HD&D: Character Races Redux

The playtest date is fast approaching, and it’s time to get cracking with some more blog posts. There’s still the cleric, the wizard and the spell list to go – but today, we’re going to have a little look at player character races.

“Why races?” you ask. Haven’t we already covered all this before. Admittedly, the initial post of character races was some time ago. It was followed by a post detailing the stats of the dragonborn, tiefling, elf, dwarf and human. Then Graham pitched in with more stats for a dwarf, Daniel gave us the gnome, and Steve gave us the half-elf. There have been a lot of posts about races.

Well, there have been a lot of posts – but they were all some time ago. The game has moved on from there a bit. Many of the powers and abilities of the races I came up with were predicated on HD&D being much closer to fourth edition that it actually turned out being.  Also we never got around to rules for the halfling.

Today’s post brings up to date, playtest-ready versions of the human, the dwarf, the elf and the halfling. They are the big four races of Dungeons and Dragons, and it seems appropriate that they are all available for the playtest. They are similar to what has come before, although they have slightly different spins on some of their abilities.

You can download the PDF with the racial information here:

What’s Changed?

There is one fundamental change that I would like to highlight. The great idea for HD&D is that all races are balanced. They all start with +2 in two ability scores, +2 in two skills, +3 to one defence and two racial traits. If the race logically has more than two racial traits, then the player must select them with his available talents and feats instead of selecting class abilities. I’ve changed that slightly.

Some of the races here have access to two racial traits, but some have three or more. Some races come a little top-loaded with racial traits (or so it seems). Does this cause imbalance? Well, we’ll see in the playtest won’t we? The truth is that it’s very difficult to only hand out two traits to some races and still make their feel like members of that race. This is especially true when looking at animals like bats and octopi, but it is also true for elves, dwarves and halflings.

Does this mean that races with fewer racial traits (in this case humans) are getting the shaft? Well, I think that traits can be semi-balanced with their relative worth and how often they would prove useful. Humans can have an extra feat of their choice – that’s generally altogether better than a dwarf’s Stonecunning. If they select the right bloodline feat, then a human’s bonus feat could even be Stonecunning.

There are still racial talents and racial feats. Anything that is too powerful – like a medusa’s gaze, or a dragon’s breath – would still need to be  a talent and not a trait. However, I think HD&D is robust enough that it can  survive racial traits being broader and more numerous. The game will be better for it.


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