D&D 5E MotM: thoughts on races in Monsters of the Multiverse

Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
How is the presentation of lineage in MOTM and other products going to affect the characters you build or are interested in playing? What new mechanical impacts and synergies have you noticed?

This is not meant to be a discussion of optimization, though there will be elements of that. And it's not about the meta of making goblinoids fey-decended, or whaterver (other threads are doing that). My questions are more general and mostly focused on build implications: how does the new presentation of lineages, with the free-floating ASI mods at character development, change how you might build specific characters?

Does choice of race still matter? I think it still does, and these posts are just me working through what I see in order to explore some implications.

1 Opening examples (Orc, Goliath, Firbolg, Shifter)
2 Goblinoids and other Fey (Bugbear, Goblin, Hobgoblin,Eladrin, Shadar-Kai)
3 Reptiles (Kobold, Lizardfolk, Tortle, Yuan-Ti)
4 Hit and Myths (Satyr, Haregon, Minotaur, Githzerai and Githyanki)
5 Size Matters (Aasimar, Changeling, Genasi, Firbolg, Kenku, Tabaxi).
6 Fliers and swimmers and under the earth (Aarakocra, Fairy, Triton, Sea Elf, Deep Gnome, and Duregar)

At the same time, races are offering much more flexibility and allow for a range of builds. If there's much less necessary synergies at work, there remain some very interesting combinations that are available.

1 Opening examples (Goliath, Shifter, Firbolg, Orc [and Half-orc])

The Shifter is a good race to begin thinking with, because the design is pretty clean, and characters get choice that will benefit a range of builds. Start with darkvision and a free skill proficiency in Atheletics, Acrobatics, Survival, or Intimidation. All of them are useful. Plus you can shift, allowing you to draw on a lycanthropic ancestor a number of times per long rest equal to your proficiency bonus. Each shift lasts for a minute, and so in most campaigns it will be for every combat, and for the rest it will be for most combats. Shifting gives you a pool of THP and an ability. So far, so good, and we see the design principles behind this framing of the race: everything is useful for anyone, and the association between a race and a class (dwarf cleric, elf wizard) is eroded. That's good.

The abilities you get while shifted are chosen by the player, and there are four options, each of which suggests some build combinations.
(a) Longtooth. Bonus action for and fang attack. This is pretty cool, and allows a player to both use a two-handed weapon and have the feel of a two-weapon fighter. Attack with a greatsword with your action, and then use your fangs with a bonus action; longtooth creates a terrifying image for a melee combatant. It doesn't let you divine smite if you are a paladin with the fang attack and doeesn't synergize with polearm master, but it is another opportunity to hit, even after you've rolled your d12. The Great Weapon master gives a similar benefit when you reduce a creature to 0 hp or score a crit; rather than seeing that as overlap, I see this as giving an opportunity for less damage on those occasions where the feat's benefit doesn't come into play. Not for rogues or monks, but good for any strength-based attacker.
(b) Swiftstride. +10' move, and a free disengage and 10' move on a reaction. Equally cool, but for the melee builds that have just been excluded from Longtooth, and those with a good use for their bonus action. Extra Mobility always helps, and it will stack with the Mobile feet and the increased speed from Monk or Barbarian. The use for your reaction to get away from someone who ends their turn next to you replicates the Skirmisher ability given the the Scout Rogue (which is arguably the defining ability of the subclass). Good for someone who wants to attack at range, even if they plan never to get up close to an opponent.
(c) Wildhunt. This one is harder to get a sense of how it plays in combat. Advantage on every wisdom check should be awesome in some circumstances: it is the best choice for a mounted combatant (handling animals), or if you are a non-magical healer and rolling medicine. You are not likely to be rolling survival or insight during combat, though, and while advantage on perception will help you always spot hidden oppoinents, that's a benefit that you are probably not building for. Arguably, who Wildhunt benefits most is someone without Darkvision, but you have darkvision. The other benefit is also really useful and really hard to anticipate its use: no one within 30' can attack you with advantage. This is perfect for a Bsrbsrian, taking the liability from Reckless Attack (h/t @Paul Farquhar ). As for others: You are less likely to be taken down by an enemy rogue, but who this benfits most is someone who is always falling prone in melee. Is that a thing?
(d) Beasthide. And, if none of these appeal to you, you can take +1 AC and more THP. Anyone in melee can want to be more tanky. So might anyone only proficient in light armor. Or a spellcaster.

The shifter is also a really fun choice for a wildshaping druid, especially for a Circle of the Moon, since in your animal form you would retain the ability to shift, enhancing your fighting ability further. All in all, a very satisfying design that can be made to work with almost any build.

