That said, I have an issue. I have a player who wants to play a thri-kreen, but, since he claims they are underpowered, he wants the Auspicious Birth background (which allows a character to use their primary stat instead of Con to calculate their starting HP) to compensate. This (and most of the other backgrounds in that article) seem to be about the same power as a feat, where a normal background (from the PHB2 or the Dark Sun Campaign Setting) is about 1/3 of a feat (a background can gain you an extra language; the linguist feat gives you three languages; therefore I conclude that backgrounds are worth 1/3 feat). I've told him that those backgrounds are solely meant for Scales of War characters, and so he has declined to play a thri-kreen. This is frustrating, because he was really excited about the character, had an extremely interesting and unusual background story, and was planning on getting heavily involved into thri-kreen language and culture--which caused me to spend several days reading Thri-Kreen of Athas, then pulling out information on thri-kreen language, culture, etc. for him to use.
My question is not whether the Scales of War backgrounds are overpowered--clearly they are. If I allowed these, no one except my hardcore roleplayers would take anything else, leaving the roleplayers out in the cold, power-wise, the exact sort of situation that 4e is supposedly designed to avoid.
My questions are: First, are thri-kreen in fact underpowered compared to other races? Here are the reasons he gives:
There is not a single other species in the whole game with less choices than the Thri-Kreen (other than monster races and whatever those spikey guys are). They have 3 crappy feats, 1 mediocre feat which I still wouldn't probably take, and a bad paragon path. Seriously, even Gnolls have more going for them.
Second, if thri-kreen are underpowered, how can I fix them? What sort of house rule would bring them back in line with other races? (This whole thing boggles my mind, as I'm accustomed to thinking that thri-kreen are significantly overpowered---but that was back in 2e.)
Third, is there a way that I can give him what he wants without unbalancing the game somehow? I thought about making him give up his second language for it, but that's impossible with a thri-kreen--a thri-kreen (particularly this one!) has to speak thri-kreen, and besides, that only takes it up to 2/3 of a feat. I offered to just allow him to take it as a feat (which I thought was pretty good, especially as he could retrain it to Toughness at 11th level and get the best of both worlds, and still get another background bonus), but that apparently doesn't fix the problems he sees with the race.
Help? Suggestions? Answers?