Ever since I got into D&D with v3.5 I’ve wanted to introduce the idea of exchangeable cultural traits to the races of D&D. All of the recent interest has inspired me to balance the core races to my own standard, in addition to converting all of the subraces from v3.5 which were made for nonspecific settings.
Traits granted by the races’ cultures are marked as cultural, you may trade all of your cultural traits for those granted by a different race. You can't gain cultural traits from a subrace that replace one or more cultural traits from the base race.
Spoiler: GENERAL RULES TWEAKSFighters get a d12 hit die.
SpoilerThis just makes sense to me.
Add back in the Constitution (Endurance) skill.
Make a Constitution(Endurance) check to stave off ill effects and to push yourself beyond normal physical limits. You can hold your breath for long periods of time, forestall the debilitating effects of hunger and thirst, and force yourself to move for extended periods of time.
SpoilerI added this from 4E because it makes sense that characters can undergo resistance training to press themselves harder.
Outlanders get proficiency with (endurance) instead of (athletics).
SpoilerBecause I added it back in, I felt that one of the backgrounds should get proficiency with it. The outlander's athletics made the least sense of the three that got athletics, so I replaced it.
Split the two benefits of Darkvision into seperate features.
Low-light Vision: You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light.3
Darkvision: You can see in darkness within 60 feet of you as if it were dim light. You can't discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.3
SpoilerCall me a grognard, but I like the distinction made between these two abilities in v3.5 and because I’m working with races from that edition (many of whom have Low-Light Vision) I feel this is appropriate.
I’ve seen Musicus’ Race Analysis and I think it makes for a great baseline for judging the races by, but there are a few features that I feel are improperly valued. I will explain my re-evaluations where appropriate.
I decided to start with the Human because it provided the benchmark against which all other races are measured. I went for a 7 on the adjusted Musicus scale. A value of 1 will be generated from cultural features.
Spoiler: Age and AlignmentAge: Humans reach adulthood in their late teens and live less than a century.
Alignment: Humans tend toward no particular alignment. The best and the worst are found among them.
Size: Humans vary widely in height and build, from barely 5 feet to well over 6 feet tall. Regardless of your position in that range, your size is Medium. (0)
Speed: Your base walking speed is 30 feet. (0)
Dilettante (Cultural): Human societies promote self-improvement so that you stand out amongst your peers. This competitive attitude has led you to dedicate your time to diversifying your abilities. You gain proficiency in one skill or tool of your choice, or learn one language of your choice. (0.5)
Storied Past (Cultural): Human lives are comparatively short when compared to centuries old dwarves, elves, and gnomes. To compensate, human lives feel as though they move quicker, and entire lifestyles can change seemingly overnight. When you select a background during character creation, you may replace the skill proficiencies and/or tools and languages with those of a second background. You also gain the feature of this second background. (0.5)
Languages (Cultural): You can speak, read, and write Common and one extra language of your choice. Humans typically learn the languages of other peoples they deal with, including obscure dialects. They are fond of sprinkling their speech with words borrowed from other tongues: Orc curses, Elvish musical expressions, Dwarvish military phrases, and so on. (0)
Spoiler: VARIANT HUMAN TRAITSIf your subrace lets you choose 3 ability scores to increase by 1 (or increases all of your ability scores by 1), you may sacrifice 3 ability score increases to gain the Adaptive Learning feature. You may only gain this feature once.
Adaptive Learning: You gain one feat of your choice. (3)
I feel like the feats are overvalued at 4 ability score increases, so I gave Variant Humans back a point.
Spoiler: COMMON MAN (+6)Ability Score Increase: Your ability scores each increase by 1. (6)
Spoiler: AVENTI (+6)Citizens of an ancient empire that sank beneath the ocean, the aventi adapted to their new home and now adventure both at sea and on land. A proud people who hold personal honor in high regard, the aventi can be found anywhere from the human-settled coasts to the deepest trenches of the ocean floor.
Ability Score Increase: Three different ability scores of your choice increase by 1. (3)
Amphibious: Aventi can breathe water or air equally well, without limitation. You do not have to hold your breath in order to remain submerged in water. (0.5)1
Aventernus Magic:You can cast the create or destroy water spell as a 1st level spell once per short or long rest. (1)2
Swimming Speed: Aventi have a natural swim speed of 30 feet. You may always use your passive athletics score while swimming. (1.5)
Spoiler: ILLUMIAN (+6)Illumians are contemplative humans, driven and ambitious, taught from an early age to master every field of study. Illumians look like the humans who first learned the Ritual of Words Made Flesh—paleskinned and somewhat taller than average. Their most significant features are the luminous sigils that float above their heads, endlessly circling.
