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

Races of the Summerlands: The Wildren

The second of my Summerlands races, for the June RPG Blog Carnival, hosted by Tales of a DM. The wildren were introduced in 3rd Edition D&D, and part of my goal was to rehabilitate them from their… problematic origins.


Wildren

WildrenThe wildren are the stewards of the Summerlands’ vast northern forests. Tribal and territorial, they care for little beyond their family and the forests that support them. Though they were once dwarves, driven out of their mountain holds by dragons and the minions, the wildren adapted to their new homes and now bear only a passing resemblance to their former selves.

Forests over Stone

Long ago, the wildren were mountain dwarves, toiling far underground. They built mighty holds deep in the earth, until the dragons came and took those vast undermountain domains for themselves. Driven into the woodlands, the wildren fought back, unwilling to give up their birthright, so the dragons used powerful magic to bind them to the forests, and prevent them for returning to the mountains.

Nomads with Homes

Although the wildren never remain in an area longer than one planting season, their cities remain: structures that stretch high into the enormous trees and descend deep into underground caverns. The race that built these great cities left no other trace, although the rooms and corridors are half-again larger than even the tallest wildren. These canopy cities and the subterranean tunnels are isolated, each a more than a day’s walk from the next, and each is self-sufficient. Whoever built them intended earth and sky to be connected, but the cities themselves to be isolated.

The tribal movements of the wildren are carefully negotiated, orchestrated every five years when the clans gather in Dragon Tyr, the largest of the forest cities. The lack of a permanent home is essential to the wildren: they believe that it keeps them from becoming more attached to any one city than to the forest itself. If every clan settled in one city, they say, there would be competition for resources and battles over pieces of land, as there was in the time before the dragon exodus. In their loose-knit society, violence against another wildren is the most serious crime, punishable by banishment from the forest. Should any clan make war on another clan, the entire clan is banished during the great moot at Dragon Tyr. The wildren take these taboos, and their stewardship of the forests, seriously, and consider other races’ obsession with permanent homes the source of conflict, both with other people and with the land.

Woodland guardians

While wildren are forbidden to engage in violence against other wildren, members of other races are not so protected. While hunting and logging rights can be negotiated at the great moot, any breech of those treaties, particularly poaching or logging done without the proper care, brings the wrath of the wildren down on the offender. Perhaps because they form no particular attachment to one city, the wildren see the entire forest as their home and treat any violence done to it as a personal attack. A wildren can survive outside of the forest, and banished wildren are powerful mercenaries, but some part of them always longs to return to their home.

The wildren worship no gods, revering instead the forest itself as provider and giver of life. While there are no divine powers, the wildren spiritual worldview does allow for demons, and those demons always take the shape of dragons.

Wildren Names

Wildren names are usually short and often involve a grunt or howl that is difficult to for other races to reproduce and impossible to write down. When dealing with non-wildren, they frequently adopt a nickname based on a physical feature or obvious trait.

Wildren names: Chit-(high-pitched yipping sound)-klat, (fist-palm/snort)-Feh, (low-grunt)-Takchu-(palm-slap). Wildren nicknames: Arm-breaker, One-eye, Silverback.

Wildren traits

As dwarves who have adapted to forest life, the wildren use many of the dwarven racial traits, with some modifications.

Ability Score Increase. Wildren spend much of their time climbing in trees and hunting with bows. Increase your Dexterity by +1.

Skill and Tool Proficiencies: Instead of the traditional dwarven tool proficiencies, wildren add their proficiency bonus to Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on scent and Strength (Athletics) checks made to climb.

Stability: Wildren are far enough removed from the mountains that their connection to the earth has been weakened. You do not gain the dwarven stonecunning ability. Instead, when an opponent attempts to shove or trip you, that opponent has disadvantage on the attack roll.

Brachiation: You gain a climb speed equal to your walking speed.

Wildren Bonds

When creating a wildren 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 My greatest loyalty is to my clan. Whether I hope to lead it one day or only want to serve, keeping my clan safe and helping them prosper is the most important thing in the world, to me.
2 As a scout, my job is to protect my clan from afar. As wild as wildren society is, it is still too constraining for me. Nothing makes me happier than exploring the untamed forests on my own, or with a small group of companions.
3 While my people have foresworn vengeance for the wrong done to us by the dragons, long ago, I cannot forget the wounds, and will one day have my revenge. I may not long to return to the dark caverns under the mountains, but I will make the dragons pay for driving my people out, all the same.
4 I am the forest’s mighty hand, smiting those who would do it harm. I might guard the areas where logging or hunting are allowed to ensure that treaties are obeyed, or I might object to those treaties entirely and seek to punish non-wildren who encroach on the forest. Whether my calling is holy or practical, the northern forests are my home, and I will not see them defiled.
5 Most wildren look up, focusing on the tree-houses aboveground, but the forest extends below the earth, as well. My greatest joy comes from exploring the deep caverns underground, in the places where few wildren go. Whether I simply enjoy the solitude, or seek to satisfy some primal craving for connection to the earth, I look down while others stare at the sky.
6 I was unjustly banished from the forests, and must make my way in the world beyond. While I live in the southern world, selling my knowledge or my mace, I want nothing more than to prove my innocence and return to my home. 

Feat

Call of the Wildren
Requirements: Wildren, must undergo the Ritual of Evolution

You have undergone the Ritual of Evolution, gaining abilities that connect you to your dwarven heritage and abilities that will one day be common to all wildren.

