View Full Version : Mechanics For Creating Races

Rob Knotts
2007-07-15, 04:14 PM
I'm almost certain anything and everything I'm about to suggest has been published in numerous sources, but it still seems to elude the common knowledge of every D&D message board I've ever been on. And by all means, if there's any advice you can add please do so.

Ever since D&D 3e first came out, I've seen over and over again people designing new races by looking official racial packages in the PHB and coming up with thier own.

It's tried & true tradition, but it has an inherent limitation in that it has to be introduced at first level, with non-scaling numerical advantages that become less important as you earn higher bonuses simply from leveling, and the potential need for Level Adjustment that can keep characters forever behind thier peers in exchange for a set of minor or effectively short-term advantages.

But creating racial packages for 1st level characters isn't a bad idea in/of itself, nor is it the end-all-be-all of race creation.

There are several solutions to creating racial packages that allow for greater benefits as the character progresses with incurring an LA at first level and slowing down that progression in the first place.


Races can have thier own feats, all with the built-in prerequisite that the character start off as a member of the appropriate race.

This is a particularly good way working in specialized combat or action bonuses with unbalacing 1st level characters.

The main problem comes with feat trees: characters only have a limited number of feats available, and they aren't going to see a racial feat as attractive if it interferes with acquiring chains of normal feats. The solution is to create racial feats that: can replace normal feats as prerequisites themselves or create seperate feat trees based mostly or entirely on racial feats.


Racial spells can be a good way of introducing LA-free magical abilities. If the favored class for the race is an Arcane spellcaster, you can offer an arcane racial spell which is essentially a Divine spell that would otherwise be unavaible to the favored class.

Or a racial spell might be standard Level X spell available to member of the race as a Level X-1 spell limited to a very specialized effect.

Also, in place of a magical ability at 1st level you could have members of the race start out with special benefits when using specific spells from the favored class.

This would give members of the race a particular edge when using that spell without the need or LA because the character would still need to earn the spell as a normal part of class levelling.

I would be very wary of this last option, however, as my Spell-Fu and Metamagic-Fu is weak at best.

Prestige Classes

Of all the options for creating classes, this seems to be most overlooked, racial PrCs seem most often to be created after a race is introduced, not at the same time. When creating a race always consider what (if any) PrCs will exist specifically for the race you're creating.

Not only can PrCs avoid incurring LA for a beginning character, but they can also offer the character a whole host of specialized abilities, and making certain abilities only available at certain level offers the prospect of allowing some abilities to scale to higher-level characters.

Magic Items

Items created to be used by members of a specific race can also be a handy way of avoiding having to introduce unbalancing abilities to racial packages for 1st level characters.

However, this will do little to earn a player's interest in the race unless there's some sort of structure set up for PCs of said race to have reliable access to these items: All McGuffins are awarded a Wand of Plot Healing upon reaching 3rd level and completing thier rite of passage.

Zeta Kai
2007-07-15, 07:24 PM
Racial feats, PrC's, & magic items already exist (see Races of the Wild, Races of Stone, Races of Destiny, Races of the Dragon, & Races of Eberron). As for racial spells, what do you have in mind? Can you come up with an example?

Rob Knotts
2007-07-15, 07:52 PM
Savage Species and Races of Faerun* are the only 3x race books I've owned, but I was under the impression that most WotC race supplements include race-specfic spells of some kind.

And keep in mind, I'm not trying to break any new ground here, I'm just trying to point out things a lot of fans overlook when creating new races.

*Big fan of Tanarukks, they're just such cuddly little brutal savages.:smallbiggrin:

Zeta Kai
2007-07-16, 06:57 AM
Well, the Oaves (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=37855) have not racial magic items or spells, but they do have racial feats & PrC's. But you're correct; most homebrewers don't get that far in the creative process. It's a shame, as there are many talented homebrewers making many interesting non-traditional player races, but what can be done?