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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.

Screen Shot 2021-01-26 at 5.46.36 PM.png



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


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Arial Black

Adventurer
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.
The 'sometimes' means that you also believe that he racial ability bonuses are not random, which demonstrates my point.

The 'not always' demonstrates that game designers have to balance PC races against each other.

They chose to do away with the Level Adjustment mechanic from 3e, so they can no longer say that, say, half-celestials get Str +4 Dex +2 Con +4 Int +2 Wis +4 Cha +4, along with loads of other powerful goodies, and still be a balanced PC race by making them count as a PC 4 levels higher.

So without that level adjustment mechanic, what should be a Powerful Race gets nerfed to the same level as other PC races, and to do that they have to make choices about what to let go and what to keep.

But this doesn't mean that there is no longer any connection between the concept and the racial ability score bonuses. So while an elf in the One Ring game gets bonuses to nearly every ability score, elves in 5e could only get one +2 and one +1, even though conceptually they (Tolkien's elves, upon which D&D elves were based) are conceptually also smarter, wiser AND more charismatic on average. The devs had to choose which abilities BEST reflected their concept while still taking game balance into account.

But this in no way means there is no connection between the concept of the species and the racial bonuses to ability scores for that race.
 

JEB

Adventurer
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.
Right, you don't have to do anything. But Wizards only provided guidelines for one approach at the beginning of 5E, which indicates their original assumption that for PHB races, PCs and NPCs had the same traits.

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.
No, we are at the point where ASIs could have been applied to their scores, and simply not noticeable in a statblock that doesn't conveniently have all 10s.

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?
Or, when they examined these monsters for use as PC races, they re-evaluated what their traits should be, to balance them with the other PC races. It doesn't mean that they had suddenly decided PCs and NPCs were fundamentally different, only that they updated their idea of what the races were like at the baseline.

So even in 2e NPCs and PCs were not meant to be identical?
Wait, we're talking about 2E now? That's a whole different ballgame. For starters, monsters didn't even have a full set of ability scores...

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.
You're extrapolating way more from what I said than what was intended. All I pointed out is that you could see dragonborn of different colors as subraces, if you wanted to, and then you tried to use that to somehow prove that was an argument in favor of "subraces exist" justifying a floating ASI for the entire species, to which I said it really didn't.

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.
Actually, I went back and looked at the lizardfolk commoner. You're right, it doesn't reflect Volo's. But it is broadly consistent with the DMG NPC Features. Its highest stat is Strength, its lowest stat is Int, plus Hold Breath, +3 AC, swim 30 ft, and Draconic language. It could mean that they'd decided on PCs and NPCs as being different... in 2019. Or it could mean they just ignored Volo's for this book.

(Also, realistically, it's probably just designed to be a weaker version of the MM lizardfolk statblock, and it's not actually a commoner at all.)

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.
You weren't required to do anything for NPC design. But Wizards had a certain expectation at the beginning of 5E, that PCs and NPCs for PHB races were treated the same. Maybe that changed in 2016. Or 2018. Or 2019. But they never made any statement on the matter until 2020, in the leadup to Tasha's.

That means we have to go with the evidence of the books. In 2014, they very clearly weren't meant to be different, or at least not significantly different. From 2015-2019, the evidence is ambiguous and uneven at best, and could reflect changes in baseline expectations for the race, or adjustments made purely for player balance rather than a philosophical shift. Then in 2020, they finally made an official assertion that PCs are archetypes that don't reflect NPC members of the race.

Also, I'm not especially upset with them. I just think they're implying this was the idea all along, and quite simply, I don't think it was.
 
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Faolyn

Hero
The 'sometimes' means that you also believe that he racial ability bonuses are not random, which demonstrates my point.

The 'not always' demonstrates that game designers have to balance PC races against each other.
And these two together, along with what else you wrote, strongly indicate that the ASIs don't do a great job of exemplifying the flavor text. They do sometimes, but also sometimes are there for balance reasons, as you note. Which means that the racial ASIs don't have a lot to do with the flavor.

