in Volo's all do have darkvision, the Aggressive trait, and Intimidation proficiency? (Excepting the Nurtured One of Yurtrus, which is basically a mutant.)

So, we are now at the point where those Racial ASIs are not relevant to NPC statblocks because they can have any numbers, and likely will just have the stats they need for both flavor and having the right attacks and DCs. This was literally my point as to why Racial ASIs don't matter for NPCs. And, it pushes into the idea of floating ASIs. If I wanted to play an Orc Priestess in training, then if I wanted to emulate the Claws of Luthic I would need my Dex and Wisdom higher than my Strength, a bonus to strength is negligible for them.

And then you want to say that I can't use exceptions to prove rules, but what I am doing is showing that exceptions exist. By the way, look at the Hobgoblin and Hobgoblin Commander in the MM, also no Save Face Trait and "hobgoblin" is about as generic as we can get, since we don't have stats for "generic hobgoblin". Now, that was because Volos came out later, but again, if they didn't feel the need to update the Statblock, then are we really supposed to add these traits to generic hobgoblins? Or were they telling us that PCs and NPCs are different, by treating NPCs and PCs differently?

There is not a single Hobgoblin Statblock officially released that uses Save Face. Know what they do have almost exclusively? Martial Advantage. A trait that no PC Hobgoblin can access. Did you know that no NPC Bugbear statblock has a reach like a PC does? Did you know that they all have the Trait Brute, which a PC cannot access?

You can't claim that every single statblock is specialized and doesn't represent the "common folk" of the race, then turn around and tell us that the traits they are known for are specialized and not for the people who will become unique and powerful members of their race.

Sure, if you're building a creature that isn't a typical member of the species. That's different from building a commoner that has the racial traits of a PHB race.

How?

Mordenkainen's being even more recent than Volo's, of course. Also, the existence of different types of eladrin with different abilities actually goes back to 2E.

So even in 2e NPCs and PCs were not meant to be identical?

Really, you're suggesting that I'm not honestly suggesting that you could count the dragonborn varieties as subraces? (Personally, I probably would, since they actually have physiological differences - they're actually better suited to the term "subrace" than many of the other subraces.)

And sure, all ten of those dragonborn variants have the same default ASIs. If we accept those as subraces, that demonstrates how "there are subraces!" would not be an excuse to claim an entire species wouldn't have typical members, such that defaults couldn't be suggested.

It seems like a stretch to try and claim a subrace when no subrace is labeled. Especially since, per the lore, Dragonborn don't have their abilities because of a "true breeding" of their bloodlines. It is all muddled up to the point where two black scaled dragonborn who breath ice could give birth to a red scaled dragonborn who breathes lightning (and actually they are majority brown scaled I've heard).

It seems to me that you are only trying to claim such, so you can say that "not all subraces give different ASIs, so you can't use subraces like you were trying to use them," when this would be the only example, and it is relabeling something that has not previously been labeled as such.

The only nonhuman version of a standard NPC statblock we have in an official source that I'm aware of is the lizardfolk commoner, which 1) came out in 2019 and 2) doesn't really support either argument. The other two (goblin commoner and kobold commoner) are only on D&D Beyond and, as I pointed out, could be mistakes on D&D Beyond's part.

As for NPC statblocks not based on generic NPCs, those aren't typical members of the race and, as I pointed out previously, also do often have traits matching the race's defaults. And they don't really have a bearing on what a typical member of the species might be like as far as ASIs, since ability scores can vary.

I enjoy how you dismiss one of the strongest pieces of evidence I have as not supporting either side. The Lizardfolk Commoner is A) A commoner, letting them be a "generic member of the race", B) Officially printed and statted in an Official Product C) released after volo's and any changes to the Lizardfolk design that was entailed by Volo's and D) Completely unlike the PC version in Volo's. It does not have their iconic Hungry Jaws and it has a massively inflated strength score, despite Lizardfolk not giving a bonus to Strength. It meets all the criterion you have placed for what we should be looking for, and supports my postion that NPCs are not treated like PCs.

Then of course you dismiss other evidence as likely being a mistake, or the fact that they are NPCs and representing the unusual members of that society. Not like adventurers who are not unusual at all.

And with this:

Besides, I've been primarily talking about what their intention was as far as the core rules, not what might have came later. (I already granted it's possible they had changed their mind as early as Volo's; I just also pointed out that it's very possible they didn't.) As far as PHB races, I'm not aware of any examples of complete statblocks for race-specific versions of generic NPCs. In fact, every time we see a "drow commoner" or the like in the vast majority of books, they never tell you how to depict them. So they must assume you'd follow the guidelines in the Monster Manual for NPCs... which suggest applying racial traits (which include ASIs) when you want them to reflect a character race.