Goliath. Less substantial is the Golaith, which feels much more niche. Cold resistance and the altitude training make this an ideal race for arctic adventures (no threat of exhaustion from cold is significant in some campaigns). Proficiency in Powerful build and Athletics both favour strength builds, but importantly also replace an investment in strength: even a character that has dumped strength is able to cover some of the benefits of a higher strength through these racial abilities. Athletics is, I think, amazingly under-rated, and Athletics checks are called on regularly, for all characters. As with Perception, it is a skill that helps everyone, not just one person specializing, and so etting it for free is useful. In addition, there's a chance to sluff off 1d12+CON damage roughly once per combat, which is another good perk.

Firbolg. The Firbolg occupies the same conceptual space as the Goliath, but it feels less integrated to me. You have powerful build (like the goliath and the orc). Hidden Step gives you six seconds of invisibility a couple of times per long rest. That will be useful in combat, but I find it hard to narrate how it works. For spells you get a single casting of Detect Magic or Disguise Self, both of which are useful, but they do not really suggest the kinship-to-giants gentle-wilderness-wanderer. More than ay race, this feels like a bunch of features cobbled together, useful for anyone but not (to me) inspiring.

Except for the ribbon ability, Speech of Beast and Leaf. You can speak to Beasts, Plants and vegetation, but cannot understand what they say. Tritons and Sea Elves get to speak to swimmers, but (a) Firbolgs get advantage on Charisma checks to influence them, and (b) it includes Vegetation (!!!). Players can attempt to persuade flowers to bloom, grass to stand up straight after they pass (replicating Pass without trace?), to give false trails ("Everybody lean to the left"), or whatever. The enemy casts Plant Growth and you can ask the vines to part for you like the Red Sea. There just seems to be so much that can happen with this. A high-charisma Firbolg (Bard, Sorcerer, even Warlock) should be able to do so much with this. Talking to Beasts is fun, but the implications for the entire world that emerge from the ability to speak with vegetation just see mindboggling, with players threatening palm trees with an axe if it doesn't drop a coconut.

Orc. With the changes to the Orc, it is now mechanically much closer to the Half-Orc in the PHB. In many ways, that’s good, and perhaps points to a future shift removing the Half-Orc completely. In my own games, I assume that what humans call half-orcs are a separate species, neither human nor orc, and that the label “Half-orc” is a (human) slur. In my head Half-orcs are Neanderthals, and so never have dogs, etc.

Both Orcs and Half-orcs have Darkvision and Relentless Endurance (allowing you to stand one more round in combat). The differences are minimal:

  • Menacing (proficiency in Intimidation)
  • Savage Attacks (+1 weapon die damage on a crit)
  • Powerful Build (double carrying capacity)
  • Adrenaline Rush (Bonus to Dash, plus a few (= proficiency bonus) THP, prof/long).
To my eye, this is a wash: neither combat ability is particularly compelling (it’s not something to build a character around), and so it comes down to a choice between being intimidating – a small compensation when Charisma is often used as a dump stat) or carrying more stuff. (VGTM had Menacing, Powerful Build, and Aggressive, which is a variation on Adrenaline rush, without the THP, and requiring movement towards an enemy, but not limited in use).

Relentless Endurance is a nice ability, and in play it has payed off occasionally for me, so it’s nice to see it with the Orcs now too. Adrenaline Rush will be mostly redundant for rogues, and so curiously there will be more rogues among Half-orcs (that nasty human side coming through?) as well as more Champion Fighters (who benefit from the expanded crit range). The free choice of stats allows many more spellcasters than before, and a low-strength Orc caster can still carry his weight and withstand a potentially fatal blow in an emergency. For them Adrenaline Rush might be to help the caster flee, rather than rush towards its enemies.
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Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
2 Goblinoids and other Few (Bugbear, Goblin, Hobgoblin, Eladrin, Shadar Kai)

All three goblinoids now have fey ancestry, which is nice – it gives a “dark” spin, making them (pseudo-evolutionary) cousins of Elves, Eladrin, etc. Fey Ancestry gives advantage against being charmed.

Goblin. Not much change from VGTM. Fury of the Small now does more total damage, spread out over multiple attacks. Nimble Escape is an amazing ability, that replicates much of the Rogue’s cunning action, allowing a Hide or a Disengage with a bonus action. Goblins always have something to do with their bonus action. This will disincentivize certain builds: goblins will tend not to use two-weapon fighting, they won’t be monks, they won’t typically be beastmaster rangers (even though they can ride their beast, being small). Most surprising, though: the ability becomes redundant if they are rogues. It’s an interesting design choice: all goblins feel like rogues, but very few actually are. There is seemingly a “genetic” dis-inclination towards rogues.

Bugbear. Surprise Attack gives you a 2d6 bonus to damage if you act early in the first round of combat. This strongly favours dexterity builds (thank goodness, finally something to support Dexterity in 5e), and curiously will therefore reduce the importance of strength builds (since dexterity and strength can both be used as an attack stat). Bugbear characters are also incentivized towards the Alert feat – anything to ensure you act before your opponent in round 1.

