Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Species-Culture 5e Character Creation

I have split the standard 5e races, and some of the monster races, into Species and Cultures that can be put together in any combination. Different play groups can use this in different ways.


If you are introducing new people to the game, then you can use this species-culture split as the basis for a system that quickly generates random characters. It will usually roll up familiar archetypes, but will sometimes make something more random. A party created by using this system should have two or three familiar characters, a couple oddballs, and maybe something really strange.


If you have a table where some but not all players have a tendency toward optimization, or if you are concerned about game balance and have a table with players of a wide skill range, then you can follow the random character creation with a draft, where the newest or least powergamer players get first pick of the created characters.


The randomization sets a tone of realism and working with what you've got. You 'step into' someone with a unique past and collection of attributes, and then figure out how that person would choose to train themselves. It is meant for campaigns where the party is a group of random people making their way through the world as they see fit, not one where the party is a chosen set of archetypal heroes who will save the world.


If you are lucky enough to have a group of story-based gamers who have a lot of interesting character concepts they’ve been wanting to play that may be hard to implement in the current system, and who can be trusted not to optimize for power, then everyone can just pick a species and culture and then roll up the stats.

Random Generation

If you are introducing new players to the game, then you can make it a lot easier for them by using this method to quickly create random characters. They won’t have to learn a lot of rules, look at a lot of options, and decide what to do. They can quickly jump into the action with a random character that will, usually, be well-balanced.


Alternatively, if your group is stuck in standard archetypes and optimized ‘net build’ characters, then this method can be used to make random characters to shake things up. 

Step 1: Roll for Stats

For each stat, in order, roll 3d6 and write down all three die results on a note card. 


All species, cultures, and backgrounds will let you roll more dice to replace low rolls. For example, Dex Swap d4 means that you roll a d4, and then use it to replace the lowest of your three Dexterity rolls if the written-down roll is lower than the die roll.


Step 2: Roll for Species

Roll a random species, write it down on the card, and then look in the species entry. Roll all of its listed stat swaps (except the ones that are the result of a choice) and make replacements on the card. 


For a core-rules-only game to introduce new players to the basics and keep things simple, roll d12 on this table. To generate a party with hybrids and unusual species, roll a d20. The GM chooses ahead of time what the 16+ roll will be. By default, it will be a roll on the Uncommon Species table, but the GM can set a different list appropriate to the setting.


1: Dragonborn

2-3: Dwarf

4-5: Elf  

6: Gnome

7-8: Halfling

9-11: Human

12: Tiefling

13-14: Discreet Hybrid: Roll two species (rerolling any Hybrid result or if the second species is the same) and take the stat swaps from the first species and the abilities from the second. Your appearance is mostly that of the second species, but there may be a few tells to your mixed origin. Roll on the Culture table of the second species.

15: Hybrid Outcast: Roll two species, apply all of their effects, do not roll a culture, and roll a random Background. Choose the highest speed, and choose whichever height and weight you want, or something in between. If one is Small and the other is Medium, you choose the size.

16+: Uncommon (or Setting Specific):


Uncommon Species Table:

The GM chooses whether players roll a d10 or a d12 on this table:

1: Bugbear

2: Centaur

3: Changeling

4: Goblin

5: Hobgoblin

6: Kobold

7: Lizardfolk

8: Orc

9: Warforged

10: Yuan-ti

11-12: Exotic species: Randomly choose some other ‘race’ in the game. Use all of their abilities, replacing stat boosts with stat swaps as described above, do not pick any Culture, and then choose a random background.


Step 3: Roll for Culture

Each Species entry has its own table of associated cultures. Roll for a culture on the species table, and then look in the Culture entry. Roll that culture's stat swaps and make any replacements. Use this table if you rolled the 'Other' option on your Species’ culture table.


The GM can have players roll a d10 on this table to keep things simple, or a d12 to allow more interesting and unique characters to be formed.


1: Bright Burrows

2: City Spire

3: Fae Forest

4: Feudal Farmland

5: Frontier Freehold

6: Mining Holdfast

7: Mystic Cavern

8: Red Ochre

9: Wandering Wagon

10: Wayside Warren

11: Multicultural Integrated: Roll d10 twice on this table. Do not take any stat swaps, but take all other abilities of both cultures. Then roll on the Background table of the second culture.

12: Multicultural Vagrant: Roll d10 twice on this table, and take all effects of both cultures, but do not roll a Background.

Step 4: Roll for Background

Each Culture entry has its own table of associated backgrounds. Roll for a background on the culture table, find it in the listing, and roll its stat swaps and make any replacements. Use this table if you rolled the 'Other' option on your culture’s Background table:


1: Acolyte d4 swaps for Con, Int, Wis

2: Charlatan d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha

3: Criminal d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha

4: Entertainer d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha

5: Folk Hero d4 swaps for Str, Con, Wis

6: Gladiator d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha

7: Gld Artisan d4 swaps for Con, Wis, Cha

8: G Merchnt d4 swaps for Con, Wis, Cha

9: Hermit d4 swaps for Con, Int, Wis

10: Knight d4 swaps for Con, Int, Cha

11: Noble d4 swaps for Con, Int, Cha

12: Outlander d4 swaps for Str, Con, Wis

13: Pirate d4 swaps for Str, Con, Wis

14: Sage         d4 swaps for Con, Int, Wis

15: Sailor d4 swaps for Str, Con, Wis

16: Soldier d4 swaps for Str, Con, Cha

17: Spy         d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Cha

18: Urchin d4 swaps for Dex, Con, Wis

19-20: DM list, or the player creates a custom background, or reroll

Step 5: Choose Class and Finalize

New players: Add up the three numbers on each stat on your card to get the total value. Look at your highest stat, other than Constitution, and the list of classes on page 45 of the Player’s Handbook. Choose one of the classes with a Primary Ability matching the high stat. Read that class’s description, and then, with that in mind, make the choices that your selections call for. Roll any stat swaps that are the result of these choices. Once all the swaps are rolled, if your Primary Ability is 15 or less, decrease some other stat by 1 and increase it by 1 until it is 16.


