I’ve recently been considering the phenomenon that "unusual" race-class combinations are often 1 modifier behind on their primary ability score – i.e. that they would start, using point buy or standard array, with a 15(+2) in their primary score, rather than 16 or 17 (+3). To my mind, this is a very significant mechanical effect that undesirably discourages such unusual combinations, while each race’s other qualities act as much more of a nudge than a hard barrier.
I recently came across a house-rule that would address this issue, allowing any race to achieve a 16 (assuming point buy or standard array) in their classes primary ability score at character creation, and have slightly modified it to the below.
Floating Ability Score at Character Creation
During character creation, you may remove 1 point from any racial ability score bonus you gain from your base race (but not your subrace), and add it to any other ability score which does not already gain a bonus from your race or subrace.
The original rule allowed this movement from any racial ability score, including from subraces. I have changed that because:
- It avoids breaking the balance of the Mountain Dwarf subrace, whose traits are designed to work against each other, and they do so much less if you can swap a point of STR for another stat
- Subraces are already thematically sparser than base races; the ASI is often 1 of only 2 defining traits – and you already get to pick between several subrace options anyway
I think even with that change this rule still achieves the desired goal of letting less traditional race/class combos not fall behind in their primary stat.
Are there any serious foreseeable balance issues that would arise from using this house-rule?