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In the 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons, the selection of a race determines one or more bonuses to a primary attribute. For example, humans get +1 to all six attributes, while a wood elf gets +2 to Dexterity and a +1 Wisdom.

It is interesting to note that no race or racial subtype in the Players Handbook and the Dungeon Master Guide provide a +2 to Wisdom. Arguably, this could mean that Clerics and other divine spell casters are at a racial disadvantage to, say, a wizard, since it is possible to roll a wizard of a race that provides +2 to Intelligence. In fact, Wisdom is the only primary attribute for which no race or racial subtype provides a +2 bonus.

My question is this: Is there any official explanation from Wizards of the Coast explaining this omission? Is it deliberate? Was it merely an oversight, meant to be rectified with custom classes or future supplements? Is there an explanation from the publisher that would justify the complete absence of races with exceptional wisdom?

I would like, of course, to avoid subjective exploration of the topic. My interest is strictly in whether this omission was deliberate, or whether it has received any official explanation from the publisher.

I find it interesting that the newly-released Elemental Evil Players Companion introduces four new races, even one that offers the enviable +2 STR/+1 CON combination, and yet there remains no official race granting a native +2 WIS.

The greatest evidence in favor of the answer "no" is that it does not appear that the designers have ever explicitly said otherwise, while the greatest evidence in favor of "yes" is that two NPC races with +2 WIS are denied the same bonus as PCs.

I find it interesting, and will wait it out a little longer pending updates from WotC. I rather expect that this question will be answered the moment a racial counterexample has been published.

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There is an official statement regarding this. When Jeremy Crawford was asked, he said, "It simply hasn't happened. Story drives our race design, not filling in an ability score spreadsheet."

Source: https://www.twitter.com/JeremyECrawford/status/666454070861824000

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is also now proven further with the addition of the official Firbolg race in Volo's Guide to Monsters, which gets +2 Wisdom. \$\endgroup\$ – TVann Jun 29 '17 at 21:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure about that, since D&D is so mechanically intricate, even with the streamlining of 5e \$\endgroup\$ – user47897 Dec 19 '18 at 21:53
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This appears to be a result of the races they selected and largely coincidental, not because of an intentional design choice that having a race with a +2 wis mod would be game breaking.

The two bits of evidence I'd point to is that though wisdom spell casting is special (in that Wis casters, namely Cleric and Druid, generally don't have spell books and have access to the full spell list of their class), it's otherwise unspectacular.

The other bit of evidence is in the custom race instructions we've been given in the DMG. You would think if giving +2 to Wis is game breaking in a significant way that this section would cover that. Instead the section gives an example race and encouragement to steal from other published races to make things work. But mostly to make the race's features and traits make sense in your fiction. Thus if you have a particularly wise race wholly predisposed to wis spell casting, you'd probably be justified in giving them a +2 wis bonus.

There again, this is a relatively powerful stat because of the casters associated with it, but honestly, it's not that much more powerful than the Int or Cha based casting classes so there isn't a significant justification for banning a +2 to it.

Though I'm not sure it's necessary to justify it every time WOTC releases a new set of races (as they did in this latest update for Elemental Evil), since it is the first release, it's worth a look. The four new races (well 3 new ones and one that's previously DMG only), none of them pack a +2 to wis. And this actually makes pretty good sense, and here's why: Gnomes already get +2 int, can't change that. Goliaths should have +2 str anything else would be silly (maybe Con, but definitely not wis). Genasi get a +2 to Con and Wis is assigned to the Water element. This makes enough sense to me. That leaves Aarokocra which, as sadaqah points out, gets +2 to wis as an NPC. However, they elected to give +2 to dex and +1 to Wis in the PC version. While this does still leave the +2 wis gap, I'd argue that if given the choice, I'd take the +2 to dex too. Especially when Aarakocra can't really use heavy/medium armor and get full use of their features.

Again, I'm still left with the conclusion that it's a matter of which races they've chosen to include rather than an intentional exclusion based on potential power or other issues.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Regarding the DMG, Aarakocra and Dwarf are listed as +2 WIS in the NPC Features table (p. 282). \$\endgroup\$ – sadaqah Jan 24 '15 at 23:44
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Honestly, I think it is mostly just an unfortunate oversight resulting from the races they selected to highlight in the main book.

If you played Pathfinder, none of the Core races received an explicit bonus to Strength. Humans, Half-Elves and Half-Orcs all get to pick one +2, but it wasn't until later books that races came out with an explicit bonus to Strength.

But the lack of +2, may not actually matter because there are races with a +1.

If you are using the "point buy" method ability scores, the highest base is 15. Any race with a +1 to Wisdom can get a 16 Wisdom, which provides the same modifier as a 17.

So functionally a starting Hill Dwarf Cleric has the same relative casting power as a Gnome Wizard or a Tiefling Sorcerer.

Given that your ability score increase add +2 and max out at 20, everyone gets to 20 by level 8 any ways. If you're using the optional Feats rule, the Gnome Wizard will also get one of those Feats that grants them a +1 Int along with a smaller ability (like Linguistics). This is mildly unbalanced, but far from the end of the world.

That stated, if you want to start with 17 Wisdom, there are a few options within the existing material:

  • Variant Human Traits (PHB 31): provides a +1 to Wisdom & a Feat of your choice. Take the Observant Feat and you are set. In fact, you can do this for pretty much any class to get a "half feat" along with your +2 primary stat.
  • NPC Features (DMG 282) actually lists Dwarf NPCs has having (+2 Str or Wis, +2 Con). Ask your DM about making a "Wise" Mountain Dwarf instead of a "Strong" one. This may have honestly been an oversight or last minute change as D&D Dwarves have historically had some option with a Wisdom bonus.
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With the publication of Volo's Guide to Monsters, we now have Firbolgs as an official race with a +2wis and +1str

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE. Thanks for your answer, I edited it to include the complete name of the book, and to provide a link. Please take the tour and visit the help center to see how the Q&A format works best at SE sites. Welcome, and Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Sep 11 '17 at 19:35

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