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Author Topic: D&D Promotes Race Essentialism?  (Read 3471 times)

Stephen Tannhauser

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Re: D&D Promotes Race Essentialism?
« Reply #30 on: April 18, 2022, 05:51:37 PM »
I mean obviously dwarven bard is impossible, as they have -2 Cha, simmilarily orc wizard with Int penalty - c'est impossible.

Impossible? No. As plausible and playable an option as any other? Sad to say, also no.

Fact is, most players concerned with being as effective as possible in a chosen method will make the character generation choices which best support that method. Why be an orc wizard with -2 INT when you can be an elven wizard with +2 INT, and not only start off probably with more spells but with a higher limit on number and level of spells ultimately learnable?

Yes, there are players who'll go against the most tactically effective combination of assets just for the novelty or the roleplaying value. But they ain't the majority, at least not in my observation and experience. Gamers like their effectiveness too much.
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jhkim

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Re: D&D Promotes Race Essentialism?
« Reply #31 on: April 19, 2022, 01:25:53 AM »
I mean obviously dwarven bard is impossible, as they have -2 Cha, simmilarily orc wizard with Int penalty - c'est impossible.

Impossible? No. As plausible and playable an option as any other? Sad to say, also no.

Fact is, most players concerned with being as effective as possible in a chosen method will make the character generation choices which best support that method. Why be an orc wizard with -2 INT when you can be an elven wizard with +2 INT, and not only start off probably with more spells but with a higher limit on number and level of spells ultimately learnable?

Yes, there are players who'll go against the most tactically effective combination of assets just for the novelty or the roleplaying value. But they ain't the majority, at least not in my observation and experience. Gamers like their effectiveness too much.

Yeah. If character generation is choose race and then roll dice for each stat in order, then groups will get some dwarven bards at maybe half the rate of other races. There's a 20% chance that 3d6+2 isn't higher than 3d6-2, to illustrate. But if it is some form of roll and arrange (which was the most common even in the 2E era), standard array, or point buy, then choosing a dwarven bard is ineffective game play. It's always better to take the boost in your highest stat. In my experience, few players do break with that, and even those willing to consider it won't do so regularly.

I'm fine with random roll in order, but if you're going to have choice (like roll and arrange), then there's no reason to penalize dwarven bards. It doesn't create a representative probability - it's just injecting more system mastery and/or limiting choices.

Stephen Tannhauser

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Re: D&D Promotes Race Essentialism?
« Reply #32 on: April 19, 2022, 02:07:41 PM »
I'm fine with random roll in order, but if you're going to have choice (like roll and arrange), then there's no reason to penalize dwarven bards. It doesn't create a representative probability - it's just injecting more system mastery and/or limiting choices.

Good point. I'm reminded of the old CHA 17 requirement limit on being paladins, for example, or (for a rather more obscure example) the 80%+ likelihood that anybody creating a magic-wielding character in Gary Gygax's Dangerous Journeys/Mythus fantasy RPG would have to settle for a Partial Practitioner, whose capacities were profoundly (and, more annoyingly, permanently) limited in comparison to the rather devastating Full Practitioner.

In principle things like this are meant to reinforce the rarity of the character type in the game's implied setting. In practice they tend far more often to feel like arbitrary and frustrating limits on how one is allowed to play the game.
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Pat

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Re: D&D Promotes Race Essentialism?
« Reply #33 on: April 19, 2022, 04:28:06 PM »
I'm fine with random roll in order, but if you're going to have choice (like roll and arrange), then there's no reason to penalize dwarven bards. It doesn't create a representative probability - it's just injecting more system mastery and/or limiting choices.

Good point. I'm reminded of the old CHA 17 requirement limit on being paladins, for example, or (for a rather more obscure example) the 80%+ likelihood that anybody creating a magic-wielding character in Gary Gygax's Dangerous Journeys/Mythus fantasy RPG would have to settle for a Partial Practitioner, whose capacities were profoundly (and, more annoyingly, permanently) limited in comparison to the rather devastating Full Practitioner.

In principle things like this are meant to reinforce the rarity of the character type in the game's implied setting. In practice they tend far more often to feel like arbitrary and frustrating limits on how one is allowed to play the game.
You just need to treat PCs as disposable.

It could even be fun to randomly roll your character's max level at the start of the game. Instead of dwarves being limited, it might be Bob the Human. It could impact how you play the character, in interesting ways.

Wrath of God

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Re: D&D Promotes Race Essentialism?
« Reply #34 on: May 12, 2022, 12:37:30 PM »
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Fact is, most players concerned with being as effective as possible in a chosen method will make the character generation choices which best support that method. Why be an orc wizard with -2 INT when you can be an elven wizard with +2 INT, and not only start off probably with more spells but with a higher limit on number and level of spells ultimately learnable?

Yes, there are players who'll go against the most tactically effective combination of assets just for the novelty or the roleplaying value. But they ain't the majority, at least not in my observation and experience. Gamers like their effectiveness too much.

Well... so what? Rollplayers gonna mini-max their games if there's anything to mini-max, nothing you can do about it.
Making everything flat won't really help with their problem.

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Yeah. If character generation is choose race and then roll dice for each stat in order, then groups will get some dwarven bards at maybe half the rate of other races. There's a 20% chance that 3d6+2 isn't higher than 3d6-2, to illustrate. But if it is some form of roll and arrange (which was the most common even in the 2E era), standard array, or point buy, then choosing a dwarven bard is ineffective game play. It's always better to take the boost in your highest stat. In my experience, few players do break with that, and even those willing to consider it won't do so regularly.

