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.


  1. I saw the post title and I thought "Antioch is writing about Savage Worlds now, too? Yay!" Which led to me actually being a bit disappointed at the subject matter. :)

    That said, I agree. This is one of the key features of 4e for me. You have to work really hard to actually make a character un-viable. One of the first things I did when I got the 4e books, having already seen plenty of single class pregens, was revive an old favorite character from my 1e days that was just not viable, at all in 3e. He was a dwarf fighter/wizard and master blacksmith. As is obvious, this did not work in 3e at all, and I really expected it to not quite work in 4e either. When the character came out pretty much exactly as I would want him, I was elated.

  2. Never played Savage Worlds. I suppose if someone wanted to run it, I'd give it a shot (play, NOT run).
    Fighter/wizard is a tried-and-true example that I always cite when talking about 4E multiclassing. Its a classic combination that has never played well with others until now.

  3. Only reason I picked it up is my players talked me into running a Firefly based game and I needed a system. Great system, though. I would use it to run about anything non-D&D. I considered, and still hold, that you could turn 4e into a generic RPG pretty easily and run a game off pretty much just page 42 and some setting rules (races, gear, and the like).

  4. I contend that the D&D 4E rules are ideal for running a heroic fantasy action/adventure game...but if you're looking to turn the core mechanics into a generic RPG ala' Savage Worlds and GURPS, then the Star Wars Saga Edition rules make a better template.

  5. My very first attempt at playing through Keep on the Shadowfell, I made a character with an "optimal" pairing: Elf Archery Ranger. Extra Dexterity, extra Speed, Elven Accuracy... doesn't get any better than that, right?

    Of course it was our first time playing and none of us quite grokked the strategic side, and we got very near to a TPK from an ordinary kobold fight because we just plain didn't know what we were doing.

    My second character was a Halfling Warlord, who I made essentially as a joke character. I mean, I went in thinking I was making a useless, pointless character.

    I had kind of blown off all the "role" stuff as being a newbie guide and was still thinking of Warlord as "The Other Fighter" when I sat down to play, but in the act of using her powers on a turn by turn basis and realizing that I helped the party more by helping the party than by doing damage, the whole game kind of clicked and our second party started doing much better.

    And this brings me to what I love about 4E: not just the fact that any build you care to make is viable (and I've made some much crazier concept builds than "Genghis Baggins" since that first couple of sessions), but the reason this works isn't because they've made the game so easy that you can't fail... it's that they've made winning or losing much more dependent on the party's actions. It's no longer a Stat Battle where win or loss is decided by what was on your character sheet before you even sat down to play, it's a battle of tactics and strategy and teamwork.

    The game is balanced such that you can lose a battle as an Elven Archer. You can win it as a Halfling Warlord. I love that.

  6. Josh has played a goblin barbarian and I've done a minotaur rogue. Not only did they work, but they felt very evocative and unique when compared to more optimal combos.


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