D&D General What it means for a race to end up in the PHB, its has huge significance

Yaarel

🇮🇱He-Mage
See, I guess that's my point. Races are thin mechanically. The difference is negligible. Class and Background are both going to make far more difference to a character than the mechanics of a race. Now, the flavor of a race? That makes huge differences. People play their dragonborn or half-elf or dwarf or human differently. Not because one has a slightly higher stealth score than another but because virtually all the markers for race (or species, I guess we should be saying now) are based in flavor, not mechanics.

This is a legacy element that just hasn't really faded completely. In earlier editions, it made an enormous difference what race you chose for your character. It limited your maximum levels in a class, limited your stats (in a game where stats were very difficult to change), impacted what classes you could choose, and even allowed things like multiclassing.

Race used to have mechanical impact. But, now? The mechanical differences between any of the races is so slight that they might as well all be "featureless gray blobs". I mean, you mention having a cantrip. But, which cantrip defines you as a half-elf? Or an elf for that matter? Does taking Druidcraft make me more "elfy" than Poison Spray? Maybe Spare the Dying?

See, that's the point I keep trying to make here. Virtually none of the mechanics actually define the race. There are a few - dragon breath for dragon born, hellish rebuke for tieflings, I'd argue that dwarves having a speed of 25 but not being slowed by heavy armor is a defining trait - but a cantrip? Really? Something that nearly every class gets anyway? And something that every class is a single feat away from having? That does not say "elf" to me at all.
I feel the Elf species should cast any and every spell of any class without any spell component. The spellcasting itself is innate. The benefit is negligible and mostly for flavor, but for a species, flavor is the point.
 

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I feel the Elf species should cast any and every spell of any class without any spell component. The spellcasting itself is innate. The benefit is negligible and mostly for flavor, but for a species, flavor is the point.
I assume you mean “doesn’t need material components” rather than “can cast any spell”?

How much material components matter varies between tables. At mine this would be a massively overpowered ability, even if you excluded those with a gold cost.
 

litter of kittens. Mum was black, dad was ginger at white. Most of the kitten were black, one was ginger and white. There were zero ginger and black, black and white, or ginger black and white kittens.
Things like that are often controlled by a single gene. You either have one or the other, and barring insanely rare mutations it's binary.

Species hybridisation is literally tens of thousands of genes, creating a more even blend of traits. This can be seen in practically every hybrid species which exists today.
 

Things like that are often controlled by a single gene. You either have one or the other, and barring insanely rare mutations it's binary.

Species hybridisation is literally tens of thousands of genes, creating a more even blend of traits. This can be seen in practically every hybrid species which exists today.
Sure, genetics is immensely complicated. The idea that a hybrid is half way between is possible, but far from certain. When it comes to cat coat colours, gender is a factor. Ligers are bigger than both lions and tigers. The hybrid might have characteristics that are not found in either parent.

And of course, in Iolanthe, the character who is half human half fairy, is top half, bottom half! :)
 
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Hussar

Legend
Things like that are often controlled by a single gene. You either have one or the other, and barring insanely rare mutations it's binary.

Species hybridisation is literally tens of thousands of genes, creating a more even blend of traits. This can be seen in practically every hybrid species which exists today.
Not a biologist here.

Aren't most vertebrate hybrids sterile?
 



Not a biologist here.

Aren't most vertebrate hybrids sterile?
It varies massively depending on individual species genetics, which gender each parent is, which gender the offspring is, individual variations and mutations, and how closely related the two species are.

The most famous ones are mules and hinnys, which are near universally sterile. There have been odd cases where they have reproduced, but as a rule it doesn't happen. This is due to equine chromosomes being a bit of a disaster, and they love to split and form new chromosomes. The result is that even different subspecies of zebra struggle to interbreed.

The other famous one is ligers and tigons. Unlike mules/hinnys, the females of these hybrids are fertile, though the males are sterile. There has been some suggestion that sapiens and neanderthals fell into this category.

Then there are species like wolves and coyotes, or various species of wildcat, which have no barriers beyond behavior which prevents freely crossing. The two species produce viable and fertile offspring easily, and as a result there is still gene flow between the two populations. Clymene dolphins are a hybrid between striped and spinner dolphins, but eventually speciated into their own unique population. Grolars and Pizzlys seem to follow this trend, though it's not confirmed. There are growing numbers of them currently where the rangers of grizzlys and polar bears overlap due to climate change.

And that's just mammals. If you go beyond that it gets really weird really fast. There are even cases which are a pain for conservation, such as hybrid japanese/chinese giant salamanders outcompeting pure japanese giant salamanders, or domestic/european wildcats swamping the gene pool and resulting in a population unable to survive the cold.
 
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There has been some suggestion that sapiens and neanderthals fell into this category.
Modern Europeans have a small fraction fraction of Neanderthal DNA. So the production of fertile offspring must be possible! As I understand it, the viability of offspring depends on not inheriting incompatible DNA on a shared gene. If we assume the two species of human have 99% of the same genes (I’m not sure an exact figure is known) then if the 1% that is different gets left out in the genetic shuffle the offspring is viable.
 

The Scottish wildcat is an endangered species because of interbreeding with domestic cats. It’s not that they don’t have babies, it’s that the babies aren’t wildcats.

From a hard-headed evolutionary perspective, you could accept that the domestic cat is better adapted to life in Scotland, and evolution is just doing its stuff.
 

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