5e Races: Hellbred Traits & Bonds

The Hellbred, Part 2!

Continuing the hellbred race that I started, last time. I think this is would be a fun race for the Hell’s Rebels adventure path. Is it overpowered? Does having weaknesses break the design philosophy of 5e? What do you think?

cc remtonHellbred Traits

Your hellbred character possess a number of traits that reflect your remade body and your damned soul. Some hellbred are saved as tireless warriors against evil, while others are better suited to be hunters.
Ability Score Increase. You have learned from your mistakes. Your Wisdom score increases by 1.
Age. Hellbred come into the world as adults, and none live long enough to determine their normal lifespan. It is possible that they do not age in the way that mortal races do.
Alignment. Hellbred are almost always lawful good. Less common are neutral and chaotic good hellbred, although many Empyreal Lords have a uses for hellbred of those alignments. More rare are hellbred who become evil, having given in to the inevitability of their damnation. These hellbred are hunted not only by devils, who seek the soul they have been denied, but by celestials, who do not take kindly to betrayal. Hellbred are never fully neutral.
Size. Whatever the hellbred’s race and size in life, and process of resurrection always crafts a body about the size and shape of a large human. Your size is medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Infernal Mein. You are terrifying to look upon. When a creature can see your face, you gain advantage on Intimidate checks and disadvantage on Diplomacy checks.
Touch of Evil. Your soul is pure, but your body still contains the taint of the evils you did in life. You can attune to weapons that can normally only be attuned by those with evil alignments, regardless of your alignment.
Hellbound. While you have cheated damnation for a time, a devil still has a claim on your soul. If you die, you can only be returned to life with a resurrection spell, or more powerful magic, and you can never return as the creature you were before becoming hellbred.
Empyreal Favor. The Empyreal Lords have faith in your ability to overcome your past, and that faith gives you an inner reserve of strength to call on when you most need it. As long as you are fighting an evil creature, you can choose gain advantage on any d20 roll, before you roll it. You must finish a short or long rest before you can use this ability, again.
Languages. You can speak, read and write Common, Infernal, and one other language you knew in life. Hellbred are not known for creating art or music. If they do, their endeavors tend to be heavily influenced by themes of salvation and damnation, and are always small enough to be carried: carving, poetry, small musical instruments, and so on. Their creative endeavors are sometimes tied to one of the Empyreal Lords that resurrected them: hellbred who were redeemed by Empyreal azatas are more likely to create art than those redeemed by Empyreal angels.

Hellbred Body

Your body is infused with a combination of divine and infernal strength, making you hardier than others of your kind, allowing you to shrug off blows than would fell most people.
Ability Score Increase. Your Constitution score increases by 2.
Devil’s Blood. You gain resistance to poison damage.
Infernal Resilience. After you are hit with an attack, but before the damage is revealed, you can choose to gain resistance to bludgeoning, slashing, and piercing damage until the end of your next turn. Silver weapons ignore this resistance. You must finish a short or long rest before you can use this ability, again.
Consume Essence. Your body swells with demonic energy, consuming its own essence in an effort to fight longer. You can sacrifice a number of hit points up to one less than your current hit point value. If you do, you gain twice that number temporary hit points, which last for 1 minute. Any amount of magical healing causes these temporary hit points to disappear.

Hellbred Spirit

Your body is weak, but your spirit shines with the light of the celestials, allowing you to follow your prey into even the deepest of hiding-places.
Ability Score Increase. Your Charisma score increases by 2.
Darkvision. You fear no darkness. You gain darkvision to 60 feet.
Celestial Intuition. You gain advantage on Wisdom (Insight) checks.
Light of Heaven. Even magical darkness is no impediment to you. You gain the ability to see in magical darkness for 10 minutes. You cannot use this ability again until you finish a long rest.
Eyes of the Empyreals. You can choose to gain the blinded condition. If you are blinded in this way, you gain telepathy to 10 feet. The range of your telepathy increases by 10 feet whenever you gain a level.

Hellbred Bonds

When creating a hellbred character, you can use the following table of bonds to help flesh out your character. Use this table in addition to or in place of your background’s bond or a bond of your creation.

d6 Bond
1 The Daredevil. I am without fear. Having died once, I am eager to prove to my benefactors that my resurrection was not a waste, so I throw myself into everything I do with a grim determination, and a complete disregard for my own life.
2 The Hero with No Name. I speak little, focusing instead on allowing my actions to speak for me. I am not interested in small talk, or exchanging names and pleasantries. I will save those I can and move on.
3 The Pack Leader. I want to think of myself as a “lone wolf,” but I often gather allies to myself, generally misfits and those discarded by society. I try to act as though I don’t care about anyone, but if anyone interferes with my pack, I react decisively and violently.
4 The Peacemaker. Some of my kind delight in wiping out evil, but I see every mortal soul as worthy of redemption. If I was giving a second chance, there is hope for anyone, and my purpose is to provide opportunities for repentance.
5 The Revenant. Although I was once a living thing, I am now closer to death than life. I walk the world in search of evil to put down, and never will I give quarter to those who sow the seeds of wickedness. I do not pretend to be alive, and avoid the trappings of life I no longer require: art, music, good food, companionship, these are the pleasures of the living.
6 The Scourge. Once I set my sights on an evil, there is no stopping me from eradicating it, even if that means ignoring other evils along the way, or alienating those around me. Those who embrace evil will whisper my name in the darkness, and know that I am coming for them.

