D&D 5E Empowering Races

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
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?
I, in fact, did not know that was how a Drow's 1e powers were determined. But interesting/"fun fact" tidbit.

I suppose my response to that is, as we should all know by now, "If everyone is special, then no one is special."

That is, if this kind of thing is applied to all species, then who has the leg up/is "op'ed"? (not the same/as much as 1e drow, per se. But the drow 5e traits and innate magic seems reasonably in play)

I would argue, no one.

There's just an across the board raising of the baseline power levels attributed to your species. In a way, in that way, it is a different/new way for "player empowerment/choice points" the game has not, really, ever incorporated as default/core game.
 

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steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
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?

Well, no. We're (well, speaking for myself, I'm) talking about using it/building it in to part of character creation and development. Not a "choose this or..."

There's no reason you couldn't make "Centaurs are large" as a simple (quite obvious) part of the species. I wouldn't necessarily make that a "special trait"...though, I suppose, if someone wants to play a medium centaur for whatever reasons, they could/should be able to, I guess...

So, no, I agree, a character at 4th level just "poof" being large is totally immersion/verisimilitude breaking.

So...solution?...perhaps, every species' physical traits are their automatic 1st level starting trait/feat. (and for fun, let a player choose only 1 additional).

Then, future choices are a matter of the character..."evolving," for lack of a better term? "Growing up/maturing?" Conduct a ritual or learn something about their species they didn't know before? Become more "expanded" as an individual than the bulk of their species can become, because "experience/exploration of the wider world than their culture generally does," interacting with different species, "absorbing" more than usual amounts of magic inherent to the world...or any number of other narrative ways/reasons.

For example: An elf starts with lowlight vision and a Perception bonus. Player chooses one other thing (preferably consistant with their upbringing/culture).

Things like "reflex save bonus" or especially trained "keen senses" or "extra movement/speed" or "ignoring natural difficult terrain" or "bow attack bonus" and "innate magic/cantrips" are all things that can be learned/"develop" as the character increases in power and expertise. So these things are just 'picked up" as you adventure/advance.

...also has the added bonus of meaning not every elf/dwarf/tiefling/what-have-you you meet is going to be exactly the same individual as others you've encountered.
 

aco175

Legend
Racial feats- 1st level to 20th.

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I, in fact, did not know that was how a Drow's 1e powers were determined. But interesting/"fun fact" tidbit.

I suppose my response to that is, as we should all know by now, "If everyone is special, then no one is special."

That is, if this kind of thing is applied to all species, then who has the leg up/is "op'ed"? (not the same/as much as 1e drow, per se. But the drow 5e traits and innate magic seems reasonably in play)

I would argue, no one.

There's just an across the board raising of the baseline power levels attributed to your species. In a way, in that way, it is a different/new way for "player empowerment/choice points" the game has not, really, ever incorporated as default/core game.
Drows in 1st edition had
Infravision up to 120' (this stayed in 5ed)
Magic Resistance of 50% +2%/level. This meant that a 10th level drow had a 68% to not even have to save against magic.
+2 to save against all magic that would pass the first check. And magic resistance was against 11th, so a wizard of 5th would see the previous drow resistance rise up by 6x5% or 30%! Making that drow magic resistant at 98% vs that character...

They all could cast at 1st level: Dancing light, faerie fire and Darkness.
Those of 4th level or higher would add: Detect Magic, Know alignment, Levitate.
And all females (rarely encountered) would be able to cast: Clairvoyance, Detect Lie, Suggestion and Dispel Magic regardless of class and levels.
Crazy isn't it?

But back to our topic.
Having races add more power through level isn't a bad idea per say. But at which level would these enter into consideration and at which power? Would racial feat at level 5, 10 and 15 be enough? We are playing with how 5ed was built and balanced here. Using feats, an optional rule by the way, is not the most elegant thing considering that some races should not even have racial feats or would need racial feats to be built from the ground up! And the balancing of so many race (and in some cases retro balancing) would quickly become a nightmare.

It might be interesting to see the thought process behind the final choices.
 

