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5E Super Simple Racial Features

dnd4vr

Explorer
I want to streamline the races and bring them down to one core racial feature each. (For those who are tempted to ask "Why?" Because I want to. :) )

I am curious what people think is the core defining feature for each race? I would do a poll, but I would end up needing a poll for each race.

I've already reduced all races to a single +1 ASI. I am thinking of allowing a second +1 ASI, but you must then take a -1 somewhere else.

So, for Dragonborn as an example, is it the Breath Weapon or Energy Resistance? Or something you use as homebrew? Or something I forgot?

Dragonborn (breath weapon, energy resistance)
Dwarf (adv/resist poison, weapons & armor, tools, stonecunning, toughness)
Elf (perception, charm/sleep resistance, trance, weapons, speed 35)
Gnome (adv mental spells, illusions, speak with small beasts, tinkering)
Half-Elf (charm/sleep resistance, skills)
Half-Orc (menacing, relentless endurance, savage attacks)
Halfling (lucky, brave, nimble, stealthy, adv/resist poison)
Human (all ASI, variant skill, variant feat)
Tiefling (fire resistance, cantrip + 2 spells, wings)

I'm sure I probably missed a feature or two, so if you feel it would represent the core single racial feature, then let me know.

Anyway, as always thanks for any input you wish to share.
 

Hriston

Explorer
Great assignment! I'm going to assume this is the first step in a redesign of the features in question because otherwise there'd be some balance issues. Also, I'm assuming we're leaving things like size, speed, and languages as is. I'm only going to consider features from the base races. Anyway, here's my list:

Dragonborn: Breath Weapon
Dwarf: Tool Proficiency/Stonecunning
Elf: Keen Senses
Gnome: Gnome Cunning
Half-Elf: Skill Versatility
Halfling: Lucky
Half-Orc: Menacing
Human: ASI
Tiefling: Infernal Legacy
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
Oh, I love this!

Dragonborn: Breath Weapon
Dwarf: oof.... Adv/Resist Poison
Elf: Charm/ Sleep Resistance
Gnome: hangin' out on lawns, all creepy like
Half-Elf: Nunchuk Skillz
Half-Orc: Eh ... Relentless Endurance
Halfling: Stealthy
Human: I'd give humans the variant feat to make it humanocentric, but then it would be unbalanced?
Tiefling: Fire Resistance


As a general rule, I'd go with iconic abilities, but also less powerful ones.
 
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dnd4vr

Explorer
Thanks for posting! I was beginning to think I wouldn't have any responses LOL. I'll make note of your choices on my spreadsheet.

To answer your points: yes, a bit of redesign for game balance and simplicity. I want to encourage players to choose race for reasons other than "what can I get" and by reducing the benefits for each race to a single core feature, which while useful will not be too powerful, I am hoping to accomplish that.

I am keeping every thing else the same, but made some changes to vision:

Darkvision races: Dragonborn, Half-orc, Tiefling (Darkness becomes dim, dim becomes normal)
Shadowsight races: Dwarves, Elves, Gnomes (Dim Light becomes normal, no help in Darkness)
Normal sight races: Half-elves, Halflings, Humans
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
reducing the benefits for each race to a single core feature, which while useful will not be too powerful, I am hoping to accomplish that.

I am keeping every thing else the same, but made some changes to vision:

Darkvision races: Dragonborn, Half-orc, Tiefling (Darkness becomes dim, dim becomes normal)
Shadowsight races: Dwarves, Elves, Gnomes (Dim Light becomes normal, no help in Darkness)
Normal sight races: Half-elves, Halflings, Humans
Is the Darkvision / Shadowsight like the old Infravision / Ultravision?
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad day
Can I suggest that whatever single feature you give, it's a powerful one. As in more powerful then the existing. If all you get is one thing it should be something exciting and fun to use so that the the race has attraction. And not something that barely flavors play like a once per long rest ability.

The other side of it is my pet peeve that the designers didn't leave themselves enough power room to be able to introduce races that are, for example, size large. Or have some other powerful defining trait.

