D&D 5E Empowering Races

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
One of the missed tricks I see in 5e is that outside of ability score modifiers, races don't have a lot going for them mechanically that stays relevant. And not racial mods are being divorced from specific races anyway. So what we have is a tiny bit of design space for each - not enough to put in racial features that have a big effect on play mechanically and continue to do so in the higher tiers.

With the refresh of various races in the latest Mordenkainen book we have them at a somewhat level playing ground. What I would like to do is to add to each of them to make them more meaningful.

Here's the power level I'd like to propose:

Centaurs gain:
Centaurs are size Large creatures.
(Note that Centaurs are one of the few races with a disadvantage still, in this case for climbing.)

Size Large PCs (mostly from the Enlarge/Reduce spell):
Gain advantage on STR checks and saves. Can wield oversized versions of normal weapons that do +d4 damage. On weapons sized for medium sized creatures they may ignore the Two Handed property for melee weapons if the weapon does not also have the Heavy property.
EDIT: If using a verstile weapon sized for a medium creature, they may use the two handed damage even if only wielded in one hand.

So, what additions and changes would you add to your favorite race to bring it in line with this somewhat increased power level?
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
I'd favor taking the ''racial feats'' of XGtE and merge it with their base races.

As a side note: there's only one Two-handed weapon without the Heavy property, so that's not a huge boon. You be better to let the larger creatures use the higher damage die of a versatile weapon even when used in one hand and letting them use a second weapon without the Light property in their off-hand.
 

jgsugden

Legend
One thing I added to my games is "Heritage Levels" that a PC can take as a multiclass option. They allow a PC to become a 'greater' version of their heritage, with abilities that are more powerful comeing from their heritage without being out of balance.

I have made these for several heritages (drow, eladrin, tiefling, aasimar, svirfneblin, dragonborn, etc....). They often have prerequisites (often based upon character level). As some examples:

The Eladrin requires 10 character levels before you can advance in it, but it then allows the PC to advance and become an Arch-Fey at 20th level.

The Dragonborn allows the PC to become more and more draconic, including size increases, innate spellcasting (which all my dragons have) and gaining some of those cool dragon features (blindsense, legendary actions, legendary resistance).

The Drow one is available at 5th PC level and gives the Drow access to the abilities drow had in prior editions.
 

cbwjm

Legend
Something of note about centaurs in the MM is that they don't use the weapon dice modifiers, they deal standard weapon damage instead of double. My guess is that while they are large, the human part is still similar in size to humans. I don't really know what the races look like in the latest books so I can't otherwise comment.
 

Something of note about centaurs in the MM is that they don't use the weapon dice modifiers, they deal standard weapon damage instead of double. My guess is that while they are large, the human part is still similar in size to humans. I don't really know what the races look like in the latest books so I can't otherwise comment.
They wanted an easy way to build monsters, but the rule does not work for pc's - it's not balanced.

But if we're going with OP's point and giving races a lot more design space / power, it might be workable.
 

I remember talk during the playtest of racial features that go all the way to level 20. I really would have liked to see that. It's a lot more work to design than the fly-by-night stat blocks we have now, but it would be pretty interesting.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
One thing I added to my games is "Heritage Levels" that a PC can take as a multiclass option. They allow a PC to become a 'greater' version of their heritage, with abilities that are more powerful comeing from their heritage without being out of balance.

I have made these for several heritages (drow, eladrin, tiefling, aasimar, svirfneblin, dragonborn, etc....). They often have prerequisites (often based upon character level). As some examples:

The Eladrin requires 10 character levels before you can advance in it, but it then allows the PC to advance and become an Arch-Fey at 20th level.

The Dragonborn allows the PC to become more and more draconic, including size increases, innate spellcasting (which all my dragons have) and gaining some of those cool dragon features (blindsense, legendary actions, legendary resistance).

The Drow one is available at 5th PC level and gives the Drow access to the abilities drow had in prior editions.
So are you doing it like 3.5 ECL Monster classes like Savage Species?
 

Steven K

Villager
One thing I added to my games is "Heritage Levels" that a PC can take as a multiclass option. They allow a PC to become a 'greater' version of their heritage, with abilities that are more powerful comeing from their heritage without being out of balance.

