log in or register to remove this ad

 

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.

Screen Shot 2021-01-26 at 5.46.36 PM.png



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."
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

Yeah, exactly. Skills, tools, and weapon/armor proficiencies. Maybe specialty abilities like stonecunning, or the lizardfolk ability to make weapons and armor.
OK. There are guidelines about swapping these around. Why would these need to be codified into "Culture X gets these, culture Y gets these" rather than just allowing a free choice of "pick one from each of these categories".
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Well, there are those abilities that are cultural and still tied to race, like Stonecunning. Also, ASIs are weighted differently in different lineages, but all treated the same under Tasha's. That would need to be recodified for balance. Basically, this is all future-proofing.

It is important to note that, if all future lineages are going to excise culture traits as WotC has suggested, then any lineage they make for the remainder of 5th ed that doesn't easily map to the "fundamental character change" narrative that the three in UA do is going to lack any proficiencies at all, in a noticeable way, regardless of whether or not they end up balanced in some other fashion. I definitely find an issue with that.
 

Faolyn

Hero
OK. There are guidelines about swapping these around. Why would these need to be codified into "Culture X gets these, culture Y gets these" rather than just allowing a free choice of "pick one from each of these categories".
You can easily do both: have a free-range "make your own culture" as well as a bunch of typical cultures that provide guidelines and can be used to avoid the "of course my Podunk farmer knows how to use a greatsword and three cantrips!" issue.
 

JEB

Adventurer
OK. So what would a culture actually grant? (I'd really suggest shying away from ASIs.)
I think ASIs are less potentially problematic for cultures than they are for species, actually, since the implication is that those adjustments very definitely are from training/learning rather than innate. So I don't see why they couldn't at least suggest defaults for your +1, as with the base race.
 

Scribe

Hero
Culture should inform language, and potentially skills, but it does step on background.

It almost gets to a point where Culture is redundant.

Lineage, Background, Class.

Those can easily cover ASI, Language, Skills, Tools.

What would culture be needed for mechanically at all.
 

Culture should inform language, and potentially skills, but it does step on background.

It almost gets to a point where Culture is redundant.

Lineage, Background, Class.

Those can easily cover ASI, Language, Skills, Tools.

What would culture be needed for mechanically at all.
6e could (and probably should) fold culture into background. Both cover similar ground. I personally like lots of little pieces to make my character out of, but ease of use is a thing.
 

Faolyn

Hero
Culture should inform language, and potentially skills, but it does step on background.

It almost gets to a point where Culture is redundant.

Lineage, Background, Class.

Those can easily cover ASI, Language, Skills, Tools.

What would culture be needed for mechanically at all.
Ish. It really depends on how they do backgrounds.

I think we both would agree that no elf is born knowing how to use bows and swords. This is something they learn, from their culture. But should that culture be a background?

Currently, backgrounds, even backgrounds like Solider, don't grant weapon proficiencies. So you'd have to decide whether or not you'd want to rewrite backgrounds to include such things--and how a background like Soldier would then balance against something like Acolyte. Would you give Acolyte a cleric cantrip? I mean, you could, obviously, but then you'd have issues like now Soldier is kind of useless if you're going to play a Fighter (since Fighters already get those proficiencies), so all Fighters should be Acolytes to get that cantrip. Which is weird, from a background sense.

By having both Backgrounds and Cultures, you can make Cultures that grant all sorts of abilities--if you're from the Highwater Kingdoms, you learned how to use swords and bows from an early age--while still allowing for Soldiers to be mechanically different from Acolytes.
 

Scribe

Hero
I think we both would agree that no elf is born knowing how to use bows and swords. This is something they learn, from their culture. But should that culture be a background?

That's the distinction.

I come from the Frozen North. Does everyone from there have Survival? Maybe. Does everyone have Sword or Bow Training? Less so. Do we have a shared language? Probably.

Culture to me, is more 'soft' skills, less crunch.

I see a need to break out or redefine Background a bit, but I also believe Culture is setting specific. If it's not, it's a background.
 

Faolyn

Hero
I see a need to break out or redefine Background a bit, but I also believe Culture is setting specific. If it's not, it's a background.
Personally, I like the Background/Culture divide. But if they had to get rid of one, I'd say Background. Maybe provide a list of generic special abilities, instead. "Because you belonged to X (where X is guild/noble house/university/whatever) you have the ability to gain access to buildings owned by and higher-up members of X," or "because of your ability to deal with people (because you're an entertainer/con-artist/merchant) you are capable of getting free room and board or discounts on stuff." And then allow people to take the extra proficiencies, skills, and languages.

In the last post, I mentioned "Highwater Kingdoms," which is clearly setting-specific. But if I turn it into "Militarized Nation," with the idea that you'd take this if you belonged to a nation that frequently waged wars on others, is always under threat of invasion, has to constantly defend itself against monster attacks, or emulates a war god; thus, everyone over a certain age learned how to use weapons. So that would justify allowing for certain weapon proficiencies. Maybe a couple of options: a sword and a bow; a spear and sling; an axe and throwing axe; or a sword and lance. EDIT: to represent different types of Militarized Nations, I mean.
 

