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

teitan

Legend
So I have read through almost this entire thread and ummm... all the fixes and such that people are throwing out, have you heard of this game called Pathfinder Second Edition that does just about every fix to the classic D&D race system listed here?
 

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Aldarc

Legend
So I have read through almost this entire thread and ummm... all the fixes and such that people are throwing out, have you heard of this game called Pathfinder Second Edition that does just about every fix to the classic D&D race system listed here?
PF2 has its own issues when it comes to ancestries. Even if there are floating +2 ASIs to cover it up, I'm not a fan of ancestries getting -2 ASI.
 

Business Orc
God I kind of want to own that as a brand. I could sell brutalist-but-functional office equipment, maybe expanding into clothing later.

What I’m thinking about making is a table. Monsters down the left, stereotypes across the top. Check boxes.
This table needs to exist! Drow are going to be basically just a bunch of checked boxes.
 

God I kind of want to own that as a brand. I could sell brutalist-but-functional office equipment, maybe expanding into clothing later.


This table needs to exist! Drow are going to be basically just a bunch of checked boxes.
I would buy that kind of clothes.

it would need a list of stereotypes and ways to have more than one as few places have only one.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
So I have read through almost this entire thread and ummm... all the fixes and such that people are throwing out, have you heard of this game called Pathfinder Second Edition that does just about every fix to the classic D&D race system listed here?
I agree that PF2 is pretty much the ideal from a game mechanic standpoint.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
lol where does that garbage* even come from.

Never in my life, MY WHOLE 40ish year life, have I associated a fantasy race, with a real group of people.

Not one time.
I mean, there are probably a dozen threads here where folks explain what you’re missing.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
No, I'll never buy it. There is zero, literally zero, connection to me between Orcs, and any real world segment of the population.

Zero.

If people want to bemoan something like Arabian Nights vs a mythical 'Near East' culture of humans, you at least have a leg to stand on.

Orcs = Black people is one of the dumbest things I've ever read on the internet.

If we are talking about 'language of the oppressor/oppressed' that is STILL something different.
You seem to be aggressively dedicated to refusing to get it.
 


TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Yeah we are seriously debating on it being our system of choice after my Theros campaign. I like 5e a lot but it’s not very deep and I have a pretty hard core crowd.
To clarify, I meant that it's the ideal in terms of presenting its ancestry rules; although I do have a lot of appreciation for PF2 as a system. My groups have been steadily moving in the "more simplicity" direction, though.
 


Levistus's_Leviathan

Autistic DM (he/him)
This is a part of a post of mine from a different site forum, but it applies here:

"People (or the "Twitter mob") are just overreacting/too-sensitive-nowadays/Races have no bearing on the real world"

Let's tackle the first half before the second one. People are not "too sensitive". Humans evolved senses for a reason. It's important to our existence. If we didn't have empathy or emotional senses, we wouldn't be "human". It's better to understand why someone else may be offended by something and trying to fix that thing than just blow them off and pretend like they're overreacting. Just because something doesn't hurt you doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt someone else. It's a good thing that people are more vocal about what causes them emotional pain/discomfort nowadays. That means that we're progressing as a people and a community. Being more aware/in touch with both our own emotions and the feelings of others will make the world a better place. Society teaches us that the emotions of males are wrong and "manly" people toughen up and aren't supposed to cry. Society teaches us that women are too emotional and thus can't handle serious jobs, such as ones in the government and so on. These teachings are sexist and detrimental to our society. It's better to have and acknowledge our emotions than it is to pretend like they don't exist and shut ourselves off from the outside world.

Furthermore, D&D races are based off of the real world, whether it's directly or indirectly. We, and the people who created settings like Greyhawk, the Forgotten Realms, and Mystara, are only human and thus biased due to the world around us. Whether or not Orcs were intended to offend people of color is irrelevant. I unintentionally offend people all the time, as does everyone else. It's bound to happen, as we are only human and thus are imperfect. The text in D&D used to describe Orcs mirrors the language used to derogate people of color for centuries (probably even for millennia). For as long as humans have had different societies/cultures, we've been using rational to put down/dehumanize others. Here are just a few examples:

  • "They're primitive"
  • "They're ugly"
  • "They breed like rabbits"
  • "They are inherently evil"
  • "They are inherently stupid"
  • "They can't control their emotions"
  • "They're genetically inferior"
  • "They were cursed by God and/or worship evil gods/idols"
All of those are used to describe orcs in D&D, and they've also been used to disparage people of color and other marginalized groups for an uncountable amount of years.

