You are married to the idea that character attributes represents a uniform biological difference in dnd races. They have decided culture, training and individuality(ie varies more person to person, than culture to culture )is actually the dominant factor in attributes.
Yes, upbringing and personal direction IS the dominant factor, of course it is - no-one has, at any point, suggested otherwise. It's not the only
factor, however, and you're mapping the distinction onto something real-world, which is part of the problem here. We are not talking about different phenotypes of what is functionally the same species of creature (as we are when we talk about race in humans) - we're talking about literally physically and biologically different entire species of creatures.
Cheetahs, by general propensity are capable of running faster than wolves in a sprint. Wolves, by general propensity, have more stamina and can run at their full chase speed for far longer than cheetahs. There will be outliers, but there is a tangible, very real biological difference here that is reflected when comparing their two distinct species of creature. Corvids have the awareness, information retention, detail processing and logic capability to solve complex spatial manipulation problems. Ostriches do not. Culture, training and individual self direction certainly have defining impact on a character, but they do not magically remove
these baseline differences of biology.
It just comes down to your personal preference, you like the idea that race is the primary determiner of a character's potential.
I suspect you're not addressing this part to me, since it's the exact opposite of what I wrote... from my perspective, as I mentioned, one of the Most
important parts of ALL of this is that an exceptional creature's individual potential is not
controlled or capped by their race - that a character that focuses on being the best they can be in a discipline or area of expertise can literally become the best it is possible to be at that, regardless of where they started and what race of creature they might be. That's a very large part of the point
; people are different, and that's good - despite our differences, which are things we should celebrate and cherish the uniqueness of, anyone who puts their mind to it can reach the same upper maximum of ability as anyone else, no matter how they were born or where they came from and that's also good. That is as it should be, and should remain so.
Our player characters are exceptional individuals, yes, but the ability scores are not there to represent the entire spectrum of all possible things that could ever happen to a creature. If we were to account for everything that could possibly happen, as well as every possible condition, abnormality, malady or prodigy that could be considered - and for any
creature - then we would be required to throw out the entire
character creation rule structure wholesale. You would have to choose to be any size between tiny and gargantuan, choose any speed between 0 and 500, and in any combination of flying, swimming, burrowing and walking, you would choose any lifespan between 1 and 5000, any height between 1 inch and 30 feet... any number of limb between 0 and 100... and even those limitations would not be enough, because all of these things are possible if we consider magical maladies, enchanted potions, divine diseases, demonic boons, planar influence and all of the other wild and fantastical things that occur in the realms.
In the video, it was mentioned that humans can now choose to be medium or small "because there are of course people of small stature in the world"... and this is a ridiculous move; writing selection rules into your system because "you might have a form of dwarfism" is beyond the pale for bad design. Yes, you might! And that's something you should discuss with your DM if you want to play a character that is unusual in that way. The rule structure cannot account for that, because if you do, you have to have it account for that for everyone
, and you have to have it account for other
similar things for everyone too - so, in order for that decision to make sense, you need to be able to pick large as well, because you might have a form of giantism... and they also need to not say that 'humans' are, mystically the Only
species of creature that might have this; can elves not
be of small statue in the same way humans can? Can orcs not? If humans can, then of course they can... but that's not being accounted for and it just ends up looking tokenary, as well as being mechanically othering, which is not good. ((And, because I just know someone will pick at this - I'm speaking here as a woman who is 134cm tall; in some places in the world, I'm small enough to be formally classified as a person of small stature; I can shop in the kids section of department stores. I'd still be a medium-sized creature; halflings and gnomes are much smaller than me.))
Ability score propensities are not about what is absolutely possible - as with height and weight they are about mapping the defining characteristics of your species within general bounds. The height brackets are not saying "Literally every halfling in existence is between these two height brackets". They are saying "the vast majority of halflings under normal circumstances fall into this scale"; you only need to read the language used in the books to understand that.
