[d20a] The human base race

Ashtagon's homebrew rules set.

[d20a] The human base race

Postby Ashtagon » Thu Mar 10, 2011 7:37 am

In core 3e and pathfinder, humans are the Mario. This is not only kind of bland, but the free feat and bonus skill points give a huge advantage in hitting prestige class prerequisites early - so much so that you are almost always either aiming for a very specific build or doing it for the RP if you play another race.

This human race is built around a different trope. Specifically, a mix of humans are warriors and determinator.

  • Exceptional: Heroic PCs (and NPCs) add +2 to any one ability score of their choice. Design Note: This race template is the non-mook human. Think of PCs and major NPCs as a human sub-race (in the elf vs gray elf sense, not the morlock vs human sense) that occasionally comes up as a result of human genetics, kind of like being albino or having green eyes or really big earlobes.
  • Environmental Adaptation: Humans adapt better to varied climates, hold out better in the face of deprivation, and will hang on more tenaciously than other races even while gasping for air. Design note: Since its ridiculously rare for a PC at levels where this ability is truly useful to be in both a hot and a cold environment in the same day or three, no need to make a complicating mechanic to force one or the other benefit. I do agree though that's it's a little cinematic having both constantly 'on'. Forcing humans to choose just one or two of these is also a complicating choice for what is a series of corner-case benefits.
    • +2 bonus on checks to resist fatigue and non-lethal damage caused on environmental heat.
    • +2 bonus on checks to resist fatigue and non-lethal damage caused on environmental cold.
    • +2 bonus on checks to resist fatigue and non-lethal damage caused on altitude sickness, suffocation, and oxygen starvation.
    • +2 bonus on checks to resist the negative effects caused by lack of food or water.
  • Swift Recovery: Once per day as a swift action, a human can completely recover from the fatigued condition, or convert an exhausted condition to a fatigued condition. Design Note: Renamed to avoid confusion from the 4e hit point healing ability, which now works very differently.
  • Lucky Break: Humans are destined for great things. Once per day, a human character may re-roll a single saving throw. He must accept the result of the second roll, even if it is worse than the original roll. Design Note: I much prefer active choices of when to use a bonus over a flat bonus; it's statistically weaker, which eases balance, and it forces players to engage more with what's going on in the action.
  • Resourceful: Humans can pick one skill as a permanent class skill (Exception: Not UMD, K/Arcana, or Spellcraft, K/psionics, Psicraft, or other 'exclusive' skills). Once per day, you may re-roll the result of any check with this skill, but you must accept the second result, even if it is worse than the original.
  • Favoured Class: Each human can pick any single class as their favoured class, as long as it is not a full caster class. They cannot change this choice once it has been made. Humans lack the raw magical talent to excel as casters in the way that some others races can, but they make up for this by being far more flexible.
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Re: [d20a] The human base race

Postby rabindranath72 » Thu Mar 10, 2011 10:32 am

I don't see anything wrong with humans being advantaged. You can always use those available feat and skill points to define different cultures by imposing some restrictions on the choice.
For example, for a nomadic culture you might impose that the additional feat is Mounted Combat, and the skill points must be expended on Ride.
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Re: [d20a] The human base race

Postby Azaghal » Thu Mar 10, 2011 10:33 am

I'm not a 3e player, but I like what you are doing Ash.
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Re: [d20a] The human base race

Postby Ashtagon » Thu Mar 10, 2011 5:18 pm

rabindranath72 wrote:I don't see anything wrong with humans being advantaged. You can always use those available feat and skill points to define different cultures by imposing some restrictions on the choice.
For example, for a nomadic culture you might impose that the additional feat is Mounted Combat, and the skill points must be expended on Ride.


The problem with using the SRD human's bonuses to define various human cultures is, what then do you give to the demi-humans to define their various cultures? Why should humans be allowed to wear many hats, and elves just the one hat?
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Re: [d20a] The human base race

Postby rabindranath72 » Sat Mar 12, 2011 10:56 am

Ashtagon wrote:
rabindranath72 wrote:I don't see anything wrong with humans being advantaged. You can always use those available feat and skill points to define different cultures by imposing some restrictions on the choice.
For example, for a nomadic culture you might impose that the additional feat is Mounted Combat, and the skill points must be expended on Ride.


The problem with using the SRD human's bonuses to define various human cultures is, what then do you give to the demi-humans to define their various cultures? Why should humans be allowed to wear many hats, and elves just the one hat?

