Race and Culture (in D&D!)

The most recent Q&A had me remembering a conversation I had with Crimson Concerto a while ago about separating out cultural traits from inherent racial traits.  I decided to look at the current playtest document to see how easy that would be.  I'm just looking at the mechanics, mind you.

Here's what we have currently

DWARF
Inherent
Speed: -5 feet
Vision: Low-light
Resistance: Poison
Subrace Ability Bonus
Toughness (Hill)
Cultural
Stonecunning
Weapon Training
Langauge: Dwarven 
Armor Mastery (Mountain)

ELF
Inherent
Vision: Low-light
Resistance: Charm
Trance
Subrace Ability Bonus
Speed +5' (Wood)
Cultural
Weapon training
Keen Senses
Language: Elven
Cantrip (High)
Grace (Wood) 

HALFLING
Inherent
Size: Small
Speed -5'
Lucky
Nimble
Subrace Ability
Fearless (Stout)
Culture
Weapon training 
Language: Halfling 
Stealthy (Lightfoot)
 
HUMAN
Inherent
Ability Adjustment
Culture
--


What if we rejigger it a bit so every non-human race had three cultural components: weapon training, language, and a skill training.

rejiggered races

DWARF
Inherent
Speed: -5 feet
Vision: Low-light
Resistance: Poison
Subrace Ability Bonus
Subcultural Trait: Toughness/Armor Mastery
Cultural
Stonecunning
Weapon Training
Langauge: Dwarven 

ELF
Inherent
Vision: Low-light
Trance
Resistance: Charm
Subrace Ability Bonus
Subcultural trait: Speed +5'&Grace/Cantrip
Cultural
Keen Senses
Weapon training
Language: Elven

HALFLING
Inherent
Size: Small
Speed -5'
Lucky
Subrace Ability
Subcultural Trait: Fearless/Stelthy
Culture
Nimble
Weapon training 
Language: Halfling 
 
HUMAN
Inherent
Ability Adjustment
Culture
--

 
So far, mechanically, we haven't changed the races at all.  We could then have the followin optional rule:

Raised by Another: If you are not human, you may replace the cultural abilities associated with your race with the cultural abilities associated witht he race that raised you.  If you are human, you do not gain Ability score increases that other humans get.  You increase one Ability score as if you were of the subrace raising you and you may increase two other Ability scores of your choice by 1.  You also take on the cultural abilities of the race that raised you.


Opinions?
Unearthed Wrecana
I like it, and even posted something very similiar in another thread some time back. The idea is a good one, I think, because it allows for those odd instances. Look at Katie-Brie from the Drizzt books. She is more Dwarf than human in many ways.
I like it and have already done so for one of my games as there is a very Dwarvy Group of elves in my world.

Personally I see Cantrip/Grace and Nimble/Fearless as cultural.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

I don't agree with all of your groupings (in terms of which elements are cultural vs genetic...for example, I think elven keen senses would be genetic), but I like the idea.  It is simple, intuitive, and easy to use.  It also turns 4 races into 13 race/culture combinations, which is awesome for character building ideas and options.

What about non-humans raised by humans?
It's more interesting than what we currently have, certainly.

What about non-humans raised by humans?


They are used as food.

"It's not cannibalism - it's an Elf!"
Feedback Disclaimer
Yes, I am expressing my opinions (even complaints - le gasp!) about the current iteration of the play-test that we actually have in front of us. No, I'm not going to wait for you to tell me when it's okay to start expressing my concerns (unless you are WotC). (And no, my comments on this forum are not of the same tone or quality as my actual survey feedback.)
A Psion for Next (Playable Draft) A Barbarian for Next (Brainstorming Still)
"It's not cannibalism - it's an Elf!"



Them Halflings is good eatins. Don't bother with a Gnome, though, they are all tough and stringy. You have to soak them overnight in buttermilk ....
I'm a big fan of the premise and execution of something like this.

