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Libro
2016-04-09, 06:33 AM
Yesterday, I was inspired to create a drow character, but the standard LA is crippling for the low-level campaign it would be used in. So, I decided to take the standard racial traits and attempt to bring them down to +0 LA by removing some of the more powerful abilities. Constructive criticism is appreciated.

Drow
+2 Dexterity, –2 Constitution, +2 Intelligence or +2 Charisma.
•Medium size.
•A drow’s base land speed is 30 feet.
•Immunity to sleep spells and effects, and a +2 racial saving throw bonus against enchantment spells or effects.
•A drow possesses darkvision out to 120ft.
•Weapon Proficiency: A drow is automatically proficient with the hand crossbow, the rapier, and the short sword.
•+2 racial bonus on Listen, Search, and Spot checks. A drow who merely passes within 5 feet of a secret or concealed door is entitled to a Search check to notice it as if she were actively looking for it.
•Light Blindness: Abrupt exposure to bright light (such as sunlight or a daylight spell) blinds drow for 1 round. On subsequent rounds, they are dazzled as long as they remain in the affected area.
•Automatic Laguages: Common, Elven, Undercommon. Bonus Languages: Abyssal, Aquan, Draconic, Drow Sign Language, Gnome, Goblin.
•Favored Class: Wizard (male) or cleric (female).

Fii
2016-04-09, 11:15 AM
The only change I'd make is I'd reduce the darkvision to 60 ft instead of 120.

Libro
2016-04-09, 01:57 PM
The only change I'd make is I'd reduce the darkvision to 60 ft instead of 120.

Hmmm... 120 ft. probably is a tad excessive to be on par with the Player's Handbook races. However, Drow usually spend even more time underground than dwarves, so a longer range darkvision would make sense...
Do you think reducing the range to 90ft would be reasonable?

Nifft
2016-04-09, 02:49 PM
Do you think reducing the range to 90ft would be reasonable?
AFAICT the issue with non-standard Darkvision range is that you're able to make ranged attacks against creatures who are supposed to be good at fighting in darkness, but who can't see you because your visual range exceeds theirs significantly.

That's a strong ability -- at low levels. At higher levels, it's potentially irrelevant.

So, my suggestion would be either:
- Make it a high-HD ability ("at character level 10, your Darkvision extends 120 ft. instead")
- Make it a racial feat which gives some other thematic benefit as well.

Libro
2016-04-09, 03:07 PM
A feat would likely be ignored in favor of other feats with better benefits, so I shall edit in something akin to your first suggestion shortly.

If I may inquire, what does AFAICT mean? I have puzzled out some of the terms used on the forum, such as RAW=read as written, but AFAICT is one I haven't deciphered yet.

EDIT: darkvision changed

JNAProductions
2016-04-09, 03:14 PM
As Far As I Can Tell.

JanusJones
2016-04-09, 03:51 PM
Lesser Drow is, by the by, an available player race for those who wish to be a dark elf without the ridiculous LA. It's in Races of Faerun, if you like; one of those things you don't need homebrew to fix, unless there's some aspect of the relatively vanilla abilities of the Drow that you particularly fancy and the Lesser variant misses.

Libro
2016-04-10, 03:51 PM
As Far As I Can Tell.
Thank you.


Lesser Drow is, by the by, an available player race for those who wish to be a dark elf without the ridiculous LA. It's in Races of Faerun, if you like; one of those things you don't need homebrew to fix, unless there's some aspect of the relatively vanilla abilities of the Drow that you particularly fancy and the Lesser variant misses.
I looked it over before drafting this, but it wasn't quite satisfactory. Also, this gave me a chance to try my hand at homebrew.

Should I make the darkvision scale more smoothly? Maybe change it to 90ft. at 7th level and then 120ft. at 11th level?

Fii
2016-04-11, 12:43 AM
Thank you.


I looked it over before drafting this, but it wasn't quite satisfactory. Also, this gave me a chance to try my hand at homebrew.

Should I make the darkvision scale more smoothly? Maybe change it to 90ft. at 7th level and then 120ft. at 11th level?

That should be acceptable. :)

LudicSavant
2016-04-11, 12:58 AM
Yesterday, I was inspired to create a drow character, but the standard LA is crippling for the low-level campaign it would be used in. So, I decided to take the standard racial traits and attempt to bring them down to +0 LA by removing some of the more powerful abilities. Constructive criticism is appreciated.

