Races Remixed (A discussion about racial design and examples of what could be done)

This isn't the first discussion about racial design in D&D Next, and it likely won't be the last. What I want this thread to do that I don't think other threads have done yet, though, is actually give examples. In fact, let's just start off with them. If I were designing the D&D Next races in a way similar to how they're designing them now, here's what I might come up with. Please keep in mind that these have not been play-tested for balance (indeed the Halfling may be a bit too good compared to the others); the primary motivations behind them are design concerns unrelated to balance, and it is those design concerns that I would like to be the primary focus of conversation.

DWARF TRAITS
Ability Score Adjustment: Select either Constitution, Strength, or Wisdom. Your starting selected ability score increases by 1.
Size: Medium
Speed: 25 feet. Your speed is not reduced by wearing heavy armor with which you have proficiency. While wearing no armor or while wearing light or medium armor with which you have proficiency, you ignore difficult terrain that is rubble, uneven stone, or earth.
Low-Light Vision: If there is no light within 30 feet of you, you treat shadows in that radius as normal light, and you treat darkness in that radius as shadows.
Poison Resistance: You have resistance against poison damage, and when you make a saving throw against poison, you can re-roll any d20 result of 5 or lower.
Stability: While standing on the ground (not climbing, flying, riding, swimming, etc.), you cannot be knocked prone by an attack, unless that attack has advantage, or by failing a saving throw, unless that saving throw has disadvantage.
Stone Cunning: You can always intuit your approximate depth underground. Additionally, you gain a +10 bonus on checks made to notice or discern creatures or objected disguised as stone.
Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common and Dwarven.

DWARF OPTIONS:

At character creation, select one of the following traits:
Dwarven Grit: Once per encounter while standing on the ground, you can spend one Hit Die, plus up to one additional Hit Dice per four levels you possess. Doing so costs 20 feet of movement.
Hammer Training: When you make an attack with a hammer with which you are proficient, the damage die for that weapon increases by one step.
Superstition: You cannot have disadvantage on saving throws against magical effects.

ELF TRAITS

Ability Score Adjustment: Select either Dexterity, Intelligence, or Wisdom. Your starting selected ability score increases by 1.
Size: Medium
Speed: 30 feet
Low-Light Vision: If there is no light within 30 feet of you, you treat shadows in that radius as normal light, and you treat darkness in that radius as shadows.
Enchanted Mind: You cannot be charmed except by a creature with at least five more maximum Hit Dice than you.
Keen Senses: Whenever you make a check to Listen or Spot, roll an additional 1d4 and add its result to the total.
Trance: You do not sleep and are immune to any effect that would put you to sleep. Instead or sleeping, you meditate deeply; the Common word for such meditation is "Trance". After resting in this way for 4 hours, you gain the same benefit that a Human does from 8 hours of sleep.
Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common and Elven.

Elf OPTIONS:
At character creation, select one of the following traits:
Bow Training: When you make an attack with a bow with which you are proficient, the damage die for that weapon increases by one step.
Education: Select one of the following Knowledge skills: Arcana, Folklore, Heraldry, History, or Nature. When you gain training with the selected skill, it gains a +5 bonus, rather than a +3 bonus. This bonus can be improved up to a maximum of +9, rather than a maximum of +7.
Elven Grace: Once per encounter, you can disengage without spending an action. Doing so costs 20 feet of movement.


HALFLING TRAITS
Ability Score Adjustment: Select either Dexterity, Constitution, or Charisma. Your starting selected ability score increases by 1.
Size: Small
Speed: 25 feet.
Agile Step: You can move through the spaces of hostile creatures that are larger than you.
Bravery: Whenever you are frightened and take an action to Disengage, Dodge, Hide, or Hustle, you can end the frightening effect on yourself before you take the action.
Nimble Escape: Once per turn, you can attempt to escape a grab without spending an action. Doing so costs 5 feet of movement.
Uncanny Elusion: Opportunity attacks made against you cannot have advantage.
Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common and Halfling.

HALFLING OPTIONS:

At character creation, select one of the following traits:
Halfling Fortune: Once per encounter, you can reroll an attack roll, check, or saving throw and use either result. If you have advantage or disadvantage on the roll, you reroll only one of the dice.
Natural Stealth: You can attempt to hide even when you are obscured only by a creature that is at least one size category larger than you.
Ranged Training: When you make a ranged attack with a finesse weapon or a simple missile weapon with which you are proficient, the damage die for that weapon increases by one step.

HUMAN TRAITS

Ability Score Adjustment: One starting ability score of your choice increases by 1.
Size: Medium
Speed: 30 feet
Endeavor: When you have advantage on any roll and you roll the same number on both d20, you can reroll one of the d20.
Flexibility: When a class grants you an ability adjustment, you can apply the adjustment to any ability of your choice.
Heroism: When you make an attack roll, you can always reroll a natural 1. When you force a target to make a saving throw, you can always force it to reroll a natural 20.
Humanity: When you help another creature, the creature can instead gain advantage for the next relevant attack roll or saving throw that it makes before your next turn.
Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common and one other language of your choice.

HUMAN OPTIONS:

At character creation, select one of the following traits:
Human Spirit: Once per encounter, you can help another creature as part of another action.
Sword Training: When you make an attack with a sword with which you are proficient, the damage die for that weapon increases by one step.
Versatility: You gain training in one additional skill of your choice.


Now, there are A LOT of different topics to cover here, so let's just tackle them one by one. Let's say alphabetically:

Advantage

I worry very much about the advantage mechanic, not because I think that it's a bad mechanic but because I think that it's going to be overused. Because of that, I don't think that granting advantage should be something that racial features should do. Advantage shouldn't be something that's always-on for a character in any situation, at least not without training, which race cannot provide (more on that later). Rather should be something that is gained through circumstance.

Plus, using advantage over and over again is just lazy. We can come up with a lot more ways to grant a bonus. A static number (example: "+2 bonus"), a rolled bonus (example: "+1d4 bonus"), rerolling (example: "you can reroll once" or "you can reroll results below 5"), and more (example: "treat results below 10 as being 10") are fantastic ways to vary how bonuses are handled. Plus, mixing up how bonuses are granted keeps them from becoming redundant if they won't stack with other bonuses gained by the character later on.

Granted, only one of the races currently uses advantage as a mechanic, and they have changed up other examples, but this is still something I wanted to bring up because it seems like the sort of thing that homebrew races in general will overuse.

Cultural vs. Race

One problem rampant in the current design convention is a conflation of cultural features with innate racial features. The problem with conflating the two is that it causes problems for games where races do not necessarily adhere to their stereotypical cultures (example: dinosaur-riding Halfling barbarians in Eberron) or where a character should have no reason to be a part of their race's stereotypical culture (example: "my elf was raised by dwarves").

There are numerous examples of this in the current races, weapon training and skill training being the primary offenders. In cases such as these, I understand that there's a desire to have a race's mechanics back up themes discussed in their flavor, but making those themes mandatory is just too detrimental to too many characters and too many games, so why not just make them optional? Giving every race a set of options allows us to include culturally-specific features alongside more general features so that players can select the features that are most appropriate for their specific character. In this way, only features with represent innate, immutable aspects of a race are made mandatory. It's a win-win situation. You get your bonus damage with Hammers, and I get to pick something else that actually makes sense for my Dwarf raised by Elves to have.

