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  1. - Top - End - #181
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    Draconi Redfir's Avatar

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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.
    I'm going to guess that since low-light vision has something to do with vision, a biological function, it's a result of elven biology.

    the sword and bow skill being a learned skill is likely culture, though there could be some degree of natural talent depending on how much you believe in that kind of thing. My Drow for example still has the poison use ability despite not being raised in a Drow culture, i mainly explain it as a natural affinity for poisons.

    But you could absolutely trade that bow and sword skill for something else if your Elf was raised by orcs or humans or something, just need to talk to your DM about it. The low-light vision though would likely stay.
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  2. - Top - End - #182
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Keltest View Post
    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.
    Because of course anyone who wants more nuance or less counter-factualism in their character creation is trying to make "a special snowflake chosen child of destiny". /s
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  3. - Top - End - #183
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Because of course anyone who wants more nuance or less counter-factualism in their character creation is trying to make "a special snowflake chosen child of destiny". /s
    D&D isnt a world or culture simulator and racial modifiers are not, in general, meant to be a significant contributor to a player's power. I was being hyperbolic with the snowflake comment, but i stand by the idea that the game is not interested in making rules for a corner case of an elf being raised by dwarves in a human city or whatever other scenario that youre imagining.
    “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.”

  4. - Top - End - #184
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Keltest View Post
    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.
    Well, looking at the signature of the person you responded to, it seems like Max_Killjoy places a high value on verisimilitude. Even if not every player character would use separated culture and species rules, splitting them up probably makes it easier for Max_Killjoy to suspend their disbelief.

  5. - Top - End - #185
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by 137ben View Post
    Well, looking at the signature of the person you responded to, it seems like Max_Killjoy places a high value on verisimilitude. Even if not every player character would use separated culture and species rules, splitting them up probably makes it easier for Max_Killjoy to suspend their disbelief.
    Max is perfectly allowed to imagine whatever personalities and cultural traits he wants onto a given individual. As NPCs rarely need full stat blocks for combat i find the benefits of creating a set of rules for mixing and matching traits to be negligible. If youre creating an atypical character for whatever reason, just have the DM make something up. Thats the whole point of the DM. Creating rules for a strictly out of character process doesnt contribute to verisimilitude in and of itself.
    Last edited by Keltest; 2021-01-04 at 01:15 PM.
    “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.”

  6. - Top - End - #186
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    There is a practical level where the ruleset doesn't necessarily have to cover every single contingency or edge case, particularly in don't-have-tos ('you want your elf to be raised amongst dwarves and as such never learned swords and bows? Simple solution: don't use swords and bows'). Particularly since in the current version of the game, weapon proficiencies in isolation are a minimal part of combat prowess (if you really want to be good at fighting, you grab a martial class which will have all the proficiencies anyways; if you are an elven wizard, getting to use a rapier or longsword for 1d8+stat damage instead of the 1d4 a dagger would bring will not change whether you are a competent melee combatant). That said, since the game has started to split out character creation in terms of background as well as race and class, there's no particular reason why they couldn't (in the next edition, for example) split out species-that-raised-you from biological traits.

  7. - Top - End - #187
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie the Duck View Post
    There is a practical level where the ruleset doesn't necessarily have to cover every single contingency or edge case, particularly in don't-have-tos ('you want your elf to be raised amongst dwarves and as such never learned swords and bows? Simple solution: don't use swords and bows'). Particularly since in the current version of the game, weapon proficiencies in isolation are a minimal part of combat prowess (if you really want to be good at fighting, you grab a martial class which will have all the proficiencies anyways; if you are an elven wizard, getting to use a rapier or longsword for 1d8+stat damage instead of the 1d4 a dagger would bring will not change whether you are a competent melee combatant). That said, since the game has started to split out character creation in terms of background as well as race and class, there's no particular reason why they couldn't (in the next edition, for example) split out species-that-raised-you from biological traits.
    I mean, i guess we "could" but if were going to do that, then i think were better off just expanding the background system more. You want the classic dwarf traits? Ok, be a mountain dwarf with the "monster hunter" background or whatever. No need to add cultural background as something separate.
    “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.”

