D&D General When Did Core PC Races Gain Magic?

DND_Reborn

Legend
In 5E, High Elves get cantrips, Tieflings get spells, and other races/sub-races get magical spells/effects/powers, and it got me wondering:

When (what edition) did playable PC core races get magic as part of their race?

Now, I know Drow in Unearthed Arcana in AD&D kept their innate spell use for a number of spells usable 1/day; but that wasn't until Unearthed Arcana was released and even then the only race.

So, when did it become more commonplace for PC core races to get magic? I never played much 3E and no 4E, so I figured it might have been before 5E. Anyone know?
 

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the Jester

Legend
1e Unearthed Arcana svirfneblin also had innate magic- they could summon elementals at high enough levels. I think. It has been a looong time since I cracked open my UA and it isn't handy at the moment.

Other than that, I think the first time a core race got innate spells was probably 5e. I think maybe half-elves in 4e got a power from a different class or something? Can't remember, only DMed 4e and didn't actually play it as a player. But if that's correct, they could have started with a spell at first level.
 




DND_Reborn

Legend
1e Unearthed Arcana svirfneblin also had innate magic- they could summon elementals at high enough levels. I think. It has been a looong time since I cracked open my UA and it isn't handy at the moment.
Yep. I had forgotten about deep gnomes. It was at 6th level, they also had blur, blindness, etc. as well even at 1st level.

Oh yeah, that goes back to 1e! So depending on whether you count it, there you go.
Hmm... speaking with select mammals (not all animals like the spell) would be questionable for myself, but I probably wouldn't count it. Unearthed Arcana's Drow and Deep Gnomes definitely count, however.

Still, it seems like by comparison in 5E you have quite a bit more magic use by races, so I was curious if it was a 5E think or something that carried over from 3E or 4E?
 

Stormonu

Legend
Hmm... speaking with select mammals (not all animals like the spell) would be questionable for myself, but I probably wouldn't count it. Unearthed Arcana's Drow and Deep Gnomes definitely count, however.

Still, it seems like by comparison in 5E you have quite a bit more magic use by races, so I was curious if it was a 5E think or something that carried over from 3E or 4E?
I'd count it, as Speak With Animals, limited to burrowing mammals. That's a common theme throughout D&D, especially with elementally tied races - "works like this spell, but limited in this way (usually by element)".

2E Planescape I believe had a couple, as that was where we got the first appearance of tiefling, aasimar and if I recall correctly, genasi.

Races with spells (or spell-like abilities) tends to start appearing more often in 3E (and definately by Savage Species), especially late 3.5E in the Complete Races series.

In 4E, there were Eladrin who could teleport, that's coded as misty step in 5E, plus tieflings and a host of other races with supernatural backgrounds/abilities.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Limited innate spellcasting has been a thing for as long as I’ve played D&D, so at least 3.5e. It does seem like such race features have gotten more common with every edition though. In 3.5 there were a few races that could innately cast a spell or two once a day, and often they came with level adjustments. In 4e, most races had a unique Encounter Power, which were not spells as such, but functioned similarly enough. In 5e, a lot of those same abilities got translated into spells that a race could cast once and recovered on a short rest, and as we’ve seen, such abilities are now starting to get updated to Prof. times between long rests, and being usable with any spell slots you get from your class.

I’ll add that I don’t really recall many races granting free cantrips prior to 5e, but that seems fairly common now too.
 



Magic has been a thing for supplemental races since the end of 1st edition at least. A a lot depends on what you call "core".
 
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4e had teleporting eladrin and half elves and I think another elf getting spells
Technically speaking, half elves only got magic if they wanted magic. They could pick up one at-will from any other class, usable as an encounter power. There was even a feat to make it an actual at-will.

If the "core" term is important, then it was certainly no later than 3e (or 3.5e, not sure how much changed on this front). Gnomes have both speak with animals and some cantrips if they have at least 10 in Charisma. That's inherent spellcasting ability.

Magic above and beyond spellcasting that any MU could do? I don't remember that.
What does "above and beyond [what] any MU could do" mean? Because if that means "things an MU simply couldn't do ever," then no "core" race has ever had that. But if it means "things an MU could do, but as part of being your race," your confusion seems misplaced, because yes, that's what the elf race-as-class does, it gives you actual spells purely because you're an elf with experience.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
Complete Book of Humanoids lets you play Pixies and a few other races with innate magic. I know that's 2e, and people have 1e examples.

I would have to look into it, but I'm pretty sure you were allowed to play Aranea in Basic D&D, and don't they have magical powers?

Come to think of it, Basic has an adventure for playing fey/sylvan critters, though the name escapes me at the moment.
 


DND_Reborn

Legend
B/X or BECMI. Elves were a race and class and inherently had magic.
I was considering that about PCs, but since all it is really doing is the multiclass thing--I wasn't really counting it. 🤷‍♂️

Also, AD&D didn't do that, which I consider more a precursor to later editions than I would B/X-BECMI.

But it is an interesting point, especially when I looked up the Elf (under the monsters section):

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It was a valid edition and every elf had a spell. For B/X and BECMI, you couldn't make an elf that couldn't cast magic.
I think we can safely say every edition had core races gain magic... but that has become more common and more powerful as the editions went on.

edit: classes have gotten more magic too... in my time 2e-5e we have gone from clerics/druids getting 7 levels of spells and bards being 1/2 casters to all 3 getting full casting, added artificer (half caster) warlock (kind of a full caster) and sorcerer. We also now have subclasses for rogue and fighter that get spells and several that get magic non spell abilities...
 


GreyLord

Legend
Elves were races since OD&D.

If we want something since AD&D, I'd still go with Elves as has already been pointed out. It would date back to Unearthed Arcana though.

Wild Elves acted as if they had a constant animal friendship cast upon them.

Drow or Dark Elves had the ability to cast dancing lights, faerie fire, and darkness once a day. At 4th level they also gained the ability to cast detect magic, know alignment, and levitate. Female Dark Elves after 4th could cast clairvoyance, detect lie, suggestion, and dispel magic.

Deep Gnomes gained the ability to cast spell like abilitys once per day of blindness, blur, and change self. They also radiated non-detection as the spell.

I'd still count the BX and BECMI elfs first though, even though they are a class, they are ALSO a definate race. It's why it's race as class as we call it. BUT, if we discount that, we can still date it back to the AD&D period.

There may be things earlier than that, but I'd have open up my OD&D books and go through the strategic review and such to see.
 

Jaeger

That someone better
So, when did it become more commonplace for PC core races to get magic? I never played much 3E and no 4E, so I figured it might have been before 5E. Anyone know?

This happened when WOTC did a bunch of surveys basically asking players: “Wouldn’t extra magic for PC races be fun?”

And the players responded to those surveys and said: “Yes, more magic would be more fun! Could we have more cool powerz for our PC’s while you’re at it?”

And WOTC said: “Why yes, yes you can...”
 

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