The racial ASIs are also there, IMO, because they decide that a particular race is supposed to the <insert class here> race and thus should get a stat bonus that aligns with that (such as turning firbolgs into the druid race this edition and giving them +2 Wisdom; previously, they had been much more ranger-y).

Or because they want to differentiate various subraces, like elves or genasi. Are dark elves really more charismatic than high elves?

Or because they forget that a race used to either have no bonus or actually have a penalty on a stat. Like the tieflings. Maybe dark, edgy, brooding, fearful natures are charismatic now?

But this in no way means there is no connection between the concept of the species and the racial bonuses to ability scores for that race.
But it does show it's not really necessary for the racial ASIs to even exist in the first place, let alone be tied to the flavor text--or, for that matter, it doesn't mean that there shouldn't be any flavor text in the first place.

Basically, the flavor text provides a useful guideline for you, but don't force you to play your character in any one way, but the ASIs try to create a straightjacket that do try to force you play it in one way and hinder you if you don't.

Look at Chaosmancer's earlier post where they compare a gnome and orc wizard. The orc has to spend all of its ASIs just to catch up, and the smaller, weaker gnome can max out its Int early and then improve its Con and even Strength.

(Tolkien's elves, upon which D&D elves were based)
Not necessarily related, but elsewhere on these forums--I think it was on the thread about the old "leatherette" series from 2e--it's said that Gygax at least claimed he based his elves more on the Norse versions (i.e., using the same source material as Tolkien, but not using Tolkien himself as the source) but every other writer went straight for a LotR feel.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Not necessarily related, but elsewhere on these forums--I think it was on the thread about the old "leatherette" series from 2e--it's said that Gygax at least claimed he based his elves more on the Norse versions (i.e., using the same source material as Tolkien, but not using Tolkien himself as the source) but every other writer went straight for a LotR feel.
That would be in this post. Personally, I love that thread; the person who started it is clearly a genius and a scholar, and has really great hair to boot.
 

Arial Black

Adventurer
And these two together, along with what else you wrote, strongly indicate that the ASIs don't do a great job of exemplifying the flavor text. They do sometimes, but also sometimes are there for balance reasons, as you note. Which means that the racial ASIs don't have a lot to do with the flavor.
Just because they do an imperfect job, this doesn't mean that they aren't trying to do that job.
The racial ASIs are also there, IMO, because they decide that a particular race is supposed to the <insert class here> race and thus should get a stat bonus that aligns with that (such as turning firbolgs into the druid race this edition and giving them +2 Wisdom; previously, they had been much more ranger-y).

Or because they want to differentiate various subraces, like elves or genasi. Are dark elves really more charismatic than high elves?

Or because they forget that a race used to either have no bonus or actually have a penalty on a stat. Like the tieflings. Maybe dark, edgy, brooding, fearful natures are charismatic now?
I don't share your opinion.

I don't believe for a second that the designers chose racial ability score bonuses in order to steer a player's choice of class.

If anything, it's the other way around; they chose those abilities to reflect, as best they could bearing game balance in mind, the concepts of that race. THEN some players decided for themselves that the lack of a +3 modifier in a class' most important ability renders that class unplayable for that race!

So, yeah, it's all about that 16 at first level.
But it does show it's not really necessary for the racial ASIs to even exist in the first place, let alone be tied to the flavor text--or, for that matter, it doesn't mean that there shouldn't be any flavor text in the first place.

Basically, the flavor text provides a useful guideline for you, but don't force you to play your character in any one way, but the ASIs try to create a straightjacket that do try to force you play it in one way and hinder you if you don't.

Look at Chaosmancer's earlier post where they compare a gnome and orc wizard. The orc has to spend all of its ASIs just to catch up, and the smaller, weaker gnome can max out its Int early and then improve its Con and even Strength.
I think that a lot is lost by taking away racial ability score modifiers. Either there IS a species concept that the game utterly fails to model, or there is NO conceptual difference between species that could possibly be reflected in ability scores.

Either stance is absurd.
Not necessarily related, but elsewhere on these forums--I think it was on the thread about the old "leatherette" series from 2e--it's said that Gygax at least claimed he based his elves more on the Norse versions (i.e., using the same source material as Tolkien, but not using Tolkien himself as the source) but every other writer went straight for a LotR feel.
And yet in the first iteration of D&D, halflings were called 'hobbits', a term which was invented by Tolkien, for a species that was invented by...Tolkien.

