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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

I remember in an earlier iteration of this same argument someone proposed a version of the dwarf with such features in place of ASIs that was pretty cool. I don’t remember what all it had, but I think Tremorsense and a burrow speed were among them. Also, check out the A5e race playtest packets.
A5e gives some good examples of how this situation should have been handled by WotC.
 

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Kannik

Adventurer
Ability Scores are not cultural. They are inherent traits that are supposed to represent the character's race natural, raw, inborn nature.

That does not make sense. If they are inherent and inborn, then how can they change during play? What is an ASI? How can each PC have a max of 20 in every attribute, no matter what their ancestry?

Decoupling racial ability score mods from the race itself is one way of stripping away from what truly defines the race as that race.

Hard disagree. There are plenty of ways available to distinguish the different races, most of which are far more evocative, impactful, meaningful, and flavourful than attribute bonuses. Removing ability modifiers strips little away.

These changes in D&D are disrespectful to the game, disrespectful to the history of D&D, and to all designers who worked on the earlier editions of the game.

5e is not D&D anymore.

Is it possible to go beyond a hard disagree? Because this is over the top. And it's nothing more than an Appeal to Purity (aka No True Scotsman) logical fallacy. Nor is this the first time we've seen this kind of thing trotted out.

As someone who cut their teeth on 1e, and has played every e since then over the past decades, I fully assert this change does not, in any shape, form, size, or colour, disrespect the game, the people playing it, or the people who made it.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
One thing this evolves to is actual lists of cultural proficiency that DM, players, and worldbuilder can refer to

Dragonborn Weapon Training
Drow Weapon Training
Dwarf Weapon Training
Elf Weapon Training
Gnome Weapon Training
Gnoll Weapon Training
Halfling Weapon Training
Hobgoblin Weapon Training
Orc Weapon Training
Arabic Weapon Training
Celtic Weapon Training
Chinese Weapon Training
Egyptian Weapon Training
Mesoamerican Weapon Training
Niger-Congo Weapon Training
Polynesian Weapon Training
Berserker Weapon Training
Hoplite Weapon Training
Knight Weapon Training
Samurai Weapon Training


You know. List the stuff. And maybe we can back into official exotic weapons
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
A5e gives some good examples of how this situation should have been handled by WotC.

I am pretty sure that the fact that A5E isn't "official" makes a large difference in how it is taken by the audience. Morrus can do whatever he wants, because he's 3rd party. WotC is stuck with the entitlement of the fans that A5E doesn't have to deal with.

Meaning, if they did handle it like A5E, folks would still be up in arms over it.
 


mockman1890

Explorer
Easily? I’m not really sure how to answer this. I think you and I must have such fundamentally different understandings of what a fantasy race is that we’re going to have a hard time communicating here...
It's a fair question. Possibly...!
Even in a very small setting, I find the idea that no dwarf ever has been or could be born outside of a particular ethnically homogenous community to strain suspension of disbelief, to the point I might not be able to take such a setting seriously.
It is kind of unfair how humans get all the (Forgotten Realms) 'cultures' in the 5e PHB and the other races usually are monocultures (or 2- or 3-cultures if we consider, say, different kinds of halflings to be cultural distinctions).

With regard to the "races /=/ monoculture" thing, though, it kinda depends on how close-up you look at a fantasy/SF 'race', doesn't it? I mean, I can think of several games and settings that generalize about a 'human racial culture', generally either something like "they're rapacious capitalists!" (some SF settings) or "they're the new exciting adventuresome race on the block!" (D&D). Humans can 'be' whatever generalization is necessary for the theme of the setting/story, and this could apply to any other fantasy race too. Who wants to be the person who sees a movie where the message is "humans are terrible destroyers of the environment" (or whatever) and is there nitpicking "#notallhumans"

I disagree that cultural stereotypes are what attract most players to races, and I can’t get behind the notion that races are made up only of appearance and cultural stereotypes. Again looking to the dragon age example, dwarves have inherent traits that distinguish them from humans other than just their appearance. They have different bone structure, different muscle structure, they don’t dream, and consequently can’t use magic (because of the way magic works in the setting). They are naturally immune to the toxicity of the magical mineral lyrium. They have an inherent sense of direction underground called stone sense (although admittedly surface dwarves lose this sense). These things are not cultural, they are, for lack of a better word in a fantasy context, biological.

I mean, I would call that a flaw in the writing of Star Trek. An alien species that is only biologically different from humans in that their ears are pointed? Talk about uninspired. Though, if you really care to get into the reeds here, that isn’t actually the only biological difference between Vulcans and Humans. Vulcans also experience emotions far more intensely than humans do, and they have some low-level psychic ability in the mind meld.