I have made these for several heritages (drow, eladrin, tiefling, aasimar, svirfneblin, dragonborn, etc....). They often have prerequisites (often based upon character level). As some examples:

The Eladrin requires 10 character levels before you can advance in it, but it then allows the PC to advance and become an Arch-Fey at 20th level.

The Dragonborn allows the PC to become more and more draconic, including size increases, innate spellcasting (which all my dragons have) and gaining some of those cool dragon features (blindsense, legendary actions, legendary resistance).

The Drow one is available at 5th PC level and gives the Drow access to the abilities drow had in prior editions.

That's how the new Level Up system works. You get your race (heritage), and there are certain choice points associated with that race at both level one and level ten.
 



Horwath

Hero
you do not want to give too much specialized powers to races.

D&D has been moving away from that for a couple of years, if you count PF1 with alternate race features, more than a decade.

You want to get some racial features, but they must be general in usage, to have somewhat equal usefulness to a mage, warrior or expert.

I.E. having misty step 1/day is useful on any character concept. proficiency in medium armor or some weapons is not.

darkvision or proficiency(expertise) in Perception is good for any character concept, proficiency in Stealth and Alchemy tools is not.

You can play with racial feats, as long as you make several for each race, to aim at different pillars of play.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Race will never get really eower in DnD mechanics. power in DnD is Class level.
If you want more feeling for empowerment, home brew a strict and narrow class-archetype vs race-sub race restrictions.
Yeah, this is the kind of thing where a DM would be better off just designing their own system.

I mean you could re-design some/all of the classes where you only get new class abilities every other level (say on the evens), and then create your races that give heritage abilities on every odd-level. So levels 1, 3, 5, etc. you gain racial features, and then 2, 4, 6 etc. you gain class features. This way you can really go all in.

The downside of course is that you'd have to do a lot of work. The spell slot table would need a major overhaul, you'd need to think of quite a lot of racial features that are not only unique to each of the races, but also do not overlap or are lost to certain class features (in other words, you can't give rogue-like abilities to goblins or halflings that make taking the rogue class superfluous for them.)

There's a lot you can do... but at the end of the day I've always felt that once the character is created... I NEVER think about during play which features are from race, which are from class, which are from sub-class, which are feats, which are natural, so on and so forth. The mechanics are just OF this character, regardless of what feature gave it to them. And so bothering to make new charts to demarcate which pieces of your PC come from one thing while others come from another thing is rather a waste of time once you are sitting at the table.

I mean honestly... when you ask the characters for a Perception check, does it ever matter whether some have proficiency because they took it as part of their class and some have it because they are Wood Elves? I don't think so. They have proficiency or they don't have proficiency and the race of the character never comes up. Especially considering the fact that that proficiency is only giving them a 10% better chance (when at +2 prof bonus) than any non-proficient character-- meaning that even this supposedly really observant-- eagle eyed-- hyper-focused-- Wood Elf race of character... will STILL blow Perception checks time and time again with crappy d20 rolls. So what is their race REALLY doing to enhance their motif in the narrative? Even if you gave them Expertise in Perception as some sort of bonus heritage feature in some sort of new system... they are still going to fail Perception checks all the time. So giving out bonus mechanics to Perception is not really making them more Elf-y.

I always say that the game mechanics of D&D will never really exemplify the story of what all these classes, races, backgrounds, etc. are. The only way your character is ever really going to feel the way you think it should feel within the story is to portray and roleplay it that way so YOU feel who your character is as you play them... even when the mechanics inevitably let you down.
 
Last edited:

As a thought experiment, I imagined a system where each race got their own classes, so each class would have racial traits built in. Elves aren't fighters, they're bladesingers, and their (sub) racial magic is factored into the spell list. Genasi are janissaries, and have a different set of spells, proficiencies, and way of blending their racially-defined magics. (Janissaries don't get bladesong, but do get genie auras. Or something)

Could it work as a game? Yes, of course. Is it better than what we have? Not really - I didn't actually write out all the (60+) classes, so they're all flawless at the moment. Should Dungeons and Dragons (tm) go this route? No, it's a lot less flexible than the current system, and DnD needs flexibility a lot more than other games do.
 

