Are thri-kreen underpowered?

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First off: I am not a powergamer. I'm more of a storytelling-style DM. I play 4e D&D because other people have thoroughly tested it, and I don't have to worry about players choosing the wrong options and breaking the game. This is how 4e is sold. My point is that I play 4e because I don't want to have to think about mechanics, I want to think about story, with the heavy lifting of mechanics details done for me (pretty much the same reason I use a Mac, actually).

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? 
SyDarkSun, my 4e Dark Sun campaign
My questions are: First, are thri-kreen in fact underpowered compared to other races?

No, they are not. Now, their racial power is rather unfortunately limited in use, and it is a shame that non-melee characters simply won't get very much use out of it, but just because its design is problematic does not mean that it's underpowered. Tell me, what sort of class is this player planning on playing with this Thri-Kreen? Because if it's a ranged class, I may have a suggestion for how to make their racial power more useful, but if it's a melee class, then I'm not sure why the racial power should be problematic.

Other than that, it can retrieve or stow weapons and items as a free action once per turn instead of as a minor action, which is useful, it can always be treated as running for all jumps, which can be great, and it gets a speed of 7 instead of the usual 6, which is awesome. With Low-Light vision and Torpor sprinkled on top of that, it all seems pretty palatable to me.

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.

This is not a problem with the Thri-Kreen race. The fact that they have fewer options available is a natural extension of the fact that they are one of the newest races. There simply hasn't been enough time for a lot of new stuff to come out for them. If, however, the player feels that their feats and paragon paths are underpowered, then the correct solution to that would be to fix those feats and that paragon path, not the race itself.

Third, is there a way that I can give him what he wants without unbalancing the game somehow?

That depends on what he wants. If what he wants is better feats, then the existing Thri-Kreen feats aren't too tough to boost. However, I happen to think that the existing Thri-Kreen feats are fine. He has to realize that most racial feats (like most feats in general) that exist just aren't very good, but that doesn't mean that the race itself is underpowered. Heck, I'm not even sure why that should keep him from wanting to play the race anyway considering how many awesome non-racial feats are out there to pick from instead. The awesome thing about racial feats is that, if you don't like them, then you have plenty of other options to pick from.

Why, yes, as a matter of fact I am the Unfailing Arbiter of All That Is Good Design (Even More So Than The Actual Developers) TM Speaking of things that were badly designed, please check out this thread for my Minotaur fix. What have the critics said, you ask? "If any of my players ask to play a Minotaur, I'm definitely offering this as an alternative to the official version." - EmpactWB "If I ever feel like playing a Minotaur I'll know where to look!" - Undrave "WoTC if you are reading this - please take this guy's advice." - Ferol_Debtor_of_Torm "Really full of win. A minotaur that is actually attractive for more than just melee classes." - Cpt_Micha Also, check out my recent GENASI variant! If you've ever wished that your Fire Genasi could actually set stuff on fire, your Water Genasi could actually swim, or your Wind Genasi could at least glide, then look no further. Finally, check out my OPTIONS FOR EVERYONE article, an effort to give unique support to the races that WotC keeps forgetting about. Includes new racial feature options for the Changeling, Deva, Githzerai, Gnoll, Gnome, Goliath, Half-Orc, Kalashtar, Minotaur, Shadar-Kai, Thri-Kreen, Warforged and more!
This is more of a races/charop/homebrew quesion, but no they are not considered underpowered by charop at least.

A large number of guides give them skyblue or dark blue ratings (cleric, fighter, monk, ranger, barbarian, etc.)  They are a bit limited in selection of racial feats and are much more geared towards melee than ranged combat.  But they have a stat combinitation that works well for the vast majority of melee classes, are one of a very few races that starts with a 7 speed, and they have fairly good racial abilities and powers.
First, are thri-kreen in fact underpowered compared to other races?

Thri-kreen are fast and mobile, they have skill bonuses to commonly used skills, their Multiple Arms benefit is similar to a free Quick Draw feat, and they have a minor action attack power they can use once per encounter.

I don't think that's weak at all.  A race does't become "underpowered" just because there aren't any race-specific feats the player wants to take.  In fact, most of the strongest and most popular feats (expertise, focus, etc.) aren't race- or class-specific at all.

As DM, you have the final say as to what game elements are allowed in your campaign.  If you have decided that the Scales of War backgrounds are not appropriate for your campaign, then the player should accept that and move on.
You could just give ALL your players the effect of the auspicious birth background, in addition to their normal background selection. It really only makes a significant difference from about levels 1-5, and still doesn't do anything for their number of surges. All players happy, virtually insignificant house rule, especially past the first few levels.
As DM, you have the final say as to what game elements are allowed in your campaign.  If you have decided that the Scales of War backgrounds are not appropriate for your campaign, then the player should accept that and move on.