That's the distinction.

I come from the Frozen North. Does everyone from there have Survival? Maybe. Does everyone have Sword or Bow Training? Less so. Do we have a shared language? Probably.

Culture to me, is more 'soft' skills, less crunch.

I see a need to break out or redefine Background a bit, but I also believe Culture is setting specific. If it's not, it's a background.
I agree, culture is setting-specific. But, given that the Player's Handbook is never going to have more than a passing reference to any specific setting (since homebrew is a major thing), how do you incorporate cultural aspects into character creation? Do you require that every DM buy a setting book along with the core three? Or, on the other end, do you not provide any cultural examples at all, requiring DMs to make them up from whole cloth? Like Faolyn above, I think Level Up's idea of making general cultures, some very generic and others fitting racial archetypes, is a good middle ground to shoot for.
 

Well, there are those abilities that are cultural and still tied to race, like Stonecunning. Also, ASIs are weighted differently in different lineages, but all treated the same under Tasha's. That would need to be recodified for balance. Basically, this is all future-proofing.

It is important to note that, if all future lineages are going to excise culture traits as WotC has suggested, then any lineage they make for the remainder of 5th ed that doesn't easily map to the "fundamental character change" narrative that the three in UA do is going to lack any proficiencies at all, in a noticeable way, regardless of whether or not they end up balanced in some other fashion. I definitely find an issue with that.

Just like you take issue with the Aasimar, Halflings, Dragonborn, Tieflings, Firbolgs, Tritons, Goblins, Kobolds, and Yuan-Ti who lack any proficiencies at all in a noticeable way?

Because none of those races gets proficiencies in anything.
 

You can easily do both: have a free-range "make your own culture" as well as a bunch of typical cultures that provide guidelines and can be used to avoid the "of course my Podunk farmer knows how to use a greatsword and three cantrips!" issue.
If there is no issue with a halfling being blessed with divine strength at first level, why would there be an issue with a farmer knowing some different tricks? If cantrips are cultural, then it means that in that world, anyone can learn magic, so they're probably pretty widespread.

(I mean there is also the sheer power issues; that three cantrips and a martial weapon of choice are way more powerful than what a culture should grant. - But arguing over relative costs of abilities is something that can be done once the thematics and base assumptions can be addressed.)

I think ASIs are less potentially problematic for cultures than they are for species, actually, since the implication is that those adjustments very definitely are from training/learning rather than innate. So I don't see why they couldn't at least suggest defaults for your +1, as with the base race.
No. Absolutely not.
ASIs for a race or culture indicate a general shift in the average of the entire population remember. Similar to the way for example, people in northern Europe are on average slightly taller than people in east Asia. - It doesn't mean they're all taller, or that "you can't get tall people from east Asia", just that the bell curve is shifted slightly.
But while height is not a problematic attribute, D&D ability scores are.
Unless cultures are simply based on massively monolithic racial lines, you're going to have multiple human cultures, and some of those are going to be applicable to real life human cultures. Thus assigning ASIs to them should be avoided at all costs.

Remember from earlier in this thread the point that training and learning for ability scores are easily represented by simply assigning a higher number to that score.
 

Faolyn

Hero
If there is no issue with a halfling being blessed with divine strength at first level, why would there be an issue with a farmer knowing some different tricks? If cantrips are cultural, then it means that in that world, anyone can learn magic, so they're probably pretty widespread.
If they belong to a culture that teaches cantrips, sure. Take the high elf, which gives you a wizard cantrip. Presumably that's taught, not an innate ability, which means its cultural. So you can make a culture that grants a cantrip for whatever reason (Fey Forest Dweller, Native of Magiclandia, whatever), then take the Folk Hero background, or something akin to that, and voila!

And anyway, Eberron has their NPC magewrights who learn parts of prestidigitation for their jobs, so I can see magical NPC farmers who learn parts of druidcraft as well.

(I mean there is also the sheer power issues; that three cantrips and a martial weapon of choice are way more powerful than what a culture should grant. - But arguing over relative costs of abilities is something that can be done once the thematics and base assumptions can be addressed.)
Well, I made up the three cantrips for hyperbole's sake. But high elves already get four weapon proficiencies and a cantrip of their choice, and drow get a fixed cantrip, two higher level spells later on, and three weapon proficiencies. And again, those are almost certainly learned and not inborn knowledge.
 

Just like you take issue with the Aasimar, Halflings, Dragonborn, Tieflings, Firbolgs, Tritons, Goblins, Kobolds, and Yuan-Ti who lack any proficiencies at all in a noticeable way?

Because none of those races gets proficiencies in anything.
True, not every race gets proficiencies. But some do, and some don't, and why shouldn't both options be available going forward?
 

