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Humans are obviously inspired by the real world, and have been an integral part of the game since its very beginning. Humans as playable characters are covered by the Player’s Handbook, with both of the books we’re covering having entries for humans as opposition.
Like in pretty much every edition of D&D, humans are described as being a very diverse lot. 4e goes a bit beyond this traditional description, though, and ascribes a few extra traits to them.
These mostly come from looking at humanity from the perspective of the other races: humans are incredibly ambitious and intense, always aiming to achieve great things in their short lifetimes. While only a few truly manage it, they tend to leave profound marks in the world and its history. Collectively, all of this passion has also led them to spread further than any other “civilized” people. You can find humans in any environment, and in greater numbers than almost anyone else. When they work together, they can easily form grand organizations or empires that vastly outlive its individual members. Nerath is only the most recent of those, and there’s at least one more: ancient Bael Turath.
This combination of ambition and the willingness to serve causes greater than any one individual also makes humans incredibly succeptible to corruption. When some elves pledge allegiance to evil and move underground, it’s an event of mythical proportions! When a group of humans does the same thing, it’s a Tuesday. Nerath fell because it became too decadent to protect itself, and we’ll get into what happened to Bael Turath later.
The signature human trait is that they have no signature trait! Each book has 6 stat blocks, and they have little in common aside from the words “Medium Natural Humanoid” and their native speed of 6.
As it happens with all playable races, every stat block has an alignment of “Any” or “Unaligned”, and is meant to represent either enemies or NPC allies.
Human Minions (Both)
Our minions are a bunch of schlubs with clubs. They come in two power levels: 2 and 7.
The level 2 variety is called “Human Rabble” in the MM and “Human Goon” in the MV. In either case they’re Minion Soldiers that have a basic club attack and a trait named Mob Rule, hich gives them a +2 to all defenses if they have at least two other goons are within 5 squares.
The Level 7 variety is called “Human Lackey” in the MM and “Human Thug” in the MV. Lackeys are brutes and also get Mob Rule, while Thugs are skirmishers and get Rush Into Battle: if they hit with a charge attack, their target grants combat advantage for a turn.
Basically, if the PCs manage to rile up a classic torches-and-pitchforks mob, or piss off a tavern-full of unsavory drunks, it will be made up of these people. They’re also good to represent low-ranking cultists, or peasant allies.
Human Bandit (Both)
Called a “Common Bandit” in the MV, this Level 2 Skirmisher is another classic. It has 37 HP, wears leather, and fights with a mace and a brace of throwing daggers. It’s trained in Stealth, Streetwise and Thievery.
Mace attacks allow the bandit to shift 1 square on a hit. Once per encounter they can perform a Dazing Strike that works as a mace attack and also dazes for a turn. Finally, they deal a bit of “sneak attack” damage if they have combat advantage.
Bandits are fond of ambushes and tend to retreat if bloodied. All of the usual historical considerations about why someone would become a bandit apply here. A large bandit gang will likely be mostly made up of Goons, with these guys representing their veterans.
Human Guard (Both)
Called a “Town Guard” in the MV, this is a Level 3 Soldier with 47 HP. Guards wear mail (which reduces their speed to 5) and carry both halberds and light crossbows.
Their basic halberd attack has Reach 2 and also marks the target for a turn on a hit. Every so often they can make a Powerful Strike (recharge 5-6) which does more damage and knocks prone on a hit. Their crossbows have Range 20, which is pretty good.
These stats also seem appropriate for soldiers on a battlefield. In both cases a squad made up entirely of Town Guards is a pretty versatile threat, since they can attack both at range and in melee. It could act as a sort of “pike and shot” unit, keeping a tight formation and marching towards the enemy. The front ranks would wield their polearms all the way through, and the ones towards the back would switch weapons whey the front ranks engage the enemy.
Human Berserker (MM)
Berserkers are actually an extremely traditional “monster”, with their first appearance being in OD&D. Here, they are Level 4 Brutes with 66HP. Berserkers run at speed 7, wear hide, and fight with axes.
