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theTraveler456
2018-03-08, 07:53 PM
Hey nerds,

First post here. I'm sort of in the opening stages of creating a pretty detailed and extensive campaign setting, but I got side-tracked and made a race, because... ADHD...

At any rate, I've never really done any 5e homebrewing before, so I'd like some critiques. I'm mainly concerned about game balance of course, but if you have relevant comments about culture, etc. then go for it.

I'm a little concerned about the relative power of the respective subraces, as well as the overall power level of the race. I'm also a little concerned about some of the racial traits being excessively specific. I'm considering making the sacred kheprian's Whispers From the Stars ability universal for the entire race.

Feel free to skip to the bottom where the rules stuff is.

Thanks,
The Traveler

Kheprian
The kheprians (singular kheprian) are a vaguely insectoid race native to the Great Sotaran Desert. Their physical appearance resembles that of a tall, muscular human with exoskeleton plating rather than skin, solid black beetle-like eyes, and insectoid mandibles in place of a mouth. They also lack ears and a nose. In place of hair, the chitin on their heads is adorned with ridges and horns of varying configurations. Kheprian exoskeleton color varies by caste. A kheprian must molt its exoskeleton approximately once a year, and the new chitin is soft for about an hour after molting. Some kheprians tribes take this opportunity to carve designs into the exoskeleton which will persist until the individualís next molting. It is also common for individuals to eat their own shed exoskeleton.

Males are far more likely to display large horns, but beyond that there is little physical difference between male and female kheprians in appearance, dress, or behavior. Kheprians themselves recognize each otherís sex through pheromones, but they place almost no cultural importance on sex. Gender norms are practically nonexistent and same-sex romantic relationships are extremely common. In fact, the kheprian language has no gender at all, and an individualís sex is considered relevant only when that individual wishes to have a child. The concept of gender common among other races is utterly alien to a kheprian, and being misgendered by members of other races (which is extremely common) typically doesnít bother them in the slightest.

Each kheprian has a small set of extra appendages called stridulation arms which lie flush against the insides of their forearms, measure about six inches long, and resemble insect legs. While these appendages are capable of rudimentary manipulation, their primary purpose is speech. By rubbing them against their forearms, kheprians can produce the odd vibrations that comprise their language. Kheprians are physically incapable of speaking mammalian languages, but some learn to understand and write common.

Kheprians live in small, nomadic, desert tribes, usually about 100 individuals. Each tribe travels with a family of dromedons which are not domestic, but rather live side-by-side with the kheprians in a kind of symbiosis. The kheprians provide the dromedons with protection from predators, and the dromedons provide the kheprians with a food source. But the tribe follows the movements of the herd, not the other way around. There are several main types of Kheprians, commonly called castes. They are not separate species, but rather a kheprianís type is determined randomly at birth, much like their sex. An individualís role in their tribe is largely determined by this trait.

Because of the difficulty and scarcity of life deep in the desert, kheprian society reveres life above all else. The idea of killing any living organism, even a plant, is abhorrent to a kheprian, and the more complex an organism, the more sacred its life. As a result, a kheprian will go to great lengths to prevent the death of even an evil creature. They will protect their tribes and herds with deadly force only if absolutely unavoidable, and in such cases the entire tribe will mourn their fallen enemies just as they would a member of their own family.

Any intelligent creature that dies among a group of kheprians receives a kheprian funeral, be it friend or foe. Many races and individuals are likely not to appreciate this expression of respect and compassion, however, because a kheprian funeral involves ritual consumption of the deceased remains.

Though other races may find the practice distasteful, kheprians subsist almost exclusively on the dung of other animals, mostly the huge, camel-like creatures known as dromedons. Every major kheprian tribe travels with a particular family of dromedons and collects its dung for food. This monolithic diet is not a biological necessity; in fact, a kheprian can effectively digest almost any organic matter, but killing or damaging a living organism is something to be avoided at all costs in kheprian society. Unfortunate kheprians who were separated from their tribes and herds have been known to starve to death rather than hunt or forage for living food. If such fare is available, kheprians will gladly feed on carrion and other already-dead matter.


