Rethinking D&D lineages with a mix of old and new

As I’ve started tinkering with what I’m jokingly calling The Snyder House Rules, I even toyed with totally new concepts for character backgrounds. For the record, “race” is an awful term, and I won’t use that. The ideas below aren’t even that anyway. I’ve called them Natures.

The idea here is a mix of the strange and dark fantasy. And, my approach here is in the vein of Five Torches Deep. That is, an old-school re-thinking of D&D’s fifth edition, pared down.

One of my core assumptions here is that ability bonuses (or penalties) for lineages encourages choices I want to see changed. Instead, I grant those ability bonuses in the classes, letting players create any lineage/class combination they like.

So! Here are some alternative character types to be merged with any class.

Natures

The Damned

The damned are mortals consigned to doom. The cause of their fate varies, but the consequence is largely the same. They take on the mask of death, yet remain live and mortal. Having foreseen their fates, they have no more to fear from other terrors. The Damned take on an increasingly ghoulish appearance, their skin wrinkling and stretching over bones. But their heart still beats, blood flows, and they savor and prolong every remaining mortal minute. Still, being damned has its boons. Your damned character: 

  • Has immunity to fear.
  • Gains proficiency in Death Saves.
  • Has disadvantage on social interactions (Charisma rolls) with other mortal folk. 

Not Today

You may re-roll any ability check, saving throw, or attack roll (including those with advantage or disadvantage) for your Damned once between lengthy rests.

The Mortal

Mortals are simply humans unchanged by the chaotic forces in the world. They are the most numerous of mortals, adaptable and often ambitious. Humanity is varied across the lands, with many ethnicities and cultures in every reach and clime. Their appearance varies accordingly. Human kingdoms and cities grow ever larger, their fields more bountiful. Such mortals are prone to any kind of virtue or vice. Your human character:

  • Has one additional Ability of your choice with proficiency. (Your chosen class grants two Abilities with proficiency; this grants a third.)
  • Speaks common and one other language you choose.

Quick Learner

Your mortal character gains levels more easily. Subtract your character’s current level from the milestone XP required to gain your next level. See the Levels chart early in this section.

The Others

Others are the forest folk with many names like boggart, hob, or nix. Many know them as the fae, though they’re often simply called the Others out of superstitious fear. In truth, they have one nature and an affinity with strange and dark places. Your character is a wayfarer from one of their many wild, hidden kingdoms. They are smaller folk and slighter than humans. But, they are quick and quiet, and fierce when they must be. They have murky eyes of varying color. Their skin is any tone from pale ice to charcoal, and even some like blue sky or green leaves. Others’ visages vary as well, from fair to frightful. Others are at times whimsical and lively, at different times they are mischievous and even spiteful. But like all mortals, they covet riches and find themselves on adventures often. Your other character:

  • Has advantage against enchantment magic.
  • Sees out to long range in dim light while in the wild.
  • Has advantage on stealth-related actions when outdoors.
  • Speaks Fae, Common, and one other language of your choice.

Other’s Luck

When misfortune befalls you — like a deadly blow or a failed save — roll 1d20+LEVEL:

  • 18-20 Avoid the disaster after all.
  • 9-17 Whatever the disaster, it’s half as bad for you. But your luck has run out until you rest.
  • 1-8 Ask the GM if you make it. Maybe you learned your lesson.

The Vessel

Vessels were once mortals, but they have another fragile chance at life through possession of another form. They are arcane creations or experiments that inject mortals’ souls into another chance at life through possession. Unlike the soulless golem, the vessel has a will of its own. Its body is an amalgamation of flesh and metal. The result is a scarred and prodigious form with appearances as varied as their flesh’s origins. Most cover themselves in layers of clothing or additional armor, as they are often shunned by man. Ironically, vessels have all the needs of humanity — for warmth, for sustenance, for companionship, to say nothing of a need like all for fortune. Your vessel character:

  • Has advantage on any saves against paralysis or petrification effects, magical or mundane.
  • Has a natural armor rating of 1 (reduce damage from any single source by 1). This armor cannot be used to reduce all damage as armor equipment does, but neither is it damaged or in need of repair.
  • Cannot be resurrected, but it can be reincarnated.

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