Making LA Races Playable

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So recently I decided to look over some of the monsters in the MM that are available for players to use. I've always considered most LA races to be underpowered compared to a moderately optimized character of the same effective character level with no LA. So I got to thinking about what specifically one could grade LA on, as it appears to in most cases be strictly arbitrary, and not even balanced from  one equivilent LA race to another.

Grading aught to be done on a scale for these comparing a few traits. Conservatievly, we'll look at the highest trait to base the modified LA on.

Most powerful abilities: What level would a non-LA character need to be to get access to spellcasting, SLA's or other traits of the creature?

Hit points: Compare to the class that would best represent the monsters abilities, what level character with a base Con of 10 would have the same HP? (Consider HD the minimum number here even if the HP could be achieived on fewer HD by a like-flavored class). Remove all HP from Con before doing this (so we're not double dipping with ability score mods below).

Saves and BAB: What level would a non-LA character need to have the same base saves and BAB, while maintaining the HP and special abilities of the race?


Modify for the following
Utility: Additional SLA's and spellcasting, or other features that are less noteworthy than the most powerful abilities, but still not completely neglible. This may provide +1 or +2 to ECL if significant.
Size: Being bigger than Medium or smaller than Small requires some kind of evaluation. +1 per size category above or below may be appropriate depending on synergy with the general flavor of the race (being Large is not generally good for a spellcaster or rogue, but is for a fighter type).
Defensive abilities and immunities: Significant resistance or immunity to effects can easily be worth +1 or more ECL.
Exceptional ability modifiers: +1 for a net bonus of +2 or +4, +2 for +6 up to +10, +3 for +12 to + 18, and +4 for +20 or more net. (Arbitrarily scaled for now).

Am I missing anything major here? Anyone have input before I start analyzing a race?
What about ability modifiers?
Noted. Was thinking about that after the fact. Knew I'd missed something.
Poor hobgoblins so sub par, so expensive
Yeah. They get the same LA as a Goliath, it's kinda weak. The problem is the sensitivity of the scale. If the levels were a larger spread than 20 it would be easier to evaluate them differently. I'm still willing to move things around a bit on this system, just trying to get the bones of it first. Any requests for races to adjust?

Right now I'm thinking of the three Yaun-ti races, Ogre, Minotaur and Mind Flayer. The tough ones are actually likely to be the templates.
I think those would be the major races people wants perhaps looking at centaur/ogre too? Since they are a fantasy cornorstone
Needs more pixie.
Pixie's a good one, I'll work with we'll say that and Ogre off the top.
I know one thing to consider when evaluating a creature's LA is the racial HD it may bring with it.  If you give me two creatures that are otherwise identical but one has lets say six HD of Humanoid and the other six HD of Outsider or Dragon you'd better believe I'd assign the second character more LA despite having the same adjustments.
Yes, that comes into play from other factors though that are already considered. Saves, BAB, special defenses, that sort of thing. I have not listed skills and probably aught to, although it's likely not going to be a big deal.
The Pixie


Pixie characters possess the following racial traits.





Let's visit this. We have no HD, and thus no HP, BAB or Base Saves.

The spell like abilities are where the base LA is likely to come from. We've got a level 6 spell 1/day so by default that means an expected CL of 11 to use that ability. Now that's considerably more LA than listed in the MM at a whopping +10. Clearly this is going to require some adjudication or a modification of the system.

For now we'll go with saying that none of those SLA's are game breaking and chalk them up to utility (they're not the primary thing any character's going to be good at). So +1 without Otto's and we'll lower Otto's to another +1 (optional). A size of small doesn't garner any additonal bonus.  SR 15+, DR 10/Cold Iron and Greater Invis are easily worth another +2, and ability scores net another +4.

Now we're into +7 or +8 LA with Otto's... that's even more than in the MM. Going to have to revisit the system I think.

If we look at it as a HD+Pick the highest value of other abilities we get +4 even with Otto's which is probably fair. Any other input on this? 
The Ogre

Ogre characters possess the following racial traits.

  • +10 Strength, -2 Dexterity, +4 Constitution, -4 Intelligence, -4 Charisma.

  • Large size. -1 penalty to Armor Class, -1 penalty on attack rolls, -4 penalty on Hide checks, +4 bonus on grapple checks, lifting and carrying limits double those of Medium characters.

  • Space/Reach: 10 feet/10 feet.

  • An ogre’s base land speed is 40 feet.

  • Darkvision out to 60 feet.

  • Racial Hit Dice: An ogre begins with four levels of giant, which provide 4d8 Hit Dice, a base attack bonus of +3, and base saving throw bonuses of Fort +4, Ref +1, and Will +1.

  • Racial Skills: An ogre’s giant levels give it skill points equal to 7 × (2 + Int modifier, minimum 1). Its class skills are ClimbListen, and Spot.

  • Racial Feats: An ogre’s giant levels give it two feats.

  • Weapon and Armor Proficiency: An ogre is automatically proficient with simple weaponsmartial weapons, light and medium armor, and shields.

  • +5 natural armor bonus.

  • Automatic Languages: Common, Giant. Bonus Languages: Dwarven, Orc, Goblin, Terran.

  • Favored Class: Barbarian.

  • Level adjustment +2.


Most powerful ability? Nothing special here, no SLA's or SR. No extraordinary attacks or qualities. Moving on.

Hit Points:  4 HD (d8's), and a Con bonus of +4, this brings an Ogre up to par with a Barbarian, or a Dwarf fighter. So 4 is our minimal ECL, and this won't move that any.

Saves and BAB: BAB 3, saves like a fighter, again no real worry here. One less base attack though, that's a bit of fail, we'll add that to a small list of flaws.

Size:  This we've arbitrarily given a +1, as I mention in the beginning, but a neat thing happens here with abilities, as the +4 Str, -2 Dex, +2 Con that would naturally come out of this can be deducted, creating a net change 4 less than normal.

Defensive Abilities: +5 natural armor, this is 3 above the normal change for moving from Medium to Large. So not to be overlooked, but not really worth a +1 LA either.

Ability modifiers:  +14 -10, that's a net change of +4, however size would cause that. Net change is now 0, but 4 HD would give you +1, no? So we're actually netting a void of 1 ability point. Not really worth a reduction in LA, but similar to the Kobald we can probably say fairly that the one cancels out the other.


[br]

Upon breaking it down, the normal ECL of an ogre being 6 comes off as more than a little weak in comparison to a similar level warrior class. I'm going to credit them for the -1 ability score and lost BAB, and revoke one of the standard +2 LA, making them worth 4 HD +1 LA. Only ECL 5. Any arguements against or for?
One thing I've done in my campaigns (or planned to do anyway, I've only used it in place of LA buyoff so far) is use bloodline levels as a ".5" LA of sorts.  i.e. in the case of a hobgoblin, you might be ECL 2 with one class level and one bloodline level.  It doesn't give you an actual bloodline with the abilities, you just use the mechanics described in bloodlines (i.e. it contributes to things like caster level, boosts your maximum skill points, etc...).

Might be useful for you here if you're trying to increase the spread for your assessments.  They're much more useful than LA, but you're still sacrificing hit points, skill points, saves, and making yourself more vulnerable to hit die based spells and attacks.  Gives you a little bit more flexibility.