So you're acknowledging dwarves and Vulcans (and other fantasy/SF races) can have minds that are fundamentally different from human beings... (which I would agree with). But yet it's not OK to give them different INT or WIS stats? > _ <;; And it's not OK to suggest that they'd have general 'racial cultural tendencies' as a result of differences that aren't merely historic but fundamentally biological/'racial'?

I mean... this isn't intended as some big 'gotcha' but.... you literally just referred to how dwarves have "different muscle structure, different bone structure"! My point being, like I said -- it's impossible to talk about 'fantasy races' like you would responsibly talk about real races. If you can accept that it's OK to imagine creatures with different bodies, then it's OK to imagine them with different cultural tendencies, different aptitudes, etc.
 


CasvalRemDeikun

Adventurer
I was just thinking. I think I am actually fine with this development, but I think I am going to change the Point Buy system to have 16(12 pt) and 17 (14 pt), and give players players 32 pts for Point Buy. It should even out a fair amount compared to the current system, but open up a lot more options for players. Thoughts?
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
So you're acknowledging dwarves and Vulcans (and other fantasy/SF races) can have minds that are fundamentally different from human beings... (which I would agree with). But yet it's not OK to give them different INT or WIS stats? > _ <;;
Again, my grievances with racial ASIs are at best tangentially related to my desire to separate race from culture. Yes, I acknowledge that different fantasy peoples could have different minds. I also don’t want different races to have different INT and WIS stats because I don’t want players who want to play, for example, dwarf wizards to be at a disadvantage compared to, say, elf wizards.
And it's not OK to suggest that they'd have general 'racial cultural tendencies' as a result of differences that aren't merely historic but fundamentally biological/'racial'?
I think the idea of “racial cultural tendencies” has uncomfortable implications, and would prefer characters of any race be able to belong to any culture.
I mean... this isn't intended as some big 'gotcha' but.... you literally just referred to how dwarves have "different muscle structure, different bone structure"! My point being, like I said -- it's impossible to talk about 'fantasy races' like you would responsibly talk about real races.
Right, which, again, isn’t a thing I’m suggesting we do, so this wouldn’t be a “gotcha,” even if you had meant it to be.
If you can accept that it's OK to imagine creatures with different bodies, then it's OK to imagine them with different cultural tendencies, different aptitudes, etc.
Well, first of all I don’t think B necessarily follows A there. But second of all, I’m fine with fantasy races being different from each other. Where it gets iffy for me is when you start conflating culture and biology. When you start saying that, for instance, Dwarven conservatism is a product of some inherent quality of their dwarvishness, rather than being a product of the social and material conditions in which most dwarves live.
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I was just thinking. I think I am actually fine with this development, but I think I am going to change the Point Buy system to have 16(12 pt) and 17 (14 pt), and give players players 32 pts for Point Buy. It should even out a fair amount compared to the current system, but open up a lot more options for players. Thoughts?
Yeah, since the release of Tasha’s I’ve been planning to ditch racial ASIs (be they fixed or floating) in favor of improved ability score generation. Specifically, my plan is to boost point buy to 32 points, allow you to buy up to 16, allow you to buy a starting feat for 5 points, and change the standard array to your choice of 16, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10 or 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8, and a feat. I don’t anticipate my players wanting to roll ability scores, but if I did I’d allow them to roll a 7th score and choose to either replace one of their 6 with it, or take a feat.
 

FireLance

Legend
So, I think this is pretty revealing. I honestly struggle to understand why people are so attached to racial ASIs, and so resistant to change, and the only reason I find persuasive is that it's just knee-jerk resistance to anything that smells of political correctness. Certainly none of the attempts at "logical" support for racial ASIs that I've read are very convincing.
I like racial ASIs, in the same way that I like the taste of a favourite comfort food from my youth. I have internalized it as a simple, direct way of highlighting the differences between races and reinforcing the racial tropes that I am familiar with. I think it is a pity that it has become politicized to the extent that you see liking racial ASIs as a knee-jerk resistance to political correctness.

I am quite happy for you to dislike racial ASIs and to argue why they should not be the default going forward. However, I would appreciate it if you could extend me the courtesy of not painting me to be somehow morally inferior for liking them.

Thank you.
 

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
I have internalized it as a simple, direct way of highlighting the differences between races and reinforcing the racial tropes that I am familiar with.
That's actually one of the most reasonable defenses I've heard. "I just like them."

I think it is a pity that it has become politicized to the extent that you see liking racial ASIs as a knee-jerk resistance to political correctness.

What's weird is that there's no reason it should be politicized. For the most part, the anti-racial-ASI crowd has been saying, "racial ASIs constrain choices". But the pro-racial-ASI crowd keeps slipping in little comments (this thread is rife with them) implying that they think it's really all about denying any difference between races. I mean, it's the same hollow arguments over and over and over.

So apologies if I over-generalize. Certainly not every fan of racial ASIs thinks that way. But, damn, it seems fairly prevalent.
 