Experienced players: Think about which class or classes the stats, species, and culture would be good for. If you have the option of choosing and rolling stat swaps, do this now. Then, choose a class and make the other choices.


Once all choices are made, copy the total stat to a character sheet, and copy down all of the abilities in your species, culture, background, and class. All characters can speak (but not read or write) Common, even if they did not roll a culture.


The GM decides whether players roll randomly on all the bond, flaw etc. tables in the Backgrounds, or pick ones of their choice. There has been enough randomness that players may feel the need for more agency over their character.


Names of characters can either be based on their species, as described in the ‘race’ entry of the game books, or on the culture. The GM can assign more details to the culture, including a list of recommended names. You can use the cultures described in the appendices to XGE.

Drafting

The problem with random stat rolls is that some characters can end up significantly weaker than others. Rolling for each stat in order, rather than allowing them to be assigned, mitigates this somewhat, because the high rolls might be in weird combinations, but does not eliminate the problem.


Running a game with players of mixed experience or skill can be difficult. The more skilled players will optimize their characters, leaving the newer players with less powerful characters that can feel unimportant.


Drafting random characters can mitigate these problems somewhat, by canceling them out. The players who are newer or less skilled at optimizing can get first pick of the randomly created characters, (usually) giving them a more powerful one.


To draft characters, each player, and the GM, makes a random character using the procedure described above, but stopping after Step 4. All of the note cards, with the stat rolls and the species, class, and background listed, are put on the table. The GM looks over the cards, briefly describes the good and bad stats, and names the species, culture and background.


The players and GM jointly decide who has the most experience playing the game, and/or who has the most ability and desire to optimize their character to be powerful. They rank the players from least to most optimizing. The GM decides ties, and should encourage power gamers to see picking last as a point of pride.


Then, in order starting with the newest and/or least powergamer player, players take turns picking any one of the characters. The GM takes the last one.


All players then complete Step 5 above for their chosen character. They choose a class for the character, and then make any choices that their species or culture requires. After all choices are made and declared, any remaining stat swaps are rolled. Then they move the stats to a character sheet and write down all the abilities, and then go through the normal process of making all the choices they would at level 1 of a class, and writing everything down. The GM helps the new players.


Finally, all players tell a story about their character, describing its life history and goals and mannerisms. Usually the cultural abilities were learned in your childhood and the background describes your early adulthood, but sometimes the narrative will make more sense if the background happened to you before the abilities you gained from the culture, or at the same time.


The GM takes the last character and uses it to build an NPC that hangs out with the party, one that, while (probably) weaker than all the rest, is a useful assistant and a voice of common sense. (The method of a weak NPC guide/assistant is a very helpful way of conveying information about the world in a fun and flavorful way that does not disrupt the narrative.)

Gameplay

Given the diminishing returns on stat swaps, I think it would be okay for players to replace a class level with a new culture, if there is a good in-game explanation. Similarly, they might want to learn a ‘background’ instead of taking a level.


A potential problem with this system is that players might have an incentive to get their character killed in hopes of rolling up a stronger one. This can be controlled by making the new character lower in level than the rest of the party. All replacement characters should be at least a level lower, and stronger characters get a larger penalty. As a quick rule of thumb, look at the average of the stats of the old and new character, and penalize the new character an additional level for each unit difference in average stats.


If the death was not the player’s fault and they were playing it well, let them randomly generate two characters and choose one, without any level penalty for more powerful characters. If necessary, the GM can take the other one and assign it a role similar to what the dead character filled.


Even with a more powerful character, new players may need a story boost to encourage them to take part and not get controlled by the veterans. If so, the GM can give them some kind of power or position or authority in the world, so they have decision-making power and the others are their advisors. For example, the new player could be playing some noble or government official that got caught up in something, and everyone else is someone that they or their court hired to help them out. This means that they are the party leader making decisions, and everyone else is advising them (and possibly also advancing some other agenda as well). This also gives an in-game reason for the veterans to teach the new players about the world and the game, so the GM does not have to: "Ok, let me explain what a Beholder is and why you really don't want to fight one."


Designer Notes

The randomization and drafting system is mainly designed for a mixed table of veterans and new players, and it is designed so that everyone involved learns something and experiences something new. New players are introduced to the world and the game system through their character. If they care about playing a particular type of character, such as a fighter or wizard, the veterans can point them to whichever of the generated characters would be best for that. If they mainly want to learn about the game, or feel powerful or useful or important, they can just ask the GM which one is best and ask what class it should be. Players with some experience are pushed out of their comfort zone, and encouraged to learn more about the system by playing characters they otherwise would not. Veterans are presented with a (hopefully) fun optimization problem as they use their skills to figure out how to make a weak character as useful as the stronger ones.


I tried to keep things as familiar as possible, while making adjustments for the new system. A few of the subraces, particularly the dwarf and halfling ones, have one or two fewer abilities than before, but this is balanced out by a stat boost that they did not get before, and some other abilities or options. It has not been extensively playtested, but I have a good feel for balance, and have worked to generate a reasonable variation while saving people from unplayable characters.


