D&D player character race options

Even though I run 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons games most weeks, I don’t know all the rules that well. For that reason I’ve just been reading over the Player’s Handbook again. Tonight I’ve been particularly looking over the player character race options. I find that players will have questions for me about their race or class features. Often I can’t answer them because I don’t play as a player character often so I’m not familiar with the races and classes. These are my notes about what I think I need to remember about the player race options in the Player’s Handbook. I haven’t paid as much attention to proficiencies or ability score increases, because I presume players will have these added on their character sheets.

Dwarves

As a dungeon master I need to remember that all dwarves have advantage to saving throws against poison as well as resistance against poison damage. Since a lot of people seem to play as dwarves, I don’t find this is hard to remember.

Elves

Because elves also seem to be a very popular option, I find their features are pretty easy to remember. Elves have advantage on saving throws against being charmed and they can’t be put to sleep by magical means. Elves also don’t need sleep. I find that this feature is really easy to remember because if there’s an elf in the party they will often mention it whenever the party rests

There’s a lot of variance in the elf subraces. High elves gain one wizard cantrip. Wood elves can hide when they are obscured by a natural phenomenon. Dark elves are sensitive to sunlight and gain specific spells at at 1st, 3rd and 5th levels.

Halflings

Even though halflings are one of the most common races, I think I’ve only ever had one regular player choose to play as a halfling, so I’m less familiar with their traits. It’s easy to remember that halflings can reroll attacks and saving throws if they roll a 1. I haven’t always remembered that they can also move through the space of any creature that is larger than them.

The halfling subraces don’t have as much variance as the elf ones do, and I think they should be easy to remember because they are similar to abilities from other races. Lightfoot halflings can hide whenever they are obscured by another creature that is at least one size larger than them, similar to the wood elf’s hiding feature. Stout halflings have advantage to saving throws against poison as well as resistance against poison damage, just like dwarves do.

Humans

I personally think humans are the least interesting player race option. They don’t have any features that make them stand out, other than a boost to all of their ability scores or the variant option that allows for a feat. The party I’m dungeon mastering for does not currently contain any humans, and I’ve rarely had any players who wanted to play as humans.

Dragonborn

As a dungeon master, the main thing I need to remember about dragonborn characters is that they gain a breath weapon (which recharges after a short of long rest) and a damage resistance based on the kind of dragon they are descended from. Since the breath weapon is going to be one of their most effective attacks, I find that players normally become familiar with this feature pretty quickly.

Gnomes

Gnomes are probably my favourite race option, at least among those in the Player’s Handbook. All gnomes have advantage on Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma saving throws against magic.

Both of the gnome subraces in the Player’s Handbook have a couple of features that I think are important to remember. Forest gnomes can cast minor illusion and can also communicate with small animals. Rock gnomes can add their proficiency bonus twice to any Intelligence (History) check related to magical, alchemical or technological objects. Rock gnomes can also use their tool proficiency to make a few different kinds of simple mechanical items.

Half-elves

If you’re familiar with the features of elves, it’s not hard to remember the features for half-elves. Like elves, half-elves have advantage on saving throws against being charmed and they can’t be put to sleep by magical means.

Half-orcs

When a half-orc character drops to 0 hit points but isn’t immediately killed by the damage they’ve taken, they can instead drop to just 1 hit point – but this can’t be repeated until after a long rest. Half-orc characters also get to add another extra damage die whenever they make a critical hit.

Tieflings

Tieflings have resistance to fire damage, and they gain specific spells at 1st, 3rd and 5th levels just like dark elves do.

Having read over these racial features and summarised them, I feel a lot more confident with them and I’ve been surprised at how much was already pretty familiar. Next I’ll probably have a look at some of the class features, because there are some that I’m not currently confident about.

Here’s the Chant: planar diseases, gods and sad penguins

I normally write a roundup post on Wednesday, drawing together a whole lot of content about roleplaying games (particularly 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons). This week got away from me a bit, so here it is on Friday:

For players

For players and DMs:

  • ‘The Path of Notes’ Monte Cook Games – this article looks at how the game Invisible Sun has been designed so that players have got to take notes, which will end up becoming a memento of their adventure

For DMs:

Content I’ve published recently:

  • ‘Goofy Descends into Hell’ – in the most recent Planescape adventure I played in, we used the Open Legend system instead of D&D
  • ‘#Dungeondrawingdudes: Week 3’ – each day this month I’ve been participating in the #Dungeondrawingdudes challenge, so there’s now three weeks worth of my illustrations (like this tiefling street-performer), which you can download use in your home game 
  • ‘A Cheeky Response to #Dungeondrawingdudes’ – I thought one of the #Dungeondrawingdudes challenges was a bit disrespectful, so I made a cheeky response
  • ‘Redcaps and Violence’ – #Dungeondrawingdudes and Nerdarchy got me thinking about redcaps and the tendency of violence to escalate
  • ‘Valley of Eternity: The Hunt’ – last week I had my first attempt at running a game of Valley of Eternity, the existentialist penguin roleplaying game

Goofy descends into Hell: My first experience of Open Legend

Last Sunday I played using the Open Legend system for the first time. Our dungeonmaster has been keen to run a Planescape adventure about breaking out of the prison-plane of Carceri, but hasn’t been finding that Dungeons & Dragons rules promote roleplay or collaboration as much as she’d like.

