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

jasper

Rotten DM
survey is up. I griped about everything having darkvision. The speed of half vamp being more than a vamp. But these are okay if you going for horror campaign setting and not bringing into AL.
 

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Levistus's_Leviathan

Autistic DM (he/him)
I'm tired of cultists. How many times in the official adventures are the bad guys groups of mostly humans worshipping something icky? We need to find some way to inject variety without running these other issues.
A variety of cultists! A cult devoted to worshipping music notes! (Stolen from Scythe.) A cult that worships bugs (everyone hates bugs)! Cultists that worship an archfiend of terror (mine's called "The Abomination") that try to appear as horrifying as possible, by sawing off pieces of their flesh and wearing masks of their victims' faces. A cult devoted to ghosts, trying to find a way to escape the afterlife!

Cults are a great enemy, you just need to make them different and filled with variety.
 



Remathilis

Legend
Aarakocra, Azer, Bugbear, Bullywug, Centaurs, Cyclops, Doppelganger, Duergar, Drow, Ettin, Hobgoblin, Githyanki, Githzerai, Gnolls, Goblins, Grimlocks, Kenku, Kobold, Kuo-Toa, Lizardfolk, Merfolk, Merrow, Minotaur, Mindflayer, Myconid, Ogres, Orcs, Sahuagin, Salamander, Thri-Kreen, Troglodyte, Trolls, Yuan-Ti, Derro, Giff, Meazel, Shadar-Kai, Tortle, Chitine, Firenewt, Grung, Neogi, Vegepygmy, Xvart, Firbolgs, Goliaths, Tabaxi, Triton, Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, Gnome, Dragonborn

Now, you likely noticed that I underlined and bolded some of them. Out of 53 races I listed here, I highlighted 32. That is 60% of them. All of the races I highlighted are generally presented as either 1) Tribal, 2) Violent by Nature 3) Prodigious Breeders 4) Cowardly and thieving 5) Stupid or some combination there of.

Well, for starters your definition of "humanoid" is too broad. You are listing monstrosities (minotaur, chitine), aberrations (mind-flayer), giants (ogre, troll), elementals (azer) and plants (vegepymy,myconid). Further, its haphaardly applied; why is a minotaur a humanoid but not a medusa, why an ettin and not a hag? Lastly, you added several subraces (duergar, drow, shadar-kai) as well as their base race (elf, dwarf).

As to your highlight, again they are disinengious. Goliaths are tribal (they are nomadic wanderers) but lack any of the other traits. However, Githyanki and hobgoblins apparently aren't "violent by nature", nor are halflings "cowardly and thieving".

I'm simplifying, obviously, but let us take a look at this real fast.

Ogres are large, stupid, primitive people with no hygiene who smash people.
Hill Giants are large, stupid, primitive people with no hygiene who smash people.
Ettins are large, stupid, primitive people with no hygiene who smash people and have two heads
Cyclops are large, stupid, primitive people with no hygiene who smash people and have one eye
Grimlocks are large, stupid, primitive people with no hygiene who smash people and have no eyes
Trolls are large, stupid, primitive people with no hygiene who smash people and regenerate

Oversimplifying. First off, grimlocks are a generic take on Orwell's morlocks and has little in common with the others, who are different takes on mythological giants. There is some overlap, but at the very least they fit different mechanical elements (being different CRs, having some different abilities, coming from different areas).

Or how about this.

Goblins are small thieves and cowards, with a penchant for trickery and breeding quickly.
Kobolds are small thieves and cowards, with a penchant for trickery who worship dragons
Kenku are small thieves and cowards, with a penchant for trickery and can't talk
Meazels are small thieves and cowards, with a penchant for stealth and cruelty
Xvarts are small thieves and cowards, with a penchant for trickery.

Oh, let me try.

Wizards wiggle thier fingers to cast spells
Sorcerers wiggle thier fingers to cast spells
Warlocks wiggle thier fingers to cast icky spells
Clerics wiggle thier fingers to cast healing spells
Druids wiggle thier fingers to cast nature spells
Bards wiggle thier fingers and sing to cast spells

Elves are a species that look like humans but have pointed ears.
Dwarves are a species that look like humans but have long beards.
Halflings are a species that look like humans but are short.
Gnomes are a species that look like humans but are short, have long beards and pointed ears.
Half-orcs are a species that look like humans but have tusks.
Half-elves are a species that look like humans but slightly less pointed ears.

