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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Faolyn

(she/her)
???

What does that mean?

Does it mean that if I (as DM) use set racial bonuses, it follows that because I don't allow halflings to move their +2 from Dex to Str...that I'm denying them +2 completely? Not even to Dex?
You're denying people the ability to put the +2 in any stat because you don't like the idea of strong halflings. You're denying smart halflings, wise halflings, etc. You can shrug and say "oh well, that's the game," but that's, quite frankly, bad.

You think it's stupid to have racial bonuses to match the concepts of that race, but I think it's sensible. My decision is not mindless, it is thoroughly thought through.
The concepts of "race" aren't set in stone. As I pointed out, they've changed, sometimes radically, from edition to edition.

I would be just as horrified if a player created a 1st level fighter and swapped Fighting Style for Spellcasting. Just because they are both abilities available to 1st level PCs, it is not appropriate to claim that you get spellcasting because you are a fighter.
Classes and races are very different things. They can be, and are, treated differently in the game. And they are balanced quite differently.

Presumably, when you say swapping a fighting style for spellcasting, you mean full-progression spellcasting, levels 1-9, just like a wizard or cleric. That's completely unbalanced. Full casting is far more powerful than a fighting style. I know it, you know it, everyone knows it.

But it's fully possible to create a fighter with limited spellcasting abilities. There are five such official archetypes already: the Eldritch Knight from the PH, the Arcane Archer from Xannies', the Rune Knight and Psi Warrior from Tasha's, and the Echo Knight from Wildemont. The Eldritch Knight is a third-caster with limited access to magical schools. The other four grant magical (or psionic) abilities but no spells. These are perfectly acceptable and more or less balanced archetypes. I also know of the Bone Knight from the 3pp Morgrave's Miscellany, that's a third caster with limited clerical spells. And a fighter can also spend one of their copious feats on Magic Initiate or Ritual Adept.

And here's the difference: removing a tiny ability to grant a huge ability is obviously unbalancing. But swapping a +2 in one attribute for a +2 in a different attribute is not unbalancing in the slightest. After all, if a halfling isn't unbalanced for getting a +2 in Dexterity, then a goliath isn't unbalanced for swapping Strength for Dex either. If anything, it's a weak trade, because the goliath lacks the halfling's Agile trait, won't get as big a benefit from using heavy weapons, and won't get as much use out of their Powerful Build. Ditto the other way around, where a +2 Strength halfling still can't use heavy weapons without a penalty.

But! here's the important thing--even if a Strength-based halfling or a Dex-based goliath isn't mechanically great, people should have the option anyway. If someone wants a Strength-based halfling, or a Wis or Con or Int or Cha-based halfling, then there is not a single decent reason why they can't have it.

It's not unbalanced, it's not at all like switching out a tiny class ability in order to get a huge one from a different class, and it doesn't change the race's flavor at all.

I cannot. I don't have access to that race. What book is it from?
Ravnica I told you the pertinent traits, but here's all of them: Con +2, Wis +1, Powerful Build, advantage on saves vs. charmed and frightened coz they're so zen, unarmored AC of 12 + Con, a trunk that can lift things that weigh up to 5 x Strength score but can't wield weapons or a shield, and Keen Smell. Here's a screen shot from dndbeyond.

1614138133921.png


And they're on average 7'6" and 350 lbs. With no Strength bonus. Which means that even though a completely average loxodon can pick up a halfling with its trunk (Str 10 x 5 lbs), the loxodon and the halfling actually have the same Strength.

