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View Full Version : Racial Stat bonuses: The golden rule?



ocato
2007-05-10, 06:49 PM
Alright, I've been thinking of doing some homebrewing, and I've heard people mention a basic rule or two about stat changes. Like, losing a mental stat is worth less than a physical stat or something like that. I can't remember for the life of me. Please fill me in so the homebrewers don't laugh me off their forum (note: they might do that anyway).

melchizedek
2007-05-10, 06:51 PM
Basically, a penalty to a physical stat doesn't compensate for a bonus to a mental stat.

ghost_warlock
2007-05-10, 06:55 PM
The rules aren't really that hard-and-fast, but generally try to balance the +'s with the -'s. It used to be that +Cha was worth less than a +Physical but a lot of new classes and PrC's really feed off of Charisma these days so the dynamic may have changed a bit.

Probably the *best* stat to have a racial bonus is is probably Intelligence or Wisdom, though, because these are the bread-and-butter stats for the major "win" classes of the game - Clerics, Wizards, and Druids. There's a reason none of the PHB races have a bonus to them and few of the core races without a Level Adjustment do, either.

The best physical stats to have a bonus to are Dex and Con. Str is overrated.

Cruiser1
2007-05-10, 06:56 PM
The only real "golden rule" to remember is that in general, pluses to stats give more of a benefit than minuses give a detriment. In other words, character optomizers know how to take advantage of pluses, while ignoring the effect of minuses. Hence:

Don't give +2 STR, unless you give -2 to two other stats (e.g. Half-Orc)
Don't give +2 to a mental stat ever, unless you give LA +1 (e.g. semi-unbalanced Gray/Sun Elf)

You can ignore the above guidelines if you want. You should just think long and hard before doing so, to ensure your LA isn't set too low.

Zherog
2007-05-10, 06:58 PM
Because the half-orc is the epitome of balance...

I_Got_This_Name
2007-05-10, 07:01 PM
I think that the best way to put it is that you should balance bonuses with like penalties (Physical with Physical, Mental with Mental), or, possibly, two unlike penalties. Put in as few bonuses as possible, and keep them to physical stats as much as possible.

This is because the types that use physical stats tend to use all three physical stats, but not so much with the mental; the type to use mental stats primarily can afford to ignore physical stats quite well. Mental stat users can also ignore their other mental stats (A wizard works perfectly well with a Wisdom and Charisma of 6).

ocato
2007-05-10, 07:04 PM
Well, I wanted to maybe redo the Half-Orc and Half-Elf to be a little more on par with the other races.

Half Elf
Medium: As Medium creatures, half-elves have no special bonuses or penalties due to their size.
Half-elf base land speed is 30 feet.
Immunity to sleep spells and similar magical effects, and a +2 racial bonus on saving throws against enchantment spells or effects.
Low-Light Vision: A half-elf can see twice as far as a human in starlight, moonlight, torchlight, and similar conditions of poor illumination. She retains the ability to distinguish color and detail under these conditions.
+1 racial bonus on Listen, Search, and Spot checks.
+2 racial bonus on Diplomacy and Gather Information checks.
Elven Blood: For all effects related to race, a half-elf is considered an elf.
Automatic Languages: Common and Elven. Bonus Languages: Any (other than secret languages, such as Druidic).
Favored Class: Any. When determining whether a multiclass half-elf takes an experience point penalty, her highest-level class does not count.

I really wanted to give them a stat array, but it wouldn't be elvish really. It'd be something more +2 Cha -2 Str ish, and it's hard to justify that because elves and humans don't really have either of those, and Cha might outbalance STR in some circles. Maybe -2 STR -2 CON +2 CHA to represent their 'buffer between peoples' sort of position. Pretty much doing that is telling the world that Half-Elves are Bards and Sorcerers and nothing else, and I don't want to pidgeon-hole them... but a + to Charisma seems fairly accurate/would make them really more approachable as a race-option. I will kick this around further and make a post on the Homebrew Forum once I have a better idea of where I'm taking this.

PinkysBrain
2007-05-10, 07:07 PM
Just remember ... mental stats and strength are only considered stronger than the other stats for NON elves. Elf subraces, and only elves, can get sets of +2/-2 modifiers to any set(s) of stats ;)

Rob Knotts
2007-05-10, 07:12 PM
Because the half-orc is the epitome of balance...Now now Z, let's try to be constructive:smallamused:

If I remember correctly, the DMG suggests a unbalanced chart where Str and Dex (and Con?) are generally worth more than Int, Wis, or Cha. For example, +2 Str would require -4 Int. The idea is that the physical stats are more important during character creation.

