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  1. - Top - End - #31
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Draconi Redfir View Post
    *inset "this. *points up*" image here*


    the whole point of having different playable races with different modifiers, cultures, and abilities is to let people play different things. If you want to have a human-only game then that's fine, but don't give me an urban human dude painted green and tell me it's a goblin.
    This works both ways though.

    Imagine wanting to play a goblin, only to find out that they suck at whatever archetype you want to play and you will be at a huge mechanical disadvantage the entire campaign.
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Silly Name View Post
    +X to Thing isn't the only way to differentiate humans from elves and orcs. It's, in my experience, one of the least interesting ways to make them different.

    In the context of D&D 5e, I could make orcs that fit the usual archetype by switching the bonus to Strength with Powerful Build. They're still stronger than an average human being, and mechanically distinct thanks to all the doodads like Darkvision, Relentless Endurance and Savage Attacks (the latter also plays in the idea of higher strength). Give them the option to pick a Skill and/or Tool proficiency from a pool that makes sense for orcs in your world and you're done.

    None of those abilities are vanilla +X to Thing, yet they play in the archetypal idea of orcs being strong and resilient without making them the optimal choice for every Strength-based character, because now if you pick elf as your race you aren't effectively giving up a bonus ASI spent on Strength (this obviously assumes we give every race this treatment).

    I feel that moving away from racial ability modifiers is a good way to design options without falling back on the lazy choice of "humans but stronger/quicker/healthier". This is a possibility even if your game isn't derivative of D&D. If you're making, I don't know, a Star Trek inspired game, I'd like Vulcan to have the ability to hide/suppress their emotions and think clear even when under stress rather than just having a bonus to mental stats or skills.
    Yes, but we're discussing GAME. Games have mechanical aspects. How do you express Orcs as "strong" without an in-game mechanic? Are you desiring a "let's-play-pretend" storygame that excludes modifiers and dice? If WotC did that with D&D it would destroy the game, and possibly the hobby.

    You suggest a Vulcan being something other than a Roddenberry Vulcan. Okay. You can do that at your table if the group agrees. The issue is you wanting racial sameness to extend, as official content, across the hobby.

    The preface of the AD&D GM Guide is Gygax telling DMs they can run any kind of game we want, outside of official, GENCON-related games. The rules are OURS, so homebrew is the STANDARD.

    You want to make YOUR rules the standard. That will NEVER happen. EVER.

  3. - Top - End - #33
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Grod_The_Giant View Post
    I would argue "by not having racial ability modifiers." Regardless of real-world concerns, they're boring. They basically vanish as soon as you're done with character creation, especially if you didn't min-max (ie, if you start with a 20 when the normal max at creation is 18, that's at least sort of noticeable; if you start with a 16, who can even tell?) If you want orcs to be stronger than humans, it's more fun to give them something like Powerful Build than +2 Strength.
    That's my take on it. Racial stat modifiers are far more trouble than they're worth and there are better ways to handle racial characteristics - ones that don't lock them into particular roles as much.
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  4. - Top - End - #34
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    My preferred way is to only have mechanical distinctions where they're going to have significant implications to play.

    Rogue Trader inclues three non-human races to play as and each comes with a huge difference in stats compared to humans, has a unique class that only they can take and has access to talents/traits that humans can't get.

    A Dark Eldar can jump off a building and take no damage where the others would all be smooshed to paste, a Kroot can peel open armour with it's bare hands, an Ork can survive a shotgun blast to the face that would reduce the others to a pile of miscellaneous meat, and those are only where their differences start.

    They also interact differently with the medicine skill, implants, some weapons and armour, diplomacy and so on.

    These differences generally grow more pronounced as the game progresses as well. The frailest starting Ork is as tough as all but the toughest humans, and by the end game a tough Ork is unable to be harmed by anything short of anti-tank weapons because they're just that big and tough.



    For races as D&D does them a 5% difference to a roll here or there is so minimal it's not worth the paper it's printed on imo. Make elves agile as the wind and fragile as ice, orcs as strong as oxen and thick as planks and so on and they'll actually be distinct. A piddly little -x or +x here or there amounts to nothing more than statistical noise.
    Last edited by Grim Portent; 2020-12-25 at 02:05 PM.
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  5. - Top - End - #35
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    If you homebrew the rules, especially Abilities, you've already gone outside of the racially-based mechanics offered.

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ignimortis View Post
    Well, what stat would something like hacking or medicine use?
    Actual solutions used by other games:

    Ancient Domains of Mystery solution: Learning. That is, a stat representing general book learning and memory.

    Praedor: no stat. Some skills are purely taught and you have to buy them up from a flat minimum, with no help from primary abilities.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ignismortis
    Having to make correct IC decisions in (usually) short amounts of time shouldn't probably be a player-based ability.
    Wrong. It always depends on player skill, or you don't have a player playing. What changes is what player skill is being used and to what degree. When you abstract, say, hacking or medicine to a simple dice game using addition and substraction of small numbers, you obviously don't use the player's real skill in hacking or medicine, but you do use the player's skill to solve trivial math problems.