D&D is a fantasy RPG that uses funny dice.
Pathfinder is a fantasy RPG that uses funny dice.
C&C is a fantasy RPG that uses funny dice.
DCC is a fantasy RPG that uses funny dice.
Lamentations of the Flame Princess is a fantasy RPG that uses funny dice.
FATAL is a fantasy RPG that uses funny dice.

Anything can be made redundant if you strip it down enough.

Does it not seem that at some point... we have too much overlap? I mean, if I want savage raiders who live in tribes I can pick Orcs, Goblins, Bugbears, Grimlocks, Lizardfolk, Bullywugs, Gnolls, Sahuagin, Troglodytes, Goliaths, or Vegepygmies. Do I really need all of them?

Well replace Sahuagin with orcs and you have drowned orcs. Similarly, goliaths aren't savage raiders by the common lore. Further, an adventure with grimlocks is going to very different than one with lizarfolk, goblins, or gnolls.

None of this though has refuted my point; you see redundancy where I see variety. I can use different monsters (even in the same role) to avoid the "yawn, more orcs?" element that playing for years. I'd rather have more options than less, and the fact that Monster books are some of the top sellers says there is an appetite for MORE monster types, not less.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
To be fair, a couple of those are elementals and won't be found on the Prime (azer, salamanders), or are quite pacifistic (myconids) in nature... but on the other hand, you missed several other creatures that (pterrafolk, crabfolk, aldani) that fill the "violent, thuggish humanoids" trope.

So yeah. Some overlap is OK, but D&D has a lot of overlap--even if you assume that these species live in very different parts of the world.

I'm working on a new setting (yet another one that I'll probably never run: sigh) and I'm going through the monsters one-by-one, not only picking out interesting monsters but figuring out what purpose they serve, if they have any interesting NPCs among them, if anyone in particular allies with them or hunts them, etc. Sure, for a bunch of them, it becomes "they're animals," but I've come up with the base elements of some potentially interesting factions.

I did a similar process. Trying to consolidate and group a bunch of different concepts together, and just tossing a lot of them.
 


Chaosmancer

Legend
Well, for starters your definition of "humanoid" is too broad. You are listing monstrosities (minotaur, chitine), aberrations (mind-flayer), giants (ogre, troll), elementals (azer) and plants (vegepymy,myconid). Further, its haphaardly applied; why is a minotaur a humanoid but not a medusa, why an ettin and not a hag? Lastly, you added several subraces (duergar, drow, shadar-kai) as well as their base race (elf, dwarf).

As to your highlight, again they are disinengious. Goliaths are tribal (they are nomadic wanderers) but lack any of the other traits. However, Githyanki and hobgoblins apparently aren't "violent by nature", nor are halflings "cowardly and thieving".

It was purposefully broad, hence why I explained it. The issue is less "type humanoid" and more "human-esque beings" which include plant people and giants.

Not haphazardly applied per se. I left Medusa out because they are not generally a race. In 5e lore they are corrupted women who misused their beauty. They can be a race, so perhaps I should have included them but I've very rarely seen them as a race. Meanwhile, the base Minotaur's origin is also corruption (via cannabalism and barbarism) but we have also received an explicit race for them, and a different origin.

Ettins are again, a race of beings. Hags are as well, but they are fey. You might have noticed I also didn't include Dryads, Sprites, Pixies, Satyrs, Giants and Succubi. They feel like they fit a different part of the world to me. Perhaps I should have included them, but Giants are singular within themselves, like Dragons, and most of the Fey are storybook beings.

Also, my highlighting was not disingenuous. All five options were an "or" that is why I explicitly stated "presented as either" so being tribal alone counts. You'll also note I also highlighted Aarcrockra and Centaurs, who seem to be tribal only and nothing else this was following what I said.

Halflings are not cowards and thieves by nature. In fact, halflings have a trait called "Brave" and they are generally presented as very generous and hospitable.

Hobgoblins as "inherently violent" is debatable. They could be, but they are also presented as the "honorable enemy" trope. Meaning that they can be reasoned with. Much like Duergar and Drow, you could reasonable expect to have an alliance with them.