Drow
+2 Dexterity, –2 Constitution, +2 Intelligence or +2 Charisma.
•Medium size.
•A drow’s base land speed is 30 feet.
•Immunity to sleep spells and effects, and a +2 racial saving throw bonus against enchantment spells or effects.
•At first level, a drow possesses darkvision out to a range of 60ft. Upon reaching 10th level, the range of the darkvision increases to 120ft.
•Weapon Proficiency: A drow is automatically proficient with the hand crossbow, the rapier, and the short sword.
•+2 racial bonus on Listen, Search, and Spot checks. A drow who merely passes within 5 feet of a secret or concealed door is entitled to a Search check to notice it as if she were actively looking for it.
•Light Blindness: Abrupt exposure to bright light (such as sunlight or a daylight spell) blinds drow for 1 round. On subsequent rounds, they are dazzled as long as they remain in the affected area.
•Automatic Laguages: Common, Elven, Undercommon. Bonus Languages: Abyssal, Aquan, Draconic, Drow Sign Language, Gnome, Goblin.
•Favored Class: Wizard (male) or cleric (female).

Here's my analysis:

Light blindness is a meaningful disadvantage, particularly early on. Unlike Light Sensitivity, it can't be cured by a 10gp item. And... well, it makes you go blind and dazzled with no save, and that is absolutely something that can get you killed. It is possible to get immunity to blindness and dazzling in general from a Raptor's Mask (Magic Item Compendium, 3500gp, takes up a face slot). That's not going to come into play until later levels, though, and it's still dropping a meaningful investment. Until then, you're eating serious penalties in daylight. Alternatively, you could take the Daylight Adaptation feat from the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting or Races of Eberron if either of those sources are available, but then you can basically count the racial feature as "lose a feat." To get some perspective on how impactful that is, consider how good everyone says humans are when their primary benefit is gaining a feat.

A Constitution penalty is also a meaningful disadvantage, because that's a stat that pretty much every class wants. Race tier lists tend to bump you down tiers for having one.

The good thing about having meaningful disadvantages is that you have more design space to work with to include fun benefits to offset them, and you ought to take advantage of that. If you don't, the disadvantages will just make the race a subpar choice mechanically.

I wouldn't compare a race to high elves, which are generally considered one of the weakest PHB races in optimization circles (for instance: http://brilliantgameologists.com/boards/index.php?topic=6134.0). If you want to make a race attractive at LA0, I'd recommend looking at attractive LA0 races, such as Humans, Warforged, Illumians, Elan, Deep Dwarves, Water Orcs, Lesser Aasimar, Dragonborn, Strongheart Halflings, Whisper Gnomes, regular gnomes/halflings/dwarves, etc.

So, let's try to find a decent LA0 race that's similar to what your Drow offers. Take a look at the Lesser Tiefling. No constitution penalty, no light blindness, bonus to Dexterity and Intelligence and penalty to a stat that's often dumped by Dex/Int builds, Darkvision, bad SLAs, Bluff/Hide skill bonus, and resistance to fire, cold, and electricity 5. The Tiefling has the clear advantage here.

Alternatively, one could look at a Gray Elf, which is generally considered a niche race and ought to be examined in the context of that niche if it's going to be relevant (that niche is: Wizard with elf substitution levels). Compared to your drow, the Gray Elf Wizard basically has -2 Strength (which he doesn't really care about, it's just -1 to melee attacks) vs Light Blindness (dazzling means that you get -1 to attack rolls in general rather than just melee attacks whenever you're in daylight or lights of similar brightness. Nevermind blindness which causes all kinds of problems) and Low Light Vision instead of Darkvision (which is better in some situations, worse in others). Oh, the Gray Elf also has slightly better free weapon proficiencies, not that the Wizard's gonna care much (but it does mean the strength penalty matters even less). At least the Drow still can take the elf wizard substitution levels, but he's still going to fall behind the Gray Elf.

Let's look at another good race in core. The Deep Dwarf has +2 Constitution (good for basically everyone) and -2 Charisma (bad for Bards and Sorcerers and a couple other guys, but if you're not one of those guys you don't really care). It also has all the lovely dwarf traits like no speed reduction in armor, stability, rogue-like trapfinding in stone environments, AC and save bonuses, etc. It also has 90 foot darkvision, which grants almost as much advantage over lesser-darkvisioned enemies as 120 foot darkvision. It also has a whopping +3 bonus to all saves against spells and spell-like effects, which is a huge lifesaver.

