My recent attempts at combat have been reminding me how much
better I could do if I just bit the bullet and took Keorin xoran, so I figured
I’d vent my frustrations by opening up this subject again. The last thread on
this (this one)
was about a year ago now, and since then we have new producers, and @Makarios
suggested there might be some openness in addressing mechanical problems with
races in the last IG Q&A, so maybe something will come of it.
The current problem, as I see it, is that stats have a huge
effect on combat viability, while being virtually negligible outside of pvp and
hunting. People might roleplay a race’s best known trait, but I’ve never seen
someone actually roleplay to their stats, and there’s no mechanical
significance to them beyond combat/hunting. But in combat, a 2 point difference
in a stat has serious influence in one’s fighting, and is the equivalent of a
1250 credit artifact (and stacks with other stat artifacts, even). And for any
given class, it’s usually a damage stat and con that matter, while the rest are
far more marginally useful. As an atavian monk, for instance, my extra point of
dexterity is basically never going to be relevant.
The races aren’t even particularly well balanced when it
comes to the needs of various classes, either. While the races are split up so
there are an equal number with a bonus to each stat, seven of eighteen classes
rely primarily on strength, five need int, five don’t scale as heavily with any,
and one takes dexterity.
All of this makes for plenty of situations where someone can
be stuck between picking a race that fits their character’s roleplay, or their
viability in combat. Either you end up with someone who’s at a fairly
significant disadvantage when it comes to fighting (and as it’s often pointed
out, combat is a huge aspect of roleplay itself), or you have someone who’s
forced to pick a race that they might not be so interested in being or
roleplaying as, which isn’t very fun as a player, and only discourages racial
roleplay for the game.
There are lots of different solutions that would at least
partly help address this problem. Stats completely divorced from race would
obviously do the trick, but just making it so the penalties on some races aren’t
quite as prohibitive would help a lot too. For the sake of discussion, I’ll
stick some of the more interesting solutions I’ve seen brought up in the
Race-independent stat packs:
Simply completely divorcing race from mechanical stats would make race a choice for flavor and rp, without mechanics having nearly so much sway. Practically speaking, this would likely look similar to Aetolia’s implementation, where any of the currently available stat/race sets could be chosen by anyone.
There are a few potential problems with this. The first is that racial abilities, which aren’t particularly balanced currently, would take on much bigger importance with the absence of stats. This would most easily be fixed by balancing out the abilities better, which would probably be a good thing anyways.
The other big issue I’ve seen brought up is that evening out the races might make them feel too bland or homogenous. While I don’t personally think this is a huge issue, given what a small roll stats already play in differentiating the races, there are certainly things that could be done to give them more flavor, such as providing more flavor abilities, or, as @Synbios
suggested in the thread linked at the top, give everyone a racial trait slot and a set of combat-irrelevant racial traits to choose between.
Have an artifact do it:
Instead of separating stat from race entirely, there could be an artifact that lets you adopt the stats of another race, either as a one-time, permanent thing, or as a worn item, or something of the sort. This would avoid totally removing the stats as a form of differentiation, while reducing how much they limit someone who was interested in pursuing combat. The main issue here, as I see it, is that you’d effectively be price-gating being able to choose one’s race for roleplay purposes, which obviously isn’t ideal. If it were cheap enough, that might not be the worst thing in the world, though.
Lessen the possible mechanical penalties:
If having race choice have an impact on combat is deemed desirable, then the issues with the current system could be at least lessened by addressing how prohibitive it can be to choose a race with a penalty in your key stat. @Tesha
had an interesting suggestion here (again in the thread at the top) which was to make it so specializing into the stat your race is penalized in would result in a +3 gain from the base, instead of just +2, at least bringing those races on par with the bulk of the others, while keeping the optimal choices optimal. Obviously this still has a lot of the same issues, but they’d be much less pronounced, so at least you wouldn’t have to feel that certain races were just off limits.
This post is long enough as is, but in the hopes that this
discussion might tread some new ground, I’m going to put responses to the issues
people usually have this idea in another spoiler here. Hopefully it’ll help
start things, if nothing else.
Don’t current stat already packs do this, when compared to the old system?:
The current system is certainly much better than the old one, but that doesn’t mean that all the problems it has don’t apply. Not being as bad as it could be isn’t justification for not making it better, and the current system has maintained plenty of problems from the old one, even if not as pronounced. Also, combat itself has changed since the move from the old stats to what we have now to become more technical, which if anything has only made the difference of one or two points in a stat more pronounced.