  8. - Top - End - #188
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Keltest View Post
    I mean, i guess we "could" but if were going to do that, then i think were better off just expanding the background system more. You want the classic dwarf traits? Ok, be a mountain dwarf with the "monster hunter" background or whatever. No need to add cultural background as something separate.
    Well they could have 'traditional dwarven upbringing' or the like as one of the backgrounds, but overall I agree. Getting a 'Background' and then a 'Racial Background' would probably cause as much issues as it corrected --plus highlighted that the monolithic racial cultures of D&D are simplifications for brevity. I was mostly pointing out that this kind of splitting out where a character gets various traits (from pre-adventuring 'what you did,' from adventuring 'what you expect to do', and from base biology) is already happening, so this certainly can be put into the formulation for a theoretical future version.

  9. - Top - End - #189
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Draconi Redfir View Post
    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.
    Here's a big question then: What happens if you have a culture that isn't specific to any particular race?

    There are four cultures described in the game I run, tied to regions: Tarrakhuna, Jinnistan, Yuxia, and the Ten-Thousand Isles of the Sapphire Sea. There are also some dead cultures, such as the culture which used to live in the northern jungles. None of these cultures is race-specific, except maybe Jinnistani culture...and that's really only because its leadership is those few genies who make the transition into "noble genie" status and thus become SERIOUSLY powerful with time. (They've worked out a cutthroat but very civil culture of political intrigue--vaguely analogous to the noble houses of Dune, but more numerous and diverse, and lacking a single Emperor or legislative body.)

    The Tarrakhuna is explicitly a melting pot of a dozen or more races, with it being explicitly clear that humans, orcs, and elves have all lived in this region for tens of thousands of years (enslaved by genies for a significant portion of that time), and formed their culture independently of other areas (after overthrowing their genie masters). The Ten-Thousand Isles are stuffed to the brim with dozens of distinct microcultures, ruling single islands or small island chains in an ocean the size of the Pacific. Yuxia is a China-like nation of incredible racial diversity (greater even than the Tarrakhuna), but which considers itself to be "one culture" even though it covers an absolutely enormous territory. (Its equivalent in the elemental otherworld, Fusang, is controlled by a very different class of beings than genies, and thus might not have a "culture" proper.)

    In a world like this, where's the "dragonborn culture"? We have dragonborn native to Yuxia and dragonborn native to the Tarrakhuna--some even becoming heroes of religious movements in the area. Where's the "tiefling culture"? Tieflings just sort of happen here, there is no equivalent of Bael Turath. There's just Tarrakhunan culture, heavily driven by the largest of the city-states, Al-Rakkah. There will always be local flavors for each city-state (particularly Kafer-Naum, the Temple-City, because of its religious focus), but racial divides are largely meaningless.

    Don't presume that cultures grow and thrive either by exclusively suborning, or by narrowly diving into a specific niche and letting the next group over dive into theirs. That's just not going to happen in practice. Even when physiological needs mandate that each group sticks to its own, you're going to have intermixing and exchange at various levels. For goodness' sake, look at the Hellenization of Alexander's empire, or the syncretic holidays of Central and South America; even where there were active efforts to stamp one culture out and replace it with another, you end up with blends and integration, sometimes in surprising places. In places where instead of destruction, cooperation is sought? You'll have far more blending and diversity.
    Last edited by ezekielraiden; 2021-01-04 at 02:41 PM.

  10. - Top - End - #190
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Anymage View Post
    "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.
    "People wrongly saw monsters where there weren't. Ergo, we cannot have monsters or descriptions of monsters in our fantasy."

    Orcs are a narrative tool and always have been. The sheer fact that gamers have further developed them into having deeper cultures (even deeper evil cultures) is evidence that they want to see them as more than monsters. One of the most common tropes in fantasy gaming is the belief that you can take something that is essentially an incarnation of evil and "give it a chance". This is why there are good drow, or heroic orcs, and so on. Fantasy gamers have for as long as I know, tried to see the best in the worst.

    Also, "various indigenous peoples" is pretty vague. People all over the world, including "various indigenous peoples" committed terrible atrocities on the regular. Everyone everywhere did. The flaws of cultures are magnified in the eyes of other cultures. Again, orcs are a narrative tool, because they embody the wrongness of humanity and that makes them a frightening boogeyman. They are human vices of violence without counterbalance.

    It's worth stating again that the sheer fact we have non-evil and/or noble-minded orcs (like the orcs in the Eberron setting) is a testament to how gamers are inclined to try to see the best in people, and other gamer's willingness to embrace such things. Without everyone first knowing what an Orc is, then there would be no impact of having non-barbaric orcs in a setting, because they would just be a different creature by the same name, even if their racial statistics were identical and their naming would be a misnomer rather than a subverted expectation.

