Fireclave's Guide to 4e Race Mechanic Creation

186 posts / 0 new
Last post
Fireclave's Guide to 4e Race Mechanic Creation v1.1

Ever had a really cool idea for a race, but had no idea how to build it? Whether you are new to race creation or veteran race creator from previous versions, it's good to know some of the conventions the 4e designers used when creating races.


What I present here are general guidelines for specking out balanced races in 4e, following the patterns used by official races drawn primarily from the PH1 and PH2.


Table of Contents


Racial Stat Block Template


This is what your basic 4e stat-block should look like:


Ability Score: +2 stat, +2 different stat
Size: Medium or Small
Speed: 5-7
Vision: Normal or Low-light
Languages: Common, 0-2 other languages
Skill Bonuses: +2 one skill, +2 different skill
Defense Bonus: If this races stat bonuses apply to the same defense, grant the race +1 to a different defense. Else, don't grant a defense bonus.
Major Ability One: A mechanically significant ability
Major Ability Two: A mechanically significant ability
0-2 Minor Abilities: Abilities with little or no mechanical impact.
Racial Power: A racial encounter or at-will power


Encounter Power -or- At-Will Power
Flavor goes here.
Encounter or At-Will ♦ Keywords
Action Range
Targets: Targets go here.
Attack/Effect: Go here.


Deconstructing the Template


Now that's you've seen the template, let's discuss some of the key mechanical points.


Ability Scores and Bonus Defense


Each race should get a +2 bonus to two different ability scores. If the ability scores of your race apply to the same Non-AC Defense (or NaD for short, which includes Fort, Reflex, and Will), you should also give your race a +1 bonus to an additional, NaD. This defense bonus does not count against the other abilities you grant you race.


Note that, aside from compensating for like-defense ability scores, you should generally avoid granting your races unconditional bonuses to defenses. Defense bonuses are highly coveted in 4e, and almost no racial abilities or racial feats grant an unconditional, always-on bonus to a defense. This is a different treat than what 3e veterans may be used to, where AC bonuses from size and natural armor were very common. Many 4e racial abilities, however, do grant conditional bonuses to defenses, with Halflings and Devas being a prime example of this treatment.


The exceptions to this rule are Humans, who get a +1 to all NaDs. Note, however, that Humans are built and balanced a bit differently than most races. Since Humans only get an ability bonus to one score, they are effectively down several bonuses (to skills, class powers, ect) compared to other races, and are therefore compensated in other ways, this being one of them. Also in favor of the Human's defense bonus is the fact that NaDs don't come into play as often as AC.


Size


A PC race shouldn't be no bigger than Medium and no smaller than Small.


Small size deserves special attention, especially for homebrewers migrating from 3e. In 3e, Small size restricted weapon damage and while granting bonuses to attack rolls, AC, and hide checks. Small size in 4e confers no inherent bonuses but has kept the weapon damage reduction. That said, Small sized races in 4e are not without compensation.


A common consensus is that the bonuses of being small have become part of individual race's writeup and racial feats rather than being inherent to the size category itself. The Halfling's Second Chance power, Nimble Reaction racial ability, and Lost in the Crowd racial feat are examples of small-themed racial perks.


Another common consensus is that the abilities of small sized races are slightly more potent than those of their larger kin. To what, if any extent, this disparity of power exists and how well this works as a balancing factor against the negatives of small size is still hotly a debated topic, but that does seem to be the trend.


Therefore, if you are building a small size and want to emphasize their size, give them racial abilities and feats that emphasize the theme of being small.


Speed and Movement Forms


The standard speed for a PC race is 6 squares. Speedy races like elves can have a speed up to 7, while slower races like Dwarves and gnomes can have a speed as low as 5. No printed races, to date, have had base speeds higher or lower than these values.


Vision


Races typically have normal or low-light vision. If your race is nocturnal, dwells in poorly lit environments, or simply has extra sharp vision, consider low-light vision over normal.


Try to avoid granting your race darkvision without good reason. Darkvision, in the hands of a capable player, can be very powerful when used against foes without it; And, AFAIK, only one official race, the Drow, has been given darkvision so far. Also, a reminder to race homebrewers who have migrated from 3e, darkvision, by default, has no distance limit and is therefore even more powerful than it was before. Even creatures that once had darkvision in 3e, such as Dwarves, Tieflings, and PC-stat'ed kobolds (but not their monster stat'ed version strangely enough), now just have low-light vision at beat.


Languages


All PC races speak Common. Many, but not all, speak one additional language; typically either a language related to their racial identity or their choice of one other. Very few speak three languages.


Compared to previous editions, languages in 4e are purposely limited to a few (DMG;171). While language is never a big adventuring concern unless the DM wants it to be, fewer languages mean that the languages the party does have access to are more likely to be useful whenever the situation arises. Therefore, consider using an appropriate, pre-existing language first before inventing a new racial language. Here's a few examples:


Nature-philes, fey, and forest people, like Eladrin, Elves, and Gnomes, tend to speak Elven. Mountain people, like Dwarves and Goliaths, speak Dwarvin. Big folk like Goliaths (again), Half-orcs, and Orcs tend to speak Giant. Dragons and scaly peoples like Dragonborn and Kobolds speak Draconic. And so on.


Other thing to avoid is giving your race Supernal or Abysssal. PCs are, by default, restrict from starting with these languages.


Skill Bonuses


All races get a +2 bonus to two different skills.


Major Abilities and Racial Feats


Major abilities are those racial abilities with definite mechanical benefit. What is a "definite mechanical advantage" you ask? Typically, anything that affects your character's numbers often, semi-often, or are significantly beneficial whenever they do apply. Major abilities include abilities such as the dragonborn's Dragonborn Fury, the Halfling's Bold, The Tiefling's resistance to fire, and the Eladrin's saving throw bonuses against charm effects.


While a race's major abilities should be indicative of the race, but at the same time they should be general enough that they are useful regardless of class or build. For example, an ability that apply to only melee attacks is completely useless for ranged or implement users, which means non-melee focused memeber of that race is missing out on a major portion of his race's abilities. If you have such niche racial abilities in mind, consider converting them into racial feats instead.


Your race should have no more or less than two of these. If you have more than two ideas for major abilities, choose the two you feel most iconic to your race's identity to become racial abilities. The rest are excellent candidates for racial feats.


Minor Abilities


Minor abilities are racial abilities whose mechanical significance are extremely limited, niche, highly situational, or have no effective mechanical significance at all. They often serve as both a mechanical and flavor anchor for additional abilities such as racial feats, race-specific items, racial paragon paths, and the like.


The Eladrin's racial weapon longsword proficiency is an excellent example of this. While proficiency is indicative of the race's flavorful love of swordplay, it's not a very significant ability mechanically. Since most characters who would want to use a longsword will likely be members of a class proficient the the weapon anyway, the ability as is will likely go to waste for most characters. However, the Eladrin's racial proficiency serve as a tie-in for several related mechanics, including Eladrin Soldier feat, the pact swords (AV), and the Wizard of Spiral Tower paragon path (which, besides having a very Eladrin-friendly flavor, the entry prerequisites seem to have been written with Eladrin wizards in mind).