If the new Bugbear favours a Dexterity build, we can start to make new sense of three other abilities. Powerful Build is making up for the carrying ability that is lost by a lower strength – your effective strength is doubled in this respect. You are comparatively less Athletic, but with Long-Limbed you are still tall and lanky. Curiously, this visual of a long, shaggy-limbed but emaciated creature is reinforced by the curious new ability listed under Sneaky, that you can squeeze into spaces that would otherwise only hold a small creature. All of this is surprisingly coherent.

Hobgoblin. It was very hard to find a way to use the abilities granted to the Hobgoblin in VGTM: they gain proficiency in Light Armor and two martial weapons, which helps… Sorcerers and Wizards, neither of whom really need these abilities. So you could play a dextrous Abjurer with a rapier, which was fun but unnecessary, or give a knowledge, light, or trickery Cleric a longbow if you wanted, but nothing really felt right. This is a big improvement.

Fey Gift lets you Help with a bonus action (something only possible otherwise with the Rogue Mastermind). Though its use is limited – proficiency times (2-6)/long rest – at level 3 it also gives THP or 10’ extra speed or disadvantage on the target’s next attack. Fey Gift with this last ability (Spite) will be a good investment for any build. What had been Saving Face in Volo now allows a smaller bonus (up to +3 instead of +5) more often (proficiency times/long rest rather than once/short rest). Not only does this remove the negative valence, but it gives abilities that can benefit pretty much any build. It also works better with smaller parties: small groups are not incentivized to put extra allies into the field of battle so the Hobgob can hit harder. Also, it is an ability that is not wasted, since it kicks in only when you miss (and players usually have a sense of whether they are close to making it or not, even if the DC has not been stated.)

Eladrin and Shadar-Kai are planar elves, from the feywild or shadowfell. Seriously, elves get everywhere unless you spray first.

They get the Fey Ancestry advantage on charm saves and darkvision like goblinoids do, and additionally, they all have:
  • perception proficiency
  • trance, which means you finish a long rest in 4 hrs not 8 (an important clarification, and apparently a modification on a Sage advice answer), but this additionally gives...
  • ...two free proficiencies in weapons or tools.

OOC: TRANCE: How to use the free proficiencies?

For most players, the choice of a weapon would be relatively fixed, and would not change from one long rest to the next: you choose to be proficient in longbow, say, and that will be your weapon of choice. In contrast, the choice of a tool will change. As long as you have 4 hours to prep, a character can become a master carpenter, or a card expert, or a concert flautist. That flexibility could be pretty fun at the table.

Importantly, we should ask how this will roll-over into the PHB elves. I trust (hope) that it will replace Elven weapon training. That way, any elf charavter can have the free proficiencies in longbow or whatever, but those with martial profs already aren't "trading them in" for skill profs, but it becomes a choice made at the level of determining Trance.

Because the proficiencies can rotate, it also means that if the DM throws a fancy trident in the way of the players, an elf character might choose to use it: you can teach yourself trident as needed. This would make for greater variationin character builds. Elves become less same-y, even if they are still overloaded with racial abilities.

Eladrin. Fey Ancestry gives advantage against being charmed, and Fey Step lets you Misty Step without the mist, proficiency times (2-6) per long rest. Nice. At level 3 you add a “seasonal” effect, that is fun and can vary: the autumnal charm or the brumal frightening effects stand out. This offers a strong Fey feel and can be made to fit almost any class. Because Fey Step isn’t a spell, it can even work while a barbarian’s raging. It’s a pretty open design.

Shadar Kai. Basically, a dark-themed Eladrin, with damage resistance instead of one of the seasonal abilities. Resistance to necrotic damage is thrown in for free. It’s not clear this needs to be a separate lineage.

Sea Elf. is pretty great, granting a swim speed, cold resistance, water breathing, and an ability to talk at fish, in addition to all the other elven benefits (perception, shortened long rests, free proficiencies, darkvision, and an advantage on charm saves.) More on them below, when I compare the swimmers.
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Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
3 Reptiles (Kobold, Lizardfolk, Tortle, Yuan-Ti)

The Natural Armor (13+DEX) has always been the most appealing aspect of the 5e Lizardfolk to me, in part because it provided a solution for the Druid that won’t wear metal armors. I like playing Druids, and natural armor allows me to skirt the bit that makes them non-fun for me. There’s more to it than that, and while the Tortle offers a better AC (see below), it doesn’t have the appeal that Lizardfolk holds. VGTM even had Cunning Artisan, which let the Lizardfolk make his own wood/bone/hide shields (which are otherwise unpriced). The loss of Cunning Artisan is therefore keenly felt, if only because it allowed me as a player to completely circumvent an obstacle I didn’t like, without needing to negotiate it with my DM.

