Design Diary 4

Races and Setting

While working on the races, I realized that we really needed some background for them. Specifically, they need some justification for being the way they were. Gnomes really needed a role, as did halflings; half-elves are full of contradictions (they hover on the edges of society, but are natural ambassadors and get a bonus to Diplomacy?).

So I borrowed the Shtar backgrounds for them – they were nonspecific enough that they could work in any setting, but made each class distinct and logical. Dwarves still live underground and work with metal and gems; gnomes are sea-going traders; halflings are nomadic, Gypsy-like travellers; half-elves are a distinct race that breeds true, though they still suffer from some identity problems; half-orcs are a go-between race between humans and orcs (orcs on Shtar are civilized and highly organized; think a cross between the Roman Empire and the medieval Japanese). We also have several other playable races – goblins, gnolls, kobolds, and a few others – but those won't make it into the core rules.

Also, a lot the racial abilities got beefed up. A common complaint about races is that they apply bonuses when you first choose them, then you promptly forget about them. So, what I did is add scaling bonuses - for example, an elf's bonus to Search checks increases by +1 every 5 levels; humans get a bonus feat every 5 levels; etc. This makes the choice of race a little more important and applicable throughout the PC's career.

As far as a metasetting, well… I've decided to leave that one alone. I want to keep the rules as setting-generic as possible (excepting the races) so that it's easier to slot into an existing campaign - official or homebrew. This means there will be no gods, but that's all right - I've got enough to do as it is, and thinking up a new pantheon of gods along with portfolios is not my idea of fun.

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