Ability Score Increase: One ability score of your choice increases by 1. (1)
Final Utterance: When you drop to 0 hit points your body releases the stored illumian language within it. Anyone within earshot hears ululating illumian syllables—usually gibberish, but occasionally a prophetic phrase or a final curse on the illumian’s enemies. (0.25)
Glyphic Resonance: You have advantage on saving throws against spells with the words Glyph, Rune, Sigil, or Symbol in their name. (0.25)
Luminous Sigils: The sigils that orbit your head glow softly, providing illumination equal to that of a candle. You can use an action to make your sigils disappear, but can’t use any special abilities granted by power sigils or illumian words (see below) while they’re doused. Restoring the sigils to visibility takes no action. (0.5)
Power Sigils: Two different ability scores of your choice are increased by 1. Neither of the ability scores chosen can be the same as the one chosen for your Ability Score Increase feature. As a bonus action, you gain advantage on all checks and saving throws for one of the chosen ability scores for a number of rounds equal to your proficiency bonus. You can’t use this feature again until you’ve completed a short or long rest. (3)
Illumian Words: Once you reach 3rd level you gain the effect of an illumian word, depending on the combination of ability scores you chose for your power sigils (see below). (1)
Spoiler: Illumian Words
Each of the Illumian Words is supposed to be valued at 1.
Strength and Dexterity – Aeshuur: When you take the Dodge action, you can shove an adjacent target as part of your action. You can make a Dexterity(Acrobatics) check instead of a Strength(Athletics) check for this attack. You can’t use this feature again until you finish a short or long rest.
Strength and Constitution – Aeshhoon: When you hit a target with an attack, you can roll 1 hit die. If the roll is greater than your proficiency bonus you add the result to the damage done, otherwise you add your proficiency bonus instead. You can’t use this feature again until you finish a short or long rest.
Strength and Intelligence – Aeshkrau: You can cast the enlarge/reduce spell once per short or long rest. At character creation, you choose either Strength or Intelligence as your spellcasting ability for this spell.2
Dexterity and Constitution – Uurhoon: When you are targetted by an attack, as a reaction you can roll 1 hit die. If the roll is greater than your proficiency bonus you add the result to your AC, otherwise you add your proficiency bonus instead. You can’t use this feature again until you finish a short or long rest.
Dexterity and Wisdom – Uurnaen: If you are surprised at the start of combat and aren’t incapacitated, you can move and take an action on your turn. You can’t use this feature again until you finish a short or long rest.
Constitution and Intelligence – Hoonkrau: You can cast the false life spell as a 2nd level spell once per short or long rest. When you cast this spell, you use a die equal to one of your hit dice instead of a d4.2
Constitution and Charisma – Hoonvaul: When you make a charisma check or saving throw, you can roll 1 hit die. If the roll is greater than your proficiency bonus you add the result to the check or save, otherwise you add your proficiency bonus instead. You can roll the hit die before or after making the check or save. You can’t use this feature again until you finish a short or long rest.
Intelligence and Dexterity – Krauuur: You can cast the blur spell once per short or long rest.2
Intelligence and Wisdom – Kraunaen: You can cast the detect thoughts spell once per short or long rest. At character creation, you choose either Intelligence or Wisdom as your spellcasting ability for this spell.2
Intelligence and Charisma – Krauvaul: You can cast the suggestion spell once per short or long rest. At character creation, you choose either Intelligence or Charisma as your spellcasting ability for this spell.2
Wisdom and Strength – Naenaesh: You can use the Help action to give disadvantage to the next attack made by a target within 5 feet of you. You can’t use this feature again until you finish a short or long rest.
Wisdom and Constitution – Naenhoon: When you make a wisdom check or saving throw, you can roll 1 hit die. If the roll is greater than your proficiency bonus you add the result to the check or save, otherwise you add your proficiency bonus instead. You can roll the hit die before or after making the check or save. You can’t use this feature again until you finish a short or long rest.
Charisma and Strength – Vaulaesh: When you attack a creature, you can make a Charisma(Deception) check - for which you are considered proficient - contested by the target’s Wisdom(Insight) check. If you succeed, you have advantage on the attack roll. You can’t use this feature again until you’ve completed a short or long rest.
