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Humanoids, monstrous humanoids, or both? [9 January 07] The best way to classify liontaurs and wemics.

image from Cat's Grace Web ComicIn a recent Web comic, one character points out that Grace, the liontaur hero, is a monstrous humanoid. But under the hood, that's the culmination of a lot of pondering and playtesting by me over the years. Here's why.

When I first started fiddling with the 3E (third edition) rules for wemics as player characters, I quickly realized that stock 3E Dungeons and Dragons wemics were pretty powerful. You would need a level adjustment of +6 or so to make it work. That means a stock 5-hit-dice wemic with no class levels would be a balanced addition to a party of 6th level PCs.

Now, in the second edition of the rules, there was an option to play wemics as 1st level characters. Inspired by this, I wanted to put together rules for playing a wemic as a 1st level PC under the 3E rules.

One idea is to play a cub. Start out as a 1-hit-die wemic and gain "monster levels" -- by the time you get to 5th level, your 5-hit-die wemic will be grown up and -- more to the point -- balanced along his entire career with the non-wemic members of his party. Here are the rules I wrote on playing as a young wemic. (Caveat player: They probably need an update after all these years.)

Another idea is to simply tone down the rules so that your wemic is balanced as a first level PC. The rules for this wemic would look like the rules for elves and half-orcs and humans in the Players Handbook.

But the stock D&D wemic and the toned down "wemic" were two different beasties. I've adopted the word "wemic" for the version with five racial hit dice, and the word "liontaur" for the version that has no racial hit dice, just class levels.

When I wrote those rules, I worried about the liontaur's type. Clearly, a wemic is a monstrous humanoid, just like centaurs, minotaurs, harpies, and other hybrid creatures. But if you say that a liontaur PC is a monstrous humanoid, then she ends up with immunity to several spells, because she is not a "person." The rules define a "person" as a humanoid. So the Charm Person spell affects dwarves and orcs, for example, but not centaurs and wemics. Giving liontaur PCs immunity to Charm Person and Hold Person, among others, seemed too powerful.

So I hedged, hemmed, and hawed. The rules I helped put together for actual play on the Woldian Games online play-by-post site, for example, specified that liontaurs were BOTH humanoids and monstrous humanoids. I wanted to have my cake and eat it too. And that is how the official rules in the Wold still work (for now at least).

But I have played a liontaur sorcerer for a few years now with those rules, and I have come to the conclusion that my thinking was flawed. First, it is very rare that a PC is hit by a Charm Person or a Hold Person, or by some other effect that targets only "persons." So the power-level of a liontaur's hypothetical immunity to those spells is not actually very great.

On the other hand, letting the liontaur use Enlarge Person freely is very powerful. It lets an already large-size PC become huge. That's a +8 on grapple checks and other special attacks, for example. Not to mention an extra five feet of reach. Frankly, a huge liontaur, taking up nine spaces on a battle map, is unbalancing, The large liontaur is not so bad, since even large quadrupeds have only a five-foor reach. But the huge liontaur is too much. But if the liontaur is a monstrous humanoid, then this problem goes away, since Enlarge Person affects only humanoids!

And look at Alter Self. The liontaur who is both a humanoid and a monstrous humanoid has a very large array of choices for the Alter Self spell, from gargoyle to elf. Limiting the liontaur to monstrous humanoid is a good balancer here too.

Here's the test. If your liontaur never faces foes who cast Charm Person or Hold Person, and if your liontaur is casting Enlarge person every other battle, then making liontaurs monstrous humanoids (only) is a power balancer, not a power booster.

So I've changed my online rules for playing a liontaur PC.

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