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
Drows in 1st edition had
-snipped-
Crazy isn't it?
Oh totally. They were nuts. I seem to recall (and I don't know why/where this was) that the -admittedly, nearly impossible to overcome- magic resistance was a result of their ages long affiliation with the strange radiations of their subterranean and demonic magics. Player Character drow (when introduced in UA), I do not believe (and could be wrong), had/were allowed any magic resistance...or anything beyond a normal elf's charm resistance...maybe not even that. The innate magic was still a thing, though, with the gender differences.
But back to our topic.
Having races add more power through level isn't a bad idea per say. But at which level would these enter into consideration and at which power? Would racial feat at level 5, 10 and 15 be enough? We are playing with how 5ed was built and balanced here. Using feats, an optional rule by the way, is not the most elegant thing considering that some races should not even have racial feats or would need racial feats to be built from the ground up! And the balancing of so many race (and in some cases retro balancing) would quickly become a nightmare.

It might be interesting to see the thought process behind the final choices.

Well, yes. It would be a good deal of work. But that is what it would require if one wanted to "Empower Races" in their existing game. Honestly, you'd just have to do the species of the PCs you have to deal with...and then make the rest up as they come up/into play (whether as new PCs or for the DM). SO it'd probably be doable.
 

Oh totally. They were nuts. I seem to recall (and I don't know why/where this was) that the -admittedly, nearly impossible to overcome- magic resistance was a result of their ages long affiliation with the strange radiations of their subterranean and demonic magics. Player Character drow (when introduced in UA), I do not believe (and could be wrong), had/were allowed any magic resistance...or anything beyond a normal elf's charm resistance...maybe not even that. The innate magic was still a thing, though, with the gender differences.
And the two weapon fighting with no penalties... never forget that one.

Well, yes. It would be a good deal of work. But that is what it would require if one wanted to "Empower Races" in their existing game. Honestly, you'd just have to do the species of the PCs you have to deal with...and then make the rest up as they come up/into play (whether as new PCs or for the DM). SO it'd probably be doable.
Ok. You are lucky and PC races are in your group: Human, Elf, Dwarf and Gnome. They encounter orcs, hobgoblins, tabaxi and so on... How many races will you have to do in advance to make sure to be prepared for all eventualities? How many? And if you do them on the fly, will your mod be balanced? And make sure to remember them as players will remember. They always do.
 

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
And the two weapon fighting with no penalties... never forget that one.


Ok. You are lucky and PC races are in your group: Human, Elf, Dwarf and Gnome. They encounter orcs, hobgoblins, tabaxi and so on... How many races will you have to do in advance to make sure to be prepared for all eventualities? How many? And if you do them on the fly, will your mod be balanced? And make sure to remember them as players will remember. They always do.
Given your hypothetical, you'd do Human, Elf, Dwarf, and Gnome. You would know, as the DM what species are likely to be encountered in a given session...so, let's say, before play, you have Orcs (which, given you've already done humans, gets you everything you need half-orcs. For that matter, you've done Human and ELf too, for the PCs. So, again, hypothetically, you have Half-elves done, too. :D ) and Hobgoblins done. Knowing that there's a chance they'll run into the tabaxi bounty hunters contracted by the hobgoblin big bad by the next session, let's get them out of the way too.

So, there you go. For a week, probably two of play, you have nine species in the bag, already.

I wouldn't advise doing them on the fly. Some semblance of balance is warranted, but that doesn't mean -and definitely should not result in- every species all getting the same 4 or 5 kinds of things, so at the end of the day, everyone does in fact just play the same.
 

Given your hypothetical, you'd do Human, Elf, Dwarf, and Gnome. You would know, as the DM what species are likely to be encountered in a given session...so, let's say, before play, you have Orcs (which, given you've already done humans, gets you everything you need half-orcs. For that matter, you've done Human and ELf too, for the PCs. So, again, hypothetically, you have Half-elves done, too. :D ) and Hobgoblins done. Knowing that there's a chance they'll run into the tabaxi bounty hunters contracted by the hobgoblin big bad by the next session, let's get them out of the way too.

So, there you go. For a week, probably two of play, you have nine species in the bag, already.

I wouldn't advise doing them on the fly. Some semblance of balance is warranted, but that doesn't mean -and definitely should not result in- every species all getting the same 4 or 5 kinds of things, so at the end of the day, everyone does in fact just play the same.
And with two groups, of different levels? About three (my case if you count Friday Night D&D) and I know a few other DMs with 4 groups... The amount of work is a wee bit more than you imagine.

And a lot of us play with random encounters...
 

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
And with two groups, of different levels? About three (my case if you count Friday Night D&D) and I know a few other DMs with 4 groups... The amount of work is a wee bit more than you imagine.