One of the missed tricks I see in 5e is that outside of ability score modifiers, races don't have a lot going for them mechanically that stays relevant. And not racial mods are being divorced from specific races anyway. So what we have is a tiny bit of design space for each - not enough to put in racial features that have a big effect on play mechanically and continue to do so in the higher tiers.

With the refresh of various races in the latest Mordenkainen book we have them at a somewhat level playing ground. What I would like to do is to add to each of them to make them more meaningful.

Here's the power level I'd like to propose:

Centaurs gain:
Centaurs are size Large creatures.
(Note that Centaurs are one of the few races with a disadvantage still, in this case for climbing.)

Size Large PCs (mostly from the Enlarge/Reduce spell):
Gain advantage on STR checks and saves. Can wield oversized versions of normal weapons that do +d4 damage. On weapons sized for medium sized creatures they may ignore the Two Handed property for melee weapons if the weapon does not also have the Heavy property.

So, what additions and changes would you add to your favorite race to bring it in line with this somewhat increased power level?
I think a good way to do it would be racial feats. Maybe 3 or so per race and then you can give one at character creation (like the supernatural gifts in Theros) if you want. So they can get a bonus to start (if you want) and then build on that later if they really want to lean into their racial traits
 

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
Yeah, the simple solution, as others have stated -in effect- is turning something akin to "Paragon race traits" into a standard part of a PC race/species.

That is. You get XYZ at 1st level. When you hit 5th level you get your class features and a racial trait...or choose 2 from a set of traits...or whatever is deemed to give the desired "racier racey racial boost." Actually, probably better to wrap it in with the ASIs...or where ASIs used to be if thy, in fact, stay.

@jgsugden 's capstone of letting, for example Eladrin become Archfey is pretty badass. I'd love to see that kind of thing for every species. But not every species lends itself to that kind of powerful transition, I suppose.

I would make it a standard part of leveling up, though. Not different species gaining at different levels...unless you did grouping of a few: like dwarves/rock gnomes/halflings all choose from a "Stoufolk" list; elves, half-elves, forest gnomes, satyrs and centaurs can choose from a "Sylvan Folk" list; and so on.

"Hybrid" species (half-elves, half-orcs, dragonborn?, tieflings?) can choose from their non-human or human lists...or get a "Hybrid list" all their own...which would likely include everything a Human could get/pick anyway...so no need to be redundant.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Either do it in list batches, like that, so there are multiple choices to be made at 1st, 4th, 8th, 12th, 17th, and a capstone/20th...maybe make that last one an option? "Take your class capstone or your Racial Paragon capstone" -not both.

Humans...ugh...humans, humans, humans...What to do with humans, then? Do they remain (as they always should have been) the baseline and receive nothing...or additional skills, skill bonuses, feats (necessitating making feats no longer optional), ability increases...attack increases? I don't know what you can give humans to even begin to come close to the coolness of the advanced elfiest elf or ultimate dwarfiest dwarf...Some kind of leadership feat/followers that non-humans don't get? Automatic land-ownership...reintroduce/back to ruling the keeps/"dominions" in the game? I'm seriously asking. I really don't know.

I DO know that it simply can't be the case that (it seems) the community won't abide by "Humans are the basic/baseline species with no or a limited general kind of 'features' and anything else gets some-to-a-bunch of cool and useful in-game traits."
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Today, I probably want D&D 5e to segue away from "race".

I would rather the cultural "background" become more significant, and continue to grant more features while leveling.

Different settings will have different versions of a race. For example, the "sun elf" race in one setting can differ from the "grey elf" race in an other setting.

Moreover, within the same setting, one race can comprise one or more cultures.

Then each culture is made out of different backgrounds. For example, a "fey arcana librarian" might be a prominent vocation within one of the sun elf cultures, while "griffon knight" might be a prominent vocation within one of the grey elf cultures.

At low levels, the griffon knight would focus on animal handling the griffon, and caring for knightly equipment, as an apprentice. But at higher levels can involve magically interacting with a griffon steed during combat.