Well, he has--to another character, after I spent multiple hours working on stuff for this one. I don't like the idea that players won't take options they want because they think they will be handicapped. This is why I'm asking. If he's wrong, fine. He's just being ornery. But if he's got a point, the game's broken and needs fixed.

SyDarkSun, my 4e Dark Sun campaign
Well, the game is broken and does need fixing, but that has nothing to do with the Thri-Kreen.
It really is a shame, though, that he won't play the character that he wants to play just because he perceives is to be too underpowered for whatever reason. I'm still wondering what sort of class and role he was going for with the character? If it's like a Warlock or something, then yeah, I kind of understand what his issue might be.

Why, yes, as a matter of fact I am the Unfailing Arbiter of All That Is Good Design (Even More So Than The Actual Developers) TM Speaking of things that were badly designed, please check out this thread for my Minotaur fix. What have the critics said, you ask? "If any of my players ask to play a Minotaur, I'm definitely offering this as an alternative to the official version." - EmpactWB "If I ever feel like playing a Minotaur I'll know where to look!" - Undrave "WoTC if you are reading this - please take this guy's advice." - Ferol_Debtor_of_Torm "Really full of win. A minotaur that is actually attractive for more than just melee classes." - Cpt_Micha Also, check out my recent GENASI variant! If you've ever wished that your Fire Genasi could actually set stuff on fire, your Water Genasi could actually swim, or your Wind Genasi could at least glide, then look no further. Finally, check out my OPTIONS FOR EVERYONE article, an effort to give unique support to the races that WotC keeps forgetting about. Includes new racial feature options for the Changeling, Deva, Githzerai, Gnoll, Gnome, Goliath, Half-Orc, Kalashtar, Minotaur, Shadar-Kai, Thri-Kreen, Warforged and more!
As DM, you have the final say as to what game elements are allowed in your campaign.  If you have decided that the Scales of War backgrounds are not appropriate for your campaign, then the player should accept that and move on.

Well, he has--to another character, after I spent multiple hours working on stuff for this one. I don't like the idea that players won't take options they want because they think they will be handicapped. This is why I'm asking. If he's wrong, fine. He's just being ornery. But if he's got a point, the game's broken and needs fixed.




There's nothing underpowered about the race itself. They do have fewer racial options but as others have mentioned. What class does he want to play that he feels he so badly needs the handful of extra hit points?
The Scales of War backgrounds are, in my opinion, not even close to being broken. Sure they're worth about a feat, but still, the effects they produce don't imbalance the game in the least. The auspicious birth background usually only adds something like 10-20 hp at high levels, which is not much, and even at low levels it just makes it so the wizard doesn't die when hit by a stiff breeze.

Other than that, I think Thri-kreen are great, one of my favorite races.
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(If you want to be mean...)

Whatever he decides to play instead, he better be taking alot of racial feats, otherwise his claims of them being underpowered due to racial options was just a lame excuse to try and get extra benefits.

Always a GM, never a player (not really but sometimes feels like it).

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Well, the game is broken and does need fixing, but that has nothing to do with the Thri-Kreen.
It really is a shame, though, that he won't play the character that he wants to play just because he perceives is to be too underpowered for whatever reason. I'm still wondering what sort of class and role he was going for with the character? If it's like a Warlock or something, then yeah, I kind of understand what his issue might be.

Arena fighter.
SyDarkSun, my 4e Dark Sun campaign
Yeah, a thri-kreen arena fighter doesn't really need any extra help.  But that being said, I wouldn't see the slightest problem with one taking Auspicious Birth anyway - it provides a benefit, but not a huge one, so as long as it's available to all the players it's not unbalancing.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
If he's unwilling to play a thri-kreen arena fighter because it's underpowered, hw's just flat out wrong.

That said, he seems to think Auspicious Birth will make a much larger difference than it actually will.  He's looking at, realistically, at most 8 hit points (4 bloodied value, 2 surge value).  You'll barely even notice it.


Maybe you should point out to him that as a fighter, he can use his racial power to mark everyone in close burst 1 as a minor action.
The difference between madness and genius is determined only by degrees of success.
Arena fighter.

In that case, I don't see the problem. His racial features, including the power, have great synergy with the Arena Fighter.