Racial Power


A race's racial power is one of the most significant abilities for establishing that race's identity, in both mechanics and flavor. It should either be universally useful to all members of the race, such as the halfling's Second Chance or the human's bonus at-will, or it should be useful to a broad range of classes that the race is most suited for.


The dragonborn, for example, greatly favor front-line combatant classes, and the stats used to attack with their Dragonbreath racial (str, con, dex), are significant to almost all close-combat oriented class builds. But, while the former evidence seems to point to Dragonbreath being a melee oriented racial ability, consider that every class in the PH has at least one build that uses one of those stats as a primary or secondary (including the wizard thanks to the staff build).


As a general rule, racial powers should take no more than a minor action to use. There is a reason for this. Being a minor action allows the race to use their cool and distinctive racial powers while still being able to perform their class functions.


Non-implement/Non-weapon Attack (NINWA; I don't think that acronym's been coin yet) powers, such as the dragonborn's Dragonbreath, have special guidelines to consider. First, the damage of such powers should scale per tier. Most offensive racial powers of this type scale at about 1d6 points of damage per tier.


In addition, you should grant such powers a +2 bonus to hit per tier (+2 at heroic, +4 at paragon, +6 at epic). The reason for this is that these powers don't have an weapon or implement to provide enhancement bonuses to attack.


Finally, and less obvious to novice race designers, racial NINWAs that target AC should have an additional +2 bonus to attack on top of the standard (+4 at heroic, +6 at paragon, +8 at epic). The reason for this is due to how attacks and defenses are balanced against each other. A monster's AC is typically about 2 points higher than their NADs. This is balanced about by weapons granting their user a +2, or so, bonus to attack. So, on average, weapon users have about the same odds of landing a hit than implement users. So if you have your racial non-weapon power target AC, you need to "build-in" the proficiency bonus.


Things to Avoid


4e Doesn't Do Racial Penalties. Period.


Exactly what it says on the tin. 4e races never get minuses to anything. Any ability a race has should, in some way, add to rather than take away it. When creating a race, resist the urge to give it racial penalties for any reason (but especially the reason listed below).


The Closest thing any race gets to a racial penalty is the small size, but see the section "Sizes larger than Large and smaller than Small" below for more details on this subject.


Overly Compensating Racial Penalties


While I already said that 4e doesn't do racial penalties, this sub-topic, I feel, deserves extra attention.


If you do succumb to the allure of giving your race a racial penalty, exercise discretion when attempting to grant a penalty to compensate for an extra-powerful racial ability. All to often, attempts at balancing out an extra powerful ability with an racial penalty results one of the following:


  1. The penalty itself does too little to balance the race, and the race remains overpowered.

  2. The penalty itself does too much to balance the race, and the race becomes underpowered.

  3. SThe penalty does not address the reason that the benefit is overpowered, thus making the race both overpowered and underpowered at the same time, swinging wildly between the extremes depending on the situation.

Attempts to balance flight with Tiny size and related penalties to create a Victorian fairy-race are a common culprit of number three among homebrewers, and therefore are a good example of this error. Tiny, flying, races with heavy penalties are very polar. They'll either decimate encounters at a distance with spells and arrows, or they'll become a flying airline peanuts in target-print bags for flying creatures and ranged foes.


When faced with a situation where it seems like a good idea to give your race a penalty to compensate for a strong ability, it is almost always a better idea to reign in or discard the offending ability instead.


Sizes larger than Medium and smaller than Small


4e's combat mechanics and assumptions don't support larger or smaller creatures very well. Besides the fact that the weapon size rules don't take Tiny and smaller creatures into account, such creatures are also considerably nerfed in melee combat since they have no reach and must incur OA's to enter a creature's square. Conversely, Large and larger creatures are significantly more powerful in combat than other races. Their larger weapons add significantly more damage to weapon based powers, and the reach provided by large size is extremely potent in 4e's combat environment which is heavily focused on short-ranged, close-quarters skirmishes.


If you really feel that your race needs to be an unusual size, remember that sizes in 4e don't have hard boundaries and are just abstractions anyway. Your race can be very large with being Large sized, or very tiny without actually being Tiny sized. If you want size to have a mechanical presence, take a cue from Halflings and Goliaiths and give your race size-related abilities and feats instead.


Odd Ability Score Bonuses


It's no coincidence that ability score bonuses are always an even +2 and never an odd +1 or +3. The first reason is that even ability scores affect all members of a race in the same way. A +2 ability score bonus always grants a +1 modifier. Odd bonuses only provide like bonuses half the time.


For example, say you have a race that grants a +1 to str. A member of that race with a base score of 11 strength will, after racials, have 12 strength, which increases his strength modifier by one. A second member of that race with a base score of 10 will, after racials, have an score of 11, barely any mechanical change to show for it aside from increase carrying capacity.


The second reason, more specific to this edition, is that the math of 4e is fairly tight. This is especially true compared to 3e where racial score varied greatly due magic items, tomes of permanent bonuses, level adjustment, templates, and the like. Point buy, feat prerequisites, and the like are carefully calculated against the assumptions such as races getting no more than +2 to a stat.


Flight


Flight is one of the things 4e, with its emphasis on short-ranged skirmishes, does not handle very well. Very, very few things in the game grant flight in any form, and fewer still grant at-will flight. What few flight enablers are in the game typically do appear any earlier than mid paragon.


Flight can be very powerful in the hands of a PC. PCs that can fly can ignore ground-based traps and trivialize combat with melee ranged monsters who are left with few, if any, ways of fighting back. This makes it harder for the DM to plan level-appropriate encounters.


As a general rule, PCs races should not start with at-will flight of any type, including overland flight. At most, racial flight should either be granted in very limited duration, most likely in the form of a short duration encounter power, or barring that, a form of flight with a max altitude that does not actually take them out of melee reach.


However, there is precedence for flight at-will flight being available at higher levels. The Scion of Arkhosia path (PH2), the Favored Soul (DP), and the Flying Carpet (PH), all grant at-will flight by 16th level (in the case of the carpet, lvl 16 is the earliest you could find the item in treasure parcels). The former grants a fast at-will overland flight and per encounter flight power, while the latter two grant combat-capable flight. It seems that, for now at least, level 16 is the bench mark for granting at-will flight capabilities.


If you want to grant your race more flight earlier than that, you are either going to have to get very creative in giving the flight limitation, or accept that the race will have a very powerful and potentially very unbalancing ability. But see the "Final Word" section below.


Oversized


In short, it is flat-out overpowered.


Oversized in an ability that allows a character to wield weapons as if he were one size larger. Several of the monster npc racial stats in the monster manual, namely the Bugbear and the Minotaur, have this ability.