The different kinds of D&D elves (grey, high) reflected those concepts in Tolkien (Sindar, Noldor).
 

Faolyn

Hero
If anything, it's the other way around; they chose those abilities to reflect, as best they could bearing game balance in mind, the concepts of that race. THEN some players decided for themselves that the lack of a +3 modifier in a class' most important ability renders that class unplayable for that race!

So, yeah, it's all about that 16 at first level.
Nope. As I have pointed out numerous times, there are many reasons to want to move the +2 around. I made three different standard stat arrays to show it.

And let's say that it is just about getting a stat of 17 at first level. So what? Is that wrong? Are you claiming that players who want to be effective in their chosen class are bad roleplayers? Is their fun sp wrong, so anathema to you that you would forbid everyone from being able to be freer in their chargen?

I think that a lot is lost by taking away racial ability score modifiers. Either there IS a species concept that the game utterly fails to model, or there is NO conceptual difference between species that could possibly be reflected in ability scores.

Either stance is absurd.
Yes, because the reality is, there are species concepts, and they are reflected in racial traits and flavor text. Racial ASIs are only a small fraction of what differentiates species and can be a major hindrance to players who don't want to play whatever the species is designed to be.

I asked Scott Christian how he differentiates between (half)orcs and minotaurs, when he has said that racial traits aren't unique enough for him. Both (half)orcs and minotaurs have Strength +2, Constitution +1. So I'll ask you the same thing: do you believe that the conceptual difference between those species is reflected in their identical ASIs? Or do you think that their differences are reflected in their racial traits and flavor text.

After all, if the only thing, or the most important thing, that differentiats the races is their ASIs, then minotaurs and (half)orcs--and goliaths, longtooth shifters, and Ravenite dragonborn--are all redundant. Pick one, discard the rest. But I know I treat them as very different species. And that has nothing to do with their ASIs and has everything to do with their racial traits and their cultural flavor text.
 

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.

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.

But this has nothing to do with the point being discussed, which was that with a floating ASI the player had no guidance on what to pick.

Who cares if the ASI represents training? That doesn't change the fact that the player has no guidance to pick them, and yet that doesn't seem to be an issue, but choosing because of an adaptable race is, as long as it is a new race, older races were fine.

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 so if the races concept includes adaptability there is no issue. You can't really argue against a future maybe on a rule, with no evidence.

And ASI's don't always do a great job with that matching to concept thing, ie Loxodon.

'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.

And you are ignoring the entire side debate we have been having.

Go look at the Lizardfolk Commoner from Ghosts of Saltmarsh and tell me how we are supposed to have every member of that race have no strength bonus (they have a str 15) and instead focus on Wisdom and Con (12 each I think) as their primary scores.

I think they also had an INT penalty, despite their racial scores not giving that.
 


Scribe

Hero
I think "redesigned in 4e" is a little different than "forgot"
Well this goes back to the discussion on Attribute names and all that they abstractly represent but making the lineage that by description is near universally reviled on sight, also naturally Charismatic when they used to be the opposite...well it's a trash redesign I've hated for years. :p
 

Arial Black

Adventurer
Nope. As I have pointed out numerous times, there are many reasons to want to move the +2 around. I made three different standard stat arrays to show it.
And all three could have been created using set bonuses and unchanged concepts. The only difference is that +3 instead of +2.
And let's say that it is just about getting a stat of 17 at first level. So what? Is that wrong? Are you claiming that players who want to be effective in their chosen class are bad roleplayers? Is their fun sp wrong, so anathema to you that you would forbid everyone from being able to be freer in their chargen?
What's wrong about is misusing what the choice of race gives you for something that does not reflect that race.

To me, there is no difference to a halfling claiming a +2 racial bonus to Str is because halflings are a strong race-when they are not-and a 1st level fighter claiming that they should be able to cast wizard spells.

Saying "It's not fair that goliaths get +2 Str and halflings don't" is like saying "It's not fair that elves get Darkvision and halflings don't". Every race choice, every character creation choice, gives you what they give you, and don't give you what they don't give you. It's not unfair, you selected those game elements.