A party created this way may have one or two characters that are unusually powerful, but overall it will probably be weaker than a normal optimized party. The GM should compensate by giving the NPC an appropriate class (which might be based on party needs rather than what that character would be best at) and have it be as helpful as possible, but designing encounters and assigning experience as though it did not exist. Basically, a weird party with the weak NPC henchperson is treated as a normal party with no help.


Flexible Choice

GMs: use with caution. This is only meant for players who will not look for powerful combos, either players who don’t know the game well enough to optimize, or people you trust to focus on narrative. If you are at all worried that someone will look over all the options and game the system, don’t do it. The Species and Cultures should be mostly balanced, but free choice is not munchkin-proof, and some combinations will be better than others. It would take a lot of work and playtesting to make them all equal and not allow powerful combos, and this would push them further away from their current form. If a player wants a Hybrid or Multicultural character, the two should be rolled at random. If they are playing a Human, they can choose the result on the Broad-Spectrum Ancestry table, but if they choose an Unusual Ancestor, the species should be rolled at random.


In this method, players first look over the list of cultures. All of them will be somewhat familiar, because they have always been a part of the game, but were previously tied to particular races or subraces.


Choose a Species, Culture, Background, and Class that matches your character concept. Then, follow the character creation instructions above (rolling your stats after you make your choices), but select your choice instead of rolling at random.


If using this method, do not roll the d4 swaps listed for the Backgrounds. Instead, roll a d8 swap in your class’s primary ability (listed on page 45 of the PHB, if two are listed you can choose). This cannot increase the score above 20, and if the score is 13 or less, decrease some other stat by 1 and reroll. (Repeat if necessary. If after three rolls, the stat is still 13 or less, set it to 14.)

Species List

Use the PHB for the full description of abilities. Often I only list a title. I am trying to keep all species about the same power, by shuffling abilities between the species and culture as necessary, but there will be some unavoidable variation.


Dragonborn

Str swap d6

Dex swap d4

Con swap d6


Size: 6 ft, 250 lb, M

Speed: 30 ft


*Draconic Ancestry (if you are given a choice of abilities from some other effect, you must choose this ability before choosing either of the next two)

*Breath Weapon

*Damage Resistance


Dragonborn Culture Table:

1-2) Dragonborn Outcast: Str swap d8, Wis swap d6, Int swap d4, Cha swap d8, Speak, read, and write Common and Draconic, roll a random Background.

3) Frontier Freehold 

4) Mining Holdfast

5) Red Ochre  

6) Other


Dwarf

Str swap d8

Dex swap d4

Con swap d8


Size: 4-5 ft, 150 lb, M

Speed: 25 ft


*Darkvision. 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 gray.

*Dwarven Constitution: Con swap d6

*Stoutness: Your speed is not reduced by wearing armor


Dwarf Culture Table:

1-2: Frontier Freehold (hill dwarf)

3-4: Mining Holdfast (mountain dwarf)

5: Mystic Cavern (duergar)

6: Other


Elf

Str swap d6

Dex swap d8

Con swap d4


Size: 4-5 ft, slender, M

Speed: 30 ft


*Darkvision. 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 gray.

*Elven Dexterity: Dex swap d6    

*Fey Ancestry. You have advantage on saving throws against being charmed, and magic can't put you to sleep.

*Keen Senses. You have proficiency in the Perception skill.

*Trance.


Elf Culture Table:

1-2: City Spire (high elf)

3-4: Fae Forest (wood elf)

5: Mystic Cavern (drow)

6: Other


Gnome

Str swap d4

Dex swap d6

Con swap d8

  

Size: 3-4 ft, 40 lb, S

Speed 25 ft


*Darkvision. 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 gray.

*Gnome Cunning. You have advantage on all Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma saves against magic.


Gnome Culture Table:

1-2: Bright Burrows (rock gnome)

3: City Spire  

4-5: Fae Forest (forest gnome)

6: Other


Halfling

Str swap d4

Dex swap d8

Con swap d6

  

Size: 3ft, 40 lb, S

Speed 25 ft


*Halfling dexterity: dex swap d6

*Lucky. When you roll a 1 on an attack roll, ability check, or saving throw, you can reroll the die. You must use the new result, even if it is a 1.


Halfling Culture Table:

1-2: Bright Burrows (lightfoot)

3-4: Frontier Freehold (stout)

5: Feudal Farmland

6: Other


Human


Str swap - special, see below

Dex swap - special, see below

Con swap - special, see below


Size: 5-6ft, M

Speed 30 ft


Broad-Spectrum Ancestry: Roll d12

1: Unusual Ancestor: Roll d4 for the stat swaps. Roll a random species (rerolling Human and Hybrids). Choose three abilities total from its ability list and the Human ability list.

2-4: Half-Elf: Roll d4 the stat swaps. Choose four abilities total from the Elf and Human ability lists.

5-6: Half-Orc: Roll d4 the stat swaps. Choose four abilities total from the Orc and Human ability lists. Roll on the Orc Culture Table.

7-12: Mostly Human: Roll d6 for the stat swaps, and take the human abilities. Roll both of the stat swaps after rolling the background swaps.


*Ability Increase 1. Stat swap d6 in your highest ability (Randomize if there is a tie.)

*Ability Increase 2. Stat swap d6 in your second highest ability

*Flexible. Gain proficiency in a skill of your choice


Human Culture Table:

1-2: Feudal Farmland (base human)

3-4: Wandering Wagon (variant human or half-elf)

5-6: Other


Tiefling

Str swap d6

Dex swap d6

Con swap d4

  

Size: 5-6ft, M

Speed 30 ft


*Darkvision. 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 gray.