Initially, Oversized seems to be appropriate ability. Oversized generally increases your weapon die size by one step, which is a +1 damage on average and a max of +2. However, the problem shows itself when using powers with multiple [W]s. What's 1-2 additional base weapon damage can eventually escalate to 5-10 damage or more at higher levels when encounter and daily powers are used. This is a far greater damage boost than what any racial ability was intended to grant.


WotC has recognized that Oversized too powerful to be PC racial material, which is why the official Minotaur writeup doesn't have it any more, why the Goliath who had the equivalent ability in 3e never got it in this edition, and why it almost definitely will not appear in any official racial material in the future.


Extra Powerful Conditions


There are several status conditions that are, in general, inappropriate for racial abilities because they are just that good. These include Daze, Dominated, Helpless, Petrified, Stunned, Unconscious, and Weaken. Note that most of these conditions render the foe completely unable to act at all.


In terms of secondary effects, racial powers should generally be no more potent than 1st level class encounter powers. This bars all of the previously mentioned conditions. If you do decide to make imparting these conditions available to your race, carefully consider their effects on the balance of the race and consider making them paragon or epic-tier upgrades of your race's power.


The ____ Folk


While this article has primarily dealt with mechanical do's and don'ts, there is one racial point I feel I should not neglect to comment on. And that's naming your race.


Say you've read this article, followed it, and created a totally awesome, that had both interesting flavor and sound mechanics. What's the first thing people are going to see when you post your race? The name. The name of the race is going to set the tone for the mechanics and flavor to follow. Therefore, you should take some time in coming up with a interesting name for your race.


Therefore, try to come up with something other than the ____ Folk. That might be the shorthand of what your race might be known as in-game, but as the official name of your race it often, though not always, sounds like a placeholder at best.


That's not to say that the ____ Folk is a bad name for a race. It could actually be a very good name. Many beloved official races follow this and similar naming cliches. However, the ____ Folk is a cliche naming pattern none the less. And like any cliche, while neither inherently bad or good, it is very common and familiar.


Such naming cliches are one of the basic tools that every race homebrewer, from beginner to expert, has in their arsenal. If you thought of naming your race the ____ Folk, very likely there is a race, or several races, that already have that name or similar ones. Therefore, if used without careful attention to aesthetics, this naming cliche can make your race, an otherwise different and unique creation, sound very common and familiar as well. The last thing you want is for a criticizer to look at your race and think "not another cat race."


Other common racial name cliches include the ____men, ____kin, ____iods, ____born, ____lings, and Half-____s, where "____" is also often a classical elemental, well known mythological creature, or the species name or genus of an animal, Latin or otherwise.


Final Word


Remember that the guidelines given here assumes that you are attempting to make a race that's balanced against standard PC races in standard environments. This is important if you are planning on posting your creation to share with the whole gaming community.


However, if you are designing the race primarily for your game, you have a lot more legroom with work with. Your game may not be a standard game, and therefore things that may be over or underpowered in a "typical" campaign may work just fine in your own campaign under your individual campaign style and houserules.


But more importantly than that, these are guidelines and not rules. Creating a D&D race is equal parts math and art, and it's okay to break conventions and do something radical or different than normal.


The bottom line is that your race you create makes your campaign more fun. If it does, then you are doing it right.


But please, if you bring a race to the boards for PEACH'ing and you've intentionally made it unbalanced against normal standards to fit better in your own campaign, please, please, say so upfront along with any relevant considerations. It just saves both you, and the kind people who take the time to PEACH your creation time and energy.

Thinking about creating a race for 4e? Make things a lil' easier on yourself by reading my Race Mechanic Creation Guide first.

This is the result of an overly long reply that I finally decided to expend into a full race creation guide. Criticism is always appreciated.


Additional commentary and updates:
Removed PDF link.  I'm migrating to a new host.  The pdf will be back soon.
Added a Table of Contents. Note: I attempted to hypertext the ToC, but it appears the forums strip about anchor tag name attributes.  I'll experiment with it more later.


TODO:
Evaluating your Creation
Using Class-Race Synergy to build your race

Thinking about creating a race for 4e? Make things a lil' easier on yourself by reading my Race Mechanic Creation Guide first.
Thanks for the guide! I plan to use it for my Oriental Adventures (1E) Conversion, because I think a few of my races are overpowered or underpowered. Because you're awesome, if you want, I'll convert your guide into a .PDF
Birdies!
I'm glad you like it. And thanks for the .pdf offer, but fortunately I originally typed this all in google docs, so converting to pdf is a simple thing. I'll add a link right now.
Thinking about creating a race for 4e? Make things a lil' easier on yourself by reading my Race Mechanic Creation Guide first.
Ah, man, and I allready made it and everything.... [/sad]

LOL, just kidding. But, you seem to have a good head for balance and such; do you think you could check out my OA Conversion? Like I said above, I'm fairly certain I've Over/Under-Powerd some of the races, but, since I haven't gotten any feedback, I'm not sure where to go.
Birdies!
But, you seem to have a good head for balance and such; do you think you could check out my OA Conversion? Like I said above, I'm fairly certain I've Over/Under-Powerd some of the races, but, since I haven't gotten any feedback, I'm not sure where to go.

I'll take a look, but after a quick glance I already see two big problems. And not to sound snooty, but they have nothing to do with the races.

First, your post is huge. You effectively have several PH's worth of races in there. That's a hella' intimidating for any reviewer. Though it would have taken a while, you probably would have got more review if you posted only a few races at a time.

Second, your formatting is a messy, which makes it hard to read. For example, you have racial powers in the middle of the stat block. Personally speaking, I find a race writeup much easier to read, and therefore easier to critique, if it follows PH formatting, including bolding each section title and alphabetizing the major and minor abilities, and including powers at the end. It's a lot more work on the writer's part, but I think the extra readability worth it. Presentation is everything.
Thinking about creating a race for 4e? Make things a lil' easier on yourself by reading my Race Mechanic Creation Guide first.
We need this stickied!
Resident Piggles Zombie piggy is eatin' your sigs om nom nom (>*o*)>
MTG Card
Front: PigKnight, One Line Poster (3W) Legendary Creature - Boar Knight Vigilance When this creature dies, return him to play and transform him. (2/3) >(5/3)< Back: (Black)ZombiePiggles, Eater of Tomato Sauce Legendary Creature - Boar Knight Zombie Trample, Intimidate B: Regenerate this creature. When this creature is the target of a white spell, transform this creature. (5/3)

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/15.jpg)

I'll take a look, but after a quick glance I already see two big problems. And not to sound snooty, but they have nothing to do with the races.

First, your post is huge. You effectively have several PH's worth of races in there. That's a hella' intimidating for any reviewer. Though it would have taken a while, you probably would have got more review if you posted only a few races at a time.

Second, your formatting is a messy, which makes it hard to read. For example, you have racial powers in the middle of the stat block. Personally speaking, I find a race writeup much easier to read, and therefore easier to critique, if it follows PH formatting, including bolding each section title and alphabetizing the major and minor abilities, and including powers at the end. It's a lot more work on the writer's part, but I think the extra readability worth it. Presentation is everything.