Charisma and Dexterity – Vauluur: When you take the Dodge action on your turn, you can make a Charisma(Persuasion) check - for which you are considered proficient – against a creature you can see. Your check is contested by the target’s Wisdom(Insight) check. If you succeed, the target also has disadvantage to hit any other creature until the start of your next turn. You can’t use this feature again until you’ve completed a short or long rest.
Charisma and Wisdom – Vaulnaen: You can cast the calm emotions spell once per short or long rest. At character creation, you choose either Wisdom or Charisma as your spellcasting ability for this spell.2
Spoiler: MONGRELFOLK (+6)Those people who have heard of mongrelfolk know them as brutish, ugly creatures who bear the worst features of all their parent races. And that is exactly how the mongrelfolk like it. In actuality, mongrelfolk can pass for members of their parent races—any of them. In fact, when someone meets a mongrelfolk, he always assumes the new acquaintance is a member of one of the other major humanoid races—just not his own.
Ability Score Increase: Your Constitution score increases by 2, and one other ability score of your choice increases by 1. (3)
Emulate Race: Because of your radically mixed heritage, you can use magic items that only function for a user of a certain race. You ignore all race requirements on the use of magic items. (0.5)
Sound Imitation: You can mimic the speech of another person or the sounds made by other creatures. You must have heard the person speaking, or heard the creature make the sound, for at least 1 minute. A successful Wisdom (Insight) check contested by your Charisma (Deception) check allows a listener to determine that the effect is faked. (0.5)
Diffuse Blood: Your muddled family tree allows you a broad range of physical adaptations and mannerisms. You gain any four diffuse blood traits (see below). (2)
Spoiler: Diffuse Blood TraitsEach of these traits is supposed to be valued at 0.5.
Acute Awareness: You rarely blink, if ever, and always understand when people are talking to you. Whenever you make an Intelligence(investigation) or Wisdom(perception) check to find a concealed area such as a secret door or hidden compartment, you add twice your proficiency bonus, instead of any proficiency bonus you normally apply.
Brave: You walk with the swagger commonly associated to halflings. You have advantage on saving throws against being frightened.
Damage Resistance: Your skin is lightly toned with an abnormal color such as red or green. You gain resistance to either acid, cold, fire, lightning, necrotic, poison, radiant, or thunder damage. You cannot select this feature more than once.
Darkvision: Your eyes glimmer brightly like a dwarves. You can see in darkness within 60 feet of you as if it were dim light. You can't discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.3
Duskborn: Your eyes are vaguely almond shaped, and have a soft color reminiscent of an elf. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light. In addition, you only require 4 hours of sleep per day to gain the same benefit that a human does from 8 hours.3 4
Fey Ancestry: Your skin almost seems to glow in bright light. You have advantage on saving throws against being charmed or put to sleep. In addition, you are always treated as having full heath for the purpose of the sleep spell.5
Keen Senses: You ears are long and swept back, almost coming to a point at their ends. You have proficiency in the (perception) skill.
Menacing: Your lower canines are very fully developed, jutting out of your mouth, even when closed. You have proficiency in the (intimidation) skill.
Mongrelfolk Resilience: You have a dull sense of taste. You have advantage on saving throws against poison.
Natural Armor: Your skin is quite thick, possibly covered by coarse hair or hanging slightly loose in certain places. While unarmored, your AC is equal to 11 + your Dexterity modifier.
Stability: You stand with your legs slightly bowed. You have advantage on (athletics) and (acrobatics) checks made to resist being shoved or grappled.
Steadfast: Your shoulders are broad and your legs are slightly short. Your speed is not reduced by wearing heavy armor. If you are using the variant rules for encumbrance, your speed is not reduced when encumbered and reduced by 10 while heavily encumbered.
Stealthy: You often stoop slightly forward and have soft pads on your feet. You have proficiency in the (stealth) skill.
Stonecunning: Whenever you make an Intelligence(history) or Wisdom(perception) check related to the origin of stonework or noticing unusual stonework, you add twice your proficiency bonus, instead of any proficiency bonus you normally apply.