Their greataxes are a High Crit weapon, and they can also throw handaxes if they can’t reach someone for melee combat this turn. When first bloodied, they use an attack named Battle Fury (free action; encounter), making a basic attack at a +4 attack bonus and a +1d6 damage bonus.
As expected, they are likely to fight to the death, and their tactics can be summed up as “Chaaaarge!”.
Human Mage (MM)
These spellcasters are Level 4 Artillery and have 42 HP. They wear robes and wield a staff that’s nothing special in melee, and their main weapon is magic.
As a ranged basic attack, they can cast Magic Missiles of the kind that deal a nice bit of force damage and require an attack roll (Ranged 20 vs. Reflex).
Once per encounter, they can use Dancing Lightning (Ranged 10 vs. Reflex), which targets up to three enemies and does lightning damage.
Also once per encounter, they can use Thunder Burst (Area burst 1 within 10 vs. Fortitude), which deals thunder damage and dazes (save ends).
These wizards seem to be somewhat storm-themed, but aside from this there’s no restriction on what sort of person they represent. You could find them as members of a town guard, bandit gang, sinister cult, witch coven, and so on.
Human Transmuter (MV)
This one is actually an update of the Human Hexer from the MM2, which has a bunch more human opponents of varied levels. It’s a more powerful spellcaster than the MM Mage, with a transmutation theme. This Level 7 Controller has 77 HP and the usual staff and robes outfit.
Being a MV controller, its staff actually does respectable damage in melee. The transmuter’s at-will ranged attack is Capricious Earth (Area Burst 2 within 5 vs. Will; enemies only) which does damage and slides the targets up to 3 squares. This is a charm effect, so I guess that it only makes the targets think the earth is pushing them around.
The transmuter can also resort to the Beast Curse (Ranged 5 vs. Fortitude; recharge 4-6), which turns the target into a Tiny animal like a frog or rabbit for a turn. While thus polymorphed, the target can’t use powers or attacks.
As a minor action, the transmuter can Hex someone (Close Burst 5 vs. Will; one enemy in burst). The hex lasts a turn and gives the target a -2 penalty to attack and damage rolls against the transmuter. As a move action, the transmuter can use Hex Jump once per encounter to switch places with a hexed target.
As befits a controller, the transmuter is a lot trickier than the standard mage. Ideally it will be able to keep someone squishy locked down with Beast Curse and use Capricious Earth to prevent the fighters from forming up properly. Hex should be applied to someone as far away as possible to allow an easy escape from being surrounded.
Human Duelist (MV)
This one seems to be entirely new. Duelists are Level 8 Soldiers with 85 HP, wearing leather and carrying a longsword.
Their longsword attacks mark for a turn, and Advantageous Jab allows them to attack as an interrupt anyone who attempts to ignore the mark. Hit or miss, the target takes a -2 penalty to their attack.
Duelists also have a trait named Duelist’s Poise that gives their attacks an “immobilization for a turn” rider if they have combat advantage against the target.
This stat block also looks like a good stand-in for a military officer or the like. They combo rather well with skirmishers.
Sample Encounters and Final Impressions
The MM gives us no less than three encounters:
Level 3: 1 berserker, 2 guards, 2 spitting drakes. A guard patrol where one of them is a loose cannon who doesn’t play by the rules.
Level 4: 1 mage, 2 bandits, 3 gravehound zombies, 3 zombie rotters. A necromancer and their lackeys, out for a spot of grave-robbing.
Level 5: 2 mages, 6 human lackeys, 1 evistro. And here’s your standard entry-level demonic cult.
Humans are of course one of the most important building blocks of any D&D setting. Sure, you can write up a setting that has no humans in it, but that’s the sort of decision that tends to ripple outward to become one of that setting’s main traits. They’re significant even in their absence, because they’re pretty much everywhere else.