It does not matter whether or not Orcs, Drow, and other fantasy were intended to represent real life peoples and cultures. They mirror the language, and thus are a sensitive topic that can/do make them feel uncomfortable/unsafe in our hobby. If D&D is meant to be anything, it's meant to be inclusive. How many of this have used this hobby to indirectly deal with other problems that have been happening in our lives? D&D is the escape for many of us. We should let it be an escape for anyone that wants to play it. We know what this hobby can do and should share it with others.
 


Faolyn

(she/her)
No, I'll never buy it. There is zero, literally zero, connection to me between Orcs, and any real world segment of the population. [...] If we are talking about 'language of the oppressor/oppressed' that is STILL something different.

NOBODY is saying that orcs are supposed to directly represent Black people or any other people. It's the way they are treated both in- and out-of-game that parallels real-world bigotry. That's why I referenced that part of Volo's that referred to "domesticated" but still savage orcs. Do you understand what I meant by that?
 

To clarify, I meant that it's the ideal in terms of presenting its ancestry rules; although I do have a lot of appreciation for PF2 as a system. My groups have been steadily moving in the "more simplicity" direction, though.
5e's problem is not the simplicity but lack of width, too little variety.
depth is complexity but too much mechanical depth just clutters everything up.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
No they are not.

I'm Canadian. I grew up beside First Nation reserves. I grew up learning about First Nation's cultures. We shared classes. My great great grandmother is First Nations.
Good for you? Did you learn about forced re-education and state schools where kids were beaten for speaking their native languages, in Canada, within living memory? Most Canadians I know only learned of those things when the internet helped them see stories from First Nations folk who lived it.
You are taking the worst possible view, and saying thats the view still held, and that its somehow Orcs = Natives.

Its just flat out wrong.
No, that isn't what people are saying. I don't understand how it is possible to not understand that "the language used in this book is almost word for word the same langauge used to describe Indiginous people by the people trying to annihilate and/or enslave them, and thus makes people very uncomfortable, especially when the language is being used to describe a people that the author knows players want to play as a character" is not the same thing as "orcs=Natives".

It's genuinely hard for me to even fathom how a person could manage to not understand the difference.
It might be worth a moment to consider that as an RPG, the very essence of the game is to kill things and take thier stuff rather than negotiate peace treatise and cultural exchange with them. Maybe the whole premise of the game is inherently flawed and should be jettisoned?
This is absurd on it's face.
How about portraying tribal orcs as people who CAN be reasoned with?
That's literally what most of the people you're railing against are asking for.
Does that mean that no story from now on is allowed to have a villain? Because whatever group that villain belongs to will bring out the response, "How DARE you suggest that people of (villains group) are villains!"
You come across with these hyperbolic nonsensical queries as if you are intentionally just trolling the conversation.
Literally no one is suggesting anything remotely similar to "no groups can be villainous".
How about not portraying them as 'tribal'.

How about we as gamers and game designers rub two creativities together and give them a culture that isn't directly ripping off folks who have been traditionally brutalized by our culture?
Well, no. Not portraying them as exclusively tribal, yes. Not including tribal communities at all, no. We don't fix racism in a game by whitewashing it.
And like I said, Kingdom of Many-Arrows, they are already (how old is that arc now?) moving away from this.
They did, until 5e came along and the Kingdom fell apart because orcs are savages who can't build a proper society, apparently. Not at all an uncomfortably familiar thing to read for someone whose people have been described that way in texts books they were forced to read as children in schools where they were punished for speaking their native language.
I dont have issue with 'in game/universe' questions of racism, genocide (how many goblinoids have we killed in our lives folks as players?) I'm ONLY saying, that to equate in game monster races with actual people, is a bridge too far.
And yet, it is very very clear that Volos and other parts of 5e and older lore does so.
I'm saying that if we are going to advocate that the game is based around colonial tropes of using violence against inferior species to obtain thier riches, maybe the game should stop and we can all go onto something else?
But it isn't. I've literally never seen a single group play that way, I can't think of any actual play shows that do so, I've seen no traffic on social media that suggests that the wave of new players who are defining the game for themselves now play that way. DnD is becoming, year by year, a game about playing heroes.
Or maybe we should force penalties for resorting to violence (such as earning no xp for encounters that end in combat) and bulking up on nonviolent systems, classes and spells as an alternative.

