Race design: Is a lack of a bonus the new penalty?

Races don't have racial penalties anymore, a la 4e, for several possible reasons. I haven't heard any official word, and I don't remember what was said about (the lack of) racial penalties in 4e, but I could posit a few:

1) Penalties aren't fun.
2) Penalties overly discourage "off-types", like halfling barbarians, dwarf wizards, etc.
3) Different abilities/traits are simpy a better way to differentiate the races.

Any of these could be (but not necessarily *are*) true, and I'm sure the lot of you could come up with more reasons.

Point is, racial penalties are more or less gone. Given that, does a lack of a bonus become "the new penalty". Specifically in regards to possible reason #2 above, in a world where some races get an inherent bonus to [insert stat], thus encouraging development into [insert class], does the lack of a bonus discourage such development?

In chasing the goal of opening up concept viability, do we actually accomplish anything? The "best" are still "the best" and the rest aren't.

Is a lack of racial penalties, however noble, a misguided mission in the end?

I'm not sure I even agree with my own supposition. I'm a fan of 4e, and I found the lack of racial penalties freeing and refreshing, while not impacting racial themes. But I'm still asking the question, because questioning oneself and one's beliefs is good, and because I like exploring the logical end points of certain arguments.

What say you, forumites?
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Personally, I'd rather races be given features that modify ability rolls instead of flat bonuses to certain ability scores.

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Personally, I'd rather races be given features that modify ability rolls instead of flat bonuses to certain ability scores.

I like how it works in 13th Age: your race and class both give a +2 bonus to an ability score but they don't stack. So if you got +2 Dex from being a halfling your class bonus is going to have to go into something other than Dex.
I agree with you that lack of bonus is the new penalty.  Although it's not super new; it was the same way in 4E.  (Though in 4E, 'lack of feat support' was just as devastating as 'lack of bonus', which it appears Next will not be having a problem with; no racial feats in Next yet.)


There is no real difference between a cost and an opportunity cost.  In either case, you are giving something up.
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I agree with you that lack of bonus is the new penalty.  Although it's not super new; it was the same way in 4E.  (Though in 4E, 'lack of feat support' was just as devastating as 'lack of bonus', which it appears Next will not be having a problem with; no racial feats in Next yet.)


There is no real difference between a cost and an opportunity cost.  In either case, you are giving something up.

The difference is you are doubly penalized for going against type with racial penalties (i.e., a 3E half-orc bard) especially if your campaign assumes point-buy.
Essentially, yes. And your premise is also correct. If you don't want race to dramatically influcence class choice, don't have any modifiers. If you want races to actually be physically and mentally different, then you need both bonuses and penalties.

I'm of the mind that both should be an option. Personally, I demand that races have both bonuses and penalties, and it will be the first thing I houserule back in if it's missing. I also want a human baseline with no modifiers.

But I definately support the option that you can forgo the penalty if you also forgo the bonus, either at the player level, but probably at the table level.
I disagree, but only with the word "new."  Lack of a bonus has always been and will always be identical with penalty in any mathematical sense of the word.  The differences is, now the penalty/missing bonus is 1 point instead of 4.  That's big and important.  But I'd still rather they gave up on racial ability adjustments entirely, so that they can go from 1 point to zero.
Those who think that lack of a bonus is = to a penalty are mistaken.
I don't think anything interesting has ever come out of penalties, and in general I think that very little good comes out of there being a huge gap between the best you can be at a class based on your race and the worst you can be at a class based on your race. I would much rather see "Half-Elves have these advantages as a fighter, while Halflings have these advantages as a fighter and Dwarves have these advantages as a fighter" than "Here's more or less a list of races that can be all but trivially sorted from best to worst for most classes."
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Yes.

But it's worth noting that +1 is half the of +2.
And +2 is half of +2/-2.

So while there is still a reason for halflings to want to be rogues, the "penalty" of playing a dwarven rogue is pretty minmal.

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A lack of penalty is more approrpriate to a point-buy system.  Instead of starting with a middle ground score of 10 or 11, then adding bonuses for strong stats and penalties for weak ones (like a halfling str penalty because they're so small) it starts all of them low at 8 and ups the strong stats.  The penalties are built into the system that way.  Racial adjustments sort of lose their meaning with randomly rolled stats.
Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say.
Sure, you could look at "lack of bonus" as the new penalty, but it is very different.

