D&D 5E A Lineage and Its Variants: The New Race Format Going Forward

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Backgrounds can define a culture.
No, it really can't. At least in 5e. Since background is currently busy describing background. We aren't giving up being a sailor or outlander or urban bounty hunter or mercenary vet. And we know this because they have said it's going to be compatible.

Different orc cultures correlate with different Background assemblages.
No, we still need to be able to say I'm the apprentice shaman (acolyte) or my orc tribe, or the smith (guild artisan) or what have you.

Zeroing out background to replace it with culture is a non-starter in anything compatible so we know it is false.
 

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Yaarel

Mind Mage
@Blue

Among the prominant backgrounds of a particular orc culture, there can be Artisan, Folk Hero, and Sage. But there can also be unusual backgrounds like Cave Dweller. A specific faction, like Gruumsh, might comprise unique backgrounds.



When thinking about race and culture, I tend to keep the elf in mind because of its diversity. Any format that works for elf, can work for anything else.

An elf culture can include specific backgrounds like:

Grugach:
Cooshie Raiser
Trapper
Spear Hunter
Memory Eraser

Grey:
Griffon Rider

High:
Tree Shaper
Sword Dancer
Fey Librarian

Udadrow:
Spider Raiser
Sleep Poisoner

Aevendrow:
Tailor Mage

Avariel:
Glassteal Artisan

And so on.
 
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Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Among the prominant backgrounds of a particular orc culture, there can be Artisan, Folk Hero, and Sage. But there can also be unusual backgrounds like Cave Dweller. A specific faction, like Gruumsh, might comprise unique backgrounds.

When thinking about race and culture, I tend to keep the elf in mind because of its diversity. Any format that works for elf, can work for anything else.

An elf culture can include specific backgrounds like:
... [snipped]
And so on.
Your list is moving the goalposts since we are talking about common backgrounds, not culture unique ones. So I need a Cormyrian smith, with both smith features and Cormyrian features, a Sword Coast smith, with smith and Sword Coast features, a Cormyrian sage, with the same Cormyrian culture features and sage features, a Sword Coast sage with yet again repeating Sword Coast feature and repeating sage features, a Myth Drannor Sage, with ... I have to stop. It's endless multiplication of every background (including custom background) times every culture. And "elf" isn't even a culture anymore, so everything you have above is completely bonus - it might be for particular cultures in a particular setting. It just doesn't work on multiple levels to make background do double duty as background and culture.

And, this isn't compatible with existing, which they said they want. So this doesn't work anyway.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
Thats a lot of wasted page space roughly a page and a half, instead of half a page, and thats not including the ASI section that is boring, and the Language section that of course can no longer assume Dragonborn know Draconic, because reasons.

I mean, this is an improvement?
I'd say so. 5e has too few languages. I'm not advocating a return to 2e, where every type of dragon, giant, humanoid, and faerie had their own language, but I think that it's silly to assume that just because a creature looks reptilian that it speaks Draconic the way 5e does, or that flying bird-things all speak Auran.

I also think that Human should be a language, and Common should become a true trade tongue, not just the Human language that everyone speaks.
 

The Monster Manual should absolutely be a generic book. I have little interest in published campaign worlds, except where there might be an interesting concept or two. I wouldn't mind a template of some sort to modify a creature like in 3e (although that became excessive). We can have a paragraph or two for humanoids that point out how a couple things might change if their culture was primarily nomadic, seafaring, cave-dwelling, what have you. But you shouldn't need much.

I'd say so. 5e has too few languages....

I also think that Human should be a language, and Common should become a true trade tongue, not just the Human language that everyone speaks.
Emotionally I agree with you. However, in order to make it something useful rather than just a series of boolean values you need to have language trees. This would allow for understanding of dialects, partial understanding of sister languages (Romance, &c.), noting similarities in scripts, &c. It's a lot of work that you have to be conscious of in order to bring the payoff.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
Your list is moving the goalposts since we are talking about common backgrounds, not culture unique ones. So I need a Cormyrian smith, with both smith features and Cormyrian features, a Sword Coast smith, with smith and Sword Coast features, a Cormyrian sage, with the same Cormyrian culture features and sage features, a Sword Coast sage with yet again repeating Sword Coast feature and repeating sage features, a Myth Drannor Sage, with ... I have to stop. It's endless multiplication of every background (including custom background) times every culture. And "elf" isn't even a culture anymore, so everything you have above is completely bonus - it might be for particular cultures in a particular setting. It just doesn't work on multiple levels to make background do double duty as background and culture.