This is one reason why I dislike racial ASIs. They are random, inconsistent, and often nonsensical. Why does the elephant-folk, which has Powerful Build, get no Strength bonus, but the much shorter, slender githyanki get a +2 Strength? Why are drow (traditionally portrayed as sadistic demon-worshipers) and tieflings (who are literally devil-blooded and are described in the PH as being hated and feared) so charismatic? Why are gnomes, who live like a cross between elves and halflings and either spend all their time talking to squirrels or making gadgets that might blow up in their face, so intelligent? Why do mountain dwarfs get a +2 to both Strength and Con, but kobolds only get +2 Dex but no +1 to anything--even though they're known to be really good trapmakers and tricksters? Why do tritons get +1 to three stats? Why do goblins in VGM get a +1 bonus to Con when MM goblins have completely average Con, but grungs, minotaurs, and orcs also get +1 Con but their monster entry give them Constitutions of 15 or higher? Edit: Why do DMG eladrin get +1 Int while Mordenkainen's eladrin get +1 Cha?

The answer is simple: the writers decided it would be that way. Thus, as a gamer, I can rewrite it. The game actively encourages us to change rules we don't like, after all.

(BTW, you may want to look in the DMG on how to make races: they specifically say they created the aasimar with the goal that it should be a good cleric and paladin.)

But racial bonuses are not there to customise your character, they are there to reflect the concepts of that race in game mechanics that apply because that's what that race gives you.
Which is (a) a useless tautology: halflings are dexterous because halflings get a bonus to Dexterity because halflings are dexterous; and (b) therefore a good reason to get rid of racial ASIs completely in favor of a non-racial floating ASI, so you do have more opportunity to customize.
 
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Faolyn

(she/her)
The other two could have been clearly made with any race using point buy. The one with a 16 could not.

I have to think you are troll baiting now. You can't make it. It is my thesis. The only thing that can't be made is a 16. Which is why I say the only thing that matters is a 16 - +3.

You keep saying this - that I think it is bad. Where do you get that from? Is it one of these statements:
I said why: because you keep being condescending towards having a 16 in a stat. Actions speak louder than words and all that. Yeah, you keep "saying" you're for it, but then you act as though it's wrong to want a 16. It's painful for you, even.

I mean, it's OK for you to tell me what I "really mean," that when I say I want to be able to customize characters I actually secretly want to start with a +3 bonus but can't admit it to myself, but it's not OK for me to point out what you've blatantly said?

Look, I am happy that you and your table now get to create the characters you want. But I am also sad; sad you do not see the other side of the argument. I guess that is where we'll just have to leave it. Good luck and may your dice rolls be above average.
I do see the other side of the argument: you want to control how I make characters. I want you to have the freedom to put the +2 anywhere you want.
 


JEB

Legend
By pointing out the differences, I am proving that a difference exists. By dismissing those differences, as you have done repeatedly, you are making it seem like you don't really care what evidence I supply.
Allow me to save you some work, then - at this point, I sincerely doubt you or I can dig up any new evidence that definitively proves what the designers intended about PC vs. NPC versions of character races in the span of time between the core rules in 2014, and Tasha's Cauldron of Everything in 2020. We only have two objective facts - one, the only way they provided to reflect racial traits for a NPC was to apply traits that matched (or almost identically matched) the PHB races, and two, their declaration in 2020 that PCs are archetypes that do not reflect the character race. And we don't even agree on the intent behind those facts!

For everything else, I see exceptions and anomalies and even mistakes where you see rules and indications of clear intent; I emphasize shared traits and commonalities, and you disregard them to emphasize differences. But really, short of an actual statement from the designers on the matter from the period between 2014 and 2020, we're never going to be able to do more than theorize. The information is too open to interpretation, as has been amply demonstrated through many pages of back-and-forth discussion.

I respect the effort you have gone through to back up your arguments and try and persuade me of the error of my ways, but really, I think we're going to have to just disagree on this.

And remember, we are talking about the Kreen as the group I gave for that example, a set of insectoid races that are bred for various traits, from being psionic master minds, fleet footed warriors or massive juggernauts. Yes, they might be able to treat them like shifters and just make the entire group subraces, but since they've indicated they are moving away from static ASIs it makes just as much sense to just let that genetic diversity apply as a floating ASI.
Or they could treat kreen the same way they did elves, dwarves, gnomes, halflings, gith, and shifters, and include defaults as well as floating. And actually support more than just one specific gameplay preference. They certainly don't have to. But they can and they should.
 

