When working on “encounter equivalence,” I also examined racial features and powers. Dwarves are one of the worse offenders, and they still carry a veritable Combo Platter of random perks and bonuses, from weapon proficiencies to saving throw bonuses, to being able to use their Second Wind as a Minor Action.

Honestly, sometimes you just want a +2 bonus to Strength and Constitution, or Intelligence and Charisma. You don’t want the weird, quasi-useful advantages granted along with the package. I mean, some of that stuff is too useful to be bundled with something as definitive as the “race” label.

It seems to me that a race generally dictates origin – whether it’s that you’re an alien from space, or a hair man from a hole in the ground. It might also dictate the first few years of your character’s life, and subsequently their ability score bonuses, with the default being “raised among your own kind.”

Beyond that, things ought only be dictated by a separate background (like how weapons and armor training are granted by character class). It seems like such a simple idea to not bundle too many things together at once. Race, Clan, Tribe, whatever. You shouldn’t have to accept fistfuls of “plus-ones.”

Let’s say the primary path to acquiring the Survival skill is by growing up in a hostile environment like a desert. If you want to grow up in a forest or on a mountain, that’s fine – then take another skill, a different skill. I guess the idea is that character creation shouldn’t be a sliding block puzzle.

You should get at least one “free” choice, that doesn’t come with any weird attachments or restrictions, but then everything else ought to be available on a one-for-one basis. You accept something weird to get your next thing, and so forth. You want a dwarf’s Constitution, you get a dwarf’s drinking and grooming habits.

I’m not talking about penalties though – I still don’t like ability penalties imposed by racial selections. I think they make character creation unnecessarily restrictive. Sometimes you want a dwarf bard or sorcerer, and that just isn’t possible with a minus-two penalty to Charisma. I’m looking at you, Third Edition.