    Eliminating player skill is not a good game design goal.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ignismortis
    considering few people know much of such things to actually describe a correct procedure - especially if it's not necessarily the same thing as IRL, i.e. medicine in sci-fi, or hacking in Shadowrun, which is much more action-y.
    Does a fictionalized task need to use exact same skills as the equivalent real life task? Obviously not. But this obvious truth does not get you far down the road of game design. Once you've decided your Guitar Hero game is going to use a toy guitar instead of a real guitar, you still need to design a toy guitar that can provide sufficient challenge for skilled players to stay interested.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ignismortis
    This argument is basically the same thing as Charisma - most games assume that a Charisma check is supplemented with some roleplaying of the action taken, or at least a presentation of arguments, and that means the player is expected to make some sort of contribution regardless of their CHA score. In fact, I've played with some people who were harshly against CHA being a stat at all, as they said that it diminished roleplaying and made persuasion and deception more reliant on stats than choosing the right words.
    Yes, I am one of those people who'd argue against excessive mechanization of Charisma, or social skills in general. You have living people capable of emulating human behaviour at the table, you can replace hard social problems with easier social problems and have people actually socialize at the table, instead of reducing social interaction to a die roll.

    For contrast, notice how you can't make the same argument for Strength. Obviously, it's possible to make a game based on real physical activity by players, but it rapidly escapes design space of a tabletop game, because you can't have people sitting at a table when they're running around. Point being: each real ability and each real skill has its own design space for making games. Abstracting them all to same type of simple math problem is easy, but it's not be-all-end-all for RPG design.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ignismortis
    Besides, I don't think that having a character stat sometimes correct a player's inability to make right choices is a bad thing. One might want to play a smart character while not being smart (or at least as smart) themselves, they just need to not be a prick about it, like the person described above insisting that their character is smart enough to not make a mistake. And they can always roll for it, you know? If they do roll INT or LOG or w/e well enough, give them a hint or a warning. If they don't, then their character made a mistake — which is fine, everyone makes mistakes sometimes, even the smartest people. That's why you play a TTRPG instead of just pretend - to have a chance of failure, a chance of success, and the numbers on which to base those things.
    Rolling to get a hint is, again, fundamentally the same as my suggestion regarding Perception. I agree it's functional, but you don't need a roll to mechanize it. Example: you get to ask one binary question, Twenty Questions style, for each point of Perception (or Logic or Intelligence, if you insist). And you're guaranteed to get a correct answer. This actually involves the player using logic while making the task easier with higher Perception, with no need to involve dice.
    Last edited by Vahnavoi; 2020-12-25 at 02:13 PM.

  7. - Top - End - #37
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by SwordCoastTaxi View Post
    Yes, but we're discussing GAME. Games have mechanical aspects. How do you express Orcs as "strong" without an in-game mechanic? Are you desiring a "let's-play-pretend" storygame that excludes modifiers and dice? If WotC did that with D&D it would destroy the game, and possibly the hobby.
    Did you actually read what I wrote? The orc I proposed is still stronger (can carry and push more, deals extra damage in melee), it simply isn't so through getting a flat bonus to an ability score.

    You suggest a Vulcan being something other than a Roddenberry Vulcan. Okay. You can do that at your table if the group agrees. The issue is you wanting racial sameness to extend, as official content, across the hobby.
    So, the fact all Vulcan in this hypothetical game would have a mechanic that lets them keep their cool in situations where humans freak out (and in general control their emotions better) isn't enough to make them not the same as humans? They need to have "+2 to Logic & Reason" for you to consider them a mechanically different option?

    You want to make YOUR rules the standard. That will NEVER happen. EVER.
    Uh... ok? I was just offering my opinion, I didn't mean you need to burn your books because I think there are other ways to create mechanical differences between humans, orcs and elves.

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    This works both ways though.

    Imagine wanting to play a goblin, only to find out that they suck at whatever archetype you want to play and you will be at a huge mechanical disadvantage the entire campaign.

    Magical items, DM intervention, or just plain adaptation can all fix this.

    Want to play a Goblin Bard but have lowsy charisma? Well, You could:

    Get a headband of extra charisma

    Talk to the DM to see if you can base your perform (Acrobatics) on Dexterity instead of Charisma

    Adapt to say that your character is not a very good bard

    Talk to the DM to see if you can trade your Dexterity bonus for a Charisma one via backstory

    etc

    If you chose to play as a Goblin Bard, then you should be willing and able to play as a Goblin Bard.
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  9. - Top - End - #39
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    This works both ways though.

    Imagine wanting to play a goblin, only to find out that they suck at whatever archetype you want to play and you will be at a huge mechanical disadvantage the entire campaign.
    So you, as a game designer, state that playing goblin means playing on Hard Mode. Problem solved!