I want to call racial skill training specifically here too. There's not necessarily anything wrong with saying that a race is better at a particular skill, but lets remember that training itself is supposed to represent actual training, so it makes little sense for any race to be trained in any skill as an inherent part of their being. In these sorts of cases, either a different sort of skill bonus should be considered or the feature should be moved to the optional list.

Excitement

The races are currently… how to I put this?… Boring. Especially the Human. They just in general present very little to get excited about. Race is supposed to be one of the pillars of character creation, but even Background and Specialty, which are a hell of a lot newer, are better at providing exciting mechanics than the current races are. Now, to be fair, a lot of people like for their races to be boring. Why? I will never know. But there must be some way to spice races up a bit for the people who want to. To that effect, I have added features to the optional list reminiscent of 4E's racial encounter powers. Players who want their characters to have something race-evocative to do in battle can select those options, while players who don't want them can select something else more static.

The biggest thing that I want to discuss is the Human. The Human in its current incarnation has a lot of issues, but the biggest one is that it's so damn boring. The best way to fix the Human, to put it on the same level as the other races, is to do exactly the same thing that we do with the other races: give it its own, unique racial features. Now, because it's Human that we're talking about here, those features have to be very general, but I think that what I've come up with so far should be about right in spirit without forcing additional option paralysis with more skills and feats as has been done in the past.

Mechanical Pigeon-Holing

I don't have much to say here other than what's already been covered by the above comment on Culture. This is just its mechanical version. Racial pigeon-holing occurs when racial traits are only useful to a limited number of mechanical options. The biggest example is racial weapon training, which is only useful for weapon-using classes but still counts against a race's trait "budget".

Again, though, as was the case with cultural features, moving these traits to the optional list means that races do still keep their stereotypical leans without making those features mandatory. It's a win-win situation. You get your bonus damage with Hammers, and I get to pick something else that my Dwarven Wizard can actually use.

NOTE: For many of these issues I understand that not everybody thinks it's a problem, but if you are willing to acknowledge and accept that other people do, then I think you will see that having option lists would be the best way to get everybody want they want.

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!
Yes and no.  I rather them keep sub-races in the PHB as they stand.  I do think that stuff needs to be moved around quite abit though.  I see weapon related stuff being more of a sub-race (culture) thing.  In my opinion, WotC just needs to get the distribution between racial and sub-racial entries right. 

I think the current setup will appeal to a wider variety of players between editions.  However, I can see an optional module that allows some more options (trading this for that) being included for additional appeal for what is generally fans of the newer editions. 
I rather them keep sub-races in the PHB as they stand.

This was actually something that I was meaning to write something short about but forgot to. The question that I have about sub-races is: What is the point of sub-races? It seems to me that, despite the fluff used to justify them, their point is entirely mechanical as a vehicle exactly to deliver optional racial features. The mistake that I think they make with sub-races as they currently exist is twofold:

1) They group things together rather than just allowing them to be split up. They're packages of options rather than individual options. Why shouldn't I be able to make a Dwarf with a racial Wisdom bonus but with the Dwarven Toughness feature? You could say that this is similar to Backgrounds and Specialties, which also package together options, but the difference is that both of those come out and tell you "These are just example packages that you can use if you feel lazy; feel free to make up your own if you like through whatever other combination of existing options.". Sub-races, on the other hand, as they currently stand, are unnecessarily more rigid.

2) By tying the word "Sub-race" to them, the developers have obfuscated the actual point of the mechanic. It appears as though its a mechanical representation of the fluff concept of differing cultures within a race, but what it actually is, like I said before, is a vehicle exactly to deliver optional racial features. The problem with this is that it actually hinders them from presenting those options in a varied way, which is what leads to the initial problem.

What I did here wasn't eliminate sub-races. I just "cut through the crap" so to speak to do what sub-races were actually meant to do, offer alternative mechanical options without needing to add any flavor baggage to the design by the developers or the decision by the players.

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!
I agree with your idea behind the races presented here.

The 'genetic' qualities of a race should be non-variable.  Such as ability score changed, senses, speed, and what have you.  Leaving the 'options' as cultural/subrace choices.

The exact mechanics would need to be tested, but I understand where you are coming from. 
I rather them keep sub-races in the PHB as they stand.

This was actually something that I was meaning to write something short about but forgot to. The question that I have about sub-races is: What is the point of sub-races? It seems to me that, despite the fluff used to justify them, their point is entirely mechanical as a vehicle exactly to deliver optional racial features. The mistake that I think they make with sub-races as they currently exist is twofold:

1) They group things together rather than just allowing them to be split up. They're packages of options rather than individual options. Why shouldn't I be able to make a Dwarf with a racial Wisdom bonus but with the Dwarven Toughness feature? You could say that this is similar to Backgrounds and Specialties, which also package together options, but the difference is that both of those come out and tell you "These are just example packages that you can use if you feel lazy; feel free to make up your own if you like through whatever other combination of existing options.". Sub-races, on the other hand, as they currently stand, are unnecessarily more rigid.

2) By tying the word "Sub-race" to them, the developers have obfuscated the actual point of the mechanic. It appears as though its a mechanical representation of the fluff concept of differing cultures within a race, but what it actually is, like I said before, is a vehicle exactly to deliver optional racial features. The problem with this is that it actually hinders them from presenting those options in a varied way, which is what leads to the initial problem.

What I did here wasn't eliminate sub-races. I just "cut through the crap" so to speak to do what sub-races were actually meant to do, offer alternative mechanical options without needing to add any flavor baggage to the design by the developers or the decision by the players.



There are differing opinions of the "selection" of races in the game.  Some feel that players should be able to pick the "genetic" make up of a race.  Others feel that a DM has the final say on the make up of the race. 

The race should provide the basic makeup for the race.  For example, an elf should have pointy ears, keen senses and lowlight vision.  These are just things that make a DnD elf a DnD elf.  It gives common ground between groups and to a degree that new customer that might want to play DnD.  While some groups might disagree with this, most groups should be able to live with it. 

To add variety, a subrace should outline more cultural variances.  For example, an elf from Eberron would have a bump for using scimitars instead of longswords.  It's part of the Eberron elven culture.  This is where DM customization comes into play.  Here, he should define what is elven culture in his game world. 

In short, it is overall easier for a DM, at least a newer DM, to take a subrace entry and concentrate on making a unique cultural flavor for his or her game world.  Now some players want to get into the mix and define their own version of elf.  I do think that some options should be presented as an optional module that allow some swapping out.  Keeping it out of the "core" rules however allow for a more traditional game to exist; while still allowing for differing (more modern?) options.
I think abanathie's criticism is valid. I think there should be some default subraces which traditionally exist. Some DMs will want that, and others will want to devise their own subraces. I think these rules try to mix things up and make the abilities more engaging. The dwarf stability seems a bit too wordy. I don't know how to fix that. I like swordplay elves. It's a bit odd to me that humans would get it. But, something I really like is the idea of one race raised by another. A halfling raised by dwarves could grab the dwarven optionals. I don't know if that customization was intentional, but I dig it.
"What's stupid is when people decide that X is true - even when it is demonstrable untrue or 100% against what we've said - and run around complaining about that. That's just a breakdown of basic human reasoning." -Mike Mearls
Crimson,

Your ideas on races are always well thought and appreciated.  Thank you.

The one area I would disagree with is your nature vs. nurture stance, specifically with learned skills.  If you grow up in a wild elf tribe in some forest, and everyone around you hunts for squirrels and deer, then you're going to "learn" to use a bow before using a two handed hammer.  Same is true for a dwarf.  If they mine all the time, they are used to swinging picks.  That's a two handed skill, practiced over and over and over. 