    EDIT:
    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.
    Pathfinder handles things like this using lists of alternate racial traits. It would actually be a pretty simple task to create races in your d20 game that have a division between biological and cultural bits, and allow the interchanging of cultural features more easily than biological ones. Naturally this would add some nuance and variance to individuals within the same grouping to distinguish between their respective sub-cultures or event personal experience.

    For an example of how easy something like that would be to create, I would direct your attention to Martial Traditions in Spheres of Might. In that, all warriors have simple armor proficiency, light armor proficiency, and buckler proficiency, and then get build upon those by selecting 4 additional talents (at least 2 of which must be equipment talents which cover things like unusual weapon styles, emphasis on armors, or weapon proficiencies). You could easily see how something like this could translate into a cultural option for races.

    Dwarfs for example could have things like +2 Con, +2 Wis, -2 Cha, Darkvision, etc. But when it came to their "cultural" adjustments such as their proficiencies in axes and the like, such things could be exchanged for some similar cultural distinction. They might have proficiency with bows for example if they were raised by elves or something.
    Last edited by Ashiel; 2021-01-04 at 02:59 PM.
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  11. - Top - End - #191
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by ezekielraiden View Post
    Here's a big question then: What happens if you have a culture that isn't specific to any particular race?
    then you have a culture that isn't tied to any particular race.


    you can have both.

    edit:

    And you'd probably get something similar to the whole "gathering together" thing. Take twenty Tarrakhuna and put them into a Yuxia city, and the Tarrakhuna will likely begin to gather together in some form, be it an embassy, a neighborhood, or a restaurant. Even if you scattered everyone apart from one another, eventually they would randomly encounter others like them, and being in a culture that isn't their own, they would likely find comfort in finding someone who knows what they're going through and has the same sense of normal as them, so they'd likely start to hang out.

    People form Cliques, clubs, families, societies. We like to be close to one another, and sometimes it's easier to be close to someone who is more like you then someone who isn't.
    Last edited by Draconi Redfir; 2021-01-04 at 03:00 PM.
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  12. - Top - End - #192
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by ezekielraiden View Post
    Here's a big question then: What happens if you have a culture that isn't specific to any particular race?

    There are four cultures described in the game I run, tied to regions: Tarrakhuna, Jinnistan, Yuxia, and the Ten-Thousand Isles of the Sapphire Sea. There are also some dead cultures, such as the culture which used to live in the northern jungles. None of these cultures is race-specific, except maybe Jinnistani culture...and that's really only because its leadership is those few genies who make the transition into "noble genie" status and thus become SERIOUSLY powerful with time. (They've worked out a cutthroat but very civil culture of political intrigue--vaguely analogous to the noble houses of Dune, but more numerous and diverse, and lacking a single Emperor or legislative body.)

    The Tarrakhuna is explicitly a melting pot of a dozen or more races, with it being explicitly clear that humans, orcs, and elves have all lived in this region for tens of thousands of years (enslaved by genies for a significant portion of that time), and formed their culture independently of other areas (after overthrowing their genie masters). The Ten-Thousand Isles are stuffed to the brim with dozens of distinct microcultures, ruling single islands or small island chains in an ocean the size of the Pacific. Yuxia is a China-like nation of incredible racial diversity (greater even than the Tarrakhuna), but which considers itself to be "one culture" even though it covers an absolutely enormous territory. (Its equivalent in the elemental otherworld, Fusang, is controlled by a very different class of beings than genies, and thus might not have a "culture" proper.)

    In a world like this, where's the "dragonborn culture"? We have dragonborn native to Yuxia and dragonborn native to the Tarrakhuna--some even becoming heroes of religious movements in the area. Where's the "tiefling culture"? Tieflings just sort of happen here, there is no equivalent of Bael Turath. There's just Tarrakhunan culture, heavily driven by the largest of the city-states, Al-Rakkah. There will always be local flavors for each city-state (particularly Kafer-Naum, the Temple-City, because of its religious focus), but racial divides are largely meaningless.