JEB

Legend
Yeah, odds feedback was actually considered?

Approaching 0%.
Eh, I wouldn't be so sure of that. They wouldn't have bothered to release a survey at all if they didn't actually want feedback. And there's almost three months before the book goes to print, I'm sure they have time for some late-stage changes.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
How is anyone going to do that? lol

I can't speak for exactly what Faolyn is thinking, but control seems to be a very strong part of the mind set going into this.

After all, it isn't good enough that you can still choose to put a +2 dex on an Elf, you have to have no choice except to have a +2 dex on an elf. Whether that is seen as WoTC controlling us, or the player/DM controlling other player's actions is a bit academic, but it seems that the very idea of the option existing is a problem.

And this gets taken even weirder. People have both argued that a Halfling with a strength of 16 or higher is a farce, a joke, and utter nonsense, while also arguing that you are perfectly allowed to roll your stats and put them wherever you want. One person, I believe it was Luiscarlos, but I could be misremembering and I'm not going to go back and look, even went so far as to say that even if you roll, putting above a 15 into strength for a halfling goes against "the spirit of the game"

Now, you might think that while that is their opinions, it really doesn't matter what they think. People are still free to do what they want, but then we have to look at what they accuse us of.

Power gaming. Min maxxing. Caring more about mechanical power than story.

I have legitimately seen, not in this argument specifically, people claim that they cannot have a flawed character unless one of their stats is below a 10, and that anyone who wants higher stats in their prime ability (which is the basic competency curve the game expects) wants to be a perfect ubermensch with no flaws and skip through all of the game with no challenges. How the narrative pf stats is presented is their weapon.

They can't control what we do, but they try to control the narrative. They try to make the entire conversation only about the mechanical power of having a 16 in your prime stat, without having to pick the "proper" race. Because, make no mistake, not a single person on this debate has ever claiming that a halfling Rogue with a 16 dex is powergaming. It is only a dwarf rogue with 16 dex, or a tiefling rogue with a 16 dex that is powergaming. If I am playing a dwarf, I need to play either a character with a 16 str or Wis and 16 con, tieflings should only have 16 Cha and 16 Int.

And it really is all about the 16 in the prime stat for them, because even while Faolyn says "what if I want to have a 16 in a non-prime stat" it doesn't matter. We can't be actually caring about concept, because then the other side couldn't try and paint us as power gamers trying to ruin all the fun of the game by removing diversity and making everything a homogeneous blob. It must be because we are slefish and greedy and care only about ourselves and desire to have things handed to us for free.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Allow me to save you some work, then - at this point, I sincerely doubt you or I can dig up any new evidence that definitively proves what the designers intended about PC vs. NPC versions of character races in the span of time between the core rules in 2014, and Tasha's Cauldron of Everything in 2020. We only have two objective facts - one, the only way they provided to reflect racial traits for a NPC was to apply traits that matched (or almost identically matched) the PHB races, and two, their declaration in 2020 that PCs are archetypes that do not reflect the character race. And we don't even agree on the intent behind those facts!

For everything else, I see exceptions and anomalies and even mistakes where you see rules and indications of clear intent; I emphasize shared traits and commonalities, and you disregard them to emphasize differences. But really, short of an actual statement from the designers on the matter from the period between 2014 and 2020, we're never going to be able to do more than theorize. The information is too open to interpretation, as has been amply demonstrated through many pages of back-and-forth discussion.

I respect the effort you have gone through to back up your arguments and try and persuade me of the error of my ways, but really, I think we're going to have to just disagree on this.

You really cannot get over the fact that they said "if you want to use the player's handbook material, use the player's handbook material" can you?

And, we have other things that seem like objective facts, but you want to declare the entirety of Mordenkainen's and Volo's as "an anomaly". So yes, when you dismiss every single thing I bring up as either an anomaly or a mistake, then I don't really see the conversation going anywhere.


