Another Approach to Races

An elf? Image by Sidney Sime

Here is another way to do some classic fantasy races without relying on things like ability score bonuses (which are boring and lead to optimization). Ability scores are rolled using the standard 3d6 in order method, but one or more ability score (depending on race) uses 2d6 instead. This means that the average member of any non-human race will likely take a penalty in those scores, which is intended. Of course, the best approach to maintaining the weirdness of non-human races is to limit them to NPCs, but even I admit it can be fun to play strange races sometimes.

Elf. 2d6 constitution. Time flows differently in Fairy-Land. Elves are ageless, and will live forever unless they are killed by violence, though they must return to Fairy-Land periodically or become mortal (and slowly forget their memories of Fairy-Land). (Note that being ageless can be a real game benefit.) Some elves speek the languages of animals, and may select animal languages in addition to standard languages (if they have extra language slots due to intelligence). Fairy-Land is a dark mirror of the Sunlit Realms, and the two realities connect in many places. When exploring a wilderness hex, elves have a 1 in 6 chance per day of finding a shadowed glade or other location that exists in both realms simultaneously. Elves cannot abide iron, will not use iron weapons or armor, and take +1 damage from iron weapons. Elves begin with elf-metal weapons, and may acquire replacements in Fairy-Land. Elves bleed something strange.

A dwarf? Image by Arthur Rakham

Dwarf. 2d6 charisma. +4 saving throws versus poison & magic. Despite being creatures of Law, dwarves originate in the Underworld. When exploring a wilderness hex, a dwarf has a 1 in 6 chance per day of locating (or summoning) an entrance to the Underworld. Dwarves are the only race that can forge magical weapons (not sure how this should work, but it requires some other rules). Dwarves may create elf-metal weapons. Dwarves can smell treasure, especially gold and gems (thanks for that one, DCC RPG). Large creatures take -1 penalties when attacking dwarves.

Beastling. 2d6 intelligence, wisdom, and charisma. Servile by nature, beastlings are humans corrupted by sorcerers to serve as slaves and soldiers. Sometimes, beastlings are spontaneously generated by the concentrations of chaos. May not have retainers. Beastlings are ferocious and hard to kill, and gain a +4 bonus to death saving throws. In addition, they are never knocked unconscious, and instead fight on at 1 HP upon a successful death saving throw. They do not, in general, understand the concept of retreat and will not do so unless commanded by others. Free-willed beastlings only come about when their sorcerous creators are slain (or, occasionally, if spontaneously generated). They are not welcome in civilization and must conceal their nature or be driven away (at best). Evan over at In Places Deep has a nice beast-man post too.

6 thoughts on “Another Approach to Races

    1. Brendan

      You could do that if you want, but I don’t see any need to keep nonhumans on parity with humans in terms of ability scores. The other details make them more than interesting enough, and I kind of like keeping the ability scores likely to be lower.

      4d6 keep three would certainly be a better way than +1 to do advantageous ability scores. I will certainly keep that in mind the next time I play with the standard race setup, too.

  1. Hedgehobbit

    Runequest worked this way. Every race (in fact, every monster) has it’s own die combinations for each stats: 3d6, 4d6, 2d6+6, 2d4+4, etc. The was a huge variety.


Leave a Reply