    Seriously: there is no imperative for each playable character to be distinctly advantaged. Being distinctly disadvantaged can be a feature in itself, as it actually is in plenty of games.

    This is where you need to, at least for a moment, abandon the idea that making a character is about player self-expression, and instead consider the idea that making a character is about choosing a challenge.

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    This works both ways though.

    Imagine wanting to play a goblin, only to find out that they suck at whatever archetype you want to play and you will be at a huge mechanical disadvantage the entire campaign.
    So...you read the race write up, including whatever makes you suck at something, and you choose to be a goblin anyway? In my brain that means you want something else from the goblin write up. It has, as written, something you like.


    So race attributes, depends a little on the game, but for me the stat mods +/- just reflect details about that race. I made a race with a + st and - int for 2nd ed. It's a larger than normal oral tradition race. (7 foot is on the low end) self proclaimed masters of the sea, sailors and islanders. No one one ooc or ic thinks they are dumb, and its presented in game as a lack of written training (int) and more stories, traditions, songs, ect (wis and cha learning and skills)

    Long point made short, as long as you dont make a terrible culture, the stat mods are often fine.

    Now to address the best race with best stat to be the best class, that is honestly an ooc issue. Being the best is not needed to play games. You want to be a person, not a robot statatron (my 2 cents)
    But in game, characters dont say "Bob's half orc gets a plus 5 and I dont." That is a purely player thing.

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by VoxRationis View Post
    This, to me, smacks of an attempt at obfuscation more than anything else.
    It depends what is the problem you're trying to solve.

    Some peoples have absolutely 0 problems with races having ability modifiers in-universe, but dislike the mechanical effects of it at the level of character creation. And for that this is the perfect solution, you keep the in-universe distinction and get rid of the unwanted mechanical effect.

    On the other hand, some peoples have 0 problems with the mechanics of having racial ability modifiers but are uncomfortable with the consequences it has in term of world-building, and for them this solution is obfuscation.

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by KaussH View Post
    Now to address the best race with best stat to be the best class, that is honestly an ooc issue. Being the best is not needed to play games. You want to be a person, not a robot statatron (my 2 cents)
    But in game, characters dont say "Bob's half orc gets a plus 5 and I dont." That is a purely player thing.
    It is an issue both in and out of character. Stereotypes will absolutely exist in universe, and there will be many characters in the setting who are told they cant do something they want to do because of their race.

    At a player level, many players simply want to be the best character and wont choose an inferior race, thus reducing diversity at the table.

    On the other hand, some players will just like a race and be frustrated that they have to suffer penalties for playing the race they like.

    Imo PCs are already special individuals, I don’t see any problem with having PCs who break stereotypes instead of reinforcing them.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    At a player level, many players simply want to be the best character and wont choose an inferior race, thus reducing diversity at the table

    [...]

    Imo PCs are already special individuals, I don’t see any problem with having PCs who break stereotypes instead of reinforcing them.
    It has been pointed out you by multiple people that you don't really get stereotype-breaking characters if your point-buy system makes it too easy and too optimal to play a stereotype. Having player characters break internal stereotypes of your setting is not really preferable. To use an example that's been spoofed all to Hell, including in Order of the Stick: a Chaotic Good male Drow rebelling against their Evil matriarchal society was only original the first time. If all playable Drows fit that bill, you've only "broken" the stereotype of Evil Drow by substituting it with stereotype of Self-Hating Drow.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal
    On the other hand, some players will just like a race and be frustrated that they have to suffer penalties for playing the race they like.
    .
    I'd like you to take a moment and explain to me, what do you think these people like about a race when they clearly don't like the mechanical implementation? Where do they get the idea of what they want to play when clearly, in this situation, it can't be the game system?
    Last edited by Vahnavoi; 2020-12-25 at 05:54 PM.

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Currently, it is a point buy system and all stats cost the same amount, but have different ranges for different species, so orcs can put more points into strength than a human and halflings less, which isn't quite the same thing as straight modifiers, but is pretty similar in end results.

    Thanks!
    Can you elaborate on your current setup? Might be helpful to directly critique with modifiers in mind.

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    It has been pointed out you by multiple people that you don't really get stereotype-breaking characters if your point-buy system makes it too easy and too optimal to play a stereotype. Having player characters break internal stereotypes of your setting is not really preferable. To use an example that's been spoofed all to Hell, including in Order of the Stick: a Chaotic Good male Drow rebelling against their Evil matriarchal society was only original the first time. If all playable Drows fit that bill, you've only "broken" the stereotype of Evil Drow by substituting it with stereotype of Self-Hating Drow.
    Maybe in an MMO or something, but for a tabletop RPG the sample size is really too small for that to be an issue. The Drizzt thing isnt a trend for players, its a popular novel character who has, allegedly, been copied a whole bunch, although I must admit I have been playing D&D for decades and never seen it.

