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

Scribe

Hero
@Scribe I was just thinking about you and racial stat modifiers at lunch and I had an idea that may or may not satisfy you. Would the following be acceptable to you for a future 5.5e or 6e:
  1. The basic rules have floating stat bonus similar to TCoE and the UA, but no racial stat bonuses.
  2. All setting guides allow you to use the default character generation, or the racial stat bonuses assumed in this setting. And then it gives stat modifiers for every race available in that setting.
Would that work for you? Personally I like the base game to be as generic as possible and then add flavor in the settings. Anyway, just curious what you thought.
Yep, I'd be completely fine if this was an FR or setting specific thing.
 

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Faolyn

(she/her)
Again, I dont care if people have options. I dont care if Tasha's becomes the default, unless, they cease to provide my option as well. That is the issue.

They're not ceasing to provide your option. The option is there. You can put a halfling's +2 into Dex and a goliath's +2 into Str. Even if every single book they produce from now on has a floating +2 for ever race; even if they state that it's now RAW that every single published race has a floating +2; hell, even if they outright decide that it's now RAW that you can't put that +2 in their traditional attribute (which they'll never do), nobody is taking your option away to declare that, at your table while you run, halflings must have +2 Dex and goliaths must have +2 Str.
 

Scribe

Hero
They're not ceasing to provide your option. The option is there. You can put a halfling's +2 into Dex and a goliath's +2 into Str. Even if every single book they produce from now on has a floating +2 for ever race; even if they state that it's now RAW that every single published race has a floating +2; hell, even if they outright decide that it's now RAW that you can't put that +2 in their traditional attribute (which they'll never do), nobody is taking your option away to declare that, at your table while you run, halflings must have +2 Dex and goliaths must have +2 Str.
An open system is not the same as a default/restrictions based one. That is not to say they cannot coexist, but they are not the same.

It didn't pick up traction last time, but it has to do with the psychological profile of what people get out of games. Ref: MtG, Spike, Johnny, Timmy.
 



Scribe

Hero
I don't think they would do it, but I would love if this was type of the thing they provided with setting guides.
Even if it's 'heres the quick creation guide for X'.

Ultimately, I'm not going to buy generic. If I wanted that, there are multiple open systems to choose from.
 

Arial Black

Adventurer
OK, but that has nothing to do with allowing people to assign their +2/+1 as they wish.
I beg to differ.
1: There's a max cap on attributes in 5e anyway, which means that even if all goliaths started out with +2 in Strength and no halflings did, they could still both end up with 20 Str anyway. Just not at the same time.
And I would've gone the other way. I would have set the cap at 20+racial modifier.

And even as it is. it does affect first level. I've no problem with high level PCs getting higher stats, because every high level PC is going to get access to amazing abilities. But they have to earn it. They shouldn't be able to just claim to be stronger than a goliath at 1st level, any more than they should be able to choose to be the best fighter or best wizard in the world at 1st level. ALL these things should be earned by levelling up.
2: Strength, the ability score, is not a direct comparison to strength, the effect caused by muscles. It's an abstract ability to determine how much extra damage they do with weapons. Also, Small creatures can't use heavy weapons without a hefty penalty, which means they're limited in the amount of damage they can do anyway.
According to the PHB p175: "Strength measures bodily power, athletic training, and the extent to which you can exert raw physical force." So, a.) it is NOT just the extra damage they do with weapons, and b.) having high Dex (which halflings have) affects damage just as much as Str.
2a: In the real world, many small creatures are actually proportionately stronger than larger ones. I've read that a mouse can lift up to twice its body weight and can easily support its weight with one paw, while an elephant can't. Mice can also jump and climb--both functions of Strength in D&D--while elephants can't.
In the game Stormbringer (1980), and the Chaosium rules upon which they were based (RuneQuest), the Strength attribute described the proportional strength, and was combined with the Size attribute to see how much extra damage a creature dealt.

But that is definitely NOT the case with D&D 5e, or with any version of D&D.