To be honest, I haven't seen a mechanical imbalance at all, both when DMing nor when playing.
But if you feel that there is such imbalance, restricting which kind of bonus skills and/or feats are allowed, would surely diminish their overall impact.
Demihumans are already their own subcultures. In D&D, the point has always been that humans have the largest diversity and are the most flexible of all the races. In one way or another (mechanically speaking,) this is a core aspect of the game.
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Re: [d20a] The human base race

Postby Ashtagon » Sat Mar 12, 2011 11:23 am

I don't recall saying there was a mechanical imbalance, although I do believe the bonus feat and skill points do go an excessive way towards making humans the go-to choice for most classes, unless you have a very specific build that requires the specific benefits of demi-human race XYZ.

But really, there are two key problems I want to address here:

* Humans don't have a distinctive enough hat. Humans are the Mario, which is, at the end of the day, short-hand for saying the designers had no imagination. Ultimate flexibility is in many ways, the same as no hat at all. I want to give them a hat. Specifically, my humans are the diehard determinator, with a touch of the warrior. They might not have the engineering knowledge of dwarves or their fortitude against poison and magic, or the orcs' sheer exuberance in battle or their shamanistic tradition, but by golly, you can't keep them down without a serious struggle. We get knocked down, lick our wounds, and come back to try again, only this time with a grudge.
* I want to create a new layer in character design, in which the character chooses a background (something vaguely like what d20 Modern had). The human feat+skills combo is usually used to do that for humans, with demi-humans forced to wear their hat. Making this an explicitly separate choice allows all races to break out of their collective hats. Currently, there is no crunchy way to express a half-orc raised in a monastery who choose to become a thief after he fled the monastery (not without burning your 1st level feat or class choice, which may make the character broken), whereas crunchy ways to express that do exist for humans. Separating race from background allows that to happen.
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Re: [d20a] The human base race

Postby rabindranath72 » Sun Mar 13, 2011 9:30 am

Ashtagon wrote:Currently, there is no crunchy way to express a half-orc raised in a monastery who choose to become a thief after he fled the monastery (not without burning your 1st level feat or class choice, which may make the character broken), whereas crunchy ways to express that do exist for humans. Separating race from background allows that to happen.

You said "hitting prestige classes early," which IS a mechanical benefit. Which, by the way, might be EXACTLY what the designers wanted when giving humans the bonus skills and feats, which is a nice expression of the belief that "humans are flexible."

And what do you mean by "broken character." The only PC I ever had in a 3.0 game was an half-orc monk in the Forgotten Realms, and it worked brilliantly. Elves are elves, dwarves are dwarves and humans are flexible. The background feats system described in the Forgotten Realms core book works also for semi/half-humans, really. Given the traditional nature of the D&D races as expressed in the core books, it seems to me that the designers did a more than decent job.
I don't think I really understand what's the purpose of another layer to character creation, besides something which sounds like "playing the system" rather than "playing the game." :? Oh well, YMMV etc. etc.
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Re: [d20a] The human base race

Postby Ashtagon » Sun Mar 13, 2011 11:38 am

Yes, under core, humans hit prestige classes (and later feat requirements) early, which is a distinct mechanical advantage. One which is, perhaps, too good, on account of the fact that human is the go-to race for almost any char-op build.

In less optimised builds, the human bonus feat+skill points are frequently used to generate culture-specific crunch for various human backgrounds. A demi-human character played to do a non-standard (ie. one not hardwired into the default race) background is at a severe penalty if they attempt to express in crunch, such as my example "half-orc raised in a monastery who choose to become a thief". So these demi-human "culture" builds are broken by being weaker than one built to the standard racial template.

And yes, the background feats from FR work as well for demi-huamans as for humans. But humans get that in addition to their standard racial template, so humans either get a racial template and an optimised build, or get a double dose of racial template which just happens to hit prestige/feat prerequisites earlier (in effect, they get their racial bonus feat, their 1st level feat, AND a background feat - very much front-loaded). demi-humans get a racial template and another racial template, which isn't quite so well-optimised for early prestige class entry (aka powergaming), since the prestige prereqs generally make it so feats are the limiting factor more than the benefits given by the racial templates.
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Re: [d20a] The human base race

Postby Davane » Sun Jul 24, 2011 1:38 am

Um, humans don't reach prestige classes early, Ash. Most prestige classes contain built in level limiting factors that prevent them from being obtained any earlier than their optimum build, usually due to BAB, save bonuses, or skill ranks, which are determined by class, and therefore character level. Humans make it slightly easier to reach these builds AND do something else, providing a little bit of flexibility, but in general - unless it is a race-specific prestige class, all races will be able to reach it at the same because of these factors. Humans just have a little extra "wiggle room" when it comes to determining their builds. This is the flexibility the designers intended, not early access.
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Re: [d20a] The human base race

Postby Ashtagon » Sun Jul 24, 2011 7:28 pm

Humans can reach certain prestige classes quicker. Any prestige class that has a broad skill requirement (as opposed to a high skill requirement) or a feat requirement, will be more easily accessed by humans than by any other race, simply because humans have more feats and skills available than other races. The fact that (except for very specific builds) human is the race of choice in dedicated game-breaker character design forums bears witness to this.

That's not the real gripe though.

My primary issue with the SRD human is that it is blandly generic. The opportunity to break out of humans being the default choice for nearly all power gamer builds is just an added bonus.
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Re: [d20a] The human base race

Postby Davane » Wed Aug 03, 2011 11:34 pm

The bland generic nature of humans is the cost of their versatility, Ash. That's the point - they are customisable. The can do more of everything, because they are flexible. They are the jack of all trades, but the master of none.

In fact, it is considered that demi-humans are considered aspects are archetypes of humans, and thus this is why when you step out of fantasy games, it is easy to replace races with archetypes with cultures, backgrounds, or builds that are still human. In many ways, the specism that occurs in fantasy games is little more than a more obvious reflection of the obvious types of discrimination based on identity because the arguments that are used to counter things like racism and such do not apply - racism can be countered with the idea that were are all human underneath, but how can you apply this idea to Elves and Dwarves, even though it is fundamentally the same thing with the critical defence that we are all basically the same removed. Therefore, the argument is to accept that we are different and embrace those differences to defuse tensions, rather than continue to incite them, yet such things such as tensions between Elves and Dwarves have been story fodder for many games and will be for many times to come.

However, if you are looking for something that makes humans stand out, there is something that is fairly common which makes us uniquely human which remains unexploited in many fantasy settings. As a species, we are intrinsically communistic and tribal, which means that we are very good at coordinating and working in groups. This makes humans very good at diplomacy, becoming good leaders, and and building larger empires than other races, because while we do fight amongst ourselves a lot, which is natural when we breed as fast as we do and resources are scarce, our abilities to learn, share ideas, experiences, and teach each other new things makes us virtually telepathic compared to the rest of the animal kingdom. This is why we have managed to dominate the planet as we have done with advanced civilizations - communication and the ability to to learn from each other and work better as a team.

Thus, you may want to consider allowing Humans to aid other party members with increased aid another bonuses. I wouldn't recommend having them stack, but you can explain the concept of more humans in a party simply by the fact that two humans working together would aid each other effectively, and either one would also aid the rest of the party. It's a handy little bonus to have and puts Humans in a support role that can be useful for many advanced tactic seen in human warfare and other situations that we've become adept to.
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Re: [d20a] The human base race

Postby Sock Puppet » Thu Aug 04, 2011 11:56 am

Davane wrote:The bland generic nature of humans is the cost of their versatility, Ash. That's the point - they are customisable. The can do more of everything, because they are flexible. They are the jack of all trades, but the master of none.

In fact, it is considered that demi-humans are considered aspects are archetypes of humans, and thus this is why when you step out of fantasy games, it is easy to replace races with archetypes with cultures, backgrounds, or builds that are still human. In many ways, the specism that occurs in fantasy games is little more than a more obvious reflection of the obvious types of discrimination based on identity because the arguments that are used to counter things like racism and such do not apply - racism can be countered with the idea that were are all human underneath, but how can you apply this idea to Elves and Dwarves, even though it is fundamentally the same thing with the critical defence that we are all basically the same removed. Therefore, the argument is to accept that we are different and embrace those differences to defuse tensions, rather than continue to incite them, yet such things such as tensions between Elves and Dwarves have been story fodder for many games and will be for many times to come.


Here, you have acknowledge what I already stated -- the human PC race, under RAW, is the Mario. And it's a stated objective of mine to move the human PC race away from that archetype and into something more defined.

However, if you are looking for something that makes humans stand out, there is something that is fairly common which makes us uniquely human which remains unexploited in many fantasy settings. As a species, we are intrinsically communistic and tribal, which means that we are very good at coordinating and working in groups. This makes humans very good at diplomacy, becoming good leaders, and and building larger empires than other races, because while we do fight amongst ourselves a lot, which is natural when we breed as fast as we do and resources are scarce, our abilities to learn, share ideas, experiences, and teach each other new things makes us virtually telepathic compared to the rest of the animal kingdom. This is why we have managed to dominate the planet as we have done with advanced civilizations - communication and the ability to to learn from each other and work better as a team.

Thus, you may want to consider allowing Humans to aid other party members with increased aid another bonuses. I wouldn't recommend having them stack, but you can explain the concept of more humans in a party simply by the fact that two humans working together would aid each other effectively, and either one would also aid the rest of the party. It's a handy little bonus to have and puts Humans in a support role that can be useful for many advanced tactic seen in human warfare and other situations that we've become adept to.


Well, yes, compared to the animal kingdom, we do have an uncanny ability to transfer memes, ideas, experiences, and so on. That is attributable to intelligence, something shared by all PC races in general.

I guess a bonus on aid another actions for humans is quite reasonable, although how exactly, I'm not sure. I do know that aid another is something that needs overhauling generally.
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Re: [d20a] The human base race

Postby Davane » Thu Aug 04, 2011 4:43 pm

Sock Puppet wrote:Here, you have acknowledge what I already stated -- the human PC race, under RAW, is the Mario. And it's a stated objective of mine to move the human PC race away from that archetype and into something more defined.


Indeed, Ash, but you have missed my point - the Mario is a definition. You are just stating that according to you, the Mario isn't a very good definition because of your own personal tastes. Yet, and this is important, the ability to be flexible is something that defines humanity, and is humanity's specialization. Elves, dwarves, and so on have failed because they don't adapt to changing situations where humans do, and that's the point.

The issue isn't with the idea of humans as the Mario - it's the idea of races in general. That added skill point you moan about as being broken for power gamers is there because it's classes, not races, that measure a character's growth over time. When characters learn new things and gain new abilities, they gain a new class, which provides new skills and abilities. The added skill point in RAW simply allows humans to be more flexible with their skill picks, because it defers a racial ability to a class ability to represent this.

You allow a human to take a skill and always consider it a class skill - this isn't versatility, because few people know at level 1 exactly what skills they will need throughout the campaign, and the skill they choose will define them. Yet, this versatility can be easily maintained by simply allowing them to count all skills as class skills. It provides versatility for humans, and explains why they are so adaptable and capable of doing everything - something like that might even warrant removing any ability modifiers. Let demi-humans be masters and specialised, but let them be rigid - humans are flexible, and if they want to retrain or pick up a few other skills outside of their normal range, they should be able to do so easily, because humans are swift learners - they have to be. It's what makes them stand out. They can adapt quickly to new situations, faster than any other race - humans are opportunists.

That's the whole point of the Mario. It's the ability of being able to do everything because you never know what you will need to do - they are natural adventurers. They are the ones that generally end up having to do everything because they can do everything. Others may do things better when you have time to plan, but when you don't, the Mario's the next best thing, because sometimes good enough IS good enough.

Sock Puppet wrote:Well, yes, compared to the animal kingdom, we do have an uncanny ability to transfer memes, ideas, experiences, and so on. That is attributable to intelligence, something shared by all PC races in general.

I guess a bonus on aid another actions for humans is quite reasonable, although how exactly, I'm not sure. I do know that aid another is something that needs overhauling generally.


It's not just attributable to intelligence, although this is a big part of it. It's to do with social intelligence - humanity's ability to interact with one another, to form social bonds, to learn, and so forth, which means that in terms of statistics it's actually based on the combination of Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. You are looking at skills more like Sense Motive and Diplomacy, as well as Knowledge, so it really covers the whole gamut of human mental ability to communicate. Also, although humanity's physical abilities are mostly personal, Dexterity is often also related to the mental ability to perceive the world and interact with it through hand-eye coordination, including people, and thus certain aspects of this, particularly in team sports and other coordination building activities are also covered. Thus, you are looking at four areas in which humanity excels, that's not just intelligence (or can be regarded as the wider definition of intelligence beyond the actual Intelligence ability score)

As for the bonus, I would generally stick with the aid another RAW, since all you really need to do is increase the bonus. A simple doubling would be effective, allowing humans to provide double the bonus when aiding another (+4, instead of +2). This way, when you overhaul the aid another check rules itself, you don't really need to change the racial ability - as long as aiding another is still an option and still provides a bonus, the racial benefit should apply.
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