So instead of going for something situational and lackluster like poison resistance for dwarves, go big. Like maybe +2 proficiency when underground. Or reduce all B/P/S damage by proficiency (stacks with HWM). Can spend up to [CON mod] HD to heal as a bonus action per short/long rest. Reenvision them.
 
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dnd4vr

Explorer
Is the Darkvision / Shadowsight like the old Infravision / Ultravision?
Not really. IIRC both Infravision and Ultravision allowed you to "see" in the dark, but by different means. Infravision was sight by heat sources or something, as where Ultravision used any light that was at all present and magnified it to the point you could see.

Darkvision works RAW in 5E for us.
Shadowsight works more like Ultravision, magnifying the available light to a degree where you can see normally. However, there has to be a minimum amount of light (dim light) for it to work, in conditions less than dim light (considered "darkness" in 5E), it doesn't help at all.

We also removed the ranges. Sight is sight, but we do impose disadvantage on checks maybe beyond the listed range. So, if you were a Dragonborn with darkvision, your sight extends to the horizon or however far you can see, but beyond 60 feet you lose enough clarity that you have disadvantage. You are not, however, effectively blind beyond 60 feet.
 

dnd4vr

Explorer
Can I suggest that whatever single feature you give, it's a powerful one. As in more powerful then the existing. If all you get is one thing it should be something exciting and fun to use so that the the race has attraction. And not something that barely flavors play like a once per long rest ability.
Honestly, I had considered this and I might to a point, but probably not to the extent you're talking about. I want the racial features to be significant, but not over powering in any respect.
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
Not really. IIRC both Infravision and Ultravision allowed you to "see" in the dark, but by different means. Infravision was sight by heat sources or something, as where Ultravision used any light that was at all present and magnified it to the point you could see.
Not quite (at least, not as introduced). DMG 59 states that ultravision can't be used underground or indoors- basically, it's only useful outdoors at night.

My favorite weird ultravision rule is that magic weapon light ruins ultravision. :)
 

ART!

Explorer
I recommend looking at 13th Age, because this is exactly how they handle racial features. You get one, but it "levels up" twice by the time you hit 10th level (which is where 13th Age caps things).
 

dnd4vr

Explorer
Not quite (at least, not as introduced). DMG 59 states that ultravision can't be used underground or indoors- basically, it's only useful outdoors at night.

My favorite weird ultravision rule is that magic weapon light ruins ultravision. :)
Ah, yes, I remember that now. That was why I wrote you needed some light for Ultravision to function. In that sense it is similar to shadowsight, but not identical.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad day
Honestly, I had considered this and I might to a point, but probably not to the extent you're talking about. I want the racial features to be significant, but not over powering in any respect.
Overpowering at what level range? What racial features make players excited at Tier 2 and Tier 3 of play?
 

dnd4vr

Explorer
Overpowering at what level range? What racial features make players excited at Tier 2 and Tier 3 of play?
Past tier 1, I would rather hope class will completely override race in bringing excitement to the player about their character. I certainly don't mind the idea of it scaling, such as the Dragonborn's breath weapon, but ideally I want it to be "useful", not a key feature for the player to rely on. That is my preference, anyway.
 

ART!

Explorer
It sounds like a low-key racial trait that moderately "levels up" with the different tiers would work.

OR

If you want to keep it really simple, make sure every race has the same number of traits, and then just decide which one they get at 1st, and then which ones they get when they hit each of the tiers.
 

dnd4vr

Explorer
It sounds like a low-key racial trait that moderately "levels up" with the different tiers would work.

OR

If you want to keep it really simple, make sure every race has the same number of traits, and then just decide which one they get at 1st, and then which ones they get when they hit each of the tiers.
It is funny you mention this! While at work today I thought about maybe something like archetypes, where there are 4-5 racial features and you get one at first, another at 3-4, one more at 6-7, etc. and the last similar to a capstone ability.

This way the racial features truly represent the race, but do power-up with level so they are effective without being over the top.