I realize you don't want them mandatory.  But, how about this?  How about making sure these races have skills that benefit many different classses.  For example, a dwarf might make a good two-handed fighter in the beginning, but as he continues adventuring and discovering how to apply the skills he learned as a youth to his adventuring carrer, he might become a better wizard at a later level.  Then, he learns to apply skills he learned from his homeland to make him a better thief at an even later level. 

As for genetics, I would rather them simply have distinct features, much like humans, and not have any innate ability bonuses.  Let it all be culture.  You want thin elves, then explain that their diet is largely comprised of veggies.  You want hardy dwarves.  Fine.  Explain that the physical demands of their environment and the jobs they choose.  This way, there is no stronger race toward any class.
In short, it is overall easier for a DM, at least a newer DM, to take a subrace entry and concentrate on making a unique cultural flavor for his or her game world.

I'm not sure that I agree with that. What would be the easiest for a DM, certainly a newer DM, would be not to feel any need to make any mechanical modifications whatsoever. If the basics of the races are general enough that they can apply just as well to whatever cultural variations somebody could come up with, then worrying about sub-race becomes a non-issue. In other words, alternative sub-races are only a problem if there are any sub-races to begin with.

I like swordplay elves. It's a bit odd to me that humans would get it.

Humans and swords are totally a thing, so much so that it's led to [tvtropes warning] this trope. We as humans have a general cultural preference towards swords.

The one area I would disagree with is your nature vs. nurture stance, specifically with learned skills.  If you grow up in a wild elf tribe in some forest, and everyone around you hunts for squirrels and deer, then you're going to "learn" to use a bow before using a two handed hammer.  Same is true for a dwarf.  If they mine all the time, they are used to swinging picks.  That's a two handed skill, practiced over and over and over.

That doesn't sound like you disagree with me at all. Just flip it around now. If a Human or Dwarf grows up in a wild elf tribe in some forest, and everyone around them hunts for squirrels and deer, then they're going to "learn" to use a bow before using a two handed hammer, physical race being irrelevant.  Same is true for a dwarf.  If a Human or Elf raised among Dwarves mines all the time, they are used to swinging picks. That's a two handed skill, practiced over and over and over. This is plainly nurture, not nature.

But, how about this? How about making sure these races have skills that benefit many different classses.

Well, yes, that's part of the goal here. All of the mandatory default features are ones that benefit characters of any class or role, and all option sets include at least one option beneficial to characters or any class or role.

As for genetics, I would rather them simply have distinct features, much like humans, and not have any innate ability bonuses. Let it all be culture.

Is that possibility not covered by granting various options for those bonuses? I mean, as soon as a bonus starts being option, it stops being something that all members of a race must conform to.

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!
That, good sir, is a trap I refuse to fall for.
"What's stupid is when people decide that X is true - even when it is demonstrable untrue or 100% against what we've said - and run around complaining about that. That's just a breakdown of basic human reasoning." -Mike Mearls
Two things:

I agree with your idea and rules to cover the "dwarf growing up with wood elves."  I thought it was implied.  If not, I'll try to be clearer next time.  As for attribute bonuses, somewhere I must have other opinions that seep up and make me not like them at all.  So my thought has always been to negate them in the first place.  To me, they just make class bloat persist, skew attribute curves, and pigeon hole NPC's and players.  That's just MHO.

Also, could you please extrapolate on what you mean by racial training?  From what I get out of the paragraph you want it negated or changed because it means they are actually "training" in it.  If racial training means what I think it means, I would ask you to remember that sometimes we are taught skills in our youth, even as young as 1 and 2, that eventually carry over and applied to adult skills.  Language being one of them.  How many times have you heard people make fun of Chinese adults because they can't pronounce their "r's."  We learn it from the get go.  Or rolling your r's in Spanish.  I still can't do it.  Certain tribes have their youths play games that involve a very specific skill set, like knot tying or running while balancing a small wooden ball on your head.  Later, that skill set comes in handy when they have to build a shelter or run up and down canyons with their heads held up straight.  
I like the ides of dividing a race into traits (which are physical) and options (which are cultural).  It makes it easy to have a dwarf raised by elves.  I think, however, that Language should be in the Option category.  Basically, most people will choose both the Traits and Options for their race, but if you want an orphan scenario, You get the traits of your birth raace and options of your adoptive race.

I also note that you make a lot of references to Skill checks.  The playtest tries to reference Ability checks.  So, for instance, the elven trait Keen Senses should probably be written as "Keen Senses: Whenever you make an Ability check to notice hidden or concealed creatures or objects, roll an additional 1d4 and add its result to the total."

I note your options can probably be made more uniform by giving each race the following categories of Options:
Ability Check: Each race learns certain techniques that given them a bonus to specific types of Ability checks.  
Weapon Proficiency: Each race has specific weapons in which they train.
Advantage: Each race gets automatic advantage, or eliminates disadvantage, in specific situations. (Personally, I prefer the Options that eliminate disadvantage.  I agree the game is making it too easy to get advantage.)

Great proposal!
@penandpaper2: That is all true, but unless we want to introduce hybrid cultural rules (egads that would be messy), it would be best to have a characters "upbringing" be separate from their "race", which is what the OP is designing into the model.

Dwarves are great at hammers not because of their stature, but because much of their typical society is based around crafting with metal and stone. Granted, I always felt dwarves should have picks instead of axes as a favored weapon, but it's prolly a tad late to force that into any core rules. Any character raised by dwarves would have a similar disposition for dwarven cultural weapons.

Now, elves are a bit of a different story, IMO. The elven skill with bows (to me) is more of a function of their keener senses, so I would give them a bonus on ranges with projectile weapons instead of bumping the damage. Not all "racial weapons" need to be a boost in damage dice.

Off topic, but I'd love to see certain weapons give boosts to certain manuevers, even if it is a simple as "brutal 1" with axes when using Deadly Strike.

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Now, elves are a bit of a different story, IMO. The elven skill with bows (to me) is more of a function of their keener senses, so I would give them a bonus on ranges with projectile weapons instead of bumping the damage. Not all "racial weapons" need to be a boost in damage dice.



Considering an elven forest settlement, bows are one of the best (if not 'the best') weapons on a forest. Endless supply of raw material to craft it, better range than a spear, multiplies our strength... - Besides, considering elven keen senses, there's no reason why they shouldn't be prime shooters.

What should be considered is that, if an elf grows among dwarves, he'll have pick/hammer proficiency instead of bow proficiency.

Physical advantages already lend themselves to making elves/dwarves better at some weapons. A dwarf's higher strength will make him better at hitting with a heavy weapon or weapons that require strength to wield, such as warhammers. That said, elven ability to spot better or higher dex will make him a better ranged combatant (be it with bows or darts).

Please, leave at least one race without things to track after character creation.

Not everybody like having X happens when Y happens all over their character sheets.
Traditionally, humans are there for these people.

If you think my english is bad, just wait until you see my spanish and my italian. Defiling languages is an art.