If they belong to a culture that teaches cantrips, sure. Take the high elf, which gives you a wizard cantrip. Presumably that's taught, not an innate ability, which means its cultural. So you can make a culture that grants a cantrip for whatever reason (Fey Forest Dweller, Native of Magiclandia, whatever), then take the Folk Hero background, or something akin to that, and voila!

And anyway, Eberron has their NPC magewrights who learn parts of prestidigitation for their jobs, so I can see magical NPC farmers who learn parts of druidcraft as well.


Well, I made up the three cantrips for hyperbole's sake. But high elves already get four weapon proficiencies and a cantrip of their choice, and drow get a fixed cantrip, two higher level spells later on, and three weapon proficiencies. And again, those are almost certainly learned and not inborn knowledge.
I generally view innate magic from races as a racial, not cultural thing. Tieflings are often depicted as integrating (not always well) into another culture, but they still have access to their racial spellcasting: - it is a gift of their infernal heritage. A Dwarf brought up in a Tiefling culture wouldn't be able to cast Hellish Rebuke just by living there - although they could take a class or feat that would allow them to.
A high elf's affinity for a cantrip is a lingering remnant of their fey heritage, and Drow racial spells are similar, but warped by the strange radiations of the underdark for generations. A human living in a drow city wouldn't automatically have access to them.

The point about Eberron is that that PC classes and abilities are unusual. Even the people who can cast magic, generally can only do so in a very limited fashion: an NPC farmer who knows some magic can't cast Druidcraft like a PC can: they can only predict the weather for example.
 

Faolyn

Hero
I generally view innate magic from races as a racial, not cultural thing.
Well, that's up to either the game to decide in an upcoming edition, or for you to decide for your own game. There are plenty of arguments to be made in either way.

Nevertheless, you can still easily have a culture that teaches everyone in it a cantrip, regardless of the culture-member's species.

The point about Eberron is that that PC classes and abilities are unusual. Even the people who can cast magic, generally can only do so in a very limited fashion: an NPC farmer who knows some magic can't cast Druidcraft like a PC can: they can only predict the weather for example.
That's... excatly what I said.
 

JEB

Adventurer
No. Absolutely not.
ASIs for a race or culture indicate a general shift in the average of the entire population remember. Similar to the way for example, people in northern Europe are on average slightly taller than people in east Asia. - It doesn't mean they're all taller, or that "you can't get tall people from east Asia", just that the bell curve is shifted slightly.
But while height is not a problematic attribute, D&D ability scores are.
Unless cultures are simply based on massively monolithic racial lines, you're going to have multiple human cultures, and some of those are going to be applicable to real life human cultures. Thus assigning ASIs to them should be avoided at all costs.
Or you just make sure you don't make cultures that easily map to real-life cultures, and if you find your fantasy culture is trending that way, make corrections.

I also don't see any issue with suggesting, for example, that people from a culture that values education will more often have a +1 to Int, or that people from a culture that values physical strength could have a +1 to Str. As long as floating ASI is the option front and center, and you make it clear your character can be whatever they want instead.
 
Last edited:

Well, that's up to either the game to decide in an upcoming edition, or for you to decide for your own game. There are plenty of arguments to be made in either way.

Nevertheless, you can still easily have a culture that teaches everyone in it a cantrip, regardless of the culture-member's species.
You can. I'm just pointing out that it has knock-on effects for worldbuilding

That's... excatly what I said.
Oh. Fair enough. I thought you were suggesting that their existence implied that anyone could learn cantrips as a cultural trait.

Or you just make sure you don't make cultures that easily map to real-life cultures, and if you find your fantasy culture is trending that way, make corrections.
I await your list with interest.

I also don't see any issue with suggesting, for example, that people from a culture that values education will more often have a +1 to Int, or that people from a culture that values physical strength could have a +1 to Str. As long as floating ASI is the option front and center, and you make it clear your character can be whatever they want instead.
OK. I'm going to pick the least racially-charged example I can think of off the top of my head: That would suggest that for example, Spartans are generally less intelligent than Athenians?
 


True, not every race gets proficiencies. But some do, and some don't, and why shouldn't both options be available going forward?

Maybe they will, maybe they won't, but now if a race was designed like an Aasimar was in Volo's you said you would take offense at that, because lineages should have proficiencies. So, you weren't advocating for both options being available, you were making a value judgement that if they don't include proficiencies that is bad.

And, funnily enough, despite your sudden "what about both sides" position, there are ways to include some proficiencies without it being cultural. Bugbears for instance are hinted at being supernaturally stealthy in the lore. They get stealth proficiency as a result of that. Now, whether we want to ask if it is fair that a supernaturally stealthy bugbear rogue is just as stealthy as a bog-standard human rogue, well, that is a different debate.

Oh and elves Keen Senses are generally conceived of as biological, so there is another proficiency that could be had without needing to be cultural. I tend to like shifting that around, but hey, personal preference.

So, we do have both sides available, proficiency and non-proficiency, so why are you trying to make non-proficient races a talking point statement and getting upset over their inclusion?
 

Visit Our Sponsor

Latest threads

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top