A few ideas:

- Maybe even offer a short menu of certain cultural and/or racial options to select from. Instead of cookie-cutter sameness?

- Break it up into 3 categories: Race, Subrace and Culture? So, you are a dwarf. You might be one of a few types of dwarf (shield, mountain, hill, etc.). Lastly, you were raised a dwarf as well, so now pick some dwarven cultural stuff.
Opinions?


I like it, but I have two minor problems with it.
1) This isn't really a problem, more of a suggestion if we were to proceed with this system, but it's that we need additional options for the cultural elements to be presented (even if they haven't already been attributed to one of the races) to facilitate race creation.
2) They have to fix humans.  Give us the ability to drop most of the attribute bonuses for some kind of cultural trait.  Now, I personally favor Empty Inside (call it Driven or Focused if you like), but I'm open to other options.  I mean, humans have also been heavily focused on exploration, conquest, and business, so something from one of those fields might work.

There are a great many problems that can be circumvented by players and DMs having a mature discussion about what the game is going to be like before they ever sit down together to play.

 

The answer really does lie in more options, not in confining and segregating certain options.

 

You really shouldn't speak for others.  You can't hear what someone else is saying when you try to put your words in their mouth.

 

Fencing & Swashbuckling as Armor.

D20 Modern Toon PC Race.

Mecha Pilot's Skill Challenge Emporium.

 

Save the breasts.

I see Cantrip/Grace and Nimble/Fearless as cultural.


Intriguing.  Could Toughness/Armor Mastery also be cultural?  (Armor Mastery sure, but Toughness?  Maybe.)   

rejiggered races

DWARF
Inherent
Speed: -5 feet
Vision: Low-light
Resistance: Poison
Subrace Ability Bonus
Cultural
Stonecunning
Weapon Training
Langauge: Dwarven 
Subrace Trait: Toughness/Armor Mastery

ELF
Inherent
Vision: Low-light
Trance
Resistance: Charm
Subrace Ability Bonus
Cultural
Keen Senses
Weapon training
Language: Elven
Subrace Trait: Speed +5'&Grace/Cantrip

HALFLING
Inherent
Size: Small
Speed -5'
Lucky
Subrace Ability
Culture
Nimble
Weapon training 
Language: Halfling 
Subrace Trait: Fearless/Stelthy
 
HUMAN
Inherent
Ability Adjustment
Culture
--
 
 
Raised by Another: If you are not human, you may replace the cultural abilities associated with your race with the cultural abilities associated with the race that raised you and the subrace trait with the subrace trait of the subrace that raised you.  If you are human take on the cultural abilities and subrace trait of the subrace that raised you. You do not gain Ability score increases that other humans get.  You increase the Ability score associated with the subrace raising, and one other Ability score of your choice, by 1. If a non-human is raised by humans, it loses all cultural traits, including any subrace trait.  Instead, it raises the Ability score of the Ability associated with its subrace by two.

I agree that Keen Sense could be inherent, but that means elves learn nothing weapons and language.  Also, I think keen senses can be learned.  I can see elves learning that.
Overall, I'm a fan of this general approach. I think that while the bare bones of this could be in the PHB (since there's always wordcount to worry about), that a supplement book - even a small one, or perhaps especially a small one - would be able to go into depths on the various races, cultural and inherent racial tendencies, etc, and break them down in such a fashion so one could customize as much as one would like.

For those confused on how DDN's modular rules might work, this may provide some insight: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2012/11/the-world-of-darkness-shines-when-it-abandons-canon

@mikemearls: Uhhh... do you really not see all the 3e/4e that's basically the entire core system?

 

It is entirely unnecessary to denigrate someone else's approach to gaming in order to validate your own.

I agree that Keen Sense could be inherent, but that means elves learn nothing weapons and language.  Also, I think keen senses can be learned.  I can see elves learning that.


It really could be either, depending on what they mean.  Genetically stronger senses of hearing, etc. is blatantly genetic while the training of your senses so you can hunt and survive better in the wilderness is clearly cultural.