    If diversity in PC races is your goal, I don't see how forcing then to adhere to stereotypes is going to help. Likewise, I don't see any reason why it is a bad thing for PC demographics and NPC demographics to line up.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    I'd like you to take a moment and explain to me, what do you think these people like about a race when they clearly don't like the mechanical implementation? Where do they get the idea of what they want to play when clearly, in this situation, it can't be the game system?
    Aesthetics? Culture? Psychology?

    For example, I am currently playing a Changeling the Dreaming campaign. In that system, there are a plethora of different fantasy races, and the only mechanical difference between each race is that they get two benefits and one penalty. Sometimes these are numerical in nature, but usually aren’t.

    Still, the different races are so fleshed out that people still enthusiastically choose races and have all sorts of preferences.
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kane0 View Post
    Can you elaborate on your current setup? Might be helpful to directly critique with modifiers in mind.
    I would love to.

    What specifically would you like me to share?
    Looking for feedback on Heart of Darkness, a character driven RPG of Gothic fantasy.

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    If diversity in PC races is your goal, I don't see how forcing then to adhere to stereotypes is going to help. Likewise, I don't see any reason why it is a bad thing for PC demographics and NPC demographics to line up
    The only people being "Forced" to adhere to stereotypes are the people who think they are the only way to play. there is nothing preventing anyone from playing a halfling barbarian or a half-orc wizard. you can absolutely play those without issue and still have them be viable and effective characters. the racial traits are only a problem if you -personally- make them a problem.
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Draconi Redfir View Post
    The only people being "Forced" to adhere to stereotypes are the people who think they are the only way to play. there is nothing preventing anyone from playing a halfling barbarian or a half-orc wizard. you can absolutely play those without issue and still have them be viable and effective characters. the racial traits are only a problem if you -personally- make them a problem.
    Do keep in mind that I was directly responding to this:

    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    Having player characters break internal stereotypes of your setting is not really preferable.
    I suppose the word "force" is a bit of hyperbole, but it really depends on the system.

    We aren't talking about D&D as is, but about designing a system in a vacuum. Some systems do indeed flat out prohibit certain race / class combinations, for example World of Warcraft bans players from making characters of non stereotypical race / class combinations because it wants those rare NPCs who buck the stereotypes to feel more special. And some systems effectively ban certain combinations by just making them too mechanically ineffective to even consider.


    When designing a new system, I really don't think there is any valid justification for saying "no" to a player who wants to have green skin and tusks but also wants to (eventually) be the most powerful wizard in all the land just because most orcs are anti-intellectual barbarians.
    Last edited by Talakeal; 2020-12-25 at 07:12 PM.
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I would love to.

    What specifically would you like me to share?
    - What are the stats?
    - How do you allocate stats using Point Buy in your system?
    - What races do you currently have and what are their ranges?
    - What variables are and are not subject to change via our input?

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    This works both ways though.

    Imagine wanting to play a goblin, only to find out that they suck at whatever archetype you want to play and you will be at a huge mechanical disadvantage the entire campaign.
    Going to take a moment here to point out that this is a feature, not a bug. If you want to play a goblin, then youre either expecting to play into their type, in which case this isnt a problem, or youre prepared to play against type and are actually banking on that.

    Like, if i want to play a big muscly barbarian, im not going to be a gnome unless i deliberately want to invoke the gnome doing something he's bad at as part of the character.
    “Evil is evil. Lesser, greater, middling, it's all the same. Proportions are negotiated, boundaries blurred. I'm not a pious hermit, I haven't done only good in my life. But if I'm to choose between one evil and another, then I prefer not to choose at all.”

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    Regarding mechanical role given to Intelligence stat, you're not wrong. You can scrub out "Intelligence" and replace it with "Learning" and, with no further changes to mechanical niche of that stat, boom, all's fine.

    The reason why this isn't a solved problem is because some players bake the idea of intelligence, as in the ability to make smart decisions, into their character concept. They want to play, say, a genius detective because they read a book once and it had this cool genius detective in it, but they (the players) think (rightly or wrongly) they can't do the genius detective stuff themselves, so they want the game system to give them a leg up.
    Renaming "intelligence" to "learning" (or "memory," which I think is a bit more appropriate, but either would do) won't solve all problems forever, but I do think that it would be a step in the right direction.

    Your example of a player who wants to play as a character who's more intelligent than they are actually supports my point. It's inevitable that one of the following will be true:
    • Either someone else tells the player what their character won't do, or
    • their character will sometimes make stupid mistakes, or
    • they need to be intelligent IRL in order to play an intelligent character.

    A player who isn't aware of this Morton's fork could walk into a game with expectations that'll inevitably never be met. They're doomed to disappointment. Letting them write "INT 18" on their character sheet sets up and reinforces this doomed expectation, and when you take these players out back to quietly shoot them manage expectations, they'll point to those character sheets and exclaim "But this! This! This says that I can get the experience that you're now turning around and saying is impossible!"

