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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Greywander's Avatar

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    Nov 2017

    Default ASI-less human race

    I was thinking about writing up some races that don't get ASIs. Now, you could just drop racial ASIs entirely and call it a day, and everything should be mostly balanced, but I wanted to try to give something as a replacement that gives the feeling of being stronger or faster or smarter but without altering your ability scores. Powerful Build is an example of a trait that makes a character feel stronger without changing their STR score.

    Humans are in a bit of an odd place, though, since standard humans don't give anything but ASIs. Here's my working concept for human racial traits:

    Determination. You gain a +1 bonus to any saving throw in which you are not proficient.
    If you are somehow proficient in all saving throws, you instead gain a +1 bonus to Wisdom and Charisma saving throws.

    Adaptability. Humans have demonstrated a surprising ability to adapt to almost any environment and not merely survive, but thrive. Choose one of the options below. You may replace your choice with a new one by spending a week of downtime training in the appropriate environment.
    • Arctic Fisher. You are naturally adapted to cold climates. You also know how to fortify a shelter against extreme cold using readily available materials from the environment.
    • Cosmopolitan. You’ve adapted to busy city life and only require 6 hours to complete a long rest.
    • Death Worlder. While other humans live in environments that are merely inhospitable, you’ve lived in a place that seemed to be actively trying to kill the humans that settled there. You gain a +1 bonus to all saving throws against environmental effects.
    • Desert Nomad. You are naturally adapted to warm climates. You also have advantage on saving throws against dehydration and thirst.
    • Forest Lodger. TBD
    • Mountain Folk. You are naturally adapted to high altitudes. You also have a climb speed equal to your walk speed.
    • Plains Herder. TBD
    • Swamp Dweller. You have advantage on saving throws against disease. You also have a swim speed equal to your walk speed.
    • Tropical Islander. You are naturally adapted to warm climates. You also have a swim speed equal to your walk speed.

    I'm mostly looking to round out the list of adaptable environments, as well as touch up some of the ones I have listed here with more fitting bonuses. Also, do you think humans need another trait to be competitive with other races (i.e. would you consider playing this version of human in a game with vanilla races)? Maybe an extra skill?
    Last edited by Greywander; 2021-01-13 at 09:03 PM.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    NecromancerGuy

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    Default Re: ASI-less human race

    That’s a really cool idea. I’m not sure if 5e has a precedent of simply giving +1 bonuses - I’d almost suggest adding half your proficiency bonus, sort of like Jack of all Trades but for saving throws. But it’s not a particularly huge deal for game balance.

    Speaking to your other comment, I think simply giving humans that many options to begin with is enough without having to give a bunch of extra features. Maybe they could choose two from the list instead of one? If you really wanted to, you could have humans gain an extra skill or language proficiency, which is definitely something towards sociability with other races (humans as the adaptable and social race), but not too far out of the park compared to other races. Without ASIs, you’re really looking at proficiencies as your main statistical bonus for players, in my opinion.

    Keep up the good work!

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Titan in the Playground
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    Dec 2008

    Default Re: ASI-less human race

    I think whether your humans need more depend on what the other races have. If they’re balanced around half-orcs getting just powerful build and reckless endurance to show how strong and tough they are, then this looks fine.

    But if they’re up against a yuan-ti with darkvision, magic resistance, and innate spell casting then this human will not cut it. Honestly even gnomes with darkvision, gnomish cunning, speak with small animal, and minor illusion are probably just straight better than this human unless you start adding penalties for being small sized.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Greywander's Avatar

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    Nov 2017

    Default Re: ASI-less human race

    Quote Originally Posted by Daaaaabs View Post
    That’s a really cool idea. I’m not sure if 5e has a precedent of simply giving +1 bonuses - I’d almost suggest adding half your proficiency bonus, sort of like Jack of all Trades but for saving throws. But it’s not a particularly huge deal for game balance.
    There are magic items that give a flat +1. I wanted something that was useful and didn't need to be actively used, as humans are generally the default race for new players, who will often forget to use their abilities, or not know when to use them.

