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Making a barbarian? Mountain dwarf or half-orc. Warlock? Half-elf is the obvious choice. Oh, wizard? You want to be a gnome or high elf.

I'd rather my players choose the race they want rather than the one a class dictates. I'm considering a house rule that allows players to change the ability-score increases from their race. The total increases and amounts would stay the same.

What are the mechanical side effects (if any) of allowing a mountain dwarf to increase her intelligence and charisma by 2 instead of strength and constitution?

Some members of my group think there would be side effects, but I do not.

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We use an attribute switching house-rule in my current campaign.

  • Players may switch the attributes of any +2/+1 race freely, that is, they can use the +2 and the +1 and assign it to any attribute of their choosing (but not to the same, of course).

I did not allow to reassign the +2/+2 ability races, but I did allow a player who asked to switch the half-elf abilities. The reason I did not allow the double +2s was that I made this house rule because I wanted to give them more options, and I felt that allowing double +2s would limit optimisers to the double-two races.

Only two of the four players chose a race that would not allow +2 on the main ability without the house rule.

In total, we had 9 sessions now, and it did not cause any problems.

I also allowed them to use their classes spellcasting modifiers for racial spellcasting, so that a drow wizard can use intelligence for his racial spells. This might be seen more critically when it comes to balance, but it also did not effect the game negatively.

So, based on the experiences in my group, I can only recommend that you allow free attribute switching.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks. I'll discuss the +2/+2 issue with my players. Optimizers can cause such grief in games. \$\endgroup\$ – Jason May 31 '15 at 21:47
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Will it be horribly unbalanced? No
Will it solve the underlying issue? No

It seems your players are trying to pick the optimal race for the class. Your houserule will only change which one it is, but it will not prevent them from making their decisions based on the numbers instead of the atmosphere. What race do you think they will pick for sorcerer or warlock, if they can get +2 charisma, +2 any, and a free medium armor proficiency from mountain dwarf?

As you can see in Mala's answer, he had to exclude the double-two races from his similar houserule for this reason.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Since they're already house-ruling it would be simple and smart of the DM to obviously impose a restriction on casters getting free armor proficiencies from a racial bonus IF they choose to go with the stat swapping. \$\endgroup\$ – Lino Frank Ciaralli Jun 3 '15 at 5:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @LinoFrankCiaralli armor is just an example, a cantrip is more valuable for Rogues than for a Wizard, but the +1 Int of a Highelf is practically useless at the same time. I belive this is intentional, and uselessness of racial features for the obvious classes is part of the intended balance of the races. \$\endgroup\$ – András Jun 3 '15 at 15:37

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