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  1. - Top - End - #151
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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Re: humans and mechanical features thereof

    Some years ago, I decided to try and see if I could come up with some alternative racial features for d&d 3.5, mostly because I wanted to see if I could incentivise more varied character building, since the bonus feat and skill points are a pretty big deal overall.

    What I came up with was removing the idea of "humans are good at being versatile", and changing it to answer the question of "how do humans thrive when they're surrounded by humans+?"

    The answer I came up with was: determination and stubbornness. See, when an elf is stuck on a problem, their first instinct is to study that problem in depth, researching, asking elders, etc. While this makes sense, the elves tend to take an extremely slow and cautious approach: if it's not something that demands to be resolved immediately, elves can spend decades on finding the perfect solution, which leads to spectacular but incredibly slow achievements. That magnificent alabaster tower at the edge of the woods? Elven architects spent twelve years to decide what the floor tiles would look like.

    Humans instead have a tendency to try and try again and never give up until they can make things work. And since they don't have the leisure of devoting decades of their lives on a single issue, to the long-lived races this comes across as humans stubbornly smashing their faces on a wall, yet managing to break the wall anyways and walk off with no long-lasting injuries.

    And this also translates to a certain resilience, mental and physical, that borders on the extraordinary.

    So, in short, I gave humans a pool of rerolls (which could be improved on by feats) that could be spent on saving throws and skills checks to represent this spirit of never giving up. Because when your neighbors are elves that live for centuries and whose "children" surpass your master craftsmen, or dwarves who can adapt themselves to the harshest living conditions and work non-stop for a week, you need something to stay competitive, and an extra feat isn't going to cut it.

  2. - Top - End - #152
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    I also had a project like that; trying to make humans just another race and not being 'the versatile one', because really any sapient should be pretty versatile.

    but some of the solutions just odn't work that well, and one of the big challenges is how the rules assume human baselines for a lot of things, thus applying them to all races. Since I have my link I may as well put it here:
    https://forums.giantitp.com/showthre...ces-Redesigned

    the tldr is trying to give each race a real advantage, particularly a combat-relevant one, that is applicable in certain environments but not others, so that each race has a clear 'adaptive advantage' but none of them outcompete each other everywhere, because each is best in its preferred terrain. It didn't fully work, and I overused movement modes; and couldn't come up with something for every race. the link also has a lot of comments/analysis about how I worked through the problem


    On another note, I'm wondering if we're getting off-topic and should go back to focus on the op's question.
    A neat custom class for 3.5 system
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=94616

    A good set of benchmarks for PF/3.5
    https://rpgwillikers.wordpress.com/2...y-the-numbers/

    An alternate craft point system I made for 3.5
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...t-Point-system

  3. - Top - End - #153
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    The Mod on the Silver Mountain: Please remember that real world religion and politics are inappropriate topics on this forum, even when they intersect a gaming topic. Please leave such content off the forum, even if it you think it relevant (or even necessary). If this thread cannot remain in-bounds, it will be closed permanently..
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  4. - Top - End - #154
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Alright so you have 8 stats and 50 points to spend in a 1-10 range yeah?

    I say set the cost higher than 1:1 for higher stats, this sets up a diminishing returns structure (curbing minmaxing like 10-10-10-10-3-3-2-2) and allows you some freedom in how you handle racial stat modifiers.
    By which i mean they don’t, at least not directly. Orcs dont give you a +2 to strength for a 2-12 range, they instead reduce the mounting costs of those higher ranges. So for example going from strength 7 to 8 costs 3 points normally but only 2 for an orc. You can also do the reverse if you want to disincentivize other stats like charisma, costing more than average after the 1:1 range (about 4-6 i’m guessing?)

    So you can sort of have the best of both worlds. You get to differentiate the capabilities between races but at the same time within the ‘normal’ capability range of say 1-5 nobody is at a disadvantage, even if you do include penalties as well (since those penalties kick in at the ‘beyond the guy at the gym’ portion of the stat range same as the beneficial deductions)

    And thats my 2cp

  5. - Top - End - #155
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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    In the last year or two, I have seen many people assert that D&D style racial ability modifiers, particularly to mental stats, are offensive. I have never really been able to figure out why, and the threads invariably get closed due to some sort of racist tangent before I can ask, but that isn't really here or there.

    I am about to revise the races chapter of my own system (playtest link in the sig) and was wondering if anyone had any input about how one could do ability modifiers "right"?

