Friday, May 7, 2010

Addendum to "Race as Class"

Just on the heels of yesterday's post:

If we (i.e. me plus anyone else that wants to wander this path) take the stance that Race as Class is a valid assumption, NOT just because it simplifies the game, but because dwarves, elves, and halflings are separate, alien species from humankind, it actually opens up a range of interesting game options.

First: It allows fantasy to remain fantasy and campaigns to be a bit more sinister. Humans are the only “recognizable” species. The other species (abstract and bereft of detail as they are) become open for serious re-interpretation. Maliszewki’s dwarves are a good example…completely “non-canon” but there really is NOT much “canon” in OD&D for the races. In B/X dwarves go to level 12, have a handful of abilities/restriction, their own saving throw matrixes…and that’s about it. Most everything cultural or social or historical regarding The Dwarf is truly up for interpretation. Same with elves: they can be as batshit crazy as they are in Orkworld without altering anything mechanically. Do with them as you will!

Second: It makes adding new (human) classes easier, as one no longer has to worry about how to balance them against anything other than human classes. Nor do you have to worry about how a “bounty hunter” or “beastmaster” would actually “fit” into a halfling or dwarf society (since these are only humans and open to humans).

Third: Likewise, new (species) classes can be added to the mix more simply, The elves and dwarves and halflings all make good examples non-human classes: Set minimum ability scores to enter class. Set Prime Requisite. Set abilities and restrictions (including maximum level and XP needed) based on those special abilities. Voila…instant new class.

Fourth: When only humans are “human” and all other species are alien (i.e. “non-human”) you can completely dictate the tone and the morality of the game based on the interpretation of those species. While at first this doesn’t appear to have any mechanical implications, don’t forget ALIGNMENT and how that little gremlin can be used in-game.

Personally, I find it all very liberating.

: )


  1. After all, we don't care whether that Orc is a Scout or a Highwayman!

    And the Human component of a Human Fighter doesn't actually do anything. So just as the
    "profession" part of an Elf seems hidden, so too does the "race" part of a Fighter.

    I haven't actually made the jump yet, but man does it look tempting to see "Gutboy Barrelhouse / Dwarf / Level 1" plus six ability scores and an equipment list. And I think that's enough.

  2. @D30: Believe you IS enough.

    Hey Dyson...any interest in doing some sort of map/adventure joint-project?

  3. Strike a blow for simplicity, I say. After all, if you are using a level based system for ease of improvisation, then one less piece of information on NPCs is a good thing.

  4. I like Races as Classes. It helps encourage a more human-centric party, and thus more human-centric campaign. That is a feature, not a bug. :)

  5. I too prefer race as class, but, then, i'm your target demographic right? ;D

  6. Even for this acknowledged 2e fan and 3x writer, simplicity really is liberating.

    Starting simple and adding is way easier than subtracting. Its far far easier to add what you want then tell people, no elves can't be Paladins or whatever.

  7. After years of playing AD&D, I am startng to appreciate again the simplicity of D&D. I have no problem justifying race as class. In my world, dwarves have no innate ability to create magic, hence there ARE no dwarven magic-users or clerics, and their stubby fingers, low center of gravity and heavy tread make it impossible for them to be skilled thieves. This also explains their greed, because dwarves have to buy all the magic they can use, hence their desire for gold and gems. Elves, on the other hand, are elitist perfectionists, who believe that they were put on earth by the gods, and are gods themselves, hence, they have no need for clerics. Also, they see thievery as demeaning, hence no thieves. They live their lives in constant pursuit of martial perfection, and perfection of thei ability to manipulate the bounds of reality, hence magic-using fighters. Halflings were the children of the two main gods, and keep their childlike innocence, hence they have no need for "professions". Simple. 8)

  8. In your other post you said

    > Regardless of whether or not your culture is Italian or Nigerian or Japanese, the people of your nation fall into a variety of categories/careers

    I totally disagree and my disagreement is why I've also come to accept Race as Class. Although, for me it's Race as Classes.

    Berserkers are only in Nordic cultures, Druids are only in celtic ones, Shaolin Monks in Chinese ones. They can be mashed (with varying success) into generic categories. But, I prefer specific classes with specific flavor.

    After establishing each class comes from specific a culture and only that culture it makes sense why clerics and monks and necromancers and etc are only human. The base rules include one class from the demi-human races. That race's version of fighter or adventurer. Expansions or house rules can and should add other culturally specific classes to the demi-humans.

    For various complex reasons elves in my campaign have a Norse culture. So, Berserker, Skald, and Wyrd are the three options for player character elves. There's no reason to say elf Skald, cause only elfs can be Skalds.

  9. @ Norm: Actually, I think we are on the same page, man.

    My point was that, WITHIN CULTURES (at least, "human" ones) there are multiple types of folks...there ARE skalds, thralls, and berserks in Ye Olde Norse Culture.

    But alien species (or "demihumans") ain't necessarily like that.