And it's a self-selected bar for 'effectiveness'; 16 is good enough but 15 is impossible to play as an effective character?

Remember, I have absolutely no problem with a halfling (for example) putting 9 points out of their 27 into Str because assigning ability scores is about that individual. Nor have I a problem with choosing ASIs at 4th/8th etc to improvements to Str, because that reflects the things your PC chose to train.

But I do have a problem with assigning ability score bonuses from race that are nothing to do with race! Just like I would have a problem giving a fighter features from a wizard just because you'd rather have spellcasting for your fighter than a fighting style.
Yes, because the reality is, there are species concepts, and they are reflected in racial traits and flavor text. Racial ASIs are only a small fraction of what differentiates species and can be a major hindrance to players who don't want to play whatever the species is designed to be.
But racial ability score bonuses ARE part of the game's attempt to realise the race's concept in the mechanics, just as much as all the other traits.

And, again, I don't believe for a second that races were designed to be certain classes.
I asked Scott Christian how he differentiates between (half)orcs and minotaurs, when he has said that racial traits aren't unique enough for him. Both (half)orcs and minotaurs have Strength +2, Constitution +1. So I'll ask you the same thing: do you believe that the conceptual difference between those species is reflected in their identical ASIs? Or do you think that their differences are reflected in their racial traits and flavor text.

After all, if the only thing, or the most important thing, that differentiats the races is their ASIs, then minotaurs and (half)orcs--and goliaths, longtooth shifters, and Ravenite dragonborn--are all redundant. Pick one, discard the rest. But I know I treat them as very different species. And that has nothing to do with their ASIs and has everything to do with their racial traits and their cultural flavor text.
That's the point; it's not that the racial ability bonuses by themselves are enough, especially since the choice is so narrow (+2, +1 or +0), and neither are the other traits enough by themselves.

But ALL the racial traits together-and racial ability score bonuses are just as much a racial trait as Darkvision or wings or whatever-do the job.

Having the concept of a strong race (based on size and physiology) without a bonus to Strength would be absurd; bad design at least.
 

Arial Black

Adventurer
But this has nothing to do with the point being discussed, which was that with a floating ASI the player had no guidance on what to pick.

Who cares if the ASI represents training? That doesn't change the fact that the player has no guidance to pick them, and yet that doesn't seem to be an issue, but choosing because of an adaptable race is, as long as it is a new race, older races were fine.
If the race is famous for being adaptable and that concept is represented by two floating +1s, your choice of skill and your choice of feat, you don't need any guidance in realising your concept than you needed for choosing your concept in the first place.

If you choose a race with set bonuses, you don't have guidance, you have a set score. But there was no guidance required when you freely chose your race and class, and you chose that race knowing about its set bonuses.
And so if the races concept includes adaptability there is no issue. You can't really argue against a future maybe on a rule, with no evidence.
There is evidence: the statement that from now on new races won't get set bonuses. The main problem would be if they failed to give set bonuses, which is the strong implication.

They could continue to give new races set bonuses, while reminding us that the Tasha's OPTION may apply; consult your DM.
And ASI's don't always do a great job with that matching to concept thing, ie Loxodon.
I haven't seen the Loxodon, but from the brief descriptions in this thread it seems either badly designed or that for game balance they could only give Loxodons so many bonuses and that this races is even more famous for....whatever bonuses they were given.
And you are ignoring the entire side debate we have been having.

Go look at the Lizardfolk Commoner from Ghosts of Saltmarsh and tell me how we are supposed to have every member of that race have no strength bonus (they have a str 15) and instead focus on Wisdom and Con (12 each I think) as their primary scores.

I think they also had an INT penalty, despite their racial scores not giving that.
The purpose of creature statblocks is to help the DM set challenging encounters, not to supply a back-door way to make PCs. The lizardman stats you supplied are consistent with a lizardman warrior who put most points in Str, while still applying the racial modifiers for lizardmen.
 

Right, you don't have to do anything. But Wizards only provided guidelines for one approach at the beginning of 5E, which indicates their original assumption that for PHB races, PCs and NPCs had the same traits.

