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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.

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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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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

Laurefindel

Legend
I can see in 6e them rewriting backgrounds to accommodate this stuff, with a bunch of general ones in the PH, and campaign-specific ones in setting sourcebooks, with rules to make your own in the core. But, because they are making a pretty significant change to character creation and race/species in the middle of an edition, the cascade changes are difficult to square with what's come before. Regardless of species, I think it should matter what culture you were raised in, in a way that is reflected mechanically.
Yes, I agree that the transition will most likely appear clunky/clumsy until 6e standardizes it all.
 

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Scribe

Hero
Lineage, ones biology.
Background, ones experience per adventurer.
Class.
Culture, the larger environment in which one is raised. Language, assumed weapon profs, etc.

That last one would be extremely setting specific.
 

I feel like they should have just bit the bullet and announced new printings of the core, a "5.5" if you will, to make these changes more cleanly. It would have given them an opportunity to address the culture question rather than ignore it and cut out a part of character creation. The rules would still have been compatible with the previous stuff, more or less, so they could have their cake and eat it too. Have their streamers and social media outlets shill for them, and those new players they're chasing would have eaten it up. This series of half-measures mostly serves to irritate both sides.
 

Horwath

Hero
I still want to know how we're supposed to represent cultural traits in character creation going forward. You can't put everything into class, and expanding background to accommodate it creates two different kinds of backgrounds. Throwing it out entirely, as WotC seems to be doing, limits character concepts mechanically.
simple.

We should determine what is "genetic" and what is "learned" or "cultural" trait.

I.E:
Elves:
genetics: boost to ability scores, darkvision, proficiency in Perception, "elven trance", resistance to enchantment, faster movement, etc...

cultural: languages, weapon and/or tool proficiencies, extra skills, extra cantrips,
 

simple.

We should determine what is "genetic" and what is "learned" or "cultural" trait.

I.E:
Elves:
genetics: boost to ability scores, darkvision, proficiency in Perception, "elven trance", resistance to enchantment, faster movement, etc...

cultural: languages, weapon and/or tool proficiencies, extra skills, extra cantrips,
The mix and match method, like the Ancestry and Culture series. I like that, but it does not jive with WotC's current direction of ignoring cultural traits altogether, and making lineages that apparently (?) take that into account, per the UA.
 

Scribe

Hero
The mix and match method, like the Ancestry and Culture series. I like that, but it does not jive with WotC's current direction of ignoring cultural traits altogether, and making lineages that apparently (?) take that into account, per the UA.

To be fair, this UA is not 'normal' lineages at all. The rules couldnt really apply to this in the same way.
 

Horwath

Hero
The mix and match method, like the Ancestry and Culture series. I like that, but it does not jive with WotC's current direction of ignoring cultural traits altogether, and making lineages that apparently (?) take that into account, per the UA.
yeah, they should have taken PF1 approach with Advance Race Guide.

You dont want your elf to be good in spellcraft as you have no need for it? Make them better at fast stealth instead.

Don't want your HalfOrc aggressive? have it get bonus skill points.
 

To be fair, this UA is not 'normal' lineages at all. The rules couldnt really apply to this in the same way.
I agree, but they also said they are ignoring cultural contributions to character creation for all lineages going forward. I just wonder how they are going to represent an actual race/lineage that should have those things. I also wonder how 6e is going to handle it, since they've shifted gears mid-edition.
 

yeah, they should have taken PF1 approach with Advance Race Guide.

You dont want your elf to be good in spellcraft as you have no need for it? Make them better at fast stealth instead.

Don't want your HalfOrc aggressive? have it get bonus skill points.
An a la carte lineage system in Tasha's would have been really great.
 

I agree, but they also said they are ignoring cultural contributions to character creation for all lineages going forward. I just wonder how they are going to represent an actual race/lineage that should have those things. I also wonder how 6e is going to handle it, since they've shifted gears mid-edition.
What do you mean "an actual race/lineage that should have those things"?

