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D&D 3E
how to balance a large race 
9th-Jan-2009 09:48 pm
can anyone think of a way to create a balanced level adjustment zero race that's size category Large?

i have an idea for a new game with all new races. most of the races are simple enough to make by modifying PHB races as the DMG suggests. the races in the game are animalistic. originally i wanted to make one race for each of the following: mammal, reptile, fish, bird, insect. i actually ended up with ideas for two bird races, two mammal races, a fish race, a reptile (amphibian really but who's counting?) and an insect race.

anyway one of the mammal races is based on bears. so i have these bearlike humanoids. i have ideas for temperament and society and some ideas for racial abilities and modifiers. i'm thinking bonuses to strength and con, penalties to intelligence and charisma. the intelligence penalty is not because i think real world wild bears are stupid compared to other animals. its more that the bear race is more animalistic than the other races, and also to balance the two bumps to physical stats.

i dug through the rule books and didn't find anything useful on balancing a large race. there's not a whole lot about making new races to begin with (everything in the dmg basically boils down to alter standards or try and copy the standards as closely as possible which is kind of paltry as guidelines go). as far as i can tell from what i've scrapped together just making a race large would grant the following: +2 STR, -2 DEX, -1 AC, -1 to hit, +4 to grapple checks, -4 to Hide checks, 10 space, 10 reach

all that seems like a net benefit to me which means taking a standard race and adding all that would make an unbalanced race. at the same time i don't think that's enough to balance it with other races. the concept for the race is that they are bearlike. i could grant an additional +1 racial bonus to grapple. but that would give first level characters of this race a huge advantage. if the player rolls up a fighter with 12 STR (before the bonus) you'd have a first level character with a +7 grapple check. there would be practically no reason not to grapple everything. that alone makes me think it might just be a broken idea.

one of my ideas was to make the race medium sized (on the large side of medium, like half-orcs) and allow players of that race to become large (permanently, basically they grow larger) by taking a feat. but it seems more powerful than a feat too. i could split it into two feats. level one they start to get bigger, +1STR, -1DEX, +2 Grapple, -2 Hide, 10 Reach. second level they get the rest. not sure i want to go that way and i don't know if splitting it into even two feats is balanced. it's hard to compare to existing feats because not all feats are created equal (imho). if i split the large size into two feats and make the pre-req for the first level a minimium level of 3, that means the player wouldn't have a full fledged large character until level 6, and by then i think it would work better.

another idea i had was to make only females of the species a playable race. the idea i had for the race's culture was that they were matriarchal. all their communities are run by females. children are raised almost exclusively by their mothers and the males tend to wander. basically i took what i know about bears (not that much to be honest) and tried to think of what they would be like if they were as intelligent as humans and had the ability to make and use tools. the females who are interested in raising young would realize that there's safety in numbers. they'd band together, set up communities, raise their young. male bears, real ones, don't associate with other bears unless they're killing them or mating. from what i've heard, like i said, i'm not an expert. i don't need to be, i'm not writing a documentary. so anyway i figured the males would wander on their own. they'd be hunters, foresters, miners maybe. mercenaries. that sort of thing. they come to town to trade, get laid, and then they fade (sometimes they raid. they like to play spades. and they love a parade).

so i COULD say the males are big, scary, mean and Large and only in the game as NPC's and monsters. the females could be smaller, medium sized, and balanced with other races. but as soon as i say "this is a race where you can only play a female" i know someone will want to play a male. this is assuming i ever even use the race. i probably won't get a chance to run the game but i like thinking about this stuff.

i think my best bet is to make a balanced playable medium version, split Large into two feats, limiting availability of the first level of it to characters of minimum level 3. i had an idea to make feats exclusive to certain races so that would be consistent with the other ones.

incidentally, in case you care, the other races are based on wolves (tribes of rangers), roosters (small but tough, favored class fighter), storks (tall spindly mysterious mages), fishy men (fishy... men), bees (missionaries, obsessed with order, city builders, favored class cleric), and frogs (swamp dwellers, followers of the old religion, not fans of bees' civilization, favored class druid or bard).