We can test this! Let's go to the 5e Monster Manual and look up the entries for Elephant and Rat (since mice don't have an entry). If Str is absolute in 5e, elephants will be stronger than rats. But if Str is relative in 5e, rats will be stronger than elephants.

Let's have a look:-

Elephant (p322): Str 22

Rat (p335): Str 2

Conclusion: in D&D, strength is absolute, NOT proportionate.

3: Goliaths (and firbolgs, bugbears, orcs, loxodon, and centaurs) are always going to be naturally stronger than halflings (and gnomes, goblins, and kobolds) because goliaths can lift and carry things like Large creatures and Small creatures get a penalty to lifting and carrying things. So even if a halfling has a higher Strength than a goliath, it still won't be able to out-lift a goliath. And most people in the real world consider lifting capacity to be a better indication of innate physical strength than the ability to hit people, which is seen as a learned skill.

3a: Lots of tables barely even care about encumbrance or lifting abilities anyway, except at those in-game times when they have to lift a gate or bend a bar. And that's an Athletics roll, which is a skill that all goliaths have.
As mentioned above, in D&D the Strength ability score is a combination of several things, and lifting power is but one of them. Yes, there are ways to increase that aspect individually (like the Powerful Build trait), just like there are ways to increase athletic training individually (the Athletics skill, the Athlete feat). But they ALL are modifiers to their actual Strength score.
4: These rules apply only to PCs, of which there are usually no more than 4-6 in any given world. Assuming that any of those PCs actually are halflings (when there are so many races to choose from), then having one halfling be a muscle-bound steroid user among the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of halflings in that world isn't going to hurt anything--nor will that one 198-pound goliath weakling.
I do not see the Race modifications to only apply to the six PCs in the world! I think that is disingenuous. Those game mechanics apply to all members of that race, unless further rules say otherwise.

When we want to know what a race is like compared to humans, we look at what the racial modifiers are in addition to their traits.

And if you want to be a weak example of a goliath or a strong example of a halfling, we simulate that by applying our six rolled (or assigned or bought) scores to whatever abilities we want. So putting your 18 (or 15, whichever is your best) in Strength really does make you a steroid-using halfling, stronger than the average goliath (12.5) and in a great position to get even stronger with experience, which is how the game works!
5: Assuming a player even wants to be a a super-strong halfling, of course. Like the game-breaking influx of mountain dwarf wizards that never happened, there aren't likely to be that many players who desperately want to play a super-strong halfling. But there are going to be a few, so is it really that big a deal to let them?

6:. A bucolic halfling rarely has to carry a lot of heavy things at all, besides the occasional keg of ale or particularly large wheel of cheese. A halfling raised in a more strength-based society would develop a more muscular frame than one who wasn't. Likewise, a goliath raised in a culture that didn't require a lot of physical activity would be much more physically weak than one raised in a "traditional" goliath culture.
Which is why you can assign a big score to Strength if you want. But at least the strongest 1st level goliath will be stronger than the strongest 1st level halfling, and the world still makes sense!

A few days ago I posted that our new campaign will have a houserule that any race with a +2 racial modifier to any particular ability score may, at character creation, swap that +2 for any feat for which they qualify, unless that race already gives floating bonuses to ability scores. The upshot is that every single race can have that essential(!) +3 modifier to their prime stat at level 1 (if they choose the right half feat). It also widens the availability of feats at 1st level, while still leaving the set bonuses for the race as a whole so the world still makes sense.

I said I'd share the results of this houserule on the character creation of our group.

I had already developed a character idea as a variant human, and this new rule did not tempt me to change that concept.

Out of the other five players, one chose a variant human, one chose a non-variant human, one chose a half-elf (so the new rule had no effect on them), one chose a variant tiefling from Mordenkainen's (Glasya) but since they are also a sorcerer they chose to keep their racial +2 to Charisma, and the last is playing a dragonborn fighter and chose to keep their racial +2 Strength.

In the end, no-one took advantage of this houserule.
 


