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Level Up (A5E) Format for Species, Culture, and Background

Format for Species, Culture, and Background

The format here organizes mechanical traits into units of feats, halffeats, and proficiencies. A proficiency can be used for a skill, tool, or language, or one martial weapon or cantrip, or alternatively for a minor-feature ribbon. (A shield proficiency is worth a proficiency. Light armor is worth a proficiency, as is medium with a light armor prereq, as is heavy with a medium prereq. Thus a halffeat can grant proficiency with all armors and shields.) Four proficiencies equate roughly to a halffeat.

Altogether, the traits for species, culture, and background total about three feats.

• A halffeat for the species to improve an ability score by 1.
• A halffeat for the culture to improve an ability score by 1.
• A halffeat for the background to improve an ability score by 1.

• A feat and a halffeat for various species or culture traits.
• A halffeat for background traits.

Mostly, a "species" is a place on the character sheet to describe physical appearance. Most features that characterizes a playable species are cosmetic, including height and weight, skin color, hair and eye color. Even features such as horns or scaly hide, or solid-color eyes, can lack mechanical significance. Longevity is important to character concept, whether a brief lifespan or potentially immortal. Yet in the context of a gameplay that advances levels 1 to 20, longevity lacks mechanical significance, and by level 20 many player characters might discover magical means to attain immortality anyway.

When describing any species, the human is the measure for all comparisons. For example, say the average human height is 170 centimeters (70 inches). Among humans, individual height can vary widely from the average, while women tend to be slightly shorter, and the average of a specific ethnic population can vary widely. Other Humanoid species such as orc or dwarf are described as larger or smaller, on average, relative to the average human.

A Humanoid is any species that is comparable to a human. The Humanoid has the capacity of language and exhibits freewill, an ethical alignment that depends on personal choices, and individuals of the species can exhibit traits that diverge from averages and trends. All Humanoids are playable as a character. But a setting might select a only a few Humanoids as the common choices for player characters. Every Humanoid knows one native language.

Here, the elf according to the Forgotten Realms setting serves as a sample for a format.

The elf traditions tend to be complex with many variants. Sorting out the elf traits helps structure a format that can robustly organize the traits of other Humanoid species too.

Note, because D&D traditions have described the Drow Elf as black-skinned and Evil, there is discomfort with reallife racist tropes. For this reason, this thread offers tentative solutions to separate the Evil characteristics as a demonic religion. The result is a Non-Evil kind of Drow, that is notable for Charisma. It can be black-skin, without tending toward Evil. This kind of Elf seems sensible for the parentage of a charismatic Half-Elf. Less common Half-Elf individuals might tend toward Dexterity, rather than Charisma. The Forgotten Realms setting characterizes the Moon Elf as exceptionally social and friendly, tolerant and the likely Elf to interact with Humans. Thus here, the most common parentage of the Half Elf is the charismatic Moon Elf. This Moon Elf also serves as the Non-Evil version of Drow Elf. The format derives from Forgotten Realms traditions, including a High Elf that is primarily Intelligence, to allow player choice, and to avoid possible racist tropes.

Forgotten Realms


The elves of the Material Plane are Fey spirits who became flesh.
Elf Origins. Elves are human-like spirits of the Feywild. In ancient times, certain elves who personify aspects of woodlife, materialized into the Material Plane. They took on the mortal life of flesh and bone, to better maintain the health of the woods. They inhabited the thresholds between faerie and human, within primeval forests of haunting beauty. Today, the ancestral communities have evolved to comprise three prominent cultures within the material: Wild, Sun and Moon. Other elven cultures are known, such as Sea and Sky, but are rare.
Origins: Fey and Material.

Elven Appearance. Elves resemble humans, but are famous for their distinctively pointed ears, that elves characterize as leaf-shaped or wolf-like. Generally, they exhibit lean physiques that lack facial or body hair. Their height is the same as human on average, but deviates farther, taller or shorter. A particular elven community might tend to be shorter or taller, on average. Complexions of skin and hair and eye color, trend by cultural ethnicity. Individual appearances can vary significantly from the typical ones.
Size: Medium. The average height is 70 inches (170 centimeters), namely 5 feet 10 inches, about the same as humans, but ranging from about 4 feet 3 inches (130 centimeters) to about 7 feet (210 centimeters). Usually, an elf tends to weigh less than a human of a similar height.

Elven Longevity. An elf reaches physical adulthood about the age of 20, at the same rate as a humans. Where elves of the Feywild are immortal, retaining eternal youth from then on, the elves of the Material are mortal, albeit the lifespans are long, taking centuries to reach an elder appearance. Elven cultures view aging moreso as a result of personal experiences, and consider the year 100 to be a sacred age to declare own adulthood.
Longevity: Adulthood about 20, ceremonial adulthood 100, life expectancy reaching 750.

Elvish Language. The elvish cultures preserve mutually intelligible dialects of the Elvish language that their Fey ancestors spoke. Elvish is fluid, with subtle intonations and intricate grammar. Its literature is rich and varied, and its songs and poems are famous among other Humanoid species.
Native Language: Elvish.
Other Language: Common. Dwelling in the threshold between faerie and human, you gain fluency in Common, the international language that many humans speak.

