Some races are particularly well-suited for some classes. I think of it almost as a tiered system, where the top tier race/class combinations get you 20/16 or 18/18, second tier can get you 18/16 or 20/14. The bottom tier? I suppose you can always have an 18/14.What this really comes down to is that since each race (except humans) gets +2 to exactly two scores, those scores can overlap with 2 (top tier), 1 (second tier) or 0 (bottom tier) of the primary abilities of each class. Matthew goes on to say in the comments:
But basically it seems reasonable that every race should be a top-tier contender (e.g. 20/16) in one or two builds, and a second tier (e.g. 18/16) contender in a bigger number of others. I’m not sure whether that’s the case, but I suspect that some races fare better than others.I have the same suspicion, and I want to see it spelled out, so here's what I'm going to do: I cross each race with each class. For each class build in the PHB I take the abilities suggested as best/second-best score and compare to the abilities boosted by the race. For each match the race/class combo scores a point. Humans score 1 point for every class, presuming the ability boost chosen matches a primary ability of the human's class. I'll color every top tier match green and bottom tier red, leaving second tier white.
|Str, Cha||Con, Wis||Dex, Int||Dex, Wis||Con, Cha||Dex, Cha||Pick one||Int, Cha|
|Str, Dex or Wis||1||.5||.5||.75||0||.5||1||0|
So only four of the eight races are "top-tier contenders" in anything, and only one (the dragonborn, with a whopping 3 top-tier builds) is a contender in more than one. The eladrin war wizard and halfling trickster rogue are unsurprising, though it's interesting that the stereotypical tiefling infernal pact scourge warlock is actually a suboptimal choice compared to the deceptive warlock (based solely on ability bonuses).
The rest of the races run pretty even, except for the poor dwarf, who (ability-wise) is only suited to cleric, fighter, scourge warlock (even moreso than the tiefling, really, which is weird) and control wizard. Now, having seen a dwarf paladin in actual play I can state with some certainty that this table doesn't tell the whole story. Most of the dwarven racial powers are very handy for paladins, and the wisdom bonus synergizes with the tertiary ability of both paladin builds as well. Maybe in a future post I'll redo the table and tinker with the scoring system to give a higher score for synergy with the primary ability and a non-zero score score for synergy with the tertiary ability.
I also find it interesting/annoying that there are no top-tier PHB races for my two favorite 4e class builds: the tactical warlord and the control wizard.