Kheprian Traits
Kheprians share the following traits.
Ability Score Increase. Your Constitution score increases by 2.
Age. Kheprians mature at about the same rate as humans, and live about 150 years. As children, they must molt very frequently because of their growth rate. Their caste traits begin to appear about two years after hatching, starting with chitin color.
Alignment. Because of their rigid social structure and dedication to their tribes, Kheprians tend slightly toward law. Their reverence for life means that they tend very strongly toward good.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Exoskeleton. Your base armor class is increased by 1.
Built to Survive. Your raceís desert existence has made you hardy and adaptable. Almost any living or once-living matter can serve as food for you, including wood, feces, carrion, and poisonous plants like hemlock. However, if you were raised among your own kind, your religious views most likely prohibit you from directly or indirectly contributing to the death of a living organism except under extreme circumstances. You need very little water to survive; as long as you eat one pound of food a day, you do not need to drink.
Stridulation. If you can cast a spell with a verbal component, you do so by producing unique vibrations with your stridulation arms.
Resistance. You are resistant to poison.
Language. You speak Kheprian. You cannot speak any language other than Kheprian, but you can understand any language you would otherwise speak. If you polymorph into a creature that can speak a language, or otherwise gain the necessary anatomy, you can speak any language you could normally understand, but if your new form lacks stridulation arms you lose the ability to speak Kheprian.
Subrace. Every kheprian is born into a particular caste with its own unique physical traits. Descriptions of some of the most common or well-known castes are shown below.

Tunneller Kheprians
Tunneller kheprians are the most common and diverse caste among their people. The majority of kheprian hatchlings are tunnellers. Tunneller coloration is diverse, but is typically characterized by neutral colors, mostly brown and black. Tunnelers have disproportionately large hands and muscular arms that allow them to dig extremely well.

These kheprians are common, day-to-day workers. When a tribe arrives at a new campsite, tunnellers are responsible for digging and maintaining the temporary burrows where the tribe will sleep. Tunneller kheprians are also responsible for gathering food for the entire tribe. Their large, shovel-like hands are remarkably effective at scooping up and compacting large quantities of dung for transport.
Size. Tunneler kheprians come in many sizes and shapes, but in general their heights and builds fall into same range as those of humans. Your size is medium.
Tunnelling. You have a burrow speed of 10 feet.
Tunnellerís Lungs. You can hold your breath for a number of hours equal to 1 + your Constitution modifier. When you run out of breath, you can survive a number of minutes equal to your constitution modifier (minimum 1) before dropping to zero hit points.
Darkvision. Accustomed to navigating underground, you have superior vision in dark tunnels. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You canít discern color in darkness, only shades of grey.

Goliath Kheprian
Goliath kheprians are extremely large and powerful. They typically have mottled black and cream-colored stripes. Some also have large maroon sections on their torsos. Because of their size and strength, outsiders often incorrectly assume that goliath kheprians are all male.

They almost always serve as a tribeís guards and warriors. They are usually trained in non-lethal fighting techniques, and some have monk levels, though their physical size and strength also makes them excellent barbarians.

Goliath kheprians have incredible physical endurance, so they also serve as a tribeís outriders or long range scouts. Since kheprians are aware that other races cannot survive well in the desert, goliath kheprians are also charged with carrying incapacitated foes to the edge of the desert after any armed conflict. These tasks often involve weeks of solitary travel in the inhospitable desert, and kheprians are trained accordingly. They are reasonably uncommon. Perhaps 1 in 20 hatchlings is a goliath kheprian.
Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 1.
Size. Goliath kheprians are much larger than others of their kind, ranging from 6 to 8 feet tall, and averaging around 300 pounds. Your size is medium.
Unfaltering step. Goliath kheprians have incredible endurance. You can travel for up to 12 hours per day without risk of exhaustion.
Desert Outrider. You are proficient in the survival skill, and you get advantage on survival checks made in the desert.

Rainbow Kheprian
Rainbow kheprians are among the slenderest and lightest of kheprians, and they display diverse, bright, iridescent colors on their exoskeletons. Outsiders often incorrectly assume that all rainbow kheprians are female. A rainbow kheprian is very likely to have sorcerous abilities.