While the higher level background can grant combat features if pertinent, the backgrounds are mainly for the purpose of the "social pillar" of the game. At higher level, it is the background that focuses on running a wizard school, business, being mayor of a town, attracting workers or followers, building a fortress, and other social assets. At lower levels, one gains a patron and other contacts, and at higher levels, one is the patron and the contact, and a participant in networks of powerful persons.

Of course, it is possible for a non-elf (biologically) to grow up as an elf (culturally), thus participate in these cultural institutional backgrounds.
 
Last edited:

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
you do not want to give too much specialized powers to races.
Yes, I absolutely do. Just like classes have different play, I want races to give that as well.

So, instead of telling me that I don't want what I want because D&D designers don't want it, can you add to the discussion positively? If you're just going to argue that I shouldn't want this, don't bother replying.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Feats or effective racial/paragon classes do not properly resolve being able to have enough design space for more powerful racial abilities.

1. Feats & paragon classes don't necessarily come in at 1st level. Being fourth level and poof, my wise old centaur cleric goes from being medium to large strains the narrative and belief. These are racial, in many cases it makes no sense to pick them up later.

2. Feats and class levels compete with other feats or class levels. Few would spend a feat to make their centaur large if it didn't help them. There's an opportunity cost to it - does growing to large win out for the centaur sorcerer over other feats or an ASI? Would they want to take one or more non-casting levels to become large?
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
For size, make Strength a prereq for size. It is infrequent but happens, that humans are Large (over 8 feet).

Strength 29-32: Gargantuan (+)
Strength 25-28: Gargantuan
Strength 21-24: Huge
Strength 17-20: Large
Strength 13-16: Medium (Heavyweight), Powerful Build
Strength 9-12: Medium (Lightweight)
Strength 5-8: Small
Strength 1-4: Tiny
 

Yeah, the simple solution, as others have stated -in effect- is turning something akin to "Paragon race traits" into a standard part of a PC race/species.

That is. You get XYZ at 1st level. When you hit 5th level you get your class features and a racial trait...or choose 2 from a set of traits...or whatever is deemed to give the desired "racier racey racial boost." Actually, probably better to wrap it in with the ASIs...or where ASIs used to be if thy, in fact, stay.

@jgsugden 's capstone of letting, for example Eladrin become Archfey is pretty badass. I'd love to see that kind of thing for every species. But not every species lends itself to that kind of powerful transition, I suppose.

I would make it a standard part of leveling up, though. Not different species gaining at different levels...unless you did grouping of a few: like dwarves/rock gnomes/halflings all choose from a "Stoufolk" list; elves, half-elves, forest gnomes, satyrs and centaurs can choose from a "Sylvan Folk" list; and so on.

"Hybrid" species (half-elves, half-orcs, dragonborn?, tieflings?) can choose from their non-human or human lists...or get a "Hybrid list" all their own...which would likely include everything a Human could get/pick anyway...so no need to be redundant.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Either do it in list batches, like that, so there are multiple choices to be made at 1st, 4th, 8th, 12th, 17th, and a capstone/20th...maybe make that last one an option? "Take your class capstone or your Racial Paragon capstone" -not both.

Humans...ugh...humans, humans, humans...What to do with humans, then? Do they remain (as they always should have been) the baseline and receive nothing...or additional skills, skill bonuses, feats (necessitating making feats no longer optional), ability increases...attack increases? I don't know what you can give humans to even begin to come close to the coolness of the advanced elfiest elf or ultimate dwarfiest dwarf...Some kind of leadership feat/followers that non-humans don't get? Automatic land-ownership...reintroduce/back to ruling the keeps/"dominions" in the game? I'm seriously asking. I really don't know.

I DO know that it simply can't be the case that (it seems) the community won't abide by "Humans are the basic/baseline species with no or a limited general kind of 'features' and anything else gets some-to-a-bunch of cool and useful in-game traits."
You that this solution is exactly what gave the Drows such a badass reputation in 1ed and 2ed? We all know how over powered they were. Is that really where we want to go?
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top