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Pathfinder ruleset assumes PCs to be Medium or Small humanoids. Not so many rules exist for non-standard characters.

  • The only "official" way to play as a bigger dude that I know of is using race building rules. With explicit DM permission, it's possible to create an 11-RP race that will be Large and still have the reach of a Medium/Small creature. Also, this race probably won't fit into the world of Golarion unless you work for it.
  • Bestiary creatures that are Large or bigger typically have racial Hit Dice, and I've heard it many times that mixing racial and class HD for players is generally a bad idea.
  • Some monstrous humanoids, e.g. Trox, have official racial stats and are Large, but playing them is usually frowned upon, as their appearance creates certain social difficulties unless the campaign is set in a monstrous setting.
  • Half-Giants published by Dreamscarred Press are up to 8 ft. 4 in. tall, but still Medium. They are treated as being Large for certain purposes, but not for reach, although they can use Large weapons.

Threads about PCs being Large usually bring up all the related bonuses: CMD/CMB, reach, extra damage, extra STR, and say that it all makes such races overpowered. Very often they also talk about Enlarge Person alongside Haste creating Huge Barbarians that one-shot everything they see, and about enemies that can't even retaliate because of limited reach. What makes me a bit interested here, though, is that it's usually mundane characters who benefit most from increasing their melee potential, and melee characters are rarely overpowered compared to casters.

However, lacking any first-hand experience, I wish to know:

Is it actually a bad idea to allow players to choose Large races for their characters?

By "Large races" I mean races that are properly Large, have all the related benefits, including reach. This race can be custom-made, adapted from another source, or an existing one can be used.

Please remember about the Good Subjective/Bad Subjective guidelines and state your experience of seeing Large or larger races in actual play if you decide to post an answer. Let's not get this question closed.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ From experience, I can tell you that it's not nearly as bad as letting someone play a character that is Tiny. Tiny alchemists are very hard to deal with. \$\endgroup\$ – RevenantBacon Aug 5 at 12:08
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I’ve played in games with it allowed; it’s not that big a deal.

Being Large is a considerable advantage for warriors, because reach is so potent. If it is available, anyone going in for melee combat is going to be very, very interested in that race. Many other races will simply not be able to realistically contribute as much for many types of warrior.

But that’s not really all that different from how things were to begin with. There are almost no races in Pathfinder with as much to offer as humans for, well, most everything. That includes warrior-ing. A bonus feat is a huge deal for almost everyone; only fighters gain so many bonus feats that the human bonus feat looks lackluster. And there are other rather-strong races to consider, such as strix. Strix are often banned precisely because flight is that good and so many people want it. Humans, of course, are almost-never banned.

So your Large race is going to be joining the ranks of those races that really stand out as being among the best of the best. On some level, all of your fighters are going to be this race, or strix, or they’re going to simply be worse off than they could be. Your non-fighter warrior-types might consider human another option. There may be a few others, but the point is that a lot of races are just going to be worse. They already are, but adding a new option may highlight that fact in uncomfortable ways.

In the end, though, your Large warrior is still, quite simply, not as powerful as a spellcaster, so there are distinct limits on how far one can go in claiming that this would be “overpowered.”

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A Large PC race is a powerful option, but one that can be managed.

Large confers a number of strong benefits. These benefits vary slightly, but let's assume we use the below rules from Advanced Race Guide with a 10-foot reach.

Large creatures gain a +2 size bonus to Strength and a –2 size penalty to Dexterity. Large races take a –1 size penalty to their AC, a –1 size penalty on attack rolls, a +1 bonus on combat maneuver checks and to their CMD, and a –4 size penalty on Stealth checks. A Large creature takes up a space that is 10 feet by 10 feet and has a reach of 10 feet.

Let's break them down.

  • Increased Melee Damage: A longsword would shift from 1d8 to 2d6 (+2.5 damage) whereas a greatsword would shift from 2d6 to 3d6 (+3.5 damage). The +2 size bonus to Strength would also add an extra +1. This means a Large creature deals an average +4 more melee damage.
  • Better Combat Maneuvers: The +2 size bonus to Strength and +1 size bonus to CMB results in a total +2 bonus. The Dex penalty negates the +1 bonus to CMD. A Large creature gains a total +2 increase to CMB. Being Large also raises the capacity for trip, bull rush, and some other combat maneuvers while also making you immune to them from Small creatures.
  • Reach: A Large creature has greater reach, which stacks with other size/reach increases such as Lunge and reach weapons. This grants immense battlefield control due to attacks of opportunity and makes it easier to ensure you have enemies within full-attack range.
  • Lower Defense and Maneuverability: Large creatures have lower AC and Dexterity. They also struggle to fit through narrow corridors and small dungeons.

So what does this mean?

A Large creature makes an excellent melee power house. Two-handed melee weapons make for among the strongest damage builds in the game and being Large gives everything a two-hander wants. It's one of the reasons enlarge person is a staple for melee combatants if they can manage it.

Numerically, Large also grants a lot more bonuses than a race ought to.

But is it overpowered or "broken?"

I ran and played a number of games with exotic races, some of my own design. I give you the same advice as I would with dealing with any significant power boost to players or allowing strong options.

Know your players.

A player that abuses a Large race to build a min-maxed barbarian will absolutely make it harder for you to run and balance encounters, especially if you use a published adventure. With a Large race, such a character is easy to optimize.

However, at the end of the day, it's just making a strong build better at what it already does. And if you trust your player with those damage numbers and know how to deal with them, then go for it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ A point of note: if combining Lead Blades with Enlarge Person, your damage grows from 2d6 to 4d6 for an average increase of +7. But if you are also Large normally, your damage becomes 6d6, for an additional increase of +7. With enough leverage, our Large race now effectively increases damage by +8, counting the size bonus to STR. \$\endgroup\$ – Baskakov_Dmitriy Aug 5 at 2:52

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