5E Feats instead of Race

Hriston

Adventurer
@Charlaquin , not sure if this is the sort of thing you had in mind, but I wanted to share this idea.

Instead of a race, you get:
  • 3 feats of your choice
  • Common and 1 extra language
  • (a) Medium size or (b) Small size and one of the following:
    • Darkvision*
    • 1 tool proficiency
    • Trance
    • Situational advantage on one type of save
    • Resistance to one type of damage
    • Immune to sleep magic
  • (a) 30’ speed or (b) 25’ speed and one of the following:
    • Two from the above list
    • Speed not reduced by heavy armor
    • Situational expertise in a skill
    • Situational ability to hide (lightly obscured by natural phenomena or obscured by a larger creature)
    • Ability to move through a larger creature’s space
*Taking darkvision twice gives you improved darkvision.
 
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RSIxidor

Explorer
Feats probably need to be reworked somewhat to cover things that are currently only race features.

Stat bumps?

Are you saying that you only get to pick from the first list if you're small, and only from the second list if you're 25'? Can't say that I love that. Then again, some of those things could also separately be feats.

I really like games where you get to decide what your people are, as I think it strengthens the narrative.

An alternative that might work better with some groups who like the existing races' flavors would be to have a one or more option points that are significant to that race, and feats only for that race (also look at PF2E as its close to what I'm suggesting).
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
That's a lot of feats. Given how broken feats are in general, and especially how broken they are at low levels, there's no way that this option could be remotely balanced.

That being said, it would do a decent job of representing a world where the various races have mixed sufficiently that pure-blood races were the exception rather than the rule. That's kind of neat.

The one big suggestion that I'd make is to work out a random roll table, to prevent obvious optimization paths.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
@Charlaquin , not sure if this is the sort of thing you meant, but I wanted to share this idea.

Instead of a race, you get:
  • 3 feats of your choice
  • Common and 1 extra language
  • Medium size OR Small size and one of the following:
    • Darkvision
    • 1 tool proficiency
    • Trance
    • Situational advantage on one type of save
    • Resistance to one type of damage
    • Immune to sleep magic
  • 30’ speed OR 25’ speed and one of the following:
    • Two from the above list
    • Speed not reduced by heavy armor
    • Situational expertise in a skill
    • Situational ability to hide (lightly obscured or obscured by a larger creature)
    • Ability to move through a larger creature’s space
Taking darkvision twice gives you improved darkvision.
This is similar to what I was talking about, though it’s even more modular than what I had in mind.

My idea started from a desire to separate race and culture. It’s always bothered me that, for example, an elf who grew up an orphan in some human city would somehow naturally know how to use a longbow, shortbow, longsword and shortsword. So, I tried separating the racial traits into inborn vs learned traits, but it was pretty difficult to balance since some races lean more heavily on one category or the other. What I ended up settling on was removing the learned traits from the core races and folding those into Backrounds, and turning subraces into Feats.

So, for example, Dwarves get:
  • +2 Constitution
  • Medium size
  • 25 foot speed (not reduced by heavy armor)
  • Darkvision
  • Advantage on saves vs. poison and resistance to poison damage
  • A Feat
This is the basic template for a race. They give you +2 to one ability score, a size, a speed, a vision type, and one or more additional features, of roughly equivalent value to advantage on a save, resistance to a damage type, and a Feat. Some races that get a lot of inborn features don’t get a Feat.

Dwarven Toughness is a Dwarf-only Feat that gives you +1 Wis and +1 HP/Level. Dwarven Armor Training is a Dwarf-only Feat that gives you +1 Str and proficiency in Light and Medium armor. These replace the Hill Dwarf and Mountain Dwarf subraces (Dwarven armor training is a little weaker than Hill Dwarf, but I’m ok with that. I am considering adding proficiency with shields as well to help compensate), but also gives you more flexibility to take a general Feat instead, which also helps cut back on Variant Human supremacy.

Instead of the standard list of backgrounds, I let players choose any two Skills, two total languages and/or tools (plus Common), and a Feature from one of the sample backgrounds. In addition to this, you can choose one of the cultural backgrounds, which reproduce the missing element of race. So, for example, the Dwarf Clansfolk background gives you Proficiency with the History skill, handaxes, battleaxes, light hammers, warhammers, your choice of artisan’s tools, and the Dwarvish language, as well as the Stonecunning feature (which allows you to double your History Proficiency bonus on checks related to the origin of stonework). Unlike the subrace feats, these cultural backgrounds can be taken by characters of any race.
 
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Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
@Charlaquin , not sure if this is the sort of thing you had in mind, but I wanted to share this idea.

