5E Access to Races in a Campaign

Do you restrict the races that your players can choose to play?

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So I was wondering do Dungeon Masters habitually restrict what races are available in the campaigns they run? And if so, how do you do it and why? For those who don't do it, why not?

Whenever I game I personally do restrict what races are available and the only time I have played under a DM who didn't restrict access was in D&D 4th edition. I restrict what's available so that those characters that are available in the region that we're playing in. This way characters have a defined place within the region and I know how inhabitants of that region will react to members of that race.

In my current campaign the game is located in Cormyr in the year 1489 DR (current era) of the Forgotten Realms. The official WotC races that I have banned are:
  • Wild Elf
  • Deep Gnomes
  • Ghostwise Halflings
  • Half-Orcs
  • Aarakocra
  • Air Genasi, Earth Genasi and Fire Genasi.
  • Duergar
  • Winged tieflings

The region either doesn't have these characters, they are xenophobic or they would be killed on sight in either Cormyr or the region immediately surrounding Cormyr. The above races have only been banned for flavourful reasons, not mechanical.

In return I am allowing the following races (many of which are homebrew and/or beta playtesting):
  • Dragonborn
  • Gold Dwarf, Shield Dwarf, Half Dwarf (mechanically the same as either shield or gold dwarves except for Stout Halflings).
  • Aquatic Elf, Dark Elf, Drow, Moon Elf, Sun Elf, Wood Elf
  • Gondsman
  • Goliath
  • Forest Gnome, Rock Gnome
  • Half-Aquatic Elf, Half-Dark Elf, Half-Drow, Half-Moon Elf, Half-Sun Elf, Half-Wood Elf,
  • Hairfoot Halfling, Lightfoot Halfling, Stout Halfling
  • Human (various ethnicities but mechanically the same except for language).
  • Kenku
  • Fey Lythari, Beasthide Lythari, Cliffwalk Lythari, Longtooth Lythari, Razorclaw Lythari, Wildhunt Lythari
  • Plains Minotaur
  • Aasimar, Abyssal Tieflings, Celadrin, Infernal Tieflings, Shackled Tieflings, Water Genasi
  • Worldsouls (Fluff separating the 4th edition Genasi as a separate race from 3.5e genasi)

One of the arguments for running an "anything goes" campaign is that it opens everything up and doesn't restrict the player's options. I would argue that their options have not been meaningfully restricted with the races I am (and am not) allowing.


Absolutely. If I'm placing a game in a certain area or setting where some races either shouldn't be there or are not right for the setting... I'll tell the players "Here's what you can play". If anyone doesn't like it, then they can choose not to play in that particular game. Or if they ask why... I tell them that if the only way they can make their character seems "special" is by playing an obscure race, perhaps they'd be better served learning how to be better at characterization and roleplay. A character becomes "special" based upon the interesting details, personality, and experiences you create for it and play-- and you can use ANY race for that.

But if you can't do that... and you have to use an obscure race because you think it's a shortcut... I got news for you... your half-aasimar/half-drow isn't going to be any more "special" because you'll end up playing it just as generically as if you played a Human. The only difference being... I don't have to waste my time trying to maintain campaign consistency with this oddball walking around.


When I run my home brew world, I limit races to what fits my preferences. I disallow gnomes and drow, and monks. I would allow dragonborn but as a unique creature, not a race.

When I run other settings, I allow what is natural for the setting. I've got a world where half the population have some dragon blood, and have 3 versions of dragonborn for that world ( never got to run it,though). Etcefera. I think limiting races and classes only increases imaginative play as people work around the restrictions.


It would be rare for me to ban any races currently available in 5E. It usually has to be a race that is way out there to be prohibited, and under those circumstances I may allow a one-off like playing warforged or a flying race. If I restrict a lot of things in game, then I am already working against myself as a DM. Especially if the players have a true interest and are willing to roleplay or fit the concept into the current campaign.


Well, I build settings for my campaigns in one of two ways: when I build using the information that I get from the players, I allow them to play anything they want. When I build my own concept and then invite people to play, I only allow races that are part of the concept initially given. No way I'm letting someone join my "it's like Middle-Earth" game with a dragonborn character, for example.