Chaosmancer

Legend
What has this got to do with elephants (or goliaths) being naturally stronger than mice (or halflings)? That the difference is NOT merely cultural! That a mouse (or halfling) raised by elephants (or goliaths) will not be stronger (on average) than an elephant (or goliath) raised by mice (or halflings)?

See, it always bothers me to go to the mice vs elephant debate. It is such an extreme example, no one could ever argue that a 0.68 pz mouse can move as much as a 13,000 lbs elephant.

Or we go to the classic 3 ft halfling compared to the 6.5 ft Goliath.

But, this debate doesn't just have those two. It isn't just halflings and Goliaths, so let's look at some other examples.

Why is a 5.5 ft 190 lb Orc just as strong as a 6.5 ft 225 lb Goliath? The goliath is a full foot and over 30 lbs bigger than the orc, clearly the Goliath should be stronger right? In fact, why is that same orc, at 5.5 ft and 190 lbs stronger than the 6.5 ft 215 lb Firbolg?

Why is there no difference in strength between a 5 ft 140 lbs lizardfolk, the 4.5 ft 100 lb High Elf, and the 3 ft 40 lb halfling? Surely the Ilizardfolk should be the strongest of the three, followed by the Elf, then the halfling right?

And yet, none of these differences actually matter, do they? We don't really care that despite being bigger, Lizardfolk aren't stronger than Elves.

Also, there is a fact that occasionally gets bandied about when we reach a certain point of these discussions. One I think really highlights the truly small number that these bonuses actually mean in the real world. The average difference between men and women in upper body strength is 40%. The average difference as written in the PHB between a 40 lb halfling and a 225 lb goliath is 5%.


And also, this conversation focuses on strength, because it is easier to throw those numbers down, isn't it absurd to make a halfling as strong as a Goliath!

But you know what the PHB does that you haven't found absurd? The Halfling with their 40 lbs is just as tough as the Goliath, both have a +1 Con.

And who should be tougher, more resistant to disease and have a better endurance? The Elf, the Gnome or the Kenku?

Why are Goblins and Kobolds as graceful and lithe as the Elves, all three have +2 Dex?

And then we get to the mental scores. How would we like to define who is more charismatic? Or who has more wisdom? How do we even measure those things biologically?
 


Chaosmancer

Legend
And I would've gone the other way. I would have set the cap at 20+racial modifier.

And even as it is. it does affect first level. I've no problem with high level PCs getting higher stats, because every high level PC is going to get access to amazing abilities. But they have to earn it. They shouldn't be able to just claim to be stronger than a goliath at 1st level, any more than they should be able to choose to be the best fighter or best wizard in the world at 1st level. ALL these things should be earned by levelling up.

This is a personal preference and already not supported by the rules.
In the game Stormbringer (1980), and the Chaosium rules upon which they were based (RuneQuest), the Strength attribute described the proportional strength, and was combined with the Size attribute to see how much extra damage a creature dealt.

But that is definitely NOT the case with D&D 5e, or with any version of D&D.

We can test this! Let's go to the 5e Monster Manual and look up the entries for Elephant and Rat (since mice don't have an entry). If Str is absolute in 5e, elephants will be stronger than rats. But if Str is relative in 5e, rats will be stronger than elephants.

Let's have a look:-

Elephant (p322): Str 22

Rat (p335): Str 2

Conclusion: in D&D, strength is absolute, NOT proportionate.

Which would say is stronger, without looking?

A tiger, an Ape or a Horse?

Draft and Warhorses -> Str 18
Tiger -> 17
Ape -> 16

Here how about this.

What is stronger, a spider or a frog?

The spider obviously. Strength 2 compared to Strength 1. They are just as strong as a viper or a rat.

Seeing the problem?

Which is why you can assign a big score to Strength if you want. But at least the strongest 1st level goliath will be stronger than the strongest 1st level halfling, and the world still makes sense!

Does it though, when you really dig down into all of these numbers?
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
You are right.

Bring back racial penalties via negative modifiers and caps!