Given the way AC is calculated, Lizardfolk supports a low-constitution Barbarian: you don’t need to build up CON for Unarmored Defense, because it’s already covered. But it will impact your hit points, and perhaps discourage you using Reckless Attack (if you weren’t already discouraged).

Apart from that, the changes to Lizardfolk are mostly minor. Two free skills are a great perk, and most characters will draw from Perception, Stealth, or Survival I suspect. The bite is now slashing damage; Hungry Jaws is tweaked; medicine is added to the skills one can choose (no one ever chooses medicine). The bite doesn’t feel like it would be a primary weapon for anyone: it could be for those classes like some Clerics and Druid who do not get martial weapons automatically, but for them a strength build is unlikely, with the need for a casting stat, Dexterity (for AC) and Constitution. I don't think people would choose to use the bite for a barbarian's primary weapon, but they could and be down ~2hp.hit. With the free choice of stats, a Warlock, Sorcerer, or Wizard Lizardfolk is much more likely now than it was before. I’m sticking with my Druid.

Kobold. Draconic Cry gives free advantage with a bonus action, which is useful for anyone, but particularly rogues. That’s fine, but it affects anyone within 10’, with no save. That argues for melee range, which is not what we might expect from the kobolds of olde (Tucker’s Kobolds, trapping and sneaking). But it is huge when they’re in groups, since a single kobold can run into a group, scream, disengage or attack each round, and give advantage against multiple opponents who are sniping at range. Kobolds in groups become frightening again, creating a kind of swarm effect.

Compare this to what was in VGTM with Pack Tactics (you have advantage if there’s a distracting ally nearby) and Grovel Cower and Beg (which lets you give advantage to others once per short or long rest) – so like Draconic Cry but without the implication of cowardice. Pack Tactics was excellent, and encouraged a really unique type of play, requiring players to balance its benefits with the challenges provided by sunlight sensitivity. That is lost now, and the kobold is poorer for it.

Kobold Legacy gives three choices. Craftiness gives as skill (fine); Defiance gives advantage on saves against being frightened (also fine, but it goes against the tradition that kobolds are scaredy-rats); Draconic sorcery is the most interesting choice, because it gives you a sorcerer cantrip, with any casting stat you choose. That’s awesome: Poison Spray or Fire Bolt give the most damage. This also allows sorcerer cantrips to be cast with wisdom, allowing a free option for kobold clerics, druids and (especially) ranger, who otherwise need to give up other options to get their cantrips.

OOC: Kobold Clerics and Rangers. Indeed, the most interesting change for me to the Kobold is the possibility of adding a sorcerer cantrip and use Wisdom as its casting stat (there are no Sorcerer cantrips that aren't on the Wizard list, so casting a Sorc cantrip with Intelligence is not unusual. With wisdom, it is.

A kobold Cleric can have access to Mage hand, Minor Illusion, shocking grasp, and many ranged attack cantrips that require a roll. All the ranged attack cantrips either require a roll to hit or a save. Each has its advantages: the ones with save are bettter for getting around cover, and the onese to hit are easier to get bonuses on the to hit roll (you benefit from advantage, for example). Clerics normally do not have access to the to-hit cantrips (the Arcane domain gave it to them, and Magic Initiate for Druid with Produce flame does, but that's it; High elves have cantrips that key off of Intelligence, but not Wisdom). A Kobold cleric can take a sorcerer cantrip, and cast it using wisdom, giving them a solid reliable attack. A kobold Ranger might also choose to take an attack cantrip, and still be effective without needing to invest in Int or Cha.

Similarly, Water Genasi have Acid splash, that cqn be keyed to any casting stat. Air Genasi have shocking grasp. Fire Genasi have Produce flame.

Tortle. The core of the tortle is the natural armor, which is a flat AC 17 and can’t benefit from dexterity. This is helpful for several builds, as long as you don’t need to go first in combat. Other features (1d6+STR claws, holding breath) might be useful, but won’t be used at the core of a build. While not over-powered, it does mean that a tortle character does not need to invest in dexterity at all, and this can lead to some interesting, unexpected builds. Classes that normally depend on Dexterity – Ranger, Rogue – can dump it completely and still be viable in melee combat with a Strength build; classes without heavy armor proficiency but with shields can comfortably do without Dexterity as well: non-shapeshifting druid, light or knowledge cleric, valor bards all can maintain a respectable AC 19 with a shield. Spellcasters too – warlock, wizard, sorcerer, bard – all can ignore the need for developing dexterity. While there are interesting possible synergies for a paladin or Barbarian build, nowhere is this breaking more ground than with a non-dex melee rogue, who can attack with a finesse weapon using strength for sneak attack, but also develop a range of skills building off of intelligence, wisdom, or charisma; curiously, the rogue’s Cunning Action means you might still be the swiftest and most agile in your party, even if you have an 8 dex. In contrast, the least effective build is probably a tortle monk, so no ninja tortles for you.