Or they could treat kreen the same way they did elves, dwarves, gnomes, halflings, gith, and shifters, and include defaults as well as floating. And actually support more than just one specific gameplay preference. They certainly don't have to. But they can and they should.

Why should they? What makes the Elf with its seven subraces over three books such a great design that they must keep using it?

Yes, people have a preference for being told what to do. WoTC has said they are going to stop doing that. That is an objective fact of reality. Future Lineages will not be released with static ASIs. Full Stop. There might be a sidebar, it would be a kind gesture, but the official design has changed. And sitting here, telling us that the design should never change, because some people like the old way misses the point that some people like the new way.

All I have tried to show with the Kreen example is that they can present this race that people desire for Darksun in such a way as to follow through with their new design principle, and make consistent sense within the lore of the setting. Doing so is not throwing out all reason and sanity on the altar of whatever foul buzzwords people think have cast a spell over WoTC, it isn't doing anything wrong at all in fact. It is a design that can make perfect sense if people allow it to.

Is it the old way? No, it isn't. But, it also isn't so radical and new that no one understands how it could work. It isn't so far outside of the design that new lineages and old races can't exist at the same table, using the same stat generation methods. Yes, some people who don't like putting thought into character creation might have to put a bit more thought into it now, and I'm sorry they have to do that, but we aren't destroying DnD and ruining things by making floating ASIs and designing lineages that are not locked into a single possible interpretation. We simply are not.
 

Scribe

Legend
I can't speak for exactly what Faolyn is thinking, but control seems to be a very strong part of the mind set going into this.

After all, it isn't good enough that you can still choose to put a +2 dex on an Elf, you have to have no choice except to have a +2 dex on an elf. Whether that is seen as WoTC controlling us, or the player/DM controlling other player's actions is a bit academic, but it seems that the very idea of the option existing is a problem
I don't know, I've been following on the edge of the conversation but I don't feel this is it.

I'm all about folks having that floating option, just keep with the same approach that 5e released under as well.

It's a moot point anyways, as we don't control each others games, so...just do as one wants.

It's not about having no choice other than +2 dex, it's about it defaulting to +2 dex.

Regardless, this threads been spinning tires for pages, and the book will be out in a few months.
 

#ASIPenalties6e
I am curious Scribe, how would these be applied (if you designed the attributes with caps and/or penalties)?

I get you might cap a halfling at 18 strength. What else? Maybe a half-orc with 18 wisdom? An elf with 18 con? A dwarf with 18 charisma?

Just discussing the races in PHB.

Would penalties also need to be set if you had caps?

No shade or anything with these questions. I am just generally curious how it would look.
 

Scribe

Legend
No shade or anything with these questions. I am just generally curious how it would look.
No worries! Assumption would be Standard Array + ASI, if doing it via rolls, I would have to implement caps.

First I would start with spreading ASI out. I would not have it tied 100% to lineage, as I have shown a few times. Then I would apply a cap based on Size. Small would not be able to get to the 20 Cap on Strength, and would instead get something to reflect a benefit of being Small. Small = Str Cap of 18. (Unless Barbarian, then they would get that +4 bonus at the end, and end up at 22.)

Second, I would have the cap shift based on a lineages 'Primary Attribute'. So Half-Orc could 'naturally' get to 22 Strength, while a Dwarf could naturally get to 22 Con, a Gnome could get to 22 Int, and so on.

Standard Cap's on Attributes would remain at 20.

So far we are not punishing anyone at level 1, and we keep the lineages distinct.

Third, if we are bringing in the Monster Lineages, I would look into penalties or caps on creation to break up the wall of "+2/+1 Str/Con" lineages. Just go back to either the DMG, or 3.5 to pull from there. I dont think we would need a penalty, if we had a cap 'Your Orc may not be above 14 int at Level 1'

But I think we may not even need to go that far.
 

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