Why, yes, as a matter of fact I am the Unfailing Arbiter of All That Is Good Design (Even More So Than The Actual Developers) TM Speaking of things that were badly designed, please check out this thread for my Minotaur fix. What have the critics said, you ask? "If any of my players ask to play a Minotaur, I'm definitely offering this as an alternative to the official version." - EmpactWB "If I ever feel like playing a Minotaur I'll know where to look!" - Undrave "WoTC if you are reading this - please take this guy's advice." - Ferol_Debtor_of_Torm "Really full of win. A minotaur that is actually attractive for more than just melee classes." - Cpt_Micha Also, check out my recent GENASI variant! If you've ever wished that your Fire Genasi could actually set stuff on fire, your Water Genasi could actually swim, or your Wind Genasi could at least glide, then look no further. Finally, check out my OPTIONS FOR EVERYONE article, an effort to give unique support to the races that WotC keeps forgetting about. Includes new racial feature options for the Changeling, Deva, Githzerai, Gnoll, Gnome, Goliath, Half-Orc, Kalashtar, Minotaur, Shadar-Kai, Thri-Kreen, Warforged and more!
Actually, I'd completely forgotten about this, but the attack roll scaling for the Thri-Kreen power is actually off. +3 at heroic, +6 at paragon, and +9 at epic is the normal attack roll scaling for accessory-less attack powers that target non-AC defenses, but AC is actually typically two or three points higher than those, so one thing that you could do to help him out and bring the power up to where it should probably be anyway is either:
A) Allow the power to target Reflex instead of AC.
B) Give the power an additional +2 or +3 to attack so that its scaling becomes +5/+8/+11 or +6/+9/+12.

If you want a breakdown for why this works:
1) The power needs +6 over 30 levels to mimic the accessory (weapon or implement) enhancements that it's never going to get. This is why the Dragonborn's Dragon Breath power in the original PHB scaled as +2/+4/+6.
2) The power needs +2 or +3 more on top of that if it attacks AC to mimic the proficiency bonus that characters normally get on attacks that target AC. This is why the Minotaur's Goring Charge power in the PHB3 scaled as +4/+6/+8.
3) The power needs +3 more, +1 per tier, to mimic the effects of the Expertise feats, the math fixes that will never benefit this power because, again, it has no accessory keyword. This is why the Thri-Kreen racial power gets boosted by 3 every tier to begin with, instead of 2 as had previously been the convention.

Letting his already awesome power have +6/+9/+12 scaling should be enough to satisfy him. HOWEVER, be advised that I DO NOT KNOW whether this was actually a mistake or whether the developers did this on purpose. It IS possible that they decided to throw a -2 or -3 penalty into the scaling because the power can target so many creatures. This is just a thought.

Why, yes, as a matter of fact I am the Unfailing Arbiter of All That Is Good Design (Even More So Than The Actual Developers) TM Speaking of things that were badly designed, please check out this thread for my Minotaur fix. What have the critics said, you ask? "If any of my players ask to play a Minotaur, I'm definitely offering this as an alternative to the official version." - EmpactWB "If I ever feel like playing a Minotaur I'll know where to look!" - Undrave "WoTC if you are reading this - please take this guy's advice." - Ferol_Debtor_of_Torm "Really full of win. A minotaur that is actually attractive for more than just melee classes." - Cpt_Micha Also, check out my recent GENASI variant! If you've ever wished that your Fire Genasi could actually set stuff on fire, your Water Genasi could actually swim, or your Wind Genasi could at least glide, then look no further. Finally, check out my OPTIONS FOR EVERYONE article, an effort to give unique support to the races that WotC keeps forgetting about. Includes new racial feature options for the Changeling, Deva, Githzerai, Gnoll, Gnome, Goliath, Half-Orc, Kalashtar, Minotaur, Shadar-Kai, Thri-Kreen, Warforged and more!
Wow! Thanks for all the feedback, all. It's helped clarify my thinking.

One thing I think I might do is to reinstate some sort of Bite and Poison attacks for thri-kreen. It's kind of ridiculous that kreen no longer get poison until 20th level--and that only if they take the racial paragon path. I was thinking of an alternate Bite power as the racial ability, and a heroic feat that adds poison damage to it. 2e kreen had both bites and poison, and although the 2e kreen was overpowered and broken, I don't see any reason not to add these two things back in--they seem basic to what it means to be a Thri-kreen to me.
SyDarkSun, my 4e Dark Sun campaign
One think I think I might do is to reinstate some sort of Bite and Poison attacks for thri-kreen. It's kind of ridiculous that kreen no longer get poison until 20th level--and that only if they take the racial paragon path. I was thinking of an alternate Bite power as the racial ability, and a heroic feat that adds poison damage to it. 2e kreen had both bites and poison, and although the 2e kreen was overpowered and broken, I don't see any reason not to add these two things back in--they seem basic to what it means to be a Thri-kreen to me. 

If that's what you're looking for, then I may have something that you'll like. Check it out:

Thri-Kreen Bite (Thri-Kreen Racial Power)
You leap at your enemy and inject it with a paralyzing neurotoxin before springing away.
Encounter * Poison
Move Action, Melee 1
Effect: You jump 2 squares both before and after the attack. This movement does not provoke opportunity attacks.
Target: One creature.
Attack: Highest ability score +3 vs. Fortitude
Level 11: Highest ability score +6 vs. Fortitude
Level 21: Highest ability score +9 vs. Fortitude
Hit: The target is slowed and takes a -2 penalty to its Reflex defense until the end of your next turn.