When you talk about "what if, in my background I was experimented on, or had this condition, or interacted with this archfey" etc., that's great - it's also Background
; it doesn't change or obliterate the biology you were born with, it just adds to it (unless it does actually change your base biology in some significant way, and you're not actually a halfling any more; if you're playing something that extreme in your background, then you're playing a customised race already, and that's something you should be talking to your DM about; Customising is cool, but the rules themselves cannot ever account for the full spectrum of player creativity in customisation, and can't reasonably try without becoming devoid of meaning entirely)... More importantly - That Is What allocating Your Ability Scores Is
. That thing that we do, when we've rolled our ability scores and are deciding where to put them? That's a background and roleplay decision. Allocating our ability scores is the representation of one part of our background. Racial bonuses are independent of that. If our character has brain damage, that's represented by us putting that 5 that we rolled into INT. If our character spent most of her young life running from guards and having to weave in and out of cramped city-scapes constantly just to survive, and is really pretty exceptional at slipping into and out of situations with agility and precision we are representing that when we put that 16 we rolled into Dexterity.
Cheetahs can run faster than wolves - this is to say that due to their pronounced differences in physical biology, a cheetah and a wolf with the same upbringing, opportunities, lifestyles and training will run at different speeds. There is nothing wrong with this; this is not a bad thing to say or acknowledge. It is not offensive or discriminatory or 'racist against wolves' in any way. If both of these creatures train and practice to the point that their abilities reach limits that begin to surpass mortal bounds and push them into demigod status, then those base physical propensities will functionally disappear in the face of how overwhelming both of their abilities actually are... but one will need to work a little harder to get to that point.
Maybe the cheetah has led a slovenly lifestyle, been pampered by comfort and luxury, and only really gets out for a run once every few days when he feels like he needs enrichment... maybe the wolf always aspired to be a track racer, and has trained to do that for years. That wolf will naturally be faster in a sprint than that cheetah - because that cheetah will not allocate their highest scores to their speed, while the wolf probably will - the cheetah still has a better natural propensity for speed, but the lifestyle choices of the two have overcome that base disparity; that absolutely does not mean that the cheetah is not a cheetah and does not have certain natural biological features any more - if the wolf had led as lazy a life as it had, they'd both be poor sprinters... but all other things being equal
, the cheetah would retain a slight
edge due to their native biology being suited to the task, and would win more often than not in that circumstance.
To the idea of different, racially dictated, ability caps - absolutely not. That is the very last thing that we need under any circumstance, and is a return to the exact thing that the twitter crowd is (falsely and in ignorance) accusing the current system of doing - limiting people's capabilities by their race. Absolutely not
. Remember that in this system, a 20 is brushing on the limits of mortal bounds and beginning to tread the path of demigod status. We're not talking about Olympic athletes here (who are, in a conversion of this system, around about 16s in their chosen fields - do not underestimate the scale of the bracket or what our heroes are supposed to be capable of); the scale is larger than that, and edges onto things that are mortally impossible
. If you are a being with a skill that is at that extreme degree of capability, the magnitude of it is not going to be affected by what mortal race you were born as; the halfling demigod of drink and brawling is not going to lose an arm wrestle with the orcish demigod of rock-punching because he is a halfling - they are both supreme representations of strength, at that point.
This matters, because it is important to acknowledge that different peoples are different, especially when talking of literal different species of creature entirely, and having racial bonuses is one important element of doing that that nevertheless does not
actually create a hard limitation by race.
Who we are is, to use older terminology, contributed to by both nature and nurture elements; there are factors of who we are born as that we do not choose or control, and there are factors that we do have a say in, or that affect us outside of base biology. Both
of these contribute and are important, but Neither
limit our ultimate potential.
Our backgrounds are the nurture side of the equation of who we are; moving things like weapon proficiency, skill training, and other cultural and non-biological elements into Backgrounds is a Good
move, because that's what that is supposed to be about. How we allocate our ability scores as per our rolls, or as we buy them with point buy, etc., is a part of this, and it is the greater
part of determining out exceptional character's actual ability score spread.
The nature part of that equation are the things that our character did not choose; the biological elements of their birthright and lineage, the species of creature that they literally are, and so on. This covers natural features, opposite the aforementioned social and cultural training, and it covers racial physicality and native propensities (these are the racial ability score bonuses), opposite the aforementioned choices they personally made about their life. All of these elements matter in their own way and contribute towards making the unique people that our characters are.
Here's an exchange, as a thought piece: