I gave myself some guidelines for new PC races.
- 1 big perk that grows over time and also 1 big static flaw
- 1 or more roleplaying trait (should not be significantly + or – gameplay-wise.)
- 1 free proficiency OR a + modifier bonus in restricted situations
- Max ability scores adjusted up or down no more than 4 for zero net change
- Optionally, ability score bonuses and penalties for zero net change.
I thought it was silly that in Vanilla D&D all the races have the same maximum stats. Ability scores range from 0-20. A value of 10 represents “the normal human average.” To put things into perspective, the 5E player’s handbook says “A score of 18 is the highest that a person usually reaches. Adventurers can have scores as high as 20.” Take the STR score, for example. A value of 20 is 2 points higher than most humans could ever reach, representing, maybe, an olympic weight lifting gold-medalist. Now imagine, if you will, a 3ft-tall gnome going up against Mario Martinez in the clean and jerk. You think that gnome is going to be lifting 15 or more times it’s own body-weight? It’s a little bit silly. And yet… it is a fantasy game. I hate to use the word realism in this context, for obvious reasons, but I just think that we can do better.
There’s another reason to fiddle with Max ability scores. It creates races that offer a degree of specialization. Lots of classes have dump stats; ability scores that are simply not very consequential to their play-style. In Felmoor, I want to give players (who, like me, might be just a tiny bit OCD about their character sheets) the opportunity to be less well-rounded in return for having a statistical profile that is tighter, more focused on specific aspects of play. Players should be able to make interesting and consequential choices with all their character’s abilities, and specialization is a way to turn what would normally be an unimportant stat into an opportunity. Let’s say you want to be a sneaky ranger who likes to engage bad guys from a distance, or not at all. Be a Quyg! You’ll sacrifice some room for growth in strength and constitution, but you’ll eventually be sneakier and cleverer than anyone else, guaranteed. Do you want to be a bard but think that wisdom is overrated? Be a Ramaki! You’ll have a lower cap on wisdom, but you’re sure to be the life of the party.