And a lot of us play with random encounters...
shrug Guess you're groups are just SOL, then. No "empowering/empowered races" for you.

Do you have an alternate solution of what the original poster is asking/looking for?

Convince me how it can be done in a way, across the board, other than what I and others (more or less) have suggested.
 

beancounter

(I/Me/Mine)
I realize this is slightly off topic, but IMO, the abilities of races and classes should be toned down, or at least spread out over higher levels, instead of front-loading the best abilities at the lower levels.

Because what results, is that by 7th level, the PC's are almost unstoppable.
 

pnewman

Explorer
Your class gets extra abilities as you level up. Why shouldn't your race (and your background) get extra abilities as you level up as well?

Nothing too drastic, maybe an extra tool or language at Tier 1 (you can pick any, but you are encouraged to pick ones that fit your race/class/background), and a free Racial Feat at Tier 2, and expanded background bonuses at Tier 3, maybe an extra skill and a stronger Background Feature (Nobles get lands, Criminals get criminal minions, etc). Something for Tier 4 too, for the few who ever reach it.
 

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
So...here's an example of what I'm thinking/mean...using the OP's example...

Centaur
1st level: PC Centaurs are large creatures. They use weapons as... yada, yada, yada, as detailed by the OP.
Your movement is X.
You gain Sylvan as a bonus language of your heritage.

At levels 4, 8, 12, and 16, choose 2 traits from the following lists. Your choices must be from a list of a level you have achieved (you can not choose higher level traits, but can always choose from lower levels than you currently are).
4th level:
--Jumper: something that lets them jump extra distance.
--Thoroughbred: extra movement/speed for X minutes per Y (levels, Con mod, whatever).
--Lancer: charge attack damage bonus with spear, lance, other polearm or staff.
--Kick Attack: bonus attack to targets directly behind or in front of you.
--Woodland Stride: ignore natural difficult terrain. Does not include climbing.

8th level:
--Trample: bonus damage to a target within 10' before you who is prone.
--Fleet of Hoof: AC bonus attributed to moving up to 10' within the round (basically moving your back end to not permit a broad side to attack...applicable however many rounds per day as seems appropos at 8th level and/or scales with level.
--Charger: Lancer bonus to any melee weapon attack with a minimum of 20' lead up. Stacks with Lancer.
--Forester: +4 to all interactions with other syvlan & fae creatures.
--Some naturey/druidy relevant bonus feat.

12th level:
--Soft-shoed: leave no tracks through natural terrain.
--Sylvan Ways: +4 to saves against all enchantments and immune to the effects of sylvan/fae creatures.
--Beast of Burden: add to your encumbrance or remove penalties for additional load or something strength related.
--Nature's Ally: Speak with Animals at will.

16th:
--Woodlord: something naturey/druidy appropriately powered for 16th level.
--something attack/damage related that's cool and appropriately powered for 16th level.
--something else cool and appropriately powered for 16th level.

etc.

I would say 3-5 things to choose at each choice level, so your list grows to a max of 20 options. And, as might be noted, a good deal of these can overlap/be reused for other species...whether large or sylvan or something with four legs or whatever.
 

The main downside of making races more mechanically complex is that it makes it harder to add new races, especially as homebrew. We have proof you can do a lot in Pathfinder 2e, if the race you want to play hasn't been fleshed out yet you have a significant amount of work ahead of you.

Whereas with 5e (and especially 5.5e) races are mostly ribbons - which means I can create a new race in a few minutes if I need to.
 



The downside of course is that you'd have to do a lot of work.
Yes, it is. For some a feature, others a bug.

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?
Yes, it does. It shapes the cultures that Wood Elves form as well as worldbuilding in general.

Otherwise, they're all just humans. And if that's what you want, that's fine. But I find it lacking.

[ @Thunderfoot, stop doing that. :D This is the second time this week I've replied to an old thread... ]
[ Well, okay, it's not that old. Nevermind... ;) ]
 
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DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Yes, it does. It shapes the cultures that Wood Elves form as well as worldbuilding in general.

Otherwise, they're all just humans. And if that's what you want, that's fine. But I find it lacking.
My question was not about world-building, or how a DM wants the game to feel as they are creating their campaign... the question was in the moment of game play, when all the players are around the table and the DM says "Make a Perception check"... does that statement in any way, shape, or form trigger any sort of response in a player that makes them think or feel "Ah! I'm a Wood Elf!"? And my claim is no, no it does not.