There are a great many problems that can be circumvented by players and DMs having a mature discussion about what the game is going to be like before they ever sit down together to play.

 

The answer really does lie in more options, not in confining and segregating certain options.

 

You really shouldn't speak for others.  You can't hear what someone else is saying when you try to put your words in their mouth.

 

Fencing & Swashbuckling as Armor.

D20 Modern Toon PC Race.

Mecha Pilot's Skill Challenge Emporium.

 

Save the breasts.

we need additional options for the cultural elements to be presented (even if they haven't already been attributed to one of the races) to facilitate race creation.


Well, one of the nice things about this proposal is that it doesn't mechanically change the races presented int he playtest at all.  The race writeups can stand almost as is, with just a little explanation as to which traits are learned.  The meat of the proposal is in the wording of the optional rule.

And so as an expansion, you could introduce new cultures to opt into.  Heck, I'd even make them human cultures.  So the generic human gets the "boring" +1 to all Abilities and +1 again to one Ability.  But humans from a subculture woudl give that up for specific human subcultural abilities.

So you could have:
Industrious Human
Weapon Training: Hammer
Skill training: Profession
Subrace Trait: Driven

Pious Human
Weapon Training: Mace
Skill training: Knowledge (Religion)
Subrace Trait: Pious Resolve (you gain resistance to psychic damage)

Underworld Human
Weapon Training: Dagger
Skill Training: Thievery
Subrace Trait: First to Know (bonus against surprise and to initiative)

And so on.  And any race could trade their cultural benefits for these subcultures, so you could have a pious dwarf or an underworld halfling or an industrious elf.

They have to fix humans.  Give us the ability to drop most of the attribute bonuses for some kind of cultural trait.

 
Well, that doesn't require "fixing humans" since that fix is already included in the optional rule I drafted.  If a human chooses a culture, he loses some of his Ability bonuses in exchange for the cultural options.  Voila.  A more complicated human.


we need additional options for the cultural elements to be presented (even if they haven't already been attributed to one of the races) to facilitate race creation.


Well, one of the nice things about this proposal is that it doesn't mechanically change the races presented int he playtest at all.  The race writeups can stand almost as is, with just a little explanation as to which traits are learned.  The meat of the proposal is in the wording of the optional rule.

And so as an expansion, you could introduce new cultures to opt into.  Heck, I'd even make them human cultures.  So the generic human gets the "boring" +1 to all Abilities and +1 again to one Ability.  But humans from a subculture woudl give that up for specific human subcultural abilities.

So you could have:
Industrious Human
Weapon Training: Hammer
Skill training: Profession
Subrace Trait: Driven

Pious Human
Weapon Training: Mace
Skill training: Knowledge (Religion)
Subrace Trait: Pious Resolve (you gain resistance to psychic damage)

Underworld Human
Weapon Training: Dagger
Skill Training: Thievery
Subrace Trait: First to Know (bonus against surprise and to initiative)

And so on.  And any race could trade their cultural benefits for these subcultures, so you could have a pious dwarf or an underworld halfling or an industrious elf.


At that point, aren't you blurring the line between race and background a bit too much?

They have to fix humans.  Give us the ability to drop most of the attribute bonuses for some kind of cultural trait.

 
Well, that doesn't require "fixing humans" since that fix is already included in the optional rule I drafted.  If a human chooses a culture, he loses some of his Ability bonuses in exchange for the cultural options.  Voila.  A more complicated human.


Of course, I'm just saying that it needs to be said.  In none of the other changes you described could a non-human race trade attribute bonuses for cultre traits.  If only humans can do this, then it needs to be said, and the rules for doing so must be clearly outlined.

There are a great many problems that can be circumvented by players and DMs having a mature discussion about what the game is going to be like before they ever sit down together to play.

 

The answer really does lie in more options, not in confining and segregating certain options.

 

You really shouldn't speak for others.  You can't hear what someone else is saying when you try to put your words in their mouth.