From what I get out of the paragraph you want it negated or changed because it means they are actually "training" in it.  If racial training means what I think it means, I would ask you to remember that sometimes we are taught skills in our youth, even as young as 1 and 2, that eventually carry over and applied to adult skills.  Language being one of them.  How many times have you heard people make fun of Chinese adults because they can't pronounce their "r's."  We learn it from the get go.  Or rolling your r's in Spanish.  I still can't do it.  Certain tribes have their youths play games that involve a very specific skill set, like knot tying or running while balancing a small wooden ball on your head.  Later, that skill set comes in handy when they have to build a shelter or run up and down canyons with their heads held up straight.

I understand all of this perfectly. In fact, this is exactly my point. I'm not sure what the disconnect is that we're having here. I just take this to its logical conclusion. If a feature is not representative of some part of a race's innate biology but rather representative of some part of its stereotypical culture, then it cannot be mandatory because it fails to account for campaign settings with different stereotypical cultures for each race or for different characters who may not have grown up in their race's stereotypical culture. I'm not taking "training" to mean somebody going out of their way to train but rather to mean an edge that a person has because of their experience rather than innate talent.

Let me try to give an example. Let's pretend that a group of Elves are wandering the forest and find the remains of a Dwarven caravan that was ambushed by Orcs. Among the dead bodies, they find that one Dwarf is still alive, a newborn baby. Learning that the caravan was from a far away land and being unable to get in touch with their kin, the Elves adopt the baby Dwarf. In this scenario, the Dwarf does not grow up in Dwarven society and thus should not have as mandatory any features which would be reflective of that. Sure, the Dwarf's innate biology will make him stout, give him a good immune system, and even grant him a supernatural connection with the earth. But, he's going to be exactly as proficient with hammers as the Elves that he grew up with, likely favoring the bows that his adoptive family uses, and he's not going to learn about Dungeoneering but rather about Nature and the Arcane. The "raised among another race" trope is not an uncommon one, and the only way for it to be effectively realized by the mechanics is to remove as mandatory features that represent socially learn aspects of stereotypical culture.

Given a real-world analogy, it's not like a Chinese baby adopted by Mexican parents and growing up in Mexico is going to have any trouble at all rolling their R's. They're far more likely to have great difficultly learning Chinese later on in life, with its complex system of intonations.

Giving a different kind of example, mandatory cultural features become a problem when you try to create settings where a race's culture isn't the same as it typically is. Let's say, for example, that I create a setting where Elves are natives of the Valley of Mist, which true to its name is constantly covered in a thick blanket of mist. Elves of this culture would never favor bows because ranged weaponry is so difficult to make effective when everything beyond a certain distance is constantly concealed. Archery is simply not something that children would grow up seeing or learning how to use, so it makes little sense for these Elves to have any special ability with bows.

I think, however, that Language should be in the Option category.

This makes sense. I think that the best wording change, though, may just be to have them each say something like:
Languages: Dwarves can typically speak, read, and write Common and Dwarven.
This leaves it in abut the same category as average height and weight where there are no real limitations, only suggestions. "Typically" leaves plenty of room open for atypical characters to justify alternative language knowledge.

I also note that you make a lot of references to Skill checks.  The playtest tries to reference Ability checks.  So, for instance, the elven trait Keen Senses should probably be written as "Keen Senses: Whenever you make an Ability check to notice hidden or concealed creatures or objects, roll an additional 1d4 and add its result to the total."

Sure, that works.

I note your options can probably be made more uniform by giving each race the following categories of Options:
Ability Check: Each race learns certain techniques that given them a bonus to specific types of Ability checks.  
Weapon Proficiency: Each race has specific weapons in which they train.
Advantage: Each race gets automatic advantage, or eliminates disadvantage, in specific situations. (Personally, I prefer the Options that eliminate disadvantage.  I agree the game is making it too easy to get advantage.)

They way that I have them set up actually is somewhat uniform but just in a different way. They all have one option that is an encounter ability, another option that is a weapon proficiency, and another "wildcard" option that could represent something either innate or related to cultural-learning depending on how you want to look at it. Like I said before, though, I want to avoid races giving advantage just because of my views on what advantage is supposed to represent and because I think that recycling advantage over and over again lacks creativity.

Please, leave at least one race without things to track after character creation.
Not everybody like having X happens when Y happens all over their character sheets.
Traditionally, humans are there for these people.

If you are such a person, then you are the first such person I've ever met. I commonly hear that Humans have traditionally been the most boring race just because they hardly every did anything exciting or dynamic or unique. If you have any ideas, though, on how to make them exciting, dynamic, and unique without giving them the same kind of conditional or active benefits that other classes get, then I'm all ears.

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 you are such a person, then you are the first such person I've ever met.



Second.  I kind of liked being able to pretty much ignore my character's race after character creation.  One of my complaints about 4e was that it made race far too big a deal.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
Huh. Well then, I guess I'm open to suggestions. How do we allow the Human the possibility of being dynamic and exciting for those that want that while still being bland and boring for those who are into that kind of thing? Is it possible to construct a non-optional feature that could be either depending on how it's played? Or can it oly be done by giving the Human multiple different sets of options? And what static features could be greanted to the Human that are thematically appropriate but that don't require an outside system to function, as is the problem with bonus skills or bonus feats?

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!
Please, leave at least one race without things to track after character creation.
Not everybody like having X happens when Y happens all over their character sheets.
Traditionally, humans are there for these people.

If you are such a person, then you are the first such person I've ever met. I commonly hear that Humans have traditionally been the most boring race just because they hardly every did anything exciting or dynamic or unique. If you have any ideas, though, on how to make them exciting, dynamic, and unique without giving them the same kind of conditional or active benefits that other classes get, then I'm all ears.


I'm also one such person and know several such people who play humans for just that reason.

In your schema, I would make humans as follows:
HUMAN TRAITS
Ability Score Adjustment: Two starting Ability scores of your choice each increase by 1.
Size: Medium
Speed: 30 feet
Versatility: You gain training in one additional skill of your choice.

HUMAN OPTIONS:

Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common and one other language of your choice.
Human Options: At character creation, select one of the following traits:
• Human Ability: Once every ten minutes, you may reroll any Ability check.  
• Human Advantage: When you have disadvantage on an Ability check, you roll three d20 and use the middle value of the three dice.

• Human Arms: You gain training in one weapon of your choice.  You may instead choose to be proficient in armor one category heavier than you would otherwise be proficient, or in shields one category heavier than you would otherwise be proficient.

People who want a "set it and forget it" human would choose "human arms" as their option.
I'm wondering whether this is really something that the Human specifically should be concerned with. After all, if somebody's desire is to play a race with no dynamic features beyond character creation, then why should they need to be restricted to Human? Just because they don't want to deal with complex mechanics doesn't mean they don't want to role-play different things. In this sense, I don't think that there's anything wrong with this Human any more than I think that there's anything wrong with any of the other races. They just don't suit your playstyles, but I think that there must be a way to fix that without limiting your race selection options. It almost sounds like the only real solution to this is to go for an alternate module where all races have their features kept to a minimum.

DWARF TRAITS
+1 Con, Str, or Wis
Medium, 30 speed.
Durable as a bonus feat
+2 Dungeoneering, +2 Search

ELF TRAITS
+1 Dex, Int, or Cha
Medium, 30 speed.
Arcane Initiate as a bonus feat
+2 Listen, +2 Spot

HALFLING TRAITS
+1 Dex, Con, or Cha
Small, 30 speed.
Master Sneak as a bonus feat
+2 Perform, +2 Tumble

HUMAN TRAITS
+1 any ability score
Medium, 30 speed.
Improved Initiative as a bonus feat
+2 Gather Rumors, +2 Profession

Hmm... but then that necessitates that everybody play the boring version to be balanced even though not everybody may want to, which should also be viable... Hmm...