And, this isn't compatible with existing, which they said they want. So this doesn't work anyway.
Well, what sort of mechanical differences would there be between a smith from Cormyr and a smith from the Sword Coast?
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
Emotionally I agree with you. However, in order to make it something useful rather than just a series of boolean values you need to have language trees. This would allow for understanding of dialects, partial understanding of sister languages (Romance, &c.), noting similarities in scripts, &c. It's a lot of work that you have to be conscious of in order to bring the payoff.
Well, D&D languages didn't really evolve the way real-world languages did. Presumably, when a god created a creature, they also created the language at the same time. There should literally be no non-coincidental similarities between, say, Gnomish and Dwarven.

Some gods also created a script to go along with the language; other gods didn't, so their creations either went without or borrowed someone else's script whole-cloth.

I'd say just go with the way GURPS does it, where you learn languages at different levels. GURPS has broken, fluent, and native (I think that's the order), and you can have different levels for written and spoken, if you like. For D&D, I'd just go with broken and fluent. Instead of getting to speak 2-3 languages, you get, say, your own language at spoken (fluent) and written (at either fluent or broken, if you want to be more "realistic" in your faux-medievalness), and, say 8 points. You can spend 1 point to get a spoken or written language at broken and 2 for fluent, and 4 points for both spoken and written at fluent. And maybe additional points depending on your Intelligence or background.

Don't know how useful most tables would find this, but we did this when I ran Ravenloft using GURPS and the players had a blast with it.
 

I remember that chart.

I used that roughly, although not exactly, the same time I used differing valuations for coins. Increased realism but also headaches.

Now I kind of do it by zones. You speak the language used here. If you invest in it, you can learn to read or speak the language over there. If you invest more, you can talk to the people way over there that dress really weird and have the trade good everyone lusts after.
 

Ulorian

Adventurer
Then don't join in. It is really that simple.
Is that what you took from that? Wow. And please take your own advice. If your instinct is to swan into a conversation with a superiority complex (always a bad idea, hot tip) and deliver a drive by comment like this, perhaps go off and take a few minutes to rethink what you were about to say and why you wanted to say it.
 

Well I prefer getting rid of subraces. It saved a few lines here or there, while making it often necessary to cross-reference between a PHB race and a non-PHB subrace.

Regarding jargon. When we talk informally about a "race", we are actually talking about the "lineage". Technically, a "race" only refers to the statistics that a player character can use when choosing a lineage.

You are interpolating in a lot here, based I would assume on a presumption that there has been more consistency in the stance over the last several relevant releases than I think there necessarily is. The most recent release, Fizban's, ignores the concept of "lineages" in favor of players choosing from "the human race or one of the game's fantastical races". I see no mention of lineage here. My reading would be that, at this particular moment, they are not emphasizing "lineages" over races. I find it doubtful that they've really settled everything in as neat a scheme as you propose. I think if WotC actually felt committed to a clear scheme they were happy with they'd make a public announcement laying out the scheme. Instead I think they are playing with a variety of approaches over the last year or so of releases and haven't really committed to a final

They seem to have definitely settled on floating ability score boosts. At the moment they are playing with writing up subraces as races, though this may partly have to do with this particular release where, were they to use a race-subrace scheme people would incorrectly think they were supposed to attach the subraces to the PHB Dragonborn race. They also did it in an Unearthed Arcana for the Astral Elf, but that may have to do with everything else in the document being a race rather than a subrace and it being easier to read written as a complete race. Once again I hope they do dump subraces, as I think they just made for unnecessary cross-referencing and makes it harder to evolve approaches to races over the course of an edition, but I won't be shocked if they show up again.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
If your instinct is to swan into a conversation with a superiority complex ...