    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!
    the problem for the most part is not the Modifiers but the coding of the race. outside of humans, races are often coded as other groups, the problem is that when you start coding large groups of people as dumb you seem "insensitive" to say the least. the best way to do a racial modifier is to remove coding from your race. this is a big hump thou do to just how much writing reallies on coding, and how much each of these ideas are tie-up in historical coding. your best bet is to just remove them, or have your setting be something like space and avoid the robots are slave/neurodivergent trope. sadly fantasy is pretty much built on bad coding due to the fact the most of the creatures in fantasy have historical ties to political coding. things like historical propaganda comparing Jews to dragons, or ogres are Africans. I personally think that a character choice of stat bumps is a better idea than it being based on race but you do you.
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  6. - Top - End - #156
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    The only reason humans need a "special feature" is D&D switched to a model of non-humans having only extras with no limitations.

    Humans don't need features if other races have extras and limitations compared to them. The default rules can be for humans (assuming they're supposed to be the common race in the setting), non-humans are modified in comparison.
    I disagree because players will min/max, not that there's anything wrong with that. Whatever the limitation is won't affect the character as much as the benefit will help them, so it's a net gain while the Human gets nothing. The old -2 racial modifiers are a good example. Dwarf fighter players cared not one whit they had a -2 CH modifier. Many even enjoyed roleplaying it to the hilt. They were never upset they would make for a poorer paladin because they were never played. Halfling rogues couldn't care less having -2 ST. If you're playing a halfling you're playing a rogue. Once in a blue moon you'll see a halfling non-rogue, but no one ever really cared playing a halfling fighter or halfling barbarian wouldn't work as well as others because they were never played.

    Humans need something. I call it a feature since 3E D&D agreed.
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  7. - Top - End - #157
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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.
    Having a -2 to a "primary stat" has never been particularly debilitating enough to write off a character for, unless you are intentionally building something that is actively counter to your goal, such as choosing a halfling as your foundation for someone wielding oversized weapons at extreme natural reaches or something like that.

    Currently there is nothing to stop you from playing (and excelling) at playing an orc wizard for example. It just changes some of your options, which is in and of itself a source of emergent gameplay. If you're playing an Orc Wizard, you have a massive bonus to strength and a penalty to Intelligence, so what does that mean in hard numbers? It means you're probably better off not making a save-or-suck caster and relying on spell DCs, and instead emphasis things like buffing, summoning, dispelling, and effects that care more about caster levels. You might craft more pearls of power and use more metamagic versions of low-level spells that you can recall with your pearls, and in Pathfinder may find yourself drawn more to polymorphing spells (which in Pathfinder modify your base statistics) and actually mix it up in melee from time to time. It actually creates differences between characters that are subtle but very noticeable if your intent is to be the best you can be.

    Racial modifiers also generally explain the root of most cultural norms for different races in the campaign, because those that naturally find certain things easier due to genetic influence are more likely to gravitate towards those things. Dwarves, Hobgoblins, and Orcs all have aspects that make them well suited for being warriors and their cultures reflect that. The same tends to be true for most of the other races (halflings for example are more likely to be acrobats and pickpockets than they are sell-sword mercenaries). Again, subtle but far reaching, a bit like a ripple on the pond.

    It also increases the interest level when you find such a character that stands out from the norms. The aforementioned orc wizard can be an exceptionally effective adventurer, and very well rounded, and seems quite novel because most orcs just aren't going to be particularly interested in wizardry or have the focus for it, and will lean into their natural strengths. There is nothing wrong with the halfling barbarian, the orc wizard, the dwarven bard, or the goblin ranger.

    ----

    This is something I thought about a lot for a while, because I too used to think that rather than ability score adjustments that races should have some sort of "active" abilities. The problem I generally found is that makes it even harder to balance, is largely superfluous to everyone except player characters, and just adds an extra degree of complexity to choosing a class/race combination and generally leads to far more focus on mixing the right abilities than a +5/-5% difference on a d20 roll does.
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  8. - Top - End - #158
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    We might avoid a lot of the unfortunate parts of this if we used "species" or something instead of "race" when what we're talking about are probably not just "races".
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

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  9. - Top - End - #159
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    The word "Race" when used in the context of fantasy is clearly defined as separate instances of intelligent beings, no one is saying one is a racial offshoot of the other, and no one is implying that either. In terms of Fantasy, "Race" is just a smoother and easier way of saying "Species", one syllable instead of two to three. Everyone who knows fantasy understands it, and no one who knows fantasy is applying it to real world Race.