I made this power a while ago for Thri-Kreen characters in my games that are more focused on ranged roles. A ranged Thri-Kreen just isn't going to get much use out of the current Thri-Kreen racial power because of how it depends on the character being in melee. With this power, however, a ranged Thri-Kreen character could leap into and then back out of melee as part of the attack, meaning that it requires only the most minimal of commitments to melee. The effect was adapted from the effect of the bite of the 3.5 Thri-Kreen, which dealt DEX damage; I thought that this would be the best way to model that sort of thing in 4E. I have no experience with any Thri-Kreen before 3.5.

This power is meant to be an optional replacement for Thri-Kreen Claws, same as how Dragonfear was added as an optional replacement for Dragon Breath. Be advised, however, that the power has not been extensively play-tested, so I don't have enough practical experience with it to know whether it's actually balanced. Either way, though, I hope it can at least provide a starting point on designing your own similar power.

Why, yes, as a matter of fact I am the Unfailing Arbiter of All That Is Good Design (Even More So Than The Actual Developers) TM Speaking of things that were badly designed, please check out this thread for my Minotaur fix. What have the critics said, you ask? "If any of my players ask to play a Minotaur, I'm definitely offering this as an alternative to the official version." - EmpactWB "If I ever feel like playing a Minotaur I'll know where to look!" - Undrave "WoTC if you are reading this - please take this guy's advice." - Ferol_Debtor_of_Torm "Really full of win. A minotaur that is actually attractive for more than just melee classes." - Cpt_Micha Also, check out my recent GENASI variant! If you've ever wished that your Fire Genasi could actually set stuff on fire, your Water Genasi could actually swim, or your Wind Genasi could at least glide, then look no further. Finally, check out my OPTIONS FOR EVERYONE article, an effort to give unique support to the races that WotC keeps forgetting about. Includes new racial feature options for the Changeling, Deva, Githzerai, Gnoll, Gnome, Goliath, Half-Orc, Kalashtar, Minotaur, Shadar-Kai, Thri-Kreen, Warforged and more!
If that's what you're looking for, then I may have something that you'll like. Check it out:

Thri-Kreen Bite (Thri-Kreen Racial Power)
You leap at your enemy and inject it with a paralyzing neurotoxin before springing away.
Encounter * Poison
Move Action, Melee 1
Effect: You jump 2 squares both before and after the attack. This movement does not provoke opportunity attacks.
Target: One creature.
Attack: Highest ability score +3 vs. Fortitude
Level 11: Highest ability score +6 vs. Fortitude
Level 21: Highest ability score +9 vs. Fortitude
Hit: The target is slowed and takes a -2 penalty to its Reflex defense until the end of your next turn.

I made this power a while ago for Thri-Kreen characters in my games that are more focused on ranged roles. A ranged Thri-Kreen just isn't going to get much use out of the current Thri-Kreen racial power because of how it depends on the character being in melee. With this power, however, a ranged Thri-Kreen character could leap into and then back out of melee as part of the attack, meaning that it requires only the most minimal of commitments to melee. The effect was adapted from the effect of the bite of the 3.5 Thri-Kreen, which dealt DEX damage; I thought that this would be the best way to model that sort of thing in 4E. I have no experience with any Thri-Kreen before 3.5.

This power is meant to be an optional replacement for Thri-Kreen Claws, same as how Dragonfear was added as an optional replacement for Dragon Breath. Be advised, however, that the power has not been extensively play-tested, so I don't have enough practical experience with it to know whether it's actually balanced. Either way, though, I hope it can at least provide a starting point on designing your own similar power.

Nice!!! I never imagined fixing all three problems I had with thri-kreen in one racial ability: The melee focus of their existing power (which was a problem in 2e as well), the lack of Bite and the lack of poison. That is really nice. And feats could up the power of the attack, adding actual poison damage, etc. I'll definitely look into implementing some incarnation of this.
SyDarkSun, my 4e Dark Sun campaign
Hey, as the whiney pc who started this mess, let me start by saying that their racial power is great, but other than that the race is seriously underpowered on every front. I am also in the situation where I am being asked to play as the only defender in a group starting at level 1 which makes auspicious birth almost manditory for a dex/str build looking towards using polearm momentum and such. I am completely aware that I am being a bit of a tool, but does this seem an unreasonable discussion? If so, I give up all rights to be silly... But not all rights to draw all of the agro if I dont have the hp for it!
Auspicious Birth is overpowered.  The lack of it does not make you underpowered.  Non-constitution-based defenders are not underpowered.  Thri-kreen are not underpowered.  None of the other races are more powerful for defenders in any meaningful way.

The game is designed to work without Auspicious Birth.  You'll be fine.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
Auspicious Birth is perfectly reasonable.  It's not the sort of thing I'd even consider limiting as a DM, particularly because I don't like the wya that CON rules all when it comes to HP.