 

Fencing & Swashbuckling as Armor.

D20 Modern Toon PC Race.

Mecha Pilot's Skill Challenge Emporium.

 

Save the breasts.

At that point, aren't you blurring the line between race and background a bit too much?


Well, I'm writing this pretty quickly.  The "Skill Training" wouldn't be the training you get for a background.  But some sort of incidental bonus like what races currently get.  Also, the subcultures are already sort of backgrounds.  Isn't a hill dwarf's background that he was raised in the hills?  But, yeah, we probably would need to make sure the human subcultures feel distinct from the backgrounds.

Also, this would all be an optional module.  Most people would just pick the race (and subrace if inhuman) and run with it.

If only humans can do this, then it needs to be said, and the rules for doing so must be clearly outlined.


Absolutely.  I could see this outlined in a magazine article after release, or as part of a larger supplement on races.  I don't think we need to have it in the initial release, alhough it I wouldn't be averse to it!
At that point, aren't you blurring the line between race and background a bit too much?


Well, I'm writing this pretty quickly.  The "Skill Training" wouldn't be the training you get for a background.  But some sort of incidental bonus like what races currently get.  Also, the subcultures are already sort of backgrounds.  Isn't a hill dwarf's background that he was raised in the hills?  But, yeah, we probably would need to make sure the human subcultures feel distinct from the backgrounds.

Also, this would all be an optional module.  Most people would just pick the race (and subrace if inhuman) and run with it.


Maybe humans could have a subrace, but it wouldn't actually be "racial."  Insted, it would be some kind of focus, or maybe even a profession.  That way, a person could have a background and a profession that aren't the same.  For example, the noble human captured on a sea voyage and pressed into piracy, now he ventures forth for a life of adventure as the dread pirate bob, prince of _.

If only humans can do this, then it needs to be said, and the rules for doing so must be clearly outlined.


Absolutely.  I could see this outlined in a magazine article after release, or as part of a larger supplement on races.  I don't think we need to have it in the initial release, alhough it I wouldn't be averse to it!


I'd really prefer to see it at lunch, though I agree that it can be expanded upon afterwards.  The framework for the optional rule should probably be in the PHB though.

There are a great many problems that can be circumvented by players and DMs having a mature discussion about what the game is going to be like before they ever sit down together to play.

 

The answer really does lie in more options, not in confining and segregating certain options.

 

You really shouldn't speak for others.  You can't hear what someone else is saying when you try to put your words in their mouth.

 

Fencing & Swashbuckling as Armor.

D20 Modern Toon PC Race.

Mecha Pilot's Skill Challenge Emporium.

 

Save the breasts.

If I recall, 4e allows you to choose a number of background bonuses. Why not just have one or more background bonuses for class and one or more background bonuses for race. You wouldn't need to create a hundred different subraces, you just could choose different background bonuses.
Why not just have one or more background bonuses for class and one or more background bonuses for race. You wouldn't need to create a hundred different subraces, you just could choose different background bonuses.


Because the developers have said they aren't planning to fiddle with the races as they currently exist and they currently exist with subraces.
Understood. Thanks wrecan!

It might still be a good idea for people to have a few options to choose from for each subrace. I like your idea of the distinction between genetics and culture. Of course you would need to decide which genetic traits are dominant and recessive to facilitate multiracial (multi-subracial?) characters.
Of course you would need to decide which genetic traits are dominant and recessive to facilitate multiracial (multi-subracial?) characters.


I don't think I want to get into Mendellian genetics in my D&D game.  
Now you know how I feel when people start talking about "realistic" combat or a "realistic" magic system.Wink Agreed, however. The goal is to make the game simple and playable by people with a wide range of educational specialties.
Back in the 2nd Edition days, there were a few "of Faerun" or "of the Realms" books (now I can't remember exactly) that did something like this, actually. Or, wait, let me be more specific.