Thanks for the advice; I'll change that soon. And trust me, you didn't sound snooty, I asked for feedback, you gave it, simple as that.

Also, I agree with PK; somebody sticky this!
Birdies!
Good stuff

I'd add a chapter on comparing the final race to existing races. If it is strictly better than one exisiting race, or strictly worse, you need to rethink it.

Also, you can add the following to a racial writeup:

- feats
- paragon paths
- race-specific powers
- a deity worshipped by that race, with Channel Divinity feat
- race-specific items
Nice work. Needs a table of contents.

There's an odd spacing gap in the "Speed" section.

I think an extra major ability, or two minor abilities, would be in order in the absence of a racial power. How would you consider the Dwarf?

Section name should be "Sizes larger than Medium and smaller than Small".

I would add:

* Please, please keep your intended character classes in mind when selecting attribute bonuses, skill bonuses, and class features. I know that it sucks to have races "pigeon-holed" into certain builds, but not everyone can be a Human, and it sucks even more to have a nicely optimized character with one ability that's useless 90% of the time.

As an example, let's take the Dragonborn.
They have +2 STR, +2 CHA, and a racial ability that keys off STR, CON, or DEX. The Dragonborn's favored classes are the Thaneborn Barbarian, the Balanced Paladin, the Dragon Sorcerer, and the Inspiring Warlord, all of which use both ability scores (and yes, they can do well in other classes like Fighter, though the CHA is wasted to a degree).

One of the Dragonborn's skill bonuses is in Intimidate. It synergizes nicely with a stat bump, can see use in combat and skill challenges alike, and is on all its favored classes' skill lists. In effect, it's a 10% bonus that you will be quite happy to take advantage of, especially if no other party member is trained in that skill.

On the other hand, the Dragonborn's other bonus is in History, an INT-based skill. Let's pretend for a moment that History is worth training in, as much as any monster knowledge skill. Although the Paladin, Sorcerer, and Warlord all have History on their skill lists, none of these particular builds wants to be bumping INT over DEX, and they have better skills to train in, like Athletics and Diplomacy. Odds are that someone in the party will have better INT than you, even if no one trains History. When are you going to use that 10% bonus now?

More of the first, less of the second, kthx.

* Don't make racial feats, abilities, or PPs that are identical to, strictly worse than, or strictly better than core material. Not only are they not interesting, you don't want another "Expertise iz t3h brokenz!" fiasco.

* If your racial feats scale, make 'em scale. Don't make a strictly better feat at Paragon tier and treat it as a different one, because every PC will just retrain into it anyway.

* As far as formatting goes, it is generally easier and cleaner to copy/paste an existing power that does something similar, then tweak it, rather than try to write essentially the same thing from scratch.

/just me ranting from my short journeys into PEACH on the boards.
I'd add a chapter on comparing the final race to existing races. If it is strictly better than one exisiting race, or strictly worse, you need to rethink it.

You're right. I'll be sure to add that, probably making up the bulk of a section devoted to evaluating your race's mechanics.

- feats
- paragon paths
- race-specific powers
- a deity worshipped by that race, with Channel Divinity feat
- race-specific items

I only have a handful of books (core rules + PHII + free issues of Dragon), so I don't think I could do all of these. Feats, Paragon Paths, and Deities I'm sure I could give a mention to, but I don't have many examples of race-specific powers or items. I'll still give it a shot though.

There's an odd spacing gap in the "Speed" section.
...
Section name should be "Sizes larger than Medium and smaller than Small".

Fixed and fixed.

I think an extra major ability, or two minor abilities, would be in order in the absence of a racial power. How would you consider the Dwarf?

Well, I haven't yet seen an official race with an extra major ability besides humans, but they're a bit unusual as far as races go.

However, I do agree that the absence of a racial power could be made up with an extra major ability. Extra minor abilities, however, wouldn't cut it as their by definition lacking in mechanical presence. Extra one would probably do no more than clutter the racial block with superfluous details.

As for the Dwarf, I rate their abilities as such:

Major Abilities: Cast Iron Stomach, Stand Your Ground
Minor Abilities: Dwarven Weapon Proficiency, Encumbered Speed
Racial Power: Dwarven Resilience

I would have Encumbered Speed as a major ability if it wasn't for the fact that Dwarves have a base speed of 5. Since it's iconic that Dwarves prefer classes that use Axes, and Hammers (and most of all AXES), Encumbered Speed at best puts them on a even level with other heavy armor users as far as speed goes. For non-heavy armored Dwarves, the ability might as well not exist.

And Dwarven Resilence is a stealth'ed in racial power. While it is technically not an racial encounter power (as it lacks the neat little color-coded chart thingy), it effectively is. Second Wind is already per encounter, but shifting down the action tax from standard to minor gives it a whole new life. Dwarves are going to be able to use Second Wind much more often and to greater effect than most other races because it doesn't slow them down.

Or, another way to look at Dwarven Resilience is as an encounter power that triggers when you use Second Wind with the effect of giving you an extra standard and move action; and that Standard action can be used with a power that's probably as or more effective than most other races' racial powers. Not too shabby overall.

Please, please keep your intended character classes in mind when selecting attribute bonuses, skill bonuses, and class features. I know that it sucks to have races "pigeon-holed" into certain builds, but not everyone can be a Human, and it sucks even more to have a nicely optimized character with one ability that's useless 90% of the time.

...

On the other hand, the Dragonborn's other bonus is in History, an INT-based skill. Let's pretend for a moment that History is worth training in, as much as any monster knowledge skill. Although the Paladin, Sorcerer, and Warlord all have History on their skill lists, none of these particular builds wants to be bumping INT over DEX, and they have better skills to train in, like Athletics and Diplomacy. Odds are that someone in the party will have better INT than you, even if no one trains History. When are you going to use that 10% bonus now?

More of the first, less of the second, kthx.

I do a agree with the basic sentiment. A race's mechanics should follow a similar trend. However, I'm going to have to disagree with the extent and with this particular example. Not everything in your racial stat block needs to geared toward optimization of the race's preferred classes. The Dragonborn's bonus to History ties is very nicely with their fluff, as most "share a great pride in their race's past and present accomplishments" and since a common characteristic of Dragonborn is being "rooted in ancient history".

On the contrary, a races' skill section is one of the best places to add a bit of flavor to the race's mechanics. Racial skill bonuses indicate what things the entire race either values or has an natural affinity for. While at the same time, a +2 bonus or lack their off shouldn't be a game breaker in most builds.

There is a fine balance, and I should devote a section to that as well.

Also, Dragonborn make good Warlocks and (going by key abilities since I don't have the FRPG) Swordmages, both of whom require decent to high int and have History as class skills.

* Don't make racial feats, abilities, or PPs that are identical to, strictly worse than, or strictly better than core material. Not only are they not interesting, you don't want another "Expertise iz t3h brokenz!" fiasco.