Return sanity to the Realms!

Or accept that this never made a lot of sense vis a vis realism anyways, so we aren't exactly losing much.

I mean, a spider able to casually drag around 60 lbs of weight (drag capacity is str score * 30) while being stronger than the frogs that generally hunt insects and arachnids like spiders?

I mean, when was the last time you saw a house cat capable of grabbing a baby and effortlessly running away with them (str 3 * 15 is 45 lbs of base carrying capacity)? While at the same time, being unable to jump up, because the jumping rules for a high jump are 3+str mod, which for a cat is -4, so they can't jump up onto anything, per the rules.
 

Scribe

Hero
Or accept that this never made a lot of sense vis a vis realism anyways, so we aren't exactly losing much.

I mean, a spider able to casually drag around 60 lbs of weight (drag capacity is str score * 30) while being stronger than the frogs that generally hunt insects and arachnids like spiders?

I mean, when was the last time you saw a house cat capable of grabbing a baby and effortlessly running away with them (str 3 * 15 is 45 lbs of base carrying capacity)? While at the same time, being unable to jump up, because the jumping rules for a high jump are 3+str mod, which for a cat is -4, so they can't jump up onto anything, per the rules.
I'm not going to throw out a system that at a basic level allows for the mechanical expression of different humanoid biologically distinct species just because it breaks down.

'it doesn't work, accept that attributes are irrelevant between races' just isn't the answer to me.

It's simple, it's worked for decades.

It's like people who hate alignment. The 9 values of alignment have transcended the game but people want to throw it out for some reason.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
And I would've gone the other way. I would have set the cap at 20+racial modifier.
Feel free to houserule that, then. Pick a stat for every race and say "that stat can reach 22 without the need for magic items, wishes, or epic boons.

And even as it is. it does affect first level. I've no problem with high level PCs getting higher stats, because every high level PC is going to get access to amazing abilities. But they have to earn it. They shouldn't be able to just claim to be stronger than a goliath at 1st level, any more than they should be able to choose to be the best fighter or best wizard in the world at 1st level. ALL these things should be earned by levelling up.
Imagine that you're starting a new game and you have a player who wants to be a halfling Strength-based fighter and nobody wants to be a goliath (or other +2 Strength/Powerful Build race) of any class. Say that the other players are going to be playing a cleric, rogue, and wizard. You know, a typical party. The halfling is going to be their only full martial. Why shouldn't that halfling be able to put that +2 in Strength? Because of the idea that it might not be "realistic" in comparison to a race that isn't in the party and, therefore, might never show up in-game?

Or heck, another way. One player decides that they want to play a halfling wizard or sorcerer. Are you going to say they can't put a +2 in Int or Cha because they might be smarter than a gnome or have more personality than a tiefling?


According to the PHB p175: "Strength measures bodily power, athletic training, and the extent to which you can exert raw physical force." So, a.) it is NOT just the extra damage they do with weapons, and b.) having high Dex (which halflings have) affects damage just as much as Str.
Yes, and? Why can't a halfling have a lot of athletic training?

Let's have a look:-

Elephant (p322): Str 22

Rat (p335): Str 2

Conclusion: in D&D, strength is absolute, NOT proportionate.
Hmm, now let's compare halflings and goliaths. Oh, wait, they don't have their own statblocks. I guess they have whatever stats we want them to have.

Edit: As a note, all of the races, none of which are bigger than Medium, can be almost as strong as a Huge elephant. Does that make any sense?


As mentioned above, in D&D the Strength ability score is a combination of several things, and lifting power is but one of them. Yes, there are ways to increase that aspect individually (like the Powerful Build trait), just like there are ways to increase athletic training individually (the Athletics skill, the Athlete feat). But they ALL are modifiers to their actual Strength score.
And yet, you can divorce skills from stats. It's in the rules.