So, for instance, say there was a "Warriors and Priests of the Realms" book (because I can't for the life of me remember exactly which class categories were paired up). The book would go through each area of the Realms - Cormyr, the Dales, Sembia, the Western Heartlands, Waterdeep, Thay, Calimshan, etc. Each section talked about how folks from that particular area might be different from the standard depiction of that class - Fighters might get the Sailing NWP for instance, when ordinarily they wouldn't, or something mystically related. (Okay, I am finding I do not remember nearly enough about 2nd Edition all of a sudden. I need to go re-read the books.)

Something like that would be nice for at least humans, but with some modularity in order to have other races to be able to perhaps "hot swap" stuff out to better reflect upbrining. I suggested it in one of the surveys, but noted that it might be something a bit more campaign-world specific. 

For those confused on how DDN's modular rules might work, this may provide some insight: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2012/11/the-world-of-darkness-shines-when-it-abandons-canon

@mikemearls: Uhhh... do you really not see all the 3e/4e that's basically the entire core system?

 

It is entirely unnecessary to denigrate someone else's approach to gaming in order to validate your own.

I like it and have already done so for one of my games as there is a very Dwarvy Group of elves in my world.


IMAGE(http://dwarffortresswiki.org/images/thumb/7/76/Cacame_Fault_elfking.jpg/435px-Cacame_Fault_elfking.jpg)
Seriously, though, you should check out the PbP Haven. You might also like Real Adventures, IF you're cool.
Knights of W.T.F.- Silver Spur Winner
4enclave, a place where 4e fans can talk 4e in peace.
That's one of my concerns about subraces. They do tend to be pretty setting specific. The distinction between high-elves, grey elves, and sylvan elves is based on Tolkein (or the earlier legends Tolkein drew upon for his stories) and don't necessarily fit in an Eberron or Dark Sun setting. In my own mind, the drow are pretty much a Forgotten Realms subrace.
That's one of my concerns about subraces. They do tend to be pretty setting specific. The distinction between high-elves, grey elves, and sylvan elves is based on Tolkein (or the earlier legends Tolkein drew upon for his stories) and don't necessarily fit in an Eberron or Dark Sun setting. In my own mind, the drow are pretty much a Forgotten Realms subrace.

Which is why identifying sub-races (and their benefits) is such a great idea. Then you can decide for yourself which ones exist in your world. Pick and chose to your heart's content.

What? No Hill Dwarves in your world? Great. Exclude that option from character creation and you're good.

Here's what I've been doing with races in my game:

1. You gain a +1 stat adjustment from race (Elves get Dex, Halflings get Cha, Dwarves get Con, and Humans get a floating +1)
2. You still get the +1 from subrace.
3. Instead of a subrace humans get an extra background and an extra specialty. This way humans are diverse with interesting options and abilities with out being superior to every other race. The other races get to be superior where they're supposed to be while humans have a lot of potential and can do things that others just can't.

With in the proposed system here I'd say that the second background should be the cultural feature of humans so if another race was raised by humans they'd have more skills. Generally wouldn't be optimal but certain builds could make great use of it such as a Halfing Rogue raised by Humans (Rogues getting the combat skill use and Halflings getting Lucky. Plus any Rogue can benefit from expanded skills).
It might still be a good idea for people to have a few options to choose from for each subrace.



Except the subrace IS the choice.  If you are a dwarf, you can choose shield, hill, gray, etc etc.  Each one of those doesn't really need a whole nother set of options.  Having to choose between a Rolling Hill dwarf vs a Rocky Hill dwarf vs a One Tree Hill dwarf is kind of excessive.

The problem to this system is rather fairly simple... it kind of ignores that other races exist in the world.

Sure, it is easy enough to do this with Dwarf and Elf-- they have been written with so many super-human abilities that one merely needs to pick and choose which ones they will assign to the race and which ones they will choose to discard along with the vaguely defined weaknesses in order to achieve some semblance of balance.

 But what about when you stretch out beyond that?

How do you do Gnomes who have traditionally been primarily defined by magical training and "cultural" traits-- typically picking traits from the Dwarf and Halfling list otherwise?

