Aarakocra redux

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I've seen several different attempts at creating this race, but so far most seemed too strong for 4e. I think this version has the right amount of tweakage to keep them balanced.
Aarakocra
Aarakocra
RACIAL TRAITS
Average Height: 6′ 6″-8’6″
Average Weight: 60-120lb.

Ability Scores: +2 Dexterity; +2 Wisdom or Charisma
Size: Medium
Speed: 5
Vision: Low-light

Languages: Common, choice of one other
Skill Bonuses: +2 Acrobatics, +2 Perception
Aerial Grace: Reduce falling damage by the Acrobatics check (instead of half). Gain a +2 racial bonus to all defenses versus opportunity attacks provoked while flying.
Claustrophobic: Gain a +2 racial bonus to saves versus the immobilized and restrained conditions.
Sly Take Off: You can use Sly Take Off as an encounter power.
Wing Buffet: You can use Wing Buffet as an encounter power.

Sly Take Off     Aarakocra Racial Power
Encounter
Move Action Personal
Effect: You gain a fly speed of 6 until the end of your next turn. You shift 1 square and fly your fly speed.
Sustain Free Action: You take damage equal to one-half your healing surge value. This damage cannot be reduced in any way. Your fly speed persists until the end of your next turn.

Wing Buffet     Aarakocra Racial Power
Encounter
Minor Action Close Blast 3
Target: All creatures in burst
Attack: Primary ability score +3/6/9 vs Fortitude
Hit: Choose one:
  * Push target 3 squares.
  * Push target 1 square and knock prone.
Miss: Push target 1 square.


Feats:

Natural Weaponry (Aarakocra): Increase your unarmed strike damage die by one size. You gain a +1 racial bonus on grab attack rolls, and can maintain a grab without having a hand free (maximum of two grabbed targets).

Overland Flight (paragon)
You gain Overland Flight speed of 8. Reduce Overland Flight speed by armor speed penalties.

Granted, encumbrance rarely comes into play

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Nobody's going to flame you for giving this race a racial penalty (don't know why you're putting quotation marks around it), but we're still going to tell you that it's a bad idea. I understand that the race's fluff suggests that they have hollow bonus and thus tend to be more physically fragile than other races, but this does not need to be modeled mechanically because it only penalizes characters wishing to break the mold. Basically, racial penalties pigeon-hole races (no pun intended) into classes and roles that can best mitigate or even entirely ignore those penalties. Elves are frequently described as thin and slender, but they still aren't given a STR penalty (or even any penalty at all) because it's unnecessary. Instead, they're given bonuses that synergize best with character roles and classes that do not use Strength as much, and that's enough. In other words, not all fluff needs to be mechanically supported, and racial penalties are a perfect example of that.

Beyond your racial penalty, however, I think that the biggest problem with this race is the at-will flight. Compared to other attempts that I've seen at at-will flight, this one isn't as bad, but I still think that it's broken. But even worse, in the attempt to force flight as a PC race mechanic, it needs to be so badly watered down that it barely resembles flight at all, so then what's the point really? I think that you can find a way to do this race without giving them flight (or maybe giving them flight as an encounter power), but as is, while this might make a perfectly acceptable NPC race, I'd never allow it as a PC race, and the at-will flight is a much bigger factor in that decision than the racial penalty.

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I think the negativity to racial penalties is hypersensitivity. I agree the stat penalties of previous editions was a poor choice, but when a race has a weakness that balances a strength, it can even out without pigeon-holing any more than the current system already does. My hope is 5e gets rid of racial stat bonues altogether, and uses some other mechanic to crunch out the races.

I've redesigned the power significantly, taking your thoughts into consideration. Combat typically lasts only a few rounds anyway, and is certainly more exhaustive then overland flight. I added clumsy for heroic, and hover in epic, since I'm fairly certain hover is not that big of an advantage by then (no real experience of epic encounters though).