Superficially that doesn't make any sense. No lineage would inherent have cultural things by definition. Cultural things are cultural things. Lineage things are lineage things. By definition. It's like saying "What about the square things that should be circles?!".

I imagine in a 6E they'll have some optional "cultural" layer or something, or just freely let you choose a bit more stuff than you can now in D&D.
 


What do you mean "an actual race/lineage that should have those things"?

Superficially that doesn't make any sense. No lineage would inherent have cultural things by definition. Cultural things are cultural things. Lineage things are lineage things. By definition. It's like saying "What about the square things that should be circles?!".

I imagine in a 6E they'll have some optional "cultural" layer or something, or just freely let you choose a bit more stuff than you can now in D&D.
I mean a lineage that isn't intended to represent someone who was part of a preexisting lineage, and was then changed to what they are now. All three lineages in the new UA fall into that category. Perhaps I should say that cultural traits should be included in character creation in some mechanical way. Also, if they create a new lineage that doesn't represent someone going through a major physical change, like a new thri-kreen lineage or Irda or something, are those also going to lack any cultural traits? It seems so, and I think that is limiting in a way that the traditional races/lineages are not, mechanically.
 

Horwath

Hero
I mean a lineage that isn't intended to represent someone who was part of a preexisting lineage, and was then changed to what they are now. All three lineages in the new UA fall into that category. Perhaps I should say that cultural traits should be included in character creation in some mechanical way. Also, if they create a new lineage that doesn't represent someone going through a major physical change, like a new thri-kreen lineage or Irda or something, are those also going to lack any cultural traits? It seems so, and I think that is limiting in a way that the traditional races/lineages are not, mechanically.
last UA should have really been a template that adds to a base lineage.
But that might push us into Level Adjustments territory, and I'm not sure that is a way forward.

But as a LA +1, some species/lineage/templates could be maybe balanced;
Templates; Tiefling, Aasimar, Dragonborne, Warforged, Dhampir, Hexblood, Reborm,
Species; Drow elf, Orog, Giths, Deep gnomes, Duergar, Elan,
 

I mean a lineage that isn't intended to represent someone who was part of a preexisting lineage, and was then changed to what they are now. All three lineages in the new UA fall into that category. Perhaps I should say that cultural traits should be included in character creation in some mechanical way. Also, if they create a new lineage that doesn't represent someone going through a major physical change, like a new thri-kreen lineage or Irda or something, are those also going to lack any cultural traits? It seems so, and I think that is limiting in a way that the traditional races/lineages are not, mechanically.
They kind of kludged this in Tashas, just separating off stuff that was really obviously cultural and letting you change it in a kind of funny/unbalanced way (that isn't a real problem but is a bit "Elven Master Race").

I imagine that if they did a Thri-Kreen in 5E like this it would look like:

1) Thri-Kreen lineage, which has all the physical traits a Thri-Kreen possesses.

2) "Thri-Kreen Tribes" background, which in theory anyone could take.

In 6E I imagine it'll be more like:

1) Lineage layer - mostly physical traits (including innate magic).

2) Cultural layer - stuff like skills, proficiencies, learned tricks that your culture practices, non-inherent cantrips and so on.

3) "Job/Experience" layer - I.e. the equivalent of backgrounds now, but a little less broad in some cases.

You could potentially combine 2 & 3, but I think it might be overloading that layer. 3 could also easily not exist as anything formal, just some loose suggestions and say, 3 skills of your choosing.
 

They kind of kludged this in Tashas, just separating off stuff that was really obviously cultural and letting you change it in a kind of funny/unbalanced way (that isn't a real problem but is a bit "Elven Master Race").

I imagine that if they did a Thri-Kreen in 5E like this it would look like:

1) Thri-Kreen lineage, which has all the physical traits a Thri-Kreen possesses.

2) "Thri-Kreen Tribes" background, which in theory anyone could take.