To illustrate, I will examine races from 3rd, 4th, and Next. (Halflings and Half-orcs...yes, I know Half-orcs don't have an official Next form yet, but I wanted a race with a bonus to Strength)

In 3rd, Halflings get -2 Strength, Half-orcs get +2 Strength.  The Halfling is 4 points lower.
In 4th, Halflings get no modifier to Strength, Half-orcs get +2.  The Halfling is 2 points lower.
In Next, Halflings get no modifier to Strength, Half-orcs get +1.  The Halfling is 1 point lower.  In addition, both races can get a +1 to Strength from their class, if applicable.

So what is happening is that the impact is lessened.  A halfling will be weaker than a half-orc, but not by much.  Playing a halfling Fighter or Barbarian won't make you feel like you made a poor choice.

Finally, unless you want all choices to be equal, different races/classes/feats will give everyone different things.  Thinking of a lack of bonus as a penalty seems very childish to me.  Would you complain that the Fighter gets more HP than your Wizard?  (And yes, I know you are not actually complaining, nor do I think you want everything to be the same, etc)
Not having a bonus is NOT the same thing as having a penalty.

This was argued over with regards to racial design numerous times during the bulk of 4E's run, and the conclusion has always been the two two concepts are very different both mathematically and psychologically. Viewing them as essentially similar, while having some reasoning to back it up with regards to what's optimal, falls apart when we consider other scenarios.

Not having penalties lowers the variance between optimal and suboptimal, meaning that the difference between a Half-Orc Barbarian and a Halfling Barbarian stopped being a next modifier difference of 2 and became one of just 1, which is far more managable. What this also does is cut down on trap options, which have long plagued not just newer players but also more veteran players who would like to try a race-class combination but can't get over the mathematical inadequacy.

And that leads us to the psychological element, which many people try to dismiss but which is still very important to how the game's functions are perceived. If I want to play a Sorcerer and see that Dwarves get +2 CON, then the thought is "Cool, my Sorcerer will be tougher.", whereas if I see that Dwarves get +2 CON and -2 CHA, the thought becomes "Darn, my Sorcerer is less charismatic.". Even if the latter reaction is still essentially mathematically true in a certain lesser way for the former, it doesn't look or feel that way and isn't called out that way.

The reason for this becomes apparent when you consider what the game's more basic, default assumptions are. The very reason that something is considered a bonus or a penalty is because they are above or below what would normally be expected without any modifier. If my character had no race at all, it would perform at a certain level, and that's the game's default assumption. Something only becomes a visible penalty of a sort when the game is telling you that you perform less well than if you had nothing at all. On the other hand, when you're just not getting a bonus, what you're actually seeing is that your character's performance is exactly in line with that default assumptions, which has no inherent negative connotations. This principle gets somewhat muddy when we start looking at things like racial speed, but it works very cleanly for looking at most aspects of race.

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I agree with you that lack of bonus is the new penalty.  Although it's not super new; it was the same way in 4E.  (Though in 4E, 'lack of feat support' was just as devastating as 'lack of bonus', which it appears Next will not be having a problem with; no racial feats in Next yet.)


There is no real difference between a cost and an opportunity cost.  In either case, you are giving something up.

The difference is you are doubly penalized for going against type with racial penalties (i.e., a 3E half-orc bard) especially if your campaign assumes point-buy.



Not really.  You're penalized an amount.  What that amount is varies with edition.


For example, in 2E, you can have a 2-point ability score swing that does absolutely nothing.  (Going from 11 to 13 Str, for example, IIRC, has no combat effect).  In 3E, you can have a 2-point swing that gives you 1 modifier, for most races (iirc half-orc is the only core race with a -2 to an ability score, and that's just because of the 3e ability score equivalancies chart; 2 charisma was officially worth as much as 1 strength.  The fact that it was a -2 was a specific quirk of the system and not a general rule.  edit;  Ok, halflings, that's because they were Small and got other mechanical bonuses for that state.  Again, quirk of the system, not a general rule.)  In 4E, you can have a 2-point swing that gives you 1 modifier.

In what way is the 3E character penalized more than the 4E character?  It's a 2-point swing either way (+2 vs 0, +1 vs -1), that gives the same game effect (1 point modifier difference).

In Next, currently, it's +1 vs 0, which sometimes makes a difference.  Realistically, you're going to put an odd stat in the bump (assuming you're using point buy), which is a 1-modifier difference.
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I agree with you that lack of bonus is the new penalty.  Although it's not super new; it was the same way in 4E.  (Though in 4E, 'lack of feat support' was just as devastating as 'lack of bonus', which it appears Next will not be having a problem with; no racial feats in Next yet.)


There is no real difference between a cost and an opportunity cost.  In either case, you are giving something up.