Instead of a race, you get:
  • 3 feats of your choice
  • Common and 1 extra language
  • Medium size OR Small size and one of the following:
    • Darkvision
    • 1 tool proficiency
    • Trance
    • Situational advantage on one type of save
    • Resistance to one type of damage
    • Immune to sleep magic
  • 30’ speed OR 25’ speed and one of the following:
    • Two from the above list
    • Speed not reduced by heavy armor
    • Situational expertise in a skill
    • Situational ability to hide (lightly obscured or obscured by a larger creature)
    • Ability to move through a larger creature’s space
Taking darkvision twice gives you improved darkvision.
That looks like a lot of homework for a player just to get their race off the ground
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
That looks like a lot of homework for a player just to get their race off the ground
I know you were addressing this to Hirston but my own version of this concept (which is a little less involved than Hirston’s version, but still more involved than the default), a player can always just say “I want to play a bog-standard Hill Dwarf,” or whatever, and that’s fine. The point is to expand options for folks who want to kind of build-their-own race, but the standard races are (or should be) totally buildable in this system, so someone who prefers to play a tried-and-true Wood Elf can just do that if they want to.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
By the way, my system for this is still a work in progress, but if anyone is interested I can post more details.
I would certainly be interested. When I was reworking the races with our DM we debated about removing half-elf since you could just be "more elf" or "more human" and what you should get would more likely depend on which culture raised you. And what happened if a half-elf's parent died and it was raised by a dwarf who was their friend in a dwarf city/culture?

So, we began separating cultural features from biological ones and like you wanted to attach some things to backgrounds instead, but other projects made us put it all on the back burner for now.
 

Horwath

Explorer
I like somewhat the suggestion, but I would keep races separate and have only options for cultural traits, not genetic ones.

I.E.
Elves;

Genetic(fixed)
Darkvision,
Trance,
Perception,
Bonus vs charm,
speed,

Cultural(variable somewhat)
Bonus weapons,
Languages,
Cantrips,

on cultural you can add any tool proficiency, most of skills, amount of starting languages, combat bonuses vs some races, bonus feats
 

BlivetWidget

Explorer
That's a lot of feats. Given how broken feats are in general, and especially how broken they are at low levels, there's no way that this option could be remotely balanced.
I find myself wishing this forum’s members could find another word for “not to my personal preferences.” Claiming a game feature is broken -so fundamentally flawed as to be unplayable in its current state- implies that those of us who use and enjoy such features at our table must be too dumb to play the game properly. That these features would ruin our game if only we were smart enough to understand them.

5e game balance is not designed around every character being equal in all ways at all levels. It is absolutely okay if a character is better than average for a few levels.
 

Hriston

Adventurer
Feats probably need to be reworked somewhat to cover things that are currently only race features.
Well, my idea was to get rid of race completely and have the existing feats do all the work of mechanical differentiation formerly done by race.

Stat bumps?
There are already a number of feats that give ability score increases.

Are you saying that you only get to pick from the first list if you're small, and only from the second list if you're 25'?
Yes, the idea is that feat selection is going to pick up most of the work of mechanical differentiation. The two lists of minor features are there to provide compensation for choosing to be small or slow, as additional options.
 

GlassJaw

Explorer
First off, the feat system in 5E needs to be completely overhauled. It was a nice experiment but it doesn't work.

But that aside, while I'm usually a fan of a la carte customization, I still wouldn't go that route for races. Choosing the race for your character is a very iconic part of D&D character creation. So while it probably would work mechanically, keeping the narrative of race is important.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
My only issue with feats is IMO they have too great an impact. I like the flavor of many of them, but think mechanically they are too strong. The effect they have on power-level of a game when used compared to not is pretty big. I think they should offer a nice "edge" compared to a game where they aren't used, but nothing greater than that.

The reason being in the games I've played, over 85-90% of ASI are used for feats, not ability scores. When several also offer an ASI as part of the feature, it makes them a pretty solid choice over pure ASI use.
 

Hriston

Adventurer
That's a lot of feats. Given how broken feats are in general, and especially how broken they are at low levels, there's no way that this option could be remotely balanced.
It’s meant to be balanced with any of the PHB race choices. Races actually pack a lot of mechanical power. By my reckoning, a race is worth 3 1/3 feats. I based this option on the standard human, which gets increases to all six ability scores. A feat is worth increases to two scores of middling importance, so that balances out.
 
It’s meant to be balanced with any of the PHB race choices. Races actually pack a lot of mechanical power. By my reckoning, a race is worth 3 1/3 feats. I based this option on the standard human, which gets increases to all six ability scores. A feat is worth increases to two scores of middling importance, so that balances out.
To avoid a side-discussion over the value of 'Feats', maybe you should rename what these actually are. 3 feats is not 'overpowered' when you strip every single racial trait and then dole it out as a 'feat'.