    Don't presume that cultures grow and thrive either by exclusively suborning, or by narrowly diving into a specific niche and letting the next group over dive into theirs. That's just not going to happen in practice. Even when physiological needs mandate that each group sticks to its own, you're going to have intermixing and exchange at various levels. For goodness' sake, look at the Hellenization of Alexander's empire, or the syncretic holidays of Central and South America; even where there were active efforts to stamp one culture out and replace it with another, you end up with blends and integration, sometimes in surprising places. In places where instead of destruction, cooperation is sought? You'll have far more blending and diversity.
    Exactly. For my setting, very few of the races grew up independently and then met other cultures. Instead, they were created relatively recently in a context of other racial groups. For example, the date of the first dragonborn is known, and it's about 800 years ago. Halflings are even more recent (by about 100 years). They've never existed outside these multi-racial cultures. Even humans and orcs were created by other races and spent most of their history in multi-racial nations.

    And then there are the nations formed by refugees of many nations fleeing a super-cataclysm, where they all had to band together to survive. Or the nation who was forged when a few tribes of orcs had a vision that they needed to help this band of dragonborn who had allied with some goblin tribes. Note that not all orcs are part of that nation (most aren't, even in that area), neither are most goblins. And then there was a merger of the dragonborn survivors in the refugee nation with the "main" body 150 years later, bringing with them a quite-different culture.

    Or the human group with a very distinct culture who descended into the lowlands and mingled with an elven population, fusing almost entirely. Heck, that culture now is really 3, not correlated well by race at all: the "tribal" cultures on the fringes who haven't been assimilated, the "mainline" culture, and the maritime island culture that also hasn't fully assimilated.

    And furthermore, mono-cultural races break my verisimilitude hardcore. Why are the dwarves on <continent 1> the same culture as the dwarves on <continent 2>, despite having been separated now for 10k+ years? Heck, why are the dwarves in <region 1> the same culture as the dwarves in <region 2>, despite having been under different empires for a thousand years and having long-standing influences from other cultures (<region 1> is heavily cosmopolitan, while <region 2> is isolated and has just barely come back into contact with the "main" cultures)? Repeat for the other races.

    Cultures shift, cultures merge and cross-pollinate. And hybridization of cultures and nations is a tremendous source of strength in my view. For instance, there's a general tendency of goblins in my setting to be really inventive, but bad at follow-through. They reinvent the wheel every few days, often throwing away partially-completed projects and starting over. This stems from some of their biology and is present more or less in many goblin cultures. Humans (and human-descended groups like dragonborn), with their longer lifespans and other differences are not as directly inventive, but have strengths (in many cultures) involving organization and management and keeping goblins on task and filtering their ideas. And then dwarves and elves, with their strong traditions and long lifespans are great at iterating and refining the finished designs. A pure <X> nation will fall behind a mixed-race culture where everyone's working to their comparative advantage.
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    ... No one is saying you can't have multiple different cultures for the same race?

    i'm not quite understanding what the problem is...
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Draconi Redfir View Post
    ... No one is saying you can't have multiple different cultures for the same race?

    i'm not quite understanding what the problem is...
    It's a consequence of talking about "Dwarven" culture and blending that culture with race. Unless you go through lots of contortions, you no longer have a representation of different dwarven cultures in the game. At most, you have hats that don't inform anything.

    Take 5e, for instance. The only race that talks about having multiple cultures in its race description is Humans--all the others are presumed uniform as they never really mention variations. There is one dwarven naming pattern given. For all areas of every setting. And those are the small things.

    Defaults matter, because they set expectations. And here, the default is that one dwarf is just like any other dwarf. All of them are miners/craftsmen who get drunk and have clans and honor. All of them worship the same gods (don't get me started on racial pantheons not making any sense) in the same ways. Etc. Edit: at least at the sub-race level. And even the difference between hill and mountain dwarves is de minimus and gets like 1 sentence in a sidebar.

    Even the books that have looked more at particular races (ie Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes looked at elves) only split things out to Drow/not-drow.

    And that, in my mind, is horrible worldbuilding.
    Last edited by PhoenixPhyre; 2021-01-04 at 03:18 PM.
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    It's a consequence of talking about "Dwarven" culture and blending that culture with race. Unless you go through lots of contortions, you no longer have a representation of different dwarven cultures in the game. At most, you have hats that don't inform anything.
    i mean, again. You can have both.