*Hellish Resistance. You have resistance to fire damage.

*Infernal Legacy. You know the Thaumaturgy cantrip. Once you reach 3rd level, you can cast the Hellish Rebuke spell once per long rest as a 2nd-level spell. Once you reach 5th level, you can also cast the Darkness spell once per long rest.

(If you have Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, you can randomize the legacy.)


Tiefling Culture Chart:

1-2: Tiefling Outcast: Int swap d8, Wis swap d4, Cha swap d6+d8, speak, read, and write Common and Infernal, choose a random background

3: Mystic Cavern

4: Wandering Wagon

5: Wayside Warren

6: Other


Uncommon Species

Bugbear

Str swap d8

Dex swap d8

Con swap d4


Size. Bugbears are between 6 and 8 feet tall and weigh between 250 and 350 pounds. Your size is Medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.


Darkvision. 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 gray.

Long-Limbed. When you make a melee attack on your turn, your reach for it is 5 feet greater than normal.

Powerful Build. You count as one size larger when determining your carrying capacity and the weight you can push, drag, or lift.


Bugbear Culture Chart:

1: Fae Forest

2: Mining Holdfast

3-4: Red Ochre

5: Wayside Warren

6: Other


Centaur

Str swap d8

Dex swap d4

Con swap d6


Size. Centaurs stand between 6 and 7 feet tall, with their equine bodies reaching about 4 feet at the withers. Your size is Medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 40 feet.


Fey. Your creature type is fey, rather than humanoid.

Equine Build. You count as one size larger when determining your carrying capacity and the weight you can push or drag. In addition, any climb that requires hands and feet is especially difficult for you because of your equine legs. When you make such a climb, each foot of movement costs you 4 extra feet, instead of the normal 1 extra foot.


Centaur Culture Chart:

1-2: Traditional Centaur Culture: Str swap d6, Int swap d4, Wis swap d8, Cha swap d6, speak, read, and write Common and Sylvan, choose a background from the Wandering Wagon Background Table, gain the following abilities:

*Charge. If you move at least 30 feet straight toward a target and then hit it with a melee weapon attack on the same turn, you can immediately follow that attack with a bonus action, making one attack against the target with your hooves.

*Hooves. You have learned to use your hooves as natural melee weapons, which you can use to make unarmed strikes. If you hit with them, you deal bludgeoning damage equal to 1d4 + your Strength modifier, instead of the bludgeoning damage normal for an unarmed strike.

*Survivor. You have proficiency in one of the following skills: Animal Handling, Medicine, Nature, or Survival.

3: Fae Forest

4: Red Ochre

5: Wandering Wagon

6: Other

Changeling

Str swap d6

Dex swap d6

Con swap d4


Size. In their natural forms, changelings average between 5 to 6 feet in height, with a slender build. Your size is Medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.


Stat swap d6 of your choice


Change Appearance. As an action, you can change your appearance and your voice. You determine the specifics of the changes, including your coloration, hair length, and sex. You can also adjust your height and weight, but not so much that your size changes. You can make yourself appear as a member of another species, though none of your game statistics change.

*You can't duplicate the appearance of a creature you've never seen, and you must adopt a form that has the same basic arrangement of limbs that you have. Your clothing and equipment aren't changed by this trait.

*You stay in the new form until you use an action to revert to your true form or until you die.


Changeling Culture Table:

1: City Spire

2: Feudal Farmland

3-4: Wandering Wagon

5-6: Other


Goblin

Str swap d4

Dex swap d8

Con swap d8


Size. Goblins are between 3 and 4 feet tall and weigh between 40 and 80 pounds. Your size is Small.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.


Goblin Dexterity: Dex swap d6

Darkvision. 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 gray.


Goblin Culture Chart:

1: Fae Forest

2: Red Ochre

3-4: Wayside Warren

5-6: Other

Hobgoblin

Str swap d6

Dex swap d4

Con swap d8


Size. Hobgoblins are between 5 and 6 feet tall and weigh between 150 and 200 pounds. Your size is Medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet


Hobgoblin Constitution: Con swap d6

Darkvision. 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 gray.


Hobgoblin Culture Chart:

1-2: Mining Holdfast

3: Feudal Farmland

4: Other


Kobold

Str swap d4

Dex swap d8

Con swap d6

  

Size. Kobolds are between 2 and 3 feet tall and weigh between 25 and 35 pounds. Your size is Small.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.


Darkvision. 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 gray.


Shenanigans: You may choose to gain all of the following abilities:

*Dragon Obedience: You have disadvantage on Insight checks when interacting with a dragon, and on all saving throws against effects generated by dragons.

*Puny Stature: Your Strength score is reduced by 4, to a minimum of 3.

*Reptile Mind: You have disadvantage on all Wisdom and Charisma checks when interacting socially with mammals.

*Sunlight Sensitivity. You have disadvantage on attack rolls and Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight when you, the target of the attack, or whatever you are trying to perceive is in direct sunlight.

*Wild Mind: After making all choices for your character and gaining your class level, gain all of the features of the first level in a different class, as though you were multiclassing into that class. (You must still meet the multiclassing prerequisites, and thereafter you can advance in either class.) You are still a level 1 character for the purposes of experience and encounter calculations and proficiency bonus.


Kobold Culture Chart:

1: Bright Burrows (Civilized Bahamut-worshiping tribe)

2: Mystic Cavern

3: Red Ochre

4-5: Wayside Warren

6: Other

Lizardfolk

Str swap d6

Dex swap d4

Con swap d8

  

Size. Lizardfolk are a little bulkier and taller than humans, and their colorful frills make them appear even larger. Your size is Medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet, and you have a swimming speed of 30 feet.