* If your racial feats scale, make 'em scale. Don't make a strictly better feat at Paragon tier and treat it as a different one, because every PC will just retrain into it anyway.

These are both very good points. I'll be sure to include a section on racial feats.
Thinking about creating a race for 4e? Make things a lil' easier on yourself by reading my Race Mechanic Creation Guide first.
Not everything in your racial stat block needs to geared toward optimization of the race's preferred classes. [...] On the contrary, a races' skill section is one of the best places to add a bit of flavor to the race's mechanics.

Fair 'nuff.

Would you consider a race's skill section closer to major or minor abilities in importance? (ex. the Deva Invoker's History and Religion, vs. the Genasi Warlord's Endurance and Nature)
bumpity-

Keep this alive!
However, more narrowly focused powers do exist. The half-orc and shifter both have powers that are decidedly melee.

What?
The Half-Orc and Shifter both have powers that are useful to everybody no matter what class they are. Are we looking at the same races here? What about their racial powers are "decidedly" melee-oriented?
Half-orc gets to add extra damage regardless of melee or ranged, weapon or implement. The shifter gets a bonus to speed and reflex defense equally useful to everybody or a bonus to damage and regeneration useful to everybody. There's nothing "decidedly melee" about either of these.

No, in fact, I highly recommend adding to the list that racial powers and indeed all racial features should be useful to a character regardless of class or role. There are a couple of places where this rule is broken (such as the half-orc's heedless charge), but those are cases of bad design on the part of the developers themselves and one bad design decision does not justify another.

For instance, racial feature dealing with charging are bad because ranged characters will never benefit from it. Also, racial features depending on, say, melee basic attacks or really any basic attack at all are bad because they pigeon-hole characters into selecting weapon-using classes or else have to pick very specific powers in order to make the feature remotely useful.

Finally, and less obvious to novice race designers, racial NINWAs should target NADs instead of AC. The reason for this is the same reason implement powers target NADs. Like implement powers, NWNI power are effectively down about 2 points of attack bonus due to lacking the proficiency bonus weapons have, which is balanced out by NADs generally being about 2 points lower than AC.

Actually, I'll disagree with this. There's absolutely no problem with a racial attack power targeting AC so long as proper adjustments are made. The attack would likely gain +4 at 1st level, +6 at 11th, and +8 at 21st in order to simply mimic both weapon enchantments and proficiency bonus.

Despite being an absolutely horrifically designed racial power otherwise, the Minotaur's Goring Charge is a good example of this.

For everything else? Preach on.

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!
Would you consider a race's skill section closer to major or minor abilities in importance? (ex. the Deva Invoker's History and Religion, vs. the Genasi Warlord's Endurance and Nature)

Strictly, I would say neither. The +2 to two skills is something that almost all races receive, and those that don't get a similar skill-related bonus (such as the human's Bonus Skill). Since it's pretty much mandatory for a race to get these skill bonuses, I don't count them as either major or minor abilities.

That said, if I was to evaluate racial skill bonuses as either a major or minor ability, in most cases count it as a major ability. A race's skill bonuses tend to be closely related enough to the race's preferred classes that the bonuses would come in handy fairly often. Though preferably, I would put the skill bonuses in a category in between major and minor since an atypical class choice where either the class's key abilities or trained skills don't align with the skill bonus can greatly lower the chance that said skill bonuses will see much use.
Thinking about creating a race for 4e? Make things a lil' easier on yourself by reading my Race Mechanic Creation Guide first.
The Half-Orc and Shifter both have powers that are useful to everybody no matter what class they are. Are we looking at the same races here? What about their racial powers are "decidedly" melee-oriented?
Half-orc gets to add extra damage regardless of melee or ranged, weapon or implement. The shifter gets a bonus to speed and reflex defense equally useful to everybody or a bonus to damage and regeneration useful to everybody. There's nothing "decidedly melee" about either of these.

I really dropped the ball here. Somehow I got it in my head that the half-orc's power only worked on a charged, and I don't know where I was going with the shifters. It must have been really late when I wrote that or something. Regardless, these grievous errors will be fixed.

I'll disagree with this. There's absolutely no problem with a racial attack power targeting AC so long as proper adjustments are made. The attack would likely gain +4 at 1st level, +6 at 11th, and +8 at 21st in order to simply mimic both weapon enchantments and proficiency bonus.

Despite being an absolutely horrifically designed racial power otherwise, the Minotaur's Goring Charge is a good example of this.

Point taken.
Thinking about creating a race for 4e? Make things a lil' easier on yourself by reading my Race Mechanic Creation Guide first.
Sticky requested.
I really don't know if this' the place to ask, but, I have a question regarding Flight for a PC race. So, what if I make it an encounter power (much like Fey Step, but instead of teleport is a flight), and give the player a -2 to all defenses and attacks (well, it's hard to move well while flying). And also a paragon tier feat that eliminates this penalty and increase the use of flight. Would that be unbalanced?
That's not a horrible option, but you'd have to limit it somehow, like to 2 squares up. Otherwise, your race could circumvent a lot of ground-based traps or pits, etc.
Well, if we take into account that a somewhat-strong current of wind is needed to support heavy airborne creatures, it can be ruled that a creature can't fly inside a dungeon. Maybe fall slower (like feather fall), but not fly inside a dungeon (unless of course, it's a wind-themed dungeon, or something like that :P )

Also, wings should impose a penalty to swim checks and such, isn't it?

So, in short:

Fly as an encounter racial move power (like Fey Step). The creature gets -2 to all defences and attacks until it lands (it lands in its next turn). Paragon feats eliminate this penalty (and maybe even increase distance). Epic feats can give overland flight. To fly, good air circulation is needed (this is, only in open areas).

How about that? Would that be balanced?
Also, wings should impose a penalty to swim checks and such, isn't it?

No.
4e Doesn't Do Racial Penalties. Period.

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!
Ok, ok, no penalty... (don't yell at me... T_T)

But what about the other mechanics?
I really don't know if this' the place to ask, but, I have a question regarding Flight for a PC race.

This is an excellent place to ask.

So, what if I make it an encounter power (much like Fey Step, but instead of teleport is a flight), and give the player a -2 to all defenses and attacks (well, it's hard to move well while flying). And also a paragon tier feat that eliminates this penalty and increase the use of flight. Would that be unbalanced?

Actually, 4e already has a concept like this codified in the rules. Clumsy flight (DMG pg48) actually imposes harsher conditions (-4 to attack and defenses). However, this still, by itself, is not enough to balanced flight against standard PC races in typical campaigns because the same problem are still present. Flying PC can trivialize grounded opponents and obstacles, which make up a large amount of the challenges tossed a PCs for much of the game. A -4 to attack and defenses is meaningless if you are still completely safe from harm and free to pelt foes with nigh-limitless ranged attacks.

Well, if we take into account that a somewhat-strong current of wind is needed to support heavy airborne creatures, it can be ruled that a creature can't fly inside a dungeon. Maybe fall slower (like feather fall), but not fly inside a dungeon (unless of course, it's a wind-themed dungeon, or something like that )

Outside-only flight could work, but only if the majority of your adventurer encounters happen indoors. And if that is the case, we can no longer assume that your race is balanced for a "typical" campaign, where a good deal of combat can occur while traveling from place to place.

As for the feather-fall like effect, that easily could make for a balanced ability by itself. But then, we are technically no longer talking about flight.

There's also another problem with this idea. It requires the DM to keep careful track of climate and the weather to determine whether or not his players can actually fly that day, or even at all depending on the region. Just to start, exactly how much wind is a "somewhat-strong current," and how often can or should such weather occur. And if the DM's players are particular observant and able to identify inconsistencies with the weather he's using, that could be an immersion breaker for the group.


Also, wings should impose a penalty to swim checks and such, isn't it?

Definitely not, as that would unfairly penalized winged races with an arbitrary restriction in a attempt to enforce "realism" where it only tentatively exists anyway. Considering all the stuff adventurers tend to carry that would add to water resistance (armor, loot, bed-rolls, shields, 11ft polls, impossibly huge swords...) its a wonder why many of them don't sink like rocks. And, in a fantasy setting, it could be just as easy to assume the opposite and say that wings could aid swim checks (penguins and black dragons for example).


Fly as an encounter racial move power (like Fey Step). The creature gets -2 to all defences and attacks until it lands (it lands in its next turn). Paragon feats eliminate this penalty (and maybe even increase distance). Epic feats can give overland flight. To fly, good air circulation is needed (this is, only in open areas).

How about that? Would that be balanced?

To be honest, I'm not sure as it is a question I've been debated with myself for a while, and I would love an answer as well. 1-round racial encounter flight is an easy thing to balanced since it matches up with existing racial powers (Fey Step, as you mentioned), and wouldn't even warrant a clumsy flight-like unless you made it strictly better than Fey Step in some regard. And extended flight distance as a paragon feat is a good upgrade.

However, granting feat-based overland flight (I assume you mean at-will) is an different issue. As stated, flight is highly valued in 4e. That said, precedence for at-will overland flight does exist, but nothing as clear cut as a feat chain. Disregarding mounts for the moment (whose availability is entirely up to the DM), there are only two methods of granting something similiar to at-will overland flight.

The Scion of Arkhosia (PH2) gains at-will overland flight by mid-paragon, but it is (at present) a one-of-a-kind racial paragon path, which besides requiring significant invest (your paragon path choice), flight is one of the crowning abilities of the path. And to give away that ability for a mere feat, even at epic, takes something away from that path.

The other method I'm familiar with is the Carpet of Flying straight out of the PH. It effectively grants the user Clumsy Flight 6 with a 10sq max altitude (which puts the player in range of most range attacks made by ground-based foes). As a 20th level item, it is available by mid-paragon as treasure parcel loot, but players won't gain the ability to grant the themselves the item via Enchant Item effectively until epic.

In short, I think it is possible that epic-level feat based overland flight could be balanced if it's balanced against flight enablers like these. Unfortunately, I haven't had much chance to play the game, let alone at high levels, so I don't know how well my opinion would hold in actual play.

Though the main problem I have with this approach is that epic is such a long time to wait for a race's signature ability.
Thinking about creating a race for 4e? Make things a lil' easier on yourself by reading my Race Mechanic Creation Guide first.
Ok, first of all, thanks for your kind and complete answer.

Now, I'm going to be more concrete with my flying race (following your guidelines, I would only add the important features regarding the wings issue):

Major ability one: This creature ignores the first 20 feets of a fall when falling. (Alternatively: This creature only takes half damage from falling)
Major ability two: This creature can use the racial power "Flight" once per encounter.








Ok, how about that? Are those two abilities balanced? The fluff of the race is that their feathered wings aren't strong enough to hold them mid-air for long. As they reach paragon and epic, there are feats to increase this distance flown, increase the number of times the creature can flight, and even add Fly-by-attacks kind of things. Maybe, as a paragon path, add at-will overland flight.

Edit: I think that the less damage from falling should be a minor ability, isn't it?

Btw, I don't know if it's too much to ask, but it would be nice to have a list of all races abilities and say which one is major and which one is minor. It can be obvious in some abilities, but it isn't in others.
Ok, first of all, thanks for your kind and complete answer.

Now, I'm going to be more concrete with my flying race (following your guidelines, I would only add the important features regarding the wings issue):

Major ability one: his creature ignores the first 20 feets 4 squares of a fall when falling. (Alternatively: This creature only takes half damage from falling)

Either of those would be fine. My only criticism is that you should measure in squares and not feet, as 1) it's standard convention, 2) it's easier and faster to read, and 3) it makes it easier on our metric using friends.

Major ability two: This creature can use the racial power "Flight" once per encounter.







It's too powerful as a major ability, but just fine as a racial encounter power. However, I would to it that if the character cannot reach a legal square to land on, he crashes, for the usual circumstance where such a situation could occur (a bridge falling from underneath you for example).
Thinking about creating a race for 4e? Make things a lil' easier on yourself by reading my Race Mechanic Creation Guide first.
Wait, I didn't get that last part (I got the crashing part, but not the "too powerful as a major ability, but just fine as a racial encounter power". Didn't I do that? Make it as a racial encounter power?)

And, I used feet because the PHB uses feet when talking about falling damage.

Thanks for the feedback. You don't mind I keep asking, right?
"too powerful as a major ability, but just fine as a racial encounter power". Didn't I do that? Make it as a racial encounter power?

You listed your flight as the second major ability:

Major ability two: This creature can use the racial power "Flight" once per encounter.

A race's racial power is not one of their major abilities, as racial powers belong to a separate category of consideration. A race gets two racial major abilities and a racial power, and one does not count as another.

So your race actually has room for one more major ability.

And, I used feet because the PHB uses feet when talking about falling damage.

Good point. Complaint withdrawn.

You don't mind I keep asking, right?

Of course not. I'm quite enjoying this exchange.
Thinking about creating a race for 4e? Make things a lil' easier on yourself by reading my Race Mechanic Creation Guide first.
Specific to Flight, don't forget that you have a couple of data points to compare it to: the Windsoul Genasi's "racial" power, and the Githyanki's Telekinetic Leap. Both are pretty comparable to what you've got there.

And well done - good guide.
A race's racial power is not one of their major abilities, as racial powers belong to a separate category of consideration. A race gets two racial abilities and a racial power, and one does not count as another.

Oh, I was not aware of that. Thanks.

Btw, one of the abilities of the race I'm making is similar to the Gnome's Master Trickster. Is that a mayor ability, or a minor ability? I think that it's minor, as it's a weak at-will taken as an encounter power.
Oh, I was not aware of that. Thanks.

I minor correction to what I said earlier. I meant to say that all races two major abilities, not racial abilities. Technically, any ability a race gets is an racial ability, and that includes major abilities, minor abilities, and racial powers (or everything else depending on how broad your definition of "racial ability" is). Just thought I should clear that up.

