Being in the Main the Mouth of Olde House Rules

Saturday, November 28, 2015

In Defense of Race as Class...Again.

Recently, we've seen several blogs and/or postings about race as class; some coming out against it.  So here, we offer up the other side of the coin and share why we LIKE race as class and how it actually ENHANCES the role-playing experience.  But first, here's our official (and honest) position on the matter:

"Each game offers a distinct gameplay experience, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.  Indeed, players should freely experiment with games to satisfy their wishes at any given time, noting that variety is a good thing!" 

But on the matter of race as class, we're not entirely convinced that it's as limiting as some would make it out to be...

You can read our (much older) post on the subject here, but to paraphrase: in the absence of divine and/or magical abilities, the only way to adventure is to directly confront enemies or employ stealth, i.e., fighters or thieves.  As dwarves and elves can wear armor and fight with a variety of weapons, all are fighters in a very broad sense.  Dwarves CANNOT cast spells, while elves will do so NATURALLY, so these limitations work.

Otherwise, non-human clerics don't proselytize outside their particular race, and as long as characters have some opportunity to attempt feats of stealth, thieving is covered.

Often, people cite race as class as being boring and limiting, a position we ACTIVELY disagree with.  To the contrary, this approach is LIBERATING and SUPPORTS unique characters - and for all the reasons that follow below:   

1) When everyone in the party can wear armor and cast spells, a 
bland "sameness" takes over.  Sure, these characters are still distinguished by the people actually running them.  However, games that allow such customization easily devolve into achieving an optimal build, and (human) personalities often fall to the wayside, much to the detriment of the game itself...

AD&D had separate classes and races, but
upon closer examination, races had DISTINCT abilities in
addition to multi-classing, which really goes
back to OD&D's original race as class design scheme. 

2) The "uniqueness" of non-human races becomes similarly blunted with this kind of overlap.  True, such races enjoy specific modifiers that may or may not predispose them to certain profession or skill choices.  But when ANYONE can choose ANY skill, what's special about playing an elf?  Pointy ears maybe?        

Racial modifiers are easily buried beneath all the feats and perks that anyone can take.  But when non-humans have significant and unique abilities on such a scale as to represent a distinctive type of adventurer, they really begin to stand out!  

Dwarves are hardy folk and the elves, alone, can wear armor and cast spells.  And humans are resourceful and may choose from a variety of carefully balanced classes.  Human uniqueness is found in the variety of professions they can choose from, making everyone special and unique as well as co-dependent. 

3) Rules are a constant, while player/GM/referee skill varies, meaning that while cultural distinctions might weigh heavily in a good campaign, not everyone has the ability (or experience) to successfully pull it off.  Encoding racial distinctiveness into the gameplay mechanic ensures that choosing a non-human race means choosing a unique gaming experience...

4) When characters possess broadly overlapping abilities, cooperation is important mainly because there's safety in numbers, and not because there's only one spell caster in the party or a single character who can steal, etc.  The interdependence promoted by race as class (and classes in general) ensures that players absolutely MUST compensate for their friend's various class-imposed weaknesses, which adds a new level of challenge.      

Everyone stands out and, more importantly, everyone depends on the abilities of others, which is pretty much the same thing!


  1. I have always been against race as class but I can solidly see your point here.

    I will however, keep my distaste for the demi-human level limits.

  2. You make some excellent points. I'm a huge fan of race-as-class and discussed it some time ago on my own blog:

    We share a lot of the same ideas when it comes to the matter.

  3. Race as Class is a very good way to do things. I also do like some variation for non-humans which you have included in one of the supplements. It helps get rid of any gripes of sameness that others point to.

  4. I play a point buy game, and it costs extra up front to be a non human. Conversely, a human built on the same amount of points as a gifted non human will effectively be a few "levels" better.