Mod Note:
I was responding to a report on the post - folks were being ticked off by it, and with some cause.

I chose to respond conversationally, rather than with red text, because I thought folks here would prefer that to the alternative red text, warning points, and thread-bans we otherwise tend to use. The failure of instinct was merely that people would want to consider what was being said, and choose appropriately, rather than be forced to do it by authoritarian voice.

Pardon me for not putting on the hob nail boots for a first approach. I will not likely make that mistake again for a while.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Well I prefer getting rid of subraces. It saved a few lines here or there, while making it often necessary to cross-reference between a PHB race and a non-PHB subrace.
Yeah, the subrace format was inconvenient for players. Also, it was constraining for design space.



I think if WotC actually felt committed to a clear scheme they were happy with they'd make a public announcement laying out the scheme.
The designers did announce a clear schematic. Namely, a "race" only refers to player options and wont include "culture", and the term "lineage" includes both player race and nonplayer character and monster. Since then, the designs havent contradicted this schematic.



The most recent release, Fizban's, ignores the concept of "lineages" in favor of players choosing from "the human race or one of the game's fantastical races". I see no mention of lineage here. My reading would be that, at this particular moment, they are not emphasizing "lineages" over races.
I noticed the absence of the term "lineage" in Fizbans too. Even so, the references to "races" were precisely in the context of player options, so it still continues the announced schematic.

I agree, the absence of lineage suggested hesitancy.



I find it doubtful that they've really settled everything in as neat a scheme as you propose. Instead I think they are playing with a variety of approaches over the last year or so of releases and haven't really committed to a final.
So far, the current designs have "settled". But it might be possible for future designs to include more experimentation or clarification.

In any case, there is a need for a technical term like "lineage" (≈ species). For example, a gray ooze isnt a "race", but it is a lineage. Where a "race" only refers to player character options, there needs to be a term like lineage that includes nonplayer stats as well.



(Suppose, an other experimental option that designers could do is to use the term "race" to exactly mean a "species". So that D&D does refer to a gray ooze as a race. And, a race can include both player stats and nonplayer stats. But the term "race" is problematic because of its relationship to reallife racism, and the term is worth segueing away from.)
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Well, D&D languages didn't really evolve the way real-world languages did. Presumably, when a god created a creature, they also created the language at the same time. There should literally be no non-coincidental similarities between, say, Gnomish and Dwarven.

Some gods also created a script to go along with the language; other gods didn't, so their creations either went without or borrowed someone else's script whole-cloth.

I'd say just go with the way GURPS does it, where you learn languages at different levels. GURPS has broken, fluent, and native (I think that's the order), and you can have different levels for written and spoken, if you like. For D&D, I'd just go with broken and fluent. Instead of getting to speak 2-3 languages, you get, say, your own language at spoken (fluent) and written (at either fluent or broken, if you want to be more "realistic" in your faux-medievalness), and, say 8 points. You can spend 1 point to get a spoken or written language at broken and 2 for fluent, and 4 points for both spoken and written at fluent. And maybe additional points depending on your Intelligence or background.

Don't know how useful most tables would find this, but we did this when I ran Ravenloft using GURPS and the players had a blast with it.
I feel languages are strictly the jurisdiction of a setting.

Some settings might only have a handful of languages (like Forgotten Realms), some settings might have thousands. (Today, reallife humanity is understood to have roughly 7000 languages.)

It is the setting that decides.



For Forgotten Realms, it seems plausible to me that the "human language" (Common) could become an inter-lineage language of commerce and inquiry. Creating a new artificial language for commerce seems less plausible.



I like the idea of levels of understanding: broken, fluent, and expert/native. It is possible to read a language as an expert but only speak it brokenly. And viceversa. The different levels of understanding could have DCs (10, 15, 20) for the History skill to attempt to decipher an unknown language.

In a setting where there are many languages, a family of closely related languages might be able to brokenly understand each other.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
I noticed the absence of the term "lineage" in Fizbans too. Even so, the references to "races" were precisely in the context of player options, so it still continues the announced schematic.