And you can keep believing what you want, even in the face of the evidence provided in the core rules.


It seems like all you are trying to do is prove that in 2014 they wanted all NPCs of a race to use PC abilities, based on the fact that they said if you want to use PC abilities for them you should use the PHB. Then acknowledge that in 2017 they had changed their mind on that, so that you can be upset in 2021 for them changing their mind YEARS ago.

I mean, I can concede that wizards intended in the beginning of the game that if you wanted to give a character hill dwarf traits that they wanted you to read the section on hill dwarf traits. That is the same as conceding that if you wanted to give them sneak attack they wanted you to read the section on sneak attack.

But, taking it that step further, and saying that if I wanted to have a dwarf NPC I was required to give them the PHB stats, ASIs and abilities and all? While at the same time acknowledging that the NPC monster blocks in the front of the book are specialized with their ASIs and may not reflect the generic member of that race? That is not only a bridge too far, but one that is unsupported since you immediately undermine it with exactly the point I keep making.

NPCs are not treated like PCs.
 

I am talking about point buy, not standard array. Also, I am not talking at level 20. When I tried to point out that no matter what, everyone is equal by level 12, here was the response:
  • "Most campaigns don't go past level 8."
  • "Why ruin the experience for first level characters?"

There are so many variables after level four, that there is really no way to pin down anything, especially since different tables have different playstyles. I mean compare one tables 10th level wizard to another and it might be like comparing a grand wizard to a mediocre one just from the magic item situation. Point is, I am not discussing the complexities of upper levels. I have stated my claim over and over, it is, in the end, about having a 16 in the primary stat.

You are ignoring the entire point. I used standard array and no feats to simplify it. Removing variables to show the point.

You say everyone is equal by level 12? Actually read those stats I put out.

Rock Gnome Wizard -> str 8 / dex 10 / con 18 / int 20 / wis 13 / cha 12
Half Orc Wizard -> str 10 / dex 10 / con 16 / int 20 / wis 13 / cha 12

They aren't equal, the Rock Gnome has gotten tougher. Something that is useful for them as a wizard, as it increases their low hp and their concentration saves. And the Orc is stronger... something utterly useless since they are still likely weaker than the cleric or the fighter, and a +0 is pitiful. Anything requiring strength at this point is going to be done by spells.

When do they actually end up equal? Level 19.

Rock Gnome Wizard -> str 10 / dex 10 / con 20 / int 20 / wis 13 / cha 12
Half Orc Wizard -> str 10 / dex 10 / con 20 / int 20 / wis 13 / cha 12

So, since you like declaring what the argument is "really" about, here is a take from me.

It is really about making sure Half-Orc wizards are punished by being behind in every stat important to a wizard until 19th level versus letting them start equal and building their character to differentiate themselves via options instead of simply being behind.

I apologize Chaos. I wasn't being clear, and that is on me. Sorry. I really meant feats, traits, etc. Just anything anyone can think of that differentiates the races if we remove ASIs. I am truly and honestly okay with it. But, would like to see more of a distinction between the races using those other tools.

The fact that you are apologizing now, after this is the fourth time I've brought this up? Maybe I'm letting my personal life get to me, but that doesn't feel true and honest to me.

Granted, I'm in a bad spot in my personal life, with lots of BS and betrayals going on, so that could entirely be me, but I've brought this up repeatedly to you and it seems you missed it every other time.

And, as I said, I'm leery about adding more traits. I'd like to, there are some cool ideas I've seen, but I am worried about increasing the power level of the races. I think doing so would have to be carefully thought out. For example, I saw an ability for Elven characters which would allow them to make a reaction 5ft move when attacked or targeted by a spell, potentially getting them out of the way of the attack. That is cool, but a reaction "cancel melee attacks" is immensely powerful and would probably be inappropriate outside of very high level characters.

Could be a place for variant options though. 4e had "paragon paths" that were related to make each race more unique to its race, things like giving Dragonborn fear and wings, dwarves that took on mountain qualities, ect. An Optional Rule set for allowing 11+ level characters to gain more "racial powers" could balance them out by level gating this stuff. You need to be an 18th level elf before you can start dodging melee attacks as a reaction, and then a 11th level Genasi could become Dual Souled. That is a system I'd get behind.
 

Neither I nor anyone else in this thread have made that claim.

Because at this point, I've given up thinking that you're just misunderstanding me. You have got to be outright lying about what I've said. There is no way anyone could misunderstand me that badly.