In your schema, I would make humans as follows:

The problem isn't with the "Options" section. It's trivially easy to make sure that there's an option there that appeals to the "create and forget" crowd. In fact, the bonus skill I currently offer there covers just that. The problem is the other stuff, giving them enough other stuff that they're actually still viable compared to all of the other stuff that all of the races get but without taking an approach similar to the uncreative and thematically questionable cop-out that we have now with the "+1 to all ability scores" solution.

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!
I'm wondering whether this is really something that the Human specifically should be concerned with.


Traditionally, human has been that race.  But if all races can have a "set it and forget it" setting, the more the merrier.

DWARF TRAITS
+1 Con, Str, or Wis
Medium, 30 speed.
Durable as a bonus feat
+2 Dungeoneering, +2 Search

ELF TRAITS
+1 Dex, Int, or Cha
Medium, 30 speed.
Arcane Initiate as a bonus feat
+2 Listen, +2 Spot

HALFLING TRAITS
+1 Dex, Con, or Cha
Small, 30 speed.
Master Sneak as a bonus feat
+2 Perform, +2 Tumble

HUMAN TRAITS
+1 any ability score
Medium, 30 speed.
Improved Initiative as a bonus feat
+2 Gather Rumors, +2 Profession


Please stop giving people Skill bonuses.  Skills don't work that way anymore.  Everything should be a bonus to categories of checks.

DWARF: You gain a +2 bonus to all Ability checks to navigating underground, assessing construction and traps involving stonework, and appraising stones, precious metal, gems, and jewels.  You also gain 5 hp.

ELF: You gain a +2 bonus to Ability checks for detecting hidden objects or creatures, and have the ability to detect magical items and effects (but not what they do) by concentrating for ten minutes on an object or in an area.

HALFLING: You gain a +2 bonus to Ability checks related to any fine motor skills or being sneaky

HUMAN: You gain a +2 bonus to Ability checks related to making a first impression, and a +2 to intiiative rolls

The problem is these are conditional abilities that require tracking.  These are if...then... operations.

The problem is the other stuff, giving them enough other stuff that they're actually still viable compared to all of the other stuff that all of the races get but without taking an approach similar to the uncreative and thematically questionable cop-out that we have now with the "+1 to all ability scores" solution.


Yes, that's the problem.  That's the problem because there are so few things you need to do at character creation.  You basically get Ability scores, Skills, weapon proficiencies, armor proficiencies, movement, vision, a class, background, and a speciality, and the background and specialty are optional!

So there's not a lot of wiggle room for a "set it and forget" race.
I pretty much agree with most of what Crimson Concerto said about weapons and languages.

Something that worries me a bit is the ability bonus. I mean, I can understand physical abilities bonus. Dwarven biology makes them tougher and naturally stronger. Same for elves, being so lithe and agile because they're in full control of their body reactions and perception.

What I don't quite get it is how Mental Abilities (Int, Wis, Cha) are possibly bred into a race. I could make an argument for Intelligence, saying that perhaps elves brains are capable of faster responses than human brains. Even so, what of Wisdom and Charisma, abilities way more subjective.
I have no problem, and in fact prefer that races DO have "racial weapons" that they receive extras for using. This helps DMs and players who are starting out, and truly shows the generic type of upbringing that one would recieve in these communities.

That being said, I would love to see a Background option where you could choose "Raised By ... " and trade off the weapon extras and other social extras for ones of a different race.

For those that want weapons, alignment restrictions, etc etc to be Optional, why not put those entries in the Race or Class writeup in a box with a different shading, and label these boxes at the beginning of the book as being "Options"? That way when you are reading an entry you see the box and know "My DM doesnt use weapon options for race, so I can ignore that line."
I pretty much agree with most of what Crimson Concerto said about weapons and languages.

Something that worries me a bit is the ability bonus. I mean, I can understand physical abilities bonus. Dwarven biology makes them tougher and naturally stronger. Same for elves, being so lithe and agile because they're in full control of their body reactions and perception.

What I don't quite get it is how Mental Abilities (Int, Wis, Cha) are possibly bred into a race. I could make an argument for Intelligence, saying that perhaps elves brains are capable of faster responses than human brains. Even so, what of Wisdom and Charisma, abilities way more subjective.



It is a case of Nurture vs Nature in the cases of (Int, Wis, I think Cha is a different animal, depending on how you fall in the Charisma vs. Comeliness argument). A particular society may place more emphasis on learning than another society does. It may be that the society trains their young from an early age to think critically, or to treasure knowledge, etc etc. This would not apply evenly to everyone in the society (thus different scores for those abilities), but generally the inhabitants would be better in that area than normal.
@prowlersvn

At the risk of taking this thread off topic, I'll just mention that there will need to be some easily visible way to distinguish between the core game and the beginning modules in the initial materials for 5e. That's all I'll say on the matter.
..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />It is a case of Nurture vs Nature in the cases of (Int, Wis, I think Cha is a different animal, depending on how you fall in the Charisma vs. Comeliness argument). A particular society may place more emphasis on learning than another society does. It may be that the society trains their young from an early age to think critically, or to treasure knowledge, etc etc. This would not apply evenly to everyone in the society (thus different scores for those abilities), but generally the inhabitants would be better in that area than normal.



I see charisma as "social strength and finesse" (that is, presence and manipulation - if you get me... ).

Anything strictly non-biological will fall under the "cultural" zone, which is no solid grounding for hard and fast rules.

Wisdom as it's presented, is awareness, both sensorial and spiritual. Charisma being strength of personality and social aptitude.
These two things are socially constructed.

Peeeeeeeeeeeeerhaps backgrounds should have a Mental-stat bonus...



Please stop giving people Skill bonuses. Skills don't work that way anymore.

People keep saying this, but I maintain that I see no relevant difference between the ways that skills work now and the ways that they have worked in the past. Either way, I'd prefer to keep that debate out of this thread, so if you prefer, think of it more of a rough example, which is really what it was more meant to be anyway.

Yes, that's the problem.  That's the problem because there are so few things you need to do at character creation.  You basically get Ability scores, Skills, weapon proficiencies, armor proficiencies, movement, vision, a class, background, and a speciality, and the background and specialty are optional!

So there's not a lot of wiggle room for a "set it and forget" race.

That being the case, it seems almost not worth it to worry about trying to create a Human that fits the "create and forget" model. Even when you get down to certain things like bonus feats, what's the difference between having a situational feat that the player will need to remember and a situational unique racial trait that the players will need to remember? The only differences are that the latter actually serves to set the race apart in a unique way and requires less work at character creation because it doesn't demand that one read every feat to figure out which one they'd like, especially relevant to D&D Next considering that Specialties are there to avoid that very problem.

What I don't quite get it is how Mental Abilities (Int, Wis, Cha) are possibly bred into a race.

The simple answer is that those are all functions of how the brain processes consciousness. We don't see it appreciably in the real world because the vast majority of Humans have brains that would function essentially identically given identical circumstances, but that won't necessarily be the case with fantasy races. As their bodies differ at a biological, genetic level, so do their brains and therefore the ways that their brains may process consciousness. It is then not as much of a stretch to say that the different brain chemistry of Elves may allow them to grasp abstract concepts more easily on average than Humans, or to say that the different brain chemistry of Dwarves allows them to recall and apply their experiences more more aptly on average than Humans, or to say that the different brain chemistry of Halflings allows them to judge social interactions more proficiently on average than Humans.

