The topic of level limits for demi-human characters seems to be making the rounds, and I see that I’ve not really ever weighed in on it except in my Roll To Advance system of alternative XP/advancement rules, so I’ll toss in my two cents here.

I’ve personally never been a big fan of racial level limits, and for a long period of time our method was to allow demi-human advancement past the listed maximum by doubling XP requirements from that point on.

Though I don’t like racial level limits, I do think that humans get shafted by the game as written and believe that there should be something to offset the pretty significant bonuses that demi-humans get. I might be biased, being a human who prefers to play human PCs, but I prefer a human-centric game. And as most of our games don’t reach the point where level limits become an issue, the balancing “cap” never really does a lot to balance our games.

If I were to monkey with the system these days, my approach would be to tweak the XP requirements for demi-humans, requiring elves to pay X% more per level, for instance, to offset their increased capabilities. I don’t know exactly what the numbers would be for each race, but it would be something noticeable but not overwhelming. Enough to make it a real difference from session one but not enough to force everyone to play a human.

Our current game is by-the-book AD&D so I’m fighting the urge to tinker with this, but if I was going to it would be via XP requirement adjustments in place of level caps or giving humans some sort of racial bonus.

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6 Comments to “Racial Level Limits”

  1. Troy Truchon says:

    I’ve gotten around the issue on a few occasions by removing most of the racial abilities. In effect it was a Human-only game where you could play Fantasy ethnic groups, with their own cultures, languages, and slight differences in sensory ability, but the hero’s were pretty much all within the same physical ranges.

    • Kilgore says:

      That’s another way.

      I think that it’s already too easy to play a dwarf as a short bearded human with some mechanical bonuses or an elf as a pointy-eared human with some mechanical bonuses.

      By removing the mechanical differences it becomes purely cosmetic. Which is fine if that’s a compromise your group likes.

      I prefer human PCs only and making the demi-humans a little more alien than traditionally portrayed, but most players I’ve gamed with really seem to dig demi-human PCs.

  2. Brendan says:

    I’ve thought in the past of only allowing demihuman PCs once the players have found the elf, dwarf, or whatever lands during play. Thus, demihumans could be introduced as retainers or replacement PCs. They would be lower level than the original characters and function as flavor more than backbone.

  3. norm says:

    AD&D is seriously broken as far as demi-humans and esp multi-classing. Can’t really fix without tossing the whole thing out.

    If you want human centric just outlaw demi-humans, or make them “discovered” like Brendan suggests, or you have to roll a 6 on d6 to play one.

    I don’t care for human domination of races. In (ineffective) attempt to balance I give 20% xp bonus to humans. Not nearly enough in retrospect.

    • Kilgore says:

      >> AD&D is seriously broken as far as demi-humans and esp multi-classing. Can’t really fix without tossing the whole thing out.

      I disagree pretty strongly with that. I’ve played perfectly fine with this “broken” system for decades and I expect we’ll continue to do so.

      There are a few things that I think could be improved, of course, and others that I would do differently myself based on my personal preferences. That’s a lot different than being “seriously broken.”

      The differences between AD&D and any other pre-3e editions are fairly small, anyway. I certainly don’t think they’re all broken and need to be tossed out.

      If not tossing out the whole thing, I think an XP tweak is sufficient. I prefer penalizing demi-humans rather than giving a bonus to humans, because you can than customize the penalty for each race based on its other bonuses. But either way would work. I don’t think the system as written is that bad.

  4. Svafa says:

    I like the discovered idea and am looking to implement something between Troy’s and Brendan’s ideas. The starting available races (Dwarf, Elf, Halfling, Orc) would be primarily differentiated from humans by their culture rather than their physical qualities, but advanced races (Lycanthropes, Gnomes, etc.) would only be available if the players unlock them through discovering and befriending the races.