To summarize: 2 major abilities, 1 racial power, 0-2ish minor abilities, everything else.

Sorry 'bout that.

Btw, one of the abilities of the race I'm making is similar to the Gnome's Master Trickster. Is that a mayor ability, or a minor ability? I think that it's minor, as it's a weak at-will taken as an encounter power.

I too count it as a minor ability. Ghost Sound, by itself, doesn't grant any non-conditional or significant utility or mechanical advantage. And as a encounter power, its even more so.
Thinking about creating a race for 4e? Make things a lil' easier on yourself by reading my Race Mechanic Creation Guide first.
Ok, thanks for the answer. I now shall proceed to create my custom classes, and maybe post them in a separate topic.

Again, thanks for your help, and grrrrrrrreat topic.
Good news everyone. There is now nore official flight support. The Favored Soul paragon path from the Divine Power preview grants non-overland, non-clumsy fly 6 as their lvl 16 ability, as long as you wear light on no armor. Compare this to the Scion of Arkhosia lvl 16 ability that grants overland flight 12.

So now we at least know that, officially, full-on flight is appropriate paragon path material.
Thinking about creating a race for 4e? Make things a lil' easier on yourself by reading my Race Mechanic Creation Guide first.
Thanks for that preview. Really helpful.
Btw, I have some other questions:

1) Is it balanced to give a class a +4 modifier in an ability rather than +2 in two? If it isn't, would it be if I traded one major/minor ability for that?

2) Giving a selectable +2 (like humans) is the same as giving +2 in two fixed stats?

3) What if I say "give +2 to one mental ability, give +2 to one physical ability"?

4) Talking again about Fly, which is better, overland flight or flight speed? (This is, if I want to give a race the flying ability as they level up, which one should I give first?)

5) I want to make a lycanthrope race. How would that work out? Change shape as the racial power, and the major ability to use bite/claws as natural weapons when in beast form?

Ok, thanks for the help.
I skimmed through the posts so im not sure if this has been answered or not.

I liked what you said in the sections concerning size category. My question is what would you say about the Bugbear's 'Oversized' racial? I know this isn't a PC race, and just one from the MM.

If i am understanding it correctly, it gives the player the option to take weapons that are considered large size, which would be a weapon too big for a medium or small character to wield 2handed. This could in turn allow an 'Oversized' character to wield a normal 2handed weapon in one hand couldn't it? And don't large creatures and large weapons have a base reach of 2? Doesnt this seem a little overpowered for the Bugbears?

To help illustrate:
Small player:
- can wield 1-handers
- versatile can be wielded in 2 hands only
- cannot wield 2-handed weapons
- cannot wield large size weapons
Medium player:
- can wield 1-handers
- versatile can be wielded in 1 or 2 hands
- can wield 2-handed weapons
- cannot wield large size weapons
Medium player with 'Oversized':
- can wield one handers
- can wield 2-handers in 1 or 2 hands (the 2-handed weapon becomes a 'versatile' for oversized creatures)
- can wield large size weapons

(i suspect even WotC saw that, which is why when they did the Minotaur in Dragon Magazine 369, they removed that, as it was originally part of a minotaur's racial in the MM. It is also missing in the CB)
This could in turn allow an 'Oversized' character to wield a normal 2handed weapon in one hand couldn't it?

Technically, no. Oversized just lets you use large-sized versions of a weapon. The ability does confer the ability to reduce the handiness of medium size weapons.

The PH does specifically state that Large and larger creatures can use two-handed weapons sized smaller than them as one-handed. However, the Oversized ability does not make you Large size, nor does it specifically grant the ability to use medium-sized two-handed weapons as one-handed one. Therefore, you can't.

And don't large creatures and large weapons have a base reach of 2?

Large creatures may have a reach of 1 or 2, depending on body shape (PH;pg282). Most weapon-wielding large size creatures will almost assuredly have a base reach of 2.

However, weapon size does not affect weapon reach. If there was some way to wield a Gargantuan-sized Greatsword as a medium creature, for example, your reach would still be 1 square.

Doesnt this seem a little overpowered for the Bugbears?

That's an understatement. *see below*

suspect even WotC saw that, which is why when they did the Minotaur in Dragon Magazine 369, they removed that, as it was originally part of a minotaur's racial in the MM. It is also missing in the CB

That's exactly what happened.

The thing to remember about the PC racial stats presented in the monster manual is that they were not intended for use as PC races. Their primary purpose is to provide a base for DMs to create PC-stat'ed NPC versions of those monsters. This is not only mentioned upfront in the racial traits section, but it also mentions that the racial stats provided are more in line with monsters than PCs in terms of power.

While most of the stats in the MM are serviceable PC material as is, some lie below, or in this case, above the standard PC power threshold.

WotC has deemed Oversized too powerful to be PC racial material, which is why the official Minotaur writeup doesn't have it any more, why the Goliath never got it in the first place, and why it almost definitely will not appear in any official racial material in the future.
Thinking about creating a race for 4e? Make things a lil' easier on yourself by reading my Race Mechanic Creation Guide first.
1) Is it balanced to give a class a +4 modifier in an ability rather than +2 in two?

No, definitely not.

If it isn't, would it be if I traded one major/minor ability for that?

No, definitely not.

2) Giving a selectable +2 (like humans) is the same as giving +2 in two fixed stats?

No. Relatively speaking, A selectable +2 to any one ability score is underpowered compared to giving a fixed +2 to two ability scores. The reason that Humans pull it off is Human Defense Bonuses, their +1 bonus to all three NADs.

3) What if I say "give +2 to one mental ability, give +2 to one physical ability"?

I think the better question whether you could even think of any racial concept for which such a setup would be appropriate. Because I know I can't. And even if I could, I think that would likely be overpowered; it's just too perfect for just about everything. Thinking about it, there's probably a big reason that this isn't what Humans ended up with. :P

4) Talking again about Fly, which is better, overland flight or flight speed? (This is, if I want to give a race the flying ability as they level up, which one should I give first?)

Flight speed, because a flight speed can effectively be used in combat while overland flight cannot.
I'm really of the opinion that giving a race either is probably a really terrible idea though. I think that sort of thing should be deal with through features such as Paragon Paths and Feats...

5) I want to make a lycanthrope race. How would that work out?

Play a Shifter (PHB2 pages 16-17).

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!
Btw, I have some other questions:

Hopefully, I'll have answers.

1) Is it balanced to give a class a +4 modifier in an ability rather than +2 in two? If it isn't, would it be if I traded one major/minor ability for that?

No, it would not. Such a high racial modifier would not only break the standard balance conventions, but also make such a race the clearly superior choice in whatever classes use that stat as a primary.

And trading away a major ability wouldn't cut it. A +4 racial mod would almost assuredly go toward the one thing that most greatly affects you success of every round of every battle: your to-hit and damage. A +4 would simply be too good.

2) Giving a selectable +2 (like humans) is the same as giving +2 in two fixed stats?

Overall, I don't think you would run into too many balance issues if your race used a floating +2 instead of a preset set of stat bonuses.