    Consider Pokemon who use the term "Gender" to refer to the creature's biological sex. in this case it was because Nintendo didn't want to include the dreaded "S-word" into their games for children, but anyone who knows anything about pokemon and it's use of the term know they're referring to biological sex, and not the creature's personal identity.

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  10. - Top - End - #160
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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    While I largely agree with your assessment*, Redfir, and would add that the more technical-sounding "species" tends to contrast tonally with most fantasy settings, I would say that context external to our games, that which makes the term "race" uncomfortable for some (and into which I shall not delve more deeply so as to avoid running afoul of forum rules), proves somewhat difficult to exclude.** I'm not sure what I would replace "race" with, however. "Species" is unpalatable; I would suggest "kind," if it were not a trifle vague and also lacking in an appropriate and familiar adjectival form ("kindly" would work, were its present definition not something else).


    *I'd like to see the arguments made against racial stat modifiers be advanced were we to frame the topic with species in the vein of Star Wars! Really, though, Morphic Tide's point about the ridiculousness of stat parity in a setting with dragons is probably the simplest and strongest argument that I've seen in the thread thus far.

    **I find it interesting that "class," which also has a more charged meaning in the real world and a different meaning in RPGs, does not fall afoul of such contextual contamination. Perhaps it's because the two meanings are more obviously distinct and non-overlapping in that case.

  11. - Top - End - #161
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    We might avoid a lot of the unfortunate parts of this if we used "species" or something instead of "race" when what we're talking about are probably not just "races".
    Most seem to be capable of interbreeding. There's half orcs, half elves, and even half-goblins (IIRC there's a hobgoblin/human NPC in TRHoD).

    But I suppose that might in turn indicate that they're also all related to dragons, or that everything is related to dragons, and similar things.

    Honestly it largely seems large to be semantics to me at this point. "A race of men" vs "a race of goblins" sounds infinitely less dehumanizing to me than "Elves are a curious species", so I will continue to refer to them as races. They are all, after all, just different flavors of humanoid.

    I also don't really put much stock in the rather debased ideas that humans in D&D are some sort of narrative equivalent to white males, nor do I believe that short pranksters that live inside of tree trunks and commune with animals and fairies are some sort of stereotype for ethnic groups from our real world, and find races like orcs to be even less believably so (to do so would be to truly think revulsion worthy thoughts about a demographic of real people given the fact orcs are an amalgamation of the basest brutalities of humanity packaged in a monstrous form so as to be close-enough to human to provide a worthy humanoid adversary but far enough from human to not be an allegory for anything other than the whole of humanity's darkest days), what with their entire culture being one of savage cruelty, greed, violence, oppression, rape, cannibalism, etc. I would sincerely shudder and perhaps roll my stomach should I ever actually meet someone who sees orcs and says "Yes, that is an allegory for those people who live down the street from me".

    Not something specifically directed at you, but I have seen a few sentiments that lean uncomfortably close to such things in the past and I am just thinking out loud as it pertains to this discussion.
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  12. - Top - End - #162
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    "Orcs resemble what real-world racists thought about various indigenous people" isn't a bad reason to have some second thoughts about your writing. Doubly so if it's "orcs live up to all the things that real-world racists said about indigenous people to justify racist mistreatment of those people". That's a writing thing instead of a stats thing and I really don't want to talk about what D&D races may be coded as whatever real groups of people (that inevitably veers political and gets threads locked), but that is a reason why giving orcs more cultural depth is a good thing.

  13. - Top - End - #163
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    Class and level limits. Not all limitations have to be stat modifiers.

    Yeah, you ended up with non-humans specializing. As low level henchmen in a mostly human world.
    Campaigns ended by then, so they never came into play. They were also able to multiclass, which humans were denied dual classing is not the same thing and worse, enjoying the full benefits of two (or three) classes. Splitting XP delayed reaching level limits long enough the campaign ended. In the off chance they did reach a level limit they still had their other class to continue for a few levels longer, then the game ended. Not the game's fault, true, but some DMs house ruled the level limits away. Humans sucked donkey in D&D pre-3E.
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  14. - Top - End - #164
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ashiel View Post
    Most seem to be capable of interbreeding. There's half orcs, half elves, and even half-goblins (IIRC there's a hobgoblin/human NPC in TRHoD).

