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Racial Choices

One of the most defining characteristics of a character is their race.  Different races have very real, very distinct differences that set themselves apart.  When creating a character, the choice of race is one of the most guiding choices you can make.  Consider that many races give them powers and abilities that seem almost supernatural in origin.  These races are unbelievably seductive when making your decisions.   Also, unlike class or even alignment selection, once a race is chosen it can never be altered.

Is Humanity Enough?

In most fantasy games Humans seem to have an insurmountable disadvantage in that they have no innate abilities as do the other races.  To compensate, humans gain extra skills at first level and each level thereafter.  Humans also are granted one extra feat at first level, giving them the chance for three starting feats should they choose to follow the path of the Fighter, an edge that is almost guaranteed to make a starting human formidable in any campaign. Being able to add +2 to any STAT can give you a great advantage and puts humans on par with just about any other race availible.

Fantasy Races and their Variants

Most campaign worlds host a variety of fantasy character races, many of these races having distinct subtypes that players may choose.  When selecting a race for their special abilities, the player should also consider different ability modifiers and sub-type backgrounds.  For example, elves are typically gentle and cultured, but the Wild Elf variant are savage and often brutal making them prime choices for barbarians.  Players should make themselves familiar not only with the abilities but the history of a particular sub-race.  Often, these races also have distinctive looks or traits that set them apart from their more common cousins. 

Racial sub-types can often grant characters intriguing backgrounds or complimentary abilities to their chosen class.  Consider a half-orc, their natural strength makes them natural choices for martial classes, but half-orc cleric or druids are devastating in spell ability as well as physical prowess.  Similarly, wild elves do wonderful as martial classes but are still forces to be reckoned with as a bard or even a sorcerer.  Consider the abilities conferred by a sub-type before deciding upon a final race for your character.  

What is available for a racial choice?

This decision is ultimately up to the Dungeon Master.  Players are encouraged to choose races that are regularly seen in the campaign area.  Playing a hobgoblin in a campaign area where there are no tribes within weeks of travel is seldom as satisfying as playing a gnome in an area where gnome families are not infrequent.  Imagine the difficulty in obtaining equipment for a small character in an area populated entirely by humans and elves.  

In most societies, individuals of a particular racial makeup tend to gather together for a sense of security and identity.  Players who choose a race that is not the dominant race within the campaign area should be prepared to build within their character background the story of why they are no longer with their own racial districts.  Even though a player chooses a race that is rare within an area, it can still be an enjoyable choice if the player creates an appropriate background and discusses it with the DM.

What about playing as a monster?

Some races were never meant to be played as characters in low level campaigns.  Nonstandard races sometimes have an "effective level" penalty that adds to the overall character level.  Simply put, if someone wanted to play a Troll, the race has an "effective level" penalty of +5 so a first level troll fighter would have a total character level of 6.  Although allowing such characters to begin play with normal character races at the beginning of a campaign may seem harmless, consider that while the other characters are only first level the troll in the previous example is a sixth level character, easily capable of destroying the entire party should he turn on them.  Such overpowering characters can quickly ruin a campaign so DMs are encouraged only to allow such racial selection if the addition of a character higher than first to the campaign is desired.  Instances where this would be applicable is if someone's character was killed and they wanted to bring a new character into the existing campaign but the rest of the party is of a higher average level.

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