No.

All it indicates is that they only wrote one version of dragonborn, and said "if you want to use the dragonborn traits for your dragonborn NPC, use the Dragonborn traits"

This is the most frustrating thing about this, you are acting like the fact they provided and option to match those two sets of abilities means that they assumed all members of the same race had the same abilities. And, even if you are right. Even if I concede this point. That assumption was left behind YEARS ago. So who cares?

No, we are at the point where ASIs could have been applied to their scores, and simply not noticeable in a statblock that doesn't conveniently have all 10s.

So, it is impossible to tell if they did it one way or the other. So, why assume they made two numbers lower than they wanted, just so they could add in values to get what they wanted? That seems to be a rather silly step for them to have taken.

Or, when they examined these monsters for use as PC races, they re-evaluated what their traits should be, to balance them with the other PC races. It doesn't mean that they had suddenly decided PCs and NPCs were fundamentally different, only that they updated their idea of what the races were like at the baseline.

But here is the problem with that argument. If they updated the baseline, why didn't they apply that new baseline to the creatures in that book or in future books?

No Lizardfolk in Ghosts of Saltmarsh has any of the racial traits of the new baseline that was established years before. If they still wanted NPCs and PCs to be the same, why is that? Why didn't Volo's Kobolds, Goblins, and Hobgoblins reflect the new rules? Why didn't the Githzerai or Duergar follow their new baseline for Mordenkainen's?

Every example I can find, there are discrepancies between the PCs and NPCs. Every time. And the closest you can get is assuming their intent at the start, when none of these changes existed.

Wait, we're talking about 2E now? That's a whole different ballgame. For starters, monsters didn't even have a full set of ability scores...

I said Eladrin PCs don't match Eladrin NPCs. You defended by saying in 2e that was the case. Not sure why that matters for 5e, but you seemed to think it was a defense, and you brought up 2e.

You're extrapolating way more from what I said than what was intended. All I pointed out is that you could see dragonborn of different colors as subraces, if you wanted to, and then you tried to use that to somehow prove that was an argument in favor of "subraces exist" justifying a floating ASI for the entire species, to which I said it really didn't.

Then what was the point of saying that you could decide that they are subraces when they aren't, and trying to use that to disprove the idea that a race with multiple subraces could have floating ASIs? I don't get what you are trying to achieve.

Actually, I went back and looked at the lizardfolk commoner. You're right, it doesn't reflect Volo's. But it is broadly consistent with the DMG NPC Features. Its highest stat is Strength, its lowest stat is Int, plus Hold Breath, +3 AC, swim 30 ft, and Draconic language. It could mean that they'd decided on PCs and NPCs as being different... in 2019. Or it could mean they just ignored Volo's for this book.

(Also, realistically, it's probably just designed to be a weaker version of the MM lizardfolk statblock, and it's not actually a commoner at all.)


If Volo's is supposed to represent a new baseline, why ignore it? Or are you trying to say that in 2016 when Volo's was printed they changed the baseline, then in 2019 they changed it back? Without making any announcements or errata?

And you also want to say it isn't really a commoner, despite being called "commoner"? That's almost sticking your head in the sand man, ignoring evidence just because you want them to still be following the assumption you had.

You weren't required to do anything for NPC design. But Wizards had a certain expectation at the beginning of 5E, that PCs and NPCs for PHB races were treated the same. Maybe that changed in 2016. Or 2018. Or 2019. But they never made any statement on the matter until 2020, in the leadup to Tasha's.

That means we have to go with the evidence of the books. In 2014, they very clearly weren't meant to be different, or at least not significantly different. From 2015-2019, the evidence is ambiguous and uneven at best, and could reflect changes in baseline expectations for the race, or adjustments made purely for player balance rather than a philosophical shift. Then in 2020, they finally made an official assertion that PCs are archetypes that don't reflect NPC members of the race.

Also, I'm not especially upset with them. I just think they're implying this was the idea all along, and quite simply, I don't think it was.

Or

They presented an option to allow customizing with PC options on NPCs, referencing the only PC options they had, the races in the PHB.