Considering how much level-based bonuses can exceed bonuses from stats, not to mention how important mental stats are to spellcasters, I think this inequity in stat values has more to do with player min/maxing beginning stats rather than any significant difference in how stat bonuses apply in the long run.

In other words, I'd just balance +2 with -2 regardless of the stats involved, unless other factors in the racial package make those stats more or less important.

One rule I recommend you do stick to is increasing/decreasing stats by increments of 2. Since stat-based bonuses are based on a formula of (stat-10)/2, just adding or subtracting 1 isn't a meaningful change.

Indon
2007-05-10, 07:16 PM
Personally, I'd make +2 Con with more than -2 in a stat (maybe not quite as much as -4 in stats, though).

Con is a very robust stat, as it were.

Edit: That is, mind that your races can have _other_ penalties than just stats. Maybe they're dazzled by magical light? Perhaps they're vulnerable to an element, or school of magic.

Also mind that you can give pseudo-stat bonuses. Think a race is quick but don't want to raise their dex too much? Give them a reflex save bonus. Good at wizarding but not all that bright? +1 to Wizard spell save DC's. Mind that an attribute bonus adds to many varying things that you might not all want to boost.

Fax Celestis
2007-05-10, 07:34 PM
Here's some rules I've picked up (do note that racial HD can be traded for LA in the below at a 2 LA:3 RHD ratio):

1. Stat mods of total greater than +0 warrant a +1 LA
(The stats themselves really are very interchangeable at this point; try to gear them towards Favored Class)
2. Large Size or Powerful Build warrants a +1 LA
3. SLAs warrant a +1 LA (or more)
4. 1 bonus PP or 1 bonus essentia warrants a +1 LA (unless you already have an LA, in which case never mind)
5. Hard to obtain useful modes of movement (flight, burrow) warrant a +1 LA and should be set equal to landspeed. Less useful modes of movement (climb, swim) do not warrant an LA if set at -10' from landspeed.
6. Type other than Humanoid or Monstrous Humanoid usually doesn't warrant LA, though be careful: types are the main source of Alter Self cheese.

ocato
2007-05-10, 07:55 PM
Well, I put something up. A rough draftish idea. Probably going to be weakened as I go. Thanks for the advice.

mikeejimbo
2007-05-10, 09:16 PM
Personally, I'd make +2 Con with more than -2 in a stat (maybe not quite as much as -4 in stats, though).

Con is a very robust stat, as it were.

Edit: That is, mind that your races can have _other_ penalties than just stats. Maybe they're dazzled by magical light? Perhaps they're vulnerable to an element, or school of magic.

Also mind that you can give pseudo-stat bonuses. Think a race is quick but don't want to raise their dex too much? Give them a reflex save bonus. Good at wizarding but not all that bright? +1 to Wizard spell save DC's. Mind that an attribute bonus adds to many varying things that you might not all want to boost.

These are very good suggestions. I haven't got anything to add, but I do want to emphasis these ideas.

ArmorArmadillo
2007-05-10, 09:20 PM
Generally, you don't want to give bonuses to Mental stats for LA 0 races because the benefit of these bonuses to Magic classes is much greater than the benefit of physical bonuses to Combat classes.

That being said: it generally comes down to this.
+Str=-Dex,-Con,-Int and -Cha, -Int and -Wis, -Wis and -Cha
+Dex=-Str,-Con,-Int and -Cha, -Int and -Wis, -Wis and -Cha
+Con=+STR=-Dex,-Con,-Int, -Wis, -Cha (Possibly 2 mental stats if the race has other bonuses)
+Int=-Wis, -Cha
+Wis=-Int, -Cha
+Cha=-Int, -Wis

P.S.: Fax, do you really think 1 bonus PP or 1 bonus Essentia warrants an LA? It goes against the examples given (Azurin, Kalashtar)

Penguinsushi
2007-05-10, 09:23 PM
DMG, page 173. Table called 'Ability Score Equivalencies'. (right column, 2/3 down page)

~PS

ocato
2007-05-10, 09:37 PM
Sorry, don't have any books. Can you link that on the SRD or post it for me?