Also, I'd like to examine this darkvision discussion. The reasoning seems to be "well, a lot of LA0 races with Darkvision have 60ft Darkvision, so I guess this should too" without looking at the whole package the race offers. 120ft Darkvision is a rather situational benefit compared to regular darkvision (e.g. you have to have a very large, open dark space, detect and keep the enemy at long range, and not have any of your teammates already using lights to illuminate your enemies or giving away your own position, and the enemy can't have good lighting capabilities or tactics which care little for concealment, and the enemy can't be something like a Duergar or Svirfneblin or another Drow), and not a huge one... especially since you're going to get blinded and then dazzled without a save as soon as someone flips on the bright lights to see where you are. Note also that the good, core LA0 race Deep Dwarf already gets many of the "out-darkvision some other blokes with darkvision" benefits at 90ft darkvision. I'd say you could just plain give them 120 foot darkvision, and probably more benefits besides.

By contrast, "daylight and similarly bright lights" is going to come up an awful lot if you're joining up with an otherwise typical adventuring party, and the penalties can be severe. Heck, it's going to come up even more often than it usually would, because many enemies are going to know what a drow is and that they don't like bright lights, so of course they're going to use it on you.

Remember, when you can feel the indecision between two choices *for mechanical reasons,* that's balance, right there. What exactly is supposed to be making your drow a competitive choice with Human-tier races?

P.S: The idea of level-scaling benefits has been brought up. Consider that if you're using LA buyoff, LA+1 is free or very near free by mid-level, and the same goes for LA+2 by high-level. Here's a chart I made:

Experience point gain isn’t linear. Just flip your DMG open to page 38, and you’ll see a chart that indicates how XP gain works. Each time you complete an encounter, you gain an amount of XP based on the challenge rating of the encounter and your level. If a character of a lower level completes the same challenge, they gain more XP than a higher level character completing the same challenge. The upshot of this is that XP costs don’t keep you behind the curve permanently. You can use a ton of abilities with XP costs and never get more than one encounter behind the other PCs, so long as you don’t just spam these abilities (in fact, it’s technically possible to slightly overshoot the XP of other PCs due to getting “overflow XP” from the last encounter of a level). In other words, you shouldn’t be afraid to craft items or prepare things like Alter Fortune, and if you lose a level for dying you aren’t just permanently screwed.

You can afford to use a few abilities with XP costs and never get more than one encounter behind the other PCs, so long as you don’t just spam these abilities (in fact, it’s technically possible to slightly overshoot the XP of other PCs due to getting “overflow XP” from the last encounter of a level). In other words, you shouldn’t be afraid to craft items or prepare things like Alter Fortune, and if you lose a level for dying you aren’t just permanently screwed.

Alternatively, you could treat “spams XP cost abilities” as a sort of LA+1 template that you can’t buy off, and use the constant bonus XP from being a level behind to fuel your abilities with XP costs. This can lead to item crafting characters that have much more wealth than usual, which may be worth staying a level behind for some.

Level Adjustment and the River:

LA tends to be fairly crippling in D&D. Put simply, odds are that if you have an LA+2 race, the LA+2 race’s benefits likely aren’t worth as much as 2 class levels. This becomes especially true at higher levels, where it’s unlikely that your LA+2 race’s benefits are worth even one class level. A common solution is to use the LA buyoff variant in Unearthed Arcana, found here: http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/races/reducingLevelAdjustments.htm

The benefit of the LA buyoff variant is that you can spend a flat XP cost to “buy off” your LA at certain levels, at which point you’ll start to catch up to your teammates due to the effect of being a level behind. If you’re playing a game from 1-20, this is pretty straightforward. However, if you’re starting at, say, level 10, then applying the effect of the XP river and LA buyoff calculations retroactively can be rather non-trivial. So, to save you time, I’ve done the math for you! Simply look up what level a “normal” character is starting at, and the following charts will give you your level and XP if you have LA+1 or +2.