How do you do Orcs who have traditionally been given NO cultural traits and instead a largely focusd physical advantage? 

How do you do Kobolds who have traditionally been defined by their utter lack of being able to do much of anything competantly?

How do you do Hobgoblins who have traditionally been simply humans, but generally physically all around superior yet less technologically advanced for vaguely defined reasons?

This doesn't even delve into the wonky far more inhuman races from 4th edition who well present even more difficulties.

If this rigid balance of exactly the same number of inate bonuses and cultural bonuses doesn't work for all races likely to be utilized, then it doesn't really work at all. 4th edition had the same problem when the designers originally decided that all demi-humans should have each one physical and one mental attribute bonus and, as a result, gave  Hobgoblins, Orcs and Goblins a bonus to Charisma of all things (so apparently they are more charming, inspiring and diplomatic than both wood elves and high elves?)

 You need to subject the system to a bit of stress to see if it works.

4th edition had the same problem when the designers originally decided that all demi-humans should have each one physical and one mental attribute bonus and, as a result, gave  Hobgoblins, Orcs and Goblins a bonus to Charisma of all things (so apparently they are more charming, inspiring and diplomatic than both wood elves and high elves?)


Charisma is also the key ability for Intimidate isn't it?

There are a great many problems that can be circumvented by players and DMs having a mature discussion about what the game is going to be like before they ever sit down together to play.

 

The answer really does lie in more options, not in confining and segregating certain options.

 

You really shouldn't speak for others.  You can't hear what someone else is saying when you try to put your words in their mouth.

 

Fencing & Swashbuckling as Armor.

D20 Modern Toon PC Race.

Mecha Pilot's Skill Challenge Emporium.

 

Save the breasts.

4th edition had the same problem when the designers originally decided that all demi-humans should have each one physical and one mental attribute bonus and, as a result, gave  Hobgoblins, Orcs and Goblins a bonus to Charisma of all things (so apparently they are more charming, inspiring and diplomatic than both wood elves and high elves?)


Charisma is also the key ability for Intimidate isn't it?



Yes, but even then it is more about "getting people to do what said character wants".... which really in no way describes Orcs and especially not Goblins who tend to be targetted and killed on sight and virtually never have anything go their way by words alone. When is the last time Orcs or Goblins were ever written into an adventure as getting their way just by demanding it?

Charisma just doesn't apply at all. It was just given to them because it has traditionally been the most worthless stat in the game, so it was meant to be a way to hamstring them. But I guess it also would have seemed strange to claim that those races were wiser or more intelligent than humans... although given that wisdom covered the ability to survive in the wilderness and off scarce resources and utilize animal labor... that probably would have been the more appropriate choice (at least for Goblins). However, when they dropped that system it became more clear that Orcs probably should have gotten a bonus to Strength and Constitution just like the Half-Orcs got.

 Anyway, my primary point is that...

If one cannot make a write-up for Gnomes, Goblins, Hobgoblins, Kobolds, Orcs, etc. that grant 5 inate and 3 cultural bonuses that still seem to convey the feel of those races to some degree (nevermind it being perfectly balanced, can one even fill the requisite slots?), then they system can't be said to work at all since it breaks the moment one moves beyond the initial 4 races.

Anyway, my primary point is that...

If one cannot make a write-up for Gnomes, Goblins, Hobgoblins, Kobolds, Orcs, etc. that grant 5 inate and 3 cultural bonuses that still seem to convey the feel of those races to some degree (nevermind it being perfectly balanced, can one even fill the requisite slots?), then they system can't be said to work at all since it breaks the moment one moves beyond the initial 4 races.


Who says the system can't handle those races?

There are a great many problems that can be circumvented by players and DMs having a mature discussion about what the game is going to be like before they ever sit down together to play.

 

The answer really does lie in more options, not in confining and segregating certain options.

 

You really shouldn't speak for others.  You can't hear what someone else is saying when you try to put your words in their mouth.

