Eclipse and D&D Fifth Edition – Races

Continuing in our series of converting the character options of Basic 5E to Eclipse: the Codex Persona, we take a look at the various PC races presented in the Basic rules.

The Basic version of D&D Fifth Edition restricts the options for PC races to the classic four: dwarves, elves, halflings, and humans. All of the half-breed races (half-elves and half-orcs) as well as the outre races (dragonborn, tieflings, and apparently gnomes) are relegated to the full version of the game.

In a forward-thinking move, options for various sub-races are built into the main racial presentations, rather than presenting single default standard for each race. Humans are the exception here – two completely different versions of human racial traits are presented, and unlike the sub-racial options for the demihumans, there’s no in-game flavor text that presents the option of having two different “breeds” of humans in the game world (though there’s certainly no reason you can’t do so).

Given that, let’s see how Basic 5E’s presentation of the classic four races compares to their 3.5 and Pathfinder counterparts under the Eclipse rules.

Dwarves (25 or 31 CP/+0 ECL race)

  • +2 Constitution (12 CP).
  • Occult Sense/darkvision (6 CP).
  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, specialized for one-half cost/only for saving throws against poison, corrupted for two-thirds cost/may not take 20 (4 CP).
  • Immunity to poison (uncommon/major/trivial – reduces poison damage by 5), specialized for one-half cost/reduces the damage by 5 or one-half, whichever is less (1 CP).
  • Proficient with dwarven weapons (battleaxe, handaxe, throwing hammer, and warhammer) (3 CP).
  • 6 skill ranks in Craft (smithing), Craft (brewing), or Craft (stonemasonry) skill checks (pick one), specialized for one-half cost/does not stack with existing skill ranks, corrupted for two-thirds cost/requires artisan’s tools (2 CP).
  • Immunity/the speed reduction from heavy armor (common/minor/trivial), specialized for one-half cost/only reduces the penalty by 5 feet (1 CP).
  • Speak, read, and write Dwarvish (1 CP).
  • Sub-racial package (choose one):
    • Hill Dwarf:
      • +1 Wisdom (6 CP).
      • Fast Learner, specialized for double effect/only for Hit Dice (6 CP).
    • Mountain Dwarf:
      • +2 Strength (12 CP).
      • Proficient with light and medium armor (9 CP).

The basic suite of abilities for dwarves is 30 CP, just barely within the cutoff for a +0 ECL race. Adding in the sub-racial traits, however, pushes things far over the limit, with hill dwarves and mountain dwarves having, respectively, 42 and 51 CPs’ worth of abilities. That’s solidly in +1 ECL territory.

To rectify this, we’ll say that the entire race is corrupted for two-thirds cost/dwarves tend towards being greedy, dour, stubborn, and slow to trust – tendencies that are well-known to other races. That reduces the costs to 28 CP (hill dwarves) and 34 CP (mountain dwarves).

That’s enough to bring hill dwarves down to +0 ECL territory, but mountain dwarves are still over the line. Luckily, there’s one more change to implement. The entire race also has the Slow disadvantage/-5 feet to their base speed, but this does not stack with the penalty for wearing heavy armor (-3 CP). That lowers their speed to 25 feet, without heavy armor changing it. It also gives us final costs of  25 CP for hill dwarves and 31 CP for mountain dwarves, making both of them +0 ECL races.

Here we can see the general trend for racial abilities in Fifth Edition: that each race has received a not-insubstantial boost. This seems odd for a game that wanted to rein in the massive power-ups from earlier editions. On the other hand, a character’s race was usually a footnote with regards to what they were able to do; maybe increasing the power of racial traits while lowering the power of character classes was the designers’ attempt to create greater parity between the two.

Elves (30 or 31 CP/+0 ECL race)

  • +2 Dexterity(12 CP).
  • Occult Sense/darkvision (6 CP).
  • +6 skill ranks in Perception (6 CP).
  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, specialized for one-half cost/only for saving throws against enchantments, corrupted for two-thirds cost/may not take 20 (4 CP).
  • Immunity/sleep effects (uncommon/minor/major) (3 CP).
  • Deep Sleep (6 CP).
  • Speak, read, and write Elvish (1 CP).
  • Sub-racial package (choose one):
    • High Elf:
      • +1 Intelligence (6 CP).
      • Proficient with elven weapons (longsword, shortsword, shortbow, and longbow) (3 CP).
      • 1 cantrip known (1 CP).
      • 1 extra language known (1 CP).
    • Wood Elf:
      • +1 Wisdom (6 CP).
      • Proficient with elven weapons (longsword, shortsword, shortbow, and longbow) (3 CP).
      • Celerity, specialized for one-half cost/only add +5 feet of movement (3 CP).
      • Immunity/needing to have cover or concealment to hide (common/minor/minor), specialized for one-half cost/only in natural terrain; corrupted for two-thirds cost/still requires light concealment (e.g. falling snow, heavy rain, etc.) (1 CP).

Even more than dwarves, the racial abilities of given to elves push them far beyond what a +0 ECL race can afford, costing 38 CP just for the basic traits. The sub-racial abilities granted to high elves (11 CP) and wood elves (13 CP) push things to a total of 49 and 51 CPs, respectively.