The difference is you are doubly penalized for going against type with racial penalties (i.e., a 3E half-orc bard) especially if your campaign assumes point-buy.



Not really.  You're penalized an amount.  What that amount is varies with edition.


For example, in 2E, you can have a 2-point ability score swing that does absolutely nothing.  (Going from 11 to 13 Str, for example, IIRC, has no combat effect).  In 3E, you can have a 2-point swing that gives you 1 modifier, for most races (iirc half-orc is the only core race with a -2 to an ability score, and that's just because of the 3e ability score equivalancies chart; 2 charisma was officially worth as much as 1 strength.  The fact that it was a -2 was a specific quirk of the system and not a general rule.  edit;  Ok, halflings, that's because they were Small and got other mechanical bonuses for that state.  Again, quirk of the system, not a general rule.)  In 4E, you can have a 2-point swing that gives you 1 modifier.

In what way is the 3E character penalized more than the 4E character?  It's a 2-point swing either way (+2 vs 0, +1 vs -1), that gives the same game effect (1 point modifier difference).

In Next, currently, it's +1 vs 0, which sometimes makes a difference.  Realistically, you're going to put an odd stat in the bump (assuming you're using point buy), which is a 1-modifier difference.

A 4E character without a racial bonus to his primary stat will have up to an 18 (+4), but more typically will have a 16 (+3).

A 3E character with a racial penalty to his primary stat will have up to an 16 (+3), but more typically will have a 14 (+2).

Of course they're exactly the same if you think 1 = 2.
A 4E character without a racial bonus to his primary stat will have up to an 18 (+4), but more typically will have a 16 (+3).

A 3E character with a racial penalty to his primary stat will have up to an 16 (+3), but more typically will have a 14 (+2).

Of course they're exactly the same if you think 1 = 2.




A typical race 3E character (+1/-1) with a penalty to his primary stat will have up to a 17 (+3).  A 3E character with the bonus side will have up to 19 (+4).

And by the way, your post makes no sense even on its own.  4 - 3 = 3 - 2.

(It made more sense when you were pretending that 4E characters could start with a 20 without a racial bonus.)
The difference between madness and genius is determined only by degrees of success.
A 4E character without a racial bonus to his primary stat will have up to an 18 (+4), but more typically will have a 16 (+3).

A 3E character with a racial penalty to his primary stat will have up to an 16 (+3), but more typically will have a 14 (+2).

Of course they're exactly the same if you think 1 = 2.




A typical race 3E character (+1/-1) with a penalty to his primary stat will have up to a 17 (+3).  A 3E character with the bonus side will have up to 19 (+4).

And by the way, your post makes no sense even on its own.  4 - 3 = 3 - 2.

(It made more sense when you were pretending that 4E characters could start with a 20 without a racial bonus.)

Come again? The common races give +2 as a bonus and -2 as a penalty in 3E.
 
Look this is not hard math here. In 3E the guy with a racial penalty is -1 behind the guy without one and -2 behind the guy with a racial bonus. This massively disincentivized anyone from playing against type in 3E (especially if you were a SAD spellcaster like wizard). In 4E, the difference optimal race and nonoptimal race is only ever -1 to the modifier which made playing against type Not A Big Deal at all.

Now, granted, this is not as bad if the modifiers are +1/-1 as in Next but I fail to see how its ideal either (you're still punished for going against type, just not as harshly).
Personally, I'd rather races be given features that modify ability rolls instead of flat bonuses to certain ability scores.



+1
(oh, and for classes too)

Bonus to abilities are mostly irrelevant in the first place. More so if it becomes a part of Basic progression - replacing feats.

Moreover, bonus to abilities don't really make it as symbolic for the race as a trait/feature would. It just encourages min-maxing. +1 CON is not going to tell you a lot about Stout Halfings while advantage on saving throws against poison, and resistance against poison damage is saying a lot about the toughness of their heart and stomach!

Anyway, not a lot of people seem to care about the fact that among every races, humans just get abilities without any trait/feature. That really doesn't say much about humans but maybe is it what's expected...
Just poking the fire with stick...don't mind me...

I understand that the "no bonus is the new penalty" argument only really has merit when taking about optimization. The best is still the best, and the rest is simply not.

And truly, the gap between the races is certainly smaller, and thus easier to handle disparity. A gnome barbarian is no longer crippled when compared to more optimal or even more traditional builds.

Or is he? (I swear I'm am just poking at the fire...)