    If those sheets instead read "MEM 18" (or LRN 18 or something similar) then those troublesome expectations either wouldn't exist in the first place or would be easier to expel.

    In short, having a stat named intelligence doesn't let players bake intelligence, as in the ability to make good decisions, into their character concept. It only lets them think that they can and sets them up for disappointment. It's better to rip that bandaid off at character creation IMO.

    Quote Originally Posted by VoxRationis View Post
    This, to me, smacks of an attempt at obfuscation more than anything else. You've still got the racial stat differences baked into your world-building and NPCs (and include the suggestion that the average elf is equal to the very best of humanity, something way more problematic than just giving them +2 Dex/-2 Con) but have simply removed the player-facing elements so it's harder for people to point to in the book and complain about.

    Also, PC/NPC separation is something of a pet peeve of mine, particularly when it's in blatant ways that are reflected in game.
    Quote Originally Posted by MoiMagnus View Post
    It depends what is the problem you're trying to solve.

    Some peoples have absolutely 0 problems with races having ability modifiers in-universe, but dislike the mechanical effects of it at the level of character creation. And for that this is the perfect solution, you keep the in-universe distinction and get rid of the unwanted mechanical effect.

    On the other hand, some peoples have 0 problems with the mechanics of having racial ability modifiers but are uncomfortable with the consequences it has in term of world-building, and for them this solution is obfuscation.
    MoiMagnus is mostly right here; I'm trying to solve the mechanical problems associated with racial ability modifiers. The worldbuilding implications aren't what I'm trying to address through mechanics.

    That's not because I don't care about the worldbuilding implications and I'm not trying to obfuscate anything, though. That's because I think that worldbuilding implications should be addressed through worldbuilding. There are two directions that you can go in here.

    The first would be to build a non-discriminatory cosmopolitan society around whatever mechanics exist. Most races in DnD have ability scores that still usually fall within the human norm. -2 isn't more than human-to-human random variation. Sure, clever half-orcs are statistically less common than clever humans, but they do exist, so every half-orc deserves the same chance as a human would get. Fictional races with severe negative ability score modifiers aren't fundamentally different from humans with disabilities, so we can look to the way that people with disabilities are (or should be) treated for inspiration. There's a tricky balance to be struck here - on one hand, acknowledging and providing support for the disability, and on the other acknowledging that people with disabilities still have agency and can sometimes be quite capable. Nonetheless, that's a balance that can be struck in the real world so there's absolutely no reason why it couldn't in a fictional one.

    The second is to build overtly discriminatory societies around the mechanics, make it clear to your players that these societies are not OK, and use that as a source of conflict in your games.

    Personally, I'm inclined towards the second approach. It makes for a more thoughtful and more complex game where even the "good guy" authorities are morally flawed and where the players will on occasion need to subvert those authorities to do what's right.

    What I said about elves compared to humans was just an example of something that might be true in a given campaign setting - it's a possible facet of worldbuilding that's compatible with the mechanics that I'm suggesting, but not required by anything.

    If PC/NPC separation is a pet peeve of yours, then . . . well, that's you. Most players are comfortable with it. PCs in most RPGs, DnD included, are significantly more capable overall than the average inhabitant of their worlds.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    This works both ways though. . . . Imagine wanting to play a goblin, only to find out that they suck at whatever archetype you want to play and you will be at a huge mechanical disadvantage the entire campaign.
    Quote Originally Posted by Draconi Redfir View Post
    Magical items, DM intervention, or just plain adaptation can all fix this.
    The fact that a problem can be fixed doesn't change the fact that there's a problem. By using the word "fix," you're implicitly acknowledging that there's something broken here. A better system wouldn't have that problem in the first place.

    Theoretically, any build could be made viable so long as players are willing to accept a reduction in power and/or DMs are willing to hand out whatever homebrew or level-inappropriate thing is required to balance it. Realistically, most players don't like being underpowered and most DMs are wary about handing out things which a different player might later abuse.

    Practically speaking, you do end up with situations where players say to themselves "Hey, you know what would be comedy gold? A goblin bard! Every song he sings would be incredibly crude - 'casue that's just how goblins roll - and he'd end up adventuring because every respectable employer kicks him out . . ." and then wind up being disappointed that they couldn't make a viable character out of that idea.

    There are other combinations that obviously don't and probably shouldn't work, such as a pixie barbarian. Someone who wants to play as a pixie barbarian obviously wants to have a hard time. My point here is that the range of character ideas that are viable is much less broad than it should be and that the racial ability modifier score system is to blame.