    Mountain Dwarven culture is all about smithing,

    Hill Dwarven culture is all about Ale brewing

    Sea Dwarven culture is all about raiding and conquering


    they're different cultures, but they're all cultures comprised or originated by predominantly Dwarves. All you really need to do is add one minor descriptor in there somewhere and you've got an easy way of describing it. That's kind of how Elves work right? You've got your High Elves, your Grey Elves, your Dark Elves, your Wood Elves, your Elderan, they're all still Elves, and they all still have Elven culture, but that doesn't necessarily mean all of their cultures are the same.

    i mean, Humans in the real world don't all have the same culture right? But i'm sure aliens could look at earth and still talk about "Human culture" when referring to any one of them, or all of them as a whole.[/QUOTE]
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    And that, in my mind, is horrible worldbuilding.
    It isn't worldbuilding it is unworld-building. D&D keeps trying to have it bothmultiple ways as to whether it is a generic fantasy game with a 'impute your own game world' implication, the implied game world of the base rules, or one of the many pre-made gameworlds*. Thus yes Dwarves are default described as a monolithic monoculture, as are non-drow elves, and so on, with humans being the outlier (and their description being pretty much 'you decide.' My point isn't that this is good or bad -- I think it could be done better (and certainly more clearly), but also that they are between Charybdis and Scylla given fan expectations and exactly for what people are going to use the D&D rulebooks (whereas, as a counterexample, if you use RuneQuest outside of Glorantha, you just accept that you have to mentally replace the culturally-specific text from the books) -- my point is simply that they are actively trying not to do worldbuilding.
    *in 5e default assumption being Forgotten Realms

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    If you polymorph someone into an elf, do they get the proficiencies?

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Draconi Redfir View Post
    i mean, again. You can have both.

    Mountain Dwarven culture is all about smithing,

    Hill Dwarven culture is all about Ale brewing

    Sea Dwarven culture is all about raiding and conquering


    they're different cultures, but they're all cultures comprised or originated by predominantly Dwarves. All you really need to do is add one minor descriptor in there somewhere and you've got an easy way of describing it. That's kind of how Elves work right? You've got your High Elves, your Grey Elves, your Dark Elves, your Wood Elves, your Elderan, they're all still Elves, and they all still have Elven culture, but that doesn't necessarily mean all of their cultures are the same.

    i mean, Humans in the real world don't all have the same culture right? But i'm sure aliens could look at earth and still talk about "Human culture" when referring to any one of them, or all of them as a whole.
    [/QUOTE]

    I disagree. As to the last point--no. I'd say that if they did so, they were making a huge error. I'd actually expect that they'd look at Earth and see it as a bunch of very different peoples, all of the same species. Or even different species--the whole "can't interbreed" definition is seriously flawed and isn't really used by biologists. You can have identical (biologically) groups of squirrels that are different species because they live on different sides of the Grand Canyon and don't interbreed, even if when brought together they could breed just fine. The definition of species is really really messy.

    If the phrase "dwarven culture" means anything, it has to give you more information than "a culture with dwarves in it". Because that's utterly tautological. Describing two different cultures as both being "dwarven cultures" tells players that those cultures only differ in inconsequential ways. Especially when you say "they're different" but don't say anything else. Even down to naming patterns. That's what I mean by "different colored hats"--it's like the "rubber face" aliens of Star Trek, taken to an extreme degree.

    And none of that matches what I see all around me. People intermix, cultures change and shift and grab pieces of other cultures. If the different races are alien enough that they don't do so, then they're alien enough that they won't be able to be played together in a sane, world-consistent party.

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie the Duck View Post
    It isn't worldbuilding it is unworld-building. D&D keeps trying to have it bothmultiple ways as to whether it is a generic fantasy game with a 'impute your own game world' implication, the implied game world of the base rules, or one of the many pre-made gameworlds*. Thus yes Dwarves are default described as a monolithic monoculture, as are non-drow elves, and so on, with humans being the outlier (and their description being pretty much 'you decide.' My point isn't that this is good or bad -- I think it could be done better (and certainly more clearly), but also that they are between Charybdis and Scylla given fan expectations and exactly for what people are going to use the D&D rulebooks (whereas, as a counterexample, if you use RuneQuest outside of Glorantha, you just accept that you have to mentally replace the culturally-specific text from the books) -- my point is simply that they are actively trying not to do worldbuilding.
    *in 5e default assumption being Forgotten Realms
    First, the default assumption in 5e is not FR. In fact, FR departs from the PHB's descriptions more than many other settings do; just read the House Style Guide for FR (freely available on DMs Guild).