 

Fencing & Swashbuckling as Armor.

D20 Modern Toon PC Race.

Mecha Pilot's Skill Challenge Emporium.

 

Save the breasts.

I am just putting out the challenge that it can't be.

Can someone name 5 appropriate inate and 3 appropriate cutural abilities for Orcs who since 3rd edition have been defined basically by nothing other than a strength bonus and prior to that, not even that much? (Same goes for Hobgoblins who have been defined solely by physical advantage)

Can one actually name 8 bonuses one could give to a Kobold or a Goblin (to a lesser degree) who have always kind of been the worst at everything?

Can one list 5 inate abilities that could be given to Gnomes who have generally been defined only by things that seem "cultural"? 
 
I just don't think it can be done. And this isn't even getting into the really difficult things such as Warforged, Changelings, and Tieflings who (exempting 4th edition Tieflings) don't have cultures period. 

And this isn't even getting into the really difficult things such as Warforged, Changelings, and Tieflings who (exempting 4th edition Tieflings) don't have cultures period. 


Wha? 
I mean, I'm not terribly familiar with pre-4e Tieflings, but Warforged and Changelings certainly have room for "cultural aspects" of their own.
Feedback Disclaimer
Yes, I am expressing my opinions (even complaints - le gasp!) about the current iteration of the play-test that we actually have in front of us. No, I'm not going to wait for you to tell me when it's okay to start expressing my concerns (unless you are WotC). (And no, my comments on this forum are not of the same tone or quality as my actual survey feedback.)
A Psion for Next (Playable Draft) A Barbarian for Next (Brainstorming Still)
I am just putting out the challenge that it can't be.

Can someone name 5 appropriate inate and 3 appropriate cutural abilities for Orcs who since 3rd edition have been defined basically by nothing other than a strength bonus and prior to that, not even that much? (Same goes for Hobgoblins who have been defined solely by physical advantage)

Can one actually name 8 bonuses one could give to a Kobold or a Goblin (to a lesser degree) who have always kind of been the worst at everything?

Can one list 5 inate abilities that could be given to Gnomes who have generally been defined only by things that seem "cultural"? 
 
I just don't think it can be done. And this isn't even getting into the really difficult things such as Warforged, Changelings, and Tieflings who (exempting 4th edition Tieflings) don't have cultures period. 


Orcs:
Inherent:
Vision: Darkvision
Ability Bonus
Toughness
Cultural:
Relentless
Axe Mastery
Language: Orcish

Goblins:
Inherent:
Vision: Darkvision
Ability Bonus
Size: Small
Sneaky
Cultural:
Bushwhacker
Stealthy
Language: Goblin

Kobolds:
Inherent:
Size: Small
Ability Bonus
Light Sensitivity
Cultural:
Mob Tactics
Trapsense
Language: Draconic

Gnomes:
Inherent:
Size: small
Ability Bonus
Illusions
Resistance: Poison
Vision: Darkvision
Cultural:
Affinity for animals
giant-slaying
Language: Gnomish

Warforged:
Inherent:
Living Construct
Ability Bonus
Warforged Components
Armor bonus
Vision: low-light
Cultural:
Military Training
Group Tactics
Language: Common

Tieflings:
Inherent:
Vision: Darkvision
Ability Bonus
Resistance: Fire
Infernal Wrath
Cantrip
Cultural:
Skill Bonus: Persuade/Bluff
Bloodhunt
Language: Common

Changelings:
Vision: low-light
Ability Bonus
Shapeshifting
Slippery Mind
Skill Bonus: Sense Motive
Cultural:
Pick another race, use their cultural bonuses.


That wasn't quite five for every race, but I'm not a professional designer, and this was off the top of my head.  If I can get that far in for a quick forum rebuttal, a for-reals designer with some time to work on it ought to be able to pull it off.



