15 comments on “Put Away the Handcuffs

  1. They also talked about the class giving a stat boost, so, even if the race has a negative in it, the class will even it out. Therefore, no combination is as bad as you made it sound.

    • You’re right, they’ve talked about that and, if it were implemented, it would reduce or negate the penalty associated with negative racial stats… sort of.

      If stats are supposed to be more important in D&DNext, then having class-based stat bonuses match your racial positive stats is going to be like the expertise feats in 4e. In fact, they’re discussing the idea of having things run directly off the stat rather than off the mod, which would mean (assuming the “traditional” -2 to a stat) that choosing a race with a penalty is a -2 to all the associated skills (which are likely to be relevant) or even potentially a -2 to-hit and saves (seeing as how they want to base saves off the stat as well).

      My point is that having racial negatives will cause a 5-10% decrease across the board when the character is compared to the “correct” race/class pairing, meaning that the GM will either have to turn it off (baseline mechanics should almost never have to be turned off) or that concept will be significantly less likely to see play. I want to see the maximum number of character concepts be possible without completely removing racial identity.

  2. Another problem I can see is that if they keep the healing surge system, which i hope they do, any race with a CON penalty is going to be underused to the point of nearly being removed from the game.

  3. Why even have racial stat bumps? You could just give every race an ability that pairs better with its expected role; that way you still have fewer halfling fighters than rogues, for example. For races with no obvious choice (do you give elves a stealth or magic boost?), give multiple options. More options won’t be too powerful, as new options for racial abilities will likely be common.

  4. I actually like the positive and negative stat modifiers. Makes the races feel more alive. Some are above the baseline at certain things and below the baseline at others. This “makes sense” to me so I’m glad they’re at least considering it. I’ve been following the info release pretty closely and I still can’t make sense of this statement: “Under the 4e model, trying to play a class/race combination where you lack the attack stat is merely suboptimal. In D&DNext, certain character concepts will be flatly impossible”

    • I still can’t make sense of this statement: “Under the 4e model, trying to play a class/race combination where you lack the attack stat is merely suboptimal. In D&DNext, certain character concepts will be flatly impossible”

      Let’s say that I have a concept for a Half-Orc Wizard like I described in the “You Are What You Do” article. As it stands right now, Wizards are likely to get a +1 to Intelligence and Half-Orcs a -1, making it a wash. That doesn’t seem like much until you consider that he’s paying full price for his 18 (assuming a point-buy system, which seems to be the prevailing method based on the WotC surveys), while the “High Elf” (Eladrin) pays a lot less and might choose to go all-in and end up with a 20 Intelligence (this option is absolutely closed to the Half-Orc). If Vancian magic returns in any format that resembles older editions (which seems very likely), the Half-Orc will either suffer having a lower to-hit (based on their intention to have non-physical attacks generate a DC for an attribute-based saving throw) and fewer bonus spells or, more likely, he’s going to choose to have generically lower stats (keep in mind that the lowering of stats because he has to pay full price for his attack stat will more than drown out his likely +1 Strength and +1 Dexterity, given that he’s paying seven more points than the Eladrin).

      The Half-Orc is already paying an opportunity cost by selecting a race that lacks Wizard-friendly feats and racial features, but now he’s also asked to be, in general, weaker in a system that is supposed to highlight the importance of attributes? Maybe I shouldn’t have used the phrase “flatly impossible,” but I do believe that it will make non-optimal race/class pairings much more rare than they already are. I think that makes D&D a poorer environment for good storytelling.

      • You make some good points but I actually think the opposite. First, I’ve seen nothing that makes me think a wizard wouldn’t be perfectly competent with an 18 for his main stat (regardless of race), even in a game where stats matter more. (which, to be clear doesn’t mean to me that more rests on the main stat, but that all the stats factor more heavily in normal use, thus obviating the desperate need for stat bumping your main that existed in 4E). Secondly, I think the story of a half-orc turned mage against all odds is vastly more interesting than the orc who was a mage because he had supreme intelligence just like every other mage. I think the sterilization of stats (meaning all classes try to have the same optimized stats) makes for less compelling stories, not more. And lastly, I think they said the game as it currently exists is balanced around 4d6 drop lowest, rather than a point buy (meaning an 18 won’t likely be necessary to achieve full capability). Correct me there if I’m wrong as I’m not sure where I remember hearing that. My conclusion on this in general (and in particular on the half-orc wizard) is that at worst, it will be mildly suboptimal and at best, it will function pretty much normally and be more interesting storywise (as the wizard proceed to perform feats of orcish strength) to boot.