Then they kept NPCs and PCs different through the years, which is fairly consistent with the evidence.

And now they've made a clarifying statement, because everyone has gotten bent out of shape about them nerfing all the races into being formless blobs, which isn't the case.
 

If the race is famous for being adaptable and that concept is represented by two floating +1s, your choice of skill and your choice of feat, you don't need any guidance in realizing your concept than you needed for choosing your concept in the first place.

If you choose a race with set bonuses, you don't have guidance, you have a set score. But there was no guidance required when you freely chose your race and class, and you chose that race knowing about its set bonuses.

All this shows you haven't been paying attention to the discussion with JEB that you were quoting. Because none of this matters to that debate. You might as well be telling me about the price of trout.

There is evidence: the statement that from now on new races won't get set bonuses. The main problem would be if they failed to give set bonuses, which is the strong implication.

They could continue to give new races set bonuses, while reminding us that the Tasha's OPTION may apply; consult your DM.

I'm sorry, what new lineage do you have a problem with? Was there a new UA that gave us a lineage that can't be so diverse as to be partially defined by their adaptability?

Go ahead and tell me, specifically, which lineage you feel doesn't match with their newly designed ASIs. Otherwise, it seems you are complaining about an imagined future problem that may never come to pass.

I haven't seen the Loxodon, but from the brief descriptions in this thread it seems either badly designed or that for game balance they could only give Loxodons so many bonuses and that this races is even more famous for....whatever bonuses they were given.

But, interestingly, if I decided to use Tasha's that issue mostly goes away.

The purpose of creature statblocks is to help the DM set challenging encounters, not to supply a back-door way to make PCs. The lizardman stats you supplied are consistent with a lizardman warrior who put most points in Str, while still applying the racial modifiers for lizardmen.

Since when are Commoners Warriors? Did I miss a memo that all commoners are now Warriors who put all their points in strength?
 

Faolyn

Hero
And all three could have been created using set bonuses and unchanged concepts. The only difference is that +3 instead of +2.
You are again ignoring that allowing for the floating ASI allows the player for freedom to create their character.


To me, there is no difference to a halfling claiming a +2 racial bonus to Str is because halflings are a strong race-when they are not-and a 1st level fighter claiming that they should be able to cast wizard spells.

Saying "It's not fair that goliaths get +2 Str and halflings don't" is like saying "It's not fair that elves get Darkvision and halflings don't". Every race choice, every character creation choice, gives you what they give you, and don't give you what they don't give you. It's not unfair, you selected those game elements.
A number has no flavor, no biology, no purpose in and of itself. It's dull. It doesn't have to exist at all.

Traits are actually interesting. They tell you things about the race that flat numbers don't.


And it's a self-selected bar for 'effectiveness'; 16 is good enough but 15 is impossible to play as an effective character?
And if I don't want a 16 in a stat, but instead want two 10s, or two 14s, or two 15s?

But that's OK. You're saying that people who want a 16 in a stat are playing wrong.

Remember, I have absolutely no problem with a halfling (for example) putting 9 points out of their 27 into Str because assigning ability scores is about that individual. Nor have I a problem with choosing ASIs at 4th/8th etc to improvements to Str, because that reflects the things your PC chose to train.

But I do have a problem with assigning ability score bonuses from race that are nothing to do with race! Just like I would have a problem giving a fighter features from a wizard just because you'd rather have spellcasting for your fighter than a fighting style.

But racial ability score bonuses ARE part of the game's attempt to realise the race's concept in the mechanics, just as much as all the other traits.
And these ASIs have changed over time.

Githzerai, when they were introduced as a PC race in Planescape, had a -1 penalty to Wisdom. Now they have a +2 bonus.

Aasimar, also from Planescape, had +1 Wisdom and +1 Strength... except for the ones who had +1 Cha instead of Strength. Player's choice, which was weird from a 2e perspective.

Genasi all had bonuses to Constitution as well as another stat (and all had penalties to Charisma, due to being so alien) ; now, only Earth genasi are particularly sturdy.

Gnomes in 1e got no stat bonuses, but instead got extra hp if they had sufficiently high Con. They only got an Int bump in 2e. And in 3e, they got +2 Con, -2 Strength.