    And I disagree with WotC on the benefit of that approach. Because, as I'm discovering, they've set very hard defaults that set very strong expectations. Effectively, they've created a homogenous meta-setting where you have to rework just about everything from the ground up to move to a setting that gets away from those defaults (racially). And, to me, that's a strong negative.
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  19. - Top - End - #199
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    First, the default assumption in 5e is not FR. In fact, FR departs from the PHB's descriptions more than many other settings do; just read the House Style Guide for FR (freely available on DMs Guild).
    I meant the default assumed pre-made game world is Forgotten Realms, as opposed to Greyhawk in 3e or Known World in BX. As I stated the PHB description is an implied setting in and of itself.

    And I disagree with WotC on the benefit of that approach. Because, as I'm discovering, they've set very hard defaults that set very strong expectations. Effectively, they've created a homogenous meta-setting where you have to rework just about everything from the ground up to move to a setting that gets away from those defaults (racially). And, to me, that's a strong negative.
    I'm not sure that I think it is a benefit, and I am not convinced WotC thinks so either. I think they think they have to stick with this course, because people expect to flip open their D&D books and find axe/hammer-swinging dwarves and bow-and-magic slinging elves and halflings which vacillate between chubby homebodies and lithe adventurous explorers. I'm fairly certain that there is something of a better way to do it, but I also think that them genuinely getting rid of the iconic dwarven culture is something of a nonstarter as well.

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    And none of that matches what I see all around me. People intermix, cultures change and shift and grab pieces of other cultures. If the different races are alien enough that they don't do so, then they're alien enough that they won't be able to be played together in a sane, world-consistent party.
    Again though, people like to gather together in familiarity. that's exactly why you see Chinese people in Chinese restaurants, Indian people in Indian restaurants, and Americans in McDonalds. When you're part of a group, you're going to instinctively seek out other members or places of that group to be more comfortable. Intermixing does happen yes, but so does grouping up with the familiar. That's how you get things like Chinatown and Little Italy in big cities, they're part over the city's culture, but they also group into their own native culture separate from that. you can have both.


    And who's to say intermixing and cultural change isn't happening? Do you think Dwarves began forging weapons just for the fun of it? No, they needed to have an enemy to fight first, something for them to overcome. Something came at them, they needed weapons, probably got their butts handed to them, and so they started making weapons, and got really stinkin good at it all because of that other culture's interaction with them. Now people all over want Dwarven weapons because they're the best in the land, turning a culture of combat into a culture of trade. Maybe seeing the grand statues that other races have built drives Dwarves to use their weaponsmithing abilities to make more artistic sculptures, shifting them to a culture of art.

    Again, you can have both.
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    I've eaten more Chinese and Indian than McDonalds in the last decade...
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    okay... and?
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    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    If you polymorph someone into an elf, do they get the proficiencies?
    Honestly depends on the game. In normal dnd, I dont think so. In the hybrid 1st/2nd ed I run , yes, but not right away. Any prof or skill or ability I have coded under "blessings of the gods" will be applied to anyone who becomes another race "permanently " or outsiders from another realm (aka my gnomes get their underground stuff for under ground and under ice. One player brought in an "outsider" gnome.. and once exposed to the thick ice, realized "this is easy" aka their ability changed to match the local race modification.

    Now it was all added stuff, no losses so, all pretty fair. (And yes a little odd. Ig game reasons for why I have tied some race stuff to the gods that way. ) tho as a side effect, I can ignore a lot of biology for rule of cool stuff.

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Draconi Redfir View Post
    Again though, people like to gather together in familiarity. that's exactly why you see Chinese people in Chinese restaurants, Indian people in Indian restaurants, and Americans in McDonalds. When you're part of a group, you're going to instinctively seek out other members or places of that group to be more comfortable. Intermixing does happen yes, but so does grouping up with the familiar. That's how you get things like Chinatown and Little Italy in big cities, they're part over the city's culture, but they also group into their own native culture separate from that. you can have both.
    That's....yeah. No. That kind of stratification and separation only lasts for a generation or so, and even then gets heavily blended. Here we're talking about cultures that have been mixed for 10s of generations.

    And I disagree that "that group" is dominantly along racial lines, unless those races are so alien from each other that coexistence/cooperation is impractical (like a race of giant birds who live their entire lives on the wing and a race of tiny aquatic creatures who can't exist outside of the oceans). But we're not talking about those. The differences between D&D races are relatively minimal at the deep level. Their physiological needs are pretty similar, as are their preferred living conditions. Sure, a stock halfling won't be immediately comfortable in the depths of a dwarven city, but they'll adapt pretty fast. So there's nothing stopping blending and hybridization of culture.