    But I suppose that might in turn indicate that they're also all related to dragons, or that everything is related to dragons, and similar things.

    Honestly it largely seems large to be semantics to me at this point. "A race of men" vs "a race of goblins" sounds infinitely less dehumanizing to me than "Elves are a curious species", so I will continue to refer to them as races. They are all, after all, just different flavors of humanoid.
    The word I settled on for English discussion of the concept is "folk," if I were ever to try avoiding the word "race" while writing some hypothetical RPG. It lacks the "sterile" feel that Latin-derived terms often carry, which is often the main complaint people raise against alternatives. It's a relatively commonly-used word today, but not one that (in English) has any particularly loaded connotations, largely addressing the main concern with the use of "race" to describe a conglomerate of physiology and culture. (I'm aware that the German equivalent has baggage galore, but I personally don't think that baggage justifies avoiding an English word that hasn't meaningfully taken on any association with the German one.) "Folk" feels more specific than "people," and implies kinship and relation, but doesn't imply the exclusivity of terms like "species," nor does it imply the "born from organic parents" aspect of terms like "ancestry." And the casual use of it in various known phrases seems useful: "you folks" (referring to a collective group), "my folks" (referring to one's parents or extended family more generally), "folk music"/"folksong" (implications of rustic or even medieval style), "different strokes for different folks" (tastes vary, implying tolerance of divergent views), and even "queer as folk" (the double-meaning of "people are weird" and implying that LGBT* identity is merely different rather than bad or wrong).

    So, yeah. Your Folk is the origin of you: how you came to be who and what you are. It helps define where you came from, as part of your Heroic Origin.
    Last edited by ezekielraiden; 2021-01-03 at 08:09 AM.

  15. - Top - End - #165
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    And yet the idea of being capped at 8 (halflings), 10 (elves) or 12 (dwarves) meant that almost everyone played humans in BECMI.

    In AD&D Multiclassing was a big draw to overcome level limits, but the extra XP needed was a big turn off. Especially since getting to 2nd level took a long time already and was a crap shoot or worse odds in terms of living that long. The longer you spent at 1st level, the more your chance of dying to the first hit. And for some classes that held until you got to 3rd level.

    Level limits and class restrictions did the job very effectively ... if you considered the job to be having a mostly human PCs, with a sprinkling of non-humans. If that's not your goal, then such extreme measures probably aren't desired.
    In my 2E days I only played humans out of protest in how bad they were. Unless someone was playing a paladin or druid, which were human only in those days, I was the only human in the party. Everyone else multiclassed though I recall a number of single class halfling, half-elf, and one gullydwarf Thieves. Half-elves had no limit in Thief. Except for one player the single class Thieves were That Guy jerks using the "That's what my character would do" excuse. That one player who wasn't would become my favorite DM.

    We had different experiences in the old days.
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  16. - Top - End - #166
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pex View Post
    In my 2E days I only played humans out of protest in how bad they were. Unless someone was playing a paladin or druid, which were human only in those days, I was the only human in the party. Everyone else multiclassed though I recall a number of single class halfling, half-elf, and one gullydwarf Thieves. Half-elves had no limit in Thief. Except for one player the single class Thieves were That Guy jerks using the "That's what my character would do" excuse. That one player who wasn't would become my favorite DM.

    We had different experiences in the old days.
    Dont forget the wizards who werent very useful for anything until about 5th level.
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  17. - Top - End - #167
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    if a game is deadly and unlikely to gain even 1 level before death, I can theoretically see why that'd make some people NOT play humans. You're going to die before you gain levels anyway, why worry about a cap? Just take the power now.

    But 2e experience was the same as 1e and BECMI, everyone played humans because elves were just Legolas clones and dwarves were all drunk Scots* and no one in their right mind wanted to play a hobbit ... and level limits did their work. Even in something guaranteed to end before they came into play, they stopped people from choosing them.

    If someone played a non-human, it was usually a multiclass half-elf, because yes at a certain point if you pile on enough advantages it beats out the limitations.

    *I've never understood this. Why Scots? To me dwarves should be Norse, not Scots. Or maybe it's just that I'm half Scottish and players accents are terrible
    Speaking from experience, even when you survived campaigns in AD&D rarely got past about 10th level. It just took forever to get that far. When it came to deciding race, level limits were never a consideration for anybody i played with. If they became that much of a concern, we just ignored them.
    “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.”