      • Point buy is being left in as an option and there’s every sign that that will be the default option at the table, even if it’s not the default option in the books. To be honest, I can’t see how they can genuinely hope to balance things if they return to “4d6, drop 1” because then they have to account for the unlucky player. In a system where stats count for more, it’s going to be even more disruptive if someone gets lucky.

        Playing the hard-luck incompetent gets old really quickly when other characters are just better than yours and always will be.

  5. I’m not sure what “the hard luck incompetent” is in this context. I assume the half-orc wizard would be perfectly competent (if not exactly a prodigy). I also assume however, he’d likely have to work harder for it than someone whose aptitude lay naturally in that area. I’ll say more on that later.

    I went back and read your post on “You are what you do” and I very much gravitated towards this statement: “I don’t like the idea that your attributes are determined solely by race. It’s not good story. Some people are strong because they perform manual labor. Some people are smart because they study.”

    I very much agree with this. I feel like getting a stat bump from class is a good way to express this mechanically. Perhaps a stat bump from theme would do a lot as well. Also, with regard to your statement about strength from manual labor and smarts from study, I think this is expressed by a certain race having to pay a higher price for the stat (one race has to study while another takes to it naturally). I’m not sure this is what I want from the game, but like I said before it “makes sense” to me. If one guy is huge and naturally strong, he just is. If another guy wants to be strong like that, perhaps he has to work out every day and consume copious amounts of protein. They may end up being of similar strength at the end of the day but one guy had to work really hard at it and likely pass up other opportunities to better himself/herself. This is expressed in the higher price to achieve the stat, or to do so at the expense of another stat.

    Finally, being new on this blog I don’t want to get off on the wrong foot and come across as being overly argumentative. I’m not making the contention that you’re “wrong” but that I see things differently. I’ve been going through some past posts and while it’s clear we’re coming from somewhat different places philosophically, I very much like what you’re doing here and plan to be a regular reader from now on.

    • I don’t think you’re being argumentative. I’m an opinionated person and I like people who can stand up to me. It is clear, however, that we’re talking about a couple of different things simultaneously and that’s causing some confusion. I don’t think I can answer you as well as I would like in the comments, so I’m probably going to make a separate post about the other point of disagreement that I see.

      • Awesome. Look forward to it. 🙂

        Also, to be clear, my opinions are not always identical to what I would expect a system to do or think designers should try to achieve. I know full well that my ideas are often counter to what the majority thinks is the best way to do things. And I’m comfortable making tweaks and houserules to get those results. I also understand there are very valid reasons to do things beyond what I may value.

  6. I think that, what it really comes down to is that when rolling dice to determine stats, suboptimal race/class combos are possible with good dice rolls, whereas in a point-buy system, they pretty much aren’t worth it. In 3.5/Pathfinder, I probably would never play an elf in a point buy environment, because I like having a 14+ con score. But when I roll for the character, the possibility exists that I might roll well enough to have my 14 con after the penalty. Plus, stats are likely going to be more important than they ever were in 3.5. I had a half-orc sorcerer with a 14 charisma who was fun and powerful; would that sort of character have a chance of being powerful in the new system?

  7. Another way to look at it mbeacom is that racial stats represent a stereotype, elves are graceful and frail, half-orcs are strong and dumb and so on. PC’s are meant to be the exception not the rule and racial penalties make it far harder to break the mold. This means that fewer people will do it. Your main point seems to be that a character persevering against his natural shortcomings is good story, and I agree with you. However it takes a very special kind of person to run a suboptimal character if the rest of his party are either standard or optimized builds. The main problem is that his friends are going to be effective more often than he is and the only consolation he gets is that his concept and story are strong. This is not to say that he will be bad simply that his allies will be better.

    If you want to run the impossible odds character you’re better off looking at it from a different perspective. I don’t know if you are familiar with the Discworld series by Terry Pratchet but one of the main characters in the series is a wizard named Rincewind. Rincewind is incapable of casting spells he simply can’t do it, however he still claims to be a wizard. This has resulted in him having more of a rouges skill set then that of a spell caster. Now this is a bit of a broad comparison because Rincewind avoids combat like the plague so it would be impossible to represent him as a D&D character, but it still gives us an interesting concept to work with.

