Unearthed Arcana Unearthed Arcana Dragonmarks


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gyor

Legend
I like how Dragonmarks connect with races either as variant races or subraces options.

My concern is are they only subraces mechanically or are they actual subraces akin to Drow, High Elf, Githyanki, Ghostwise Halfling and so on.

I kind of like using the mechanics of the Mark of Shadows for a straight up Shadow Elf subrace for say Ravenloft, Mystsra, and Evermeet.
 

Gradine

Final Form (she/they)
My concern is are they only subraces mechanically or are they actual subraces akin to Drow, High Elf, Githyanki, Ghostwise Halfling and so on.

I mean, kind of?

Most members of Dragonmarked Houses are pretty far removed from their traditional racial roots and cultures; it's most pronounced for Elves and Halflings, but Houses Kundaruk and Sivis have their own kind of separation from broader Dwarven/Gnomish culture.
 

Half orcs and dwarves do pretty badly here. The give up good racials for fairly meh abilities.

But how come hybid races get unique marks, rather than inheriting from either parent?
 

Gradine

Final Form (she/they)
Half orcs and dwarves do pretty badly here. The give up good racials for fairly meh abilities.

But how come hybid races get unique marks, rather than inheriting from either parent?

In the lore of Eberron, Half-Elves tend to be considered a true-breeding race in and of themselves (usually referred to as "Khoravar"). The vast majority of Half-Elves descend from other Half-Elves, and this has been true since long before any Half-Elves started developing their unique marks.

Half-orcs tend to be generally more isolated geographically; Orcs (or at least the kinds of Orcs that would willingly mingle Humans, and vice-versa) tend to stick to the Shadow Marches, their lives revolving around either tribes or clans. Half-orcs tend to hold a reverential position in this society, considered to have adopted the best traits of both races. The Mark of Finding is the most recent mark and the only one that appears on multiple races (both Humans and Half-Orcs, though it seems restricted to Half-Orcs now?) and folks have long debated why Orcs never seem to manifest the Mark.

Dragonmarked houses tend not to intermingle as it leads to Aberrant Dragonmarks, the reaction to which tends to situate between "exiled for life" to "kill it with fire".

Eberron in general tends to have a special relationship with the most common hybrid races; just ask what happened the last time a half-dragon was born.
 

These seem all over the place power wise. One gives you the ability to get any wizard cantrip and free +1 (temporary) magic items and another gives you some ability bonuses and the friends and prestidigitation cantrips.
That's because they're subraces. The Mark of Making is applied to humans, who have no other benefits. The Mark of Hospitality is applied to halflings, who are ALREADY Brave and Lucky and Nimble. If the Mark of Hospitality was on its own as powerful as Making, it would be HOSPITALITY that was broken. It's only natural that side by side, a human mark will be more powerful than a mark that's being added to other racial abilities (elf, dwarf, gnome, halfling).
 

Half orcs and dwarves do pretty badly here.
Looking to dwarves, I think that depends what you're trying to do.

HILL: Wisdom +1, +1 HP/level
MOUNTAIN: Strength +2, proficiency with light and medium armor
WARDING: Dex +1, Int +1, +1d4 to ability checks tied to locks or traps, Alarm and Arcane Lock.

The hit point bonus of Hill Dwarves is generically useful to everyone, but not that interesting. Mountain dwarves are great if you need Strength (though if you need Strength, you probably already have the armor proficiency). I think Warding is a good option for rogues, and if the Artificer is an Int-based class then I imagine this will be a good choice for an artificer, which was probably the intent.
 

Looking to dwarves, I think that depends what you're trying to do.

HILL: Wisdom +1, +1 HP/level
MOUNTAIN: Strength +2, proficiency with light and medium armor
WARDING: Dex +1, Int +1, +1d4 to ability checks tied to locks or traps, Alarm and Arcane Lock.

The hit point bonus of Hill Dwarves is generically useful to everyone, but not that interesting. Mountain dwarves are great if you need Strength (though if you need Strength, you probably already have the armor proficiency). I think Warding is a good option for rogues, and if the Artificer is an Int-based class then I imagine this will be a good choice for an artificer, which was probably the intent.

I have to confess, I hadn't looked closely at the ability score mods. But this pushes you towards a very specific role, in a way that 5e has tried to avoid in it's class design. You can imagine if this was a MMO:

Dwarf Player (thinks): "+1 dex, +1 int, +2 con and poison resistance would make a pretty good Eldritch Knight."
L33T Player: "Y U NO HAVE EXPERTISE THIEVES TOOLS??!!!"
Dwarf Player: "well, I see myself in more of a tanking role."
L33T Player: "Y U NO SENTINEL N00B??!"

Fortunately, most D&D players don't have that mentality, but it can still be a bit of a trap being the single clear best option for a particular role.

As for half orcs, I still say their dragonmark sucks. You give up +2 str, +1 con and and an "I AINT DEAD" button in exchange for +1 str, +1 wis and a pile of meh.
 

That's because they're subraces. The Mark of Making is applied to humans, who have no other benefits. The Mark of Hospitality is applied to halflings, who are ALREADY Brave and Lucky and Nimble. If the Mark of Hospitality was on its own as powerful as Making, it would be HOSPITALITY that was broken. It's only natural that side by side, a human mark will be more powerful than a mark that's being added to other racial abilities (elf, dwarf, gnome, halfling).
That argument doesn't entierly hold water. The Mark of Healing, also for halflings, is straight up better (especially if you take the Greater Dragonmark for early access to Greater Restoration) than the Mark of Hospitality and the human-only Mark of Handling.
 