Rainbow kheprians are extremely rare (less than 1 in 1,000 hatchlings), and they are considered blessed children. They are usually groomed from a young age to fulfil leadership roles, and their ability to project their thoughts into the minds of others makes them ideal ambassadors to other races in the rare event that a tribe has contact with them.
Ability Score Increase. Your charisma score increases by one.
Size. Rainbow kheprians have about the same height and build as elves. Your size is medium.
Telepathy. You can communicate telepathically with any creature you can see within 30 feet of you. You don't need to share a language with the creature for it to understand your telepathic utterances, but the creature must be able to understand at least one language.

Sacred Kheprian
Sacred kheprians almost exclusively have solid black, sometimes glossy exoskeletons. In lieu of any kind of horns, each features a semicircular ridge on its head with spokes, vaguely reminiscent of a crown.

These kheprians are typically spiritual leaders and priests of their tribes. Most are trained as druids, though some are clerics. They are usually the closest thing each tribe has to a leader. They are relatively rare, comprising about 1 in every 50 hatchlings.
Ability Score Increase. Your Wisdom score increases by 1.
Size. Sacred kheprians are about the same height and weight as humans. Your size is medium.
One With the Desert. You know the Druidcraft cantrip. When you reach 3rd level, you can cast the Longstrider spell once per day. When you reach 5th level, you can cast the Locate Animals or Plants spell once per day. Wisdom is your spellcasting ability for these spells.
Whispers From the Stars As long as you can see the sky, you intuitively know the direction of true north, and you can travel in a straight line without fail.


P.S. Here's my info on dromedons if you're interested:
Dromedons are beasts native to the Great Sotaran Desert. They resemble camels, except that they measure, on average, 12 feet tall at the shoulder, and the adults have wicked, barbed spikes protruding from the sides of their heads that they use to defend themselves and their young. They travel in groups called families or herds of around 15 or twenty adults, usually with 2 or three young, and almost every herd is accompanied by a tribe of kheprians who harvest the animalsí dung for food.

They share their game statistics with elephants, except that the gore attack of a dromedon has a 10 foot reach.

The Nth Doctor
2018-03-09, 01:59 PM
I like the flavor a lot and overall it looks pretty good. I do have a few things to point out though.

First: I would re-flavor the "Exoskeleton" trait. It's a little vague and could probably be better described. Maybe take a look at how official races handle natural armor and rewrite Exoskeleton to be a little more in line with them.

Second: It is really hard to have a player at the table who can't speak with the other players. If someone wanted to play a Kheprian you're going to have times where their just sitting there, unable to communicate. They won't be able to talk to the rest of the party and I can almost guarantee that whoever plays a Kheprian is going to get bored quick sitting at the table not talking.

Third: The sub classes are fairly unbalanced (That may be an intentional design note, but It could probably be cleaned up a bit). The Tunneler lacks another stat increase and no player is going to take holding their breath over stats. I like Goliath and Rainbow, but Sacred is much stronger with natural spell-casting. Though, the Unfaltering Step ability isn't super great because all your party members will get exhausted by travelling for 12 hours so you're not going to get to much utility out of it.

Ninja_Prawn
2018-03-09, 03:15 PM
First: I would re-flavor the "Exoskeleton" trait. It's a little vague and could probably be better described. Maybe take a look at how official races handle natural armor and rewrite Exoskeleton to be a little more in line with them.

Second: It is really hard to have a player at the table who can't speak with the other players. If someone wanted to play a Kheprian you're going to have times where their just sitting there, unable to communicate. They won't be able to talk to the rest of the party and I can almost guarantee that whoever plays a Kheprian is going to get bored quick sitting at the table not talking.

Third: The sub classes are fairly unbalanced (That may be an intentional design note, but It could probably be cleaned up a bit). The Tunneler lacks another stat increase and no player is going to take holding their breath over stats. I like Goliath and Rainbow, but Sacred is much stronger with natural spell-casting. Though, the Unfaltering Step ability isn't super great because all your party members will get exhausted by travelling for 12 hours so you're not going to get to much utility out of it.

I fully agree with all three of those points (though I'd add that Unfaltering Step doesn't need to be super great. It's okay to leave it as a marginal benefit).