    All in all I think that a good game system is one that encourages choices rather than constraining them. It’s okay for some people to be batter at certain things but you should never be punished for choosing something, which is what racial penalties do.

    • Again, I’m not saying this thinking is wrong but that I just don’t see it. Let me address your comments specifically.

      “Another way to look at it mbeacom is that racial stats represent a stereotype, elves are graceful and frail, half-orcs are strong and dumb and so on. PC’s are meant to be the exception not the rule and racial penalties make it far harder to break the mold.”

      First of all, I don’t agree that PCs are necessarily meant to be the exception. Rather, in many cases, I think they are mean to be the Paragon. I think an Elven adventure is supposed to be the ulitmate example of an elf. A human should be the strongest fastest warrior etc. If what you’re saying is true and we follow it to its logical conclusion, than an elven adventure SHOULD be neither graceful nor frail. It should be the exception. The exception to a race of graceful creatures should therefore be clumsy. However, I don’t see alot of people arguing for the supported choice to play a clumsy elf. No, in fact, what I see if people who simply can’t deal with the idea they might actually be less than someone else at the baseline.

      “it takes a very special kind of person to run a suboptimal character if the rest of his party are either standard or optimized builds.”

      Yes it does. But this is honestly a matter of group dynamics than anything. No matter what rules exist or do not exist, a player who builds his character around story will ALWAYS be overshadowed by those whose core consideration is optimization. The lack of a -1 on a single stat won’t change this at all IMO.

      “This is not to say that he will be bad simply that his allies will be better.”

      His allies will be better at some things and worse at others. A single stat with a -1 won’t scuttle a character. It will create a small and interesting challenge and give his choice real weight. If we get optimized stats regardless of our choice, to me, this makes our choices less meaningful.

      “If you want to run the impossible odds character you’re better off looking at it from a different perspective.”

      I’ve never discussed running “impossible odds” character. I’m talking about a single -1 on one stat. This is nothing like an “impossible odds” character. An impossible odds character might be no stat above 13. We’re talking about 19.14.11.10.10.8 vs. 17.15.11.10.10.8 here or thereabouts.

      “All in all I think that a good game system is one that encourages choices rather than constraining them. It’s okay for some people to be batter at certain things but you should never be punished for choosing something, which is what racial penalties do.”

      Again, I take a different perspective. The way I see it, is the above statement is somewhat of a contradiction. You say it’s ok for some people to be better at certain things, but then go on to say that the mechanics that would lead to that very situation amount to punishment. When you say it’s ok for some people to be better at certain things, does that mean that its ok for a mage to be better at magic than a rogue? Or does it mean that it’s ok for an elven mage to be better at magic than a half-orc mage? Because if its only ok for one class to be better at its class than some other class, and every member of the same class should be exactly equal at being that class, then I don’t think that encourages choice at all. In fact, I think you could make a pretty good argument that it does just the opposite and actually negates choices. Moreover, the lack of a plus one is exactly as much punishment as a -1. If you’re playing an Eladrin that gets a +1 to INT and you choose mage, you’ll be better than an Orc who chooses to be a mage even with no +1 to INT. Is the person who chose the Orc being punished for choosing the Orc? For choosing to be a mage? To my mind, you’re choosing to play a race that may not be able to be as exceptional of a spell caster, but you’ll likely be much stronger and therefore a bit more interesting. Nevermind the idea of multiclassing where you may end up being superior in several ways by having a broader range of opportunity due to the increased strength.

      Don’t get me wrong. I get what you’re saying. Your points are valid from the way you view the game. And I concede that more people view the game like you do than probably see it like I do.

      On a related note, I very much like games that make you choose a weakness. As a DM, I often have my players choose a character flaw. Something that impact their play and their interaction with the world. A gamblind addiction. Overconfidence. Narcissism. Etc. Theoretically, this would make their player less capable than someone who chose no such weakness, but I find it make the game a deeper and more engaging experience. You have to cope with your weakness. I would likewise be ok with a compromise system where players could choose their -1. In a world where are scores matter (lack of a dump stat), I think this would achieve the level of interest that I’m looking for while still allowing the level of choice that I think you’re advocating.

      • Apologies for all the typos. It’s late and my daughter is waking up so I’m typing quickly. 🙂

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