[RPG] What are the mechanical and role-playing advantages of playing a human


I'm a DM for a bunch of new players who are going through the Lost Mines of Phandelver starter set with the pre-generated characters. This campaign will be over fairly soon and I need to get the group thinking about creating their own characters, ready for the next campaign.

Part of this process is getting myself familiar with the various races and classes so that I can assist them with creating their characters. After looking at each race in turn in the PHB and typing up a short cheat sheet showing each race's stats/abilities/proficiencies etc, I asked myself one question. Why would any of my players want to play as a human?

Each of the other races has some sort of proficiency or trait that makes them stand out and gives the character something extra, but all humans appear to have is a +1 to each ability score. This doesn't seem like much fun compared to all the bonuses other races receive. Therefore my question is:

How much of an advantage is it to have a +1 in each ability score and what other potential advantages would a human have in D&D from a mechanical and role playing point of view?

I don't want to force any of my players to actually be a human. If all five wanted to choose Dragonborn, that would be completely fine. But a good answer here will allow me to present a solid argument for considering a human over other, more exotic races.

Although I would like some answers based on RAW, anything that mentions optional races/features such as Variant Human would also be helpful.

Best Answer

Humans aren't as bad as you think

Firstly, humans gets +1 to all stats, in the PHB (pg. 31):

Ability Score Increase. Your ability scores each increase by 1.

This means, as @SeriousBri pointed out in a comment (now deleted), they can get higher starting stats when using the point buy system. But even with rolling for stats, if you end up with a bunch of odd numbers, this can increase all of the modifiers by one.

(To quote a player at an RPG club I go to, after rolling either mostly or entirely odd numbers: "Well... looks like I'll be going human!")

Secondly, the variant human rules (which I believe is AL-legal, as far as RAW goes). They get +1 to two stats, plus a free skill proficiency, plus a feat. This last point makes them very strong (depending on what feat you're going for).

From the PHB again, page 31:

Variant Human

If your campaign uses the optional feat rules from the Player’s Handbook, your Dungeon Master might allow these variant traits, all of which replace the human’s Ability Score Increase trait.

Ability Score Increase. Two different ability scores of your choice increase by 1.

Skills. You gain proficiency in one skill of your choice.

Feat. You gain one feat of your choice.

As an example, making a Barbarian or Paladin or something who uses a great weapon, you can pick the Great Weapon Master feat, which allows a second attack (as a bonus action) if you crit or kill something. This is essentially Extra Attack at level 1, which is very strong.

Furthermore, it's possible for a human using the variant rules to have a 20 in a stat at level 1. As an example, elves get +2 to Dexterity, so if they roll an 18, they can have a 20 in Dexterity at level 1. However, recently a player in a game I'm playing in rolled an 18 as a human wizard, put that in Intelligence, used one of their "+1 to any two stats" to make that a 19, then took the Linguist feat (which, among other things, gives +1 to Intelligence) to increase that to 20.

Ok, so they don't have darkvision, but neither do Dragonborn or Halflings.