Do keep in mind that, while the lack of a second stat is not ruinous, Humans are not entirely uncompensated for its lost. This is most noticeably so with their Human Defense Ability, which is very strong as for Major ability. It not only makes up for the effectively missing NAD bonus, but also helps to compensate for the lack of the secondary stat's boost to attacks, skills and the like, and holds its own weight as a major ability as well. If you do the same, you should likewise compensate for the missing stat in a similar manner.

However, if at all possible, I do suggest not to use the floating +2 on another race, but for a reason unrelated to mechanics. The floating +2 is not only one of the most defining aspects of Humans, it is the mechanic that cements them as being the goto "adaptable race". Giving that away to another race would take away would diminish the Human shtick and take away some of their uniqueness.

3) What if I say "give +2 to one mental ability, give +2 to one physical ability"?

Like above, I don't think you'll encounter any mechanical imbalances. Even less so in this case, as you don't have to try to compensate for a missing stat bonuses. And in fact, you could switch around just about any race's stats without causing balance issues, or at most, significant ones. But this option, again, takes way from the uniqueness that humans have by make them even more adaptable than humans.

Edit: On second thought, I think I'm going to agree with Crimson on this. Two floating stats would be ideal far too often. Not only does that step on the toes of Humans, but every other race as well. That's too good. It's in "you'd be stupid not to" territory.

4) Talking again about Fly, which is better, overland flight or flight speed? (This is, if I want to give a race the flying ability as they level up, which one should I give first?)

That would depend on several factors. How fast a speed are we talking about, at what level would they be available, at what cost (both directly and indirectly), and with what associate penalties and bonuses (like Clumsy or Hover, for example).

All these things being equal, regular Flight is clearly the stronger of the two. Overland Flight only allows you a single move action on your turn, and that action must to maintain flight. Most importantly, that means you can't use combat actions and fly at the same time. Regular Flight has no such restrictions, which is why it is so coveted.

With most creatures in the MM that have both, their Overland Flight speed is faster than their normal fly speed, but that's a trend, not a rule. I believe the original intention was that either Overland Flight was intended only for creatures that don't fight in the air (going by the wording in the DMG) and/or Overland Flight would be your default fly speed to use when doing long distance traveling and forced marches since it likely would take less energy to do so (since you have time to casually glide and take advantage of air currents and the like). However, the section on overland movement, forced marches and the like is completely missing from the DMG, so yeah. But I digress.

In short, Overland Flight is out of combat flight. Regular flight is combat flight. If you are going to grant them in order, again assuming all other things (like speed) being equal, Overland Flight would be a better fit for a first step.

5) I want to make a lycanthrope race. How would that work out? Change shape as the racial power, and the major ability to use bite/claws as natural weapons when in beast form?

There are at least dozens of ways of doing a lycanthrope, and many have already attempted homebrew lycanthrope rules and races. Mostly, however, it would depend on exactly how you would want the final result to work, as well as which mythologies in particular you are drawing your inspiration from. For example, the next time I get a chance to play, I plan on playing a werewolf sorcerer that's actually, on paper, a reflavored human. His claws are actually his dagger implements, and I plan on having him stay in "hybrid form" most of the time, and I plan on developing a few polymorph-type utility and daily spells to run by the DM. That's one method.

But for creating an actual race, perhaps these ideas might help as starting places:

For shape changing, you'll probably want to take a look at the Druid's Wildshape ability and the Changling's/PC stat'ed Doppelgangers Change Shape. Some merger of the two would give you a effective creature<->hybrid<->humanoid mechanic.

Natural Weapons are tricky. How you handle them would depend on what you want the final result to be. If you simply want them to be a burst of animal fury, you could simply make them an encounter power. Alternatively, you could make them some type of racial at-will attack. But, if you want your lycans to be able to use them like regular weapons so they could be use in conjunction with class powers, the easiest thing to do, IMO, would be to simply stat them as regular weapons. Perhaps as a type of weapon in the Unarmed Group (like the ones in this shameless plug). Then, for enchantments, either allow the natural weapons themselves to be enchanted, or create some sort of implement-like device to bestow enchantments upon the natural weapons.

Alternatively, another method I've suggested in other threads dealing with animal-like races is to simply allow the player to, at character creation, choose a melee weapon his character would normally be proficient with anyway. His "natural weapons," for all intents and purposes, including feats, powers, and the like, function exactly as that chosen weapon. So if the player wanted to play a wolfen fighter, he could choose, say, Greatsword, and all of his wolf's attacks function exactly like that 2H heavy blade. And again, just like with the monk, the "natural weapon" can be affect by magic item rituals.

Either way, I wouldn't make natural weapons take up a major ability slot unless they did something significant that a regular weapon could not.

For just about anything else, you might want to take inspiration from Shifters from the PH2, as they are decedent from lycanthropes, and have the thematic racial abilities and feats to support that heritage.
Thinking about creating a race for 4e? Make things a lil' easier on yourself by reading my Race Mechanic Creation Guide first.
Crimson, Fireclave, thanks for the answers.

Well, first I would like to clarify that I'm homebrewing a set of new races to replace the ones in the PHB for my personal campaign. That's why I needed a versatile race much like humans, but not quite the same. I was thinking in hybrids between animals and humans (like humans with animalistic features), which would give them the versatility depending in what kind of animal they are. So, a bear-human would have more Str and a cat-human would have more Dex.

Regarding the lycanthrope race, a shifter is not what I'm looking for, Crimson. I want a race that can shift from a human form to a bestial form. The idea of the Druid's wild shape + Change shape sounds good to me. How about this: the player can change between his human form, bestial form and animal form as an at-will racial power. He can assume human and animal any time, but he must be bloodied to assume bestial form. As a human and bestial, he can use weapons and such. In animal and bestial form, he can only use his claw/bite attack. The claw/bite attack is a natural weapon that has prof +3 and deals d8 damage, and has the off-hand property. In bestial form, the player gets +2 to all damage rolls.

So, would that work up?

Oh, regarding the oversized, wouldn't work a major ability that lets the player use two-handed weapons in one hand? (Like monkey grip feat in 3.5)

Btw, that page of yours is quite good.
I don't want this conversation to take place both here AND in "New set of homebrew races", so where would you like this to continue? Because both threads need to be referenced in order for this following discussion to make sense...
And Fireclave that question is directed at you too. Where would you like this discussion to take place? Because I heavily disagree with a lot of the suggestions you gave him for the race that he created...

EDIT: Also:
Oh, regarding the oversized, wouldn't work a major ability that lets the player use two-handed weapons in one hand? (Like monkey grip feat in 3.5)

No, that idea is just as bad on a PC race as Oversized is.

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 think the discussion should continue in the other topic. After all, this topic is Fireclave's guide for creation of new races, not a "rate-my-new-class" topic. I think we should discuss specific race abilities and such here, but completed races should have their own topic. Otherwise this topic can become a real mess, IMO.
Sign In to post comments