Alternate Races in RPG Fantasy Settings

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I was catching up on Trapcast listening to their return podcast from May 18. Aside from the usual random stuff, they were discussing the topic of creating races outside the standard fantasy milleu. On the podcast, they talked about balance and playing all characters as humans. Good points, be sure to take a listen.

As far as acheiving balance, though, I began to think about how races are defined in Microlite20. Most races are defined as a bonus or penalty to one of the three attributes. Humans get a +1 to all skills with no adjustments to attributes.

The balancing mechanism is that all adjustments total 2. For humans, having a +1 bonus to all four skills is equivalent to a +2 Attribute adjustment. For example, Elves get a +2 MIND adjustment, Half-Orcs get +3 STR and -1 MIND, Half-Elves get +1 MIND and +1 to any two skills.

With three attributes and four skills to fiddle with, M20 seems to be the perfect place to look at the mechanics of creating new races easily. To limit the number of options, I decided to set up a few parameters for this exercise:

  • There can be only one penalty and it can only be a -1. This could a -1 to any attribute or -1 to any two skills.
  • The largest bonus will be a +3.
  • Avoid setting specific skills to receive a bonus or penalty. It should be an adjustment to any 2 skills or to all 4 skills.
  • Add in as many pre-defined races from the macropedia that still fit within the above parameters.

The result is the attached spreadsheet below:
Racial Template Options

Looking through the results, some are quite interesting. For example, a race that receives a +1 to Mind, +1 to all skills and a -1 to STR. This would mean that there is a race that is just as adaptable as humans, slightly smarter, but slightly weaker physically. Of all the possibilities, the one that appealed to me was a somewhat evolved human.

Others have definite possibilities, especially a race that would receive a +1 bonus to all attributes, but a -1 to any two skills. (This may seem like a cheat to get a super character, but M20 is a skill-based system.) This creates a race that is smarter, stronger, and more agile than a typical human, but less adaptable. This makes me think of the invading aliens from In the Balance by TurtleDove.

This only takes care of the mechanics. For those that tend to look for how a race can benefit them in combat, not much more needs to be done. For others like me that get into the fluff, getting this part nailed down provides suggestions for what a race is like without removing many possibilties. Using a good random generation like this one can fill in some of the details.

I admit, I'm a nut when it comes to fluff like this. I think about the form and function of a different race. For example, giants in my world have a different material in there bone makeup. It is stronger than regular bone material by an exponential factor. This makes them feared adversaries, but also threatened by others that seek to harvest the hardened bone material. The reason for this change is that a 12 ft tall human could barely walk and would break bones at the slightest movement.

I have other examples, but I hope this provides a good baseline for creating new races. I hope to detail more of these just to see how far it can go. If you find any entries on the spreadsheet you find interesting, let me know.