    And who's to say intermixing and cultural change isn't happening? Do you think Dwarves began forging weapons just for the fun of it? No, they needed to have an enemy to fight first, something for them to overcome. Something came at them, they needed weapons, probably got their butts handed to them, and so they started making weapons, and got really stinkin good at it all because of that other culture's interaction with them. Now people all over want Dwarven weapons because they're the best in the land, turning a culture of combat into a culture of trade. Maybe seeing the grand statues that other races have built drives Dwarves to use their weaponsmithing abilities to make more artistic sculptures, shifting them to a culture of art.

    Again, you can have both.
    But you're still labeling all Dwarves as this one thing. As if the Dwarves over there and the Dwarves over here all had the same influences. Which is a non-starter if you want real worldbuilding.

    Let's use an example from my setting.

    I've got dwarves on two continents. These continents have seen little if no interaction for the last 10k+ years. One continent has a wide panoply of races and cultures and has seen substantial upheaval, including natural disasters that forced the dwarves in some areas to mix in with the other groups for pure survival. Even if they're living in mountain cities, they're still part of the same nations and dependent on the others for food, fuel, and many other things. That was multiple generations ago.

    The other continent has many fewer races. Even so, the dwarves are a subject people (in some areas, in others they're dominant and in yet others they're isolated, and in others they're part of homogenized cooperative groups.). But mostly the dwarves are around other dwarves in most areas.

    Continent A has humans and elves, continent B does not. What you're saying is that all dwarves, everywhere, no matter which races they're around, have developed identically except for cosmetic differences. That there is only one Dwarven culture. That's the consequence of tying race and culture together at the hip. There can only be one (per sub-race). And the culture of Dwarf-group A must be entirely Dwarf group A. Single-race nations don't work in any kind of a coherent setting. They get outcompeted by those who can work together.

    There are dwarves that could care less about weaponsmithing. There are dwarves who are religious zealots; others who are atheist. There are dwarves who are super traditional and won't innovate on new designs beyond iterative improvements. There are dwarves who say "screw tradition, I wanna make my own thing". These are substantially different cultures even within dwarves. There are dwarves who act much more like their neighbors. Representing them as the same thing is, in my mind, horrible worldbuilding and prevents rich, vibrant worlds. And it creates these "racial siloes"--if you're a dwarf, you must be X. Basically turning races into caricatures and stereotypes. Which is, in my mind, horrible and promotes all those problems people bring up.

    And it makes absolutely no sense in context of how cultures work. Cultures don't change in lockstep. They split, they fragment, they recombine, they cross-pollinate. The only constant is change, and that change is context specific.

    Every race should have as much variation as makes sense based on the setting; humans can't be the only race that's allowed to have multiple actually-different cultures. And culture and race are at best mildly correlated.

    This is a hill I will defend to the last.
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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by KaussH View Post
    Honestly depends on the game. In normal dnd, I dont think so. In the hybrid 1st/2nd ed I run , yes, but not right away. Any prof or skill or ability I have coded under "blessings of the gods" will be applied to anyone who becomes another race "permanently " or outsiders from another realm (aka my gnomes get their underground stuff for under ground and under ice. One player brought in an "outsider" gnome.. and once exposed to the thick ice, realized "this is easy" aka their ability changed to match the local race modification.

    Now it was all added stuff, no losses so, all pretty fair. (And yes a little odd. Ig game reasons for why I have tied some race stuff to the gods that way. ) tho as a side effect, I can ignore a lot of biology for rule of cool stuff.
    It's got a lot of fridge horror potential, but the idea of explicitly splitting cultural, biological, and supernatural innate attributes sort of suggests there could be a matching line of mental and spiritual polymorph spells to go with the physical ones. Polymorph Magical Signature is maybe not so bad (at least without additional implications about the nature of souls and stuff like that), but Polymorph Culture (and the idea that abilities formalized enough to be propagated culturally could be magically injected in pursuit of power) could be pretty disturbing.