Townopolis
2007-05-10, 09:47 PM
IMO, "balancing" a +2 by multiple -2's in stats that don't matter to the favored classes (the classes that use the +2 to best advantage) isn't balancing, it's pigeonholing.

The poster child for this is the Half-orc. The Half-orc is a great fighter, but terrible for any arcane caster. -2 Int and -2 Cha have little-no effect on a melee fighter, and +2 Str is the last thing an arcanist will ask Santa for.

Balance +2's with -2's that affect the favored classes. Fighter's use Dex, so penalize that to balance a bonus to STR.

my 2cp.

Fax Celestis
2007-05-10, 10:02 PM
P.S.: Fax, do you really think 1 bonus PP or 1 bonus Essentia warrants an LA? It goes against the examples given (Azurin, Kalashtar)

Essentia is a possibly-no. PP? Yes. It's basically saying, "here's a bonus first level spell slot."

Penguinsushi
2007-05-10, 10:12 PM
Sorry, don't have any books. Can you link that on the SRD or post it for me?

basically it boils down to something like this:

---

ability bonus = ability penalty

STR or DEX = (any other physical) or (any two mental)

CON = DEX or (any one mental)

INT or WIS or CHA = (any other mental)

---

The DMG contends that these are pretty balanced trade-offs. Other trades (like +2 CON, -2 STR) aren't as balanced, and hence, aren't on the chart.

~PS

Jack Mann
2007-05-10, 10:20 PM
Of course, in actual play, con is worth more than strength, which is more than adequitely balanced by a penalty to int, for example.

But Penguin's got the basic premise wizards pretends to operate by.

ArmorArmadillo
2007-05-10, 10:36 PM
Essentia is a possibly-no. PP? Yes. It's basically saying, "here's a bonus first level spell slot."
I suppose; I'm just getting used to Psionics. One of my players is playing a Kalashtar, and I believe that it's possibly balanced if for no other reason than that's basically all Kalashtar get. Still, Psionics are already on the up-end of the power spectrum.

Then again, in terms of LA 0 races that should be LA 1, Humans are probably the biggest offender. There's almost nothing as good as a Bonus Feat and Bonus skills for no LA.

Theodoxus
2007-05-10, 10:48 PM
I was thinking about this this morning, in fact, and it seems to me that the attributes that generate saves should be balanced together, and those that don't likewise.

Thus, +Str, Int or Chr = -Str, Int or Chr and +Con, Dex or Wis = -Con, Dex or Wis.

Sure, the primary casting attributes generate a greater benefit than their surrogate physical counterpart (though +2 Wis for -2 Con is balanced, from a character perspective).

Half Orc is the epitome of this concept. Of the Core races, only the short races don't follow this plan - and that can be seen as somewhat balancing in itself. Halflings greater dex is offset by their meager melee damage. Gnomes greater Con is also offset by their meager melee damage - in fact, without the dex boon, there's practically no reason to play any kind of melee character with a gnome - where optimization is a concern. Their +1 to hit does mitigate their strength penalty, but they're small... and slow.

If I were to houserule racial generation guidelines, I'd make sure to use the saving throws as the baseline and work from there.

ocato
2007-05-11, 12:42 AM
I ended up going with -2 CON +2 CHA. That may not follow Wizard's intentions but I think it's pretty fair. I think of half-elves being elfish enough to have the con penalty (lean, frail almost) but in having a natural place between worlds, so to speak. Take the ability to get along with 'everybody' (already mentioned by WotC with their +2 Diplomacy bonus) and add in the idea that a half-elf probably encompasses all of the attractive features of both humans and elves (I believe the fluff mentions them being generally good looking) and I think a Charisma bonus isn't unheard of. Besides, let's throw half-elf bards a bone. Eh?

Eh?

ArmorArmadillo
2007-05-11, 01:37 AM
Well, it really doesn't help Bards that much, frankly they benefit more from a decent Con than a good Cha more often than not. It's really a boon for Sorcerers who just plan on hanging back and hoping to stay entirely out of fights.

Also, this unfortunately would make the race (even more) unplayable for any class that doesn't heavily depend on Cha.

TheOOB
2007-05-11, 01:44 AM
When homebrewing, I follow these general guidelines.