Oh, and on having both Elves and Drow, or both Dwarves and Duergar... yes. Obviously these are two very different groups of people. Different innate abilities, different cultures, different just about everything.



Oversimplifying. First off, grimlocks are a generic take on Orwell's morlocks and has little in common with the others, who are different takes on mythological giants. There is some overlap, but at the very least they fit different mechanical elements (being different CRs, having some different abilities, coming from different areas).

So... I said I was oversimplifying. So, thanks for acknowledging what I said.

And while their origins may differ, no one is really going to care that Grimlocks came from H.G. Wells (not sure why you thought George Orwell was their originator) while the others came from types of giants.

And, actually, the rest of your differences are fairly wrong. For example, looking at the wiki:

Ogres -> Favored Terrain Hills
Ettins -> Favored Terrain Hills and Mountains
Hill Giants -> Favored Terrain Hills
Cyclops -> Favored Terrain Hills and Mountains.
Trolls -> Favored Terrain Mountains

Only the Grimlock is different, being Underground

So, they are all in the same general area. In fact, in the foothills of a mountain, in a cave, you could logically encounter any of them.

CR range is an incredibly poor measure, but looking 2, 4, 5, 6, 5, 1/4, so the majority of them are between 4 and 6. with only two outliers.

And abilities... Blindsense, Two heads, Regeneration, or poor depth perception. That's it. That is the vast array of different abilities. And most of them are passive, only the Troll really offers a tactical difference to the players.

Oh, let me try.

Wizards wiggle thier fingers to cast spells
Sorcerers wiggle thier fingers to cast spells
Warlocks wiggle thier fingers to cast icky spells
Clerics wiggle thier fingers to cast healing spells
Druids wiggle thier fingers to cast nature spells
Bards wiggle thier fingers and sing to cast spells

Congratulations, you have realized that all of them are spellcasters. You forgot to include Paladins, Rangers, Some Monks, Eldritch Knights and Arcane Tricksters.

You'll note I hope that this category of classes has a specific name, and despite only having a single trait in common, we recognize this category as separate.

I wonder why we don't want to acknowledge a category with... six traits in common.

Elves are a species that look like humans but have pointed ears.
Dwarves are a species that look like humans but have long beards.
Halflings are a species that look like humans but are short.
Gnomes are a species that look like humans but are short, have long beards and pointed ears.
Half-orcs are a species that look like humans but have tusks.
Half-elves are a species that look like humans but slightly less pointed ears.

Yep, that is why we put them in the category "Humanoid" as a special type of individual. You missed a lot of them, but it is a very large category.

Again though, only a single trait in common was enough to recognize a group. But six traits in common isn't?

D&D is a fantasy RPG that uses funny dice.
Pathfinder is a fantasy RPG that uses funny dice.
C&C is a fantasy RPG that uses funny dice.
DCC is a fantasy RPG that uses funny dice.
Lamentations of the Flame Princess is a fantasy RPG that uses funny dice.
FATAL is a fantasy RPG that uses funny dice.

Oh hey, you found the category "Fantasy RPGs" and even named it. And recognized that most RPGs include the use of multiple, strangely shaped dice.

Anything can be made redundant if you strip it down enough.

Right, but how much did I strip down?

What is the actual difference between an Ettin, Ogre, Hill Giant and Cyclops? Not just "Higher CR" but what are our actually serious differences? Ettins have two heads and Cyclops have one eye?

Well replace Sahuagin with orcs and you have drowned orcs. Similarly, goliaths aren't savage raiders by the common lore. Further, an adventure with grimlocks is going to very different than one with lizarfolk, goblins, or gnolls.

Right, Sahuagin are aquatic, because we needed a primitive, tribal, hyper violent group of raiders in the water as well as on land?

I already acknowledge that goliaths aren't savage raiders.

And sure, Grimlocks could be a little different... but are they different enough? I've pretty much only seen them once. And why have Troglodytes and Lizardfolk? What is the reasoning to have both of them?

None of this though has refuted my point; you see redundancy where I see variety. I can use different monsters (even in the same role) to avoid the "yawn, more orcs?" element that playing for years. I'd rather have more options than less, and the fact that Monster books are some of the top sellers says there is an appetite for MORE monster types, not less.

