Hello all. Welcome to another Monday feature and today I’m rolling out a new column called “race Card.” This column is dedicated to the playable races of D&D and discusses various aspects of them. Because of the fact this is the first column, I figured I’d go with the most played race in the game: humans.
In truth, I’m not a fan for the most part. We have humans of course in the real world so it escapes me why exactly someone would want to be one in-game. Also, they don’t have any cool powers or inherent abilities, so I wonder what their appeal is. Maybe a closer examination of humans will show why they can actually be a very interesting race to play. Even so, I’m not going to change my rule that the first character a new player in my campaigns makes has to be something else. But let’s just say what I can say in defense of the vanilla race.
Humans by the numbers:
Humans actually don’t have a lot of interesting powers, but they do have one of the most interesting, if not particularly exciting bonuses. Humans get to add 1 to every single stat at creation. Most other races have a net +2 or +3 to their stats. Thus in basic stat bonuses, the humans are vastly superior to the others.
About face on classes: The +1 to everything is definitely a bonus to any player who wants to multiclass. This is particularly odd as in the older game humans were not allowed to do this. If you use the typical spread of stats (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8,) for initial starting stats, you’ve got some actually quite reliable stats for multiclassing. Most multiclassing options require an initial ability score of 13. That said, with the +1 bonus humans get, 4 of those stats are high enough from the start which means the humans in the party can start experimenting early and don’t have any real awkward periods.
The Humans’ greatest strength and greatest weakness: There is no stat that gets preferential treatment in the human attribute bonus and thus humans are one of the most adaptable races and can easily be brought into any class. When one plays a tiefling by contrast, the intelligence and charisma bonuses lean tieflings towards bard, sorcerer, and warlock and if you want to be something else, you can manage it, but you’re possibly having to work around having stats that are not as useful. This said, having no real guidance by way of stats can leave you at sea on what you exactly want to do. The same can be said for languages, as humans get to pick while for most other races the language is picked for them.
Most of the above are concerned with the power gamer, but there is much to be said for humans even for the role-playing fan.
Humans are numerous: In every single world of D&D, humans are the dominant race among the playable races. Sometimes playing in the upper crust in that regard can be interesting. If the campaign centers around some other race such as dwarves or dragonborn. The human that considers his or her own way “normal,” can really be fun to play. Or if not, being “normal” can at least ease stress on a player who struggles getting in the cultural mindset of one of the more exotic races.
Humans are us: The reason I don’t like humans is that they are us. I don’t see the appeal of playing a human when I’m a human myself. But there are positives to it as well. Take for example the aarakocra from the Elemental Evil companion. These creatures are weird beings who are obsessed with finding the Rod of Seven Parts and who have no concept of private property. That’s fun RP but it’s also hard to work that from our own perspective. Being a little closer to us with nothing odd really helps humans feel right to a player.
Humans can be weird: Being part of a race that lives in all climates and is super-numerous also has its advantages that actually runs up almost paradoxically to the point mentioned above. Unlike most races that have wide-running cultural points that go throughout the entire race or subrace. You don’t get Humans vary most greatly in culture among themselves, meaning that you can have human cultures completely alien, based on real-world civilizations, or anything in between. You don’t have as much a lock-in as you do with dwarves, elves, or others.
So I see that there’s a lot of good in humans after all as a race for D&D and I can see how they are actually the most popular race in-game. I’m still going to make new players play other stuff first, but I’m no longer quite as racist against humanity.
About the Author:
Zachary Ruffing is one of the DMs for “Companions of the perception Check.” He lives with his 2 rats and dogs and enjoys classic lit and bad sci-fi and horror flicks. He has the typical advantages of a human, except he has -1 in all stats.