For aerial combat, I was trying to decide if adding anything regarding their ability to use bows while flying was needed. I would think they would need either drop the weapon when they land, or else be allowed to use a minor action to switch weapons between hands and feet why flying.

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My advice would be to give them decent short term flying as a racial power, instead of that mess. Possibly including a line allowing them to auto switch their hand held items to their feat, but personally i think that's negligible enough to be fluff.

Then grant them a passive ability that negates falling damage, instead of overland flight.

Then use feats to improve their flight capabilities. 

And then throw in some actual features, because ariel combat is so specific as to be a non-issue. 
My advice would be to give them decent short term flying as a racial power, instead of that mess. Possibly including a line allowing them to auto switch their hand held items to their feat, but personally i think that's negligible enough to be fluff.

Then grant them a passive ability that negates falling damage, instead of overland flight.

Then use feats to improve their flight capabilities. 

And then throw in some actual features, because ariel combat is so specific as to be a non-issue. 

I take slight offense at describing my attempt at racial flight as a "mess". Unless you were referring to the original version, the current is an encounter power that will grant flight until EONT. Fairly clean and reasonable IMO.

I had originally considered a racial feature to switch between hands and feat, but I also think it would be mostly fluff. Overland flight IMO is almost a fluff feature, as I have yet to see where it would brokenly overpowered. Sure, the few scouting scenarios would make it incredibly handy, but considering its pretty easy to see a medium-sized flyer, it isn't like the bad guys won't see you coming...

Note: made a few more tweaks.

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The problem with the racial power is all the limitations and restrictions. No racial power do date requires the character to drop their armor. The Genasi power doesn't, and the gith'yanki power certainly doesn't. Plus clumsy is just awful, it's a big sign that says: Calling all artillery monsters, kill me now.

Encumbered or bloodied could be reasonable limitations but frankly they're unnecessary.

The problem with any unlimited flight is the havoc it wreaks with positioning and skill challenges. Considering the importance of movement in 4e, I am constantly amazed that people believe that the option to always ignore any sort of terrain, pit trap, obstruction, and most barriers or walls is balanced for a level 1 character. 
Clumsy flight is still extremely useful in non-combat encounters, which is essentially the point for heroic. It still has uses in combat in heroic, but far less exploitable. I added the ability to wear heavy armor, although heavy armor reduces the base speed (this still hurts my head a bit, but I see your point).

I'm not overly familiar with overland flight, but my understanding is that it isn't usable in an actual encounter, and mostly used for calculating travel times.

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Oh no, overland flight is usable during an encounter, you just can't do anything besides flying, or maybe free actions, in the air.

So while you can't fly up high and rain down arrows with impunity (unless you wanna crash every round), your guys could take 12 square leaps across the battlefield that allow them to ignore all those pesky path obstructions.
Tweaked it a bit more. I feel it needs another racial feature, but nothing comes to mind at present.

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Ok encumbered or heavy armor I can see reducing speed (which is already factored in to those conditions by the way so you're dropping an additional penalty on these guys). But bloodied doesn't slow anythign else down why flight?
Yeah, I debated with myself a while about the double speed penalty. I was considering just having speed penalties doubled, so that if the character takes the feat that reduces the penalty, it would be be negated. I think I will change it to that.

As far as being bloodied, flying is pretty taxing, and I would have prefered that the rules would reduce fly speed when bloodied as a default. For sake of simplicity, I am fine with removing it.

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Well the problem is now that you're trying to be overly precise, the power would be fine without all the limiters and stuff you're adding on.

It was the at-will overland that was a problem. 
You are probably right. They are currently looking a little bland as far as racial features go. Any additional features that would add some color?

Heh, that thought put a small funny scene in my head: "Burst of Feathers" racial power...you shed a bunch of feathers on a hit to gain concealment and shift a few squares away...

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What do you call two aarakocras dueling?