Hacking the Hellbred

The hellbred might be a perfect race for the Hell’s Rebels adventure path. They are creatures of redemption, looking to get out of an infernal contract or atone for a terrible deed, and their redemption can only be found if they can thwart the plans of a great evil or save hundreds of lives. Helping Kintargo throw off the rule of House Thrune would certainly count. The hellbred are the ultimate tortured soul: they know they are probably damned, but they feel compelled to try, anyway. Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (and a lot of others, besides). Liam Neeson in… most Liam Neeson movies. Most of the characters in The Dirty Dozen.

They’re not anti-heroes: they’re lawful good, but look like they’re pure evil. What a great role-playing opportunity.

In converting the hellbred to 5e, I made some changes, but tried to keep the spirit of the class. I wanted to tie in the Empyreal Lords more, because they’re an aspect of Pathfinder cosmology that I think it brilliant, and I don’t think are used enough. The Body/ Soul split lent itself brilliantly to sub-races, and I thought it would be fun to have one infernally-influenced and one celestially-influenced subrace. I added a couple of powers, since many of the hellbred’s abilities are tied to “Devil Touched” feats, which don’t make sense in 5e. I tried to give each one a specific, flavorful mechanic that required sacrifice, in keeping with the theme of the class. I love the image of a hellbred’s eyes going white as she reaches out with her mind, or her body bulking up, but leaving her vulnerable to attack, later. Can she finish the combat and get other healing in time? Will an enemy figure out what she’s doing and “heal” her?

The hellbred has a mechanic that 3rd edition used a lot, but 5e shied away from: class abilities that are drawbacks. I decided to keep one or two of those, to enhance the knife-edge feeling of the class. Death is a big deal, for a hellbred, after all.

I’m not a graphic designer, and I’ve never done anything in Adobe, but as an experiment, I put this together, my first two-page spread.

What do you think?

Next time: More Empyreal Connections: The Empyreal Lord Warlock Patron!

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5e Races: Hellbred

To celebrate the Hell’s Rebels adventure path, this week is all about the Hellbred, a race from the Fiend Folio II that I’ve never seen anyone talk about, much less play. They’re well-suited for an AP about waging war against the forces of hell, though. Also, I think they’re pretty nifty.

cc vkucukemreHellbred

 When a mortal makes a deal with a devil, there is nothing that can save them. Even before their soul arrives in the afterlife, their fate is determined. Likewise, some deeds are so evil that, once they are committed, no amount of good can balance the scales. No amount of good deeds or repentance can cause a god of good to intervene in such matters. If a mortal makes the right appeal, at the right time, however, a group of Empyreal Lords may intervene, using powerful magic to give the repentant soul a chance at redemption.

Repentance and Redemption

Once a creature has died, it is too late to any power to intercede on its behalf. The laws of the afterlife, and enforced by the gods of death and balance, forbid post-mortem repentance or redemption. Good souls are delivered to their paradises, and evil souls are claimed by various devils and demons. Before death comes, however, many creatures realize their folly and try to atone for their choices. It is these souls that can, under the right circumstances, become hellbred. If a creature committed an act so terrible that it was immediately damned, genuine repentance might cause one of the Empyreal Lords to intercede in the moment before death, redirecting the soul into a new form. A soul condemned by an infernal contract takes a little more finesse. If the damned creature truly deserves salvation (for example, a creature who entered into an infernal contract with good intentions, as opposed to a desire for power), then an Empyreal Lord might risk conflict with a devil in an effort to save the soul.

A Second Chance – With a Price

When a soul is truly damned, or has been committed by contract to a demon, simply resurrecting it with a spell is not enough. The new body still houses the same soul, and when the new body dies, that soul, too, will be claimed. Instead, a group of Empyreal Lords must agree on the worthiness of the soul for redemption, and together they enact a powerful ritual to split the soul in two, carving the tainted pieces away. Those pieces are used to create the hellbred’s new body. As such, the body is an unsightly, twisted creature, with dark red skin, horns, and shining red eyes. In some cases, hellbred are even more demonic-looking, with cloven feet, forked tongues, useless wings, or pig-like snouts on their faces. It is a body that few could believe acts in the service of good. That, too, is part of the test: if the hellbred can perform truly heroic acts of goodness, despite their physical form and the mistrust of those around them, they will be worthy of salvation. To achieve repentance, however, the hellbred must perform acts of goodness both great and small. As the hellbred performs good acts (saving a town, defeating a serial killer, and so on), their physical features may soften, becoming less frighteningly demonic, although never full human. The hellbred’s true acts of redemption, however, all share one quality: they must put the hellbred in mortal danger for the sake of others’ lives. Often, the people the hellbred saves will not react with gratitude, but fear and revulsion, and that, too, is part of the test. If the soul can endure the thanklessness of the people it saves, then it may deserve to be saved.

Unending Pain, Uncertain Reward

Hellbred remember little of their former life, and they can never control those memories. Their past returns to them in flashes: a little girl with a stuff animal, the color of a man’s coat, the sound of a dog, flashes of images and feelings that provide painful reminders of the wretch that the hellbred had been. More often than not, the hellbred’s past reveals itself through emotional connections: an inexplicable sense of guilt on meeting the children of a past victim, or uncontrollable rage at the sight of a former lackey grown powerful. Because of the unpredictability of their memories, hellbred are defined by their mission – do good, save lives, whatever the cost. The reality is that few hellbred will complete their redemption. Most will die before their souls are cleansed, and they will be devoured. For most, the opportunity to address past misdeeds is with the risk. The actions of a hellbred are watched closely by both the Empyreal Lords who have gambled on their ability to reform and the devils who await their failure. Knowing this, and knowing how much rests on their mission, hellbred tend to be stoic, serious individuals who gravitate towards others, particularly other social outcasts, who share a similar unity of purpose. They are methodical and single-minded in their pursuit of justice. They know full well what they stand to lose if they waver from their course.

