In a conversation with cookiemonger while I was working out my decision about whether to drop races from my game, I said they “diluted character options.”

I’ve been thinking about what I meant by that.

Back when we had races, classes, feats, spells, and multiclassing in 3e, I recall a sense of urgency in trying to pull off certain tricks. I will admit, sometimes the game was about trying to pull the rug out from under the GM.

Races and feats were better in 4e, but “spells” were too different to matter in combat anymore, and multiclassing was a pointless exercise. “Themes” came into the picture partway through the system’s life, but by that point…

I realized one of the problems with race in 5e is that it dilutes the choice of character class. Gone are the racial powers of 4e — so your choice of race will probably be driven by racial ability score bonuses.

Unless you just . . . really want to play an elf.

Now that feats are basically gone, and you receive substantial ability score bonuses via character advancement, there’s little point to choosing a race.

I don’t know about your games, but languages have always fallen by the wayside in mine. Not by choice, mind you. I’ve always cared, they just haven’t had a point. It’s just been another “locked door” problem. No key? Move on.

With the exception of the few races that provide the odd weapon proficiency or skill bonus, there doesn’t seem to be a point to choosing a race. Humanoid races are no longer listed in the Ranger’s “Favored Enemy” feature, so there’s no discrete list of humanoid races. If that doesn’t matter . . . why does race?

I think what it comes down to is that 5e outmoded race.

Sure, you can choose a humanoid race for Favored Enemy, by why would you? Do magic items care what blood is in your character’s veins? I guess you don’t need Use Magic Device to emulate a race anymore.

Now there are no feats, so no racial feats. We have multiclassing back, but now there are no racial paragon classes. Subraces have been streamlined.

But why. Do. We. Care?

What does it even matter to be one race or another?

Here’s how much it matters in our current 5e game: we encountered an ogre who commented that dragonborn are tasty (in reference to our fighter). He replied that his particular breed was tough, and the ogre should prefer a different color-scale of dragonborn. Good interaction. It was a great little moment.

But does it justify character races?

Our ranger is a gnome who wants to escape her home village. She’s vexed by the fact that we’re still there (even investigating the dungeon as we are). She dislikes her numerous relatives, some of whom are under our employ.

It’s a funny situation. But does it justify races?

My character is a tiefling. We encountered a ragtag group of adventurers trying to escape the dungeon, among them a female tiefling. I’ve set my character’s sights on her because . . . romance? Seduction? Exploitation? Character interaction?

There was some flirting going on between our characters, involving some tail-action. Literal tails. We look like devils. But does any of it . . . justify races?

No. I think the point is, no it doesn’t. No they don’t.

None of it justifies the inclusion of races in the game. It’s just a point of reference in our game, generally the source of some humor.

Race just doesn’t serve much of a point.

But you know what it does do? It takes away from the choice of class. It diminishes the choice — dilutes it. Why? Because class is the only meaningful choice a player does make. Race . . . distracts . . . from class.

And by extension, so does the whole background system.

Incidentally, Backgrounds give your character gear and some skill proficiency. If you don’t really need the ability score bonus from race, that’s actually more significant than anything you receive from your choice of race.