And although Exoskeleton doesn't follow the convention, I wouldn't say it's unacceptable in its current form. The base race doesn't get much else (Built to Survive and Stridulation are ribbons, knowing only one language is still a noticeable drawback even if you allow them to talk), so it kind of needs something flashy and interesting to draw people in.

theTraveler456
2018-03-10, 12:03 AM
1. The natural armor: That's a good point. What other races are there with armor bonuses? I can't think of any off the top of my head, but I didn't really go looking for them.

2. The language barrier: First of all, it's worth mentioning that this race was originally conceived as an NPC race. I designed it to be playable, but that was admittedly kind of an afterthought. That's part of the reason I left the language barrier, though I had some of the same concerns. A kheprian isn't really very likely to leave the desert and go adventuring with a group of outsiders. It's not in their nature. It's possible, but by design it would be extremely difficult to fit in.

That said, I think the right kind of player could have a lot of fun RPing a race that can't talk. There are a lot of ways to communicate nonverbally if one gets a little creative. I would argue that some of the most lovable characters in some media never talk at all (I'm mostly thinking Pixar movies here to be honest, but my point stands), and playing a nonverbal character with that level of expressiveness would be a fun roleplaying challenge for someone like me. Bottom line, the player should understand what they're getting into when they make their character, and probably discuss it with their DM. But those things should just be a given.

On the other hand, you'll also notice that I built in an out-- I created a subrace with telepathy. Your concern was basically the entire rationale behind that. There are also a lot of other ways around this. Telepathy isn't all that hard to come by, after all, and depending on the DM alter self could temporarily grant you a mouth with which to speak. Hell, minor illusion could let you speak aloud without any trouble. And if you have a party of all kheprians, which would make a decent amount of narrative sense, then you don't have to worry about it at all, except when interacting with NPCs of other races, which could be an interesting challenge in and of itself as well.

3. Subclass balance: I think you're totally right. This was one of my major concerns as well, and I'm torn on how to fix it.
Part of me thinks that leaving the tunnellers pretty underpowered makes sense, since they're kind of the peasants and way less likely to have class levels in the first place. Part of me wants to give them an ability increase, for the sake of symmetry if nothing else, but I can't think how to do that. The only things that would seem to make sense are Strength, which I don't want to do because that's the Goliath's thing, and Constitution, but they already have two extra Constitution. I've considered just giving them one ability boost of their choice to represent lack of specialization, sort of like humans. I've also considered dropping the base race ability boost to one and distributing extras to all of the subraces, which would make it easier to make the Tunneller seem unspecialized. What do you guys think?

As for the other three, I tend to think that the Goliaths are slightly underpowered compared to the other two, but not severely. I don't want to give them too much extra stuff because I'm cognizant of the fact that they are kind of built (quite by accident, for the record) to be the perfect barbarian race, by virtue of their abilities alone, not to mention the AC boost.
Do you really think the spellcasting is that overbalanced? It's no different from what drow can do. I'm certainly open to replacing it, but I'd like some suggestions on what features would fit well with that subrace's flavor.


P.S. By the way, I'm considering making Whispers from the Stars a base race feature, which admittedly probably doesn't matter all that much balance-wise, but I'm genuinely torn on which makes the most sense flavor-wise. I got the idea from a similar abiliy of actual scarabs, but it's only the dung roller species that can do it. To my knowledge, Goliath Beetles, Rainbow Scarabs, and tunneller species cannot. Which perhaps answers my own question. Best to leave it as-is, I suppose. Tangent over.

theTraveler456
2018-03-10, 12:12 AM
The base race doesn't get much else (Built to Survive and Stridulation are ribbons, knowing only one language is still a noticeable drawback even if you allow them to talk), so it kind of needs something flashy and interesting to draw people in.

You're right, and I tried to compensate by making the subraces a little bit cooler and more varied than most subraces tend to be. Still, do you think I need to change this?

thegreatone5224
2018-03-11, 11:24 PM
I like the way this race is turning out but I do need to agree with the fact that not many people are going to choose the subrace that doesn't add stats. Unfortunately most people are going to go with what maxs their characters potential instead of what is more flavorful.