What if the math is such that the smaller gap in 5e has as much a detrimental effect on party effectiveness relative to the challenges they face as the larger gap from 3e and prior? I am a big fan of bounded accuracy, but it does mean the band is lower, and a +1 is "worth more" than it ever has.

I'm not disputing that the gap is smaller. I'm asking if, through design or happenstance, the smaller 5e gap is "the same" as the larger 3e gap?
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I would just as well racial bonuses and penalties both go the way of the dodo, myself.  If you think your (X) should have a (high/low) (stat), then build it that way.
Come again? The common races give +2 as a bonus and -2 as a penalty in 3E.



Evidently I'm an idiot.  I was absolutely sure it was 1/1 but I seem to have been reading too much 2E stuff.  You are correct.


The fact remains, however, that 4E is just as bad about non-favored races as any other edition, due in part to the tighter math and in part to the absurd level of racial feats.

The difference between madness and genius is determined only by degrees of success.
The fact remains, however, that 4E is just as bad about non-favored races as any other edition, due in part to the tighter math and in part to the absurd level of racial feats.

Are you suggesting that a +1 in a class's primary stat is worth more in 4E than a +2 was in, say, 3E? Because I would disagree with that. The math was certainly tighter, but it wasn't that tight. If we were talking about Next rather than 4E, I think you might have an argument because Next is so much tighter still, but I'm pretty sure that's exactly why Next give a +1 bonus rather than a +2 bonus. As for 4E racial feats, with a few exceptions, those were mostly not particularly great.

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!
What exactly is so bad about a penatly going against type?  Why shouldn't it be harder for a halfling who is physically smaller by nature to be a fighter compared to a half orc who is naturally bigger and stronger?  Why shouldn't it be harder to play a wizard from a race that has a more wild, less educated culture like the half orc?  Yes it's more difficult, but that's what makes doing it more interesting.  If you were discouraged from playing a dwarf sorcerer because of the charisma penalty, then you probably didn't find a dwarf sorcerer interesting enough to overcome it.  Half orcs are bigger, elves are more intellectual, dwarves are tough and gruff.  Why shouldn't that be represented?
What exactly is so bad about a penatly going against type?

Pigeon-holing, trap options, etc. Racial penalties were done away with in 4E because, regardless of how much they supposedly "make sense" (even though that decision should really be up to what kind of level of fantasy you want to play with), they still result in pigeon-holing (excessively enforcing a particular role upon the race that disregards what players might actually want to do with it) and still create trap options (creating options that are perfectly allowed but can secretly be very suboptimal, which is detrimental to newer players).

Also...
Why shouldn't it be harder to play a wizard from a race that has a more wild, less educated culture like the half orc?

Race =/= Culture
At least not in D&D.

Yes it's more difficult, but that's what makes doing it more interesting.

You say interesting, I say annoying. The idea that playing something subpar makes for better role-playing is a completely fallacious one, and you won't find many people around here that will humor such a notion.

Half orcs are bigger, elves are more intellectual, dwarves are tough and gruff.  Why shouldn't that be represented?

Not every part of a race's flavor needs to be mechanically prepresented.

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!
Half orcs are bigger, elves are more intellectual, dwarves are tough and gruff.  Why shouldn't that be represented?

Not every part of a race's flavor needs to be mechanically prepresented.

Nor does the "typical" predisposition of a races abilities need to be more than a suggestion. A sidebar stating that half-orcs are often stronger than humans, elves and halflings more nimble, dwarves more hearty, etc. Newer players that want to can keep to "traditional" racial ability distributions, and those that want to break away can also.

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What exactly is so bad about a penatly going against type?

Pigeon-holing, trap options, etc. Racial penalties were done away with in 4E because, regardless of how much they supposedly "make sense" (even though that decision should really be up to what kind of level of fantasy you want to play with), they still result in pigeon-holing (excessively enforcing a particular role upon the race that disregards what players might actually want to do with it) and still create trap options (creating options that are perfectly allowed but can secretly be very suboptimal, which is detrimental to newer players).



It doesn't excessively enforce it.  A -2 penalty, a -1 modifier, is easy enough to overcome in character creation.  And there's nothing sercret about it being suboptimal.  The game doesn't have to be about making the mechanically best whatever.  As for it being detrimental to new players, it's not like a -1 modifier makes the game unplayable to them.

Also...
Why shouldn't it be harder to play a wizard from a race that has a more wild, less educated culture like the half orc?

Race =/= Culture
At least not in D&D.


Um, the racial desscriptions in the players handbooks say differently.  It may not be the case in your game and that's fine, but the descriptions include cultural descriptions.

Yes it's more difficult, but that's what makes doing it more interesting.