You are suggesting player buy 'Racial Traits'. (or give it another fancy name) They are not 'Feats' as per the feats in the PHB. There should be a distinction.
 

Hriston

Adventurer
This is similar to what I was talking about, though it’s even more modular than what I had in mind.

My idea started from a desire to separate race and culture. It’s always bothered me that, for example, an elf who grew up an orphan in some human city would somehow naturally know how to use a longbow, shortbow, longsword and shortsword. So, I tried separating the racial traits into inborn vs learned traits, but it was pretty difficult to balance since some races lean more heavily on one category or the other. What I ended up settling on was removing the learned traits from the core races and folding those into Backrounds, and turning subraces into Feats.

So, for example, Dwarves get:
  • +2 Constitution
  • Medium size
  • 25 foot speed (not reduced by heavy armor)
  • Darkvision
  • Advantage on saves vs. poison and resistance to poison damage
  • A Feat
This is the basic template for a race. They give you +2 to one ability score, a size, a speed, a vision type, and one or more additional features, of roughly equivalent value to advantage on a save, resistance to a damage type, and a Feat. Some races that get a lot of inborn features don’t get a Feat.

Dwarven Toughness is a Dwarf-only Feat that gives you +1 Wis and +1 HP/Level. Dwarven Armor Training is a Dwarf-only Feat that gives you +1 Str and proficiency in Light and Medium armor. These replace the Hill Dwarf and Mountain Dwarf subraces (Dwarven armor training is a little weaker than Hill Dwarf, but I’m ok with that. I am considering adding proficiency with shields as well to help compensate), but also gives you more flexibility to take a general Feat instead, which also helps cut back on Variant Human supremacy.

Instead of the standard list of backgrounds, I let players choose any two Skills, two total languages and/or tools (plus Common), and a Feature from one of the sample backgrounds. In addition to this, you can choose one of the cultural backgrounds, which reproduce the missing element of race. So, for example, the Dwarf Clansfolk background gives you Proficiency with the History skill, handaxes, battleaxes, light hammers, warhammers, your choice of artisan’s tools, and the Dwarvish language, as well as the Stonecunning feature (which allows you to double your History Proficiency bonus on checks related to the origin of stonework). Unlike the subrace feats, these cultural backgrounds can be taken by characters of any race.
This makes sense. So your idea is for every PC to choose a paired down race (which may include a feat to shore up its power level and that can be chosen from race-specific feats), a custom background, and a cultural background, which all replaces race and background. Is that correct?

I’ve done some work on valuing racial features (which you may or may not agree with of course — it was for an ongoing project), so if you’d like some feedback on your designs, I’d be happy to let you know how they compare with my notes.

I think separating nature from nurture is problematic in a fantasy context (perhaps even more than in real life!), and I tend to enjoy the modular aspect of race in D&D, i.e., I believe a given race is meant to represent a biological and cultural package, and it isn’t always clear cut which is which. For example, I tend to follow Tolkien with regard to the relationship between humans, elves, and orcs/goblins, which is that, while specific lineages are certainly involved, exhibiting certain qualities (epigenetics could come into this), they are all members of Homo sapiens, and that the difference between human mortality and elven immortality, for example, is cultural rather than biological.
 

Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
I don’t think it’s more onerous for a player to read the feats section than it is for a player to read the races section.
I'd love to see @Charlaquin 's version to look at it, but the version you're positing requires someone to make a bunch of different combinatory decisions to do a race at the start of the game, especially when combined with three feat selections.

It would be off-putting to me at least to have to go through that much work to make a race. YMMV obviously.
 

Hriston

Adventurer
I'd love to see @Charlaquin 's version to look at it, but the version you're positing requires someone to make a bunch of different combinatory decisions to do a race at the start of the game, especially when combined with three feat selections.

It would be off-putting to me at least to have to go through that much work to make a race. YMMV obviously.
I see, while race is one or two decisions (including choice of subrace), I’m asking players to make five or six decisions. I can see how that can be seen as more work. I guess that’s the trade-off between more modular design and design that provides more options.

Another difference between my idea and @Charlaquin ’s seems to be that, with hers, you can choose to reconstruct any race in the PHB, whereas mine wasn’t designed with that purpose in mind.
 

Hriston

Adventurer
To avoid a side-discussion over the value of 'Feats', maybe you should rename what these actually are. 3 feats is not 'overpowered' when you strip every single racial trait and then dole it out as a 'feat'.

You are suggesting player buy 'Racial Traits'. (or give it another fancy name) They are not 'Feats' as per the feats in the PHB. There should be a distinction.
I think maybe you have my proposal and @Charlaquin ’s proposal mixed up. Mine is quite definitely to use the feats in the PHB.
 

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