Firbolgs in 2e had +2 Strength and -2 Wisdom. Now they have +2 Wisdom, +1 Strength.

The poor little kobold had no attribute bonuses in 2e while still getting -1 to Strength and Con; they got even more screwed in 3e, where they could be made with -4 Strength, +2 Dex, and -2 Con. They were originally made for 5e with a Strength penalty, but that's been errata'd away, so a two-foot-six kobold and a nearly 6-foot-tall hobgoblin are now equally strong. Makes sense, yes?

And hobgoblins, in 2e, had -1 Charisma and no bonuses, could be made with +2 Dex, +2 Con in 3e, and now have Con +2, Int +1.

The Lizardfolk had no bonuses or penalties in 2e, while in 3e they had +2 Strength, +2 Constitution, -2 Intelligence, and in 5e, +2 Con, +1 Wis.

Half-Elves had no ASIs in 2e or 3x; now they get +2 Cha and a floating +1.

Warforged in 3.x had no ASIs; now, they get +2 Con and a floating +1.

Kalashtars also didn't get any ASIs but now have Wis +2, Cha +1... but this was originally Wis +1, Cha +1, and a floating +1.


So, did the core concepts of each of these races change as much as their ASIs did? Or did the concepts envisioned by their flavor text and special abilities remain mostly the same while the ASIs changed?

Also, we no longer have racial penalties or class and level limitations for them. The one attempt to bring them into 5e was met with such disapproval that they were errata'd away forever. Are you upset about that? These penalties were just as important for "realizing the race's concept."
 

Arial Black

Adventurer
I'm sorry, what new lineage do you have a problem with? Was there a new UA that gave us a lineage that can't be so diverse as to be partially defined by their adaptability?

Go ahead and tell me, specifically, which lineage you feel doesn't match with their newly designed ASIs. Otherwise, it seems you are complaining about an imagined future problem that may never come to pass.
Actually, I don't have a problem with these three lineages because one concept they share is that each creature with one of these lineages was born with a conventional race, then something happened to stop them being that race and start them being one of these lineages.

They chose to represent that concept by giving them each a floating +2 and a floating +1, aaaand I'm okay with that, but they could have chosen to represent the same concept by saying that they retain the original race's set bonuses. Might be an issue with balance if they chose that though.

But the 'future problem that may never come to pass' didn't spring from my imagination, it sprang from what they actually wrote about how ALL future races will be presented with those floating bonuses. I doubt that every single future race they present will be conceptually famous for having no particular physiological differences that could be represented by set racial modifiers!
But, interestingly, if I decided to use Tasha's that issue mostly goes away.
It's a shame that those who wanted the other option will not be catered for in future.
Since when are Commoners Warriors? Did I miss a memo that all commoners are now Warriors who put all their points in strength?
The name is irrelevant. If they called them warriors, or commoners on the grounds that the most common role for lizardmen who fight PCs is the role of warrior, it still doesn't make those statblocks rules for PCs or deny that they used the PC set racial bonuses.

If they put out a lizardfolk shaman, they would change the stats accordingly. But this would not mean that they got different set racial bonuses, it would demonstrate that they allocated their points differently.
 

Arial Black

Adventurer
You are again ignoring that allowing for the floating ASI allows the player for freedom to create their character.
And I am also ignoring the fact that I want my 1st level fighter to be able to cast 9th level spells. Waaah, my creative freedom has been taken away!
A number has no flavor, no biology, no purpose in and of itself. It's dull. It doesn't have to exist at all.

Traits are actually interesting. They tell you things about the race that flat numbers don't.
If a race is conceptually strong, then it's appropriate that they get a bonus to Strength. Whether it is interesting or not isn't a factor on whether it should exist.
And if I don't want a 16 in a stat, but instead want two 10s, or two 14s, or two 15s?
Then allocate your points differently.
But that's OK. You're saying that people who want a 16 in a stat are playing wrong.
It's not wrong to want a 16, 18, 20 or 30 in a stat. What's wrong is claiming ability bonuses from race that have nothing to do with race.
And these ASIs have changed over time.
Sure, but what each version had in common was that they were sincerely attempting to use those rules to reflect that race's concept, while keeping an eye on game balance.