You say interesting, I say annoying. The idea that playing something subpar makes for better role-playing is a completely fallacious one, and you won't find many people around here that will humor such a notion.


A -1 modifier doesn't automatically make the character sub par.  I also didn't say playing something 'sub-par' makes better role play, however the playing the overcoming of a traditional drawback, the accomplishment of something despite a preconceived weakness can be. 

Half orcs are bigger, elves are more intellectual, dwarves are tough and gruff.  Why shouldn't that be represented?

Not every part of a race's flavor needs to be mechanically prepresented.


It's not just an issue of flavor.  It's part of the physical makeup of the creature in question.  The ability scores of any given creature are indicitive of their size and strength, agility, mental accuity, etc.  It's more than mere fluff.

Just because something is 'sub-optimal' doesn't mean it can't be interesting or fun to play.  Not everybody needs to max a character to enjoy it.
A -2 penalty, a -1 modifier, is easy enough to overcome in character creation.

How easy or not it is to overcome is irrelevant. Needing to be overcome at all is still enough to make it a problem design-wise.

And there's nothing sercret about it being suboptimal.

Not to more experienced players, but newer players are a different story. Besides, it being secret or not doesn't actually stop it from being a trap option.

The game doesn't have to be about making the mechanically best whatever.

Nobody is saying that.

As for it being detrimental to new players, it's not like a -1 modifier makes the game unplayable to them.

Just because it's not unplayable doesn't mean it's not bad design.

Um, the racial desscriptions in the players handbooks say differently.

Then it is wrong. While a race's fluff should certainly include stereotypical cultural information, that should be fluff and only fluff. Bringing such things into a race's mechanical traits is a bad idea, plain and simple, exactly because it mistakes what race actually is in D&D. It's not culture. It is inherent biology and other innate features. That's why so many people dislike cultural features included in racial mechanics, such as racial weapon proficiencies.

I also didn't say playing something 'sub-par' makes better role play, however the playing the overcoming of a traditional drawback, the accomplishment of something despite a preconceived weakness can be.

That can be role-played exactly as well without need for mechanical penalty.

It's not just an issue of flavor. It's part of the physical makeup of the creature in question.

The physical make-up of the creature in question is flavor.

The ability scores of any given creature are indicitive of their size and strength, agility, mental accuity, etc. It's more than mere fluff.

What do you think fluff is if you do not see that that is fluff?

Just because something is 'sub-optimal' doesn't mean it can't be interesting or fun to play.

Nobody is saying that.

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!
A -2 penalty, a -1 modifier, is easy enough to overcome in character creation.

How easy or not it is to overcome is irrelevant. Needing to be overcome at all is still enough to make it a problem design-wise.



Not for specifically against the grain race/class options.  It's not that big of a deal.

The game doesn't have to be about making the mechanically best whatever.

Nobody is saying that.


Your compaint against playing anything 'sub-optimal' says pretty much that.

Um, the racial desscriptions in the players handbooks say differently.

Then it is wrong. While a race's fluff should certainly include stereotypical cultural information, that should be fluff and only fluff. Bringing such things into a race's mechanical traits is a bad idea, plain and simple, exactly because it mistakes what race actually is in D&D. It's not culture. It is inherent biology and other innate features. That's why so many people dislike cultural features included in racial mechanics, such as racial weapon proficiencies.


A race in D&D is what D&D says it is.  You're separating race from culture when the game has not.  Furthermore, inherent biology is exactly where many of the racial bonuses and penalties come from.  A halfling's str penalty comes from him being biologically smaller.

It's not just an issue of flavor. It's part of the physical makeup of the creature in question.

The physical make-up of the creature in question is flavor.


The physical makeup comes in large part from their inherent biology.  That then, has direct correlation to several of their abilities.  It's mechanically relevant, not just flavor.

The ability scores of any given creature are indicitive of their size and strength, agility, mental accuity, etc. It's more than mere fluff.

What do you think fluff is if you do not see that that is fluff?


Ability scores are not fluff.  A Giant's str is a measurable and mechanically significant aspect that is strongly influenced by his inherent biology, making that mechanically relevant and therefore more than fluff.  The same can be said for a halfling's typically low str.  If a Dragon has high str because it's biologically huge and strong, a halfling should typically have a lower str because he's biologically small.  It's not something the player should get to just dismiss.  It's part of playing the race.

So if their biology isn't getting factored in, and you don't think their culture should either, that eliminates ability modifiers, racial weapon proficiencies, and pretty much the rest of the racial traits, except maybe language that anyone can learn and movement speed, but then there's no reason to play anything with a slower one, so eliminate those because they're sub-optimal. So race is an entirely cosmetic choice, so why even have them?