Again, we’ll corrupt the entire racial build for two-thirds cost/elves are arrogant, condescending, and aloof towards other races, and have gained a racial reputation to that effect. That lowers the total costs to 33 CP (high elves) and 34 CP (wood elves). Throw in the History disadvantage/elven civilization is in decline, with their great empires, powerful magics, and eldritch secrets having been lost to time (-3 CP), and the final costs come to 30 CP for high elves and 31 CP for wood elves.

Using role-playing-based corruptions and disadvantages might strike some as being poor justification for reducing the CP costs of these races. To the contrary, these limitations reflect the baggage that these races carry, not just within the context of the game world – where these stereotypes are very much alive – but also in the conceptions that most players have of these races. When’s the last time you saw somebody play a dwarf that wasn’t gruff, or an elf that wasn’t standoffish?

Halflings (24 or 27 CP/+0 ECL race)

  • +2 Dexterity (12 CP).
  • Shrinking I, corrupted for two-thirds cost/reduces speed to 25 feet (8 CP).
  • Luck with +8 Bonus Uses, specialized/may only be used when a natural 1 is rolled; corrupted for two-thirds cost/may not take 20 (6 CP).
  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, specialized for one-half cost/only for saving throws versus fear effects, corrupted for two-thirds cost/may not take 20 (4 CP).
  • Immunity/being unable to move through a creature’s space (common/minor/minor), corrupted for two-thirds cost/only works versus larger-sized creatures (3 CP).
  • Speak, read, and write Halfling (1 CP).
  • Sub-racial package (choose one):
    • Lightfoot:
      • +1 Charisma (6 CP).
      • Immunity/needing to have cover or concealment to hide (common/minor/minor), specialized for one-half cost/only when obscured by another creature; corrupted for two-thirds cost/obscuring creature must be at least one size larger (1 CP).
    • Stout:
      • +1 Constitution (6 CP).
      • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, specialized for one-half cost/only for saving throws against poison, corrupted for two-thirds cost/may not take 20 (4 CP).
      • Immunity to poison (uncommon/major/trivial – reduces poison damage by 5), specialized for one-half cost/reduces the damage by 5 or one-half, whichever is less (1 CP).

The basic halfling abilities are only barely over the cost limits on a +0 ECL race, having a 34 CP cost. The sub-racial bonuses raise that by 7 CP for lightfoots, and 11 CP for stouts. Coming to a grand total of 41 and 45 CP for each sub-race, we can corrupt these totals for two-thirds cost/halflings have no country of their own and very little cultural identity, living as “permanent guests” in the nations of other races. We’ll then add in the the Poor Reputation disadvantage/halflings have a reputation for being either thieves or lazy hedonists, if not both (-3 CP). This lowers the final costs to 24 CP for lightfoots and 27 CP for stouts, both well within the 31 CP limit for +0 ECL races.

Strictly speaking, adding in a disadvantage here is unnecessary, as the corruption lowers the total costs for both sub-races below 31 CPs. It was added anyway to apply the classic outlook that other races have of halflings, and to keep mechanical symmetry with the other demihuman races. Remove the racial disadvantage if you want halflings to be seen as basically just “short humans.”

Humans (24 CP/+0 ECL)

  • +6 Improved Self-Development, corrupted for two-thirds cost/must be set at +1 to each ability score (24 CP).

Humans are still the most flavorless race. But at least now they’re using more of their racial CPs than they were in previous editions, though still nowhere near as much as their demihuman counterparts.

It was perhaps in recognition of how phenomenally boring it is to just give humans a +1 to each ability score that the Basic 5E rules present an alternate take on humans.

Variant Humans (24 CP/+0 ECL)

  • +2 Improved Self-Development (12 CP).
  • +6 ranks in one skill (6 CP).
  • One bonus feat (6 CP).

This isn’t much better, being essentially the same as the Pathfinder version of humans. Still, it has some potential for customization via its skill ranks and bonus feat. This is the version that’s better able to represent individual, or even regional/ethnic, differences – variations that don’t quite rise to the level of being a sub-race.

One thing that should be mentioned is that these races – and the various classes – are presented according to the Basic 5E standard that a +6 is the highest single bonus you can have for attack, save, and skill progressions.

If you want to enforce that limit in an Eclipse game, it’s best to present those caps as a world law (though with some exceptions to allow for abilities focused on specific areas – such as a fighter’s “fighting style” bonus – to go slightly above these limits).

In worlds that have no such limits, however, the intent of providing a +6 bonus – that it grants a full progression  – are lost. As such, here’s a variation on the variant human, which we’ll call the adroit human, that fulfills that particular niche without the bonus cap.

Adroit Humans (20 CP/+0 ECL race)

  • +2 Improved Self-Development (12 CP).
  • Fast Learner, specialized for one-half cost/only for skills; corrupted for two-thirds cost/only for a single skill, chosen by the player (2 CP).
  • One bonus feat (6 CP).

This fulfills the same niche as the Basic 5E variant human, while allowing for settings in which humans can reach truly stratospheric heights of accomplishment.

Next time, we’ll return to taking a look at Basic 5E class progressions!

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