The range of skills provided by Nature’s Intuition is unexpectedly broad (shared with Lizardfolk). Perception, Stealth, and Survival are all as useful as they are out of place (“as stealthy as a tortle” seems an odd phrase to me). But then again, it’s also odd to me that the creature’s natural attack is on par with a scimitar. The decision to normalize all of these to 1d6+STR seems to me bizarre.

Yuan-Ti. Magic Resistance is an incredibly powerful benefit, even if it is now explicitly only against spells. The fact that you also have advantage on poison saves and resistance to poson stacks up to some strong benefits that will be handy at some points in your adventuring career, even if not all the time. The big gain is the ability to cast Suggestion once/long rest, using your most advantageous casting stat. That’s nice to have in your pocket, and does not limit build choice. The herpetological theme (posion/snakes) is creepy but also makes them uninteresting to me to play.
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Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
4 Hits and Myths (Satyr, Centaur, and Minotaur; Githyanki and Githzerai)

. It’s all about the horns. Goring Rush lets you attack after making a Dash action. It synchronizes very well with the Charger feat, allowing you to get two effects from the same action choice. Goring Rush does not require you to move in a straight line however, so a character might spend part of their movement running away, turning around, and charging. That would seem to encourage a kind of kiting in combat, staying on the fringes (or perhaps a strength-based Skirmisher rogue…). The way it’s worded (you have to Dash, but you also must only move a minimum of 20’), means that Goring Rush works well in difficult terrain, when your movement is otherwise hampered. A Monk Minotaur could use Dexterity for its horns.

Hammering Horns gives you something to do with your bonus action if you are in melee every turn. This is huge, and gives good battlefield control. This suggests there are fewer monks, rogues, and beastmaster rangers (all of whom regularly have good uses for their bonus actions in melee). For a melee-based Paladin, fighter, Cleric, or even Bard, it means that you have some pretty convenient battlefield control, being able to push a single opponent 5' or 10' away from you with good regularity. Labyrinthine Recall is a nice, new bonus that seems to have very little to do with labyrinths, and means every Minotaur should be taking Survival proficiency.

Satyr. Both Ram and Mirthful Leaps benefit from a high strength, but neither is particularly useful for traditional strength builds. A Barbarian could leap everywhere (fun Diablo flavour), but they and Fighters typically have better weapon choices. While a satyr monk could use dexterity with its ram ability (and be more effective at levels 1-4), dumping strength means you don’t get the full benefit of Mirthful Leap. Againm, it feels odd to me that a satyrs horns are on par with a scimitar -- nothing is broken with 1d6, but 1d4 would have been plenty.

Reveler gives two charisma-based skills, and a musical instrument that synchronizes with Performance. That obviously helps Charisma builds, but it also makes up for a lower charisma: a satyr fighter who has dumped Charisma can still get by in social situations, sort of like the jerk at that party at university who had a guitar and hit on your girlfriend and even though she didn’t go with him, you broke up the next week and she said it had nothing to do with the guitar jerk, even though that hadn’t been part of the conversation you were having.

The combination of Strength and Charisma would normally point towards Paladin. Satyrs would synchronize well with Oath of the Ancients, both thematically and with their level 7 Aura of Warding, which works alongside their Magic Resistance – giving advantage to saves vs. spells and resistance to damage (which is more effective than one of the bullets in the Mage Slayer feat).

Centaur. You have horsey parts, meaning you can’t climb but you have a natural weapon with your hooves, and a high speed. None of this is particularly powerful, but there’s no doubt you have horsey bits. The Charge feature doesn’t work well with the Charger feat, as both of them require the bonus action. There is clear flavour here, but it’s in story not mechanics.

OOC: Alongside the mythic races, there are two that are tied up inextricably with D&D lore (and intellectual property). I remember getting the original Fiend Folio in 1981, with a Gith on the cover). The special swords that can cut the silver cord, your tether to the Prime Material Plane when you are on the Astral Plane? That's legendary myth-making, even if I've never seen one in a campaign, ever. The silver sword is gone. They still get special pride of place, and I want them to work.

Gith-. Both Gith races get resistance to psychic damage, the mage hand cantrip, and additional spells at levels 3 and 5m where you choose the casting stat as always.
  • -yanki get Jump (3) and Misty Step (5). Misty Step will always find uses in combat.
  • -zerai get Shield (3) and Detect Thoughts (5). The presence of Shield is particularly effective, and would enhance any character, but given that you can also cast it with a spell slot, it would benefit a Cleric, Druid or Bard (who normally do not get access to the spell), or even a Sorcerer (who might want to learn something else.).