I dunno. Like most of these threads, we argue about the problem and then shrug when solutions are called for...
Violence isn't the problem, the direction and nature of the violence is. 5e tried to go more old school than 3.5 and 4e with the depiction of "monster" races, resulting in the fall of Many Arrows in FR and a return to talking about orcs like Custer talked about Native Americans while trying to genocide them, and that is the problem. Not the fact that the game features combat a lot.
I'm willing to accept a lot of things, but when balors are just misunderstood, I'll settle on agreeing to disagree.

(Starts playing Sympathy for the Devil)
Balors are elementals. Even a djinn is a creature that has parents and can have children. Demons are spawned from the abyss fully formed. Devils are created by erasing the indivuality of a damned soul and then torturing it into a new form as a devil, I think? Something like that. The other fiends are dumb, and the game would be better without them.
That's legit part of the setting, and yes its ugly, and yes its brushed over.
The solution to which is fairly easy, as you yourself point out later, quoted below.
I dunno. But if we are to argue that the monsters aren't antagonists then they have a right to life same as anyone. Good luck.
Yes. That doesn't interfere with the game at all. If you replace every creature with a human in every 5e adventure (I haven't read any reprints, as I don't experience nostalgia and thus couldn't possibly care less about them), the adventure works fine. Evil person does evil thing, good guys stop them.
It could totally be done. You just dont have any kind of mono-cultures at all, you need a lot more world building, a lot more definition around how the world functions, and your adventures would become much more 'this villainy was performed by a being named Bob, go correct it.'.

I dont think thats an impossible scenario.
Absolutely. As the same people who have a problem with how orcs are written about have been saying, how dwarves are written is also not great. Dwarves and Elves are pretty....model minority, in depiction, for a start, and like with orcs the way to fix that is to not define a race as having a defined personality and nature that they can't really change or deviate from.

A quick shorthand for this would simply be to treat Elves as "people who grow up speaking French" and treat them as having something like the number of cultures as French speakers do IRL.

Why? They are thinking, they have a system of rank. Yes they are magical, but where's the line in the sand for you?
They're not living creatures. Demons especially are literally elementals whose element is Destructive Evil That Seeks To Annihilate All Things.

But I also have no problem with a setting where fiends can be more complex than that. It would hardly be the first fantasy world wherein that is the case.
 

Scribe

Hero
NOBODY is saying that orcs are supposed to directly represent Black people or any other people. It's the way they are treated both in- and out-of-game that parallels real-world bigotry. That's why I referenced that part of Volo's that referred to "domesticated" but still savage orcs. Do you understand what I meant by that?
I'm more than happy to drop the topic, I get you, and someone (I cant find it at a quick look) had a good post explaining the position.

I only mention it because I saw it more than once this mention of there being some connection or whatever and I never have seen anything so clear, yet it keeps being brought up.

I understand what you are saying in terms of parallels with issues of race, bigotry, colonialism, genocide, etc, etc, etc. It was the specific call out that I had seen more than once about Orc = Black, that I took issue with.

Again though, as someone else said here, these issues wont be solved here and now, and its not something I, will continue with.

I understand what you are saying.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
When we get to the point where we meet orcs and wonder, "Are these good ones, or bad ones?" we will have made progress.
So, in the Essentials Box adventure, as I ran it, there are two groups of orcs. The ones you meet by the dwarven dig site are neutral, just folk trying to get away from something. The dwarves I played as split, with one dwarf leader embarassed by his partner (what I'm queer and the adventure needed some queerness in it for believability) being reluctant to help them "because orcs can't be trusted".

The other group are Gruumsh cultists, which in that game I defined specifically to the ranger who had Orcs as a favored enemy as meaning, they exclusively worship Gruumsh, a god steeped in wrath and conquest, whereas most orcs worship many orcish and non-racial gods, and in that more normal practice Gruumsh is seen as a god of ecstatic frenzy, justified wrath, the strength to stand against seemingly stronger enemies, and a goad to compete and excel and challenge eachother, a dangerous but ultimately not evil god. The cultist tribe was known to eat humanoids, kill the weak simply out of contempt for weakness, etc, and thus worked as a sort of "kill on sight" enemy.
 