+2 to a physical stat can be compensated for by -2 to any other stat aside from CHA

+2 to a mental stat can be compensated for by -4 to any stat, or -2 to any two stats(one of which must not be STR or CHA).

It gets more difficult as you make higher bonuses, but the general rule is that a penalty to CHA isn't much of a penalty for anyone, and a penalty to STR isn't much of a penalty to a spellcaster.

brian c
2007-05-11, 02:14 AM
Essentia is a possibly-no. PP? Yes. It's basically saying, "here's a bonus first level spell slot."

So... if you take the Half-Giant and remove psionics (which I never really thought made sense for them anyway), does that give you an LA 0 race?

Behold_the_Void
2007-05-11, 02:31 AM
So... if you take the Half-Giant and remove psionics (which I never really thought made sense for them anyway), does that give you an LA 0 race?

It still has Powerful Build, which is definitely an LA-worthy ability.

TheOOB
2007-05-11, 02:46 AM
It still has Powerful Build, which is definitely an LA-worthy ability.

Kind of, I'd take +2 Strength over Powerful Build most any day of the week.

Rob Knotts
2007-05-11, 07:35 AM
It gets more difficult as you make higher bonuses, but the general rule is that a penalty to CHA isn't much of a penalty for anyone, and a penalty to STR isn't much of a penalty to a spellcaster.Isn't CHA the spell-casting ability for sorcerors?

Khoran
2007-05-11, 07:55 AM
Isn't CHA the spell-casting ability for sorcerors?

Isn't much of a penalty to classes that matter :P.

Just kidding. A -Cha harms both Sorcerers and Bards with their spellcasting.

ArmorArmadillo
2007-05-11, 08:29 AM
Kind of, I'd take +2 Strength over Powerful Build most any day of the week.

Really?
+2 Str gives you +1 to Hit and Damage with Melee, +1 to Grapple and Bull Rush, greater carrying capacity, and +1 to some skill checks.
PB Ups your weapon damage die on all rolls, +4 to Grapple, Trip, and Bull Rush, and all you're really giving up is the +1 to hit, carrying capacity, and skill checks.

Maybe a +2 Str race with LA 0 is better than a LA 1 race with PB, but even then I haven't seen any PB race that shouldn't have been LA 2 in the first place (I'm looking at you Goliaths)

Dan_Hemmens
2007-05-11, 03:36 PM
What a lot of people seem not to realize is that there is no reason you have to balance stat-boosts against stat-penalties.

The reason the Half-Orc sucks isn't that they have a net -2 to their stats, it's that they have nothing else going for them except Darkvision.

STR +2, INT -2, CHA -2 is still better than no stat modifiers whatsoever, but it's way, way less good than the free feat and skill points you get for being Human.

Fax Celestis
2007-05-11, 03:38 PM
Really?
+2 Str gives you +1 to Hit and Damage with Melee, +1 to Grapple and Bull Rush, greater carrying capacity, and +1 to some skill checks.
PB Ups your weapon damage die on all rolls, +4 to Grapple, Trip, and Bull Rush, and all you're really giving up is the +1 to hit, carrying capacity, and skill checks.

Maybe a +2 Str race with LA 0 is better than a LA 1 race with PB, but even then I haven't seen any PB race that shouldn't have been LA 2 in the first place (I'm looking at you Goliaths)

You're not even giving up an increase to carrying capacity. Since you're treated as a large creature, your weight capacity is 1.5x that of a medium creature.

ArmorArmadillo
2007-05-11, 03:46 PM
What a lot of people seem not to realize is that there is no reason you have to balance stat-boosts against stat-penalties.

The reason the Half-Orc sucks isn't that they have a net -2 to their stats, it's that they have nothing else going for them except Darkvision.

STR +2, INT -2, CHA -2 is still better than no stat modifiers whatsoever, but it's way, way less good than the free feat and skill points you get for being Human.
Humans are the most overpowered race in the game. They should be either severely watered down or have an LA.

Why do they balance? Min-Maxing. CHA -2 is meaningless to the optimizing Power Attack Fighter; honestly it wouldn't even benefit their build to get rid of it.
The moment a race has a net boost, it's more or less a foregone conclusion that it will become fodder for Powergaming without an LA.