It's not that big of a deal.

It doesn't matter how big or small of a deal you think it is. The problem is that it is a deal at all.

Your compaint against playing anything 'sub-optimal' says pretty much that.

No, that is a misunderstanding. There's nothing wrong with playing something sub-optimal. There is something wrong, though, with the game making you play something sub-optimal as the only way of playing a very basic character concept.

A race in D&D is what D&D says it is. You're separating race from culture when the game has not.

When the game doesn't, that's because it has made a mistake. The game is not right about everything that it does. Race-culture conflation is a problem that is often repeated, but that doesn't make it less of a problem. It just causes too many campaign and character role-playing problems.

Furthermore, inherent biology is exactly where many of the racial bonuses and penalties come from. A halfling's str penalty comes from him being biologically smaller.

Yes, and that most racial features are based on biological or otherwise innate characteristics is a good thing. It would be better if it were all of them, though. As for the second part of that, that was already covered by simply realizing that not all aspects of a race's fluff needs to be mechanically represented, especially not if it leads to bad game design.

The physical makeup comes in large part from their inherent biology. That then, has direct correlation to several of their abilities. It's mechanically relevant, not just flavor.
Ability scores are not fluff. A Giant's str is a measurable and mechanically significant aspect that is strongly influenced by his inherent biology, making that mechanically relevant and therefore more than fluff. The same can be said for a halfling's typically low str.

What do you think it is I'm saying? Because all of this here is either irrelevant or stuff that I agree with.

If a Dragon has high str because it's biologically huge and strong, a halfling should typically have a lower str because he's biologically small.

This is non sequitor. It does not logically follow (I think it's called a false equivalence?). There are other reasons for a creature's mechanics other than just it's fluff. A Dragon has a high STR because it's biologically huge and strong and reflecting that mechanically is not bad for the game. A Halfling does not have a STR penalty because, depite being biologically small, that mechanic would be bad for the game. Simulation is not the only factor to be considered.

So if their biology isn't getting factored in...

Where did you get this from? Exactly what I'm saying is that biology (along with other innate features) should be the source of racial features, because that's the only thing that makes sense.

So race is an entirely cosmetic choice, so why even have them?

You will find a lot of people here ask that very same question. I am not one of them, though. You got from what I said to this by taking a lot of leaps of logic.

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 you that lack of bonus is the new penalty.  Although it's not super new; it was the same way in 4E.  (Though in 4E, 'lack of feat support' was just as devastating as 'lack of bonus', which it appears Next will not be having a problem with; no racial feats in Next yet.)

There is no real difference between a cost and an opportunity cost.  In either case, you are giving something up.

The difference is you are doubly penalized for going against type with racial penalties (i.e., a 3E half-orc bard) especially if your campaign assumes point-buy.



Not really.  You're penalized an amount.  What that amount is varies with edition.

For example, in 2E, you can have a 2-point ability score swing that does absolutely nothing.  (Going from 11 to 13 Str, for example, IIRC, has no combat effect).  In 3E, you can have a 2-point swing that gives you 1 modifier, for most races (iirc half-orc is the only core race with a -2 to an ability score, and that's just because of the 3e ability score equivalancies chart; 2 charisma was officially worth as much as 1 strength.  The fact that it was a -2 was a specific quirk of the system and not a general rule.  edit;  Ok, halflings, that's because they were Small and got other mechanical bonuses for that state.  Again, quirk of the system, not a general rule.)  In 4E, you can have a 2-point swing that gives you 1 modifier.

In what way is the 3E character penalized more than the 4E character?  It's a 2-point swing either way (+2 vs 0, +1 vs -1), that gives the same game effect (1 point modifier difference).

In Next, currently, it's +1 vs 0, which sometimes makes a difference.  Realistically, you're going to put an odd stat in the bump (assuming you're using point buy), which is a 1-modifier difference.


Str in 2E is a bad example, as every +2 gives you something. Try Dex 7-14, which made no difference unless you were a Thief.

And in point buy penalties are expensive and definitely not the same as no bonus. For example in D&D 3.5, if you wanted 16 in a stat, if you have a -2 penalty, you need to spend 16 points in point buy, if you have no modifier, you need to spend 10, and if you have a +2 bonus you only need to spend 6 points in the standard point buy rules. That's potentially a 10 point difference, which is much higher than the 4 point spread would indicate. There is an extra 6 points penalty for going against type for your race if the penalty is on an important stat for your class. But as 2E would simply not allow it, I still viewed it as an improvement.