Githyanki additionally get a rotating proficiency in a skill, and either a weapon or tool, wich can be reset every long rest. This is more powerful than the knowledge gained by Elves from Trance. A free skill is always welcome, but I expect most characters will choose one and leave it rather than let it slide around -- a player could have fun changing the proficiency between charisma-based skills, for example.) As with the elves, there are good reasons to want to keep a floating tool proficiency available, and so I wouldn't plan on using this ability to get a weapon skill, but it is there if the need arises, or you find a powerful magic weapon you otherwise can't use.

Githzerai additionally get advantage on saves vs being charmed or frightened. That's useful, of course (there are enough fear effects that circumventing them is a reasonable concern). This has less range than the Githzerai (with its skill and Misty Step), but is a better defensive choice (with Shield and these resistances).

Both races are solid choices, and (as so often) it is flexible enough to work for a variety of builds.
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Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
5 Size Matters (Aasimar, Changeling, Genasi, Harengon, Kenku, Tabaxi).

All of the lineages give the option of being Small or Medium in size, and so ranging from roughly 40 to 400 pounds (18-180kg). That is a huge range, and seems to be a choice introduced to allow players to have the fantasy appearance they imagine.

For most variables, there is little difference between the sizes: weapons do the same damage, and abilities have the same range, maxing at 20. We accept some absurdities this produces, in the name of fun: a 3’ tall character can lift 300 pounds (more than seven times its weight), even though the same maximum means a very strong human can only lift twice its weight.) The game does not distinguish differences in terms of the size of armour (all chainmail weighs the same, regardless of the size of torso it covers). There are some differences, though.

OOC: Size Difference for PCs.
  • Can ride a medium mount (and so effective as a beastmaster ranger or battlesmith artificer).
  • Using heavy weapons gives disadvantage.
  • Can grapple/push Medium creatures (or smaller)
  • Can squeeze in tiny spaces.
  • You are eligible to take the Squat Nimbleness feat (+5 move, +1 Dex or Str, proficiency in acrobatics or athletics, advantage to escape grapples).
  • With Reduce spell, becomes Tiny (on the Sorcerer and Wizard lists, level 2)
  • Can’t take Medium creatures through a Dimension Door (on the Bard, Sorcerer, Warlock, and Wizard lists, level 4).
  • Probably easier to find defensive cover and hide – that’ s a DM’s call.
  • No disadvantage with heavy weapons (all of which are martial; these include polearms, longbow, heavy crossbow, and most weapons that have an average damage of 5.5 or higher [lance is the exception]).
  • Associated with that is access to Polearm Master and Great Weapon Master feats, and the Great Weapon Fighting fighting style.
  • Can grapple/push Large creatures (or smaller)
  • With Enlarge spell, becomes Huge (on the Sorcerer and Wizard lists, level 2)
So if your build depends on weapon damage dice, using as polearm or longbow, or grappling, you should choose medium. Choose small if your build is giving you a pet that you can use as a mount, if that’s what you want.

It’s not that there is no difference, but the difference is, um, small.

Many of the races give this choice to the player: Aasimar, Changeling, Genasi, Firbolg, Kenku, Tabaxi, Tortle, and Yuan-Ti. Tortle and Yuan-ti are discussed in post 3.

Here are thoughts on some of the others:

Changeling. Unlike the other races in this category, the changeling can freely change between S and M. The ability to change one's appearance is like having Disguise Self as an at will power, but also one that isn't magical and not an illusion. As a result, your equipment and clothing do not change: some DMs might exploit that for disadvantage on deception checks, which would weaken the ability significantly. Two skill proficiencies give a choice of a suite of charisma-based skills or insight. This will make for very effective charisma builds, particularly when combined with the actor feat.

Harengon. The entire premise of the class seems to be lame puns, but a range of abilities give good flexibility for a character here. Perception proficiency, add proficiency to initiative, and use a reaction to add 1d4 to a failed Dex save are all great bonuses. There is no limit to the number of times you can use Lucky Footwork; it is merely a question of whether you use your reaction, assuming you aren’t prone or being grappled. You’ll generally know if you are close to having made a dex save (you know your total, and can see, e.g., if you are within a point or two of a 15 or 20). Rabbit hop offers a free Disengage action (proficiency times/long rest), which can also let you comfortably clear a 10’ gap once you hit level 5. This is very different from the satyr’s jump, which is adding distance to movement. A satyr may jump further, but the Harengon gets to make a leap separate from a move and dash, eventually allowing an extra 30’ move (on top of a move and Dash).

I don't think any of this works to enhance any particular builds, but it gives a nice set of abilities to add diversity.

Kenku. A slight improvement from VGTM. Kenku Recall gives two skills, as before, but also the opportunity to roll with advantage proficiency times (2-6)/long rest for skill rolls with proficiency. That is a huge benefit, and means that a player is incentivised towards extra risky actions – pushing their ability on an Athletics check, for example, or trying to pick that pocket.