To be fair, and accurate, I have made the claim, and I still stand by it, that the 16 in the prime stat is very important.

It is massively gamechanging for spellcasters in my opinion. And heavily important for melee characters. Now, it isn't the only thing I'm arguing for, it isn't my exclusive point, but it is something vital in my opinion.

Now, if you want to choose to not have that 16, feel free. But I want that to be a choice independent of your race, because there are too many fun racial stories not being told, because they feel like those options are being punished by the game.
 

Arial Black

Adventurer
Choosing human gets me... anything I want because they are floating.

Choosing Changeling gets me Charisma and then... anything I want because they are floating

Choosing Warforged gets me Constitution and then.... anything I want because they are floating.
The races with floating bonuses already-especially humans-get those floating bonuses because those races are famous for being...adaptable. That's their concept, just like being strong is part of the goliath concept, and NOT part of the halfling concept.
Hitting Level 4 in any class gets me.... anything I want because they are floating.
Racial bonuses to ability scores get you what they give you because of that race's concept. What the ASIs give has nothing to do with race at all. They represent training, perhaps (or perhaps not) combined with other concepts too.
So, if your purpose is to tell me that things give you things because of the rules.. well, the rules have changed. So now they give you different things. So there should be no issue.
No, I'm telling you (and I'm astonished you didn't understand this!) that races give these things because they reflect the concept of that race. They make the rules reflect the concepts.
And Goliaths are stronger than average than who? If I'm playing a V. human fighter with Heavy Armor Master I have a +2 strength, so Goliaths aren't stronger than a human, unless the human chooses to not be strong. And Goliaths are not stronger than anything with a +1 strength either, depending on where you put the scores.

And, what, being a large and strong race doesn't count if you don't have a +2? Powerful build is meaningless? The DM deciding to make Goliath NPCs stronger is meaningless? All that matters is that +2 Strength and nothing else?
'Where you put the scores' is not part of racial traits, it's part of generating ability scores.

Choosing to assign great intelligence to your PC affects your individual PC, but does not change how your race affects your PC.
 
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Arial Black

Adventurer
Which could always have been true for your home campaign, and is what Wizards appears to be asserting as their default philosophy now, but isn't reflected in the core 5E rules... where ASIs are part of the racial traits for NPCs as well as PCs, and the ASIs for PC races in both cases are either identical or very, very similar. In short, they changed their mind.
Agreed.

The reality is that the reason they changed their minds has absolutely nothing to do with any change in their concepts for what elves, dwarves, halflings and goliaths are like, and therefore making this the motive for changing the rules.

No, they were worried that real world politics about race might cause the Cancel Culture to turn on them, and this was their way to dodge that real world bullet. So in an attempt to justify the change in game they inappropriately pretended that physiology has nothing to do with ability scores, but if only halflings had a cultural fondness for muscles(!) then they would be stronger than goliaths who had a cultural fondness for knitting and crossword puzzles.
 


Faolyn

Hero
To be fair, and accurate, I have made the claim, and I still stand by it, that the 16 in the prime stat is very important.

It is massively gamechanging for spellcasters in my opinion. And heavily important for melee characters. Now, it isn't the only thing I'm arguing for, it isn't my exclusive point, but it is something vital in my opinion.

Now, if you want to choose to not have that 16, feel free. But I want that to be a choice independent of your race, because there are too many fun racial stories not being told, because they feel like those options are being punished by the game.
I'd still say that there's a big difference between saying a 16 is important and saying you can't make a character with racial ASIs, which is what Scott Christian has been claiming we've said. I can make an OK martial with a 15, and I can make a caster who focuses on spells that don't require attack rolls or saves.

But as you say, I can make them to be more effective with a 16. And I can make a character that has two stats at 15, for a MAD class or whose lowest stat is a 10, not an 8, if I wanted.
 

Faolyn

Hero
They are not.

But they are related!

The reason each race's ability score bonuses go where they go is because they reflect that race's concept.
Sometimes. But not always. Not often, even. Elves are described as wise, diplomatic, and have centuries worth of knowledge, but their +2 is in Dex. Bugbears have many traits indicating they are sneaky and stealthy and are outright called lazy and shiftless, but their +2 is in Strength; ditto the githyanki, who get +2 Strength but are described as slender" And yet the firbolg, that are quite a bit larger then either of those, only get +1 in Strength. Gnomes are vivacious with big personalities but get +2 Int, while the tieflings, who see "mistrust and fear in every eye," get +2 Charisma.
 


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