At least, that's how I've always looked at racial mental ability score bonuses. We're discussing fantastical creatures that function appreciably differently from Humans biologically, so why should it be a stretch to imagine that they may also function appreciably different from Humans psychologically?

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!
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What I don't quite get it is how Mental Abilities (Int, Wis, Cha) are possibly bred into a race.

The simple answer is that those are all functions of how the brain processes consciousness. We don't see it appreciably in the real world because the vast majority of Humans have brains that would function essentially identically given identical circumstances, but that won't necessarily be the case with fantasy races. As their bodies differ at a biological, genetic level, so do their brains and therefore the ways that their brains may process consciousness. It is then not as much of a stretch to say that the different brain chemistry of Elves may allow them to grasp abstract concepts more easily on average than Humans, or to say that the different brain chemistry of Dwarves allows them to recall and apply their experiences more more aptly on average than Humans, or to say that the different brain chemistry of Halflings allows them to judge social interactions more proficiently on average than Humans.

At least, that's how I've always looked at racial mental ability score bonuses. We're discussing fantastical creatures that function appreciably differently from Humans biologically, so why should it be a stretch to imagine that they may also function appreciably different from Humans psychologically?




Hmmm... sure there are biological differences as well and that the brain also influences our perception and social knack. But... that would only be measurable on a race-only village.
When interacting with other races (and brains and cultures), that which makes you perceive or debate better with elves, no longer applies. what comes into play is the race's familiarity with that different context.

Crimson, I see you have a great take on this, but selling mental stats to brain functions alone doesn't quite cut with me, in the sense that I believe that cultural context has stronger influence on Wisdom and Charisma. Nonetheless, I did like your perspective.
But... that would only be measurable on a race-only village.
When interacting with other races (and brains and cultures), that which makes you perceive or debate better with elves, no longer applies. what comes into play is the race's familiarity with that different context.

That, in my opinion, would be best modeled by a temporary conditional penalty, but that isn't even necessarily required considering how small and not worth worrying about the difference should end up being. See below...

Crimson, I see you have a great take on this, but selling mental stats to brain functions alone doesn't quite cut with me, in the sense that I believe that cultural context has stronger influence on Wisdom and Charisma.

Absolutely! Cultural context is going to play a much larger role in a character's final mental ability scores than any racial bonus. That's why the bonuses work best for PC races when they are small and optional. The about it this way:

The average Dwarf has a CHA score of 10. (No Dwarves get a racial bonus to CHA)
The average Human has a CHA score of 10.167. (1/6 Humans get a +1 racial bonus to CHA)
The average Halfling has a CHA score of 10.333. (1/3 Halflings get a +1 racial bonus to CHA)

The difference there is VERY small. From the least charismatic to most charismatic races, the average difference is a mere one third of one point. That's enough to lend us to stereotypes and so on, but it's actually statistically negligible, at least certainly when compared to the other social forces (represented by die roll or point buy) that determine how a character's ability scores end up.

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!
there's not a lot of wiggle room for a "set it and forget" race.

That being the case, it seems almost not worth it to worry about trying to create a Human that fits the "create and forget" model.


Except that it is definitely desired by a large segment of the consumership.  We don't give up on soemthing because it's difficult.

Even when you get down to certain things like bonus feats, what's the difference between having a situational feat that the player will need to remember and a situational unique racial trait that the players will need to remember?


Very little, which is why the default fighter uses his XD to add to damage every turn.  nothing to remember.  no conditionals.  Just more damage.

And a simple fighter won't bother with Specialities, or at least specialties with conditional powers.  But you can't opt out of race.
Except that it is definitely desired by a large segment of the consumership.  We don't give up on soemthing because it's difficult.

We do, though, when it's impossible or unfeasible. What do we actually have to work with here?

If other races are all getting +1 to one ability score, then giving the Human anything more than +1 to one ability score of their choice strains thematic concerns. They must be Medium, they must have normal vision, and they must be the baseline for average speed, so all of those are out. Bonus feats or skills complicate character creation, so we can't go with those. What is left? Don't get me wrong, if there is a reasonable solution, then I would love to hear it and be proven wrong, but I'm skeptical that there is one. The best that I can come up with that functions on a very basic level is going to be a simple +1 bonus to attack or +1 bonus to AC or a one-time HP boost, but then those are going to lead to some serious balance questions, not to mention the many possible thematic questions.

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!
Except that it is definitely desired by a large segment of the consumership.  We don't give up on soemthing because it's difficult.

We do, though, when it's impossible or unfeasible.



Or perhaps we need to reexamine our assumptions.

Let's limit the base racial themes to those things we can keep unconditional.

So every race gets a +1 to an Ability (humans have no limit to which Ability)
Every race gets training in a skill (human have no limit to which Skill)
Every race gets some other inherent benefit, to offset the humans' customizability
DWARF: Advantage against poison
ELF: Advantage against charm/sleep
HALFLING: Advantage against fear?

Now, we put everything else in the cultural category.  So every race has a default culture, and we give the players the optional "X raised by Y" rule that lets them mix and match.  

And we give the following Culture:
UNCULTURED
You were so focused on your class that you isolated yourself entirely from your culture.  Rather than the cultual benefit of your race, you get the following benefits:
Language: You speak, read, and write Common.
Option: Choose two of the following options:
Ability Focus: Add one point to an Ability, other than one you already increased by your racial trait.
Defensive Focus: You gain proficiency in armor and shields that are one step heavier than you would otherwise be proficient in.
Health Focus: You begin the game with five additional hit points.
Offensive Focus: You gain proficiency in one weapon of your choice in which you are not otherwise proficient.
Skill Focus: You gain proficiency in one additional Skill.
Speed Focus: Increase your base speed by five feet.

There.  Now you can have a human with all sorts of conditional abilities.  It's just part of the "human culture".  Characters who want a "set and forget" characetr will take a human with an uncultured background.

My problem with this approach is that it effectively requires a trimming down of other races just so that the Human can remain boring without being underpowered. The solution to the Human's dilemma can't be "make all of the other race suck too" or else that's not a real solution in my book. Beyond that, here is one other more specific problems with that set-up:

So every race gets a +1 to an Ability (humans have no limit to which Ability)
Every race gets training in a skill (human have no limit to which Skill)
Every race gets some other inherent benefit, to offset the humans' customizability

Disregarding that I still do not believe that skill training should ever be granted as a non-optional racial feature, the third part there, where Humans get nothing and every other race get something, is going to make Humans underpowered, versatile or not. If you want to play a Human with a bonus to Dexterity and Spot, you know that you are going to be underpowered compared to the Elf that gets that and is also immune to Charms. As more and more races are introduced, the areas where the Human excels will just become areas where it's outclassed. This problem is similar to why Humans were so underplayed in 4E. Human versatility specifically cannot count as its own major feature to the degree that it becomes trivial for other races to outclass the Human.

Maybe what you propose could work given more depth, but considering that more needs to be included for other races in their non-culture sections, it still doesn't solve the problem of needing to find analogous things to give to the Human, so we're right back to square one.

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!
Let's revise your initial post with what I just wrote in mind...