Racial stats help guide how people roleplay their race:
I don’t think this is actually true, in practice. I’ve seen plenty of people roleplay their race’s most notable attributes (strong trolls, nimble rajas, hearty dwarves), but only to the extent that it’s a part of that race’s lore or stereotype, rather than in a way that’s guided by stats. Mechanically, a race that specializes in strength will be as strong, or stronger, then the average troll, but that’s not really reflected in how people roleplay it. Further, I virtually never see people roleplay their lower stats out, often because it’s difficult or not fun. You just don’t see people roleplaying being clumsy because they have low dex, or being more prone to illness/less able to jog cross-continent if they have poor con, or not be able to be a good debater because they have poor int. Where people do roleplay is the traits that the game says their race has, and there’s no reason people wouldn’t continue to roleplay their troll as being strong if stats were further divorced from race.
Also, as a smaller note, many racial stat arrays don’t even have any lore/racial justification at all, sometimes because they were changed from the old arrays to match the new system. Atavians, for instance, used to have the same stats as humans but with one lower dex, to represent moving about with huge wings on your back. Now, for whatever reason, they’re more dexterous then average, and less strong, despite denizen atavians seeming fairly likely to engage in martial pursuits. Rajamalas had the same thing happen with intelligence, making stats even less relevant to roleplay for those races.
Having a race’s attributes represented in mechanics help to make those differences meaningful:
In other games that have race effect one’s stats, those stats have actual mechanical significance outside of combat. Strength might affect carrying capacity and dexterity might affect movement speed, or stats overall might affect out of combat skills and abilities. In d&d, for instance, you can minmax and tank your charisma, but it’s going to lead to plenty of situations where your character is terrible at social interactions. All of that helps to make a race’s traits meaningful, but here, stats solely affect fighting. In any other sort of roleplay or interactions, they’re completely meaningless numbers, and so have little actual bearing on someone’s experience of playing a certain race.
And artifacts, of course, only undermine this further.
Racial stats make it so people who choose to fight with a race in spite of its stats stand out:
When people bring up this point, they seem to cite either long-gong combatants who fought in a different era, or current fighters who don’t find the current system actually fun to play in themselves. How many people who participate in combat play a race with a penalty in their key stat and like the way things are? And how many people with sub-optimal races have artifacts to substantially make up for the disadvantage? It seems like watching people go against their race’s stereotype is something people enjoy seeing, but not actually something that’s usually enjoyable to play.
Even where it’s possible to stand out, it’s still heavily limiting in terms of actual viability. I personally can’t think of a single major fighter that plays a race that penalizes their primary stat, and the really good fighters seem to, unsurprisingly, usually play the ideal race for their class. For anyone who wants to roleplay overcoming their natural limitations, a changed system would still make it possible to select a stat array that wasn’t ideal, and then roleplay out those stats. It would just make it a little less obvious for someone who doesn’t know your character.
Racial abilities are balanced around their stats, so removing stats would unbalance things:
While this may be true to some extent, it certainly doesn’t fully fit. Atavians, mhuns, and horkval have the best racial abilities, generally replicating small artifacts in their power. But atavians and mhuns both are +dex, making them ideal for serpents, who have as much a need for flight and celerity as anyone. Given that every stat has some class that will generally specialize in it, then having a better racial ability isn’t really balanced by stats, it just makes that race less than ideal for some classes but not others. Horkval seems like it may be an exception to this, their int penalty makes them less than ideal for magi, which trades off with magi getting the biggest advantage from their racial ability.
In any case, all this means is that some racial abilities might need to be looked at a bit if stats were divorced from race. Really, given how unevenly balanced they already seem to be, that’s probably not a bad thing in itself.
If you interpret X stat differently, then it makes sense that it doesn’t come up so much in roleplay:
Most often, this is brought up in reference to intelligence, claiming that it represents magical aptitude but not actual smarts, but people have also interpreted other stats away from their common meanings. The problem with this is it usually fully separates that stat from any real roleplay application, which begs the question of why there need to be differences across races. If intelligence is magical aptitude, for instance, and it only comes up in combat, then tying it to race would only create combat disparities. And if intelligence is magical aptitude, why couldn’t strength be an aptitude for physical combat, or skill at striking someone more effectively. Under this logic, there’s even less reason for races to be the determining factor.