D&D 5E D&D Needs "Weirder"/More Unique Races

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
Okay, quick clarification before I get into this a bit more. I do not mean that current official D&D races need to get weirder/more unique, I mean that we need future official races to be weirder and more unique. Sure, D&D already has quite a few weird/unique races, but a lot of them have quite a bit of overlap. Orcs have significant overlap with Goliaths and Hobgoblins (all three being proud warrior races), Tritons, Sea Elves, and Mermaids all fill the same niche, Elves have overlap with Gnomes and Firbolg (all being magical fey races with long lives), Tabaxi and Leonin are both cat people, Aarakocra and Owlfolk are both bird folk, and so on.

Now, I'm not saying we can't/shouldn't have new races that do have some overlap with current existing D&D races, I just would like future races to have less overlap and be more unique culturally and mechanically. Here are some examples (Keep in mind that I don't want all or even most of these to become official, I just would like some more diverse races thematically):
  • Bug People. Now, most people don't like most bugs, which is understandable, but there are some bug people that wouldn't completely gross people out. An example that come to mind from fantasy series, like the Grinaldi from the 5 Kingdoms book series, who have grasshopper legs and wings, who are fantastic jumpers and are very stealthy and perceptive. Other bug people that could become official in D&D without grossing people out could be honeybee/bumblebee people, moth/butterfly people, firefly people, ladybug people, and so on.
  • More Anthropomorphic Animal Races. We already have quite a few of these, like the Rabbitfolk, Tabaxi and Leonin, Tortles, Aarakocra, Owlfolk, Lizardfolk, and so on, but we could use more, especially more unique ones. What about terrestrial-birdfolk? No humanoid penguins? Or some fairly popular ones that aren't official, like Ratfolk, Bearfolk, and Foxfolk. As mentioned in the Unearthed Arcana: Draconic Options thread, we could also have Platypus and Echidna folk. Maybe even some marsupial humanoids, like Koalas, Kangaroo/Wallaby, or Wombat people. There are a ton of animals, so we could have even more races.
  • Otherworldly Races. We have already been getting some of these through the Feywild and Gothic Races/Lineages, but there are a lot of planes of existence and a lot more new and unique races could be created through them. We could get a Far Realm touched race, more Celestial races, a Limbo-related race (chaos grung?), and so on.
Any thoughts or ideas?
 

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I once designed a species that dwelled in the dense clouds of a gas giant, which vaguely resembled man-sized dragonflies with several wings sprouting along the length of the central spine (sort of like Phalanx, the flying snake, if you're played Shadow of the Colossus). They had four forelimbs that could grip and manipulate things.

Bonus: they would die if brought to earth-equivalent air pressure, popping their exoskeleton like a blobfish brought up from the depths of the sea.

Then for morrus's "N.E.W." rpg, I wrote a sci-fi adventure called Waking Nightmares, which involved humans on a colony sleeper ship waking up to discover their vessel had been boarded by aliens that were individually about the size of a badger, but could link their nervous systems with elephantine trunks to create chain-of-monkeys style combinations of potentially much greater size.
 

aco175

Legend
The problem is that there is only so many races that need to fit a niche. Do I need a Dex-based race that would be good for a thief, or a Str race that makes a good fighter. You only really need the PHB races to fill these. The rest can be optional. I do see a lot of races posted on DMsGuild with ram-folk, otter-folk and such. What was the crystal people back in 3e or 4e? Seems like people like the Mos-Eisley approach.

My problem with some of these new races is that I find it hard to get into the mind of a being like that. It is hard enough to play a being that lives 700 years like an elf and decide to adventure and such. I find that the rest would just become humans with cool powers and not what a cat-person would think.
 

opacitizen

Explorer
No, it doesn't, really.

If D&D needs something, it's a friendly guide to help people make more interesting, intriguing and engaging (and engageable) personalities and backgrounds for their characters, focusing on motivations, traits, and so on.

Having weirder and weirder races, and having them as what's supposed to make a character unique and interesting primarily is shallow and boring, and doesn't lead to interesting stories most of the time.