  18. - Top - End - #168
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by ezekielraiden View Post
    The word I settled on for English discussion of the concept is "folk," if I were ever to try avoiding the word "race" while writing some hypothetical RPG. It lacks the "sterile" feel that Latin-derived terms often carry, which is often the main complaint people raise against alternatives. It's a relatively commonly-used word today, but not one that (in English) has any particularly loaded connotations, largely addressing the main concern with the use of "race" to describe a conglomerate of physiology and culture. (I'm aware that the German equivalent has baggage galore, but I personally don't think that baggage justifies avoiding an English word that hasn't meaningfully taken on any association with the German one.) "Folk" feels more specific than "people," and implies kinship and relation, but doesn't imply the exclusivity of terms like "species," nor does it imply the "born from organic parents" aspect of terms like "ancestry." And the casual use of it in various known phrases seems useful: "you folks" (referring to a collective group), "my folks" (referring to one's parents or extended family more generally), "folk music"/"folksong" (implications of rustic or even medieval style), "different strokes for different folks" (tastes vary, implying tolerance of divergent views), and even "queer as folk" (the double-meaning of "people are weird" and implying that LGBT* identity is merely different rather than bad or wrong).

    So, yeah. Your Folk is the origin of you: how you came to be who and what you are. It helps define where you came from, as part of your Heroic Origin.
    Bold added.

    To me, JUST replacing "race" with "folk" while continuing to conflate "elf by birth" with "elven by culture" (replace with any other "race") doesn't solve much of the core problem -- it still implies that culture and ancestry are somehow inherently one and the same, that if your ancestors were X, then you have an inherent culture as well.

    If orcs are a different species, I don't mind that species being more inclined to violent reactions because their brains are not the same as human brains. Same with elves. Etc.

    If orc culture promotes violent resolution of conflict, then I don't mind that influencing orcs to be more inclined to violence -- but an orc raised in another culture should have a different outlook.

    But when it becomes "orcs have orc cultural traits because they're orcs" and the biological and cultural bits are treated as inherently one and the same, THAT's just simply wrong on a factual level. And that's what "race" in D&D and systems/settings that take its assumptions as given have done for decades now.
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  19. - Top - End - #169
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    For what it's worth, in Mythclad (current campaign, loose D&D 3.5 basis but heavily modded) I split up bonuses from biological form and bonuses from nation and culture. The primary motivation wasn't anything about implications w.r.t. real world interpretations, but rather I didn't want 'human' to be the only viable option due to the power of a bonus feat over stat adjustments, especially since feats are more potent in Mythclad than in baseline D&D. So you can be an Ambrillan Elf, gaining the innate bonuses elves get but having the social and legal resources of belonging to a massive colonial empire that projects force throughout the world on behalf of its citizens. Or you could be a Skyborn Elf and get elf stuff but also the bonus feat. Or a Bronze Enclave Elf and get magic/technology/martial ability transparency as the culture benefit due to coming from a place whose underlying philosophy doesn't make a difference between a warrior channelling Qi and a wizard channelling mana, or ...

    Honestly though, it seems to me that its much more of an issue that Orcs (or chromatic dragons, or drow, or whatever) are a designated enemy kind/folk/race/species/whatever you want to call it that is basically deemed okay to kill on sight because of what they are, rather than that they get particular bonuses or penalties that might align with real world stereotypes. Even something like monsters that are intelligent, but at the same time inherently incapable of being anything other than hostile, have this problem to me. Worrying about a -2 Int seems to be missing the forest for the trees there.
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    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    For what it's worth, in Mythclad (current campaign, loose D&D 3.5 basis but heavily modded) I split up bonuses from biological form and bonuses from nation and culture. The primary motivation wasn't anything about implications w.r.t. real world interpretations, but rather I didn't want 'human' to be the only viable option due to the power of a bonus feat over stat adjustments, especially since feats are more potent in Mythclad than in baseline D&D. So you can be an Ambrillan Elf, gaining the innate bonuses elves get but having the social and legal resources of belonging to a massive colonial empire that projects force throughout the world on behalf of its citizens. Or you could be a Skyborn Elf and get elf stuff but also the bonus feat. Or a Bronze Enclave Elf and get magic/technology/martial ability transparency as the culture benefit due to coming from a place whose underlying philosophy doesn't make a difference between a warrior channelling Qi and a wizard channelling mana, or ...