Expert Duplication has removed the reference to forgery, but the ability is the same, and blurs with the feature ability granted by the Charlatan background. The Charlatan could forge documents and letters, and this was an ability only available through the background; no roll was stipulated and since the PHB background features were not mechanized (they were always on), this was a real ability characters could take. The Kenku ability emulates that,but stipulates a roll. If it is seen as a "lesser" form of the Charlatan's ability, then fine; Kenkus roll but charlatans don't. More likely, I suspect, is that the charlatan ability will be weakened by thism and there will now be a roll associated with it.

Also gone (hurrah) is the need to only speak in samples you have heard elsewhere, which is maybe a fun gimmick for some, but has always kept me from wanting to play a Kenku. No longer.

Tabaxi. Tabaxi are the only race to get a natural climb speed, and it's now enhanced with natural weapons that do 1d6+STR and Darkvision and proficiency in Stealth and Perception (both incredibly useful skills). That's an incredible range of goodies, exceeded only by elves.

Additionally, the burst of speed essentially gives you a Dash action without needing to use your bonus action, so it stacks with the bonus action options of rogues and monks and two-weapon fighters. Further, it resets if you choose not to move in one round, putting a lot of power in the player's hand.

Aasimar and Genasi share many qualities. Their size is S or M; they have darkvision; they can cast spells and have some "other" benefits too.

Aasimar get resistance to necrotic and radiant damage and they have a small healing pool (enough to bring an ally back into a fight for one round). Additionally, at level three they choose one of three special abilities, used a limited number of times per long rest: a necrotic fear effect, radiant damage operating on a radius, or flight. For most builds, fear and flight will be the best choices. For a spell, they get the light cantrip at level 1 -- which isn't much, but does make spell sniper available (see box below).

Air Genasi. Lighting resistance and the ability to hold your breath are less than some other options in this group, but the spells are quite effective. Again, spellcasting comes with a choice of casting stats (as is the case for all the spells learned in these races). At level 1, you get shocking grasp (which will offer good melee lightning damage for classes that don’t get an extra attack), and at later levels Feather Fall (3) and Levitate (5), both of which can be fluffed as a quickly-summoned updraft. Feather fall benefits a group falling at once. If you need Feather fall more than once per day, something is wrong, but it’s a good back-up precaution to have in place for emergencies without needing to devote a spell slot. And just occasionally you and the whole party can go freejumping off of cliffs for thrills or a surprise attack. (I have had characters take Magic Initiate so they can have access to Feather Fall for fun freejumping action; this is much more efficient, and you even get a melee attack cantrip.)

Thematically, it could work well with a Genie-themed warlock without needing the binding-your-soul schtick; your patron can be an ancestor spirit, a parent, etc. There are a wide range of build options.

Earth Genasi. In addition to regular Genasi abilities, you can move across difficult terrain easily (which is stronger than the corresponding ability in the Mobile feat, which requires a dash), and the spells are Blade Ward (1) and Pass without Trace (5) , with nothing at 3. This feels the weakest of the Genasi options.

Fire Genasi is all about a theme. you get fire resistance, and your spells are produce flame (1), burning hands (3) and flame blade (5). This would stack well with a wildfire druid (you have burning hands there too, but an extra "free" casting will never hurt). By itself, though, it is enough to give the fire-magic feel to any character.

Water Genasi. You get a swim speed, and the ability to breathe water, and also acid resistance. For comparing the aquatic races, see the next post. This is good, even if the acid feels a bit incongruous. Spells are acid splash (1), doubling down on that weirdness, create or destroy water (3), and water walk (5). This feels to me to be a bit of a hodgepodge. Two acid abilities, and it is not clear why water genasi would evolve the ability to help others walk on water. A bit disappointing.
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Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
6 Fliers and Swimmers and under the earth (Aaracokra, Fairy, Triton [Sea Elf, Water Genasi], Deep Gnomes, Duregar).

. Flight has been slowed, but is tied to walking speed. This incentivizes Monk and (paradoxically?) Barbarian builds, since they give an increase to movement, and is supported by taking the Mobile feat. Monk is reinforced by the Talons, which will give extra damage at levels 1-4, and the option of a different damage type. (All the natural weapons [a term no longer used] do identical damage, regardless of whether the creature is S or M], and the wording “can be used for unarmed strikes” is written that way to allow its use with monks. As a bonus action, you can cast Gust of Wind once/long rest.

It is now possible to have innate walking, flying, swimming, and climbing speeds by level 6, for a Ranger using the Deft Explorer option in TCOE – I think this is a new possibility. A 2-level dip in Rogue also gives cunning action, which allows a bonus action to Dash or Disengage while using your flight movement.

Fairy. As with the Aarakocra, the linking of flight speed to walking speed encourages a monk build and getting the Mobile feat. Wizard, Sorcerer, and Warlock builds all offer ranged magical attacks that are not limited by its small size. (See previous paragraph for a possible Rogue and Ranger options).