Hellbred Names

Hellbred keep the given name they used in life, but change their surname to something more in keeping with their situation. Some hellbred abandon a surname altogether, opting for an epithet that announces their mission. Still others take their name from one of their patron Empyreal Lords, despite the fact that those patrons are likely to let the hellbred fend for themselves for some time before ever returning.

Hellbred names: Aloysius the Unyielding, Constance Devilslayer, Macklin the Fist of Heaven, Rory Hellbound, Samuel the Shield of Ragathiel.

Next time: Hellbred Part 2: Traits, Bonds, and Hacking

5e Races: The Dar

Dx0805ex_DarfellanDar 

Once, dar villages could be found along every coastline and on every island. While they rarely ventured inland, they were one with the sea, and were widely respected as friends to travelers. While they made peace when they could, when they were pressed to war they responded with a mighty ferocity. Dar warrior poets were legendary defenders of sailors and the sea, until the dar found itself caught between two implacable enemies.

Hated by the Hidden Masters 

The dar first made enemies of the aboleths, who they call “foulers of the deep,” long ago. In many ways, the aboleths were the perfect foil for the dar: where the dar are forthright and brave, the aboleths are hidden manipulators. Once the dar became aware of the aboleths plans, they turned their considerable might towards stopping them at every turn. Few other races are as well-equipped to fight the aboleths as the dar, between their affinity for the sea and their innate mental defenses. As the conflict between them raged on, the aboleths turned more and more of their attention to exterminating the dar.

At War with the Sea-Devils

While the aboleths began hunting the dar in earnest, the seafarers began fighting a war on another front: the sahuagin. For as long as their mutual histories record, the dar and the sahuagin have fought over territory and hunting rights. These conflicts were minor and local, but as humans and other races began taking to sea in greater numbers, the sahuagin began to more aggressively defend their territories. When the other races proved too organized and numerous to drive off, the sahuagin turned their rage on their old enemies, and began an organized program of wiping out the dar.

Hunted to Extinction

The past century has not been kind to the dar. Between the machinations of the aboleths and the depredations of the sahuagin, every coastal dar community has been destroyed. Some may exist inland, on great lakes, but the traditional hunting grounds of the dar have been taken over by their enemies. Today, the few dar that remain are nomads, spending their lives on ships or living in other races’ cities and making themselves as useful as they can. The poet-warriors of the dar speak of a day when their race will unite to drive away the sea-devils and crush the foulers of the deep, but no one knows when, or if, that day will ever come.

Darfellan Names

Like the rest of the darfelon language, dar names are polysyllabic, consisting of hard consonants and long vowels interspersed with clicks. Dar often use shorthand names for themselves and others, based on a person’s job or defining feature. In darfelon, dar names convey large amount of information, including a dar’s birthplace, family connections, caste, tribe, and so on. To outsiders, the names simply sound musical. Male and female names are identical, except for the click sound at the end of the name: a high click for a male name and a low click for a female name. Dar custom includes these clicks only when the speaker is not present.

Dar names: Ak’inrinade-ch’ku, Debare!jajaiye, Ginika’kine, Tiwaray’wadunni.

darfellan2Dar Traits

Ability Score Increase. Your Strength increases by 2, and either your Wisdom or Charisma score increases by 1.

Age. Dar are always born in the water and begin swimming immediately. Under normal circumstances, a healthy dar can live upwards of 200 years, and some isolated communities have elders far older.

Alignment. Dar are almost always partially good in alignment. Evil dar are rare, but delight in cruelty. Many are lawful, although more chaotic dar appear every year as their society scatters.

Size. Dar are tall and muscular, standing over 6 feet tall and weighing more than 200 pounds. Your size is medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 25 feet. Your base swimming speed is 35 feet.

Darkvision. To hunt in the ocean’s depths, you have developed the ability to see in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as it if were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern most colors in darkness, only shades of blue and gray.

Born Swimmer. You have advantage on Strength (Athletics) checks related to swimming.

Dar Weapon Training. You have proficiency with the trident and the net.

Echolocation. As long as you are underwater and not deafened, you have blindsense to 20 feet.

Hold Breath. You can hold your breath for 1 hour.

Slippery Mind. You have advantage on saving throws against being charmed. In addition, creatures can only communicate with you telepathically if you allow it.

Languages. You can speak, read and write Aquan, Common, and Darfelon. The dar heroes were warrior poets and musicians. No dar did just one thing: every soldier knew how to play an instrument, and every musician could fight. The great epics of the dar are all about those who powerfully blended the two. Their art was impermanent: vast mandalas on beaches that disappeared with the tide. Since the scattering of the tribes, the dar have learned to use the music and art of the cultures they join, but their stories of bards and scalds remain favorites among the diaspora.