    Honestly though, it seems to me that its much more of an issue that Orcs (or chromatic dragons, or drow, or whatever) are a designated enemy that is deemed okay to kill on sight because of what they are, rather than that they get particular bonuses or penalties.
    The starting motivation of splitting ancestry from culture, at least for me, is one of not liking the counter-factual conflation of the two.
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    The starting motivation of splitting ancestry from culture, at least for me, is one of not liking the counter-factual conflation of the two.
    I agree. I'm working on disentangling the two for my setting, using Race as the biology and subrace for the culture and largely making cultures that span multiple races. I'd be more aggressive about the changes (making the two completely independent) if I weren't trying to get away with minimal changes on the mechanical side so that existing race mechanics still can be used by those who don't want to dig through a complete racial overhaul. Maybe that will change some day.
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    If orcs are a different species, I don't mind that species being more inclined to violent reactions because their brains are not the same as human brains. Same with elves. Etc.

    If orc culture promotes violent resolution of conflict, then I don't mind that influencing orcs to be more inclined to violence -- but an orc raised in another culture should have a different outlook.

    But when it becomes "orcs have orc cultural traits because they're orcs" and the biological and cultural bits are treated as inherently one and the same, THAT's just simply wrong on a factual level. And that's what "race" in D&D and systems/settings that take its assumptions as given have done for decades now.
    I mean... why can't they have both?

    Why can't Orcs be a species more naturally inclined to violent reactions because their brains are not the same as human brains, and AS A RESULT OF THIS their culture promotes violent resolutions to conflict. But you can still have Orcs raised in another culture that has a different outlook.

    like if you're a naturally more aggressive species, it only makes sense that the culture(s) you develop would be more aggressive ones as well wouldn't it? No one is saying it needs to be just the one either. There could be one group of orcs with culture A over there, and another group of orcs with culture B over there, they're both Orcs, they're both Orc culture, but that doesn't mean they're the same culture.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    The starting motivation of splitting ancestry from culture, at least for me, is one of not liking the counter-factual conflation of the two.
    Both narratively and mechanically, monocultural races make things simpler for newer and more casual players. The DMG already has advice for making a new race/subrace. Expanding that a bit for characters of one race who were raised in another culture shouldn't be too hard while still acknowledging that it should be something hammered out by the DM and player.


    As far as racial level limits in 2e, I will say that the vast majority of games that I've played in houseruled them out and claimed that the balancing factor was "prejudice". (Which if it was applied, was aimed at the humans as often as not.) A lot of building 3e did involve looking at popular houserules to see what bits of 2e were or were not used in practice.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Bold added.

    To me, JUST replacing "race" with "folk" while continuing to conflate "elf by birth" with "elven by culture" (replace with any other "race") doesn't solve much of the core problem -- it still implies that culture and ancestry are somehow inherently one and the same, that if your ancestors were X, then you have an inherent culture as well.

    If orcs are a different species, I don't mind that species being more inclined to violent reactions because their brains are not the same as human brains. Same with elves. Etc.

    If orc culture promotes violent resolution of conflict, then I don't mind that influencing orcs to be more inclined to violence -- but an orc raised in another culture should have a different outlook.

    But when it becomes "orcs have orc cultural traits because they're orcs" and the biological and cultural bits are treated as inherently one and the same, THAT's just simply wrong on a factual level. And that's what "race" in D&D and systems/settings that take its assumptions as given have done for decades now.
    Well, uh, it was actually intended to be more complex than that. Just as "North African" can mean one's culture irrespective of one's ethnicity, or one's ethnic origin (such as Berber) irrespective of one's birthplace, your culture is not totally identical to your folk.

    I don't really know why you'd assume that LITERALLY NOTHING would change besides the term used...

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    Decidedly more complex. Redfir has a point in that culture doesn't arise spontaneously from a vacuum, and that we can expect the traits of whoever's developing the culture to influence the end product, which will in turn influence the people within that culture in a feedback cycle, and that this interactivity is partially separate from the biological traits those same people would possess if deracinated.*

    Adding to this complexity is the point, which appears to be generally agreed upon, that we can expect distinct cultures, likely many distinct cultures, from each race. With a few exceptions, I think it's largely a matter of effort that prevents this from being expounded upon more in settings, rather than any specific ideological point.