This is a clear example of confirmation bias. Honestly, how can you read so strongly things that go in your direction from sentences in some books (or actually not even in published books but just "throw away" UA) and reject out of hand other parts of the text as irrelevant when they are actually extremely clear and unambiguous in later publications ?

The sentence in Fizban's actually totally disregards what you claim is "the announced schematic". The whole chapter is called "Draconic Races"... It starts with "When you’re making a new character using one of these races". Also: "Every creature in D&D, including every player character, has a special tag in the rules that identifies the type of creature they are. Most player characters are of the Humanoid type. A race option presented here tells you what your character’s creature type is."
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
This is a clear example of confirmation bias. Honestly, how can you read so strongly things that go in your direction from sentences in some books (or actually not even in published books but just "throw away" UA) and reject out of hand other parts of the text as irrelevant when they are actually extremely clear and unambiguous in later publications ?

The sentence in Fizban's actually totally disregards what you claim is "the announced schematic". The whole chapter is called "Draconic Races"... It starts with "When you’re making a new character using one of these races". Also: "Every creature in D&D, including every player character, has a special tag in the rules that identifies the type of creature they are. Most player characters are of the Humanoid type. A race option presented here tells you what your character’s creature type is."
The designers have said what they plan to do. So far they are doing what they said they will do.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
The whole chapter is called "Draconic Races"... It starts with "When you’re making a new character using one of these races".
Yes, the whole chapter that is dedicated to player options uses the technical term "races".

That is precisely what the designers said they will do.



"Every creature in D&D, including every player character, has a special tag in the rules that identifies the type of creature they are.
This is true. Both a player character race and a nonplayer monster statblock list a creature type.

Most player characters are of the Humanoid type. A race option presented here tells you what your character’s creature type is."
Most player character races are the Humanoid creature type − but not all.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
The designers have said what they plan to do. So far they are doing what they said they will do.
I fail to see this, I see exactly the contrary, actually. Please explain where the promised "lineages" are, since they were supposed to replace things in particular for the player options. No trace of them in Fizban's, we are back to races.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
I fail to see this, I see exactly the contrary, actually. Please explain where the promised "lineages" are, since they were supposed to replace things in particular for the player options. No trace of them in Fizban's, we are back to races.
Heh, I get the impression, that because of your own agenda, these are things that you willfully dont want to pay attention to or know or understand.

An earlier post already explained in detail, what the designers announced. For example.

"Finally, going forward, the term “race” in D&D refers only to the suite of game features used by player characters. Said features don’t have any bearing on monsters and NPCs who are members of the same species or lineage."

In sum.

lineage = player character race + nonplayer character/monster

The term "race" is only for player character features.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Heh, I get the impression, that because of your own agenda, these are things that you willfully dont want to pay attention to or know or understand.

An earlier post already explained in detail, what the designers announced. For example.

"Finally, going forward, the term “race” in D&D refers only to the suite of game features used by player characters. Said features don’t have any bearing on monsters and NPCs who are members of the same species or lineage."

In sum.

lineage = player character race + nonplayer character/monster

The term "race" is only for player character features.

No, because of your own agenda, you are reading the above totally wrong. This sentence "Said features don’t have any bearing on monsters and NPCs who are members of the same species or lineage" only says that the features for players don't apply to NPCs and Monsters. And that is all. Don't read anything more into it.

It only says that the features created for example for an orc NPC have no bearing on the Orc as a monster or on your Orc NPC, which don't have to use a lineage, but can certainly be a species.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
No, because of your own agenda, you are reading the above totally wrong. This sentence "Said features don’t have any bearing on monsters and NPCs who are members of the same species or lineage" only says that the features for players don't apply to NPCs and Monsters. And that is all. Don't read anything more into it.

It only says that the features created for example for an orc NPC have no bearing on the Orc as a monster or on your Orc NPC, which don't have to use a lineage, but can certainly be a species.
"Monsters who are members of the same lineage" as the player character race, means:

Both PC races and NPC monsters belong to a "lineage".

In sum:

lineage = PC race + NPC/monster
 

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