"Look, Luke, I have fourteen other hands on my back under my cape, and seven of them are made of strawberry-flavored silver jelly! And I have the face of a pink Vhereverrian skunk under my mask! Because I'm a pink Vhereverrian skunk!"
"So? Who cares?"


vs

"No. I am your father!"
"No!"


Which one would you choose?

YMMV, though — and it does, obviously. Which is cool. (You asked for our thoughts.)
 


Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
There are Thri-kreen in Dark Sun, for a bug race. They seemed to be popular in the 4e Ashes of Athas campaign, with one or two at every table. That helped establish the Athas "not just any old D&D" vibe.

If you want to go in to this whole hog (pun-intended), several editions of Gamma World have anthropomorphic animals as a playable race. There is very little material describing mindset - why this is not just a human in a different body - though. GW rules were (usually) written with conversion compatibility to the then-current edition of D&D in mind.

P.S. I agree that a new 'weird race' needs a niche and a concept: what does this race do that nobody else does as well? It also needs an editor's eye to make sure it does not introduce power creep or take over an existing race's niche (but do it better stronger faster) and render that race obsolete.
 
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TheSword

Legend
Okay, quick clarification before I get into this a bit more. I do not mean that current official D&D races need to get weirder/more unique, I mean that we need future official races to be weirder and more unique. Sure, D&D already has quite a few weird/unique races, but a lot of them have quite a bit of overlap. Orcs have significant overlap with Goliaths and Hobgoblins (all three being proud warrior races), Tritons, Sea Elves, and Mermaids all fill the same niche, Elves have overlap with Gnomes and Firbolg (all being magical fey races with long lives), Tabaxi and Leonin are both cat people, Aarakocra and Owlfolk are both bird folk, and so on.

Now, I'm not saying we can't/shouldn't have new races that do have some overlap with current existing D&D races, I just would like future races to have less overlap and be more unique culturally and mechanically. Here are some examples (Keep in mind that I don't want all or even most of these to become official, I just would like some more diverse races thematically):
  • Bug People. Now, most people don't like most bugs, which is understandable, but there are some bug people that wouldn't completely gross people out. An example that come to mind from fantasy series, like the Grinaldi from the 5 Kingdoms book series, who have grasshopper legs and wings, who are fantastic jumpers and are very stealthy and perceptive. Other bug people that could become official in D&D without grossing people out could be honeybee/bumblebee people, moth/butterfly people, firefly people, ladybug people, and so on.
  • More Anthropomorphic Animal Races. We already have quite a few of these, like the Rabbitfolk, Tabaxi and Leonin, Tortles, Aarakocra, Owlfolk, Lizardfolk, and so on, but we could use more, especially more unique ones. What about terrestrial-birdfolk? No humanoid penguins? Or some fairly popular ones that aren't official, like Ratfolk, Bearfolk, and Foxfolk. As mentioned in the Unearthed Arcana: Draconic Options thread, we could also have Platypus and Echidna folk. Maybe even some marsupial humanoids, like Koalas, Kangaroo/Wallaby, or Wombat people. There are a ton of animals, so we could have even more races.
  • Otherworldly Races. We have already been getting some of these through the Feywild and Gothic Races/Lineages, but there are a lot of planes of existence and a lot more new and unique races could be created through them. We could get a Far Realm touched race, more Celestial races, a Limbo-related race (chaos grung?), and so on.
Any thoughts or ideas?
You said what you wanted, but you didn’t actually say why?

What is the virtue of more unusual playable races?
 

delericho

Legend
I'd be in favour of that, for some settings. However, I would also advocate that those settings shouldn't increase the number of available races - a setting that adds several weirder races should also remove some or all of the standard races at the same time. No point in having bug people, vole people, and planestouched people if everyone still just plays an elf, a dwarf, and a halfling.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
When you look at every race poll most players prefer humans. And even when you play a non-human, they usually behave like a human with maybe slightly exaggerated traits.
So whats the point of ever more "weird" races when in the end they behave like humans? (And admittedly, playing something inhuman consistently is very hard. But even in setting lore weird races are still humans with a bit more X).
 