    What about half prof. bonus for non-proficient saves, or a flat +1 to all saves if you're proficient in everything? I'm worried that this might be a bit too strong. I'm also worried about stepping on the monk's toes a bit, since they do get proficiency with all saves. I feel like human monks should be just as common as any other race of monks.

    Speaking to your other comment, I think simply giving humans that many options to begin with is enough without having to give a bunch of extra features. Maybe they could choose two from the list instead of one? If you really wanted to, you could have humans gain an extra skill or language proficiency, which is definitely something towards sociability with other races (humans as the adaptable and social race), but not too far out of the park compared to other races. Without ASIs, you’re really looking at proficiencies as your main statistical bonus for players, in my opinion.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dienekes View Post
    I think whether your humans need more depend on what the other races have. If they’re balanced around half-orcs getting just powerful build and reckless endurance to show how strong and tough they are, then this looks fine.

    But if they’re up against a yuan-ti with darkvision, magic resistance, and innate spell casting then this human will not cut it. Honestly even gnomes with darkvision, gnomish cunning, speak with small animal, and minor illusion are probably just straight better than this human unless you start adding penalties for being small sized.
    I'll probably give them an extra skill, and like with vanilla humans they'll probably know Common and one language of their choice.

    I feel like the buff to Determination above makes it more competitive with the likes of Gnomish Cunning; I'm honestly not sure if it's stronger or weaker, and that's probably a good thing. Darkvision + Speak with Small Beasts is roughly equivalent to Adaptability (darkvision is likely of similar value to something like a swim speed), and a cantrip is roughly equivalent to a skill. This doesn't figure in the value of the gnome's ASIs, though, or whatever ability would replace those ASIs. So maybe humans need one more decent feature.

    Yuan-ti is a different story. They're not so grossly OP that I'd never play anything else, but they are pretty much "gnome, but better". I'd rather have Minor Illusion than Poison Spray, but the poison immunity, Magic Resistance, leveled spells, and medium size w/ 30 foot speed more than make up for it. Whenever I get around to writing up an ASI-less version, I may just drop their ASIs and stop there, as they're already on the strong side.

    As for allowing two choices from Adaptability, my issue with that is that some of the options overlap. Both Desert Nomad and Tropical Islander acclimate you to warm climates, while both Tropical Islander and Swamp Dweller give you a swim speed (though I'm unsure what Swamp Dweller should actually give you, so I might change it).

    Quote Originally Posted by Daaaaabs View Post
    Keep up the good work!
    Thanks!

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Titan in the Playground
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    Dec 2008

    Default Re: ASI-less human race

    Quote Originally Posted by Greywander View Post
    I'll probably give them an extra skill, and like with vanilla humans they'll probably know Common and one language of their choice.

    I feel like the buff to Determination above makes it more competitive with the likes of Gnomish Cunning; I'm honestly not sure if it's stronger or weaker, and that's probably a good thing. Darkvision + Speak with Small Beasts is roughly equivalent to Adaptability (darkvision is likely of similar value to something like a swim speed), and a cantrip is roughly equivalent to a skill. This doesn't figure in the value of the gnome's ASIs, though, or whatever ability would replace those ASIs. So maybe humans need one more decent feature.
    I'm not sure Adaptability is really the equivalent of Darkvision +Speak w/ Animals. But I am basing this on my personal experience here and you may have a different time with 5e. But I will just ask: How often has "naturally adapted to warm/cold weather" come up in your games? By the DM Guide you can avoid rolling for Cold Weather as long as you have cold weather gear which costs 10gp. And you can avoid rolling for extreme heat by just having drinkable water.

    I can only think of one time extreme environments ever came up in my games.

    Now how often does darkvision or speaking with animals come up? Well darkvision every couple of games. And speaking with animals for information has happened not frequently but can be useful.

    Honestly the only ability I think are comparable is possibly the climb speed.