I do not see the Race modifications to only apply to the six PCs in the world! I think that is disingenuous. Those game mechanics apply to all members of that race, unless further rules say otherwise.
5e treats NPCs as different than PCs. That's why PCs get Hit Dice based on their class and NPCs get Hit Dice based on their size. A halfling barbarian gets a d12 for hit points and a halfling cleric gets d8 for hit points, but if they were NPCs they would get a d6 for being Small.

It's why NPCs can have abilities that aren't in any class and lack many of the abilities that are in a class. It's why NPCs generally don't have archetypes, except for a handful of casters. It's why the Champion NPC has 22 hit dice and is still only CR 9 with a +4 proficiency bonus, where a PC who somehow made it to 22nd level would have a proficiency bonus of +6.

It has been said in multiple places that when you create an NPC, you can just put a racial trait or two on a premade statblock; you don't have to put them all on.

When we want to know what a race is like compared to humans, we look at what the racial modifiers are in addition to their traits.
Sure, fine. Halflings, as a race, are typically the same Strength as humans. Goliaths, as a race, are typically a little stronger. Everyone agrees to this already.

Why does every single individual in that race have to be the same?

Which is why you can assign a big score to Strength if you want. But at least the strongest 1st level goliath will be stronger than the strongest 1st level halfling, and the world still makes sense!
A goliath can put an 8 (10) in Strength and a halfling can put a 16 for Strength, and somehow that's OK for you. But heavens forbid that can choose where they put the +2, because maybe that exact same thing would happen?

That doesn't make sense.

It also doesn't make sense that one or even a handful of halflings being really strong would make the world not make sense.

Out of the other five players, one chose a variant human, one chose a non-variant human, one chose a half-elf (so the new rule had no effect on them), one chose a variant tiefling from Mordenkainen's (Glasya) but since they are also a sorcerer they chose to keep their racial +2 to Charisma, and the last is playing a dragonborn fighter and chose to keep their racial +2 Strength.

In the end, no-one took advantage of this houserule.
So what you're saying is that your fears of a super-strong halfling and a weak goliath didn't happen, and people chose to play whatever they wanted to play regardless of where the +2 was? Like everyone here has been saying for the past 90 pages? Wow! Thanks for proving our points!
 
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It's like people who hate alignment. The 9 values of alignment have transcended the game but people want to throw it out for some reason.
Because it's an overly reductive, biased, and vague way of modeling ethics and ideology that carries with it unspoken setting assumptions. It's a meme at this point. There's at least a hundred different ways to better model a character's personal values that have been used in RPGs by now.

This isn't even a case of "perfect being the enemy of the good", it's acknowledging that game design has moved on since the 90s.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
An open system is not the same as a default/restrictions based one. That is not to say they cannot coexist, but they are not the same.
But unless they're actively saying "you can't do this anymore," you can continue to do it.

It didn't pick up traction last time, but it has to do with the psychological profile of what people get out of games. Ref: MtG, Spike, Johnny, Timmy.
I don't know who those are.
 

Azzy

KMF DM
Scro is a horrible name, it sounds as scrotum.
Yeah, TSR sometimes had horrible names. Scro is just "orcs" bacwards, which is bad enough. But, given your comment, it looks like they really dropped the balls on this one.

Worst, still, is the Mystaran city of Specularum (which sounds like speculum). They wisely changed the name when the brought Mystara into AD&D.
 

Scribe

Hero
But unless they're actively saying "you can't do this anymore," you can continue to do it.


I don't know who those are.
Just as everyone could arbitrarily assign ASI at their table.

One approach takes work, one doesn't.

They are the names given to hypothetical players of Magic.

Spike just wants to win, whatever will give them the best chance to win, they play.

Johnny wants to win, but they want to do it a specific way, either a unique win condition, a style of play (archetype) or even just with a specific card.

Timmy is all about a splashy card, a big monster, and winning is secondary to doing what they aimed to do, cast a spell, summon a monster and attack, whatever.

Magic designs cards within the same set for all 3.

I'm not asking for you to not have your option. I'm not saying only Spike gets to play.

Why can't Wizards support my option too?
 



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