D&D 5E Unearthed Arcana: Gothic Lineages & New Race/Culture Distinction

The latest Unearthed Arcana contains the Dhampir, Reborn, and Hexblood races. The Dhampir is a half-vampire; the Hexblood is a character which has made a pact with a hag; and the Reborn is somebody brought back to life. https://dnd.wizards.com/articles/unearthed-arcana/gothic-lineages Perhaps the bigger news is this declaration on how race is to be handled in future D&D books as it joins...

The latest Unearthed Arcana contains the Dhampir, Reborn, and Hexblood races. The Dhampir is a half-vampire; the Hexblood is a character which has made a pact with a hag; and the Reborn is somebody brought back to life.

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Perhaps the bigger news is this declaration on how race is to be handled in future D&D books as it joins other games by stating that:

"...the race options in this article and in future D&D books lack the Ability Score Increase trait, the Language trait, the Alignment trait, and any other trait that is purely cultural. Racial traits henceforth reflect only the physical or magical realities of being a player character who’s a member of a particular lineage. Such traits include things like darkvision, a breath weapon (as in the dragonborn), or innate magical ability (as in the forest gnome). Such traits don’t include cultural characteristics, like language or training with a weapon or a tool, and the traits also don’t include an alignment suggestion, since alignment is a choice for each individual, not a characteristic shared by a lineage."
 

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Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
I actually agree that the climbing rules do not make much sense, and I think climbing being dex-based would probably yield more intuitive results. Elephants or squirrels, which are better climbers?
You know, maybe the attributes need to be reworked completely. Make them better representative of different mental and physical aspects of people. Didn't the 2e Player's Option rules split each stat in half and allow each to be advanced separately?
 

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G

Guest 6801328

Guest
We've been so fixated on Strength as an ability score, let's look at a few OTHER ability scores and see if they make as much sense...

A group of adventurers (an elf, an orc, a human, and a goliath) are trying to sneak past an inattentive guard. None of them are trained in stealth or are wearing heavy armor. Which should have the greatest chance of sneaking?

A group of adventurers (a dwarf, an orc, a human, and a halfling) all eat some tainted food. Which of them is most likely going to be poisoned by it?

A group of adventurers (an elf, a goblin, an orc, and a human) all have to complete a complex math problem. Which should be able to complete it in the shortest amount of time?

A group of adventurers (an elf, an orc, a tiefling and a dragonborn) are composing a sonnet to be read by a princess of indeterminate lineage. None are proficient in Performance. Which is most likely going to win the princesses heart?

This post was illuminating for me.

My first response was to think, "Well, whichever has the highest relevant stat." We don't know which one that is, of course, because even with racial ASIs, the dwarf might have the highest Dex, the half-orc might have the highest Int, etc. (Side note: I agree with @Ruin Explorer's analysis, but I know what you meant with these scenarios so I'll play along.)

But I don't think that's what you meant. I think you were making a statistical argument: if we repeat this experiment many times, with many different random elves and dwarves etc., which race will succeed the most often at these tasks. Right?

And that's where we diverge. Because if we're making it not about any particular elf or dwarf, but some kind of statistical average of all elves and dwarves, then I would include all the NPC elves and dwarves in the world, so of course the elf is going to have the highest dex, the dwarf the highest con, etc.

The implied argument presented is, in my opinion, trying to have it both ways:
  • It's not about any one particular PC elf, because any one player might have dumped Dex.
  • But in attempting to make it a statistical argument, it wants to only include the tiny, tiny, tiny percentage of characters that are player characters.
 
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G

Guest 6801328

Guest
You know, maybe the attributes need to be reworked completely. Make them better representative of different mental and physical aspects of people. Didn't the 2e Player's Option rules split each stat in half and allow each to be advanced separately?
Upthread somebody mentioned that they replaced the six attributes with new names. The one I remember is replacing "Strength" with "Valour". I think that's genius. Certainly a halfling could be as valorous as a minotaur.
 

Funny, I haven’t seen that. Link?
Have you read this thread? The previous threads on this topic? (I know you have.) The articles on the topic and reviews of Tasha's? Complaints about bio-essentialism are common, and in articles are much more in the focus than the game balance aspect you're focusing on. I am really not gonna do the searching for you.

BTW, I fully agree that bio-essentialism is vile when it is related to morality (i.e. orcs are evil) but I do not agree it is harmful when depicting capabilities of actually differnt species (i.e. orcs are strong.)
 

You know, maybe the attributes need to be reworked completely. Make them better representative of different mental and physical aspects of people. Didn't the 2e Player's Option rules split each stat in half and allow each to be advanced separately?

Yeah it did but that way madness lies.