aco175

Legend
This reminds me of a joke;

A cow-man, a pig-man, and a chicken-man walk into a bar. The bartender asks, "What are you having for breakfast?"
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Okay, quick clarification before I get into this a bit more. I do not mean that current official D&D races need to get weirder/more unique, I mean that we need future official races to be weirder and more unique. Sure, D&D already has quite a few weird/unique races, but a lot of them have quite a bit of overlap. Orcs have significant overlap with Goliaths and Hobgoblins (all three being proud warrior races), Tritons, Sea Elves, and Mermaids all fill the same niche, Elves have overlap with Gnomes and Firbolg (all being magical fey races with long lives), Tabaxi and Leonin are both cat people, Aarakocra and Owlfolk are both bird folk, and so on.

Now, I'm not saying we can't/shouldn't have new races that do have some overlap with current existing D&D races, I just would like future races to have less overlap and be more unique culturally and mechanically. Here are some examples (Keep in mind that I don't want all or even most of these to become official, I just would like some more diverse races thematically):
  • Bug People. Now, most people don't like most bugs, which is understandable, but there are some bug people that wouldn't completely gross people out. An example that come to mind from fantasy series, like the Grinaldi from the 5 Kingdoms book series, who have grasshopper legs and wings, who are fantastic jumpers and are very stealthy and perceptive. Other bug people that could become official in D&D without grossing people out could be honeybee/bumblebee people, moth/butterfly people, firefly people, ladybug people, and so on.
  • More Anthropomorphic Animal Races. We already have quite a few of these, like the Rabbitfolk, Tabaxi and Leonin, Tortles, Aarakocra, Owlfolk, Lizardfolk, and so on, but we could use more, especially more unique ones. What about terrestrial-birdfolk? No humanoid penguins? Or some fairly popular ones that aren't official, like Ratfolk, Bearfolk, and Foxfolk. As mentioned in the Unearthed Arcana: Draconic Options thread, we could also have Platypus and Echidna folk. Maybe even some marsupial humanoids, like Koalas, Kangaroo/Wallaby, or Wombat people. There are a ton of animals, so we could have even more races.
  • Otherworldly Races. We have already been getting some of these through the Feywild and Gothic Races/Lineages, but there are a lot of planes of existence and a lot more new and unique races could be created through them. We could get a Far Realm touched race, more Celestial races, a Limbo-related race (chaos grung?), and so on.
Any thoughts or ideas?
I think that there are way more than enough already. If you need something new, Tasha's has rules to make it.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
This reminds me of a joke;

A cow-man, a pig-man, and a chicken-man walk into a bar. The bartender asks, "What are you having for breakfast?"
Thats also you have to keep in mind. RPG settings tend to be very harmonious, especially among PC races. Partially because to allow group cohesion and because of real world sensibilities. This also means that weird races are never actually weird.
 

bloodtide

Adventurer
I would not say D&D "needs" this. Sure you could have one hundred weird wacky races in the rules, and D&D could make a wacky weird upside down setting, though.

Some players like weird wacky races for the pure optimization power grab: they amazing "like" the races that get a power or ability.

Some players just like being "different". And it's the "being different" that is the real problem.

Once you have a world of weird wacky races...what does that world look like? Well, it does not look like "12th century Earth". Other games/settings, like notable Star Trek and Star Wars have this problem too. To have an "Earth like" setting then all races must be nearly exactly like humans. A tiny fey, a blob, a spider folk and a ghost folk can't all really sit in the same "human type" tavern. The fey, blob and ghost races would not even really use money in the "human way" as they are physically very different from "I carry around coins to buy things".

D&D has the obsession with "money", but the rules all ready don't work if you even have a character without the Western money obsession. You want to play a 'wild' character that has no concept or use for money...too bad the rules say you must use money.

And when you just make every weird wacky race "just like humans" in all ways....then what is the point?
 

first two the bug and animal people are in the same category, the plane touch races tend to be boring as they lack cultures and places in the setting other than mutant human number seven.