Trance: You act fairly detached, perhaps by speaking quietly or by showing little emotion. You don't need to sleep. Instead, you meditate deeply, remaining semiconscious. (The Common word for such meditation is "trance.") While meditating, you can dream after a fashion; such dreams are actually mental exercises that have become reflexive through years of practice. While unconscious, you are vaguely aware of your surroundings: you have disadvantage on (perception) checks and must make (perception) checks with a DC of 10 to perceive your surroundings normally. After resting in this way, you gain the same benefit that a human does from sleeping.4
Spoiler: NEANDERTHAL (+6)The neanderthals are a feral race of humans, created by the crude and violent deities of the winterlands to dwell in their frozen domains. They are a primitive folk who have never seen the need to become more civilized, usually living in caves or abandoned underground ruins and hunting the surrounding regions with great skill.
Ability Score Increase: Your Strength score increases by 2 and your Constitution score increases by 1. (3)
Adrenalin Rush: By making a conscious effort, you can tap into your fight or flight response. As a bonus action, you gain advantage on all strength and constitution checks and saving throws for a number of rounds equal to your proficiency bonus. If you use this feature more than once before taking a short or long rest, you suffer one level of exhaustion. (1)
Climate Tolerant: Neanderthals are exceptionally hardy, and suffer little harm from environmental extremes. You automatically succeed on Constitution saving throws to avoid exhaustion from extreme cold and extreme heat. (0.5)
Natural Predator: You have proficiency in the (survival) skill. (0.5)
Toughness: Your hit point maximum increases by 1, and it increases by 1 every time you gain a level. (1) 6
Primitive Weapon Master (Cultural): You are proficient with all simple weapons. This feature replaces Dilettante. (0)
Spoiler: SEA KIN (+6)Humans have always held an affinity for the sea. Long ago, it is said, some returned to its watery embrace and live beneath the waves to this day. Sea kin live in shoals and coral reefs adjacent to the shore, although rumors persist of colonies that have taken to the open sea. Sea kin towns are wondrous to behold, existing in harmony with the rise and ebb of the tide as it flows through their homes. As might be expected, sea kin have a deep, almost mystical understanding of the ocean, and they do whatever they can to protect it from harm.
Ability Score Increase: Three ability scores of your choice increase by 1. (3)
Low-light Vision: You have adapted to seeing while fully submerged underwater. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light. (0.25)3
Hold Breath: Sea kin have adapted to a nearly amphibious lifestyle. You are able to hold your breath for a number of minutes equal to 4 + 4 times your constitution modifier (minimum 2 minutes). (1)1
Slippery: Your body naturally secretes a slippery oil to facilitate swimming. This secretion also makes it easy for you to slip out of restraints. When you make a Dexterity(acrobatics) check to escape from bindings or to escape a grapple, you add twice your proficiency bonus, instead of any proficiency bonus you normally apply. (0.25)7
Swimming Speed: Sea kin have a natural swim speed of 30 feet. You may always use your passive athletics score while swimming. (1.5)
Spoiler: SHARAKIM (+4)The sharakim (the name means “the tainted” or “those with taint” in an old human dialect) were once human. At least, their forebears were. Legends claim that, long ago, all humans resided in the village of Desh. They lived peacefully until a hunter named Sharak killed a sacred stag, and all those who ate of the stag’s flesh became ill. Many died, but others were transformed, twisted into hideous caricatures of humanity by the evil they had committed. The humans who escaped the curse scattered, leaving Desh to be lost forever. Those creatures who had once been human gathered together and fl ed as well, making their own way in the world but forever after hated by humans because they stood as a reminder of that sin. These became the sharakim.
Ability Score Increase: Your Strength score increases by 1 and your Intelligence score increases by 2. (3)
Darkvision: You can see in darkness within 60 feet of you as if it were dim light. You can't discern color in darkness, only shades of gray. (0.5)3
Natural Armor: While unarmored, your AC is equal to 11 + your Dexterity modifier. (0.5)
Shadow Affinity: Sharakim are born to darkness, and despite their claims they operate best in night and shadow. Whenever you make a Dexterity(stealth) or Wisdom(perception) check while in an area of dim light or darkness, you add twice your proficiency bonus, instead of any proficiency bonus you normally add. (0.5)
Sunlight Sensitivity: The ancient curse placed on the Sharakim causes even the sun to shun them. You suffer disadvantage on all Intelligence(investigation) and Wisdom(perception) checks that rely on sight when you or whatever you are trying to perceive is in direct sunlight. (-0.5)8
There weren't enough features in the v3.5 race for me to convert, and I don't want to just pile on ability score increases. If you have any suggestions, please post them below!