A pillow fight. 
I added a Natural Weapons racial feature. It would make them good brawlers, but lacking a strength bonus would keep this from being too strong.

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Ok Think a moment, there's a reason natural attacks get bumped over to feats or fluff these days.

They're only useful to strength-based classes (or those with a basic attack stat swapper), useless for ranged classes of any sort, and they can be deucedly difficult to balance.

You want natural attacks, make a racial feat. 
Ok Think a moment, there's a reason natural attacks get bumped over to feats or fluff these days.

They're only useful to strength-based classes (or those with a basic attack stat swapper), useless for ranged classes of any sort, and they can be deucedly difficult to balance.

You want natural attacks, make a racial feat. 

Sigh, you are right of course. I've wracked my brains for one more racial feature, and got a little desperate . Moved to a feat. There has to be one more feature I'm overlooking that would help round them out and give a little more distinction, but relooking at the 3e racial block doesn't inspire any. I'd rather not just give out situational bonues, but it needs...something.

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You need a lot more than one more feature dude.

Scrap the penalties on the power they're not necessary. Fly 8, modified by armor normally, is a fine encounter power.

Now as someone who was only passingly familiar with dark sun pre-4e I don't know what some good features might be, and I don't have access to my hard copy collection of dragon mags so I can't revamp their 3e stats. So tell me what you liked about the 'cokra, and what you remember about their racial lore. 
From the DS3 rules on athas.org (my DS2 rulebooks have long been lost ):

Aarakocra Racial Traits
•–2 Strength, +4 Dexterity, –2 Constitution: Aarakocra have keen reflexes, but their lightweight bones are fragile.
• Monstrous Humanoid: Aarakocra are not subject to spells or effects that affect humanoids only, such as charm person or dominate person.
• Medium: As Medium creatures, aarakocra have no special bonuses or penalties due to size.
• Low light vision: Aarakocra can see twice as far as a human in moonlight and similar conditions of poor illumination, retaining the ability to distinguish color and detail.
• Aarakocra base land speed is 20 feet, and can fly with a movement rate of 90 feet (average maneuverability).
• +6 racial bonus to Spot checks in daylight. Aarakocra have excellent vision.
• Natural Armor: Aarakocra have +1 natural armor bonus due to their bone chest plate that provides some protection from blows.
• Natural Weaponry: An aarakocra can rake with its claws for 1d3 points of damage, and use its secondary bite attack for 1d2 points of damage.
• Claustrophobic: Aarakocra receive a –2 morale penalty on all rolls when in an enclosed space. Being underground or in enclosed buildings is extremely distressing for them.
• Aerial Dive: Aarakocra can make dive attacks. A dive attack works just like a charge, but the diving creature must move a minimum of 30 feet. If attacking with a lance, the aarakocra deals double damage on a successful attack. Optionally, the aarakocra can make a full attack with its natural weapons (two claws and one bite) at the end of the charge, dealing normal damage.
• Automatic Languages: Auran and Common. Bonus Languages: Elven, Gith, and Saurian. Aarakocra often learn the languages of their allies and enemies.
• Favored Class: Cleric. A multiclass aarakocra’s cleric class does not count when determining whether he takes an experience point for multiclassing.
• Level Adjustment: +1. Aarakocra are slightly more powerful and gain levels more slowly than most of the humanoid races of the Tablelands.

Link to the whole pdf: www.athas.org/products/ds3

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Wow, these guys really weren't big on features besides "Hey, look at me, I'm a birdie!"

Ok Probably some sort of bonus against effects that cause immobilized, slowed, or any condition that entails those two.

Something wind themed as well, hmmmmm..... 
A little odd perhaps, but I got to thinking about them being Claustrophobic, and how that doesn't need to be purely negative. Many claustrophobics can get into quite a frenzy, so I added this:

Claustrophobic: While underground, immobilized, or restrained, you take a -1 penalty to attack rolls and skill checks, and gain a +3 racial bonus to damage rolls and a +2 racial bonus to saves versus the immobilized and restrained conditions.

