Monday, January 28, 2013

PC's and Races

All this talk of alignment has got me thinking about something I haven’t really touched on before, but is pretty dang important for a game—the PC’s.  Specifically, who are they supposed to be, and what options they have for creating their characters.

Since one of my design goals was to create a “generic” setting, I don’t want to make any radical changes to the core classes.  Fighters, druids, paladins, thieves, mages and all the others will be pretty much in place “as is.”  But based on what I’ve come up with so far, races are something that will need to be addressed.
Per my rolls, Galicia has a number of different humans (Galts, Umbrians, and Fairians) as well as Dwarves, Orcs, and Goblins.  Dragons are right out, as a PC race.  There are a couple other races around that could be playable in the setting.  Obviously Elves have a place in this world, and could even be “locals” if they’ve been living blended with the Fairians—Half-Elves even more so.  As Galicia borders the steppes of the Centaurs, I can see busting out the Complete Humanoid Handbook and bringing in Goblins, Orcs, Half-Orcs, Centaurs, and probably a few other fey races (who live among Centaurs). 

I am missing, however, Gnomes and Halflings.  I’ve never been a huge fan of either of these races, and I’m willing to dump one of these.  Gnomes, I feel, are more interesting.  They have a bit of a fey connection, which makes them likely to have some association with the Centaurs and others.  Also, all this talk of races and people changing has made me rethink my take on Goblins.  Initially, my thoughts were to make Goblins immature Orcs, with the idea that as they kill and eat enough meat they become more powerful, until they become full-fledged Orcs.  What if instead they were corrupted Gnomes?  What if something happened to the gnomes?  Maybe whatever tragedy befell the Elven Empire also affected them?  Or maybe the Gnomes began following a strange cult, which warped them?  Or perhaps the centuries or war turned them into something baser, viler?  In any case, the Gnomes are now a rare race, hiding from the large, armored humans as well as their own evil kin.  But, they’re playable.

Which brings me to one of my issues with 2nd Ed, it’s balancing of races.  In general, I love the system, but it does trip up when it comes to the mechanics or races.  Elves and Dwarves and, hell, Gnomes get all kinds of neat bonuses, making them far superior to a comparable Human PC at the lower levels.  In theory, this is balanced by level limits, but this always seemed like a crude solution.  Most games don’t ever make it to the higher levels, and those that do, well, it’s rather harsh to hit a player with such a penalty after a year or two of gameplay.  And if they do make a new character, they get to retire their old PC and come in with a brand new 14th level character.  Hardly an effective balancing act.

3rd and 4th Ed obviously did a better job with this; to the point that most “character optimization” threads list humans as the best race in most cases.  So, I could steal from those editions—maybe give humans a +1 to any attribute, and additional Non-Weapon Proficiencies.

But, I really want to make humans the “default” race, the one you WANT to play, with other races being chosen by people who are interested in really roleplaying a different race, even if that means taking a penalty.  So, my thought right is to allow Human PC’s (and only Human’s) to use the attribute mechanics of the Players Option books.

For those who don’t know or don’t remember, the Players Options books allowed for a degree of customization and “min/maxing” in character creation.  For the attributes, they divided each stat into two separate ones.  Each had a starting value equal to the original one, but you could drop one down by 2 to increase the other by a like amount.  For example, Dexterity was divided into things.  I don’t recall their names, so I’ll call them Aim (which added your bonus to ranged attacks) and Agility (which modified your AC and Initiative).  So, a PC with a 14 Dex could choose to have a 14 in both Aim and Agility, or he could divide them up to 16 Aim, 12 Agility (if you were playing an archer) or a 12 Aim, 16 Agility (if you were going melee).  Yes, it was a bit broken, but not too much, and it was fun.

So, a variety of PC races are available, humans are hands down the most mechanically powerful.  If you don’t particularly care about your race, play a human.  I think I’m ok with that.


  1. Humans splitting their attributes might be overpowered, but who cares, I think it would all work out. What you should think about is which classes that these splits will push humans towards.

    If I'm a sword-and-board fighter I want to dump my Aim and will love the extra agility to help my AC, but if I'm a ranger (or lightly armored archery fighter) I need both. It seems like humans shouldn't be more suited towards melee than ranged... Is this balanced because the classes that need both will favor that stat, or are there unintended consequences?

    At the end of the day I don't know the AD&D system well enough to analyze the effect. Hell, I can already see that I've unknowingly brought in a lot of 4th-Ed Think. It looks like the core books that Todd would be using aren't online as PDFs, they go from Moldvay straight to 3.5... so I'm useless.

  2. You forget dual-classing and limits to certain classes as promoting humans in 2nd-ed. Paladins and monks were always human, and druids, bards, and mages were human or a limited number of demi-humans.

    And of course dual classing was only available to humans - go up in Bard, then switch to Ranger...

    Now, I like the 3rd-ed system better at the end of the day... I gotta say I *don't* like the attribute splitting. I remember when they did this in 2nd-ed with "Skills & Powers", which was really just "Mins & Maxes" and just basically gave everyone a +2 to their Most Damage-Inflicting Statistic...

  3. Dual classing is human only, but multi-classing was for everyone else--and in many ways, more useful/interesting. In fact, pretty much everything else about non-humans is more "interesting" than humans.

    The argument to play a human is roleplaying reasons, as well as access to Paladins and Monks (assuming they're allowed/you have the stats to be one).

    The argument to play a non-human is roleplaying reasons, access to cool multi-class characters (which is better, a Paladin or a Fighter/Cleric?), min/maxing, and just general "cool" abilities. In my experience, unless the GM deliberately limits the races available, you're going to end up with a party of one human Paladin and the rest all either elves or dwarves.

    You can either use the stick and say people CAN'T play certain races (which upsets those who honestly want to play an Elf, regardless of the mechanics), or you can tweak the rules and make humans slightly better than the other races (something 3rd did, to an extent). Which is what I'm trying to do here.

    As for "+2 to their most (Useful) statistic" well...yeah. It basically gives humans a straight +2 to all stats. And I'm ok with this...AD&D is far less forgiving to low-level characters than 3rd, and as such I'm willing to let them be slightly overpowered if that means I can have a party of mainly humans.

    Also, if they're too powerful, then they'll just go up against nastier things earlier. I'm ok with this.


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