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Creating your own races in D&D 5e

UPDATE: This post eventually became a book on DMs Guild: Enhanced Heritage


I woke up this morning and was surprised to find a Twitter post from James Introcaso outlining a system for designing races in 5th edition D&D. Now this surprise wasn’t from the fact that James was putting out some rules that he had been working on, he is prolific like that. My surprise was that his system is amazingly similar to the one I was designing myself.

Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not making any claim to exclusivity here. It’s not like someone was looking over my shoulder and feeding the work to other people, unless my chair is a mimic. The similarity tells me one thing, I was on the right track. James thanked Leona Maple and James J. Haeck in his post, so I will as well. That is some decent company for my thoughts.

Anyway, with permission from James, I am going to lay out what I was working on and expand upon what he did in his post.

Several years ago I designed a similar system for 3rd edition and Pathfinder. With the updated 5e system I started in the same place I had for the earlier system. I looked at the feats. 5th edition doesn’t have the sheer weight of feats that 3rd edition had, but it is still a good starting point.

In 3rd edition a feat was equal to a +1 bonus in an ability score, 5th edition doubled that but also doubled the strength of feats in the process. So the basic premise still worked the same as before. 3rd edition had several feats that gave skill ranks and bonuses. It worked out to 5 skill points per feat. This placed skills as my lowest cost, and everything else in the system was priced based on skill points. 5th edition was slightly different, but still pretty close. +1 to an ability score works out to be the same as 4 languages, or proficiency in 4 weapons (individual weapons not groups). Since 5th edition did away with individual skill ranks, proficiency in 1 skill works out to the same as +1 to an ability score.

This leaves languages and individual weapons as our base building blocks. Each of these costs 1 point. +1 to an ability score costs 4 points, and a feat costs 8 points. As you can see, this is the same scale that James landed on. Examination of the traits below shows that my scale differed from James’ on the cost of some abilities, but overall there is a lot of unity. I’m not going to post every trait, but I will include the basics and the places where our two systems differ.

1-Point Traits

  • Language Proficiency: Your character gains proficiency in a language of their choice.

  • Shield Proficiency: Your character is proficient with shields.

  • Weapon Proficiency: Your character gains proficiency in 1 weapon of their choice.

4-Point Traits

  • Additional HP: You gain 1 additional HP at character creation, and an additional point every level.

  • Armor Proficiency: Choose an armor type (light, medium or heavy) your character becomes proficient with that armor. Each type requires proficiency with the type below it. If you are proficient with medium armor you are also proficient with shields.

  • Blindsight: Through enhanced senses you can detect objects within 5 feet without the use of sight. Additional purchases of this trait increase the distance 15 ft. (2nd Purchase) 30 ft. (3rd Purchase), 60 ft. (4th Purchase).

  • Darkvision: See “Dwarf Traits” in chapter 2 of the Player’s Handbook for more information.

  • Save Proficiency: Choose an ability score. Your character gains proficiency in saves related to that score.

  • Skill/Tool/Instrument Proficiency: Choose a skill (or tool or instrument), your character is proficient in the chosen skill or gains expertise in the skill if they are already proficient.

  • Starting Wealth: Your character begins the game with an extra 250 gp.

  • Weapon Group Proficiency: Your character is proficient with Simple weapons, if they are already proficient with simple weapons they gain proficiency with martial weapons as well.

  • Wings: You have wings that allow you to fly at half your walking speed as long as you are not wearing medium or heavy armor. This trait can be purchased multiple times. Each time you can either upgrade the speed or the strength of your wings.

  • Wings: (Greater Speed): This trait can be purchased a second time to increase your fly speed so that it is equal to your walking speed. If this trait is purchased a third time your fly speed equals twice your walking speed.

  • Wings (Enhanced Strength): Purchasing this trait a second time allows you to fly in medium armor. Purchasing the trait a third time allows you to fly in heavy armor.

Considering the experience of James and those who helped him, I would probably go with his system on any differences. I will be updating mine when I have the chance. The long-term plan is to expand this to class creation as well. If you would like to see more, or want to see the 3rd edition version, let me know. A lot of this work is going toward helping with my New Horizon RPG conversion.



About the Author:


Stephen Mayo lives in Montana with his wife, daughter, corgi, and three cats.

You can keep in touch with him on Facebook and Twitter. Find more on his podcast A Side of Mayo. If you enjoyed reading this consider buying him a coffee or supporting him on Patreon.

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