I also have to agree that in D&D race descriptions have always blurred the lines between what's physical and what's culture. I've seen long discussions about if someone was reincarnated as a Dwarf, if they should get the bonus fighting against Giants.

5e should strongly stay away from "I don't like it, so you can't have it either."

 

I once asked the question (in D&D 3.5) "Does a Druid4/Wizard3/ArcaneHierophant1 have Wildshape?". Jesse Decker and Andy Collins: Yes and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Rich Redman and Ed Stark: No and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Skip Williams: Lol, it's worded ambiguously and entirely not how I intended it. (Cust. Serv. Reference# 050815-000323)

the cost of mechanically distinct races is that some races will be better, to some degree, at some things than others. I wouldn't say that races in next (or most of the races in 4e) to any meaningful degree, though. With no penalty, and a smaller bonus, and class giving the same kind of bonus, the difference just isn't important. The only time there's any real reason to worry about making sure your race and class "line up" is if you're doing a kinda oddball, or especially MAD build.
Skeptical_Clown wrote:
More sex and gender equality and racial equality shouldn't even be an argument--it should simply be an assumption for any RPG that wants to stay relevant in the 21st century.
104340961 wrote:
Pine trees didn't unanimously decide one day that leaves were gauche.
http://community.wizards.com/doctorbadwolf/blog/2012/01/10/how_we_can_help_make_dndnext_awesome
I also have to agree that in D&D race descriptions have always blurred the lines between what's physical and what's culture. I've seen long discussions about if someone was reincarnated as a Dwarf, if they should get the bonus fighting against Giants.

Yes, but the question isn't whether it's done but whether it should be done. From the nature of your example, I'm betting you agree that it should not.

the cost of mechanically distinct races is that some races will be better, to some degree, at some things than others.

Isn't this kind of a straw man argument, though? The people who don't want racial penalties don't disagree with that, just that it's perfectly possible and even desirable to do it by way of bonuses and other options rater than penalties.

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 wasn't in any way disagreeing with anything like that, bromigo. :D

Sorry if it seemed like I was.


heh. bromigo...where'd I get that...tv somewhere? idk, it's fun to say, though.


anyway, my point is simply that looking at bonuses creating, in their lack, effective penalties seems kind of pointless unless we're going to argue that races shouldn't be mechanically distinct. As long as the opportunity cost isn't great, and there's no actual penalties, we're doing good.

I have nothing to say on the whole cultural trait thing that I've not already said many times, or that you aren't already saying in this thread, so I'll just stay out of that one. :P


EDIT: heh...bromigo.

awesome.
Skeptical_Clown wrote:
More sex and gender equality and racial equality shouldn't even be an argument--it should simply be an assumption for any RPG that wants to stay relevant in the 21st century.
104340961 wrote:
Pine trees didn't unanimously decide one day that leaves were gauche.
http://community.wizards.com/doctorbadwolf/blog/2012/01/10/how_we_can_help_make_dndnext_awesome
I also have to agree that in D&D race descriptions have always blurred the lines between what's physical and what's culture. I've seen long discussions about if someone was reincarnated as a Dwarf, if they should get the bonus fighting against Giants.

Yes, but the question isn't whether it's done but whether it should be done. From the nature of your example, I'm betting you agree that it should not.


I'm not so tied to the traditions of D&D. I'm just pointing out that it would require a shift in thinking from pervious editions to clearly separate Nature from Nurture. And given the way 5E is going, a radical jump like that doesn't seem likely.

5e should strongly stay away from "I don't like it, so you can't have it either."

 

I once asked the question (in D&D 3.5) "Does a Druid4/Wizard3/ArcaneHierophant1 have Wildshape?". Jesse Decker and Andy Collins: Yes and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Rich Redman and Ed Stark: No and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Skip Williams: Lol, it's worded ambiguously and entirely not how I intended it. (Cust. Serv. Reference# 050815-000323)

Racial penalties as well as bonuses are meaningless.

For example, who can believe that halflings' weakness should only be represented by a -2 to strength for example ? How an halfling can have 16 strength without the leverage of a human ? And one hit of a sword or an axe would deal twice as much damage to a small creatures, but halfling have no Constitution penalty ?
Can we consider that an individual with the size of a child would be considered as a leader from taller races ? This halfling would have to work at least twice as hard before being considered equal. So Charisma bonus is out confronted to taller races.

Modifiers on ability scores are not a good tool to characterize races. It would make more sense to put ability score prerequisite on exotic races.