Elven Species Ability. Elves are famous for their Dexterity, exhibiting confident precise movements, as well as their Charisma, displaying an enchanting beauty and an elegant esthetic. Humans often view exceptional individuals as having otherworldly grace.
Ability Score Improvement (halffeat). Improve one of the following ability scores by 1: Dexterity or Charisma.

Elven Trance. Born of Fey magic, all three elvish cultures flourish during starry nights. While among each other, most elves tend toward nocturnally activity, and never sleep. Instead they rest by means of ancestral meditation techniques, dreaming after fashion about the earlier mortal lives that ones immortal Fey spirit has already reincarnated thru. These daily mental exercises heighten the awareness of the elf, both spiritually and sensorily.
Species Trait (halffeat). Your upbringing in a traditional elven community grants you the following natural and magical proficiencies.
Trance Ritual (proficiency). When you rest for four hours, you gain the same benefit of a long rest as a human does from 8 hours. You remain aware of your surroundings while trancing. They are mindful of such longterm perspectives while conversing with their fleeting human neighbors.
Charm Resistance (proficiency). You gain advantage versus the charmed condition, and are immune to sleep.
Perception Skill (proficiency).
Darkvision Cantrip (proficiency).

Culture. In addition, you gain the features from one of the three elven cultures: wild elf, sun elf, or moon elf.


Wild elves, also known as wood elves, preserve the ancient ways of the woodland Fey ancestors that first entered this world.
Wild Elf Appearance. The complexion of wild elf communities tend toward shades of orangish-reddish, with skin and hair ranging from a pale coppery pink to a dark auburn brown. Eyes are often a vivid green-blue verdigris. At same time, individuals might vary considerably, so as to resonate the color of a plant or an animal. Possibly, a birthmark resembles the pattern of animal markings. The irises of the eyes often appear with patterns that resemble the veins of leaves or the textures of bark, or else wolf-like with whiteless eyes. The bodily physique tends toward muscular with narrow waist and broad shoulders.

Wild Elf Cultural Ability. The wild elves also tend toward strength and indomitable will, on average.
Cultural Ability (halffeat). Improve one of the following abilities by 1: Strength or Wisdom.
Favorable Classes. Wild elves often enter the following classes: druid, barbarian, and ranger.
Cultural Trait: Fleet Of Foot (halffeat). Your speed increases by 5.

Wild Elf Hunter Background. Wild elves organize into nomadic hunting clans, who move swiftly, gymnastically, and stealthily across the forest terrain, even seeming to glide from branch to branch thru trees. The clans maintain alliances each other, within each expansive tribal region. Their traditional shelters are portable, whether tents of animal skins or conjurations of magic. Often they trance outdoors to reverie with nature. They exhibit strong bonds with the lives of plants and animals. Seasonally, a clan sows seeds for various crops and sometimes remain in a locale to enjoy the harvest from a previous sowing.
Background Ability (halffeat). Improve one of the following abilities by 1: Strength or Wisdom.
Background Features (halffeat). Typically, you grew up as a member of a remote wild elf clan, valuing fierce loyalty and adhering to sacred ancestral ways that coexist in harmony with the lifeforces of pristine woodlands.
Training (two proficiencies). Choose two from the following list of skill, tool, and weapon proficiencies. Skills: Animal Handling, Acrobatics, Athletics, Medicine, Nature, and Survival. Tools: Brewer, Herbalist, Leatherworker, Stoneworker*, Trapper*, Weaver, and Woodcarver. Weapons: longbow, shortbow, knife, and spear.
Nature Jaunt Cantrip* (proficiency). As a move action, you can at full speed climb and run across a natural surface, such as up a tree trunk, over branches, tips of leaves, along a cliff wall, atop animal backs, over the surface of lakes, and as a bonus action can leap 30 feat from a natural surface. To avoid a chance of falling, the movement must end upright on a reasonably solid natural surface.
Totem Animal Ritual* (proficiency). Wild Elves traditionally adopt an animal as a member of a clan. You can telepathically comprehend and communicate with any beast whose species is the same as a beast who is a fellow member of your clan. The knowledge and awareness is limited by the animal mind, but emotional empathy and sensory experiences within the past day are knowable. After a long rest, you can perform a 10-minute meditation ritual to adopt one friendly new beast into your clan, or to switch your mental communion to a different beast who is already a member of your family. Wild elves can similarly communicate emotionally and sensorily with other wild elves who are members of their clan.


Sun elves, also known as high elves, celebrate the magic, seeking to master arcane and psionic forces among the Fey and the Material.
Sun Elf Appearance. Sun elf complexion tends toward shades of orangish-yellowish, with skin and hair ranging from whitish sunlight to blackish topaz. The irises of eyes are often gold. Individual eye color can vary mysteriously. For example, eyes are known that appear wholly solid of vivid purple-blue violet, sometimes luminous or iridescent.

