Races

The Problems

  1. In Dungeons and Dragons ones choice of race is quite important for starting characters but these differences quickly fade into insignificance after a few levels.

    This problem is never really addressed in any WOTC product, but in Unearthed Arcana, the section on Racial Paragons provides an excellent clue which can be the starting point for solving both problems, along with the racial progression ideas spelled out in the monster manuals.

  2. Many more exotic races have level adjustment penalties for the significant initial benefits they give. However, this can present problems for adventures for low levels, and at high levels these races become underpowered because of the level penalty.

    Unearthed Arcana gives a couple of interesting ideas here: one is to buy off the expensive level adjustments progressively during the character's career. This works because of the self correcting nature of the DnD XP system, however, it does not address the early levels, where while the character may be tougher than others in the party, the player must wait several levels before his character can improve or advance.

  3. Certain races take attribute penalties (particularly charisma) to reflect an attitude rather then an actual lack of the attribute. This has unfortunate consequences in certain skills which the race aught to be good at, for example, for dwarves, use magical device, or intimdate for half-orcs.

The Solution

For problem (1), I propose to address the growing irrelevance of race as one advances in level by having various racial benefits kick in as the character goes up in level. To address point (2), slightly boost all 0 LA races, to allow +1 LA races to start at par. And finally, for races penalized in charisma, I impose penalties on specific skills instead.

Aasimar.

Aasimars represent the remnants of an ancient proud lineage. An Aasimar character may begin play as level 1 with no ECL adjustment.

Table 1: Aasimar Racial benefits
Level Special
1st Normal aasimar racial benefits, no level adjustment
5th +4 Spot and Listen
10th Improved darkvision (+30 ft), daylight 3/day
15th Cha +2

Drow

To adventure normally, drow characters would probably have to take the daylight adaptation feat, which to my mind is a significant penalty.

Table 2: Drow Racial benefits
Level Special
1st Normal drow racial benefits except no spell resistance until 5th level, darkvision is 60 ft., no level adjustment.
5th spell resistance at 11 + class levels, improved spell-like abilities (+1 use per day), improved darkvision +30 ft.
10th Improved darkvision (+30 ft).
15th Dex +2

Dwarves

Do not receive -2 Charisma penalty, instead receive -2 penalty on Diplomacy, Gather Information and Handle Animal checks. (I don't see why they shouldn't be good at Use Magic Device, or Intimidate).

Table 3: Dwarf Racial benefits
Level Special
1st Normal dwarven racial benefits, except do not receive -2 Charisma penalty, instead receive -2 penalty on Diplomacy, Gather Information and Handle Animal checks, +2 Wis
5th Craft expertise, improved stonecunning
10th Improved darkvision (+30 ft), save bonus +1
15th Con +2

Elves

Elves are effectively immortal: they do not age (in game terms) past middle age, and do not die of "natural causes". (In adventuring terms this is just flavour anyway).

Elves gain an additional +2 Wis, but take a penalty of -2 to Diplomacy and gather information when dealing with other races. Other than this, they are already good enough. The preferred class for elves is druid (cleric in Eberron).

Table 4: Elf Racial benefits
Level Special
1st Normal elven racial benefits, immortal, +2 Wis, -2 to diplomacy checks with non-elves.
5th Elfsight (+4 search and spot, 3x low light), resist enchantments +2
10th Weapon Focus with an elven weapon
15th Int +2

Gnomes

May treat either Illusionist or Bard as favoured classes.

Gnomes choose one bonus feats from either magical aptitude, nimble fingers, or artistic temperament, and gain +2 Cha

.
Table 5: Gnome Racial benefits
Level Special
1st Normal gnome racial benefits, +2 Cha, Bonus feat from magical aptitude, nimble fingers, or artisitic temperament
5th Illusion aptitude, keen senses
10th mirror image
15th Cha +2

Half-elves

Half-elves benefit from their divided ancestry, and their human flexibility. Gain +2 Cha: they get along with most races and they may take a bonus feat at first level.

Table 6: Half-elf Racial benefits
Level Special
1st Normal half-elf racial benefits, bonus feat, +2 Cha
5th Illusion aptitude, keen senses
10th mirror image
15th Cha +2

Half-orcs

Do not get -2 penalty to charisma, instead, get -2 racial modifier on diplomacy, use magic device, and gather information checks, and a +2 racial bonus to intimidate checks

Half-orcs receive an additional +2 Con bonus.
Table 7: Half-orc Racial benefits
Level Special
1st Normal half-orc racial benefits, except do not get -2 penalty to charisma, instead, get -2 racial modifier on diplomacy, use magic device, and gather information checks, and a +2 racial bonus to intimidate checks, +2 Con
5th Divided ancestry, monstrous mein
10th rage 1/day
15th Str +2

Halflings

Halflings are agile, their climb, jump and move silently bonus increases to +3. They may also be surprisingly tough, granting them the endurance feat, or they are tunnel dwellers and have low light vision.

Table 8: Halfling Racial benefits
Level Special
1st Normal halfling racial benefits, athletic prowess +3, either endurance or low light vision
5th Athletic prowess +4, save bonus +1
10th Thrown weapon mastery (+2 damage)
15th Dex +2

Humans

Humans adapt to almost any circumstance, and no two are exactly alike.

Table 9: Human Racial benefits
Level Special
1st Normal human racial benefits, +2 to any ability
5th Adaptive learning
10th Bonus feat
15th Ability boost +2

Orcs

Like cockroaches, orcs seem to survive in any environment despite the best intentions of other creatures to utterly wipe them out.

Table 10: Orc Racial benefits
Level Special
1st Normal orc racial benefits
5th Improved darvision (+30 ft), no light sensitivity
10th Elf slayer
15th Str +2

Tieflings

Something not quite right runs in the veins of these characters, but they may start as first level without ECL adjustment.

Table 11: Tiefling Racial benefits
Level Special
1st Normal tiefling racial benefits
5th Improved resistance
10th darkness, +4 bluff and hide
15th Dex +2

Shifters

Do not take -2 penalty to charisma, instead, get -2 racial modifier on diplomacy, use magic device, and gather information checks, and a +2 racial bonus to intimidate checks

Table 7: Shifter Racial benefits
Level Special
1st Normal shifter racial benefits, except do not get -2 penalty to charisma, instead, get -2 racial modifier on diplomacy, use magic device, and gather information checks, and a +2 racial bonus to intimidate checks
5th Bonus on Balance, Climb and Jump increases to +4, low-light vision increases to 3x normal
10th Enhanced Shifting*
15th Dex +2
*A shifter gains extra benefits depending on the ability score bonus provided by the Shifter's primary trait.
Str
The shifter's natural weapons are treated as adamantine for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction while shifting.
Dex
The shifter gains improved evasion.
Con
The shifter gains fast healing while shifting gaining a number of hit points per round equal to 1 + the number of shifter feats he possesses. This does not stack with any other form of fast healing.

Warforged

Table 7: Warforged Racial benefits
Level Special
1st Battle hardened - gain +2 bonus to initiative checks, +2 on saves against fear effects.
5th Body as weapon - gain +2 damage using slam or with any weapon attached as a warforged component.
10th Battle hardened +4, bonus warforged feat
15th Str, Con or Dex = +2*
*A Warforged gains Str, Con or Dex depending on their choice of armour.
standard armour
Str
Adamantine Body
Con
Mithral Body
Dex

Other races

Consult DM for world specific choices, demi-humans etc