Rather, what I believe ACTUALLY will trigger in the player is the desire to look down at their character sheet, see what their skill modifier is next to 'Perception', and then roll a d20 die and add that number to it, in hopes of succeeding in the check the DM put forth. THAT is what I believe actually happens when a DM asks for a Perception check. And even if the player's character has Proficiency in Perception... that does not make the player feel any differently being a Wood Elf versus being just a character who has proficiency on Perception. Seeing that little dot next to the Perception skill on your sheet denoting proficiency does not make you feel one way if you got that proficiency from your Background versus feeling another way if you gained that proficiency from your Class versus feeling a third way if you gained it from being a Wood Elf. I believe none of us actually feel any differently by seeing that dot. All that dot does is change the number we see on our character sheet next to the word 'Perception', and then even after we add that number to our d20 roll and we then hear the results of the check from the DM on what we perceived... we are never going to get that Ah-ha! moment of feeling like "It's cause I'm a Wood Elf that I saw that!" Nope. It's going to be feeling the relief of "I'm glad I succeeded on my Perception check."

The numbers on our sheets just do not have that kind of emotional power. They are just numbers. That's all they are. And if you want to feel like you are a Wood Elf, you're going to have to actually put yourself in the mindset of what a Wood Elf might feel like-- and you can do that regardless of any of the numbers on your character sheet.

But hey... if you feel differently, more power to you. :)
 

My question was not about world-building, or how a DM wants the game to feel as they are creating their campaign... the question was in the moment of game play, when all the players are around the table and the DM says "Make a Perception check"... does that statement in any way, shape, or form trigger any sort of response in a player that makes them think or feel "Ah! I'm a Wood Elf!"? And my claim is no, no it does not.

But hey... if you feel differently, more power to you. :)
In the moment of play, when the role is called? Then no, where the modifier comes from is of little import. You are finding a sum to add to a roll. If they're in some sort of Elvish shrine or ruin perhaps that would have an effect, but that would be a rare corner case certainly.

Although, I can think of times when people are encouraging their fellow players they will call out anything that might boost their friend's roll. "Hey, you're a Wood Elf! Doesn't that give you a bonus, too?" This is something that is certainly limited to the time of the roll. After the fact people might say "this is what my elvish eyes see...". But, otherwise, the rules can inform world / culture building and interactions between PCs and NPCs.

Perhaps we are in accord. :)
 
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ART!

Legend
I think there's some design space for races that's not being taken advantage of. This is more like half an idea, because I haven't had the head-space to think about it since someone brought it up in our weekly game, and they raised the question regarding dragonborn only.

Basically, what if at higher levels dragonborn got some version of the features that adult dragons have, namely Lair Actions, and Regional Effects? This would apply to whatever home a dragonborn establishes and maintains or holds onto... but of course 5E doesn't provide a lot of keep/stronghold/etc. support, sooooo...?

I don't have any thoughts yet on how this would apply to other races.

[EDIT: Having had time now to read more posts, I see I'm not alone in this.]
 
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In the moment of play, when the role is called? Then no, where the modifier comes from is of little import. You are finding a sum to add to a roll. If they're in some sort of Elvish shrine or ruin perhaps that would have an effect, but that would be a rare corner case certainly.

Although, I can think of times when people are encouraging their fellow players they will call out anything that might boost their friend's roll. "Hey, you're a Wood Elf! Doesn't that give you a bonus, too?" This is something that is certainly limited to the time of the roll. After the fact people might say "this is what my elvish eyes see...". But, otherwise, the rules can inform world / culture building and interactions between PCs and NPCs.

Perhaps we are in accord. :)
I think it's more how "elf-y" the bonus is: in this case, you don't get a bonus to perception for being an elf, you get a bonus proficiency for being an elf. So unless the player forgot to factor proficiency bonus into their base perception roll (rare but it happens) - it's not a elf-based bonus. It's jus the basic mod they have to perception checks. It's unlikely that's you'd remind a player during a session that they have a +2 dex for being an elf, because that would be buried in the underlying math of the checks it applies to.

Contrast that to Mas of the Wild, which is a bonus they can only get by being a wood elf and flow directly from their subrace choice... and is rather elf-y in flavor. That's a more evocative benefit.
 

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