How to Make Humans Feel Non-Standard


Homebrew and House Rules


My DM is in the process of designing a tristalt setting and restricted our choice of race to Human, Taninim (from Company of Dragons), and Anthro (from Fursona). The humans are people from this world that entered the setting via a computer-exploding virus called the Tesla Bomb Virus, Taninim replace all true dragons (and are required to take 20 levels of either the Draconic Hero archetype or the Draconic Paragon class as part of their tristalt), and Anthros are supposed to be the standard choice.

He went to me, asking how to take the "normal" out of Human, and I told him that since we're using Fursona, definitely apply the Earthborn template to all humans (don't worry, Earthborn is +0 CR, +0 ECL). I still think more should be done, so, any advice?


Make them less OP. Humanity's perk in all RPGs ever is that they're diverse and ambitious and oh so Mary Sue-ish. That's boring! Human-dominated settings are boring, because they've been played out for decades now. Spice it up a bit.

You know how humans are always blue in every class guide? Every class guide? Give them weaknesses. In a game like Pathfinder, the most flexible option is often the best. If you can knock humans down a notch, they'll stop being so commonplace and start being the underdog. Who doesn't like rooting for the underdog?

I'd remove the bonus feat altogether, or give them no stat boost. Humans are good because feats are good, and that combined with their lack of an ability penalty makes them the best race 100% of the time unless you're not starved for feats.

Humans are good in D&D/Pathfinder because we're humans, and we want to be the best. Sadly, in a world full of races that have so many abilities that we lack, I don't see humans being very good at much of anything. This is where their ambition and lust for power can come through, without making them seem like ridiculous self-inserts on a species-wide level. If humans have to fight for their place, and if they have real weaknesses, they'll have a role that's more clearly defined than "explore, exterminate, expand".


I dunno about debuffing humans; I think what they need to make them less the default is more specificity rather than less power.

First though a matter of presentation. If there are 3 options then the first listed gets about half the initial attention. List humans last! You might want to break up the anthros into subcategories too.

On a magic world where humans aren't native then humans might be more resistant to magic but less able to use it. A save bonus perhaps, and a -2 penalty to stats as far as spellcasting goes (like the inverse of the bonus that ifrits etc. get) might fit. In a tristalt (!) game it'd be hard to avoid that having an effect.

Similarly towards making humans more specific the bonus feat might come off a list rather than being free to put anywhere.


Restricting things in Pathfinder is debuffing them. :p


Roleplaying different furniture and spices in food and artwork, giving penalties to understand histories of the other cultures (for all three) will show that what they assume is the norm is actually not.

For instance going for a meal in a dragon area of town could have them use forks that are too large and awkward.

Have holidays that mean something to one race that others don't celebrate. Or songs they don't know the words to.
Have signs in triplicate.

Mostly it's just a reminder.


There are settings where humans are the ‘physically weak, intellectually strong’ race, and other settings where it’s the opposite. Where default humans in pathfinder are competitively good at everything, where every other race is only a serious option for a small fraction of classes.


Use more alternate traits to make them not so cookie cutter.


What makes humans the first choice of races is that they are incredibly flexible. There is literally no class where playing a human is a suboptimal choice. This is because all of their racial abilities can be used no matter what the class. Their stat bonus is always going to be in the stat you need most, every class can use an extra feat, and being able to get an extra skill rank of your choice is always good.

If you want make humans feel different change that. Mcdaygo is on the right track. Replace the standard human feat and skill points with one of the alternative choices. Make this the standard for all human. Change the floating stat bonus to fixed bonus. Maybe humans are smarter or more charismatic than other races.


In this case, "versatile" means the best at specializing. This is a very feat intensive game and humans get an extra feat they can put towards any specialization. If you want to make humans feel less suitable at everything, then you probably need to find a replacement for the bonus feat.

If you replace the bonus feat with an ability that gives +1 to all saves, skills and ability checks, then you'd have a very versatile option that is surprisingly not very powerful. Think about how weird it is that an ability that gives an effect equal to dozens of feats still doesn't seem as powerful as the one bonus feat. That's the power of specialization.


Make them dwarves minus the shortness and living underground (Stability and Darkvision).

Or maybe I'm the only one who thinks "doesn't like outsiders", "hidebound", and "likes alcohol too much" describes humans as a whole.


That may be the least conspicuous name that I've ever encountered.


How's this?

Human:

+2 INT, +2 WIS, -2 STR
Vocational Expertise: at character creation, choose two skills, subject to GM approval. You gain Skill Focus and Unlocked Skill in these skills, may make checks as though you were trained in them, and these skills are class skills for you.
Extraplanar Foreigner: -2 to Knowledge(Arcana, Local, Nobility, Planes, Religion,and History) checks.

Anything else?


I'd restrict that knowldge penalty to planes and arcana. In addition, not everyone plays with skill unlocks.


I don’t think you need to mess with the floating bonus stat. Half-elves and Half-orcs have the same thing and they don’t seem any more standard than the other races.


Melkiador wrote:
If you replace the bonus feat with an ability that gives +1 to all saves, skills and ability checks, then you'd have a very versatile option that is surprisingly not very powerful.

Uh... People already drool over Sacred Tattoo and this is even better than that.


Alter the human bonus stat to be +1 to 2 different stats. That encourages humans to diversify in point buy games. You'll see more 14s and 16s and less 18s or 20.

Take away the free feat. Replace it with a fixed feat, and an extra bonus to apologize for removing the big human bonus.

My suggestion would be to make humans 'skilled'. Give them a free skill unlock at level 5. That makes a normal skill more powerful. Useful, but certainly not game breaking. Also let humans add 1 skill of their choice to their list of class skills.

BTW, just removing the extra feat and stat bonus would be like having and old AD&D 1.0 human. Without level caps on the other races, absolutely pointless.


People want sacred tattoo, but that’s partly because it can be doubled with fates favoured. And the half orc gets other options too.

For comparison, the orc can have skilled like a human and sacred tattoo. And still have intimidating and weapon familiarity which could themselves be traded out for other specialized options.

Dark Archive

Lazaryus wrote:
He went to me, asking how to take the "normal" out of Human, and I told him that since we're using Fursona, definitely apply the Earthborn template to all humans (don't worry, Earthborn is +0 CR, +0 ECL). I still think more should be done, so, any advice?

I'd not worry about a mechanical change, so much as set it into the setting itself.

If humans are recent-ish arrivals to this world, they'd be more like the gnomes or halflings of other settings, forced to squeeze into niches in kingdoms and nations of other races, rather than have any of their own. Only the occasional 'human section of town' or rare 'human village' in the middle of nowhere, like the rare 'town of mostly gnomes' in Golarion, would exist, while local races would be dominant, to the point that an entire arc of the story might be set in a section of the world run by clannish badger-people, who grumpily put up with these human refugees in their lands (with some friction, perhaps...).

That alone should make a huge flavor difference, if there are no 'human lands' to speak of, and by the time humanity arrived on this world, the various breeds of anthro had kind of already claimed all the niches, leaving the humans of the setting in the position of the gnomes, halflings or orcs of most other settings, either forced into 'racial ghettos' and shantytowns thrown together and springing up on the fringes of another races cities, little villages or enclaves more or less in the middle of nowhere like the 'gnome city' of Wispil in Golarion, or badlands that nobody wanted anyway, like that 'humanoid' run country (the Pomarj) in Greyhawk.

I'd try not to go overboard on the refugee porn, or the racial strife that might have occurred in previous generations, when the humans arrived in fursona land with some of them still wearing animal skins or whatever, and the assorted misunderstandings that would have arisen, and make the whole thing a fait accompli that had occurred several generations ago, so that humans weren't living in refugee camps outside of the cities of other races or anything, but just giving up their ownership of 80% of the map is a pretty big deal for players accustomed to more-or-less human-dominated settings from Greyhawk to Golarion.