Bonds

When creating a dar character, you can use the following table of bonds to help flesh out your character. Use this table in addition to or in place of your background’s bond or a bond of your creation.

d6 Bond
1 Seafaring Poet. My only love is the sea, and I choose to live out my days in its embrace. My relationship with the sea is not one of survival or mercantilism, but one of romance. On its waves, I feel at home.
2 Seeker. I keep the records of the dar, traveling from city to city, collecting information about the survivors of my people. If I am looking for something in the small list of names, I have never told anyone what it is.
3 Slayer of Foes. I hunt, in the way of my people, but I hunt the sahuagin and aboleths that destroyed us. Their deaths give my life meaning.
4 Sower of Chaos. While my people keep to the old ways, live as though the old rules of our society still exist, I have moved beyond them. The old ways destroyed us, and I will create change by making the world a less ordered, less comfortable place for everyone.
5 Super-predator. I am a born hunter, and the company of others is of little interest to me. I particularly delight in bringing down large prey on my own.
6 Survivor. I seek no goal greater than my own survival, at any cost. I will betray any ally, break any vow, if it means that I, and my people, can live for one more day.

Hacking the Darfellan

I don’t know what it is about the darfellan that I find so compelling. It might just be the picture. Mechanically, as presented in Stormwrack, they’re not that impressive. Medium creatures who can hold their breath, bite, and echolocate? The last is interesting, but most of their features are flat. Still, something about the race has always intrigued me. I like races with stories, so that’s part of it. I also like the idea of a race where even the crudest barbarian is thoughtful and well-spoken.

When I converted to 5e, I dropped the bite, because it’s boring, and replaced it with something a little more story-focused. The thing is, “slippery mind” is passive, and bite is active. It’s a little dull to replace an active ability, and attack, with a passive one. While “dar weapon training” isn’t as active biting, martial weapon proficiencies are rare in 5e, and even if the trident isn’t a great martial weapon, it’s a start. With echolocation, natural swimming, and hold breath, they might be a little over-powered in an aquatic campaign, but in most games those things will be ribbons. They just won’t come up that often.

Dar names are taken from the Nigerian language, for its musicality. The idea of the dar as warrior-poets comes from a desire to set them up as “good Vikings,” seafarers who were more interested in helping people than raiding them and taking their stuff. All the same, I imagine that they’d have similar warrior traditions, for those who were warriors. Warriors among the dar are rare enough that they fit in nicely with the “great man theory” of D&D: in this game, history is moved not by social forces, but by exceptional individuals. The dar, those few that remain, are waiting for one such individual to arise, unite them, drive back their foes, and return to them their lands. Every diaspora has stories like this; it’s a natural outgrowth of feeling powerless and cut off from your home. In D&D, for the dar, at least, unlike in the real world, we could get to be that person.

Someone has to be the Deep Dweller, after all. Why shouldn’t it be your PC?

Next time: A Skaldic Bard Archetype for Dar, and Everyone!

Races of the Summerlands: The Aarakocra!

Aarakocra of the Summerlands

The last of my Summerlands races, for the (now long over) June RPG Blog Carnival, hosted by Tales of a DM, the aarakocra

Brynn MetheneyStrig & Tyton – Aarakocra subrace 

In the Summerlands, strig and tyton aarakocra are considered separate races, although they are identical. In practice, tytons look shorter and rounder, while strigs tend towards lean, muscular frames. Tyton aarakocra maintain that this physical distinction is determined from birth, but it is just as likely to be a result of the vastly different social circumstances of the two.

A Race Divided 

Tyton aarakocra rule over the strig with steel talons, and most strig are born and die in servitude. As the emisarries of the dragons, tyton are given the freedom to own lands in the mountains and to fly. Meanwhile, strig spend their lives toiling in underground mines, their wings clipped (often literally). Some strig, those who have their wings clipped and show particular willingness to collaborate, are allowed to work in fields or as herders. Whatever they do, strig aarakocra spend their days in manual labor, working for the benefit of the tyton and the dragons.

Freedom or Death

In the lowlands, free strig are rare, and tyton are always on some particular business for a dragon. Tyton never settle in the lowlands, wanting to be as close to the sky as possible, so strig who escape (or the few who are born free) tend to gravitate towards coastal cities or forests. Small strig communities exist in vast treetops of the northern forests. These free strig go to great lengths to hide themselves from both tyton and dragons, though most believe that it is only a matter of time before their former oppressors turn their eyes to the west and hunt them down. As a result, free strig tend to be both martial and paranoid, ready for a war that may not come in their lifetimes. Younger strig often push for rebellion, straining against their chains, literal and metaphorical. These strig either escape on their own, or are killed by their overseers in regular “cullings of the parliament.”

The Will of the Dragons

The dragons need mortal races to keep their lairs, to patrol their domains during their long slumbers, and to make sure that their laws are kept. Of all the races in the Summerlands, only tyton may risk waking a dragon without paying a terrible price. Likewise, just as harming a dragon incurs the wrath of the rest of their kind, tyton are to be considered the dragons’ claw in all things: to harm a tyton is to harm a dragon. (Whether this law comes from the dragons, or was added in translation by their tyton emissaries is impossible to say, and few are willing to test its validity.) Free strig are offered no such protection, however, and members of other races, the reven in particular, often take out their hostility towards the dragons on the only available targets. This fact only serves to make the free strig more insular and paranoid.

Strig and Tyton Names

Strig and tyton names are as different as the two bloodlines, themselves. Enslaved strig are given a name at birth, usually a single word in dragonic, signifying their connection to their tyton overlord, such as Cholk, Sesak, or Zerkax. These names are assigned irrespective of gender or parents’ wishes. Free strig choose names that sound pleasing in their mouths: Chara-kara-ka, Skree-ree-ax, and Whro-llo-llo. Tyton take names that they believe would please their dragon masters: Cicero the Beneficient, Penelope the Just, or Timon the Mad.