Randomization of race / attributes / class is therefore strongest option ;)

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I'm fine with random roll in order, but if you're going to have choice (like roll and arrange), then there's no reason to penalize dwarven bards. It doesn't create a representative probability - it's just injecting more system mastery and/or limiting choices.

D&D is game based around hefty tacical wargame engine... I want system mastery and uneven choices. Otherwise main part of game is just flat.
I mean 16 as starting Cha for Bard is good stat in basically any D&D.

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In principle things like this are meant to reinforce the rarity of the character type in the game's implied setting. In practice they tend far more often to feel like arbitrary and frustrating limits on how one is allowed to play the game.

Limits can be always removed under Golden Rule really. It's better to make more precise, more limiting base and let people tinker with it - than just grand mass of whatever in my belief.
If races don't matter then... why even have non-humans really.
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Stephen Tannhauser

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Re: D&D Promotes Race Essentialism?
« Reply #35 on: May 13, 2022, 12:11:31 AM »
Rollplayers gonna mini-max their games if there's anything to mini-max, nothing you can do about it. Making everything flat won't really help with their problem.

Agreed. I'm just pointing out that as long as certain racial templates favour min-maxing for certain combinations, the critique of "race essentialism" is going to have a certain superficial plausibility.

As noted, this can be mitigated by making a racial template a list of optional features rather than mandatory ones, but as you note below, the less consistent and distinctive a racial template the less appeal it will have, to the point where if there is no necessary difference there's little real point to having it at all. (This also loses one of the biggest game design functions of a template in the first place, which is to speed up character creation by cutting down on the decisions you have to make during the process.)

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Randomization of race / attributes / class is therefore strongest option ;)

If the goal is to create a party that realistically represents the distributions the game designer wants the world to have, absolutely. If the goal is to create a game that people are actually going to want to play, well, there's nothing more frustrating than really wanting to play a mage or a paladin or some other specific character type that the dice will only give you on average once in a blue moon, and it does reduce player appeal.
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jhkim

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Re: D&D Promotes Race Essentialism?
« Reply #36 on: May 13, 2022, 01:24:50 AM »
I'm fine with random roll in order, but if you're going to have choice (like roll and arrange), then there's no reason to penalize dwarven bards. It doesn't create a representative probability - it's just injecting more system mastery and/or limiting choices.

D&D is game based around hefty tacical wargame engine... I want system mastery and uneven choices. Otherwise main part of game is just flat.
I mean 16 as starting Cha for Bard is good stat in basically any D&D.

I prefer that in a wargame, the system mastery should be for in-character choices during the game - not meta-game character creation. I don't want winners and losers based on who chose the right race for their character. Players should start out more-or-less equal as of character generation, and then tactics and system mastery applies for how well they accomplish things in the game.

I agree that 16 starting Cha for a bard is playable - but if 18 starting Cha is available as a choice, why wouldn't you choose 18 instead of 16? I think starting characters should be more-or-less balanced, rather than deliberately making it so that certain race/class combinations are more effective than others. Perfect balance is impossible, but that doesn't mean that one shouldn't try to at least balance out the most blatant effects.

Wrath of God

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Re: D&D Promotes Race Essentialism?
« Reply #37 on: May 13, 2022, 04:07:26 AM »
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I agree that 16 starting Cha for a bard is playable - but if 18 starting Cha is available as a choice, why wouldn't you choose 18 instead of 16? I think starting characters should be more-or-less balanced, rather than deliberately making it so that certain race/class combinations are more effective than others. Perfect balance is impossible, but that doesn't mean that one shouldn't try to at least balance out the most blatant effects.

I have totally opposite sentiment. For me game should be imbalanced, and power level varying heavy, but there should be enough useful stuff, even powerful character cannot really cover all the bases.

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Agreed. I'm just pointing out that as long as certain racial templates favour min-maxing for certain combinations, the critique of "race essentialism" is going to have a certain superficial plausibility.

Certain mitigation of it, could be born from some dunno special feats that are allowed for specific options of class/race and so on.
But you know wokesters are angry because it's WACISM. People who are really into both VERY SPECIFIC CONCEPTS and MINI MAXING gonna be angry their concepts are not that mini-maxed.
I shrug honestly. -2 to Cha for dwarves gives you notion they are generally less charming and influential socially, and it's not nearly enough to make Cha based characters really really weaker.

Difference between minimaxed human bard and dwarven bard is 1 on roll. Considering how swing d20 rolls are, any mini maxing dwarven bard whining about how this difference make dwarven bard unplayable deserves boot.

Now we can discuss dunno -4 Int for pureblood orcs as real problem with them being wizards (because spellcaps). But if you whine about 16 in your primary at level 1 - you deserve to be wiped out from multiversal memory ;)

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I prefer that in a wargame, the system mastery should be for in-character choices during the game - not meta-game character creation. I don't want winners and losers based on who chose the right race for their character. Players should start out more-or-less equal as of character generation, and then tactics and system mastery applies for how well they accomplish things in the game.

If you play D&D as a poor wargame then you minimax everything to hell. If you play it normally, then you just don't care about lack of one +1 to roll.
TBH I can totally imagine wargame where you kinda roll your units, like some card games where you not collect, but randomize your hand and then deal with it.
"Never compromise. Not even in the face of Armageddon.”

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With great vengeance and furious anger"


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