Seriously, though, you should check out the PbP Haven. You might also like Real Adventures, IF you're cool.
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One of the things I like about the current race setup (except for humans) is the scope for expansion and customisation. I really like this idea because it plays the subrace system to its strengths and allows for even more expansion and customisation.


I actually don't see that it's 100% necessary for all races to have options for each thing, but the capacity to expand is really cool.

Orcs get plenty of stuff by demanding it.

That's how their entire culture tends to be set up. Anyone questions your charisma check you beat them till their wis score drops and they go back to doing what you say.

A shoot on sight order is for people who have charisma and like to use it. 
I would consider taking all of the cultural traits of a race and placing them *into* the background system.

So you could have Raised By Elves:
Trained in Spot, Listen, Arcane Knowledge, History
You are proficient with bows and the longsword OR
You can cast one minor arcane spell of your choice OR
You are Beautiful OR etc.
If you are an Elf, pick two.

Raised By Dwarves:
Trained in Dungeoneering, Craft(Stone), Endurance,  Carousing
You are proficient with axes and hammers OR
You are proficient with light armour OR
You are Tough OR etc.
If you are a dwarf, pick two. 
Perhaps instead of listing the different cultural features by race, perhaps a whole "culture" module could be devised instead, where all of these features are put together and DMs/players can pick 3 to represent that culture in the group's campaign? Ideally, each published campaign setting could then have a recommended set of cultural features, all from the same list. Granted, there may be a need to break down the features into standard and lesser, and give each culture 2 standard and 1 lesser slot to fill, or something like that.

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How do you do Gnomes who have traditionally been primarily defined by magical training and "cultural" traits


GNOME
Inherent
Size: Small
Speed: -5 feet

Vision: Low-light
Resistance: Illusions
Subrace Ability Bonus
Subcultural Trait: Speak with burrowers/Minor Illusion
Cultural
Craftsmanship skills
Weapon Training
Langauge: Gnome

Gnomes are very easy.

How do you do Orcs who have traditionally been given NO cultural traits and instead a largely focusd physical advantage?



ORC
Inherent
Resistance: Ongoing damage
Subrace Ability Bonus
Subcultural Trait: Rages based on sub culture
Cultural
Athleticism
Weapon Training
Langauge: Orc

Really, all you're ocomplaining about is the developers have to delve into 40 years of D&D lore to determine what made these races attractive to play.  kobolds (thanks to Tucker) are crafty trapsmiths. Hobgoblins are regimented tryants.  They can a narrative behind them and so this can be used as a the basis for their races and subraces.  Even tieflings and dragonborn can easily be converted this way.  There's plenty published in 4e to make them in this format.

If this rigid balance of exactly the same number of inate bonuses and cultural bonuses doesn't work for all races likely to be utilized, then it doesn't really work at all.


I don't see any problem doing it this way.

You need to subject the system to a bit of stress to see if it works.


Well, duh.  Obviously something I wrote in 5 five minutes would need to be tested.
Perhaps instead of listing the different cultural features by race, perhaps a whole "culture" module could be devised instead, where all of these features are put together and DMs/players can pick 3 to represent that culture in the group's campaign? Ideally, each published campaign setting could then have a recommended set of cultural features, all from the same list. Granted, there may be a need to break down the features into standard and lesser, and give each culture 2 standard and 1 lesser slot to fill, or something like that.


I think they need to supply default cultural elements for the races, just to have complete races ready to go out of the box.  However, it would make for a great module as well.  Not that these things are mutually exclusive.  They could certainly provide defaults in the PHB, then release a module detailing different cultural features and the general cultural changes we would see in that race's society if we chose to give a race those features.

P.S.:

P.S.S.: I really hope the devs are paying attention to this thread.  Races really do need to be fixed, and this seems like a very good start.

There are a great many problems that can be circumvented by players and DMs having a mature discussion about what the game is going to be like before they ever sit down together to play.

 

The answer really does lie in more options, not in confining and segregating certain options.

 

You really shouldn't speak for others.  You can't hear what someone else is saying when you try to put your words in their mouth.

 

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