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
Yeah, since the release of Tasha’s I’ve been planning to ditch racial ASIs (be they fixed or floating) in favor of improved ability score generation. Specifically, my plan is to boost point buy to 32 points, allow you to buy up to 16, allow you to buy a starting feat for 5 points, and change the standard array to your choice of 16, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10 or 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8, and a feat. I don’t anticipate my players wanting to roll ability scores, but if I did I’d allow them to roll a 7th score and choose to either replace one of their 6 with it, or take a feat.
I really like the idea of two arrays, one with better numbers, but the other with a feat.

Looks like you charge 11 points for a 16, to make it work out that a feat is 5 points.
 

cbwjm

Hero
I'm thinking of doing something like this for races:
Dragonborn, New Stats
Ability Score Increase.
Your Strength increases by 2. Another ability score increases by 2, or two ability scores increase by 1, or you can choose a feat, or you can choose a different draconic heritage, gaining an additional breath weapon and resistance.

Darkvision. You have Darkvision 60 feet.

Draconic Heritage. Select one of acid, cold, fire, lightning, poison as the damage type of your draconic heritage. This determines your breath weapon and your resistance. Some dragonborn show signs of multiple draconic ancestries, a gold dragonborn might have scales tinged with blue and be able to breath out fire or lightning.

Breath Weapon. You have a breath weapon due to your draconic heritage. You can use a bonus action to unleash your breath weapon dealing a number of d8s of damage equal to your proficiency modifier. You can use this ability once, you regain the ability to do so when you complete a short rest or long rest.
The DC to save against your breath weapon equals DC is 8 +your Constitution modifier + your Proficiency Bonus.

Resistance. You have damage resistance based on your draconic heritage.

This lets a dragonborn player customise their race quite a bit. They will always have +2 strength but they can pick another one or two stats to gain a bonus or instead gain an additional breath weapon or resistance. Maybe instead they pick a feat which could also be a dragonborn feat to enhance their draconic nature or some other feat they are eligible for.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I'm coming around to a 4 array system

The Typical Array: 16 14 13 13 9 8 and you must take the suggested racial +2/+1 ASI
The Standard Array: 15 14 13 12 10 8 and you get to chose your +2/+1 ASI
The Elite Array: 17 15 14 12 10 8 and you get no ASIs nor feats
The Variant Array: 15 14 12 11 9 8 and and you get to chose your +2/+1 ASI and one feat
 

The Elite Array: 17 15 14 12 10 8 and you get no ASIs nor feats

Yeah just do it this way. Why add bonuses if they're just redundant?

I'd go 17,16,14,14,12,9, personally, because I think generally the system is to punishing on the low end. (And players could move points around freely from 14 to 9 on a 1 to 1 basis).

Balance is seriously unnaffected by increasing the off-stats, while versatility is increased, and saving throws are improved a little.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I really like the idea of two arrays, one with better numbers, but the other with a feat.

Looks like you charge 11 points for a 16, to make it work out that a feat is 5 points.
That’s correct. Which checks out with the standard human vs. variant human comparison - standard human with standard array is worth 9 point buy points. Variant human with standard array is worth 4 points (assuming the +1s go to your 15 and your 14 or 13) and a feat, so I figure a feat at 1st level should be worth 5 points.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I'm coming around to a 4 array system

The Typical Array: 16 14 13 13 9 8 and you must take the suggested racial +2/+1 ASI
The Standard Array: 15 14 13 12 10 8 and you get to chose your +2/+1 ASI
The Elite Array: 17 15 14 12 10 8 and you get no ASIs nor feats
The Variant Array: 15 14 12 11 9 8 and and you get to chose your +2/+1 ASI and one feat
Wow, Variant Array looks great in that system!
 

JEB

Adventurer
One of the most interesting things to see will be how Wizards eventually handles humans under this new approach, since their benefits were entirely made up of ability score bonuses. Coming up with new human default traits is a potential minefield of controversy. I suppose variant human could become default human, but that means making feats non-optional.

Or maybe humans will just be an exception to the rule, since they get a bonus to every score, and therefore have no significant advantage or disadvantage over any other species?
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
One of the most interesting things to see will be how Wizards eventually handles humans under this new approach, since their benefits were entirely made up of ability score bonuses. Coming up with new human default traits is a potential minefield of controversy. I suppose variant human could become default human, but that means making feats non-optional.

Or maybe humans will just be an exception to the rule, since they get a bonus to every score, and therefore have no significant advantage or disadvantage over any other species?
Yeah, both versions of human seem fine to me. They either increase everything evenly across the board or increase two abilities of your choice so they don’t favor any class over another, and they can’t increase anything enough to start with a +4, so it doesn’t cause the problem of everyone who doesn’t play one being 1 behind on their primary score compared to people who do.
 

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