Having a look at the rules, what I like is that character creation is very flexible. Rather than offering classes and races for a specific kind of setting, there are a whole lot of basic character attributes that can be used in different ways. You could use the ‘Alternate Form’ feat to make a lycanthropic character or a shapeshifting druid. You could use the ‘Companion’ feat to represent a character’s hired bodyguard or an animal companion or a sibling who tags along for adventures. So it’s very modular, very flexible. Because there’s no detailed flavour tied to the attributes, you can use them for a whole bunch of genres and settings, or for a mashup of genres and settings. That meant we were able to have an adventuring party consisting of a halfling, an orc and an anthropomorphic cartoon dog.


I think the downside of the openness and flexibility is that the game can depend a lot on the ability of the players to get their character across. In our adventure, I was playing a psionic orc and another player was a shady halfling. The third player, when he was told he could play as anything or anyone, said, ‘I’ll be Goofy.’ I think that was actually really helpful because we know who he is and what he’s like, and we get how cartoon slapstick works. He was able to get the character concept across easily by having Goofy walk up imaginary stairs or elongate his arms in order to catch falling adventurers. I think my psionic orc and the sinister halfling were less clear, so it was harder to get into the swing of things.

Back to the positive: another thing that makes Open Legend stand out if the way that dice ‘explode’. If you roll a die, whether it’s a d4 or a d20, maximum rolls are repeated and added. So If you had to roll a d20 and a 1d6 and rolled a 20 and a 3, you’d expect to get a score of 23. But because you rolled a 20 on the d20, you would roll the d20 again and add the result to the 23. If you rolled another 20, it would explode again. The same thing would happen with the d6 if you had rolled a 6 – you’d roll it again and add the result to your score. This means that you can end up with some really high scores and results, and it means the game really lends itself to characters every now and then managing ridiculous, epic achievements.

* * *

If you want to check out Open Legend, the rules are available for free on their website. You can also try out their free, play-to-learn adventure, ‘A Star Once Fallen’ or support their Kickstarter campaign to publish their Amaurea’s Dawn adventure setting.

One week of Dungeons & Dragons over Twitter

A week ago I started trying out running Dungeons & Dragons over Twitter. I’ve been wanting to try out running D&D without much planning, using ideas detailed in The Lazy Dungeonmaster. Because I was using Twitter’s quiz function it took a little while to get going, but it’s underway now.

Last Saturday I asked what classes we should have in the party, and on Sunday I asked what races the characters should have. We ended up with a tabaxi (cat person) monk, a half-orc paladin, a gnome artificer and a human sorcerer. (The results were tied for the artificer’s and sorcercer’s races, so for each I chose one of the more conservative tied options.) I think on Monday and Tuesday I did some work developing the characters. I wrote up some character sheets and drew some illustrations:


As I said, I’ve been trying to work with The Lazy DM‘s suggestion of not preparing much. (I think it is also possible to plan even less when it is over Twitter, because when I’ve been asking particpants for directions, the polls have had a 24 hour deadline. That means there’s plenty of time to figure out what the results of the possible choices might be.) One of the book’s suggestions is just preparing three directions that the adventure could go in a session, and I tried that out.

In order to prepare three possible directions I opened some virtual Magic: The Gathering boosters using Bestiare and had a look for a few of the cards to see what could be good adventure hooks. (I chose boosters from the Return to Ravnica block, because I thought they should fit with the theme we’d chosen.) I saw a card depicting some guards standing around a corpse. I saw one card showing of a thief breaking into a building. I saw a card depicting a giant, carnivorous houseplant. These images became the seeds for the three directions I chose to offer the party.


When I asked which adventure path the adventurers should take, we had a tie, so I nodded to one option and then had the party follow the other option.

I inserted the monster that I’d based on the carnivorous plant card – there were three carnivous plants smashing their way into an adjacent flat looking for food.


I was pleased to see that the winning response was probably the most sensible: feeding them rations rather than trying to fight.

If you want to join in, the thread is over here.

Dungeons and Dragons over Twitter… with a dinosaur DM

Yesterday I read the story from Chicagoist about the dinosaur skeleton Twitter account that is running a Dungeons and Dragons adventure. I’ve been thinking as lot  about how to run D&D more collaboratively, and it struck me that what Sue theb T-rex is doing could be a good example. The administrator tweets to their followers about what is going on in the adventure, and then posts polls to ask what they party should do. (You can have a look at the whole thread here.) There’s no sense that the party members correspond to particular players. It’s more like the whole party represents all the players.  I thought I’d have a go at running an adventure this way myself. If you’d like to participate, the thread starts here and we’ve just started the party building stage.