I have other ideas and may post more later but this post is long enough and i'm bushed.
10th-Jan-2009 04:22 am (UTC)
There was a Darksun 3.5 PDF floating around that had an +0 LA Large race...I think..
10th-Jan-2009 04:40 am (UTC)
i'll have to look for that. thanks.
10th-Jan-2009 04:48 am (UTC)
half giants. +2 level offset. +8 str and +4 con. that's another thing. +2 STR seems low for a large race based on bears. +8 seems more appropriate but way to high to be balanced. i have to think about it more.
10th-Jan-2009 05:00 am (UTC)
I know there was something somewhere god damnit I wish I could remember. It was a racial property that gave them half the benefits of being large and let them use certain feats without actually being large.

They could handle weapons a size larger and what not, but didn't get an ac penalty or massive str bonus. Now it's bothering me because I cannot remember.
10th-Jan-2009 06:47 am (UTC)
You're thinking of Powerful Build maybe--Goliaths (Races of Stone) and Half-Giants (Expanded Psionics Handbook) had that ability (iirc). They were still +1 LA races though (since they had some other goodies).
10th-Jan-2009 07:16 am (UTC)
Yes that's it!

Ah, man, i was close though!
10th-Jan-2009 05:00 am (UTC)
Heh, I just realized we have very similar face icons. Bwahaha.
10th-Jan-2009 04:47 am (UTC)
It's a hell of a read, but YabaTheWhat's feature point system (http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=667683) is the best analysis of race balancing in 3.5 that I've ever seen.

IIRC, what makes Large so much more powerful than medium (since it comes with penalties as well) is the 10' reach. Reach is pretty amazing--if you made a size Large human but without reach, it would probably actually be fairly balanced. So basically you need to throw some penalties in there to counter the reach (and then to balance out any other ability-type boosts you're interested in).
10th-Jan-2009 06:06 am (UTC)
Brooklynknight, I think you mean the Powerful Build ex. feature. It treats the creature as one size larger for weapon use and grapple checks, but no strength bonus from it, as far as I remember. Gives the whole flavor of being huge and menacing, without actually making anyone a larger size category.

It was in Races of Stone, originally, I believe.
10th-Jan-2009 06:07 am (UTC)
ex. feature =racial property. Blarg...:)
10th-Jan-2009 11:52 am (UTC)
Just remove the reach, that is the real overpowering fact. Maybe give them a racial disadvantage, like vulnerability to fire. (too much hair, burns easy) Another thing that I did was I made all reach weapons affect at 5' and 10', it avoids everyone playing a spiked chain monkey, as a penalty thou they do not get the 2H Str bonus. It does take some altering of core rules, but I never liked the reach rules for weapons anyway.
11th-Jan-2009 01:26 am (UTC)
I was about to recommend taking a look at the moreaus of d20 Modern, but upon second glance, none of these have Level adjustments and they're pretty heavily unbalanced. The catch is supposed to be the setting in which a giant bear-man would face serious problems, but outside of that he would own in a close-quarters fight.
11th-Jan-2009 01:32 am (UTC)
i've looked around and i don't like the "large but not large" way of doing it with goliaths. i don't like the +2 level offset or +8 strength mod of the half giants. I think making a balanced race, probably based on half-orcs, with the option to get large by sixth level is my best tack. i think by level 6 it kind of all evens out. i might even make the second level of the large feat tree allowed to fighters as one of their fighter feats. but then a 4th level large fighter might be pushing it.
11th-Jan-2009 02:32 pm (UTC)
There was a sci-fi role-playing game back in the 80s called Albedo Anthropomorphics (based on a comic of the same name) in which the characters were bears and wolves and similar. If you can find a copy it might have some balance ideas for you.

On the other hand, balance of mechanics is not as important in an RPG as in other games -- the balance can come from role-playing aspects, such as not being able to find adequate armor, not being accepted by society, emitting a terrible smell, etc. Or maybe the bear-humanoids have inadequate opposable thumbs, so the biggest weapon they can hold is a dagger. Maybe the bear-people are natural pacifists--unless they get really angry, then watch out!
11th-Jan-2009 05:06 pm (UTC)
In the pen and paper version of the World of Warcraft game, the Tauren are balanced through "racial levels." They start out medium and have some of their abilities, but don't get them all unless they take a few levels in Tauren.
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