The most complicated race conversion (and also the most fun): the
Lashunta Cupian Aratomin!
Aratomin are always at war: with one another, with the elves that dominate their homeworld of Lasang, or with the many deadly creatures that populate that planet’s trackless forests. Those wars are not always physical, however. Just as often, an Aratomini war will last for generations without blood being shed, as diplomatic moves are made that bring one tribe success and another ruin. Typically, aratomin who are beaten harbor no resentment, instead appreciating the superior military or diplomatic acumen of the victor, and finding a way to be absorbed into the winning tribe or culture.
Ability score increase. Increase your Intelligence by 2.
Age. All aratomin seem to be mature adults. Young aratomin appear to be a different species, and while the martial nature of the society means that few aratomin reach old age, most of those who do undergoes a ritual that dispenses with their physical form, joining a collective consciousness known as the Gestalt.
Alignment. Aratomin go through many alignments in their lives, beginning as carefree, chaotic, youth. As they age, they turn to a path of law, sacrificing their own desires for the good of their communities. Aratomin are as likely to be evil as good, however, and might choose to defend their communities with cruelty and viciousness or with generosity and kindness. Evil aratomin might seek out battles that enable them to do the greatest amount of harm to others, while good aratomin might engage in more honorable combat. Whatever their aligment, all aratomin are prepared for war.
Size. Aratomin stand either between 4 and 5 feet tall or 6 and 7 feet tall, depending on their subrace. Your size is Medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Limited Telepathy: You are able to mentally communicate with any creature within 30 feet with whom you shares a language.
Bulwark. You have proficiency in Strength and Intelligence saving throws.
Languages. You can speak, read, and write Elven, Aratomi, and one other language.
Subraces: Aratomin seem, on the surface, to be sexually dimorphic. To casual observers, it appears as though male aratomin are short, hirsuite, and warlike, while female aratomin are statuesque and thoughtful. From the moment of their birth (from gestation pods in secluded forest nests) until they are ready to become adults, young aratomin have no connection to their tribe, and instead appear to be hairy, tree-dwelling primates (albeit with small antenna on their heads). Packs of young aratomin care for one another, and are protected by slightly older, though not fully adult, aratomin youth. All are seemingly androgynous until adulthood. When the time comes for young aratomin to take their place in their society, they return to their family and begin their Rite of Ascension, when they will choose whether they will follow a path of combat or a path of diplomacy and become fully adult members of their tribes. The Rite of Ascension begins a series of physical changes that prepare the aratomin for a life of either physical or social combat, when they become a ghotar or qentar, respectively. After the Rite of Ascension, ghotar aratomin take on a dense, blocky shape, with thick manes of hair around their faces, regardless of their biological sex. Likewise, qentar are tall and elven in appearance, eventually taking on what many consider to be the ideal of elven or human feminine beauty. These features help them engage in the kinds of combat that will be primarily required of them: espionage, diplomacy, and command. Regardless of their ascended state, aratomin value all manner of well-fought war.
Most other races see the ghotar as “male aratomi,” but this is incorrect. While all ghotar have large manes of hair, with visible antennae and long beards, many are biologically female, and relationships between ghotar are as common as relationships between ghotar and qentar. Ghotar are the physical defenders of aratomi communities, and are expected to be able to engage in mounted defense of their communities when necessary. Ghotar typically stand between 4 and 5 feet tall.
Ability score increase. Increase your Strength score by 1.
Aratomin Magic: You know the true strike cantrip. Once you reach 3rd level, you can cast the false life spell once per day as a 2nd level spell. Once you reach 5th level, you can cast the enhance ability spell once per day. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for these spells.
Outrider. You have advantage on Animal Handling checks.
Most other races see qentar as “female aratomi,” because they possess many physical features of female elves. During their Rite of Ascencion, they take on the physical characteristics of feminine beauty in whatever society they will interact with most. (How this is determined is a mystery, but likely involves the influence of the Gestalt.) As most aratomi interact with elves, they tend to be tall, lithe, and fey-looking, with visible antennae. Many qentar are biologically male, however, and relationships between qentar are as common as relationships between qentar and ghotar. Qentar are the leaders, diplomats, sorcerers, and sages of aratomi culture. Most of the contact that other cultures have with the aratomi are with qentar, unless they societies are actively at war. Qentar typically stand between 6 and 7 feet tall.
Ability score increase. Increase your Charisma score by 1.
Aratomin Magic: You know the druidcraft cantrip. Once you reach 3rd level, you can cast the speak with animals spell once per day. The effects of this spell apply to your telepathy, as well. Once you reach 5th level, you can cast the suggestion spell once per day. The somatic components of this spell can be cast using your telepathy. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for these spells.
Diplomat. You have proficiency in Persuasion skill.
Hacking the Aratomin
Having a telepathic race is a lot of fun, and the Lashunta have a long history in D&D. The Cupians, the pulp race that the Lashunta are based on, are sexually dimorphic, and while that kind of thing works great in 1930’s pulp, it works less well through a modern lens. I thought, “I know, I’ll make the dimorphism role-based, instead, and have both sexes involved in both roles! How 21st Century of me!” My group spend an hour talking about how Aratomi have sex, determine their place in the world, and so on. An hour. What resulted was a lot like my original concept, but much deeper.
I’ve said before that I like the idea of races that advance along with the character, and what better race to do that than one that is meant to be innately psionic?
The biggest changes that I made, though, were to the sex and gender politics of the Aratomin. Instead of being “sexually dimorphic,” they are role-dimorphic, and that role is guided by the gestalt mind of the ancient Aratomin. When an Aratomin reaches their Rite of Ascension, the gestalt looks inside their mind and heart to determine the best fit: warrior or diplomat. All other roles (farmer, shop-keeper, prostitute, wheelwright, etc.) are secondary to that. In Aratomin society, even a gravedigger is either a warrior or a diplomat first and a gravedigger second.
Aratomin don’t “have sex” to procreate. The females leave eggs in a nest, which are fertilized by males, and in both cases, they are guided by the gestalt. The young hatch and look nothing like their older selves as a form of protection: this keeps their enemies from hunting them down.
When they Ascend, the gestalt chooses the best caste for them, and whether the Aratomin is male or female, their physical form takes on the “right” look for that caste. These looks are shaped solely by the other significant humanoid race on their homeworld: the elves. The Aratomin leaders look like the elven ideal of femininity, and the warriors look like the elven expectation of animalistic toughness. The sex of the Aratomin doing the fighting or spellcasting is, in the end, irrelevant. As a telepathic race, Aratomin form romantic bonds not based on physical attributes, although they certainly can, but on intellectual and emotional capability. That is also true for their relationships with members of other races: they can be attracted to humans, elves, dwarves, and others, but the physical aspects of such liaisons are less important to the Aratomin than the mental match.
My goal, here, was to turn the ideal of “sexual dimorphism” on its head, particularly in a race where both the female and the male are some sort of platonic ideal based on a certain time in history. I’m not sure how well it worked, but it was a fun experiment. In the end, none of my players wound up playing an Aratomin character, but I had a lot of fun building them.
Next time: Different coats for summer and winter: the generationally seasonal cat-like