non-humans and the 1st level 18 ability score

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So, am I just completely misreading the D&Dnext play test packet from December 17th, or is it impossible for a non-human character below 4th level to have an 18 ability score?
You're reading it correctly; it's impossible (if you use point buy).
explain...
From the playtest packet "Creating a Character:"
If you would rather not roll the ability scores, you can assign the standard set of scores to your character’s abilities: 15,14,13,12,10,8.

The highest score is 15. +1 for non-human race (say High Elf +1 Intelligence). +1 for class (say Wizard +1 Intelligence).  That's a maximum of 17 Intelligence for a 1st level High Elf Wizard. 

The optional point buy rule doesn't allow you to buy a starting score above 15.

ah. gotcha.

is it really a problem that your character doesnt start with an 18 in a bounded accuracy system with a stat cap of 20?
Problem? No, I wouldn't use that word.

I just find it "odd" that non-humans have a maximum ability score cap that is lower than humans.  This seems quite a change from all the previous versions of D&D.  Non-humans were able to get a 19 in their racial ability when humans were capped at 18.

So are non-humans now sub-human in their ability scores by design, by accident or by omission?
Problem? No, I wouldn't use that word.

I just find it "odd" that non-humans have a maximum ability score cap that is lower than humans.  This seems quite a change from all the previous versions of D&D.  Non-humans were able to get a 19 in their racial ability when humans were capped at 18.

So are non-humans now sub-human in their ability scores by design, by accident or by omission?



Yeah, it is kind of weird.  I think it might be better if humans got +1 to all stats rather than +2 to one and +1 to all.  That keeps them a generalist race, is still a useful bonus (since dex and con have class-agnostic benefits, and any stat can be used for saves and skills), and doesn't create the weird "the best humans are better archers than the best elves" situation that exists right now.
It is by design, and here is why:

AD&D and D&D prior to 3rd edition used an approach where humans did not get any ability score modifications but (in AD&D but not D&D) non-human races did, along with their other racial powers - which the game "balanced' by allowing human to have access to every class and to be able to progres to any level while the other races were limited (especially in the case of D&D where they were specific classes themselves).

Rules that many groups simply threw out despite that descision making human characters simple worse that the other races in almost every way.

D&D from 3rd edition forward used an approach where humans gained extra skills and feats.

Rules that D&D Next, at least in its current iteration, have marked as optional.

That made them have to come up with something that made humans the most versatile and adaptable race (their thematic niche since forever) that didn't rely solely on use of optional rules - thus Ability scores became their "thing."

I happen to think it works perfectly as is, though I am hoping that the races which have skills granted as part of their features get those abilities changed to something that doesn't cause confusion at the table as a player asks "If skills are optional, why do dwarves and elves always have them?" - hopefully they will make a change that puts the related abilities that grant skills more on par with how the halfling gets a benefit to its stealth without actually gaining the stealth skill.
Careful, man. That much logic might be illegal on the internet. - Salla
"If skills are optional, why do dwarves and elves always have them?"



The RAW is a bit fuzzy, but as I understand it, skills and feats are not optional. Backgrounds and specialties are optional, but if you don't use them, you just pick your skills and feats however you like.

As for humans and ability scores, I like the way it is now. A human could have a higher dexterity than an elf, but that's not the only thing that makes elves good archers. Elves get a higher damage die when using bows, they automatically have Spot and Listen as well as Low-Light Vision, so they are less often surprised, and can more often take a shot before enemies close in, and Wood Elves can hide more easily to set up ambushes. A human could certainly begin with 1 higher Dexterity than an elf, but a superior archer that does not make.
This seems quite a change from all the previous versions of D&D.  Non-humans were able to get a 19 in their racial ability when humans were capped at 18.





Tongue Out

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

Problem? No, I wouldn't use that word.

I just find it "odd" that non-humans have a maximum ability score cap that is lower than humans.  This seems quite a change from all the previous versions of D&D.  Non-humans were able to get a 19 in their racial ability when humans were capped at 18.

So are non-humans now sub-human in their ability scores by design, by accident or by omission?



Yeah, it is kind of weird.  I think it might be better if humans got +1 to all stats rather than +2 to one and +1 to all.  That keeps them a generalist race, is still a useful bonus (since dex and con have class-agnostic benefits, and any stat can be used for saves and skills), and doesn't create the weird "the best humans are better archers than the best elves" situation that exists right now.


There is no such thing as a "generalised" character and there never has been. You pick a class and you try to be the best at that class that you can be.

Who would decide to pass on racials so their fighter can have more int?  
Who would decide to pass on racials so their fighter can have more int, str, wis, dex and cha?  



Fixed that for you.