Hold Breath. You can hold your breath for up to 15 minutes at a time.

Natural Armor. You have tough, scaly skin. When you aren't wearing armor, your AC is 13 + your Dexterity modifier. You can use your natural armor to determine your AC if the armor you wear would leave you with a lower AC. A shield's benefits apply as normal while you use your natural armor.


Lizardfolk Culture Chart:

1: Red Ochre

2: Mining Holdfast

3-4: Wayside Warren

5-6: Other


Orc

Str swap d8

Dex swap d4

Con swap d6

  

Size: 6-7ft, 250 lb, M

Speed 30 ft


Orcish Strength: Str swap d6 

Darkvision 60 ft

Powerful Build. You count as one size larger when determining your carrying capacity and the weight you can push, drag, or lift.


Orc Culture Table:

1: Frontier Freehold

2-3: Red Ochre

4: Other

Warforged

Str swap d6

Dex swap d4

Con swap d6


Size. Your size is Medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.


Constructed Resilience. You were created to have remarkable fortitude, represented by the following benefits:

*You have advantage on saving throws against being poisoned, and you have resistance to poison damage.

*You don’t need to eat, drink, or breathe.

*You are immune to disease.

*You don't need to sleep, and magic can't put you to sleep.


Sentry's Rest. When you take a long rest, you must spend at least six hours in an inactive, motionless state, rather than sleeping. In this state, you appear inert, but it doesn’t render you unconscious, and you can see and hear as normal.


Integrated Protection. Your body has built-in defensive layers, which can be enhanced with armor.

*You gain a +1 bonus to Armor Class.

*You can don only armor with which you have proficiency. To don armor, you must incorporate it into your body over the course of 1 hour, during which you must remain in contact with the armor. To doff armor, you must spend 1 hour removing it. You can rest while donning or doffing armor in this way.

*While you live, your armor can't be removed from your body against your will.


Warforged Culture Table:

1: Bright Burrows. You may choose to be Small and gain a Dex swap d6.

2: City Spire.

3-4: Imprinted Servitor: Con swap d8, Int swap d6, Wis swap d6, Cha swap d4, Stat swap d6 of your choice, gain one skill proficiency and one tool proficiency of your choice, and speak, read, and write Common and one other language of your choice.

5: Mining Holdfast

6: Other


Yuan-Ti

Str swap d4

Dex swap d6

Con swap d6


Size M

Speed 30 ft


Darkvision. 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 gray.

Magic Resistance. You have advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Poison Immunity. You are immune to poison damage and the poisoned condition.


Yuan-Ti Culture Table:

1: City Spire

2: Mining Holdfast

3-4: Mystic Cavern

5: Feudal Farmland

6: Other

Culture List

When you pick a culture, in addition to each culture’s unique benefits, you gain the following for that culture:


Cultural Immersion.

*You have advantage on Intimidation, Performance, and Persuasion checks when interacting with people of the culture.

*You have advantage on all Wis and Int checks on facts about the culture or products of the culture.

*You have advantage on all checks related to downtime activities performed in the culture.

*When you are not in the culture, you must make a History, Insight, or Persuasion check to take advantage of your Background feature, instead of it happening automatically. The DC for this check is 10 to 15, based on the cultural distance as determined by the GM.


By default, Cultural Immersion benefits work in every place with the culture, because it is based on knowing the overall ways of that culture, not because of your history in a particular place. It is assumed that the party is traveling around a lot, interacting briefly with people of many cultures. However, in a game that is heavily focused on roleplaying and intrigue, or where the party is not moving around very much, it may be overpowered or inappropriate. In this case, the GM may choose to allow it to only work in more narrow circumstances, for example the culture of a specific region, or only for the character’s species-culture combination.


Sometimes cultures will read and write a language they do not speak, because they only interact with it via written works. Other cultures will speak languages while being illiterate in them. If you are from such a culture and learn another language, you may choose to fully learn a language you partially know, and then become literate-only or conversational-only in a new language.


Bright Burrows

Well-ordered communities that are more prosperous and/or advanced than the world around them, but that hide it well to avoid envy and suspicion. Individuals are protected by law and community, but allowed and encouraged to follow their passions. This culture often exists in symbiosis with some other culture, preferably a rich or powerful one like City Spire or Mining Holdfast. Usually Small species, although there may be exceptions.


Speak, read, and write Common and one language that uses the Dwarvish script, usually Gnomish or Halfling. Read and write Dwarvish.


Alignment. Tends toward lawful good, although individuals can be of any alignment.


Int swap d6

Wis swap d6

Cha swap d6


Attic Rummaging. Roll d8. You begin the game with the additional equipment indicated:

1: Burglar’s Pack and a random trinket (PHB pg 160)

2: Diplomat’s Pack

3: Dungeoneer’s Pack and a random trinket

4: Entertainer’s Pack

5: Explorer’s Pack and a random trinket

6: Priest’s Pack

7: Scholar’s Pack

8: A random uncommon item (Table F, DMG pg 146). You begin the game attuned to it, even if it does not normally require attunement. It has three random minor detrimental properties (DMG pg 220), each of which can be removed by spending 150 gp or completing a small quest. You may not end attunement while any detrimental properties remain.


Cleverness. Choose Int swap d8 or Cha swap d6


Hobbies. Choose two of:

*Artificer's Lore. Whenever you make an Intelligence (History) check related to magical, alchemical, or technological items, you can add twice your proficiency bonus instead of any other proficiency bonus that may apply.