In 6E I imagine it'll be more like:

1) Lineage layer - mostly physical traits (including innate magic).

2) Cultural layer - stuff like skills, proficiencies, learned tricks that your culture practices, non-inherent cantrips and so on.

3) "Job/Experience" layer - I.e. the equivalent of backgrounds now, but a little less broad in some cases.

You could potentially combine 2 & 3, but I think it might be overloading that layer. 3 could also easily not exist as anything formal, just some loose suggestions and say, 3 skills of your choosing.
Yeah, that sounds good. I will miss layer 2 in 5e though. The Thri-kreen background you suggest would either have the same kinds of benefits as any other background, or include cultural traits like more skill and tool proficiencies than backgrounds normally have, since otherwise the lineage would likely end up weaker than a core 5e race.
 

Yeah, that sounds good. I will miss layer 2 in 5e though. The Thri-kreen background you suggest would either have the same kinds of benefits as any other background, or include cultural traits like more skill and tool proficiencies than backgrounds normally have, since otherwise the lineage would likely end up weaker than a core 5e race.
Well, actually I think Thri-Kreen get so much physical stuff that it would weirdly work out fine for them.

The same is true with the lineages they picked for Ravenloft - they all get a ton of innate stuff, like maybe more than you'd expect on a race (assuming they haven't been nerfed since UA).

So I think what we'll probably see is that any future lineages in 5E make up for the lack of skill/weapon/tool proficiencies and the like by having a bit more in the way of actual abilities.

It does mean if you want to be a skill/tool monkey then you probably want a core race but... it's late edition, 2024 is probably 6E, so, there'll be some wonkiness on the way.

That way you don't have a weird situation where everyone was mysterious raised by Thri-Kreen lol.
 

I feel like they should have just bit the bullet and announced new printings of the core, a "5.5" if you will, to make these changes more cleanly. It would have given them an opportunity to address the culture question rather than ignore it and cut out a part of character creation. The rules would still have been compatible with the previous stuff, more or less, so they could have their cake and eat it too. Have their streamers and social media outlets shill for them, and those new players they're chasing would have eaten it up. This series of half-measures mostly serves to irritate both sides.

No, I don't think a desire to expand or improve chargen is a problem big enough to warrant an entire new edition. Chargen is such a minor aspect of the game, and it really is 90% fixable with Tasha's. 5e has warts after 7 years, but it's still selling well and none of the warts are totally catastrophic.

IMO, the only existing problem with the new changes is how unplayable it makes Humans. It's like 5e has fully adopted the OSR aspects and made Humans outclassed by literally every other available option.

When D&D Next+1 eventually comes it's likely to focus on what WotC thinks is working well for their business: online game tables, D&D Beyond, D&D streaming, etc. It's quite likely that the game will move even more products online as the move away from physical products makes increasingly more economic sense for Hasbro. WotC is going to support FLGSs as much as they can, but if the wind blows the wrong way they're going to move on from them.

When the next version of D&D comes it will not be done to fix the game. It will be done to fix the revenue stream. It will be done to make D&D more profitable or more marketable. A better product for them to generate revenue with because the old edition was exhausted. D&D has too much market dominance for the primary focus of a new edition to remain improving the game. It's the best selling game in it's sector, and it's expanding the market. What's to fix? Shut up and keep taking the money.

They'd be better served making their product as online service focused as possible and, if their customers will follow them, they'll be pricing the small RPG startup out of the marketplace entirely. Our best hope is going to be that the development team will still primarily care about the quality of the game.

Be afraid if that OGL ever gets dropped, though. That might be the canary.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
yeah, they should have taken PF1 approach with Advance Race Guide.

You dont want your elf to be good in spellcraft as you have no need for it? Make them better at fast stealth instead.

Don't want your HalfOrc aggressive? have it get bonus skill points.
Agreed. Each race (in 6e or beyond) should have a list of potential traits with the option of taking two or three or whatever.
 