There's practically a genre of post-AD&D 1E "fantasy heartbreakers" (I mean, not technically, but basically) which take D&D's "too simple" stats and break them down into a ton of other stats, often needlessly and irrationally symmetrical stats that raise more questions than they answer.

A good example is Gary Gygax's Dangerous Journeys - I'm not going to get it off the shelf unless you make me, but basically it broke down stats into like, three separate other stats in an attempt to cope with this kind of thing and it just made me want to jump off a cliff.

And there were other games like this - I try not to think about them.

I think a much better approach is to add multiple stats to a roll, and to allow skills to be used with multiple stats.

Climbing is a good example. It requires strength, it requires dexterity/agility, and it requires endurance (CON). In real life, if you're crap at any of those, you'll be a crap climber - you might get away without CON if you never climb more than like 20 feet I guess but... in most situations you're going further.

So if we really wanted to look at this, rather than doing some crazy stuff where add a bunch more stats, I think we either change what the stats are entirely (as suggested by a couple of people), but still keep them limited in number, or we make a Climbing check be Athletics + STR and DEX mods by default. Situations where really only one stat could apply you could just use 2x stat mod. This would have the additional advantage of reducing the RNG of skill checks somewhat but that's a whole other discussion.
 

Have you read this thread? The previous threads on this topic? (I know you have.) The articles on the topic and reviews of Tasha's? Complaints about bio-essentialism are common, and in articles are much more in the focus than the game balance aspect you're focusing on. I am really not gonna do the searching for you.

BTW, I fully agree that bio-essentialism is vile when it is related to morality (i.e. orcs are evil) but I do not agree it is harmful when depicting capabilities of actually differnt species (i.e. orcs are strong.)

Bio-essentialism falls apart increasingly as you move away from just STR, which I think we can all agree is the most simple D&D stat. This is why the arguments always rotate around STR. Bio-essentialists always try to go back to that well, over and over and over. They don't even want to engage on the mental stats because everything goes to hell.

And even STR is huge abstraction, because I know TT gamers are often not a very athletic lot, but I assume most of us have done enough exercise and lifting to know that STR is not at all how it works in real life.
 

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
Have you read this thread? The previous threads on this topic? (I know you have.) The articles on the topic and reviews of Tasha's? Complaints about bio-essentialism are common, and in articles are much more in the focus than the game balance aspect you're focusing on. I am really not gonna do the searching for you.

BTW, I fully agree that bio-essentialism is vile when it is related to morality (i.e. orcs are evil) but I do not agree it is harmful when depicting capabilities of actually differnt species (i.e. orcs are strong.)

I elaborated on my response, but the short version is: in this thread I have seen lots of pro-ASI people assuming the anti-ASI people are arguing against biological essentialism. But the anti-ASI people are, as far as I've seen, basically saying, "Sure, Minotaurs tend to be stronger than Halflings. But modeling that by limiting player character options isn't useful." It's entirely a game design argument, and not at all about moral philosophy.
 

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Guest 6801328

Guest
Bio-essentialism falls apart increasingly as you move away from just STR, which I think we can all agree is the most simple D&D stat. This is why the arguments always rotate around STR. Bio-essentialists always try to go back to that well, over and over and over. They don't even want to engage on the mental stats because everything goes to hell.

And even STR is huge abstraction, because I know TT gamers are often not a very athletic lot, but I assume most of us have done enough exercise and lifting to know that STR is not at all how it works in real life.

Yeah, I'm happily engaging on the one stat that best makes their case. And, in my mind, it still falls apart.

Again, not that Minotaurs aren't stronger than halflings. Rather than it's good game design to minimize obvious "best" character creation choices, and that if the result of doing that is a slight statistical increase in halflings that are stronger than minotaurs, that's an oddity that a game with magic spells and dragons and interplanar travel can accommodate.
 
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TrickyDUK2

Explorer
You have to do it for every race and variant-- how many are there now for 5e? You also have to try to balance them now, both against each other and against whatever will be used to balance races now (feats it looks like). And tournament/Adventurer's league play will not follow those rules either. So that's actually a lot harder than would be the case if they just left them in.

If Wizards left in racial ASIs, by contrast, all you'd have to do is ignore them in order to play as you want.
Exactly. I feel like this change in approach is clearly removing something that some players actually want. As I said earlier, I want my D&D to come with some built-in defaults and not just a framework for me to have to then set up a world within.
 

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Guest 6801328

Guest
Exactly. I feel like this change in approach is clearly removing something that some players actually want.

Sure. But that's always going to happen, unless they always add and never take away. Right?

As I said earlier, I want my D&D to come with some built-in defaults and not just a framework for me to have to then set up a world within.

Is it that you are worried other "defaults" will also start to vanish? Which ones? Because it's hard (for me) to see how racial ASIs are the difference between easy world-building and hard world-building. Especially given that it has no effect on NPC stat blocks.
 

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