I see nothing wrong with ability penalties.

Bonus and penalties for races exist to differentiate the average individual of that race from the average human (since humans are naturally our own real starting point of reference, as players).

So taking 2ed as an example, the average Elf is more agile and less stout than the average human, that's why they get +1 on Dex and -1 on Con. This also means an Elf can reach a Dex of 19 which is beyond what any human could ever achieve.

I find it silly, also, that humans now get bonuses to ability scores (especially this present bonus of +1 to everything). They probably only added that because by removing the penalties from other races the balance was broken and they found no other way to make playing a human appealing.

If humans are the reference, just have the ammount of points you distribute, or the dice rolls, define a human's abilities. Why add more bonuses later if you can have the standards of point distribution/dice roll already set to define the range of a human's ability scores? That's using 2 processes to calculate something that can be done in 1.



I really don't see why having a +1/-1 for a race is "not fun". The -1 is there to define the average individual of that race, just as the +1. If a player gets pissed because of the -1 and thinks he is being "punished" for playing the race then this guy has serious psychological issues... maybe childhood trauma, I don't know... 
Especially since the -1 is already balanced with another +1. 



On a side note: I'm by no means against having other bonuses for races besides the ability modifiers... as has always been the case in D&D. 
Racial penalties as well as bonuses are meaningless.

For example, who can believe that halflings' weakness should only be represented by a -2 to strength for example ? How an halfling can have 16 strength without the leverage of a human ? And one hit of a sword or an axe would deal twice as much damage to a small creatures, but halfling have no Constitution penalty ?
Can we consider that an individual with the size of a child would be considered as a leader from taller races ? This halfling would have to work at least twice as hard before being considered equal. So Charisma bonus is out confronted to taller races.

Modifiers on ability scores are not a good tool to characterize races. It would make more sense to put ability score prerequisite on exotic races.



Yep, I think too that the race should be firstly a cosmetic and story choice. Ability bonus (or malus) doesn't tell anything about a race, they are totally a meta-gaming issue, and thus influence players in a min-max way.

I would largely prefer if there were only a set of traits and features. Those things would also be much much easier to alter from a campaign world to another.

Take Eberron for example. Orcs in Eberron are a powerfull race of sorcerers and druids, peacefull protectors of the Spiritual Realm. I don't think a bonus in STR or DEX can model that, so you would have to change every bonuses for every races in every settings? Or else what? à la 4e, they would errata their race and say that in that setting, they can choose between those two attributes bonus instead. That seems really bad core design.

Racial traits would be easier to swap, even more with sub-races adding lots of possibilities, like the difference between a Lightfoot halfing that can easily hide behind someone and a Stout halfing that can resist ingurgitating poisoned food. Yes, this is more work than just giving a +1 stat.
Geeze, Foxface; is this what it comes to? I know the endless sea of Warlord threads is frustrating, but c'mon! You've posted a thread that you simultaneously admit you don't even agree with. It's madness! Snap out of it!

Also, no, it's not the same. If we're talking math, it's clear that no-penalties approach encourages a smaller gap such that playing against the norm isn't an exercise in self-abuse. Psychologically, people are more encouraged to try these options because nothing is bluntly obstructing them. The only thing that doesn't change is that our perceptions of dwarves being less charismatic than others remains true, since some races get a charisma bonus but dwarves don't -- and the fact that this traditional flavour is preserved is a good thing, not a bad one.
I don't use emoticons, and I'm also pretty pleasant. So if I say something that's rude or insulting, it's probably a joke.

To illustrate, I will examine races from 3rd, 4th, and Next. (Halflings and Half-orcs...yes, I know Half-orcs don't have an official Next form yet, but I wanted a race with a bonus to Strength)

In 3rd, Halflings get -2 Strength, Half-orcs get +2 Strength.  The Halfling is 4 points lower.
In 4th, Halflings get no modifier to Strength, Half-orcs get +2.  The Halfling is 2 points lower.
In Next, Halflings get no modifier to Strength, Half-orcs get +1.  The Halfling is 1 point lower.  In addition, both races can get a +1 to Strength from their class, if applicable.

So what is happening is that the impact is lessened.  A halfling will be weaker than a half-orc, but not by much.  Playing a halfling Fighter or Barbarian won't make you feel like you made a poor choice.



This, to me, says everything I would say about this subject. It illustrates the differences and impact well.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/17.jpg)

Psychologically, people are more encouraged to try these options because nothing is bluntly obstructing them.


This is the only distinction that I care about, quite honestly.  But I think it's pretty major.
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)