No, I don't think a desire to expand or improve chargen is a problem big enough to warrant an entire new edition. Chargen is such a minor aspect of the game, and it really is 90% fixable with Tasha's. 5e has warts after 7 years, but it's still selling well and none of the warts are totally catastrophic.

IMO, the only existing problem with the new changes is how unplayable it makes Humans. It's like 5e has fully adopted the OSR aspects and made Humans outclassed by literally every other available option.

When D&D Next+1 eventually comes it's likely to focus on what WotC thinks is working well for their business: online game tables, D&D Beyond, D&D streaming, etc. It's quite likely that the game will move even more products online as the move away from physical products makes increasingly more economic sense for Hasbro. WotC is going to support FLGSs as much as they can, but if the wind blows the wrong way they're going to move on from them.

When the next version of D&D comes it will not be done to fix the game. It will be done to fix the revenue stream. It will be done to make D&D more profitable or more marketable. A better product for them to generate revenue with because the old edition was exhausted. D&D has too much market dominance for the primary focus of a new edition to remain improving the game. It's the best selling game in it's sector, and it's expanding the market. What's to fix? Shut up and keep taking the money.

They'd be better served making their product as online service focused as possible and, if their customers will follow them, they'll be pricing the small RPG startup out of the marketplace entirely. Our best hope is going to be that the development team will still primarily care about the quality of the game.

Be afraid if that OGL ever gets dropped, though. That might be the canary.
Basically agree with most of this, though I do not believe they'll drop the OGL, because it wouldn't be worth the backlash. It would be massive and would impact minority creatives as well as beloved firms, so create a disproportionately loud noise, and even if they lost say, 10% of D&D sales for a few years, that would be a huge amount of money - probably far more than they lose to the OGL stuff - and indeed, I wonder if they lose anything to the OGL stuff, at all, when all is said and done.

But yeah fixing the revenue stream is bound to be part of the focus - I strongly suspect we'll see 6E in 2024, needed or not rules-wise - and it'll position them better for online play, but they're not going to abandon physical, especially as we'll still likely be some kind of "Ugh remember that year and a half when you couldn't see people much... shudder" period.

My personal theory is that they'll launch 6E "early access", which will involve signing up for their new online offering (which will probably be like Beyond but with a VTT - they may just buy Beyond) so you can try 6E for a few months to let them nail balance down before actual 6E books and official release on the anniversary.
 
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Basically agree with most of this, though I do not believe they'll drop the OGL, because it wouldn't be worth the backlash. It would be massive and would impact minority creatives as well as beloved firms, so create a disproportionately loud noise, and even if they lost say, 10% of D&D sales for a few years, that would be a huge amount of money - probably far more than they lose to the OGL stuff - and indeed, I wonder if they lose anything to the OGL stuff, at all, when all is said and done.

But yeah fixing the revenue stream is bound to be part of the focus - I strongly suspect we'll see 6E in 2024, needed or not rules-wise - and it'll position them better for online play, but they're not going to abandon physical, especially as we'll still likely be some kind of "Ugh remember that year and a half when you couldn't see people much... shudder" period.

My personal theory is that they'll launch 6E "early access", which will involve signing up for their new online offering (which will probably be like Beyond but with a VTT - they may just buy Beyond) so you can try 6E for a few months to let them nail balance down before actual 6E books and official release on the anniversary.

I'll buy that, and I certainly hope you're right that they don't slide away from physical releases.

I could see something in 2024, but I think if they're going to actually do that... the clock is kind of ticking! While I'm concerned that Hasbro will not be interested in improving the game, I think the current RPG team is. I also think that the current RPG team puts a lot of stock into their semi-open development process with UA and D&D Next at least partially responsible for their initial 5e success. Even if their continued growth has significantly been shaped by new media (live streams, actual plays, VTTs) I'd be very surprised if they were willing to abandon the development model they've had in place for the last 10 years or so. I think if WotC/Hasbro directed the RPG team to do that, they'd probably replace much of the RPG team.
 

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