Aarakocra Traits

Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity increases by 2 and your Wisdom increases by 1
Age. Aarakocra learn to walk and glide within weeks of being hatched, and reach maturity by age 5. Their lifespans are shorter than humans, however, and few live longer
than 40 years. Strig lifespands tend to be shorter, as a result of their backbreaking work, while tyton lifespans tend to be longer.
Alignment. Aarakocra raised in the Summerlands have traditionally been pushed towards lawful alignments by their place in the social hierarchy, but younger generations tend towards chaos as they chafe against their overlords. Strig rarely choose between good and evil, focusing instead on survival. Tyton are always evil, having cast their lot in the dragons long ago.
Size. Aarakocra are small and thin, typically no taller than five feet. Because of their lightweight bone structure and bodies built for flying, most weigh between 70 and 90 pounds. An aarakocra’s wings are, at a minimum, three times their height, and most have a wingspan of 15 feet. Your size is medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 25 feet.
Limited Flight. You have a fly speed of 20 feet. To use this speed, you can’t be wearing medium or heavy armor. If you have not landed at the end of any turn in which you use your fly speed, you must have descended at least one-quarter of the distance you traveled or you fall 40 feet, taking damage normally if you hit the ground. You must have enough space in which to fly. If you do not have space to stretch your wings and an additional 5 feet on either side, you may not use your flight ability.
Talons. You are proficient with your unarmed strikes, which deal 1d4 damage on a hit. Your unarmed strike damage is always considered both slashing and bludgeoning.
Keen Senses During the nighttime (or planar conditions equivalent to dim light or darkness), you double your proficiency bonus on any skill check that involves sight.
Languages: You can speak, read and write Common, Aarakocra, and Draconic. Tyton art and music always serves to remind others of their connection to the dragons, and the two are always pictured or mentioned close to one another. Strig art and music is forbidden, and therefore hidden. In the mountains, strig art can be found on cave walls where tyton do not venture, and their songs can be heard whistling through the mines, all but indistinguishable from the wind, but neverending and sorrowful. Free strig make art and music with abandon, trying on a variety of styles and forms, adopting from other races, and experimenting with avant garde and dangerous forms.

Bonds

When creating an aarakocra character from the Summerlands, you can use the following table of bonds to help flesh out your character. Use this table in addition to or in place of your background’s bond or a bond of your creation.

d6 Bond
1 I serve the dragons. However I feel about them, the tyton speak for the dragons, and we owe the dragons our existence. I serve them with distinction and await my reward.
2 I shall die free. I will never be in bondage again, and I will sacrifice anything to remain free. I would rather die on the wing that be chained, again.
3 I am the breaker of chains. Freeing myself was not enough. All of my people must be free, whatever that takes.
4 I shield my family. My clutch, whether or not they are related to me by birth, are of the utmost importance, to me. I will protect them from harm at all costs.
5 I bathe in blood. Freedom, joy, peace. There words are meaningless. There is only the blood of my oppressors, and my hands are only clean when they are covered in it.
6 I want none of this. All I desire is a small hole or patch of sky to call my own, away from chains and away from conflict. I have no interest in causes or revenge, only isolation and peace.

Feat

True Flight
            Preprequisite: Aarakocra, must undergo the Ritual of Evolution

You have undergone the Ritual of Evolution. Using powerful magic, either on your own or under the aegis of a sponsor, you have become a master of the air. Your wingspan increases by 5 feet.

  • Your fly speed is 35 feet
  • You no longer need to land at the end of your turn.
  • You can fly while wearing medium, but not heavy, armor.
  • If you take the dash action towards the ground and end in a space adjacent to an opponent, you may make a single attack.

Hacking the Aarakocra

The final race in the Summerlands series, the aarakocra are something of an odd duck. An official version has been released, but it’s not widely popular. Author Rich Howard posted a different version on Tribality, with a dive attack and some restrictions of flight. I think that one is much, much better than the official version, but I still think it’s a little over-powered. This version is my blending of the two: it doesn’t get to “fly” until level 4 at the earliest, which puts off the most broken thing. I borrowed some mechanics from the work the Kobold Press and Legendary Games are doing on their races, which is fun. I’ve honestly been looking forward to writing up this race for a long while, because there are a number of good versions, and I wanted to try to create an elegant compromise that threaded the space in between them in a fun way.

The traditional aarakocra might swap out these abilities, representing more of a hawk than the owl-like aarakocra of the Summerlands:

Children of Aaqa
Keen Senses.  During the daytime (or planar conditions equivalent to bright natural light), you double your proficiency bonus on any skill check that involves sight.
Languages. You can speak, read and write Common, Aarakocra, and Auran.

It might be fun to build other aarakocra: vulture-like creatures whose Keen Senses give a bonus on foraging checks, or a swan-like version with a swim speed, or a raven-like with a bonus to Stealth checks. Those are minor changes, but they can significantly impact the flavor of the race, I think.

Next time: After the triple-sized fey and a busy summer, I’m taking a week off before writing a couple of adventures in the Summerlands.

Races of the Summerlands: The Tunder (Gnome and Halfling subrace)

The sixth of my Summerlands races, for the (now long over) June RPG Blog Carnival, hosted by Tales of a DM, the tunder are a blending of gnomes and halfings into something that might be a little more interesting to play than either one is, on their own.

