Labyrinth Lord is my main conduit to B/X gaming, so many of the assumptions I make about First Edition Dungeons & Dragons are derived from my experience with Labyrinth Lord. The accuracy of my initial assumptions isn’t really so much the point as whatever is eventually gained through the process of inference.

That might sound backward, but it works. I make an observation, establish a hypothesis, test it, observe the results, then refine my hypothesis. The initial assumption becomes irrelevant after a few iterations.

Anyway, that was a roundabout method of saying I observed that Labyrinth Lord “races” don’t have racial ability modifiers and it got me thinking about what that could mean — ability scores plug into combat modifiers, and as we’re all probably aware, combat is what makes Dungeons & Dragons go ’round.

While discussing character creation in 1e and 4e, my brother and I concluded some races are simply more effective choices for certain 4e classes than others. We observed dwarves were generally the best choice for Divine classes, given their racial bonuses to Wisdom and Constitution.

We found the “solution” to the “problem” of creating a character through the combination of races and classes that applied to more than one class, but to an entire category of classes — it extends to the majority of Primal classes as well.

What I would find myself proposing — strange though it may seem to players raised on 3e and 4e like myself — is to eliminate racial ability score bonuses entirely in an effort to make races and classes get along better. Other bonuses can be as good, and races don’t require ability bonuses to be worth using.

Update: Dang, you know what? I think I ninja’d myself here. I’m pretty sure I’ve suggested eliminating racial ability score bonuses somewhere on this very blog and am only coming around to it again.

Either way, the basic idea remains the same — to enable greater diversity in race-class combinations (in 4e, for example), remove the incentive to create a specific kind of numerical advantage. You don’t get that ability bonus which means you can choose freely, or make your decision on another, less-crucial advantage.

Because when the best decision is to go with a bonus to attacks and damage, there’s a problem with the system — the problem being that it can be “solved.”