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    It's got a lot of fridge horror potential, but the idea of explicitly splitting cultural, biological, and supernatural innate attributes sort of suggests there could be a matching line of mental and spiritual polymorph spells to go with the physical ones. Polymorph Magical Signature is maybe not so bad (at least without additional implications about the nature of souls and stuff like that), but Polymorph Culture (and the idea that abilities formalized enough to be propagated culturally could be magically injected in pursuit of power) could be pretty disturbing.
    2 thing. The "blessings" dont have a lot of skills/profs tied to them. So when you have a member of the culture who has left it (either by choice or by birth) it's more a "it's in your blood" feel than a full corruption.
    2nd, in a small way its supposed to be a little off..... the idea of this being imposed on you, is supposed to be one of those things pcs question, even if normal people dont. :)

    Also it's a low formal magic game (aka, world is magical, casters divine and arcane are newer) so polymorph is far from common.

    At this point it's more casters talking about morphic fields and souls vs bodys and ect. In game very few people know the way it works for real (and me of course)

    When I made this setting, it had a lot of "stuff" to it. How isums are handled, opposed ideas to some normal games, cultures as a blend of location, race, and intent (example, gnomes in the setting were tribal and nomadic much like dwarves, slowly they are moving away from that , to more settled way of living. )

    This all only touches on stats however other than to say the world was made with a lot of cultural weight so its well outside the normal. Also since its built with the pcs view in mind, what they think about monsters may not be 100% true..


    And on that note, to the original topic.... stat mods.. I use them for npcs..I think the rolled or bought stats represent the advantage pcs get.

    If your stat mods are pcs only, then it means something diff than if alllllllllll members of a race get it.

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    It's got a lot of fridge horror potential, but the idea of explicitly splitting cultural, biological, and supernatural innate attributes sort of suggests there could be a matching line of mental and spiritual polymorph spells to go with the physical ones. Polymorph Magical Signature is maybe not so bad (at least without additional implications about the nature of souls and stuff like that), but Polymorph Culture (and the idea that abilities formalized enough to be propagated culturally could be magically injected in pursuit of power) could be pretty disturbing.
    In-universe a racial skill or proficiency isn't different from one gained from spending build points on it, because they come from the same essential place. You practiced something and got good at it, whether the reason was encouragement from your culture or natural inclination. "Polymorph culture" wouldn't even cross anybody's mind, unless they were just whole hog creating Mindrape.

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    And it makes absolutely no sense in context of how cultures work. Cultures don't change in lockstep. They split, they fragment, they recombine, they cross-pollinate. The only constant is change, and that change is context specific.

    Every race should have as much variation as makes sense based on the setting; humans can't be the only race that's allowed to have multiple actually-different cultures. And culture and race are at best mildly correlated.

    This is a hill I will defend to the last.
    In reality you're absolutely right. Ditto for any system that was built to accommodate more finely detailed character building.

    In D&D which is often people's first exposure to tabletop RPGs (and as such gets a lot of new players)? I could make an argument for unrealistically broad strokes just to avoid headaches for newbies building both characters and worlds.

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    In Star Trek, Vulcans are stronger than humans.

    They just are. It's one of their racial traits.

    There's nothing inherently wrong about having a Star Trek game that reflects this in character building. Which they tend to do.

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Anymage View Post
    In-universe a racial skill or proficiency isn't different from one gained from spending build points on it, because they come from the same essential place. You practiced something and got good at it, whether the reason was encouragement from your culture or natural inclination. "Polymorph culture" wouldn't even cross anybody's mind, unless they were just whole hog creating Mindrape.
    Giving something explicit mechanics creates hooks for potential interactions, even if that's not the original intent. Psychic reformation, dark chaos shuffle, helm of opposite alignment, etc.

    Nothing included in a game is guaranteed to be kept sacrosanct.

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    Default Re: Right way to do racial stat modifiers?

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    Giving something explicit mechanics creates hooks for potential interactions, even if that's not the original intent. Psychic reformation, dark chaos shuffle, helm of opposite alignment, etc.

    Nothing included in a game is guaranteed to be kept sacrosanct.
    I'm only minimally disagreeing, and that disagreement is only that a mechanic that lets you swap out your background will likely let you swap out other skills/feats as well because that's the implied fiction.

    Just that in the universe as well as the implied fiction someone would use to justify a "change background" effect, you'd be either messing with their mind or altering time so their past was retroactively different. The former is fridge horror the system has already had for a while, and the latter avoids being a thing only because timey-wimeyness becomes a mess to adjudicate at the table.

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