TunderTunder

Once, many generations ago, the halflings and the gnomes of the Summerlands were distinct races, each close to nature in their own way. They held their dinners and told their jokes and were welcomed as unthreatening and harmless by the taller races. They called no land their own, but were at home everywhere. Out of sight of the other races, however, the gnomes and halflings fought a hidden war against predatory fey. Masked by their silly inventions and second breakfasts, the small folk acted as the first line of defense against the otherworldly predators that would hunt mortal races.

As this war raged, the two races become intertwined through magic, marriage, and blood. In time, gnomes and halflings ceased to be separate peoples and become the tunder. In this blending, however, they became darker and less jolly. Where halflings and gnomes were welcome distractions, the presence of a tunder often reminds mortals that there are things they can neither see nor control. Most mortals are not consciously aware of it, but they know that a tunder brings an ill wind, and the warm embraces that halflings and gnomes always received has long since turned cold.

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Races of the Summerlands: Grippli

The grippli are one of the most talked-about races on the message-boards, so I thought I’d play with it. The fifth of my Summerlands races, for the (now long over) June RPG Blog Carnival, hosted by Tales of a DM, I’m playing with some themes for the grippli, and doing a little bit with mechanics.


by Broken OrangeGrippli

Though they build no cities and claim no territory, the grippli are among the most feared races in the world. Individually, they pose little harm, and most of the time grippli have little interest in associating with anyone outside of their family unit, others of their kind included. When they gather, however, few forces can stand against them.

Spawning Pools

Most grippli families live in small groups in wild places, providing for themselves by hunting and trading. For them, however, family is not a function of blood. Once a year, grippli migrate to ancestral pools to mate. Once, these pools were left behind by adult grippli, and the young were allowed to hatch and grow on their own. Now, however, the grippli understand that they have enemies, and each year the mating pools are guarded by a cadre of grippli either too young or too old to participate, who watch over the tadpoles until they reach adolescence, perform their guard duties, and go on their own into the wider world.

Bonds of Trust

Despite the mating habits of the grippli, they do fall in love. Grippli love comes in many varieties, from camaraderie to romantic attachment, but it is always separate from sex. It is, instead, connected to trust. Because the grippli are dispersed throughout the Summerlands, without a home of their own, they cling tightly to the people they trust, and do not trust easily, even other grippli. A grippli might watch a potential ally for days before revealing themselves, carefully weighing every action. Once a grippli does give its trust, however, the bond is nearly unbreakable. This is how grippli family units are formed. Once formed, a grippli family moves together, fights together, lives and dies together. While grippli mate for just a moment at a time, when a family bond is formed, it is for life.

Guerrilla Warriors

When the grippli go to war, its scale is either intimate or catastrophic. When a family is threatened, it will go to war to defend its members, and it may be joined by a few nearby allies. When the forests and swamps of the Summeralnds are threatened, however, the grippli go to war as a nation. When they do, leaders are chosen and ranks are formed: the grippli know their business, and want nothing more than to finish their task and return to their lives. Unlike other races, however, who make war with hiding beasts and mighty weapons, the grippli use stealth, poison, and their bows. While a reven army might make paste of an equivalent force of grippli on an open field of battle, the grippli never allow that to happen. They fight from secret, using terror and thinning their foes’ ranks with poison and disease, until their enemy can fight no longer. This is the only reason grippli congregate in large numbers.

In smaller numbers, grippli form communities in particularly large cities with parks or sub-urban communities where grippli can make their homes. In Dragon Tyr, the grippli are a political force, though the role of Council Speaker is not a position of pride, but rather an onerous civic duty. In cities, many grippli move away from their traditional hunting and gathering roles, and find success as alchemists, thieves, and spies.

Grippli Names

Grippli names are never tied clans or families, but are usually a single word with meaning in their tongue. Outsiders can’t tell the difference between male and female names, and often can’t distinguish between grippli names and other words in their language. Male Names: Brooaka (“Hunter on high”), Choraka (“Hunter from below”), Jipjiptoo (“Speaking and speaking with clarity”), Vreeto (“Prizes clarity”). Female Names: Hurrupana (“Slayer of the hated foe”), K’k’k’lock’k (“Many running waters”), Groakarup (“Hunter of her enemy’s heart”)

Grippli Traits

Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2, and Wisdom score increases by 1.
Age. Young grippli are born tadpoles and grow into full-grown grippli over the course of a few months, reaching adulthood within a year. The natural lifespan of a grippli is 50 years.
Alignment. Grippli typically reject the structures and rules of society, and tend towards chaotic alignments. Lawful grippli, while rare, tend to look for other societies to join, and are incredibly effective managers and lawbringers. The battles between good and evil are uninteresting to most grippli, who are concerned only with survival and defending their homes from depredation. Grippli who lean towards good do this out of a purity of spirit, while evil grippli are more likely to hunt and kill would-be despoilers, often before they have a chance to act.
Size. Grippli average between 3 and 4 feet, but stoop slightly, and weigh about 30 pounds. Your size is small.
Speed. Your base walking and climbing speed is 20 feet.
Chameleon Skin. You have advantage on Dexterity (stealth) checks made to hide in forest and swamp environments.
Leaper. Your long jump is up to 20 feet and your high jump is up to 10 feet, and you are always considered to have a running start.
Poison. All grippli secrete a poison from a gland in their mouth to aid in hunting. You can apply this poison to a weapon or piece of ammunition as an action. The poison lasts for 1 hour, or until the weapon hits. On a hit, the target must make a DC 12 Constitution saving throw or be poisoned for 1 minute. The target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on a success. Once you have used this ability, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest.
Grippli weapon training. You have proficiency with blowguns, rapiers, and shortbows.
Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Grippli. The Grippli language is spoken from the throat, and what sounds like a single word to outsiders is often a number of smaller words joined together to create a new one. The grippli word for the reven, for example, is a combination of the words for “dragon” and “walk.” Grippli art is a private matter, as is most of their lives, but anyone who has spent time near a grippli knows the sound of their songs, long, beautiful paeans that sometimes last from dusk until dawn.

