Nonhuman Ancestries for Low Magic 5e

Posted: 2024-02-20
Last Modified: 2024-02-20
Word Count: 1055
Tags: d20 dnd5e rpg settings

Table of Contents

This work includes material taken from the System Reference Document 5.1 (“SRD 5.1”) by Wizards of the Coast LLC and available at https://dnd.wizards.com/resources/systems-reference-document. The SRD 5.1 is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License available at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode.

Introduction

Inspired by Ancestries and Cultures, I first thought I would devise a set of interchangeable Ancestries and Cultures for a “Low Magic 5e” setting I was working on. I quickly ran into two problems:

  1. Humans are different. Humans are the baseline for all D&D player characters, and all others have abilities above those of humans. Which means, contrary to Ancestries and Cultures, no one will choose the Human Ancestry without either the extra attribute bonuses or a Skill Proficiency and a Feat.

    So I decided to separate Human and Non-Human Ancestries. This will smack of biological determinism in many minds, but in point of fact humans are generally cast as the ubiquitous, adaptable species, and other species have clear niches: dwarves dig under the earth, elves live in magical forests, lizardmen live in swamps, etc.

  2. In a low magic setting magical ancestries (and cultures) are unavailable. No Elves, no Gnomes, no Dragonborn, no Tieflings. All those species have magical backgrounds if not magical powers over and above whatever class they take.

    Thus I had to come up with species that would fit easily into swords & sorcery (light on the sorcery), sword & planet, a weird alternative historical setting, or an epic fantasy with low magic.

Ancestries

Note: Parts of this section are adapted from “A World Without Magic”.

Fey-Touched

Old wives tales claim that one of the Fey takes the form of a woman’s husband and lies with her, conceiving one of the Fey-Touched. Others alleged that the Fey swap a newborn baby with a Fey-Touched changeling. Still others believe the Fey simply claim whoever they want.

Whatever the truth, the Fey-Touched look human but for some (alleged) tell-tale signs: fingers too long, eyes too large or almond-shaped, ears pointed and/or lobeless, noses a little too long and pointed. There’s a certain fey air about them, surely. They have supernaturally sharp eyes and a resistance to magic. Most eventually develop a fascination with magic and legends, and we all know where that leads …

Age. Same as Human.

Size. Medium.

Speed. 30'

Darkvision. You have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60’ 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.

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

Giant-Kin

The origins of Giant-Kin are also shrouded in legends: allegedly the distant kin of Titans (how would that work?), or a special kind of Mutant, or just relatives of humans with really big bones. Sometimes a Giant-Kin is born from two human parents, but most Giant-Kin come from an enclave of their kind somewhere in the wilderness.

Age. Same as Human.

Size. Medium

Speed. 30'

Powerful Build. You count as size Large when determining your carrying capacity or the amount of weight you can push, drag, or lift.

Endurance. You can focus yourself to occasionally shrug off injury. When you take damage, you can use your reaction to roll a d12. Add your Constitution modifier to the number rolled, and reduce the damage by that total. After you use this trait, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest.

Little Folk

Little Folk, like Giant-Kin, are sometimes born of two apparently human parents, but most come from towns and villages of their kind in rural areas. Most Little Folk are shy, hard-working, salt of the earth. But then there are the rascals, the ne’er-do-wells, the troublemakers who end up in human lands using their gifts and even their flaws to earn a dishonest living.

Age. Same as Human.

Size. Small

Speed. 25'

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

Stealthiness. You can attempt to hide even when obscured by a creature a size larger then yours.

Luck. When you roll a 1 on a d20 for an attack roll, saving throw, or skill check, you may reroll the die. You may not collect a Luck Point if you reroll.

Lizard-Kin

Reptiles with a roughly humanoid outline, the Lizard-Kin thrive in regions that humans find intolerable: swamps, deserts, desolate scrublands, anyplace warm enough. (Lizard-Kin can tolerate the cold with enough warm clothing, but they complain bitterly about it.)

Their scaly skin, sharp teeth and claws, and slitted eyes unsettle novices. Give them their space and a modicum of respect, they say, and a Lizard-Kin will be loyal for life. (Whose life, they never say.)

Age. Lizard-Kin grow quickly, and reach physical maturity at the age of ten. Most Lizard-Kin only live for 50 years, 70 at the most.

Size. Medium

Speed. 30'

Natural Weapons. Your claws and teeth do 1d4 damage.

Natural Armor. Even when unarmored, your armor class is 12 + Dex Mod. Wearing Light Armor does not improve your Armor Class. Your body shape prevents you from wearing all but custom fitted armor.

Mutant

The forebears of Mutants were human, or close enough. Then they encountered something – the Fey, raw magic, strange rocks, who knows – that began to change them into the squat, ugly creatures that wastelanders know and fear.

Mutants vary in their specific abilities, but all of them are hardy brutes who can manifest hysterical strength and savagery when roused to anger.

Age. Same as Human.

Size. Medium

Speed. 30'

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.

Mutations. You may take the Mutant class from Masters of the Mundane. If your DM is not using that supplement, you and the DM must work out the benefits and drawbacks of your mutations.