Sun Elf Abilities. Sun elves inhabit the urban terrain of sky-scraping spires, intermingling tree garden parks. Their magi-tech city life tends to value Intelligence, to master arcane texts, psionic prescience, and obscure histories, to discover new means of magic, that harmonize sustainably with cosmic forces. Politics organize around rival magical colleges. The sun elves revel in Charisma toward intellectual and political debate.
Cultural Ability (halffeat). Improve one of the following abilities by 1: Intelligence or Charisma.
Favorable Classes. Sun elves often enter the following classes: wizard, lore bard, or eldritch knight.
Cultural Trait: Misty Step (halffeat). You know the Misty Step spell and can cast it once without expending a slot. You gain the ability to cast it this way after a short or long rest.

Sun Elf Collegiate Background. ...
Background Ability (halffeat). Improve one of the following abilities by 1: Intelligence or Charisma.
Background Features (halffeat).
Training (proficiency). Choose one from the following list of skill, tool, and language proficiencies. Skills: Arcana, History, Nature, Persuasion. Tools: Alchemist, Calligrapher, Cartographer, Gamer, Glassblower, Jeweler, Mason, Painter, and Smith. Language: Sylvan or one of the elemental languages.
Wizard Cantrip (proficiency). Choose one cantrip from the Wizard spell list.
Detect Magic (two proficiencies). You know the Detect Magic spell and can cast it at will without losing a slot.


Moon elves, also known as drow (?) elves, are highly social with a wanderlust to explore new Humanoid cultures. They tend to be fond of humans, who appreciate their love for magic, music, and mischief, and are the most likely elf to live among humans.
Moon Elf Appearance. Moon elf complexion tends toward shades of blue, from icy white to a midnight black. Often, blackish skin contrasts whitish hair, or viceversa, reminiscent of lunar phases between new moon and full moon. Eyes tend to be vivid red, but can range from shades of purplish to reddish to orangish. Individuals of any hue of eye color are known.

Moon Elf Abilities. Humans often celebrate individual moon elves who enchant audiences by artistic mastery of songs and illusions.
Cultural Ability (halffeat). Improve one of the following abilities by 1: Charisma or Dexterity.
Favorable Classes. Moon elves often enter the following classes: bard, warlock, and trickster rogue.
Cultural Trait: Lightplay (halffeat). You know the following traits.
Faerie Fire (two proficiencies). You know the Faerie Fire spell and can cast it once without losing a slot. You gain the ability to cast it this way after a short or long rest.
Dancing Lights Cantrip (proficiency). You know the Dancing Lights cantrip.
Friends Cantrip (proficiency). You know the Friends cantrip. If at the end of its duration, your target is reasonably unharmed, the creature remains friendly.

Moon Elf Performer Background. ...
Background Ability (halffeat). Improve one of the following abilities by 1: Charisma or Dexterity.
Background Features (halffeat). Roaming the world, you pick up marvelous skills.
Training (two proficiencies). Choose two from the following list of skill, tool, and language proficiencies. Skills: Arcana, Deception, Insight, Medicine, Nature, Performance, Persuasion, Sleight of Hand, Stealth. Tools: Cartographer, Disguiser, Forger, Herbalist, Musician, Navigator, Painter, and Thief. Languages: any.
... (two proficiencies). ...

Lolth-Touched Background
Lolth-Touched Background. An immortal ancestor, an Fey elf spirit by the name of Lolth, personifies an aspect of spider. She entered the fiendish realm, and sought to be worshiped as a god. Her fiend cult has gained fanatic adherents among elves. Her Ideal is for her elven "children" to murder each other, so that the weak perish and only the strong survive, like an eggsack of cannibalistic hatchling spiders. As a Quirk, she weaves treachery, like spinning a web. The alignment of her ideology is Neutral (?) Evil. She draws her adherents deep into the vast cavernous Underdark, to inhabit scintillating faerie-lit civilizations there within the gloom.
Background Ability (halffeat). Improve one of the following ability scores by 1: Dexterity or Wisdom.
Background Features (halffeat). This background replaces the background of your elf culture.
Lolth-Touch Appearance. The eyes of the Lolth-Touched become almost solid white, with any residual iris or pupil becoming faint tints of whitish pastel colors.
Superior Darkvision. If you have Darkvision, it improves out to 100 feet, but you suffer light sensitivity. You have disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks that rely on sight, when you or your target are in direct sunlight.
Ability Score Improvement.
Favorable Classes.
Drow-Touched elves are often Cleric, Warlock, or Fighter utilizing Dexterity. Lolth only permits females to serve as her clerics, gaining a Spider Domain. An elven Warlock can make a fey pact or a fiend pact with her.
Darkness (two proficiencies). You know the Darkness spell and can cast it once without losing a slot. You can it this way after a long rest.
Training (two proficiencies). Choose two from the following list of skill, tool, and weapon proficiencies. Skills: Sleight of Hand, Stealth, and Religion. Tools: Mason, Sleep-Poisoner, Smith, and Weaver. Weapons: handbow and rapier.
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