  22. - Top - End - #52
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    i think you're looking at small racial modifiers too much as big character-defining things. At the end of the day, there is very little difference between a level 10 sorcerer with a charisma of 20, and a level 10 sorcerer with a charisma of 18. just because one got a +2 charisma bonus and one got a -2 charisma penalty doesn't mean squat in the long term, they're both equally viable characters who can both do what they need to do to more or less the same effect. The first sorcerer might have a higher DC to their spells, but that's really about it.

    racial bonuses are really more general flavor for culture and biology then anything else. The Dwarves are hearty and wise, but pretty blunt, hence +2 con, +2 wis, -2 Cha. You can still make a dwarven bard all you want, nothing is stopping you, and you'll likely be just as good as that Elven bard down the line. In the meantime you could use those modifiers to help define or balance out your character. if you wanted, you could drain your Con down to an 8 for extra point buy, then use the +2 racial bonus to keep it at an average 10. Or just put a couple points into it to get a pretty decent 14.
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Herbert_W View Post
    MoiMagnus is mostly right here; I'm trying to solve the mechanical problems associated with racial ability modifiers. The worldbuilding implications aren't what I'm trying to address through mechanics.
    Ah, fair. I apologize for the misunderstanding. I thought that you were reacting to the OP's original vein of conversation, that an aversion to ability score modifiers was to be viewed in the context of addressing racism and whatnot.

    If PC/NPC separation is a pet peeve of yours, then . . . well, that's you. Most players are comfortable with it. PCs in most RPGs, DnD included, are significantly more capable overall than the average inhabitant of their worlds.
    "Average inhabitant" is different from "average NPC." It's accepted (at least in certain systems) that PCs are both innately more able and have more advanced training than the majority of individuals in the setting. However, if the NPCs who fit into the same positions as the PCs end up behaving mechanically differently (say, because the NPCs have racial stat modifiers and the PCs do not, or because various low-level enemies have access to unique abilities that PCs of thematically equivalent class can't get until later, or because the NPC warlord can endure ten times as much damage as the PC fighter, but only do half as much damage, because it is intended as a boss fight), it breaks verisimilitude.


    Theoretically, any build could be made viable so long as players are willing to accept a reduction in power and/or DMs are willing to hand out whatever homebrew or level-inappropriate thing is required to balance it. Realistically, most players don't like being underpowered and most DMs are wary about handing out things which a different player might later abuse.

    Practically speaking, you do end up with situations where players say to themselves "Hey, you know what would be comedy gold? A goblin bard! Every song he sings would be incredibly crude - 'casue that's just how goblins roll - and he'd end up adventuring because every respectable employer kicks him out . . ." and then wind up being disappointed that they couldn't make a viable character out of that idea.

    There are other combinations that obviously don't and probably shouldn't work, such as a pixie barbarian. Someone who wants to play as a pixie barbarian obviously wants to have a hard time. My point here is that the range of character ideas that are viable is much less broad than it should be and that the racial ability modifier score system is to blame.
    Well, since the OP is discussing a system which is still under development, the solution is to make a system where these sorts of modifiers do not render a particular race/class combination nonviable. If Strength controls spell damage but Intelligence spell duration, for example, a half-orc wizard with higher than normal Strength but lower than normal Intelligence could still prove quite functional. The character will play differently from other wizards, but not necessarily at a disadvantage.

    Now, if you acknowledge that pixie barbarians (being a rather extreme case) "shouldn't work," how do you plan on reinforcing that without having ability score modifiers? You could try and hack it by adding various traits like "does 1/4 melee damage" or the like, but that ends up being roundabout ways of doing the same thing as just giving them a Strength penalty and ends up breaking in various other scenarios, like said barbarian moving heavy objects.

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Draconi Redfir View Post
    i think you're looking at small racial modifiers too much as big character-defining things. At the end of the day, there is very little difference between a level 10 sorcerer with a charisma of 20, and a level 10 sorcerer with a charisma of 18. just because one got a +2 charisma bonus and one got a -2 charisma penalty doesn't mean squat in the long term, they're both equally viable characters who can both do what they need to do to more or less the same effect. The first sorcerer might have a higher DC to their spells, but that's really about it.
    Yeah, they aren't toobad in D&D. But still, in a reasonably low op game, but if you are playing a race with a -2 penalty to your prime stat vs. a race with a +2 bonus to the same stat, that can be a pretty big difference, especially when combined with other racial abilities that may or may not suit you.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kane0 View Post
    - What are the stats?
    Nothing too special, Agility, Charisma, Dexterity, Endurance, Intelligence, Perception, Strength, Willpower.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kane0 View Post
    - How do you allocate stats using Point Buy in your system?
    Starting characters get 50 points to distribute amongst their stats. They can also use these points to buy additional skills or feats, or take flaws for extra points.

    Over the course of play characters get more points to improve their ability scores, and a maximum level character has roughly twice the currency of a starting character.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kane0 View Post
    - What races do you currently have
    A whole bunch. The game is built around the default assumption of human PCs, but the rules allow you to play anything in bestiary with GM permission.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kane0 View Post
    and what are their ranges?
    Humans have 1-10 in all stats. Magic, equipment, mutations, and the like can increase maximums up to 15.
    Same races have natural caps as low as 5 or as high as 15. The augmented maximum is still fifteen.


    So, let's look at Orcs, as they are often discussed and a pretty close to human analogue.