  • Increase your Constitution score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
  • You gain a burrow speed of 10 feet.
  • Your claws become more effective weapons. Your unarmed strike is considered both slashing and bludgeoning damage, and you are always considered armed.
  • Wildren-rage: When you take damage, you may enter a rage for one round. While you are raging, you may make one additional attack when you take the attack action, and your attacks do additional damage equal to your Constitution modifier (minimum 1). If you gain the ability to rage or fury from any other source, class features that affect your rage affect this rage, including features that affect how your rage or fury ends, and your wildren-rage damage is added to attacks made during your rage or state of fury. You regain the use of this ability after a short or long rest.

Hacking the Wildren

The wildren were first introduced in the Planar Handbook (2004), and when I set out to convert content from that edition to 5th Edition, I really didn’t want to write them. In that edition, they’re the offspring of the souls of dead dwarves and celestial badgers, who spend their lives in their burrows and only come out to beat on people who annoy them. I can’t imagine anyone saying, “In our next game, I really want to play an anti-social half-celestial-badger.” The pseudo-bestiality angle is just icing on the cake of “races that never see play.” Sure, technically, it’s the souls of the dwarves, and not the dwarves themselves, mating with the badgers, but that’s a mighty fine hair to split.

Then came The Summerlands. If the dragons (and the aarakocra sub-races that serve them) own the mountains, where do the dwarves fit in? I could have left them out, like I did the elves (although it’s possible that the elves built the structures that the wildren live in), but I like having traditional races to anchor a world, and just the humans and halflings (and dragonborn, for some people) didn’t seem like enough. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to rehabilitate the wildren. If dwarves can be slightly different in the hills and the mountains, then it makes sense that dwarves driven from their rocky homes entirely would eventually become something else, a sort of mammalian equivalent of lizardfolk, particularly if they were helped along by draconic magic.

I set out to make the wildren an attractive race, or at least significantly less problematic, and dropped in a few story-seeds. These wildren could fit in to any world where the dwarves have been uprooted, and while they might not always be nomads, I think they’d take to the forests in a completely different way than elves. They might even take the place of elves in a setting (like this one) that wants a forest guardian without all the Legolas baggage.

As an added bonus, the Call of the Wildren feat synergizes with the Rage Warden ranger. More on that, later.

What do you think?

Next time: The Rage Warden – A Summerlands Ranger Archetype

Dragonborn bloodline – The Drak

Dragonborn? Dragonmade! 

Image by DeviantArt user FuSharkSome dragon-kin are born, the blood of their parents running in their veins, able to spew acid, cold, fire, lightning, or poison from their mouths. They carry their ancestry proudly, knowing that they carry on a tradition of dragonborn empires and mighty draconic kings.

Elsewhere in the universe, however, there is another “dragonborn” race, the dominant life form on their planet, these dragonborn, who call themselves drak, have never known dragons. If there were once dragons on their world, the great beasts have long since died off, possibly killed by the first drak.

The first drak might have been an experiment, an attempt by the dragons to build the perfect minion. If that was the goal, it backfired spectacularly. The drak quickly rose to become the dominant life-form, unencumbered by emotion and thorough in their extermination of any race that could present any genuine competition for resources. For generations, the drak race presented a united front against the world, pooling their collective intellect and power and turning their desires towards the stars. By the time the spirit of drak cooperation ran out, they had begun to colonize their local star system. They jumped so quickly from draconic slaves to spacefarers, however, that their technology is a hodgepodge of iron-age weapons and interstellar machinery.

Drak Traits                                                                                        

Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 2, and your Intelligence score increases by 1.
Age. Young drak grow quickly, aging as dragonborn.
Alignment. Drak view attachment and sentimentality as a weakness, and tend towards neutral and evil alignments, but they also value cooperation and loyalty, tending towards law over chaos.
Size. Drak are smaller and thinner than humans, the tallest standing less than 6 feet tall and averaging under 200 pounds.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Darkvision. You have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of grey.
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. This armor also gives you limited protection against the vacuum of space, allowing you to survive in the void for a number of minutes equal to your Constitution score before you begin taking damage or making Constitution checks against decompression. (This protection does not give you the ability to breathe in space.)
Thick scales, cold-blood. Your body is protected against extremes of cold and heat, for a short time. You suffer no negative environmental effects related to either cold or heat for a number of hours equal to your Constitution modifier plus your level (minimum 1). After this time, however, you have disadvantage on all saves related to such effects.
Draconic legacy. You know the prestidigitation cantrip. Once you reach 5th level, you can also cast spider climb spell once per day. Once your reach 7th level, you can cast the fly spell once per day. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for these spells.
Tail. Your tail gives you extra support, giving you advantage on Strength (Athletics) and Dexterity (Acrobatics) checks related to climbing, jumping and balancing.
Languages. You can speak, read, and write Draconic. You are adept at learning new languages, however, and each time you gain a level you may choose to learn one new language to which you have been exposed since your last level.

Hacking the Drak

The thing about the dragonborn, who I think are a great race (if a little underpowered in 5th Edition), is that they are a monolith. There are no subraces, and that seemed like a missed opportunity. What about dragonborn who, instead of the breath weapon, get wings? What about dragonborn who get the size, or shape (a tauric dragonborn, if you will – I’m absolutely building one of those, later)?

The drak are dragonborn who get the magic, the scales, and the tail. They’re built, a little bit, on the mojh race, from Monte Cooke’s Arcana Unearthed, because one of my players expressed a fondness for the setting, and I thought it would be a fun option.

The spacefaring details are, of course, easy to get rid of. In your world, they might be a magical offshoot of dragonborn, or the result of experimentation with dragon blood by humans who were smarter than they were charismatic (so, terrible dragonblooded sorcerers, but great drak wizards). Of course, the fact that drak spells come later than wizard spells means that drak of other classes have access to interesting options, although drak wizards don’t need to waste spell slots on abilities that are theirs by right of birth.

What do you think? Overpowered? Cutting too much into the uniqueness of the tiefling, with the racial spells? How would you use them, in your game?