DWARF TRAITS
Ability Score Adjustment: Increase one starting Ability score by 1 based on your subrace:
Mountain Dwarf: Constitution
Hill Dwarf: Wisdom
Mine Dwarf: Strength
Size: Medium
Speed: 25 feet. Your speed is not reduced by armor or encumberance.
Vision: Low-light.
Poison Resistance: You have advantage on saving throws against poison and resistance against poison damage.
DWARF CULTURE
Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common and Dwarven.
Culture Options: You may choose two of the following cultural benefits:
> Grit: Once per encounter while standing on the ground, you can spend one Hit Die, plus up to one additional Hit Dice per four levels you possess. Doing so costs 20 feet of movement.
> Hammer Training: When you make an attack with a hammer with which you are proficient, the damage die for that weapon increases by one step.

> Stability: While standing on the ground (not climbing, flying, riding, swimming, etc.), you cannot be knocked prone by an attack, unless that attack has advantage, or by failing a saving throw, unless that saving throw has disadvantage.
> Stone Cunning: You can always intuit your approximate depth underground. Additionally, you gain a +10 bonus on checks made to notice or discern creatures or objected disguised as stone.
> Sure-Footed: While wearing no armor or while wearing light or medium armor with which you have proficiency, you ignore difficult terrain that is rubble, uneven stone, or earth.

> Superstition: You cannot have disadvantage on saving throws against magical effects.

ELF TRAITS

Ability Score Adjustment: Increase one starting Ability score by 1, depending on your subrace:
Wood elf: Dexterity
High elf: Intelligence
Grey elf: Wisdom
Size: Medium
Speed: 30 feet
Vision: Low-light.
Charm Resistance: You have advantage on saving throws against charm or sleep and resistance against psychic damage.  If affected by a an effect that would inpose sleep, you instead are unconscious.
Trance: You do not sleep. Instead or sleeping, you meditate deeply; the Common word for such meditation is "Trance". After resting in this way for 4 hours, you gain the same benefit that a Human does from 8 hours of sleep.
ELF CULTURE
Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common and Elven.
Culture Options: You can choose two of the following cultural benefits:
> Bow Training: When you make an attack with a bow with which you are proficient, the damage die for that weapon increases by one step.
> Field of Study: You gain a +2 bonus to Ability check srelated to one of the following areas of study (your choice): Arcane Lord, Folklore, Heraldry, History, or Nature. 
> Practiced Grace: Once per encounter, you can disengage without spending an action. Doing so costs 20 feet of movement.
> Trained Senses: Whenever you make a check to find hidden or concealed creatures or objects, roll an additional 1d4 and add its result to the total.


HALFLING TRAITS
Ability Score Adjustment: Incease one starting Ability score by 1, dependingon your subrace:
Lightfoot: Dexterity
Stout: Constitution
Tallfellow: Charisma
Size: Small. You can move through the spaces of hostile creatures that are larger than you.
Speed: 25 feet.
Fear Resistance: Whenever you are frightened and take an action to Disengage, Dodge, Hide, or Hustle, you can end the frightening effect on yourself before you take the action.
HALFLING CULTURE
Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common and Halfling.
Culture Options: You may choose two of the following cultural benefits:
> Luck of the Halfling: Once per encounter, you can reroll an attack roll, check, or saving throw and use either result. If you have advantage or disadvantage on the roll, you reroll only one of the dice.
> Nimble Escape: Once per turn, you can attempt to escape a grab without spending an action. Doing so costs 5 feet of movement.
> Practiced Stealth: You can attempt to hide even when you are obscured only by a creature that is at least one size category larger than you.
> Ranged Training: When you make a ranged attack with a finesse weapon or a simple missile weapon with which you are proficient, the damage die for that weapon increases by one step.
> Uncanny Elusion: Opportunity attacks made against you cannot have advantage.

HUMAN TRAITS

Ability Score Adjustment: One starting ability score of your choice increases by 1.
Size: Medium
Speed: 30 feet
Skillful: Gain training in one Skill of your choice.
HUMAN CULTURE
Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common and one other language of your choice.
Culture Options: You may choose two of the following culture benefits:
> Endeavor: When you have advantage on any roll and you roll the same number on both d20, you can reroll one of the d20.
> Heroism: When you make an attack roll, you can always reroll a natural 1. When you force a target to make a saving throw, you can always force it to reroll a natural 20.
> Humanity: When you help another creature, the creature can instead gain advantage for the next relevant attack roll or saving throw that it makes before your next turn.
> Human Spirit: Once per encounter, you can help another creature as part of another action.
> Weapon Training: Choose a weapon in which you are proficient. When you make an attack with that weapon, the damage die for that weapon increases by one step.

Optional Rule: Raised by Another
As an option, your character may be born in one race raised by another race.  Do not take any of the benefits listed under your race's "Culture" and instead take the cultural benefits of the race that raised your  character.

Optional Rule: Uncultured
As an option, your character may have grown up isolated form any culture.  If you choose this option, do not take any of the benefits listed under your race's "Culture".  Instead, replace your race's culture with the following culture: 

UNCULTURED
Language: You speak, read, and write Common.
Option: Choose two of the following options:
> Ability Focus: Add one point to an Ability, other than one you already increased by your racial trait.
> Defensive Focus: You gain proficiency in armor and shields that are one step heavier than you would otherwise be proficient in.
> Health Focus: You begin the game with five additional hit points.
> Offensive Focus: You gain proficiency in one weapon of your choice in which you are not otherwise proficient.
> Skill Focus: You gain proficiency in one additional Skill.
> Speed Focus: Increase your base speed by five feet.
My major issue with that is that it puts traits that are not cultural under the cultural banner. Dwarven Stability and arguably Stone-Cunning, for example, are not cultural features but rather innate traits that "Raised by Another" should not make selectable... The only way that I can immediately think of to fix that would be to add two separate categories of options, but then that just brings on the complexity and still leaves us back at square one with what to give Humans... I'm sorry, but I'm just not willing to scrifice the thematic integrity of other races just for the sake of making the Human boring. There must be a better way.

Also, unless you move armored unencumbrance to the optional category, what you can Sure-Footed would need to be a default in order to avoid the issue of pigeon-holing; that feature is there exactly so that all Dwarves get a movement bonus no matter what kind of armor they wear.

EDIT: Maybe the answer, and I feared this, is to once again go with non-parallel design for the Human. For example, other races get a bunch of default features and then an additional option from a list, but Humans get a bunch of options from a much longer list or even multiple mutually-exclusive lists for options to be picked from. It can lead to some messy situations, but it seems like the best course of action to take right now...

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!
I'm just not willing to scrifice the thematic integrity of other races just for the sake of making the Human boring. There must be a better way.


Good luck.  Because if your system doesn't offer a static race, it's never going to be incorporated in the game.  There is a need for a static race and the designers clearly are searching for the best way to deliver it.

EDIT: Maybe the answer, and I feared this, is to once again go with non-parallel design for the Human. For example, other races get a bunch of default features and then an additional option from a list, but Humans get a bunch of options from a much longer list or even multiple mutually-exclusive lists for options to be picked from. It can lead to some messy situations, but it seems like the best course of action to take right now...


Possibly.  i look forward to your next proposal!
Cool ideas there Wrecan!
My two copper.
The only way that I can immediately think of to fix that would be to add two separate categories of options


I wonder if you could do this with subraces, since humans don't get subraces anyway.
Well, what is humanity's greatest strenghts that no other race has?

I believe that the only thing here to consider should be our never-ending hurry, in comparison to other races that live far longer than we do.

That leads into human recklessness, but that also prompts action. Fear of death breeds despair, but despair powers resolution.

