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I recently came across Gabriel Hicks' narrative-driven character creation module for ability score increases being based on class rather than race. I loved the idea - both from a story-telling perspective, and also because I never much liked the inherent speciesism in racially derived ability score improvements. So I shelled out $5 and downloaded the module. If you're interested, you can find it here: https://gabejamesgames.itch.io/cmm

The TL;DR is that for each class you're asked three questions based on your character's backstory, and on the basis of that you get stat improvements across up to three abilities. For example a cleric gets an uplift in Charisma, Strength and Wisdom based on whether you consider your cleric to be more battle-oriented or magic oriented, whether your first instinct is might or charm, and whether you consider yourself a divine beacon or a brave voice of reassurance. Based on your answers, you might get eg +1 wisdom +2 strength, or +2 strength +1 charisma, or even one of each.

Instead of taking your ability score increases from your race, you take them from this system. I tried it out with a Dwarf, and compared it to the standard approach, and felt both were playable.

I then tried a human, and came to the conclusion that the human gets a rough deal - lacking some of the benefits from other races, humans get +1 ability scores across the board... for... well for being human. Whatever class I picked for my human I ended up just 3 down... ok sure I could be +2 and +1, but I could be +1, +1, +1, with no upside.

My conclusion was that much as I loved the idea, and it seems to work for some races, the humans just seem to miss out.

Have I missed some subtle thing? The author is no fool... and I want to love the idea, but I think the effect would be I just wouldn't ever play a human.

Has anyone had experience with this module, esp. as a human player?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I guess my question, and maybe to post at some point, is then what is the point of a race if you use something like this? I mean I have enough trouble with experienced players only seeing them as a bag of abilities and no culture being played from them at all as it is. This would even further the disincentives to do so. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Jan 8 at 14:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Slagmoth I think the link between race and culture is entirely the point of modules like this, and wanting to break it. An elf brought up in a dwarf town would have an entirely dwarven culture. Players not understanding the culture their characters were brought up in is usually a worldbuilding failure in my eyes, or at least disinterest in it from the players. \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Jan 8 at 16:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri I get that part, and I can't go into the science of differences without it getting ugly and political even though there is nothing ugly or political about it. So to avoid irrational retorts I will just bow out of the argument. I will simply say there are things you are born with and there are things you learn, the first is based on your genetics/race and the latter is based on the culture in which you are raised. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Jan 8 at 18:44
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Just don't focus on the racial bonus'

It sounds like you have handed over money for very little in all honesty. What I do, and have always done is just ignore whatever stats the racial bonus' are meant to go in, and let the players put them wherever they like1.

This leads to the same solution as what the method you are talking about is aiming for, doesn't lead you down a path of wasting time asking questions that might still not give you the bonus' you want, saves you $5 and has no balance issues because there are no changing values. It even still ends up putting the values into different places based on class, assuming you are building sensibly.

I should say I have no experience with what you have linked, but you have already described one problem, which you have clearly identified and seem to be correct about. It sounds like races that get +1 to 3 stats will potentially increase in power if that becomes +2/+1, and races that get +2/+1 will potentially decrease in power with +1 to 3 stats. That is on top of the human going from an overall +6 to +3.

The premise of asking questions sounds fun (not to me, but I can see how it does to some people), but just let the players answer that in their head as they imagine how their character acts, and let them give the scores accordingly.

Of course if this module does more than just distribute scores (I am not clicking on a link to a site I don't know) then maybe you can still find some value in it, but... meh.


1 This is now a officially published (but optional) rule presented in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything (Customizing your Origin, p. 7).

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This is only really useful with a +3 ability score increase

Since you only get three points total, this does not really work with any race that would usually give more or less than three points, including human (6), human variant (2) or hill dwarf (4). It is very obvious that it is somewhat unbalanced in these cases.

The value of increases is nonlinear

+2 or +3 to a score is not twice or thrice the value of a +1. Since most characters need about two or three ability scores much more than the others, +2 to an important stat is usually better than +1 to other stats. This means that you cannot fix the method, by giving a human six questions. +2/+2/+2 would be way better than six times +1 if the +2 go to the right stats. What you could do, is apply three questions and than give +1 to three stats that don't have a bonus from the questions. That is approximately like playing a human normally, where you would probably get +1 to three stats that you need and +1 to three stats that you don't need. It's true that you can then have +2/+1/+1/+1/+1, but comapred to 6 times +1 that's about the same as converting +1/+1/+1 to +2/+1 which you already agreed to when deciding to attribute the stats with these questions.

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