    As for allowing two choices from Adaptability, my issue with that is that some of the options overlap. Both Desert Nomad and Tropical Islander acclimate you to warm climates, while both Tropical Islander and Swamp Dweller give you a swim speed (though I'm unsure what Swamp Dweller should actually give you, so I might change it).
    Personally, I would just try to make the Adaptability ability stronger rather than just letting them pick two.

    But if you're planning on doing this for every race, I'd first suggest starting with elves, dwarves, and half-orcs. They have a pretty well defined niche of what they're supposed to be as races, figure out how you want to present them balance off each other. And then I would go trying to tune the various Adaptability features to allow humans to match them.

    Spoiler: Tangential note
    Show

    So, not too long ago I did an attempt at making the Core Races without ASIs. I also split abilities gained naturally by race and by culture. But regardless, I have it here if you want to look through it for ideas. Though I think the formatting is wrong if you look on your phone.

    I will say, my baseline of power is essentially optimally played Variant Human/Yuan-Ti/Elves that are expected to be abusing Elvish Accuracy. So it is probably stronger than what you're aiming for.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Greywander's Avatar

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    Nov 2017

    Default Re: ASI-less human race

    Quote Originally Posted by Dienekes View Post
    I'm not sure Adaptability is really the equivalent of Darkvision +Speak w/ Animals. But I am basing this on my personal experience here and you may have a different time with 5e. But I will just ask: How often has "naturally adapted to warm/cold weather" come up in your games? By the DM Guide you can avoid rolling for Cold Weather as long as you have cold weather gear which costs 10gp. And you can avoid rolling for extreme heat by just having drinkable water.
    I think on paper they seem like they should compare, but you're right that darkvision and speaking with animals will likely come up a lot more often. I think when I wrote that I was thinking that you can avoid any need for darkvision by bringing a light source. I think if they were properly enforced, darkvision probably would be closer in usefulness to climate adaption, the thing is that climate adaption is a pretty rare trait so it likely just gets handwaved by the DM.

    Also, now that I'm looking at the extreme heat rules, they only need access to drinkable water, they don't need to actually drink it. That, uh, seems a bit suspect. I would houserule it something like you need to drink twice as much water, or something. Those adapted to heat would only drink the regular amount of water. Still, the advantage on saves vs. thirst does seem like a weaker bonus, especially when players could take the Tropical Islander and still get heat adaption, but with a swim speed instead of thirst resistance.

    half-orcs
    I was playing with the idea of giving each race a set of "halfbreed" traits. Basically, if you want to be something like a half-orc, you'd take the halfbreed traits of human and the halfbreed traits of orc, and those would be your racial abilities. This would save a lot of work coming up with halfbreed races for each possible combination. How I might do it is that a halfbreed just takes the base racial traits of both races, sans subrace, but this will mean adding a subrace to races that don't have them, as well as balancing out races vs. subraces so that some races don't derive more power from base or subrace than other races. Otherwise, you'd be able to take a halfbreed of two races that have most of their power in the base race, and little in the subrace.

    Of course, this means that I now need to come up with a set of subraces for humans. I'll also need to figure out the balance of power between the base race and the subrace; if I use this halfbreed system, it makes sense that your race should derive roughly equal power from the base race as the subrace, and thus if you have two base races with no subrace, or even (somehow) two subraces with no base race, you should be about as strong as a normal race.

    For human subraces, I could use the subraces listed in the PHB, but there's like nine of them. I think I'll make up my own and go for three different human subraces. I'm thinking one is descended from dragons (just one, or maybe many), and gets a few sorcerer spells (a la Infernal Legacy for tieflings). Logically, the other two subraces should be a martial one, and a skill-oriented one. Alternatively, I could make Adaptability one part of the subrace, and a choice of skill or cantrip the other part of the subrace. I still feel like humans might need one more trait, though... I'll see if I can figure out a suitable buff to Adaptability, and maybe that can be the subrace by itself.

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