What you propose is to misuse racial bonuses for something entirely divorced from racial concepts.

What's your excuse? Because you want it? Well I want 9th level spells for my 1st level fighter!
 

Faolyn

Hero
And I am also ignoring the fact that I want my 1st level fighter to be able to cast 9th level spells. Waaah, my creative freedom has been taken away!
Wow, it's almost like there's a huge difference between a 1st-level fighter and an 18th-level spellcaster, where there's almost no difference between a dwarf with +2 Con and a dwarf with +2 Int.

Oh, but in your mind, dwarfs can't actually start out as particularly intelligent, because that's not their core concept.

Edit: And before you claim "well, dwarfs can just allocate their points into Intelligence," you're still trying to claim that a smart 1st level dwarf can never be as smart as 1st level gnome.

If a race is conceptually strong, then it's appropriate that they get a bonus to Strength. Whether it is interesting or not isn't a factor on whether it should exist.
Gnomes were conceptually strong. Now they're not.

Then allocate your points differently.
And for people who don't use point buy? Must we, so we can follow your edict?


It's not wrong to want a 16, 18, 20 or 30 in a stat. What's wrong is claiming ability bonuses from race that have nothing to do with race.
Sure they do! A halfling who chooses to build muscles is a strong halfling. So go ahead: prove a bodybuilding halfling fighter can't be stronger than a weak, bookish orc wizard who doesn't even like lifting books.

Sure, but what each version had in common was that they were sincerely attempting to use those rules to reflect that race's concept, while keeping an eye on game balance.
Which as I just showed you, changed radically over time. If their core concepts change radically, then there's no point in whining that they can't be something now because in an edition or two, they'll just have changed again.
 


Arial Black

Adventurer
Wow, it's almost like there's a huge difference between a 1st-level fighter and an 18th-level spellcaster, where there's almost no difference between a dwarf with +2 Con and a dwarf with +2 Int.
Reductio ad absurdum.
Oh, but in your mind, dwarfs can't actually start out as particularly intelligent, because that's not their core concept.
An individual dwarf can certainly start out intelligent. Int 15 is definitely particularly intelligent.
Edit: And before you claim "well, dwarfs can just allocate their points into Intelligence," you're still trying to claim that a smart 1st level dwarf can never be as smart as 1st level gnome.
1st level gnomes can have Int as low as 10 in point-buy, and as low as 5 by rolling. A smart dwarf can certainly start out smarter than that gnome.

Can the smartest 1st level dwarf be as smart as the smartest 1st level gnome? No. Not according to the 5e PHB.

Of course, individual tables might not want to be restricted by the mere rules of the game. But, for me, letting the PCs start with +2 in a random stat (as opposed to +2 in a stat that the rules say they get) is no different than letting them start with a Blessing. Or an Artifact.

Doable. Frodo did. But it's not the default.
Gnomes were conceptually strong. Now they're not.
Sometimes concepts change, but more likely the game mechanics that represent a race's concept get tweaked.
And for people who don't use point buy? Must we, so we can follow your edict?
The rules are the edict, not me.

And the principle of racial bonuses applies no matter how ability scores are initially generated. They are different stages of character creation. Your proposal seeks to take racial bonuses out of the game completely and replace them with bonuses that have no relation to race or any other part of character creation.
Sure they do! A halfling who chooses to build muscles is a strong halfling. So go ahead: prove a bodybuilding halfling fighter can't be stronger than a weak, bookish orc wizard who doesn't even like lifting books.
Such a halfling is that strong because of where the ability scores were assigned at that stage of character creation (which represents the individual not the race). They are not that strong because they are a halfling!
Which as I just showed you, changed radically over time. If their core concepts change radically, then there's no point in whining that they can't be something now because in an edition or two, they'll just have changed again.
But they are not changing the core race concepts from what they were into races that are physiologically equal. They are not changing the concept, they are refusing to acknowledge physiological differences in species because they are afraid of cancel culture in the real world, and then ret-conning a half-baked idea that elephants are only stronger than mice because of their culture!
 

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