Dan_Hemmens
2007-05-11, 03:58 PM
Why do they balance? Min-Maxing. CHA -2 is meaningless to the optimizing Power Attack Fighter; honestly it wouldn't even benefit their build to get rid of it.

Since Min-Maxing is what D&D - and to be honest pretty much every other RPG ever written - is all about, I don't think that's a criticism.

ArmorArmadillo
2007-05-11, 04:12 PM
Since Min-Maxing is what D&D - and to be honest pretty much every other RPG ever written - is all about, I don't think that's a criticism.
Blaspheme!:smalleek:
My favorite character right now is a Fighter/Sorc with maxed out Perform (Dance) who fights unarmored.
Minmaxing is a play style, but it is not all that RPGs are about.

Penguinsushi
2007-05-11, 10:30 PM
Blaspheme!:smalleek:
My favorite character right now is a Fighter/Sorc with maxed out Perform (Dance) who fights unarmored.
Minmaxing is a play style, but it is not all that RPGs are about.

I whole-heartedly agree.

However, if everyone else at the table thinks that it's all about the min-max, characters built on a more conceptual style have a much harder time, unfortunately...

~PS

DSCrankshaw
2007-05-11, 11:17 PM
So since most people are saying that a bonus to Con isn't balanced by a penalty to Cha, does that mean you think dwarves are unbalanced? The only other downside they have is their slow movement, but that has no effect when they're wearing heavy armor.

Dhavaer
2007-05-11, 11:22 PM
So since most people are saying that a bonus to Con isn't balanced by a penalty to Cha, does that mean you think dwarves are unbalanced? The only other downside they have is their slow movement, but that has no effect when they're wearing heavy armor.

They are noticeably more powerful than the other races, yes. They aren't unbalanced to the point of being broken, though.

Latronis
2007-05-12, 12:12 AM
Wow if you wanted to make half-elves even more full of suck you succeeded


I look at this way:
+2 Con\-2 Cha = unbalanced(strong)
+2 Cha\-2 Con = unbalanced(weak)

+2 Str\-2 Int or +2 Int\-2 Str never ever do this.

almost any other combination is more or less balanced

Bosh
2007-05-12, 01:56 AM
I think it makes more sense to approach things from the perspective of what sort of stat bonuses/penalties AREN'T balanced than those that are. I think that a good way of doing this is:


If you get a bonus to one stat then you should either get a penalty to a stat that is important to classes that tend to rely on the stat that is getting a bonus or a penalty to two stats.

So for example +2 Str, -2 Cha isn't balanced since most classes that need stregth don't really need Cha. Likewise -2 Str, +2 Cha is unbalanced since most classes that need cha don't really need stregth.

Also be VERY VERY VERY careful about giving a bonus to a mental stat since classes that are based on mental stats (mostly casters) tend to be much more single ability-dependent than classes that are based on physical stats (mostly meleers). Because of this I'd say that even though everyone needs Con a race that has -2 Con +2 a mental is still on the strong side since Sorcerers benefit a lot more from +2 Cha than they get hurt by -2 Con. This is especially the case as casters are powerful enough as it is without sticking in races that are very beneficial to them.

I would say that something like:
+2 Cha, -2 Wis -2 Con
or
+2 Int -2 Dex -2 Cha

would be balanced while things like Grey Elves are most definately NOT.

Leon
2007-05-12, 05:02 AM
Since Min-Maxing is what D&D - and to be honest pretty much every other RPG ever written - is all about, I don't think that's a criticism.

No its not. Min/Maxing is a choice made by the player not a intergrel part of the way a game works, yes you can do it but everything works just fine if you dont squeeze the rules and limits to the extreme

Dan_Hemmens
2007-05-12, 05:41 AM
Blaspheme!:smalleek:
My favorite character right now is a Fighter/Sorc with maxed out Perform (Dance) who fights unarmored.
Minmaxing is a play style, but it is not all that RPGs are about.

Okay, let's look at your character build:

You fight unarmoured: Because you're a Sorcerer, and wearing armour would cost you your spellcasting. You minimise your AC to maximise your spellcasting potential. Min-maxing.

You've got maxed out ranks in Peform (Dance). Because you wanted to be a good dancer. Min-maxing. Non min-maxing would be taking one rank in Perform (Dance).

You're playing a build. It's not a powerful build, but it's still a build, and it's still min-maxed to be able to do what you want it to do.