What you think? I know there is an issue with grabs (since they immobilize), so it needs some polishing.

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If you need more potential racial abilities, here's a few options:

To follow the example of Dwarves, Eldarin, Elves and similar. Why not give them Aarakocra Weapon Proficiency (You gain proficiency with the Javelin, Spear and Longspear).

Both the Dark Sun MCII and Dragon Magazine race write up give Aarakocra innate vision boosting psionic powers, so maybe something like giving them access to the Sensing Eye cantrip even if the campaign doesn't use Wild Talents.

Something similar to the Tiefling's Bloodhunt (+1 to attack rolls against bloodied foes), since Aarakocra are vulture based (or at least the Athasian ones are)

As you say, Claustraphobia doesn't need to be a penalty, so Maybe  (You gain a +2 Racial bonus to saving throws against being Immobilized or Restrained)
I think giving weapon proficiencies as a racial feature is a poor idea in general (it's a wasted feature for most implement classes).

I can agree that toning down the Claustrophobic feature to make it purely positive would keep things simpler. Updated.

They already get a racial bonus to perception, so adding another seems a bit overkill (they aren't THAT perceptive).

I like the bonus versus bloodied idea, although that seems to be used a bit much.

Btw, which issue had a Aarakocra race write-up?

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Definately good points.

The Aarakocra write up was in the 3e hero guide in issue #319, part of their athas update (and quite different to the Athas.org stuff).
I don;t have that issue. Any chance you could post the snippet on the Aarakocra?

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Sure, here's the boiled down version:

+4 Dex, -2 STR
Medium Monstrous Humanoids
20' move, 90' Flying (Average)
+1 AC
Their claws did 1d4 damage each, and their bite was 1d3.
Automatic weapon proficiency with the Javelin
+2 racial bonus to Craft (any), knowledge (nature), listen and spot checks
-4 to attack rolls when in an enclosed enviroment
Gain 3 psionic power points, and the Elfsight power.
Automatic languages of Aarakocra and Common, bonus languages of Auran, Halfling, and Thri-Kreen.
Favoured Class: Ranger
+2 LA. (Although in this write up, even humans were +1 LA)
That's pretty much saying just "look, i have wings!" Not much to convert to 4e sadly. Maybe I should just make their racial power a "wing buffet" thats a close blast 3 that pushes and knocks prone, and let flight just be attainable in paragon+.

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You could always give them an Encounter varient of Sly Take Off, from the Monster Aarakocra, so Shift 1, then Fly 5. Similar to the Gith(yanki)'s Telekinetic Flight, but for themself only.

Back in 2nd Edition and Earlier, they used to have a powerful Dive attack, granting them a bonus to hit, and doing double damage. This could be another possibility for a power. Or maybe swipe the Swift Charge ability from Half Orcs (+2 Speed when charging), to give them something like a swooping ability.
You could always give them an Encounter varient of Sly Take Off, from the Monster Aarakocra, so Shift 1, then Fly 5. Similar to the Gith(yanki)'s Telekinetic Flight, but for themself only.

Back in 2nd Edition and Earlier, they used to have a powerful Dive attack, granting them a bonus to hit, and doing double damage. This could be another possibility for a power. Or maybe swipe the Swift Charge ability from Half Orcs (+2 Speed when charging), to give them something like a swooping ability.

I've changed the racial to a Sly Take Off variant, and added a sustain line that costs a healing surge. I think it will help allow extended "combat" flight without making it too strong.

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Personally THis race is light enough on features that it might be able to get away with two powers, however your use of the word alternate indicates you're not supposed to have both. Maybe a line that specifically says you have to choose one?
Originally I was thinking of having the player pick. I agree the race is pretty light featurewise. I've changed it to have both powers.

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I've changed the Sly Takeoff power to a take non-reducable damage instead of burning a healing surge.

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Seems fine to me.
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