    Currently, their ranges are:
    Agility 1-9
    Charisma 1-9
    Dexterity 1-9
    Endurance 3-12
    Intelligence 1-9
    Perception 1-9
    Strength 3-12
    Willpower 1-10

    They also have symbiotic algae in their cells which halves their food intake and can see into the infrared spectrum which allows them to see warm bodies clearly in the dark but also blinds them in areas of excessive ambient heat.


    Quote Originally Posted by Kane0 View Post
    What variables are and are not subject to change via our input?
    At this stage pretty much anything short of redesigning the core mechanics of the game.
    Last edited by Talakeal; 2020-12-26 at 01:50 AM.
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Racial modifiers are a mechanic of CHOICE. RPGs are big on player choices.

    Removing the distinct aspect of racial choice and how that modifies capability takes something away from the game. Emphasis GAME. This isn't simple "Pretend", it is a game played around the world by some people that take it very seriously. If you remove options they've become accustomed to, they might feel a certain way.

    Remember the 4th edition changes? It led to Paizo's Pathfinder becoming the dominant game over D&D.

    As influential as D&D is now, never forget that tampering with the game mechanics can lead to ruin. It's why WotC isn't listening to the SJWs and their rant against races.

    They've given you monsters to play as characters, but there will always be a level of culture and mechanical capability attached to that monster.
    Last edited by SwordCoastTaxi; 2020-12-26 at 01:23 AM.

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by SwordCoastTaxi View Post
    Racial modifiers are a mechanic of CHOICE. RPGs are big on player choices.

    Removing the distinct aspect of racial choice and how that modifies capability takes something away from the game. Emphasis GAME. This isn't simple "Pretend", it is a game played around the world by some people that take it very seriously. If you remove options they've become accustomed to, they might feel a certain way.

    Remember the 4th edition changes? It led to Paizo's Pathfinder becoming the dominant game over D&D.

    As influential as D&D is now, never forget that tampering with the game mechanics can lead to ruin. It's why WotC isn't listening to the SJWs and their rant against races.

    They've given you monsters to play as characters, but there will always be a level of culture and mechanical capability attached to that monster.
    You do realize the OP is talking about their own system, don't you? They haven't broken into the WotC office with a nefarious plan to change D&D forever.
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Nothing too special, Agility, Charisma, Dexterity, Endurance, Intelligence, Perception, Strength, Willpower.
    I personally dont see enough of a reason to sparate dexterity and agility but thats probably off topic.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Starting characters get 50 points to distribute amongst their stats. They can also use these points to buy additional skills or feats, or take flaws for extra points.

    Over the course of play characters get more points to improve their ability scores, and a maximum level character has roughly twice the currency of a starting character.
    50 plus Flaws plus another 50 from progression may be too generous? It sounds really generous, suppose that impression depends on skill, feat and ability costs.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Humans have 1-10 in all stats. Magic, equipment, mutations, and the like can increase maximums up to 15.
    Same races have natural caps as low as 5 or as high as 15. The augmented maximum is still fifteen.
    Im not seeing a problem with that really. Some might chafe at the ‘penalties’ though, same reasoning that 5e dropped them.

    Edit: what i would suggest is instead of races changing the available range (which is a racial bonus in disguise) institute increasing costs for higher stat values and races give discounts to that increasing cost. There is still an ‘optimal’ use for your points, you cant really get around that, but at least you arent ‘forced’ to spend you points in certain ways based on race and feel ‘wasted’.
    Last edited by Kane0; 2020-12-26 at 03:09 AM.

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Maybe in an MMO or something, but for a tabletop RPG the sample size is really too small for that to be an issue. The Drizzt thing isnt a trend for players, its a popular novel character who has, allegedly, been copied a whole bunch, although I must admit I have been playing D&D for decades and never seen it.
    If you're raising too small sample sizes as a point, that implies you don't except to play a lot of different games with your own system, and don't really care about what other people do it. Also, Drizzt thing was a trend for players, that's part of what the comic was spoofing. Drizzt codified the idea that a Ranger fights with two swords and this wormed its way to game mechanics of multiple games, including his parent game D&D. If you didn't see it, you didn't look too hard

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal
    If diversity in PC races is your goal, I don't see how forcing then to adhere to stereotypes is going to help. Likewise, I don't see any reason why it is a bad thing for PC demographics and NPC demographics to line up.
    I'm not talking about forcing players to play stereotypes, I'm talking about your system encouraging, by it's mechanical structure, playing of stereotypical characters. Substituting one internal stereotype with another isn't preferable here. Also, again, if you want diversity and are fine with PC demographics lining up with NPC demographics, just randomize character creation already.



    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal
    Aesthetics? Culture? Psychology?

    [...]

    Still, the different races are so fleshed out that people still enthusiastically choose races and have all sorts of preferences.
    I'm going to ignore your Changeling example because I don't know that game and you aren't giving me enough information to give a reasoned analysis.