If you say "we have got enough races and classes" other can say "we have enough crunch, feats, spells, magic items, subclasses, monster pets, dragons..". But some players are willing to spend their money to buy more sourcebooks, by WotC or by 3PPs.

I don't want races to be too typecasted into certains classes (combat, stealth or spellcasting) but neither too floating Atribute Scoore Increase. Sometimes I wish to create races with dual classes, for example a spellrager orc (primal spellcasting for frenzy state), or a bluesking goblin stalker (stealth + psionic powers), or a swordsage halfling with a martial maneuver to jump on the head ot taller enemies. Like the fashion tendencies not too identical neither too different.

In the last decades the orcs from the speculative fiction have changed, evolutioned, and not always are so evil like the ones from Tolkien's work. Some players also would rather some opportunity with "evil humanoids" to find a solution by means of diplomacy. It is also a victory when you save the day avoiding a combat thanks the right words and good means. Other times the players wants to be the "bad guys".

Other times our suspension of belief has got a limit, for example shooter players don't believe the movies where the hero is enough lucky to avoid bullets, or even a martia art champion against gunslingers. Other thing is a fan of strategic wargames who know armies need a lot of supplies can't believe a lost tribe of wild and crazy bloodthirsty humanoids can survive, grow demographically (not future lack of preys by too much hunt?) and even dare to attack villages in the frontiers without worring too much about the revenge by the feudal lords against the killers and kidnappers of their "loved" paytaxes.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
So, in the Essentials Box adventure, as I ran it, there are two groups of orcs. The ones you meet by the dwarven dig site are neutral, just folk trying to get away from something. The dwarves I played as split, with one dwarf leader embarassed by his partner (what I'm queer and the adventure needed some queerness in it for believability) being reluctant to help them "because orcs can't be trusted".

The other group are Gruumsh cultists, which in that game I defined specifically to the ranger who had Orcs as a favored enemy as meaning, they exclusively worship Gruumsh, a god steeped in wrath and conquest, whereas most orcs worship many orcish and non-racial gods, and in that more normal practice Gruumsh is seen as a god of ecstatic frenzy, justified wrath, the strength to stand against seemingly stronger enemies, and a goad to compete and excel and challenge eachother, a dangerous but ultimately not evil god. The cultist tribe was known to eat humanoids, kill the weak simply out of contempt for weakness, etc, and thus worked as a sort of "kill on sight" enemy.
I'm not trying to be obtuse here, but is that NOT how pretty much everyone runs their games? I'm very far from being any kind of paragon of wokeness, but that's how I've run humanoid monsters since I've been a teenager (which was 25+ years ago). If you want something the PCs can kill with no discussion, you use undead, elementals, constructs, demons, or creepy alien monsters (like illithids).
 

If you say "we have got enough races and classes" other can say "we have enough crunch, feats, spells, magic items, subclasses, monster pets, dragons..". But some players are willing to spend their money to buy more sourcebooks, by WotC or by 3PPs.

I don't want races to be too typecasted into certains classes (combat, stealth or spellcasting) but neither too floating Atribute Scoore Increase. Sometimes I wish to create races with dual classes, for example a spellrager orc (primal spellcasting for frenzy state), or a bluesking goblin stalker (stealth + psionic powers), or a swordsage halfling with a martial maneuver to jump on the head ot taller enemies. Like the fashion tendencies not too identical neither too different.

In the last decades the orcs from the speculative fiction have changed, evolutioned, and not always are so evil like the ones from Tolkien's work. Some players also would rather some opportunity with "evil humanoids" to find a solution by means of diplomacy. It is also a victory when you save the day avoiding a combat thanks the right words and good means. Other times the players wants to be the "bad guys".

Other times our suspension of belief has got a limit, for example shooter players don't believe the movies where the hero is enough lucky to avoid bullets, or even a martia art champion against gunslingers. Other thing is a fan of strategic wargames who know armies need a lot of supplies can't believe a lost tribe of wild and crazy bloodthirsty humanoids and survive, grow demograpl
 

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