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Monday, June 1, 2020

Custom Fantasy Races: Variants

A continuation of my thoughts on custom races. The previous post focused on pure non-human races, but that idea can be expanded.

Human Sub-Races

Because “race” in fantasy RPGs is not really about biological differences, but tweaks to character concepts, we can use races for barbarians or other outsiders to the core human cultures. Define languages and other cultural abilities first, skip innate abilities, and limit the sub-culture to one combat and one magic-using class, with one of those as the primary.

Starting characters must begin as one of these two classes or any non-combat (talent) class. Level limits are the same:
  • Primary Class: Level 8
  • Secondary Class: Level 4
  • Non-Combat Classes: Unlimited
However, class and level limits are not biological, but perceptual. Since sub-cultures are in actuality human, characters from sub-cultures can switch to any class available to the core culture once they have lived in that culture for a while and found training. Level limits can be exceeded once the character is no longer seen as an outsider (a Good or better reaction, checked every time the character while living/adventuring in one area, or once a year after hitting the level limit.)

If there are custom classes unique to a human sub-culture, the same rules apply to characters from the setting’s core cultures trying to switch to that class. Characters must learn the native language of a culture before they can gain the approval and acceptance of a sub-culture, however.

Lineages and Cults

Within the central civilized area of a setting, there may actually be “fringe” groups that operate within the core culture. For example, descendants of a family line may be known for their special skills and talents, or a cult may teach its members a jealously-guarded secret talent.

Because a lineage or cult is part of the main culture, there are no class or level restrictions on characters that start with that background. However, the lineage/cult can still be treated as a fantasy race.
  • They may have a secret or private language,
  • They may have special training (cultural abilities,)
  • There may be an innate ability restricted to their bloodline or cult members,
  • There may even be a custom class restricted to their family or to cult members.
Innate abilities should be rare. If the ability is restricted to a bloodline, it cannot be learned, but cannot be lost, either. If it’s restricted to cult members, it will be lost if the character breaks away or is expelled from the cult, but on the other hand, it can also be learned if a character joins a cult and proves their loyalty (Good or better reaction, rolled once per level gained after becoming a cult member.) Custom classes can also be made available to former outsiders after joining a cult or being made a family member through adoption or marriage.

Half-Human Races

The offspring of a human and non-human, or a true race that resembles the hypothetical offspring of a human and non-human, has the same primary class and secondary classes as its non-human “parent” race, but adds tertiary classes, which are any classes otherwise closed to their non-human parent. The level limits are:
  • Primary Class: Level 8
  • Secondary Class: Level 6
  • Tertiary Classes: Level 4
  • Non-Combat Classes: Unlimited
If the non-human parent’s secondary class was a Cleric/Priest variant and the pure Cleric/Priest class is normally closed to non-humans in the setting, a half-human race adds Cleric as another secondary class.

Mixtures of two non-human races get more complicated. Basically, all classes open to either parent race are available, but the level limit is based on the average of the level limits for both parents. If both parent races treat a given class as a primary class, the limit is Level 8. If one treat the class as primary and the other treats it as secondary, the limit is Level 6. If only one parent race has access to a class, the limit is Level 4.

Innate abilities for half-races should be half normal strength, at best. Disadvantages are at half strength unless both parent races have the same disadvantage. Cultural abilities will be based on the culture the character was raised in.

I may still have some things to say about custom races in the future.

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