    As for PhoenixPhyre's sentiment of multiracial cultures, I must say that since we are largely discussing broadly separate biological populations (that is, race X and race Y are not mere morphs of one another, and do not interbreed), it is more likely that in most** cases, each culture will be predominantly of one race, or at least was so at some time in the historic or legendary past, before X conquest or Y alliance or Z wave of immigration and assimilation. But of course, those events can be expected to occur, and so we should have some elements of cultural mixing (in various forms of completeness).

    *I would expect this to be doubly true if in a milieu with multiple sapient species, due to the effects of niches and specialization. An orcish society living in a continent all its own might end up being not altogether different from human society, or at least a human society, but one interacting with and competing with gnomes and satyrs and whatnot will be obliged to shift away from those niches where the other species can do things better. This might take the form of peaceful interaction, developing economic regimes that focus on the orcs' strengths and trading for what the others can provide, or it might take the form of violent interaction, with the orcs claiming those environments and adopting those social structures that allow them to achieve local supremacy, or more likely, both forms of specialization will end up applying.

    **I want to put some emphasis on "most" because it is not difficult to think of situations in which symbiosis would occur from the beginning of a culture, but broadly speaking, social species tend to stick in groups of their own kind by habit, whether they tolerate nonspecifics or not.

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    Quote Originally Posted by VoxRationis View Post
    As for PhoenixPhyre's sentiment of multiracial cultures, I must say that since we are largely discussing broadly separate biological populations (that is, race X and race Y are not mere morphs of one another, and do not interbreed), it is more likely that in most** cases, each culture will be predominantly of one race, or at least was so at some time in the historic or legendary past, before X conquest or Y alliance or Z wave of immigration and assimilation. But of course, those events can be expected to occur, and so we should have some elements of cultural mixing (in various forms of completeness).
    I...don't buy this one. Cultures often collide, intermix, and produce new and interesting directions as a result. For example, most Indo-European mythologies feature a two-deity-group system, with one group conquering the other, peacefully integrating, or intermarrying with the other. Sometimes it's a complicated familial descent thing (Greek myth, where the primordial deities are overthrown by the Titans, who are in turn overthrown by the Olympians), sometimes it's two broad family groups going at each other (Asura vs Deva in Hinduism) that may not always have a moral message to it, sometimes it's a solely good-guy group being invaded by bad guys (the Tuatha de Dannan and Fomorians), sometimes it's just two groups that fight and mingle in equal measure (Vanir and Aesir), sometimes it's a hodgepodge mingling of two different systems that never settles on anything specific (the pantheons of Upper and Lower Egypt).

    And that's literally only looking at the religious angle. Language does similar stuff, both dividing (the various local flavors of Latin that became French, Spanish, Romanian, Italian, Romanian, etc.) and merging (English is a fusion of several languages; pidgins and creoles are blends between source languages forced into daily contact). Empires can engage in active syncretism and yet still retain local culture (Rome was huge on that; the Mongolian empire actively supported religious tolerance; etc.) Cuisine is often bound to a land rather than an ethnic group per se, because it comes from the food available there, the growing conditions and seasons; we only really have "fusion" cuisine today because we have pretty thoroughly decoupled the food we eat from its native environments due to farming, which is how things like pad thai can exist.

    And if you allow for any division finer than the highest possible abstraction, you totally get cultural divides. I'm religious, but I know a lot of the people on this board aren't. And even though I am religious, my culture differs vastly from the Orthodox Jews I know, which differs from the Catholics, Muslims, and Buddhists I know. Intersectionality is a thing, and presuming that there's any inherent link between physiology and culture in either direction--whether it be that being X means you will have culture Y, or that being culture Y means you're an X. The most you can get is trends, and trends by their nature have both demonstrations and exceptions. You cover trends with the baseline options, and exceptions with the "build your own" option(s).

    Maybe an Elf is raised in New Arkhosia, and so even though she has elf parents and belongs to the feyfolk as a physiology, her culture is New Arkhosian, meaning she shares far more values and concepts with most dragonborn than she does with most elves. Maybe a genasi has an adoptive orc father, so though she technically grew up in genie-ruled lands and thus was implicitly exposed to the Jinnistani culture, she internalized and takes pride in the Gar-Ket culture of her father, which he taught her through story and song as well as giving her the traditional hunter's coming-of-age ceremony. Etc.

    Monocultures and planets-of-hats are lazy writing. We can, and should, do better.

