I touched on this a little bit in my post about Wisdom, but one of my biggest complaints about the D&D Attributes is the designer’s apparent confusion over what Charisma is.
A high Charisma gives you a bonus on Bluff, Disguise, Diplomacy, Handle Animal, Intimidate, Perform, and Use Magic Device. It also gives you a bonus when determining the followers you can attract (per the Leadership feat), and Charisma is used on any check that involves influencing others. It describes a character’s personal magnetism and ability to lead. A low Charisma penalizes these same things, making it harder to intimidate, persuade, beguile, or lead others. In pretty much very case, Charisma is treated as a character’s strength of personality, their confidence, and their assertiveness.
But when describing racial traits, Charisma isn’t about confidence and assertiveness, it’s about likeability. Dwarves are “a bit gruff,” Goblins are “unpleasant,” and both get a penalty to Charisma. They got it right with Aasimar and Halflings and Drow, who are “Confident,” “Strong-willed,” and “Manipulative” but they mess it up with Gnomes and Tieflings and Catfolk who are “Agreeable,” “Unnerving,” and “Sociable.” Orcs get a penalty for being “savage.” Sure, it makes sense for getting a penalty to Diplomacy for being gruff or unnerving or savage, but why should the samehurt Intimidate? I agree that Goblins should have a CHA penalty, but it’s because they’re spineless cowards not because they’re rude or ugly. Do people really believe lies if you’re likable (or, would you really be likable if you were known for being able to tell lies)? Does a Magic Device really care how sociable you are?
So here’s a quick run-down of how I would recast the Races’ attributes:
Asimar: +2 WIS, +2 CHA; Insightful and Confident
Drow: +2 DEX, +2 CHA, -2 CON; Nimble, Manipulative, and Delicate
Dwarves: +2 STR, +2 CON, -2 DEX; Strong but Stunted
Catfolk: +2 DEX, +2 CHA, -2 WIS; Agile, Self-assured, but lacking Common Sense
Gnomes: +2 CON, +2 WIS, -2 STR; Hardy, Wise, and Weak
Goblins: +4 DEX, -2 STR, -2 CHA; Quick, Weak, and Spineless (or alternately -2 WIS for Foolish)
Halflings: +2 DEX, +2 CHA, -2 STR; Nimble, Strong-willed, Weak
Orc: +4 STR, -2 INT, -2 WIS, -2 CHA; Strong, Dim, and Unfocused
Tiefling:+2 INT, +2 CHA; Intelligent and Manipulative