Your assertion that Thri-Kreen are hopelessly underpowered really isn't - Fighters have more than enough support to make them good with virtually any race (and realistically, with the right MC, you probably don't even need to consider racial feats), let alone one with bumps to two primary stats, and a strong set of racial features (including a three-target minor-action attack, support for Athletics, and a couple of reasonable feats nonetheless)...  I think you're being a bit unreasonable, yeah.  What more could you want?
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
Hey, as the whiney pc who started this mess, let me start by saying that their racial power is great, but other than that the race is seriously underpowered on every front.

It's really not. As has already been stated, the race gets a lot of really neat stuff. Being able to more easily juggle around items is minor but nice, being able to always be treated as running for a jump can be great in a lot of situations (and you'll get even more use out of it with your class's STR-primary focus, your racial STR bonus, and your racial bonus to Athletics), and having 6 speed in heavy armor is a very underrated perk for a defender. Low-Light Vision and Torpor are, admittedly, not going to come up very often, but you do still get a lot of good stuff for being a Thri-Kreen. What are you comparing to that you think that the race is underpowered?

I am also in the situation where I am being asked to play as the only defender in a group starting at level 1 which makes auspicious birth almost manditory for a dex/str build looking towards using polearm momentum and such.

I think that you're making a lot bigger of a deal out of it than it really is. Most groups don't have more than one defender anyway, and they get by just fine without the background. Remember, as a Fighter you'll be getting more HP than most other characters anyway, and there are always ways to increase your HP other than that background. Really, try it out before assuming that your character is going to fail miserably.

Why, yes, as a matter of fact I am the Unfailing Arbiter of All That Is Good Design (Even More So Than The Actual Developers) TM Speaking of things that were badly designed, please check out this thread for my Minotaur fix. What have the critics said, you ask? "If any of my players ask to play a Minotaur, I'm definitely offering this as an alternative to the official version." - EmpactWB "If I ever feel like playing a Minotaur I'll know where to look!" - Undrave "WoTC if you are reading this - please take this guy's advice." - Ferol_Debtor_of_Torm "Really full of win. A minotaur that is actually attractive for more than just melee classes." - Cpt_Micha Also, check out my recent GENASI variant! If you've ever wished that your Fire Genasi could actually set stuff on fire, your Water Genasi could actually swim, or your Wind Genasi could at least glide, then look no further. Finally, check out my OPTIONS FOR EVERYONE article, an effort to give unique support to the races that WotC keeps forgetting about. Includes new racial feature options for the Changeling, Deva, Githzerai, Gnoll, Gnome, Goliath, Half-Orc, Kalashtar, Minotaur, Shadar-Kai, Thri-Kreen, Warforged and more!
Auspicious Birth is perfectly reasonable.  It's not the sort of thing I'd even consider limiting as a DM, particularly because I don't like the wya that CON rules all when it comes to HP.

My problem with Auspicious Birth isn't that it's overpowered in a game-breaking way, but that it is so much more powerful than the standard backgrounds that I fear all the other players will suffer buyer's remorse. And since I've actually made those backgrounds--and the process of getting them--kind of important, that becomes an issue.

SyDarkSun, my 4e Dark Sun campaign
So apply it universally, and the person who originally wanted it also gets another background.  Fair's fair.

That being said, if your other players were aware of it, and declined to take it, that's their choice.  They can retrain if they want.

But it's worth noting that nothing whatsoever stops you from having a background without taking its benefit.  If you've worked the plot around the backgrounds your players have chosen, and they elect to change the background benefit they have to another one, they don't have to stop HAVING the original one, and it doesn't have to stop having an impact on the plot.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
My problem with Auspicious Birth isn't that it's overpowered in a game-breaking way, but that it is so much more powerful than the standard backgrounds that I fear all the other players will suffer buyer's remorse. And since I've actually made those backgrounds--and the process of getting them--kind of important, that becomes an issue.


You can have infinite backgrounds but can only benefit mechanically from one. Problem solved.
Alright, there are two underlying discussions going on here. We will have to agree to disagree on thri-kreens as being underpowred because to me feat support makes or breaks a race (example: tieflings). I should make it clear that my argument about thri kreen being under powered was mainly in order to be given the go ahead with the auspicious birth benefit. This argument has clearly been rendered void by popular opinion. The discussion of the use of auspicious birth, on the other hand, seems to favor its allowance. I would offer this, if the question of whay is fair is the question, why dont we bring it up to the other players and we can let them decide. Sound good?
So apply it universally, and the person who originally wanted it also gets another background.  Fair's fair.

Sure, if there were a good reason to do so. But why make this particular background universal? Why not, say, Wandering Mercenary? Or why not both? For that matter, why not give every character Toughness for free? Or any one feat they want? If I start giving everyone any overbalanced benefit that any single character wants, pretty soon the party will be overpowered.