*Nimble. You can move through the space of any creature that is of a size larger than yours.

*Stealthy. You can attempt to hide even when you are only obscured by a creature that is at least one size larger than you.

*Tinker. You have proficiency with tinker's tools, and own a set of them. Using those tools, you can spend 1 hour and 10 gp worth of materials to construct a Tiny clockwork device (AC 5, 1 hp). You can have up to three such devices active at a time. When you create a device, choose one effect of the Prestidigitation cantrip for it to replicate, or create a similar effect with GM approval. Using any device is an action.


Bright Burrows Background Table:

1: Acolyte

2: Entertainer

3: Folk Hero

4: Guild Artisan

5: Sage

6: Spy

7-8: Other


City Spire

An advanced or wealthy metropolis, with palaces, universities, and often a bustling port.

A place of art and learning and wonder and intrigue. It is bound to the flows of politics and commerce, rather than the cycles of nature. 


Alignment. Tends toward neutral, although individuals can be of any alignment.


Speak, read, and write Common and another language of your choice, usually Elvish.


Int swap d8

Wis swap d4

Cha swap d6


Well Educated. Repeat four times: You gain proficiency with a weapon or tool of your choice, or speak, read, and write another language of your choice.


Choose one:

*Cantrip. You know one cantrip of your choice from the Wizard spell list. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for it.

*Cosmopolitan. Choose another culture. Gain the Cultural Immersion benefits for it.



City Spire Background Table:

1: Charlatan

2: Criminal

3: Entertainer

4: Guild Artisan

5: Noble

6: Sage

7: Sailor

8: Spy

9: Urchin

10-12: Other


Fae Forest

A magical environment that has been shaped to serve its inhabitants, usually a forest but not always. The plants and animals are their friends, and they know how to use the earth and stones and weather to their advantage. Visible infrastructure is rare, for the land itself provides what they need.


Alignment. Tends toward neutral good, although individuals can be of any alignment.


Speak, read, and write Elvish and Sylvan. Speak Common and one other language of your choice.


Int swap d6

Wis swap d6

Cha swap d4


Natural Observer. Choose Int swap d8 or Wis swap d6


Ways of Nature. Choose three of:

*Fleet of Foot. Your base walking speed increases by 5 feet.

*Forest Weapon Training. You have proficiency with the shortsword, and shortbow or longbow.

*Mask of the Wild. You can attempt to hide even when you are only lightly obscured by foliage, heavy rain, falling snow, mist, and other natural phenomena.

*Natural Illusionist. You know the Minor Illusion cantrip. Choose Int, Wis, or Cha to be your spellcasting modifier for it.

*Speak with Small Beasts. Through sound and gestures, you may communicate simple ideas with Small or smaller beasts.

*Stone Camouflage. You have advantage on Dexterity (stealth) checks to hide in rocky terrain.

*Superior Darkvision: If you already have darkvision, it now has a range of 120 feet. If you don’t, you gain 60 ft darkvision.


Fae Forest Background Table:

1: Acolyte

2: Entertainer

3: Folk Hero

4: Hermit

5: Outlander

6: Sage

7: Spy

8-10: Other


Feudal Farmland

Fields of grain, guarded by castles of stone, united by a strong culture of church and community. This culture is attuned to the cycles of the weather and land, but focuses on tended crops rather than wild plants. Intensive cultivation leads to large populations and large armies, allowing the landowners to become wealthy and powerful.


Alignment. Any. This culture has many variations, and its attitude to the world is heavily influenced by the doctrines of its god(s) and the character of its leader.


Speak, read, and write Common and one other language of your choice.


Int swap d6

Wis swap d6

Cha swap d6


Well-rounded. After rolling the background swaps, stat swap d6 in each of your four lowest abilities


Feudal Farmland Background Table: 

1: Acolyte

2: Folk Hero

3: Knight

4: Noble

5: Sailor

6: Soldier

7-10: Other


Frontier Freehold

Independent backwoods farmers, prospectors, hunters and trappers on the fringe of civilization. They are accustomed to scratching a living from land that is often hostile and unforgiving, taking care of themselves and their family. People from this culture tend to be clannish and fiercely independent, resisting any kind of outside authority. 


Alignment. Tends toward chaotic neutral, although individuals can be of any alignment.


Speak, read and write Common and one other language of your choice, usually one associated with your species. 


Int swap d4

Wis swap d8

Cha swap d6


Frontier Toughness. Choose one: Con swap d6, or your hit point maximum increases by 1 per level.


Hardscrabble. Choose two:

*Brave. You have advantage on saving throws against being frightened.

*Lumberjack. You gain proficiency with battleaxe and handaxe, and carpenter’s tools.

*Resilience. You have advantage on saving throws against poison, and you have resistance against poison damage.

*Tool Proficiency. You gain proficiency with artisan's tools of your choice.


Rugged Independence: Roll an additional time on the Frontier Freehold Background Table (rerolling duplicates). Roll only one of the d4 Con swaps, and choose only one skill proficiency from each background and take its associated d4 stat swap, but take all other benefits of both backgrounds. You get both sets of starting equipment, but do not start with any money from either, except for 3 sp total.


Frontier Freehold Background Table:

1: Criminal

2: Folk Hero

3: Hermit

4: Outlander

5: Pirate

6: Soldier

7-8: Other


Mining Holdfast

A society organized around the mine and the forge and the chisel, working iron and stone to their will. Organized hierarchies, rules, standards. Tradition and honor and regimentation.


Alignment. Tends toward lawful neutral, although individuals can be of any alignment.


Speak, read, and write Common, Dwarvish, and one other language that uses the Dwarvish script, often Goblin.