Apparently humans have higher endurance than other animals. So maybe give them a racial trait to reflect that, maybe even a bonus to Constitution.


Dungeon Master Zack wrote:
Apparently humans have higher endurance than other animals. So maybe give them a racial trait to reflect that, maybe even a bonus to Constitution.

If you want to base it on super powers humans have compared to most animals, then we have:

Teamwork/Strategy/Language.
Crafting from being brainy and having hands.
Vastly improved throwing abilities.
Endurance boost from sweat cooling us down as we run faster.
Resistance to pain and shock.

But most fantasy races are human-like in these regards.


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Two ideas I can think of:

1) Random NPCs should almost never be human. NPCs of other races tend to regard the human PCs as exotic and possibly don't know much about them.

2) Come up with features that your "standard" races have in common, and make those features rare or non-existent among humans.


Human:

+2 INT, +2 WIS, -2 STR: Humans have a vastly superior education, but never went through the physical rigors common to those native to this realm.
Vocational Expertise: at character creation, choose two skills, subject to GM approval. You gain Skill Focus in these skills, may make checks as though you were trained in them, and these skills are class skills for you.
21st Century Technology: Humans gain Technologist as a bonus feat. Furthermore, they treat the campaign as though it were Guns Everywhere.
Stranger to the Supernatural: -4 to Knowledge(Arcana and Planes), Spellcraft, and Use Magic Device checks.

I might include an Anti-Vaxx alternate trait later. Anything else?


Hello?


I don’t think of humans as being particularly “wise”. Lots of animals are more perceptive. Charisma may make more sense, from being so social.


Unless you have a specific idea in mind of what humans have a predilection for (and that you want the players to accept), I'd leave the floating +2 to an ability as is. It's the free feat at first level that really makes humans popular for almost any build. I'd take a look at the alternate racial traits for humans that replace the bonus feat they get. There's over a dozen of them.

Any change to the Ability Score Racial trait is going to reflect your vision of humans in your campaign. You can ask here for balance questions, but flavor is all up to you and your players.


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We want humans from first world countries in the 21st century in the campaign. The best way to build them with the right feel is probably to compare them with 16th century humans (for whom we will use corebook humans) as the control group:

• 21st century humans are put through a mandatory education regiment that teaches literacy as well as a moderate understanding of math and science, and college is highly recommended (borderline required). The only education in the 16th century that comes close was reserved for nobility and high clergy. (+2 INT)

• 21st century humans almost never do any heavy lifting unassisted, unlike 16th century humans. (-2 Str)

• 21st century humans, generally speaking, are quite sure of their scientific understanding of the universe, whereas 16th century human often fostered various superstitions. (-2 to Knowledge Arcana, Knowledge Planes, Spellcraft, and Use Magic Device checks)

• 21st century humans are far more familiar with complex mechanisms and advanced technology than 16th century humans. (Technologist as a bonus feat, probably +2 Dex)

Is there anything I'm forgetting?


Seriously, the floating ability bonus is fine as it is. No matter what you justify for a set of modifiers, it probably won’t match someone’s view of humanity. Which is the whole reason for the floating bonus, in the first place.

The real and only problem with humans is that a completely open bonus feat is just way too strong for most builds. So, you should just focus on taking that away and seeing what you can add to replace it.


We're dead set on a +2 being locked in on Intelligence, but maybe we can have the other +2 and the -2 be floating.

We'll probably replace the flexible bonus feat with Technologist and the ability to gain whatever feats they qualify for throughout their adventure that has Technologist as a prerequisite for free.


Lazaryus wrote:

We're dead set on a +2 being locked in on Intelligence, but maybe we can have the other +2 and the -2 be floating.

We'll probably replace the flexible bonus feat with Technologist and the ability to gain whatever feats they qualify for throughout their adventure that has Technologist as a prerequisite for free.

That should be fine, but you need to decide how you feel about them applying their bonus and penalty to the same stat or to intelligence.


No stacking stat mods, but they could trade in the floating +2 (to double the effect of Skilled) or -2 (removing the effect of Skilled), just not both at once.

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