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If a person of X race were raised in Y (different) race's culture, would they "pick up" the stat bonuses, penalties and racial abilities of Y race?

If so, how would one determine which bonuses, penalties, or racial abilities they get?

If it's all genetics, how would they know how racial magic of their kind works to be able to use appropriate devices (or are such things inherent in the magic)?

If it's all culture and upbringing, could they pass as Y race in the "outside world?"

  • Case in point: an elf or half elf is raised by dwarves, as if he were a dwarf and not of another race.

  • Consider the reverse case: a dwarf raised by elves or half elves and raised as if he were one.

Bottom line: are racial abilities, bonuses and stats nature or nurture, or a bit of both?

I'm asking about mainly D&D 3.5 / Pathfinder, but I am interested in differences in 4e and 5e, if applicable to the rulings on this.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Unfortunately, this question is practically impossible to answer unless you specify which system and setting you're asking about - and event then, there's no guarantee that system and setting will include the information you're asking for. I'm therefore voting to put this on hold. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Jul 6 '16 at 0:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll tag it as 3.5/ pathfinder. But am interested in if there's any quirks in higher additions (4 and 5) \$\endgroup\$ – Jesse Cohoon Jul 6 '16 at 0:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ You have a lot of questions in one question, but I think your first sentence suffices as The Question. Do I understand you correctly? I edited this stream-of-consciousness style to something more reader-friendly. If I have messed up the meaning, please edit again to clarify. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 6 '16 at 0:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast yes. It's a nature vs nurture question. Kinda meta (move there if you like) \$\endgroup\$ – Jesse Cohoon Jul 6 '16 at 0:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you looking for an answer in the rules? Or is this a lore question? If so, how official do you want it? Hypothetically, if there's a dwarf raised by elves in one of the hundreds of D&D/Pathfinder novels that cannot see in the dark, does that count? \$\endgroup\$ – MrLemon Jul 6 '16 at 7:39
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In any version of the D&D core rule books, all traits are genetic.

For example, in D&D 3.5e an elf raised by dwarves would not only have lowlight vision and resistance to sleep effects, they would also be proficient in bows rather than the dwarven war ax.

That being said, there's nothing to stop you house-ruling things on a case by case basis, or separating racial attributes into nature and nurture categories.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE. Please take the tour and visit the help center to get a feel for how this Q&A site works. Thank you for your answer, and happy gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 6 '16 at 0:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Without spending a LOT of time to do so, can you tell me how these background weapon profs. work in 5? \$\endgroup\$ – Jesse Cohoon Jul 6 '16 at 0:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JesseCohoon You can download free rules for 5e (Basic rules and SRD) at Wizard's of the Coast web site. All of the detail is in there, the SRD covering all 12 classes. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 6 '16 at 0:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your note about D&D 5e is completely wrong (not that it's really relevant anyway); there are racial weapon proficiencies in 5e, and no background includes a weapon proficiency. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Jul 6 '16 at 0:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's worth linking to theangrygm.com/why-race-isnt-broken here. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Jul 6 '16 at 1:17
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A bit of both.

As an exaggerated example, look at size and automatic languages: size is clearly not nurture, and languages are clearly not nature.

Page 171 of the 3.5 Dungeon Master's Guide explains how to account for being raised by a different race: you make a new race. The example it gives is the "half-human;" a half-elf raised by elves instead of by humans.

Page 110 of the Player's Handbook discusses less systemic changes as part of the normal process of character customization, and gives an example of changes for a dwarf raised by humans.

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