Grippli Bonds

When creating a grippli character from the Summerlands, you can use the following table of bonds to help flesh out your character. Use this table in addition to or in place of your background’s bond or a bond of your creation.

d6 Bond
1 The bond of family is the most important bond there is, and the family I have made must be protected.
2 I am the forest’s first line of defense, and the best defense is a brutal offense.
3 The thrill of the hunt keeps me alive, and I am always looking for bigger and better game.
4 Everything in my life is an excuse to experiment with alchemical formulas.
5 We are not animals – I defend my world and my family through diplomacy.
6 The forest exists because the dragons allow it, and I serve the will of the dragons in all things.

Feat

Mighty Hunter
            Requirement: Grippli

You have undergone the Ritual of Evolution, gaining abilities that connect you to your heritage among the frogs and giant frogs of the swamps, as well as abilities that will one day be common to all grippli. You gain the following abilities:

  • Increase your Strength score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
  • Your size becomes medium, and your base walking and climbing speeds are 30 feet.
  • Your poison becomes more potent. Your target must succeed at a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or be poisoned. Any target who is affected by your poison can not regain hit points while they are poisoned. In addition, the target’s speed is halved while they are poisoned.
  • You can cast invisibility. When casting invisibility in this way, you can only target yourself, and your invisibility has a duration of concentration, up to 2 rounds. This use of invisibility does not affect any spellcasting from other classes. After you use your invisibility, you can’t use it again until you complete a short or long rest.
  • You are proficient in the longbow.

Hacking the Grippli

While this version of the grippli are rooted in the Summerlands, they fit in anywhere. Their abilities are pretty straightforward, and only the poison would add to their challenge rating, if they were an opponent.

Without the poison, they’re just like any hidden forest race: this could work for fey, or bullywugs, or others.

I feel like my real experiment, here, is the feat. Should a small race like the grippli be able to grow? What would that mean, in game terms? Small races don’t have the same advantages and disadvantages in 3rd edition; size isn’t so locked in to the mechanics. Why not grow, gain a little strength, use longbows, walk a little faster? Can the same experiment be performed with gnomes or halflings? Is it worth a feat, or more than a feat?

The change to large would be more significant, I think, but only because of range.

The grippli are one of two races without a homeland, but there’s no stigma about it, for them. They’re seen as part of the world. The tunder are different: fey no one trusts. I was a little worried about having both of them in the same setting, but I think it works, because they’re viewed differently by the races around them. Also, the names. I could make up grippli names all day.

Next time: 7 Summerlands Spells!

Summerlands Races: The Reven

I love the idea of the dragonborn, but the execution is often lacking. The fourth of my Summerlands races, for the (now long over) June RPG Blog Carnival, hosted by Tales of a DM, the reven are my attempt to play with the theme, and make them a little more flavorful.


Reven

cc PeachycoCreated by the dragons long ago, the reven of today build powerful city-states and mighty armies. Though they delight in war, reven respect all of the professions that make war possible. Whether a reven is a farmer, a logger, a builder, or a teacher, their work serves one purpose: to strengthen their society and home themselves to perfection. A reven who has perfected the craft of logging is as rightly regarded as one who has mastered the ways of war, and more esteemed than a warrior whose scales have never been bloodied.

Dragon-made

The reven are less dragon-born, and more dragon-made. Long ago experiments in creating servants, the reven were either a great failure, or a rousing success. Some say that the reven escaped their servitude and built lives for themselves on the central plains of the Summerlands. Others, perhaps more understanding of dragons’ natures, say that the reven were released, either as a reward or a punishment. All the stories begin the same, however: the dragons created the reven to be the perfect race of servants, but now the reven toil for no one but themselves. Strong-willed and independent, they will bow to no one except by choice, and the frequent wars between their mighty city-states are evidence of their independence.

Individual reven might despise way and seek to avoid fighting, but every reven strives to achieve perfection of body and craft. Whatever a reven does, doing that thing well honors their family, and the dragons who made them.

Warlords and Kings

The great cities of the reven serve to feed their wars with one another as each reven warlord-king (called Greatwyrm by their people) tries to control the fertile grasslands. Some reven city-states control hundreds of square miles, such as the military theocracy of Toka Zjedhur and the democratic, egalitarian Kryesor Madj, but most are small tribal communities of farmers and herders.

Whatever the size or nature of their community, reven tend to be both territorial and expansionist. Even the smallest farmer will defend his little plot to the death, while looking for ways to increase its size. The Greatwyrms embody this ideal on a national level, marshaling armies and waging periodic wars against their neighbors. Rarely do city-states make lasting peace agreements. A truce might be called for a few planting seasons, but before long the armies will be moving, again.