Now, I just have to come up with them! LOL Here is a sample for Dwarf. (FYI I am not saying this is what I will do, as some of these features ARE powerful, but just to give people the idea.)

Dwarf (by level)

1: You have advantage on saving throws against poison, and you have resistance against poison damage.
3: By stealing yourself to take a blow you can use your bonus action to gain a +1 bonus to your armor class until the start of your next turn. (or maybe DR instead?)
8: You gain proficiency in one saving throw of your choice.
14: You gain temporary hit points equal to twice your character level after a long rest.
18: You gain advantage on all saving throws.

Thoughts?

Oh, and I am STILL very interested in learning what people consider the pinnacle core feature for each race. Come on, people! Let's keep this going. :D
 
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Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
I’m coming at this from a bit of an old school perspective, so take that for what it’s worth. If I had to pick one:

Dragonborn (breath weapon
Dwarf (adv/resist poison,
Elf charm/sleep resistance
Gnome tinkering
Half-Elf skills
Half-Orc (menacing,
Halfling stealthy
Human (all ASI
Tiefling (fire resistance
Drow Mary Sue Emo complex
Deep gnome illusions
 

ART!

Explorer
I dig 13th Age but I'm not like a super-fan, so don't take this as brow-beating or anything,

BUT

The way 13th Age does it is you get the one racial trait, but it gets better as you level up. So, for instance:

Dwarf (from the SRD):

Racial Bonus

+2 Con or +2 Wis

That’s Your Best Shot? (Racial Power)
Once per battle as a free action after you have been hit by an enemy attack, you can heal using a recovery. If the escalation die is less than 2, you only get half the usual healing from the recovery. Unlike other recoveries that might allow you to take an average result, you have to roll this one!
Note that you can’t use this ability if the attack drops you to 0 hp or below. You’ve got to be on your feet to sneer at their attack and recover.
Champion Feat: If the escalation die is 2+ when you use that’s your best shot, the recovery is free.



So, I guess they just level up once. Anyway, that's the basic idea there. This seems very limited, but the flipside is it's very focused.
 

CubicsRube

Registered User
In my ideal d&d, racial features would purely be innate amd mot cultural. For example what if your dwarf grew up on a mountain plain in a nomadic human tribe? Why should they have stone cunning?

So I like the slimming down approach very much.

I've not put deep thought into it, but i might have something like:

Dwarf - adv on poison and does not suffer disad on stealth due to heavy armor
Elf - fey ancestry (trance/can't be put to speep + adv against enchantments) & 35feet movement
Halfling - lucky and their stealth stuff
Half-orc - relentless endurance and savage attack
Dragonborn - elemental resistance
Tiefling - fire resistance and hellish rebuke
Human - a feat. Or otherwise determined (from another system - you can declare one roll per long rest to be made with advantage) to represent their versatility.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
Just to note, fantasy has always been "racist" in the literal sense that some species are plain better than others.

Do I find it offensive that Elves and Dragons are plain better than Orcs or Manticores? Or that Orcs are better than Goblins? Numenorans and Cimmerians better than Dunelendings and Styxians? Not in the slightest, since it's fictional races we're talking about.
 

dnd4vr

Explorer
Just to note, fantasy has always been "racist" in the literal sense that some species are plain better than others.

Do I find it offensive that Elves and Dragons are plain better than Orcs or Manticores? Or that Orcs are better than Goblins? Numenorans and Cimmerians better than Dunelendings and Styxians? Not in the slightest, since it's fictional races we're talking about.
Very true and good point. While I am seeking a level of balance between the races, of course certain options will seem "superior" for one race over another, but that also depends a lot on what you want the character to be good at. For instance, some races are naturally stronger or more dexterous than others, making them better fighter-types than those races that aren't as strong or dexterous. However, as others have pointed out in other threads, with the universal 20 cap, all have the potential to be equally "the best".

Other racial features will also lean towards character strengths, but how you play the character and develop them into what you want is most important.
 

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