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- Races With Bennies
There are many reasons why I prefer 4th Edition over any other edition, one of which is the fact that you can literally combine any race with any class and it will amount to something functional. While some might disagree, the fact of the matter is that you can play outside of the expected type and not be punished for it. There are numerous optimal race/class combinations, and each race even goes so far as to tell you three classes that get along well with it. That doesnt mean that the game assumes that you are using said combos.
Generally speaking, I assume that any character is totally viable so long as your attacks have at least a 55% chance of hitting the targeted defense. Everything else is gravy. I mean, I like gravy, but its not mandatory to be useful to the group (which is often part and parcel to having fun).
Take a human fighter. Assuming you slap your +2 in Strength, buy it up to 16, and use a sword of some sort, you're going to have a +7 to hit (not counting which particular fighter class feature you pick, but the weapon talents can boost it up to +8). Without considering other factors like Weapon Expertise, you have a 60% chance of landing your attacks on basically any level 1 monster out there. Good odds.
Compare to a halfling fighter. If we do it exactly the same, you end up with a +6 to hit, which is still 55% (better than half the time). Perfect. Fine. The human hits slightly more often and does a bit more damage, but the gap isnt like it used to be, where halflings took a -4 to grapple, used smaller weapons, got a Strength penalty, moved slower, etc etc et-fucking-cetera.
I think that having greatly differing racial modifiers and features encourages creativity and an identity between races and classes. I expect elf fighters to rely more on spears and swords, while dwarves to stick to hammers and axes. Fits the fantasy trope in a way that I find logical and consistent.
In the end, I dont think for a second that D&D forces you to play within expected concepts, but nudges in certain directions that more or less make sense. The concepts are there, to be sure, and to me they (usually) make a lot of sense, but I'm better able to break away from them and not suffer for my creativity.
Minotaur tactical warlord with artificer multiclass? Hell yes, and it works.