Fairy Magic finally lets you have a tiny PC, for 1 minute (or less if concentration is broken) per long rest. It’s hilarious how hard the game works to prevent tiny PCs – a bigger threat to the integrity of the game than flight. Sevberal of these races give spells at 1/3/5. It is not a fixed pattern. For the Fairy, level 1 gives an ineffectual but fun cantrip, druidcraft; level 3 faerie fire, which is always good vs. invisible opponents; level 5 enlarge/reduce. (Enlarge makes you M, and so you can sit on chairs, but it's not the interesting way to use the spell; compare Duergar below.)

Triton. The Triton has a great collection of abilities for a nautical adventure. Being amphibious and having a swim speed means that water hazards can be overcome trivially. In addition darkvision and resistance to cold are thematically appropriate and useful. In addition, the Triton has the ability to talk to beasts, elementals and monstrosities with a swimming speed.

Finally, tritons get spells: fog cloud (1), gust of wind (3), and water walk (5). As with the Water Genasi, the inclusion of water walk is a bit odd, but it's nice to have for when it is needed by a party.

There's a wierd inconsistency in the presentation of Tritons and Sea Elves, where they have overlapping abilities, but through differently-named abilities: "Child of the Sea" gives being amphibious and cold resistance; for the Triton, the same abilities are presented under "Amphibious" and "Guardian of the Depths".

OOC: Comparing swimmers.
Three races grant a swimming speed, which is always equal to your walking speed, meaning it gets better if you are a monk, a barbarian, or have the Mobile feat.

All of these have a swim speed, are amphibious, and have darkvision.

Triton: Cold resistance. Spells (1/3/5): fog cloud/gust of wind/water walk. Talk to Beasts, Elementals, and Monstrosities with a swim speed.
Sea Elf. Cold Resistance. No spells. Talk to Beasts with a swim speed.
Water Genasi: Acid Resistance. Spells (1/3/5): acid splash/create or destroy water/water walk. Can be S or M in size.

On these measures alone, Triton is by far the most effective swimmer race, unless you want to be small sized or particularly need an attack cantrip (which can key off of any casting stat). However, Sea Elves additonally have the generic Elven benefits:
  • proficiency in Perception
  • advantage vs charm
  • the 4 hour long rest and the two free proficiencies in weapons or tools.
These then get measured against Triton spellcasting and the ability to speak to Elementals and Monstrosities. This gives the edge to the Sea Elf, unless you are going to use gust of wind to fill the sails of your ship.

Deep Gnome. The presentation of the Deep Gnome points the way to the future for subraces. Even the Genasi were groped together (4 races on two pages), but each was presented separately. Here too the Deep Gnome has all the generic Gnome features (small size, darkvision, advantage on save vs. spells) as well as some specific subclass features. This includes camouflage (advantage on stealth checks), which can be leveraged well by a Rogue. You also get a single use of disguise self (at 3) or nondetection (5) without needing material components (and so saving 25gp/casting). My sense is a single casting of disguise self does not have the same versatility that a warlock's at-will casting or a Changeling's shapechange ability. At 5th level, being non-detectable for eight hours for free might be valuable for a handful of 8-hour periods in your adventuring career, but it is not something to build around.

Duergar. The other underdark race (deep dwarves) are M with darkvision. Dwarven resistance gives advantage to saves vs poison and poison resistance (like the Yuan-ti and other dwarves). They get advantage on charm saves (like Fey), but also to being stunned. This sounds cool, but resistance to Stun will be relevant rarely (monks have stunning strike; Power Word Stun is an 8th level spell; apart from some demons, the Myconids and Otyugh have a stun effect -- but I don' tremember seeing it come up in play). Finally, you get a single casting of enlarge/reduce (at 3) or invisibility (5). Unlike the Deep Gnome spells, you will be using these every adventuring day. There are lots of ways to get invisibility, but a casting of Enlarge would bump you to L size.

If you were Large already (like a Rune knight using Giant's Might) you'd be Huge (3x3 squares if you're playing on a battlemat). You only need 3 levels of fighter to get this (the 4th would give you a feat or ASI, fifth an extra attack, sixth another ASI... this is a hard train to walk off of. But it's the only way I'd want to play a Rune Knight, since it doubles down on the Rune Knight schtick. But it would also work with a multiclass Barbarian (for Hulk fans) and increast the range of a Paladin aura (normally 10' radius gives a 5x5 square area, and so 24 squares for your allies; if you are huge it expands to 7x7, and so 40 squares for your allies to be in ).
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Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
Thanks for these -- I agree. I mention crit-fishing in the next paragraph on the orc, and agree. The grappling tortle is a good point, but in my experience rogues aren't well placed as grapplers -- they are much more effective when they can use their sneak attack (which is always possible with a grappled opponent).

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