MarkB

Legend
I have to confess, I hadn't looked closely at the ability score mods. But this pushes you towards a very specific role, in a way that 5e has tried to avoid in it's class design.

Has it? There are already pretty clear optimal and sub-optimal race choices for each class, based upon ability score bonuses and other racial abilities.
 

As for half orcs, I still say their dragonmark sucks. You give up +2 str, +1 con and and an "I AINT DEAD" button in exchange for +1 str, +1 wis and a pile of meh.
I wasn't arguing on behalf of half-orcs; I agree that their abilities aren't as blatantly useful as the core half-orc abilities. But your description is inaccurate.

BASE HALF-ORC: +2 Strength, +1 Constition
FINDING HALF-ORC: +1 Strength, +1 Wisdom, +1 to ANY one ability score.

This goes back to your point about 5E leaning towards flexibility. Playing a Strength based ranger? You can go +2 Str, +1 Wis. Playing a druid? Make it +2 Wisdom. Really want to be a Tharashk wizard? Take a point of Intelligence.

Given that your complaint on the Warding dwarf is that it's TOO focused, why overlook the flexibility here? And beyond that: the Warding dwarf ISN'T designed for the L33T player. It's +1 Dex/+1 Int -- making it a reasonable choice for wizard or rogue (or artificer), but if I wanted the absolute char-op best rogue, I'd take the +2 Dex/weapon proficiency of a wood elf or +2 Dex/stealth abilities of a halfling over this. It's not like it's a perfectly focused optimized choice; but the ability modifiers provide it with flexibility and make it comparable to the other dwarf subraces, IMO.
 

I didn't say "best rogue", the warding dwarf is narrower than that - the best lock and trap remover (which in 1st-3rd edition was the main reason for including a rogue). The best sneak attacking rogue would be a Mark of Shadow elf, with it's true-HIPS.

As for the Mark of Finding half orc, you can either be a ranger, or a cleric/druid/monk who plays like a ranger.

Whereas Relentless Endurance and a con bonus is good for anything from ranger to sorcerer.

Everything about the marks screams specific party role (which is different and narrower than class) - Hospitality: party face, Handling: Beastmaster, and so on.
 
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I didn't say "best rogue", the warding dwarf is narrower than that - the best lock and trap remover (which in 1st-3rd edition was the main reason for including a rogue).
Sure. But in fifth edition ANY character can be proficient in Thieves' Tools because of backgrounds. So you're right: the Mark of Warding dwarf will be the best trap remover in the party, and they can be that with ANY class by taking the Criminal background. And with +1 Dex and +1 Int, they can pursue a wide range of classes; Dexterity is useful to almost anyone, while Intelligence will help with Wizard and probably artificer.

By comparison, the mountain dwarf gets +2 Strength, which is all but useless to anyone who's not playing a melee class, and proficiency with light and medium armor, which is likely useless if you ARE playing a melee class. If you ask me, the Mountain Dwarf is far narrower than the Warding Dwarf; I don't see anyone who's going to choose it just to get medium armor proficiency, so it's basically there for someone trying to maximize their strength. By contrast, BECAUSE trap removal is no longer limited to one class, the fact that the Warding dwarf specializes in that talent doesn't limit them to one narrow path.

So speaking purely to Warding, I think it's more versatile than Mountain Dwarf. Meanwhile, Hill Dwarf is just bland. Sure, anyone can use extra hit points. But that doesn't make my character more interesting in any way, and it's not as though it's a LOT of extra hit points. No one's forcing you to take Warding Dwarf, and it's not like the intuition ability is SO good that players will say "I want to make a trap removing character... I was going to be a Tabaxi, but I can't pass up that sweet dwarfness." I think it makes a character more INTERESTING than either the Hill or Mountain Dwarf; the Mountain Dwarf is about having the best Strength, the Hill dwarf is just about survival.

Everything about the marks screams specific party role (which is different and narrower than class) - Hospitality: party face, Handling: Beastmaster, and so on.
Now I'm a little confused. Are you an Eberron player? If so, how and why would you make a version of dragonmarks that DIDN'T focus on a particular role? The whole point of the dragonmarks is that they make their bearers better at a particular thing, which has helped them carve out economic niches in the world. This is a 5E conversion of dragonmarks. How would YOU make the Mark of Warding—reflecting the fact that House Kundarak is known for their talent for crafting and dealing with traps and locks—without making that character good at dealing with traps and locks? How would you make the Mark of Hospitality without making the character a good party face? Is your complaint that you think this is a flawed interpretation of dragonmarks, or that you don't like dragonmarks in the first place?
 

Jay Verkuilen

Grand Master of Artificial Flowers
This is a bit off-topic and I am not faulting the views of this writer in any way but is anyone else tired of the petty racism of the D&D world?

It's a potentially useful source of tension, but it's so frequently done that it risks being a tired cliche, like "all dwarves are irate alcoholic pseudo-Scotsmen" or "all elves are snooty magical tree huggers".

I also agree that a lot of the time it's important to keep in mind that we play games for entertainment, so if the same kind of things that plague us in real life constantly show up in game that's not likely to be too fun. This was eloquently put when a friend of mine from grad school said, about Ars Magica, that he was taking a break from doing research... to pretend to do research. He mostly played Int-dump stat bruisers from then on out. ;)
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Everything about the marks screams specific party role (which is different and narrower than class) - Hospitality: party face, Handling: Beastmaster, and so on.
Saying that the Mark of Hospitality pushes you too hard towards being a party face is like saying that Shield Master feat pushes you too hard into using a shield.
 

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