    The point I want to make here is that since it's your game you want feedback for, explaining aesthetics, culture and psychology of your races is part of your system. It's part of the same package as your mechanics. If you're doing your job competently, the mechanical facets of your system are congrous with what you say about their aesthetics, culture and psychology.

    So, for example, if your system says goblins are small, ugly and evil and they are at mechanical disadvantage because of that: if a player wants to play a goblins that's neither small nor ugly nor evil, what exactly are they liking about your goblins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal
    When designing a new system, I really don't think there is any valid justification for saying "no" to a player who wants to have green skin and tusks but also wants to (eventually) be the most powerful wizard in all the land just because most orcs are anti-intellectual barbarians.
    If your designing a new system, what's your valid justification for having orcs in the first place?

    It's already been pointed out that if you want race to be a cosmetic difference - if putting green skin and tusks on a wizard is all it's about - then nix racial modifiers entirely. Don't complicate your game system with mechanics that you don't really want to matter.

    But beyond that, let me write you another satirical conversation:

    GM: "In this world, dark elves are called Drow, they are an evil, subterranean, matriarchal spider-worshipping race."
    Player: "That's so cool! I want to play a Drow!"
    GM: "Nice! So let's start by rolling your abi-..."
    Player: "But I don't want to be evil."
    GM: "Okay? Well, that's workable..."
    Player: "I also don't want to play any subterranean adventures. Those are so cliched."
    GM: *Puzzled* "... well okay, you could be
    part of an exploration party send to the surface..."
    Player: "I also don't want to worship spiders."
    GM: "... well they do have some other gods..."
    Player: "Also, I find this matriarchy thing not to my tastes, so I'll play a lone male who has no ties to that social paradigm.
    GM: *Looks at the player* "Okay, let's see if I got this right: I described an evil, subterranean, matriarchal spider-worshipping race..."
    Player: "That's right!"
    GM: "... but you want your character to not be evil, not live underground, not worship spiders and not have anything to do with their social order?"
    Player: "Yes!"
    GM: *crossing their arms* "... what, exactly, did you find cool about my Drow?"
    Player: *points to a book* "Well, you see, they have dark skin in that picture."
    GM: "And?"
    Player: "And I find your game has too few dark skinned people in it."
    GM: "Okay?"
    Player: "So I thought I'd fix that by playing a Drow."
    GM: "Uh..."
    Player: "But I don't want to be part of an evil matriarchy. That'd give a bad impression of dark skinned people. So, instead, I will be lovable good ranger!"
    GM: "You... you do realize my setting has actual dark skinned humans in it? Including an entire culture of immigrant from historical Egypt?"
    Player: *puzzled* "Yes?"
    GM: "So if you want a positive representation of dark skinned people, why not play, you know, a dark skinned human?"
    Player: "... but they're not elves."
    GM: "... I'm sorry?"
    Player: "They're not elves. So they don't have pointed ears. Or this totally awesome bonus to dexterity. Playing a ranger is totally unoptimal without a bonus to dexterity."
    GM: "Doesn't sound like you really want to play a Drow at all."
    Player: "How come? I just said I wanted to play a Drow."
    GM: "Would you be satisfied with playing an Egyptian with one-time boost to dexterity?"
    Everyone else at the table: "Hey, wait a second! You didn't give us that option when we made our characters!"
    GM: "... why's that a big deal all of a sudden?"
    Player 2: "I totally wouldn't have picked orc and eaten an ability score penalty to mental stats if I could've just been a human with a bonus to strength.
    GM: "But I thought you liked exploring orc culture and special disadvantages they have in society?"
    Player 2: "Well sort of, but these penalties totally stink. I could've just picked a human and... I dunno, pretended I was still an orc?"
    Player 3: "Refluffed."
    Player 2: "Say what?"
    Player 3: "Not 'pretended'. Refluffed. It's what you call it when you take a mechanic made to model one thing and use it for a completely different thing!"
    GM: "Hold on... so you would've been fine playing... refluffed humans?"
    Player 2: "Yes."
    GM: "But then, what was the point of me creating all these special mechanics to model differences between orcs and humans?"
    Player 2: "Eh, I don't play orcs for the mechanics, I play them to explore the culture, the psychology..."
    GM: "But those mechanics are there to model the culture and the psychology! How are you supposed to explore being disadvantaged withouy actually having any disadvantage?"
    Player 2: *sips juice through a straw* "Eh, I can just roleplay it."
    Player 1: "So, can I play a Drow now?"

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    -Snip-
    Did... did you bug my table?

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Racial bonuses to attributes and skills could work in a "lifepath" style of character creation, where you assemble your character from various options instead of having direct control over the numbers. So getting a strength bonus for being an orc wouldn't be much different from getting one from being a laborer or getting a survival bonus for having survived famine or whatnot. In a more traditional point-buy, they're a waste of time.
    Last edited by Morty; 2020-12-26 at 06:21 AM.
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