For those unfamiliar with T&T, “Kindred” is the game’s term for humanoid races. Like Arduin, the assumption is that player characters can be all kinds of weird shit. Four-ish classes, innumerable races. Not a problem for me.
The issue I have with the T&T Kindreds is that by default, their ability scores are derived using a multiple of the rolled ability score (which is, absent house ruling, what human characters are stuck with in 5th edition). D&D uses additions and subtractions, which are less imbalancing in usual practice. I’m a pretty good Magic: the Gathering player and anyone with a theoretical understanding of that game (or basic arithmetic) can attest that where one is working with relatively low important numeric thresholds, positive multipliers can spin out to degeneracy very quickly.
T&T combat effectiveness is, practically speaking, derived from the character’s ability scores, and goes up in a straight line from 13. If one has a Strength of 13, one gets a bonus, and this bonus increases by an equal amount for every additional point above 13. A 16 Strength is on the far positive end of the curve for human strength and yields a bonus to combat. However, a humanoid Kindred may, for instance, have a Strength of 2 * the number rolled, in this case a 32. A character with a 32 Strength is, other things being equal, much much more effective than an otherwise special human character.
This makes Kindreds much more effective in combat and often in wizardry, where high Strength is both a prerequisite and the “battery” for higher level spells. And this in turn requires an upward spiral in Monster Ratings and other indicia of challenge difficulty. This is evident in the published solitaire adventures, most of which thoroughly outclass any by-the-book human character. The argument that characters can always look to non-combat options does little for me; those options are also open to Kindreds, so the gap doesn’t really close.
I’m not a believer in compensating for increased mechanical effectiveness by applying penalties to social interactions, et al. That is, I don’t think that one compensates for a dwarf being really strong by having the local bumpkinry bounce bricks off his skull the second he hits town. This is tiresome from a roleplaying perspective for everyone involved and does nothing to rein in the imbalance in combat effectiveness in the dungeon (or tunnels or whatever).
I’ve used two solutions in the past. One is to restrict player characters to humans only. The other is to use additions and subtractions as in D&D, e.g., a dwarf might get a +2 to Strength and Constitution rather than doubling each. These have and still seem satisfactory.
However, a recent commenter – who will have advised in obscurity unless the situation is rectified – indicated that in his or her campaign, humanoid Kindred characters are only permitted if the character’s rolled ability scores are all below a certain threshold. 12 is the threshold, I think, and if not, that’s what sounds about right. There’s precedent for nonhuman minima/maxima in 1st edition AD&D, if you care about that sort of thing. By-the-book, characters must have ability scores within a certain range to play a nonhuman character, although in my experience this rule is blithely ignored like so many others. And in DragonQuest, one actually had to roll below a certain number on percentile dice to play a nonhuman, and got so many (three?) tries; no successes, and you were stuck playing a human.
This seems like an elegant solution in that it keeps Kindred characters pretty rare – I’m biased that way anyway – and prevents doubling from getting out of hand. A dwarf will still be a nasty little bastard in a fight, but not quite as degenerate with a ceiling of 24.
I may try this out. My impression is still that such high ability scores make Kindreds more effective characters to a problematic extent, but they’d be rare enough that it shouldn’t be a common problem and I am not a balance fetishist. In every iteration of D&D with which I’m familiar (i.e., up through 3.x), some characters are more effective than others. Happens.
I really have no idea who brought this up and haven’t been able to find the comment with a cursory glance-over, so if you’re that person, feel free to pipe up. But it seems like a potential solution to the Kindred issue (which isn’t an issue to most folks, I suspect).
I’m interested to hear from other T&T enthusiasts re: how they feel about and handle Kindred within their games.