That being said, if your other players were aware of it, and declined to take it, that's their choice.  They can retrain if they want.

I'm not at all sure you can retrain backgrounds. If you can, I think I'd need to houserule that, because being able to change history and have a different character background makes no sense to me, and would destroy the roleplaying flavor of the game I'm trying to run.

No, they weren't aware of it, but that's not the point. The point is that this makes useless all other backgrounds, as these are three times better than the ones in the PHB2 and DSCS.

Additionally, since Linguist gives you three feats and Wild Talent Master gives you three wild talents (and standard backgrounds allow you the option of taking one language), I have concluded that a wild talent is of exactly the same power level as a background bonus, and have house ruled that you can take a wild talent instead of a regular background. This means that some, but not all, characters have wild talents, which is exactly what I wanted.

But it's worth noting that nothing whatsoever stops you from having a background without taking its benefit.  If you've worked the plot around the backgrounds your players have chosen, and they elect to change the background benefit they have to another one, they don't have to stop HAVING the original one, and it doesn't have to stop having an impact on the plot.

That only makes sense if you believe mechanics and flavor should have no real relationship; that flavor is just an unnecessary gloss on mechanics. I don't feel that way; mechanics should be driven by flavor.
SyDarkSun, my 4e Dark Sun campaign
My problem with Auspicious Birth isn't that it's overpowered in a game-breaking way, but that it is so much more powerful than the standard backgrounds that I fear all the other players will suffer buyer's remorse. And since I've actually made those backgrounds--and the process of getting them--kind of important, that becomes an issue.


You can have infinite backgrounds but can only benefit mechanically from one. Problem solved.

Er...no, that actually doesn't address the problem in any way. "Backgrounds" in the way that you mean it here are just flavor. They're not really required at all, especially since I make players write up their own personal background history of a paragraph or so before I let them have their background benefit. It was already the case that players can take as many "backgrounds" as they want, but only have one background benefit. The question is, if players are allowed to take a Scales of War background benefit, who will take a Dark Sun background benefit? It forces players into an artificially limited number of choices for their background benefit.

SyDarkSun, my 4e Dark Sun campaign
SyDarkSun, my 4e Dark Sun campaign
Regarding Auspicious Birth: I'm not suggesting you give everyone the background per se.  I'm suggesting you house-rule that everyone gets primary stat to HP, then they can all be on a level playing field, and no-one needs to worry about buyer's remorse, and NakedAbeLincoln is satisfied and can go ahead and take a more flavourful background.  I'm not sure what point you;re trying to make by citing that thread, incidentally.  People were going all headless-chicken about backgrounds, they integrated fine.  What's the issue?  I've said myself, I prefer to use Auspicious Birth on non-CON-primary characters, but that's because CON ruling HP bugs me.  If I were running a home game, I'd institute this very house rule.

WHY must flavour be always driven by mechanics?  I want my character to be a cold-hearted individual.  What mechanic is that?  I want my character to be the son of a baker.  What mechanic is that?  I want my character to be an orphan.  What mechanic is that?  I want my character to have a scar on his cheek from a youthful accident with a pitchfork, what mechanic is that?

A characters background might be relevant to his mechanics.  It might be completely irrelevant to his mechanics, particularly if you're talking about something like a Revenant.  Or his background might inform his mechanics.  Or his mechanics might inform his background.  Any, all, or none of these things could apply.

What's wrong with someone having backgrounds purely as a notation for their character's... you know... background?  If you've already included them in the plot, they're having a mechanical impact by changing the plot of the game.  It's not really possible to have a BIGGER mechanical impact.

NakedAbeLincoln: feat support can make or break a race for some classes, it's true.  Fighter isn't one of them.  When you're talking about a PM Arena Fighter, that's a build which can easily get away with drawing precisely no feats from its race throughout its entire life, and still be perfectly optimised.  PM is feat-hungry at the best of times.  Not having a good selection of feats does limit the Thri-kreen somewhat, but it definitely does not render them underpowered for the class you're trying to build.  I'd far rather play a thri-kreen fighter than a tiefling one.

EDIT: there's a reason why they're light blue in the fighter guide.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
Regarding Auspicious Birth: I'm not suggesting you give everyone the background per se.  I'm suggesting you house-rule that everyone gets primary stat to HP, then they can all be on a level playing field, and no-one needs to worry about buyer's remorse, and NakedAbeLincoln is satisfied and can go ahead and take a more flavourful background.

Sure. I could do that. And the next person who came up with something cool but unbalanced they wanted would point to what I had done for him, and be completely justified in asking that I give everybody that too. And then the next player, and the next...where does it stop? Why start?

WHY must flavour be always driven by mechanics?  I want my character to be a cold-hearted individual.  What mechanic is that?  I want my character to be the son of a baker.  What mechanic is that?  I want my character to be an orphan.  What mechanic is that?  I want my character to have a scar on his cheek from a youthful accident with a pitchfork, what mechanic is that?

You misunderstood me. I did not say that flavor must always be driven by mechanics; I said that mechanics should be driven by flavor. You don't need mechanics for each flavor element. You do need flavor for each mechanics element. And having mechanics change, in game (not due to a house rule or something like that), without any flavor reason for that happening, is divorcing flavor and mechanics in a way I find extremely distasteful.

A characters background might be relevant to his mechanics.  It might be completely irrelevant to his mechanics, particularly if you're talking about something like a Revenant.  Or his background might inform his mechanics.  Or his mechanics might inform his background.  Any, all, or none of these things could apply.

By RAW, you are probably correct. But there's only one of those options that is acceptable to me: his background informs the mechanics of his background benefit; flavor informs mechanics.

SyDarkSun, my 4e Dark Sun campaign
Nice slippery slope, there.

EDIT: All you have to do is explain that you thought that this benefit would be useful to the group as a whole, and you thought therefore that you would house rule that everyone gets it.  No need to mention who caused you to think that, or why.

And yeah, it wouldn't hurt your game to give out a few free feats like versatile expertise, improved defences etc.  Saves your players either burning most of their low-level slots fixing the game maths, or falling behind the curve of those who do.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
Nice slippery slope, there.

EDIT: All you have to do is explain that you thought that this benefit would be useful to the group as a whole, and you thought therefore that you would house rule that everyone gets it.  No need to mention who caused you to think that, or why.

And yeah, it wouldn't hurt your game to give out a few free feats like versatile expertise, improved defences etc.  Saves your players either burning most of their low-level slots fixing the game maths, or falling behind the curve of those who do.

Okay, see, I thought I covered this. This is why I play 4e; so I don't have to worry about such stuff. Very Smart People(tm) have tweaked the game system to a finely honed edge so I don't have to houserule the system all to hell (as was certainly true for 2e) to make it balanced and work properly.

Besides, I presume that if I start giving out free feats and such, I will have to up monster power in order to keep up, just making more work for myself...why would I want to do this exactly?
SyDarkSun, my 4e Dark Sun campaign
....Sigh. It has been pointed out to you, repeatedly, that the background isn't "unbalanced." All you need to do to establish that is ask the question "Is there a build where a gain of x hp is comparable to a +2 to a skill?" The answer is yes (several Arcana based builds, Intimidate-o-mancers, etc.,). So, yeah, if you follow from your (incorrect) assumption then I can see the problem. But it isn't. You can't retrain a background but you can have multiple backgrounds. So.. take multiple backgrounds. Gain mechanical benefit from one. This is inline with the actual rules, which you seem to be fond of of strictly adhering to. Also inline with the DMG suggestion of "Say yes." Also inline with the fact that in public play, LFR, you can take these backgrounds. See where I'm going with this? The difference is not worth a thread this long and if any signifigant degree of validity to your assumption existed they wouldn't be allowed in public play.

The developers are not all that bright, actually. They've made some fairly serious errors in the basic game math and rules. It is signifigantly better then previous editions and relatively easy to fix with a handful of houserules, but problems exist.
....Sigh. It has been pointed out to you, repeatedly, that the background isn't "unbalanced." All you need to do to establish that is ask the question "Is there a build where a gain of x hp is comparable to a +2 to a skill?" The answer is yes (several Arcana based builds, Intimidate-o-mancers, etc.,).

I'm not familiar with those. You'd have to show me. But, by previous logic, a normal background bonus is 1/3 the power of a feat (I'm making the assumption that skill points follow more of a geometric than an arithmetic progression, otherwise Skill Focus puts that number at 2/3 and there's no real answer here). The Scales of War backgrounds (and by 'background' I mean 'background bonus,' k? You don't need any rules or mechanics to give your character whatever background information you like, and never have) are almost all a little more powerful than a feat. So if I allow them, I don't see why anyone other than hardcore RP players will take the standard backgrounds, making them literally a waste of space other than as inspiration for writing character histories. Most importantly, who's going to take a wild talent instead of a background? It's strongly discouraged, and I'll have to come up with another mechanic for wild talents (and the first one was hard enough to think up).

When you've got rules that completely overshadow other rules and make them pointless, one or the other set of rules is broken. Since Backgrounds came out after that Dragon article, I presume that was not the intent, and that those backgrounds were intended only for Scales of War (and LFR, which I know almost nothing about)--or just broken.

Also inline with the DMG suggestion of "Say yes."

I don't think this sort of thing is what was in mind; otherwise when a player says "can I have an additional +3 to two stats?" or something similar, the answer also should be yes. But even so, I tried my best to find a way to work these backgrounds in, but I wasn't able to find a way to knock the character's power down by roughly a feat other than offering the background bonus as a feat, which he didn't want. To me, "say yes" is about allowing characters to try whatever they want, and allowing players to have the kinds of characters they want--not giving them more power when they ask for it.
SyDarkSun, my 4e Dark Sun campaign
The developers are not all that bright, actually. They've made some fairly serious errors in the basic game math and rules. It is signifigantly better then previous editions and relatively easy to fix with a handful of houserules

Is there a definitive list of these?

SyDarkSun, my 4e Dark Sun campaign
...There is not. They are spread out across several threads. Mmmm.

I have some time this weekend, let me get back to you on that.
We will have to agree to disagree on thri-kreens as being underpowred because to me feat support makes or breaks a race (example: tieflings).

That doesn't make any sense. You don't fix a problem with feat selection by getting something for free. You fix a problem with feat selection by improving something that you can take as a feat. Otherwise, you're getting something for nothing, gaining a benefit while completely ignoring the thing that you thought was problematic to begin with. Now, if there were something wrong with the basic racial stat block, then your request might have been justified, but apparently not even you think that there's actually anything wrong with their basic racial stat block, so why should you get something for free on top of that for spending nothing at all on these feats that you don't like anyway?

I should make it clear that my argument about thri kreen being under powered was mainly in order to be given the go ahead with the auspicious birth benefit.

Wait... So you were pretty much just trying to use the excuse that you thought that your race was underpowered to try to get some other benefit that you wanted allowed? That sounds incredibly disingenuous.

Why, yes, as a matter of fact I am the Unfailing Arbiter of All That Is Good Design (Even More So Than The Actual Developers) TM Speaking of things that were badly designed, please check out this thread for my Minotaur fix. What have the critics said, you ask? "If any of my players ask to play a Minotaur, I'm definitely offering this as an alternative to the official version." - EmpactWB "If I ever feel like playing a Minotaur I'll know where to look!" - Undrave "WoTC if you are reading this - please take this guy's advice." - Ferol_Debtor_of_Torm "Really full of win. A minotaur that is actually attractive for more than just melee classes." - Cpt_Micha Also, check out my recent GENASI variant! If you've ever wished that your Fire Genasi could actually set stuff on fire, your Water Genasi could actually swim, or your Wind Genasi could at least glide, then look no further. Finally, check out my OPTIONS FOR EVERYONE article, an effort to give unique support to the races that WotC keeps forgetting about. Includes new racial feature options for the Changeling, Deva, Githzerai, Gnoll, Gnome, Goliath, Half-Orc, Kalashtar, Minotaur, Shadar-Kai, Thri-Kreen, Warforged and more!
Nice slippery slope, there.

EDIT: All you have to do is explain that you thought that this benefit would be useful to the group as a whole, and you thought therefore that you would house rule that everyone gets it.  No need to mention who caused you to think that, or why.

And yeah, it wouldn't hurt your game to give out a few free feats like versatile expertise, improved defences etc.  Saves your players either burning most of their low-level slots fixing the game maths, or falling behind the curve of those who do.

Okay, see, I thought I covered this. This is why I play 4e; so I don't have to worry about such stuff. Very Smart People(tm) have tweaked the game system to a finely honed edge so I don't have to houserule the system all to hell (as was certainly true for 2e) to make it balanced and work properly.

Besides, I presume that if I start giving out free feats and such, I will have to up monster power in order to keep up, just making more work for myself...why would I want to do this exactly?


Those very smart people?  I have heard it said (and yeah, second-hand information isn't so valuable, but whatever) that they use precisely the free feats I suggested when playing.  The devs have proven themselves unwilling to errata the base maths of the game, despite having admitted it doesn't work quite the way they wanted it to, and have instead patched it with feats.  Giving those feats for free could improve your game.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.

Those very smart people?  I have heard it said (and yeah, second-hand information isn't so valuable, but whatever) that they use precisely the free feats I suggested when playing.  The devs have proven themselves unwilling to errata the base maths of the game, despite having admitted it doesn't work quite the way they wanted it to, and have instead patched it with feats.  Giving those feats for free could improve your game.

So what you're saying is that I've bought this nice, (relatively) expensive car (I've spent close to $200 for 4e materials), top of the line, plus a service plan (DDI), because I want to drive a car, not become a mechanic, and I still have to open the hood and learn about internal combustion engines and electronic ignitions to get the thing to run properly? Fine. Where do I go to learn sufficient 4e game balance theory to understand the underlying mechanics well enough to tweak it without fear I'm going to break something in the process? Or is there some definitive list of house rules and feats that most people agree on that I can just apply and be done with?

SyDarkSun, my 4e Dark Sun campaign
You don't have to.  You can if you want to.  To extend the engine analogy, it runs fine out of the box, but you can tune it a bit more than that if you so desire.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
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