I touched a little on this in Only Human, where I discussed how humans often get short shrift in role-playing games, either PnP or computer. But the matter goes deeper than that.

The moment a non-human race is created, there’s a connection made to one profession or another. D&D is the most obvious, with its “favored class” rule. The Dwarf is a fighter, the Halfling is a Rogue, the Half-Orc a Barbarian, etc.

Of course, one can, with the 3/3.5 rules, create a Dwarven Sorcerer or a Halfling Paladin. “Favored class” only comes into play if a second profession is added later, but it’s still there.

Even if we move from the standard Elf, Dwarf, and whatnot, the difficult remains. Suppose we create an ursine race. Bears are big, tough, and very strong. Aha! Just right for a fighter class.

Oblivion had humans split into different sub-races, and the same thing happened there. Each of them was best-suited for a particular type of profession.

It seems that once we step away from undifferentiated humans, any other race must have a predilection for a particular profession. This is because professions are linked to stats, and different races have different stats.

Following that line of thought, it’s no wonder that creating a non-D&D race brings us to the same situation. For instance, Wizardry 8 had a lizard race. Strong, but not all that bright. No surprise, fighter was the best class for them.

So, despite some differences in abilities, these “new” races are often just imitations of the original fantasy ones, with a few frills thrown in to make them appear exotic. You can often tell, just by looking at descriptions of non-classic races, exactly what profession they’re best suited for.

Which brings is to the question: Can this be changed? Is there a way to create non-human races that aren’t so tied to a designated class? Or is the link between stats and profession too strong to break?

For that matter, why should stats have such a strong hold on profession? Just because D&D did it that way? Can we – or rather, the developers – “think outside the box” and come up with a system that doesn’t rely on the physical (or mental) for class?

What if we did away with stats altogether, relying only on skills and abilities? Or would we, as players, reject such a system, because we love to quantify everything?

The problem of race has no easy solution. We’re so used to this method, it seems impossible to come up with a viable alternative. Yet I think one must exist, if only we can think of it.

And should someone work out such a system, it may be the next “quantum leap forward” for RPGs, bringing a fresh perspective and an original playing experience to a genre that has been mired in “same-old, same-old” far too long.miniscorp