And, despite all your protests, you didn't even touch on the major point.

60% of the them checked at least one of the boxes. Most of them checked multiple boxes.

Why are DnD players the only ones to ask for fewer options? Because we have so much overlap we have to strive incredibly hard to differentiate them. While most fandoms don't have that many options to begin with.

Sure, you could have savage tribal hyper violent gnolls instead of savage tribal hyper violent orcs or savage tribal hyperviolent Ogres or savage tribal hyperviolent Sahuagin. But do we really need more of them?

Just like I could have Dragons that breath fire, ice , poison, acid, lightning, force, color, thunder, psychic energy, slashing blades... but at some point... I have dragons. Do I need more? Do I need a dragon that breathes piercing spikes and is evil and hoards money? I've got so many choices for dragons, what would I even do with more of them?

We have so many different savage tribes of violent raiders who have primitive weapons and customs. Do we really need more? Or should we actually look into having less?
 


Useless Trivia Note: "Cooshee" is a phonetic approximation of Scottish/Irish (respectively) Gaelic "cù-sìth"/"cú sídhe". There were also elven cats in 1e, but they never attempted to name them "cat-sìth"/"cat sídhe" or give them a phonetic approximation. ¯\(ツ)
Probably just couldn't think of a catchy name for them.

A variety of cultists! A cult devoted to worshipping music notes! (Stolen from Scythe.)
Several of the bard colleges that aren't devoted to worshipping themselves probably.
A cult that worships bugs (everyone hates bugs)!
Children of Winter Druid sect. Cult of the daelkyr Valaara.
Cultists that worship an archfiend of terror
Lords of Dust. Church of the Mockery.
(mine's called "The Abomination") that try to appear as horrifying as possible, by sawing off pieces of their flesh and wearing masks of their victims' faces.
Definitely Church of the mockery.
A cult devoted to ghosts, trying to find a way to escape the afterlife!
That is like three of the major religions of Eberron.
 


Levistus's_Leviathan

Autistic DM (he/him)
I see no problems with the new Race definition taken by DnD.
The core rules should be independent from any setting.
Races, religion, gods, culture, society are all setting dependent.
^^^ Exactly this.

There's no reason why if I have a world where dwarves are plateau-dwelling hunters that use longbows and scimitars that they should have Stonecunning. There's absolutely no reason that Orcish or Drow culture on my world would be evil, as Gruumsh and Lolth don't exist.
 


Scribe

Hero
^^^ Exactly this.

There's no reason why if I have a world where dwarves are plateau-dwelling hunters that use longbows and scimitars that they should have Stonecunning. There's absolutely no reason that Orcish or Drow culture on my world would be evil, as Gruumsh and Lolth don't exist.
The major issue I have with this as the 'official packaged product provided by Wizards of the Coast (tm) D&D (tm) Game' is...you cannot sell me nothing. You cannot sell me a bunch of tables to put together a 'world' after rolling a bunch of D8-D100. It wont sell.

Tropes exist for a reason. From comfort, from nostalgia, from marketing, from ease of use, to any number of examples more or less specific.

For SOME, that kind of 'make your own path' works. For many, it simply doesnt.
 


Arial Black

Adventurer
No! What it means is that your villains need to have motivations for being villains. And "it's an orc, therefore evil" is not a motivation.
Agreed.

And I'd extend that to, "It's tribal, therefore evil" is equally not a motivation.

Therefore, 'tribal' is not insulting, just descriptive. Nothing wrong with tribal cultures.

So why can't orcs be 'tribal' again?
 
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Hey! No real world religions!
Find me some real world worshippers of D&D gods and I'll stop relentlessly dunking on them at every oppertunity I get. Until then? COME ON AND SLAM, WELCOME TO THE JAM.

Agreed.

And I'd extend that to, "It's tribal, therefore evil" is equally not a motivation.

Therefore, 'tribal' is not insulting, just descriptive. Nothing wrong with tribal cultures.

So why can't orcs be 'tribal' again?
Orcs should be treated as just people. You can have tribal orcs. You can have city orcs. You can have Business Orc

Its the "All orcs are X" that goes into problems.
 

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