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View Full Version : Racial Modifiers, why do we need them?



Catsplosion
08-28-2013, 12:56 AM
I always wondered why games like pathfinder and D&D type games use a racial modifier in addition to race specific abilities to differentiate races. I think they would probably be better off with either just the abilities or neither at all. From a game mechanics point of view it makes balancing the game just plain hard. Normally it isn't worried about in the long run, the racial abilities are either the core of your play or stop getting used after a few levels and the stats can be fixed with point buy or a lucky roll. So what is the point of them? A good race should be mostly RP, right? Because who says all elves are good with a bow or all dwarves love to dig holes all day, what makes humans so special that they have the freedom of any job or personality. Its an innocent question please answer logically if possible.

nijineko
08-28-2013, 10:40 AM
i think that racial modifiers are meant to represent more than just genetic tendencies. i think it is also supposed to represent how the culture and upbringing affects each individual of a race. both nurture and nature, belike. like most aspects of d20 based games they are a generalization of the idea of a culture and race. If all of your race lives underground, then the majority of the race will pick up a smattering of spelunking, safety procedures, and stone working lore, even if they don't have much interest. live in a forest? then woodworking, plant-lore, and animal-lore are likely results.

like most aspects of the game, there are various options available to change them, though since they are both buying into the fantasy tropes, they do tend to respect certain aspects of those tropes as they both develop and diverge. thus the typified treatment of dwarves, elves, orcs, kobolds, and so forth.

even in real life, some races are just stronger (samoans and tongans) and faster (plains-dwellers) than others, due to their upbringing and genetics. some can see underwater and hold their breath for a really long time (a tribe of hunter-divers), while others can breath freezing air without undue harm (eskimos). some are trained in singing from infancy (certain regions of china) while others can't count above two (a particular south american tribe, iirc)

it is an artificially implemented form of diversity and a way of providing the player with synergy options, as the developers seem to feel that there should be mechanical-based diversity and synergy in the game.

i can't say i disagree with the concept wholly, but i do get tired of the same old retreaded tropes over and over again.


in my games i allow custom variations with my approval, and encourage my DMs to do the same. in fact, i have at least two current characters that are a non-standard mix of races/cultures which have been reflected mechanically in some fashion.

TorteStone
09-07-2013, 05:12 AM
Well said, nijineko! I would add that the racial modifier may be a way to show differences from the standard (usually human) type. Since dwarves are as a race hardier than humans they get a +2 to Con and so forth.

If you are worried about game balance (or tired of those min/maxers- "Why are a whisper gnome again?") it wouldn't hurt your game to house rule that while all races have certain stereotypes, no race receives ability modifers (Take that, Tiefling wizards!).

-Will-

jpatterson
09-08-2013, 12:44 AM
That was an excellent post by nijineko, that probably goes further into details than than the original ideas behind racial modifiers.

Many games, including Star Trek and other non fantasy games, use racial modifiers, because some races or species are considered to be just more or less "something" than humans - vulcans and klingons and gorn are stronger than humans, etc. and like nijineko says, it is mostly due to their environment, planets with different gravities, pressures, climates, etc.

nijineko
09-09-2013, 11:27 AM
Well said, nijineko! I would add that the racial modifier may be a way to show differences from the standard (usually human) type. Since dwarves are as a race hardier than humans they get a +2 to Con and so forth.

If you are worried about game balance (or tired of those min/maxers- "Why are a whisper gnome again?") it wouldn't hurt your game to house rule that while all races have certain stereotypes, no race receives ability modifers (Take that, Tiefling wizards!).

-Will-

not to mention that in most of the official star trek cannon, a lot of the humanoid races were seeded on the worlds in the first place by the same ancient race.