Wings and Scales

While reven can’t use their wings to fly until the reven has evolved, those wings are always a point of pride. Reven polish and shine their wings, sometimes painting intricate designs on the membranes, piercing the cartilage, or grafting strips of metal to them as a mark of their ability to endure pain.

The scales of a reven provide armor, but even for reven who never see battle, their scales are a source of pride and decoration. Many reven paint their scales with symbols or artistic representations of important events or people in their lives. Reven scale-paint does not wash off, but can be removed painlessly, and many reven change their scale-paint every few months.

Reven Names

Draconic, as spoken by reven, is guttural, with strings of consonants. A reven’s name is determined by their accomplishments, and will reveal those accomplishments to those who know them, often in metaphor. As such, reven names can change over time, and while most have a core that remains, reven expect to reintroduce themselves to long-absent acquaintances. The name of the legendary general Steelclaw the Unyielding refers to his finely-crafted metal hand, which was made for him after he defended Toka Zjedhur against a rampaging dinosaur while the city’s defenses were unprepared. A reven beggar might be called One-eye the Unworthy, while a seventh-generation farmer might be called Longplow the Steady. Reven names are more than just labels: they are stories.

Reven Traits

Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 2, and either your Dexterity or your Wisdom score of your choice increases by 1.

Age. Young reven grow quickly, aging as dragonborn.

Alignment. Reven strive towards the perfection of self in all things, and tend towards lawful alignments. They have no preference for good or evil, however. Those reven who do follow a path of chaos do so out of a sense of individuality and a desire to demonstrate that their achievements are greater than their peers’.

Size. Reven are broad-shouldered and tall, but light, standing 7 feet tall and averaging 150 pounds.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet and your climb speed is 10 feet.

Claws. Your mighty claws are useful for combat as well as climbing. You are never unarmed. You are proficient with your claw, which is a melee weapon that deals 1d6 slashing damage.

Wings. Your wingspan is twice your height, and those wings are composed of powerful muscles over cartilage, with strong membranes in between them. Although not useful for flight, your wings provide stability, giving you advantage on Strength (Athletics) and Dexterity (Acrobatics) checks related to climbing, jumping and balancing, and on any saving throw to avoid being knocked prone. You can use them to pick up small items up to 20 feet away, although your wings can’t manipulate most items.

Glide. Your wings give you the ability to glide for brief periods of time. As long as you are not prone at the beginning of your turn, and both start and end your movement on a surface on which you can stop (including a surface on which you could climb), you can glide up to your movement speed when you take a move action. You can attack at any time during your move, as normal, but you may not glide and use the Dash action on the same turn.

Protective scales. Your body is covered in thin plates that are nonetheless effective armor. Your base armor class is 12, as long as you are wearing no other armor.

Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Draconic. Draconic is both a holy and a reviled language in the Summerlands, and few creatures speak it in public.

Reven Bonds

When creating a reven character from the Summerlands, you can use the following table of bonds to help flesh out your character. Use this table in addition to or in place of your background’s bond or a bond of your creation.

d6 Bond
1 I seek perfection in the arts of war, testing myself against all opponents. I would rather lose a fight against a better foe than win against one unworthy of my blade.
2 I seek perfection in the arts of diplomacy. My words should move the coldest heart, creating peace where wars rage, or war where peace stagnates.
3 I seek perfection in the arts of thievery. No gate shall keep me out, and no lock shall defend against me. There is no challenge greater than an impregnable fortress.
4 I seek perfection in the arts of magic. Through study and exploration, I will open doorways in my mind that no other reven has yet conceived.
5 I seek perfection in my knowledge of the world. I will explore and catalogue every blade of grass in the Summerlands, and beyond, if possible.
6 I seek perfection in slaughter. I will not rest until I have slain one of each type of creature that lives, or all of one type.

Feat

Dragonflight
            Requirement: Reven Dragonborn

You have undergone the Ritual of Evolution, gaining abilities that connect you to your draconic heritage and abilities that will one day be common to all reven. You gain the following abilities:

  • You have a fly speed of 30 feet and a climb speed of 20 feet.
  • Choose one type of dragon (black, blue, green, red, or white). You gain resistance to the damage type dealt by that dragon’s breath weapon.
  • If you do not use them to fly in a round, you can make an attack with your wings. Your wings do 1d10 damage and have reach. If your attack hits, and the creature if Large or smaller, it must make a Strength saving throw. On a failed save, you knock the target prone.

Hacking the Reven

I’ve already written one subrace for the dragonborn, but I wanted one that focused on the wings. The blog Tribality (which I really enjoy) has another set of subraces based on the draconic types, and while I like the idea, it didn’t fit into the Summerlands. In fact, that Tribality post is one of the few places I could find dragonborn subraces. In the drac, I wanted to focus on the magic of dragons, but in this one I wanted to see a mechanic that emulated wings without giving them flight until 4th level (or later).

Except for the claws and protective scales, none of the new abilities: wings, gliding, a dismal climb speed, would add to the dragonborn’s CR if they were given to an opponent, so they seemed like a fair trade for the draconic resistance, while the claws and armor replaced the breath weapon.

In another world, one where dragonborn don’t usually have wings, the reven subrace could represent interference by dragons, or a natural evolution of the dragonborn race. Either way, they would likely not hold positions of power (unlike dragonborn with the Winged ability, from the Tribality article), but might instead be persecuted and hunted, both by dragonborn and by members of other races who saw them as a threat.

Next time: More draconic meddling! The Dragon-touched Background