Humans cling to whatever gives them hope of a better life or afterlife.

These traits may be represented as Initiative bonus, better will saves, second-wind-like powers.

Besides, we're also extremely culturally diverse, more so than any other race. From that, humans could get a better deal on learning different things out of their schtick. Perhaps a fighter that knows a cantrip (not counting background).
Now with subraces!

DWARF TRAITS
Size: Medium
Speed: 25 feet. Your speed is not reduced by armor or encumberance.
Vision: Low-light.
Poison Resistance: You have advantage on saving throws against poison and resistance against poison damage.
DWARF SUBRACES
Mountain Dwarf:
> Hardy: Gain a +1 to the starting value to Constitution.  
> Grit: Once per encounter while standing on the ground, you can spend one Hit Die, plus up to one additional Hit Dice per four levels you possess. Doing so costs 20 feet of movement.
Hill Dwarf:
> WiseGain a +1 to the starting value to Wisdom.  
> Stone Cunning: You can always intuit your approximate depth underground. Additionally, you gain a +10 bonus on checks made to notice or discern creatures or objected disguised as stone.
Mine Dwarf:
> Strong: Gain a +1 to the starting value to Strength.  
> Stability: While standing on the ground (not climbing, flying, riding, swimming, etc.), you cannot be knocked prone by an attack, unless that attack has advantage, or by failing a saving throw, unless that saving throw has disadvantage.
DWARF CULTURE
Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common and Dwarven.
Culture Options: You may choose one of the following cultural benefits:
> Hammer Training: When you make an attack with a hammer with which you are proficient, the damage die for that weapon increases by one step.
> Superstition: You cannot have disadvantage on saving throws against magical effects.

ELF TRAITS

Size: Medium
Speed: 30 feet
Vision: Low-light.
Charm Resistance: You have advantage on saving throws against charm or sleep and resistance against psychic damage.  If affected by a an effect that would inpose sleep, you instead are unconscious.
Trance: You do not sleep. Instead or sleeping, you meditate deeply; the Common word for such meditation is "Trance". After resting in this way for 4 hours, you gain the same benefit that a Human does from 8 hours of sleep.
ELF SUBRACES
Ability Score Adjustment: Increase one starting Ability score by 1, depending on your subrace:
Wood elf:
> Agile: Gain +1 to the starting value for Dexterity
> Natural Grace: Once per encounter, you can disengage without spending an action. Doing so costs 20 feet of movement.

High elf:
> Smart: Gain +1 to the starting value for Intelligence
Cantrip: You know one 0-level spell of your choice from the wizard’s spell list. You can cast this spell at will. Intelligence is your magic ability for it.
Grey elf:
> Wise: Gain +1 to the starting value for Wisdom
> Keen Senses: Whenever you make a check to find hidden or concealed creatures or objects, roll an additional 1d4 and add its result to the total.
ELF CULTURE
Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common and Elven.
Culture Options: You gain one of the following cultural benefits:
> Bow Training: When you make an attack with a bow with which you are proficient, the damage die for that weapon increases by one step.
> Field of Study: You gain a +2 bonus to Ability check srelated to one of the following areas of study (your choice): Arcane Lord, Folklore, Heraldry, History, or Nature. 

HALFLING TRAITS
Size: Small. You can move through the spaces of hostile creatures that are larger than you.
Speed: 25 feet.
Fear Resistance: Whenever you are frightened and take an action to Disengage, Dodge, Hide, or Hustle, you can end the frightening effect on yourself before you take the action.
HALFLING SUBRACES
Ability Score Adjustment: Incease one starting Ability score by 1, dependingon your subrace:
Lightfoot:
> Agile: Gain a +1 to your starting Dexterity
> Natural Stealth: You can attempt to hide even when you are obscured only by a creature that is at least one size category larger than you.
Stout:
> Hardy: Gain a +1 to your starting Constitution
> Uncanny Elusion: Opportunity attacks made against you cannot have advantage.

Tallfellow:
> Charismatic: Gain a +1 to your starting Charisma

> Luck of the Halfling: Once per encounter, you can reroll an attack roll, check, or saving throw and use either result. If you have advantage or disadvantage on the roll, you reroll only one of the dice.
HALFLING CULTURE
Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common and Halfling.
Culture Options: You may choose two of the following cultural benefits:
> Nimble Escape: Once per turn, you can attempt to escape a grab without spending an action. Doing so costs 5 feet of movement.
> Ranged Training: When you make a ranged attack with a finesse weapon or a simple missile weapon with which you are proficient, the damage die for that weapon increases by one step.

HUMAN TRAITS

Ability Score Adjustment: One starting ability score of your choice increases by 1.
Size: Medium
Speed: 30 feet
Skillful: Gain training in one Skill of your choice.
HUMAN CULTURE
Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common and one other language of your choice.
Culture Options: You may choose two of the following culture benefits:
> Endeavor: When you have advantage on any roll and you roll the same number on both d20, you can reroll one of the d20.
> Heroism: When you make an attack roll, you can always reroll a natural 1. When you force a target to make a saving throw, you can always force it to reroll a natural 20.
> Humanity: When you help another creature, the creature can instead gain advantage for the next relevant attack roll or saving throw that it makes before your next turn.
> Human Spirit: Once per encounter, you can help another creature as part of another action.
> Weapon Training: Choose a weapon in which you are proficient. When you make an attack with that weapon, the damage die for that weapon increases by one step.

Optional Rule: Raised by Another
As an option, your character may be born in one race raised by another race.  Do not take any of the benefits listed under your race's "Culture" and instead take the cultural benefits of the race that raised your character.  Humans raised by another may choose two options from the race's cultural list.  Other races raised by humans may choose only one of the humans' cultural benefits.

Optional Rule: Uncultured
As an option, your character may have grown up isolated form any culture.  This is a good option for a player who want to minimize the number of things that need to be tracked (especially if paired with human), as all the ebnefits of this culture are static benefits.  If you choose this option, do not take any of the benefits listed under your race's "Culture".  Instead, replace your race's culture with the following culture: 

UNCULTURED
Language: You speak, read, and write Common.
Option: Choose one of the following options (if human, choose two):
> Ability Focus: Add one point to an Ability, other than one you already increased due to your race or subrace.
> Defensive Focus: You gain proficiency in armor and shields that are one step heavier than you would otherwise be proficient in.
> Health Focus: You begin the game with five additional hit points.
> Offensive Focus: You gain proficiency in one weapon of your choice in which you are not otherwise proficient.
> Skill Focus: You gain proficiency in one additional Skill.
> Speed Focus: Increase your base speed by five feet.
Right now, I'm wary of sub-races in general. I can't see them resulting in anything other than the same kind of sub-race bloat that D&D has seen in the past. Especially now that they would be included in the PHB, they create an imperative for any possible alternate culture to have its own mechanics when the far simpler approach is to just make race completely independent of culture (with maybe some nods in the options section) so that such an imperative is no longer present no bloat need occur. No model that includes sub-race or required culture-specific options will be presented by me, nor will I support any such model.

These traits may be represented as Initiative bonus, better will saves, second-wind-like powers.

Those are conditional bonuses, exactly what people are saying that they don't want. If conditional bonuses were acceptable, then what I gave them in the initial post would have been good enough.

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!
No model that includes sub-race or required culture-specific options will be presented by me, nor will I support any such model.


That's too bad.  It seems an elegant way to solve your design issue.
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