Spoiler: SKULK (+6)Once members of an underprivileged caste of an ancient empire, the humans who would become skulks withdrew from the world through a magical ceremony that solidified their “untouchable” status. The ritual granted them natural camouflage, allowing skulks to blend in perfectly with their surroundings.
Ability Score Increase: Your Dexterity score increases by 2, and one other ability score of your choice increases by 1. (3)
Innate Nondetection: The lingering effects of that ancient ceremony shroud you from even magical detection. You can't be targeted by any divination magic or perceived through magical scrying sensors. (1.5)
Peerless Camouflage: You can move stealthily at a normal pace while travelling. You can also remain hidden while approaching a creature. (0.5)
Stealth Expertise: Skulks excel at keeping to the shadows, aided by their innate supernatural camouflage. You have both proficiency and expertise with the (stealth) skill. These bonuses apply only when you are wearing light armor or no armor. (1)
Trackless Path (Cultural): You have been trained from an early age to be wary of your surroundings. Not to search for danger, but to make sure you disturb as little as possible. Creatures have disadvantage on (survival) checks to track you. This feature replaces Storied Past. (0)
Spoiler: UNDERFOLK (+6)The underfolk are descendants of bands of humans who chose—or were forced—to live in the caves and twisting passageways of the underground world. Over generations, these humans adapted to this strange world, filled with natural wonders and dangerous creatures. Some underfolk societies have not ventured to the surface in generations, and others have forgotten their true origins altogether. However, those who live close to the caves that give entry to the underground realms make occasional forays to the surface and even engage in limited trade with surfacedwelling humans.
Ability Score Increase: Three different ability scores of your choice are increased by 1. (3)
Darkvision: You can see in darkness within 60 feet of you as if it were dim light. You can't discern color in darkness, only shades of gray. (0.5)3
Camouflage: Underfolk can change their skin coloration at will to mimic the surrounding terrain. You are proficient with the (stealth) skill. In addition, you have advantage on (stealth) checks to hide in rocky terrain. (1)
Natural Armor: When unarmored, your AC is equal to 12 + your Dexterity modifier. (1.5)
Tunnel Dweller: When squeezing through a smaller space, you do not need to spend extra movement and do not have disadvantage on attack rolls. (0.5)
Sunlight Sensitivity: Centuries underground have stripped underfolk of their ability to tolerate the harsh light of the sun. You suffer disadvantage on all Intelligence(investigation) and Wisdom(perception) checks that rely on sight when you or whatever you are trying to perceive is in direct sunlight. (-0.5)8
1 I value Hold Breath as worth more than Amphibious because while amphibious means you can't suffocate due to water, it has no bearing on any other effect that would require a character to hold their breath. In addition, I feel that the circumstances that require you to be underwater for longer than ~4 minutes are few and far between. Usually.
2According to my understanding of valuing spellcasting: If you receive a cantrip it is valued at 0.5. If you receive a spell on a 1 spell level delay (i.e. a first level spell at 3rd level, or a second level spell at 5th) it is also valued at 0.5. I think this should mean gaining a spell at the appropriate level should value it at 1. In addition, I feel like it is more fun to cast racial spells per short rest.
3I believe Darkvision should still be valued at 0.5 even without the dim light bonus, because it negates two hefty penalties. Low-Light Vision only negates one penalty, so it should be valued at 0.25.
4 Similarly, I fee that Trance should be valued at 0.75 because it has two distinct parts. I only split up the two parts for the Mongrelfolk so that all of the diffuse blood traits were of the same value.
5I understand that immunity to sleep is a very niche ability, but I never like that Elves were immune to it, so I give them advantage instead. I also specify that elves simply fall into their trance, which is still beneficial.
6 For 2 points, you can gain 2 Constitution, which is guaranteed to increase your modifier by 1. That gives you 1 hit point per level AND +1 on a primary save (not to mention the new Endurance skill). I feel that 1 hit point per level is only worth half of a full 2 to Constitution.
7I believe granting circumstantial double proficiency to one skill is only worth 0.25. Granting regular proficiency to a skill for 0.5 applies to every use of the skill, and in D&D NEXT all skills have more than 2 uses. Even though the bonus is doubled, it applies to less than half of the uses of any skill. Most of the time I will be adding circumstantial double proficiency to two skills to make the feature more meaningful, but in the sea kin's case, I only wanted to give them an ability worth 0.25.
8 I believe Sunlight Sensitivity was too disadvantageous, so I replaced the penalty to attacks with the other third of the ability from v3.5.