Int swap d6

Wis swap d6

Cha swap d4


Armor Training. You have proficiency with light and medium armor.


Choose Worker Class or Soldier Class:


Worker Class:

*Artisan Knowledge. You have proficiency with the artisan's tools of your choice. Whenever you make an Intelligence (History) check related to the origin or properties of something created with those tools, you are considered proficient in the History skill and add double your proficiency bonus to the check, instead of your normal proficiency bonus. For example, if you gained proficiency with mason’s tools, this applies to stonework, and if you gained proficiency with jeweler’s tools, it applies to jewelry.

*Resilience. You have advantage on saving throws against poison, and you have resistance against poison damage.

*Strength of the Worker. Str swap d6

*Worker Weapon Proficiency. You have proficiency with the light hammer, sickle, war pick, and warhammer.

Officer Class:

*Martial Training. You are proficient with two martial weapons of your choice.

*Saving Face. You are careful not to show weakness in front of your allies, for fear of losing status. If you miss with an attack roll or fail an ability check or a saving throw, you can gain a bonus to the roll equal to the number of allies you can see within 30 feet of you (maximum bonus of +5). Once you use this trait, you can't use it again until you finish a short or long rest.

*Tactical Training. Int swap d6. Also, whenever you make an Intelligence (History) check related to military tactics or heraldry, you are considered proficient in the History skill and add double your proficiency bonus to the check, instead of your normal proficiency bonus.



Mining Holdfast Background Table:

1: Acolyte

2: Gladiator

3: Guild Artisan

4: Noble

5: Soldier

6: Spy

7-8: Other


Mystic Cavern

A culture that has learned to draw power from places and things that others shun. It is often based on an ecosystem where the primary producers draw energy not from light, but from emanations of elemental magic. Its people have absorbed some of this power, though diet and training and exposure. They are often proud and grim, considering themselves superior to those without their special power.


Alignment. Tends toward lawful evil, although individuals can be of any alignment.


Speak, read, and write Common, Undercommon, and one other language of your choice


Int swap d6

Wis swap d4

Cha swap d6


*Cavern Weapons Training: Proficiency with rapiers, shortswords, and hand crossbows.

*Superior Darkvision: If you have darkvision, it now has a range of 120 feet. If you don’t, you gain 60 ft darkvision.

*Sunlight Sensitivity. You have disadvantage on attack rolls and Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight when you, the target of the attack, or whatever you are trying to perceive is in direct sunlight.

*Innate Magic. Choose Int, Wis, or Cha, and gain a 1d6 swap in the chosen stat. It is your spellcasting ability for these spells. Then choose one of:

*Lightbender. You know the Dancing Lights cantrip. At 3rd level, you can cast the Faerie Fire spell once per long rest. At 5th level, you can cast the Darkness spell once per long rest.

*Fleshbender. You have advantage on saving throws against illusions and against being charmed or paralyzed. At 3rd level, you can cast the Enlarge/Reduce spell on yourself once per long rest, using only the spell's Enlarge option. At 5th level, you can cast the Invisibility spell on yourself once per long rest.

*Venombender. You know the Poison Spray cantrip. You can cast Animal Friendship an unlimited number of times, but you can target only snakes with it. At 3rd level, you can also cast Suggestion once per long rest.


Mystic Cavern Background Table:

1: Acolyte

2: Criminal

3: Hermit

4: Knight

5: Outlander

6: Sage

7: Urchin

8-10: Other



Red Ochre

Bands of foragers hunting and gathering in an untamed environment. Primeval hunters and savage warriors, tied to the wild spirits of the land. They must place the survival of themselves and their tribe first, and often have little consideration for outsiders, especially those who threaten to push them off their land.


Alignment. Tends toward chaotic evil, although individuals can be of any alignment.


Speak Common and any two other languages


Int swap d4

Wis swap d6

Cha swap d6


Choose three:

*Aggressive. As a bonus action, you can move up to your speed toward an enemy of your choice that you can see or hear. You must end this move closer to the enemy than you started.

*Menacing. You gain proficiency in the Intimidation skill.

*Primal Intuition. You gain proficiency in one of the following skills of your choice: Animal Handling, Insight, Medicine, Nature, Perception, and Survival.

*Relentless Endurance. When you are reduced to 0 hit points but not killed outright, you can drop to 1 hit point instead. You can't use this feature again until you finish a long rest.

*Savage Attacks. When you score a critical hit with a melee weapon attack, you can roll one of the weapon's damage dice one additional time and add it to the extra damage of the critical hit.

*Sneaky. You gain proficiency in the Stealth skill.

*Surprise Attack. If you surprise a creature and hit it with an attack on your first turn in combat, the attack deals an extra 2d6 damage to it. You can use this trait only once per combat.


Red Ochre Background Table:

1: Gladiator

2-3: Outlander

4: Pirate

5-6: Soldier

7-8: Other


Wandering Wagon

The nomadic culture of trade and travel. Freedom, fresh air, and the open road or sea or sky. Knowing no law or master but one’s own virtue. They are often viewed with suspicion by settled provincial folk, so they must develop unusual skills or be good at making friends.


Alignment. Tends toward chaotic good, although individuals can be of any alignment.


Speak, read, and write Common and one additional language of your choice.


Int swap d4

Wis swap d6

Cha swap d6


Choose Training or Diplomat:

*Training. Gain a feat of your choice

*Diplomat. Gain all of:

*Cha swap d8

*You gain proficiency with two of the following skills of your choice: Deception, Insight, Intimidation, and Persuasion.

