Thursday, June 5, 2008

PHB - Races

Chapter 3 - CHARACTER RACES

This is a short chapter, giving a two-page spread for each of the races. Most of the content is for role-playing purposes, giving the general background of the race, and their typical motivations, with a few sample characters.

Two things stand out, though. One is that, unlike 3rd edition, where races had ability weaknesses to balance their ability strengths, no race in 4e has an ability penalty, only bonuses. This helps to steer players towards classes that are suited to that race, but also lets you go against this suggestion without completely suffering. Although this results in characters with higher overall ability scores (combined with the increased number of gains mentioned before), this really emphasizes the Heroic nature of the player characters compared to other people of the land. I haven't figured out what a 30th level character is going to look like with all of these bonuses, but it's going to be impressive.

The other thing that stood out was the encounter powers that some of the races get. It's the wording of the racial info block, and the power block, that gest to me, not so much the powers themselves.

For example, the dragonborn has


Dragon Breath: You can use dragon breath as an encounter power.


and the block below for the power has


Dragon Breath Dragonborn Racial Power

Encounter * Acid, Cold, Fire, Lightning or Poison


The reading of the first line, in the racial description, seems to imply that the dragon breath power is typically not an encounter power (more likely an at-will with a recharge), thus explaining the clarification that it's useable as an encounter power. But why, then, do we have a specific power description block following, that not only has the Encounter availability listed, but is very specific that it's a Dragonborn Racial Power, instead of some general power that the dragonborn has access to?

Or, the other way around, if this is a very specific power as suggested by the name and the availability, then it's already an encounter power, so why explicitly say so in the racial description? The same thing happens with the fey step power for the eladrin, the elven accuracy power for elves and the second chance power for halflings.

Perhaps there are other versions of these powers, under the same name? Or "levels" of powers, with different availabilities? I guess we'll see in later chapters, but this is another example of overwordiness in this book, where in general Wizards of the Coast is really good about defining things very explicitly and not having to repeat themselves or contradict themselves.

The class chapter is next, and is much longer - hopefully there's a little more to talk about there.

2 comments:

Patrick said...

There's no overwordiness in the PHB. The point about those racial powers is that they are listed in the classes' descriptions first as racial features, but what they really do is later described in the power description standard format that is used throughout the whole book. I agree that they could have written just "You may use the dragon breath racial power as described below", but that is not really an issue, is it? :)

Crwth said...

That's right, I had two issues with it: that they could have just said "as below" to find out that it was an encounter power (instead implying by explicitly mentioning it that it is otherwise not an encounter power for others); and they just call it "dragon breath", instead of mentioning it as the specific racial power, implying that there's a general "dragon breath" power, which when referred here, might be an encounter power.