    Edit: And honestly, I see the "in the distant and legendary past" as being basically unimportant. It's a founding myth, not a history. Myths by their nature are not a precise accounting of things, they are a partly-symbolic explanation of things. Such monoculture status pushed back into the "we only know the names of gods and heroes" times may as well not even have ever happened, because it has little relevance to whether there is any current "(nearly) all dragonborn are X" or "nearly everyone from culture Y is an elf."
    Last edited by ezekielraiden; 2021-01-04 at 10:59 AM.

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by ezekielraiden View Post
    Maybe an Elf is raised in New Arkhosia, and so even though she has elf parents and belongs to the feyfolk as a physiology, her culture is New Arkhosian, meaning she shares far more values and concepts with most dragonborn than she does with most elves. Maybe a genasi has an adoptive orc father, so though she technically grew up in genie-ruled lands and thus was implicitly exposed to the Jinnistani culture, she internalized and takes pride in the Gar-Ket culture of her father, which he taught her through story and song as well as giving her the traditional hunter's coming-of-age ceremony. Etc.
    I think this is what we usually call "The exception that proves the rule". You can absolutely have an Elf spend her life among Dragonborn and associate with Dragonborn culture. But this not only implies that there is a Dragonborn culture for her to associate with, but also for there to be an Elf culture for her to not be associating with.

    As a general rule, we're not looking at individual examples. My Drow who was abducted from her home and grew up in a human city is not an example of Drow culture, because Drow culture is the culture of a large amount of Drow all clustered together. If you take 50 of X race and put them all together in a place, the culture that develops from that is inevitably going to be X-culture. Others can join in this even if they are not X, but since it was formed and maintained by X, then it will still be X-culture. One could argue that even if X is entirely wiped out, but their conquerors take over the culture (I.E. Romains in Egypt) then it would still be X-culture, even if it's populated entirely by Y. Though, it could also at that point transition to Y-culture. not 100% on that.


    From personal experience, I've tended to notice that people generally tend to gravitate towards people of similar types as their own. there is comfort in familiarity, and it's easier to understand someone who grew up the same way you did then it is to understand a stranger. This is how you can get an entire neighborhood of a city populated solely by Gnomes, or have an "Elf-town" as an entire district in a major settlement. Having one Orc living in Elf-town doesn't mean it's no longer Elf-town, it just means there is an Orc living in Elf-town.
    Last edited by Draconi Redfir; 2021-01-04 at 11:23 AM.
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Maybe dial this back to a very simple example.

    Per most incarnations of D&D, elves get free proficiency in a sword and a bow, usually "long" in both cases. They also get some form of enhanced vision.

    * Do they have enhanced vision because of their elven biology, or because they were raised by other elves?

    * Do they have skill with sword and bow because of their elven biology, or because they were raised by other elves?

    That's the sort of thing the conflation of "species" and "culture" into just "race" makes a mess of, and those are the sorts of things some of us are talking about splitting up.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Maybe dial this back to a very simple example.

    Per most incarnations of D&D, elves get free proficiency in a sword and a bow, usually "long" in both cases. They also get some form of enhanced vision.

    * Do they have enhanced vision because of their elven biology, or because they were raised by other elves?

    * Do they have skill with sword and bow because of their elven biology, or because they were raised by other elves?

    That's the sort of thing the conflation of "species" and "culture" into just "race" makes a mess of, and those are the sorts of things some of us are talking about splitting up.
    Im going to be a radical here and ask why the rules need that to be split? Theyre trying to allow you to create a typical adventurer from a given race, not a special snowflake chosen child of destiny. If you want to mix and match racial abilities, talk to your DM about what that would look like. Theres no need to add more moving parts to character creation that most players wont even make use of.
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Maybe dial this back to a very simple example.

    Per most incarnations of D&D, elves get free proficiency in a sword and a bow, usually "long" in both cases. They also get some form of enhanced vision.

    * Do they have enhanced vision because of their elven biology, or because they were raised by other elves?

    * Do they have skill with sword and bow because of their elven biology, or because they were raised by other elves?

    That's the sort of thing the conflation of "species" and "culture" into just "race" makes a mess of, and those are the sorts of things some of us are talking about splitting up.
    Depends very heavily on your world.

    In mine, the answer to both questions is "because they are the race of elves". Neither biology nor culture play a part in it. Elves are elven because they were created to be that way. Illuvitar created the elves, Aule created the dwarves, etc. And the members of the various races are born knowing what they are and how they should follow their nature.
    Last edited by Democratus; 2021-01-04 at 11:47 AM.

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