*Speak, read, and write one additional language of your choice.


Wandering Wagon Background Table:

1: Charlatan

2: Criminal

3: Entertainer

4: Guild Merchant

5: Folk Hero

6: Sailor

7: Spy

8-10: Other


Wayside Warren

The culture of the downtrodden and dispossessed, those who must scratch a living at the edges of the world. They have learned to collect what they can from a harsh environment or from the scraps of another culture. Often they form a pack or gang that has their back and supports them against the uncaring world, but individuals are always alert to opportunities to gain personal power within the gang.


Alignment. Tends toward neutral evil, although individuals can be of any alignment.


Speak, read, and write one language of your choice, often one tied to your species. Speak Common.


Int swap d4

Wis swap d6

Cha swap d6


*Adaptation. Stat swap d6 of your choice


*Packrat Poverty. After collecting the equipment from your background and class, replace the money with 3 copper pieces. Roll a random trinket (PHB pg 160) for each 3 gp you lost in this way.

*Scavenger. As part of a short rest, you can harvest bone and hide from a slain beast, construct, dragon, monstrosity, or plant creature of size Small or larger, or other similar materials from your environment. You use these materials to create one of the following items, or more in the case of harvesting from larger creatures or richer environments: a shield, any simple melee weapon, sling, net, or blowgun, 1d20 darts or pieces of ammunition, a holy symbol or spellcasting focus, or, with GM permission, an appropriate item of adventuring gear costing 1 gp or less, such as a bag of caltrops, a sack, a waterskin, or a torch. To use this trait, you need appropriate artisan's tools, such as leatherworker's tools.

*Self sufficient. You have proficiency with cook’s utensils, leatherworker’s tools, and cobbler’s tools, and own all three of them.


Survival Strategy. Choose one of the following:

*Designated Distraction. As an action on your turn, you can distract nearby foes. Until the end of your next turn, your allies gain advantage on attack rolls against enemies within 10 feet of you that can see you. Once you use this trait, you can't use it again until you finish a short or long rest.

*Nimble Escape. You can take the Disengage or Hide action as a bonus action on each of your turns.

*Survivor's Lore. You gain proficiency with two of the following skills of your choice: Animal Handling, Nature, Perception, Stealth, and Survival.


Fighting Dirty. Choose Bite and Hungry Jaws, or Fury of the Small, or Pack Tactics:

*Bite. You have learned to use your teeth as a natural weapon, which you can use to make unarmed strikes. If you hit with your bite, you deal piercing damage equal to 1d6 + your Strength modifier if you are Medium, or 1d4 + your Dexterity modifier if you are Small.

*Hungry Jaws. In battle, you can throw yourself into a vicious feeding frenzy. As a bonus action, you can make a special attack with your bite. If the attack hits, it deals its normal damage, and you gain temporary hit points (minimum of 1) equal to your Constitution modifier, and you can't use this trait again until you finish a short or long rest.

*Fury of the Small. When you damage a creature with an attack or a spell and the creature's size is larger than yours, you can cause the attack or spell to deal extra damage to the creature. The extra damage equals your level. Once you use this trait, you can't use it again until you finish a short or long rest.

*Pack Tactics. You have advantage on an attack roll against a creature if at least one of your allies is within 5 feet of the creature and the ally isn't incapacitated.


Wayside Warren Background Table:

1: Charlatan

2: Criminal

3: Folk Hero

4: Gladiator

5: Hermit

6-7: Outlander

8: Pirate

9-10: Urchin

11-12: Other

Definitions and Notes

'Stat swaps' refers to the unlabeled ones right under the title. 'Abilities' are everything else, even if they call for a stat swap. 'Effects' includes everything in the listing.


Even though all learned skills come from culture, languages are still named after species for historical reasons. In the past, linguistic-cultural patterns were more closely tied to species than they are now, and the names of languages have remained.


Math Appendix

Roll             Avg   Value of Swap

0: 3d6 base     10.5

1: swap d4     11.4 0.9

2: swap 2d4     11.9 1.4

3: swap d6     12.2 1.7

4: swp d6+d4     12.7 2.2

5: swap d8     13.1 2.6

6: swap 2d6     13.4 2.9

7: swap d6+d8    14.3 3.8


The standard method of generating stats is 4d6 drop lowest, which is the same as a swap d6 in my system. Each of these swaps adds 1.7 to the stat.


1) Two d4 swaps is 0.3 worse on average than a d6, but lowers the probability of very low scores.

2) Adding an extra d4 after a d6 swap increases the average by 0.5

3) Given 1 and 2, Three d6 swaps is the same as 2d4, 2d4 and d6+d4

4) Given 3, handing out swaps of: d6 d6 d6 2d4 2d4 d6+d4 is the same stat boost as the default system.

5) If d6 and 2d4 is replaced with d6+d4 and d4, then it is a +0.5 and a -0.5, which balances.

6) I can get the same average power level by giving each species and culture two d6 swaps and a d4 swap, and making all the background swaps a d4.


Every species has a swap for all three physical stats, every culture has a swap for all three mental stats, and every background has a d4 swap for Con and each stat associated with the skills it provides. My method is somewhat weaker in that the scores are assigned rather than randomized, but stronger in that there is a lower probability of very bad scores.


After going through the process, you will have accumulated enough swaps to match the average power of a '4d6, drop lowest' roll, although they will be assigned in a way that ties them to abilities and flavor.


All species and culture modifiers to stats are handled via these stat swaps. Replacing a d6 stat swap with a d8, or adding an additional d6 swap, gives a +1 to the average roll. Adding an additional d8 swap gives a +2 to the average.


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