LA BUYOFF (LA+1, no racial hit dice)

Calculations done assuming you receive 13⅓ encounters of each CR level, divided amongst 4 players (e.g. standard assumptions according to the DMG).
If everyone else just hit level X, you are Y (With Z XP)
to Level 1: You don’t exist
to Level 2: Level 1 (1,000XP)
to Level 3: Level 2 (3,000XP)
to Level 4: Level 3 (3,000XP) (You just bought off your LA! Now the XP River starts to kick in)
to Level 5: Level 4 (7,337.5 XP)
to Level 6: Level 5 (12,512.5 XP)
to Level 7: Level 6 (19,075 XP)
to Level 8: Level 7 (26,525 XP)
to Level 9: Level 8 (34,900XP)
to Level 10: Level 9 (44,350 XP)
to Level 11: Level 10 (54,612.5 XP)
to Level 12: Level 11 (65,912.5 XP)
to Level 13: Level 13 (78,250 XP)

So, there you have it. Using the above methodology, LA+1 becomes free by level 13 with LA buyoff. Differences in the order in which encounters are received can affect your overflow rate and thus change what level you “catch up” at but this should calibrate your expectations. Note also that even though you won't be permanently caught up until around level 13, you'll spend a while only lagging a couple of encounters behind them and thus spend a lot of your time at the same level as your teammates before reaching level 13.

LA BUYOFF (LA+2, no racial hit dice)

to Level 1: You don’t exist
to Level 2: You don’t exist. I’d say it sucks to be you, but nothing can be you, because you can’t be something that doesn’t exist.
to Level 3: Level 1 (3000XP)
to Level 4: Level 2 (6000XP)
to Level 5: Level 3 (10000XP)
to Level 6: Level 4 (15000XP)
to Level 7: Level 5 (21000XP)
to Level 8: Level 6 (21000 XP) (You just bought off part of your LA and are now ECL 7. The XP river starts to kick in)
to Level 9: Level 7 (30687.5XP)
to Level 10: Level 8 (41037.5XP)
to Level 11: Level 10 (45,450XP)
(You just bought off your LA again mid-way through here, and are now ECL 10. You actually manage to ding twice here, but you’re still a level behind your companions)
Note: By the time everyone else is level 11, you are 1 level behind instead of 2.
to Level 12: Level 11 (58,750XP)
to Level 13: Level 12 (72,775XP)
to Level 14: Level 13 (87,650XP)
to Level 15: Level 14 (102,887.5XP)
to Level 16: Level 15 (118,787.5XP)
to Level 17: Level 16 (135,275XP)
to Level 18: Level 17 (152,800XP)
to Level 19: Level 19 (171,362.5 XP)

LA +2 becomes “free” by level 19. You are only one level behind your companions by level 11.

Notes: If the XP rate is faster, or you’re typically facing encounters of higher CR than your own, or there are less PCs in the party, then you’ll tend to get more overflow due to XP coming in larger individual chunks, and you will catch up faster. If the XP rate is slower, or you’re typically facing encounters of lower CR than your own, or there are more PCs in the party, you’ll tend to get less overflow due to XP coming in smaller individual chunks, and you will catch up slower.

Libro
2016-04-14, 06:12 AM
I've contemplated a few ideas regarding the darkvision issue, and I believe I may have a solution. Allow the player to choose either 60ft. darkvision or 120ft. with light sensitivity (as kobold/orc). The former would be surface drow, who have adapted to the light at the expense of darkvision range. The latter would be regular drow.

As far as being competitive with other options, should I find a way to add back in spell-like abilities? If I did, I would likely have them be more potent for the standard drow with light sensitivity.

EDIT: @LudicSavant: Thank you for the LA Buyoff chart. I did not quite understand how it worked before, so it was quite helpful.

LudicSavant
2016-04-14, 06:38 AM
I've contemplated a few ideas regarding the darkvision issue, and I believe I may have a solution. Allow the player to choose either 60ft. darkvision or 120ft. with light sensitivity (as kobold/orc). The former would be surface drow, who have adapted to the light at the expense of darkvision range. The latter would be regular drow.

As far as being competitive with other options, should I find a way to add back in spell-like abilities? If I did, I would likely have them be more potent for the standard drow with light sensitivity.

Changing it from "Light Blindness" to "Light Sensitivity" is an important difference. That change alone is going to make the Drow a competitive race, regardless of how long their Darkvision is.

Light Sensitivity can be ignored with 10gp shades. Light Blindness, on the other hand, is more difficult to negate and has more severe penalties.

As for SLAs, how much it's worth depends on which specific SLAs you get. Note that Lesser Tieflings get a Darkness SLA.

Libro
2016-05-04, 06:02 AM
I have returned the darkvision back to 120ft. at first level, and will probably not be making further changes. Light blindness will remain to keep it more in line with the PH races.

Many thanks to everyone who has contributed.