I am pro having some more well built oddball races half the PHP is human crosses or just near humans.

they would need some multiple player goal appeal and to have it explained what they differ in humans for rp.

but If you have any idea I would love to hear them.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
Ultimately, I think the big acid test on New Races involves settings and writing.

"Does the setting need these new races in it?" is a big question. What sort of story does the new race tell, and are there other ways to tell that story better? Does the setting already cover that story, and should you cut the race which fulfills that role in order to replace it? Is there a cultural aspect that we could add to the story to separate it in a meaningful way from a race that already exists in the narrative to create a sympathetic story that isn't identical?

If you're just adding new races to D&D to add new races to D&D for mechanical tricks or "Weirdness" to make it more fantastical you're going to run into the problem of making your adventures feel more like a menagerie than a plot. A way to exhibit all the strangeness that ends up requiring a lot of description for each character without much added value to the story.

Unless, of course, a core part of your story -is- weirdness. In which case it's best to play a human character to ground yourself in normalcy and view all the weirdness from there. The John Crichton character, if you will, in a Farscape campaign.
 

Ultimately, I think the big acid test on New Races involves settings and writing.

"Does the setting need these new races in it?" is a big question. What sort of story does the new race tell, and are there other ways to tell that story better? Does the setting already cover that story, and should you cut the race which fulfills that role in order to replace it? Is there a cultural aspect that we could add to the story to separate it in a meaningful way from a race that already exists in the narrative to create a sympathetic story that isn't identical?

If you're just adding new races to D&D to add new races to D&D for mechanical tricks or "Weirdness" to make it more fantastical you're going to run into the problem of making your adventures feel more like a menagerie than a plot. A way to exhibit all the strangeness that ends up requiring a lot of description for each character without much added value to the story.

Unless, of course, a core part of your story -is- weirdness. In which case it's best to play a human character to ground yourself in normalcy and view all the weirdness from there. The John Crichton character, if you will, in a Farscape campaign.
so they need to really fit in a setting or fundamentally add to what you can do with a setting?

why are warforged popular or changelings? they do not add much to a setting.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
so they need to really fit in a setting or fundamentally add to what you can do with a setting?

why are warforged popular or changelings? they do not add much to a setting.
I mean... what setting?

Warforged explore dynamics of created inhuman life Frankenstein Style, Weapons Development, and the ethical questions of creating life for specific purposes in Eberron.

Also in Eberron, Changelings explored shifting identities and personalities, transgender thought experiments, and the relatively constant societal demand that people hold to one identity selected by that society by hunting changelings down in some cultures.

And because WotC is all about "Everything in every setting always and forever" they created some suggestions for how to put them into FR and stuff.

Also, of course, there have always been players who are all "Cool stats" or "Neat, a metal man!" and decide to play them without any narrative identity at all beyond "Look how cool I am!" because that kind of play is also totally cool.

I suspect you're among the latter group? That's cool.
 

Reynard

Legend
While there's nothing inherently wrong with the Mos Eisley Cantina approach to ancestry choices in D&D, it doesn't do anything for me. i'd rather see a campaign setting with NO non-human races with well designed cultures, subcultures, social classes, religions, etc... Few settings have ever made an effort to really delve into the vast diversity of human culture (Kingdoms of Kalamar being one notable attempt).

No. Keep your bug people and give me real people that feel real.
 

Talislanta's races are just so wonderfully strange and flavorful. Someone can play an Ice Giant Warrior and someone can play a Maruk Dung Merchant. They're so weirdly not-balanced. The Ice Giant gets way more than the Dung Merchant, but also just plain cannot exist in warmer temperatures and slows everyone down around them, including allies.

Like Talislanta's Races?


The custom lineage sidebar is so wonderfully powerful. I've yet to see anyone take advantage of it, but it really opens up so many creative possibilities.

I think that there are way more than enough already. If you need something new, Tasha's has rules to make it.

I liked some of the creativity you saw with the sprawling options in 4e, but at the same time saw a lot of people just pick whatever for the optimization and then just play the PC like a human wearing a funny skin-suit. Granted, you can still see that with dwarves, elves, halflings, and the other core options as well, but it seems that much more egregious when the PC is a plant person or a being of living crystal.
 

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