I restrict races, too, but my reasons are different-slash-arbitrary:

* "Monster races", such as dragonborn/tiefling/halforc/etc, are restricted to one instance per party to ensure the feel of rarity (this is narratively expressed in the game, such as in settlements). Yes, even the PH optional races (half-elf excepted). My game world is human-centric and I don't want a party of drow, kenku, and aarakokra messing up that vibe. But in the interest of flexibility and compromise with players I permit one monster race in the party at any given time; I'm satisfied with this and my group hasn't complained (and FWIW current characters are all human).

* None of my players have asked about optional publications (eg, goliath) but same general rule would apply.

* Gnomes and Drow are banned for not matching the ambiance of my game world.

* PH vanilla races are otherwise wide-open with no restriction

(Sure, this is all a very grognard-ish AD&D racial composition.)


When I run my home brew world, I limit races to what fits my preferences. I disallow gnomes and drow, and monks. I would allow dragonborn but as a unique creature, not a race. ... I think limiting races and classes only increases imaginative play as people work around the restrictions.
I agree completely with this, I run games similarly. But this really depends on your player base; I'm lucky in that I have excellent players who get along well and who (mostly) share my preferences.

Kobold Stew

PHB races always allowed; everything else on a case-by-case basis.

I don't consider that restricting, but perhaps you do.


My last couple of campaigns have been set around large, cosmopolitan areas (Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter) so I've felt no need to restrict races. If I were doing a tightly-themed campaign, though, I'd have no problem restricting races and I think that my players wouldn't have a problem with it. If someone did want to play an unusual race in such a campaign, I'd make sure they had a very good reason for being there and I'd let them know that they would be facing a lot of prejudice.


Yes, for my own setting. Usually, I'm willing to play along with whatever the player wants out of race, but there are a few races that just don't seem to work in the setting. It's not a kitchen-sink fantasy.

That all said, I've found places for MOST races in PHB, DMG, SCAG, EEPG, and UA.


Magic Wordsmith
I prefer the players decide through consensus which races are not in the campaign world and which aren't. For an ongoing campaign, I don't like a top-down approach of the DM saying what's allowable and what's not. Oftentimes we don't say whether a race is nonexistent. Players instead choose what they wish to play and we're silent on whether any other races exist until they come up in play. If nobody creates a dragonborn, for example, and no dragonborn are mentioned during play, then they effectively don't exist.
I restrict races but only for story reasons.

You can't be dwarves because they are all crazy. Every single one is crazy or managing crazy dwarves.

You can't be a drow because all of them are evil anarchists as being a drow is a choice. Drowing an elf is a simple ritual. Reversing it is just as easy.

I'm A Banana

Generally, nope. Not much of a cause to. My favorite approach is to let PC's race choices determine a bit about what the campaign is going to focus on - if someone plays an aarakocra, you better bet we'll have air elementals and mountain jungles and the like; if someone plays a dwarf, orcs are probably going to pop up, etc.

But just like classes, I might do it for a specific vibe (most likely to go human-only in a world that scores high on the "mundane-o-meter").


Yes, I do. But it always has a real-world explanation. Sometimes races simply don't exist in the world, or those races are the primary antagonist, so if you played one and walked into a town you'd likely be hung. Sometimes those races are highly isolated or extremely xenophobic, so the only way to play them would be to have an entire party made from them. Sometimes races exist but aren't the adventuring type, such as halflings. I will allow halflings if two or more people want to play halflings, they're skittish folks and often travel with friends.

But I don't think up a list of races that don't exist, I think up a list of races that do and then subsequently ban everything else. It's easier than attempting to analyze if every race will fit into the world. Typically my "kitchen sink" campaigns don't ban any race. Players are always welcome to be the exception to the rules but that doesn't mean the rest of the world will treat them like they're an exception. If the Orc Kingdom is at war with the Elf Tribes then an elf strolling into the Orc Kingdom is going to under constant watch.

Jester David

My current campaign is very much a kitchen sink, so there's a bit of everything. All the races from the PHB and a few from the Kobold Press books (Southlands Heroes and Midgard Heroes). I might do a few of my own to include as well.


I was going to say "No - I don't normally restrict PHB races" - but I guess you meant *any* races? By that standard, yes I certainly do.