In D&D there are a variety of bloodlines that a character can develop various powers, be they wizardly, warlock, or sorcerous in nature, but for the most part they are simply a background that isn’t explored more in depth. However, with a bit of world-building forethought and player involvement, these often-ignored backgrounds can come to the forefront.
The Following list is heavily influenced by Pathfinder (though edited for conciseness), however with some work could be adapted to any edition of D&D.
- Accursed: Your ancestor was possibly cursed by a Hag, or perhaps was one.
- Arcane: One of your ancestors was a wizard, and a powerful one at that, and you inherited the gift in the form of sorcery.
- Boreal: Your ancestors lived in cold regions up north.
- Destined: Your family was destined for greatness, and it produced you.
- Dramspun: Your family line has produced quite a few oracles, and these powers have been passed onto you.
- Ectoplasm: Your family has a connection with an ethereal substance known as ectoplasm, whether from communing with the spirits or battling the spiritual undead. The power of the Ethereal Plane thrums in your mind and pulls at your flesh.
- Harrow: this bloodline lets you harness the power of the harrow to inject some randomness into your spellcasting and boost your divination spells significantly.
- Imperius: You are a scion of forgotten kings, with a lineage rich with the dust of ancient empires spanning every golden age of humanity’s history, an imperious embodies the apex of human potential, as well as human temerity and uninhibited hubris.
- Impossible: You can see beyond the mundane, and can visualize the improbable, and even the impossible. If this expanded perception doesn’t drive you mad, you may learn to make the impossible into reality.
- Martyred: One of your ancestors paid the ultimate price for her beliefs. This distant relative martyred herself out of her devout belief in a cause, and that sacrifice echoed down to her descendants, infusing them with arcane power. Your bloodline confers abilities that allow you to endure pain, resist torture, and inspire others.
- Aquatic: Your ancestor messed with an aquatic creature like a Merfolk, Triton or a Deep One, granting you various related powers and spells.
- Aberrant: You have the blood of an Aboleth, Beholder or something similar. Such bloodline obviously makes you look a little strange, though luckily enough, the physical manifestations of your bloodline are only visible when they’re being used.
- Deep Earth: Your ancestor was a dwarf or other such creature and are afforded the powers of stone and earth manipulation.
- Draconic: You have dragon’s blood flowing through your veins, giving you some of their more bestial yet powerful arcane abilities.
- Fey: You have always had a tie to the natural world, and as your power increases, so does the influence of the fey over your magic.
- Mastro: The spiritual power of art and song runs strongly through your family line. This may be the result of ancient pacts made with azata patrons, or even an inheritance from a lillend or trumpet archon ancestor. It could also be the lingering taint of a less savory heritage, such as from a harpy or a forefather driven to madness by the disquieting gibbering of a shoggoth. However it came to be, your family’s artistic bent shows itself strongly in your magic.
- Outsider: you have the blood of an elemental, genie (djinn, efreet, Shaitan, Marid), salamander, demon/ devil, angel or other such creature flowing through your veins and have many of the abilities and powers of your ancestor(s).
- Oni: You have the blood of one of the hedonistic Oni.
- Orc: The rage of your ancestors burns within you, and the taint of savage orc blood flows through your veins. Your anger is never far from the surface, giving you strength and driving you to seek greater power.
- Rakshasa: At some point in your family’s history, one of your ancestors was tainted by the influence of a rakshasa. Though most of your family seem entirely normal, you have always felt your own skin is a prison from which magic allows you to escape. Your birthright is a secret you may be forced to keep from societies that would never deal with you if your heritage were known.
- Serpentine: Your bloodline carries the lingering influence of ancient serpent races that ruled when the world was young; your forebears were likely favored slaves anointed by their reptilian masters and gifted with their cold cunning and subtle manipulation. While deception and a mesmeric charm are your birthright, you struggle for truth in spite of your heritage.
- Shapechanger: Channeling the power of your shapeshifting ancestors that you carry in your blood, you gain powers that allow you to change your shape and alter your appearance and physical abilities.
- Stormborn: You trace your heritage to fierce and proud spirits of storm and sky, and living lightning sings in your veins.
- Nanite: You have microscopic machines in your blood that give you powers.
- Pestilence: You were born during the height of a great magical plague, to a mother suffering from a magical disease, or you suffered an eldritch pox as a child, such that your very soul now carries a blight of pestilence within it.
- Possessed: Possessed sorcerers channel their magic potential through a unique bond with a possessing spirit rather than through their blood alone. These spirits take numerous forms, but such is their tenaciousness that they bond in a way that prevents their banishment from the host. Instead, both possessor and sorcerer work together, their joint nature allowing the sorcerer to unlock many unnatural abilities. The magical nature of a sorcerer’s bloodline means the sorcerer herself does not even need to be the creature initially possessed to have this particular power. It may be that one of your ancestors was possessed by a powerful spirit, one whose presence was so overwhelming that it sends ripples of power down through the generations.
- Protean: You have in your veins the ever-changing wildness of primal chaos, the raw essence of unbound creation. Your mind and spirit burst with the constant inspiration of consummate freedom, though you have difficulty following through on a task when another, new and exciting, catches your interest.
- Psychic: Psychic power runs through your blood, whether from a familial predisposition to psychic power or exposure to a powerful psychic phenomenon.
- Starsoul: You come from a line of stargazers and explorers who delved deeply into the darkness beyond the stars. In touching the void, the void touched them, and your mind, spirit, and body yearn to span the gulf between worlds.
- Undead: Your ancestor has something to do with (un)death, which nets you magical powers. Examples are shadows, ghosts, vampires, and ghouls
- Verdant: Your progenitors infused themselves with raw plant life, binding it into their own tissue and passing it down to their literal seed, giving you innate communion with nature.
The traditional way that one would get these powers are that they fell in love with a creature, were tricked, or forced. Usually such pairings are greatly assisted with magic and thus producing a baby at the end of the gestation, but this is not the only way that a person could get these bloodlines. Consider the following ways that someone might have a bloodline:
- Blood transfusion: Your ancestor was dying and the only one available was a being of that race. In comic books, various powers can be gained through this process.
- Healing magic: maybe the magic lingered long after it was administered and something from the magic lingered on for generations.
- Technological experimentation: Instead of gene therapy, like what happened with Logan (Wolverine), maybe what happened was injection of nanites, the raw genetic material of a specific monster, etc.
- Consuming: You ate so much of the flesh/ drank so much of its blood of the entity in question that you gained their powers. This is essentially the storyline of Peter Bret’s Demon Cycle series.
- Curse: The creature in question uses their magic to curse the afflicted creature. However, the curse doesn’t die with their initial victim, it’s carried on generation to generation. This is how the hag bloodline works.
- Contract: Your ancestors had a contract with an eldritch abomination, the fey, demons/ devils or other such beings, power was passed through the generations to you. A changling returning to the land of mortals from the land of fey might get their powers this way.
- Contact: through long hours of contact of being around an item of immense magic, you yourself, or your ancestors have developed magic powers. This is what happens many times in Terry Brooks Shannara series, where many of the heroes are either people who wielded the stones or are the descendants of those who did.
- Damage: Your ancestor was damaged by some sort of entity
- Drain: Your ancestor was drained by some sort of negative energy attack; undead bloodline falls into this category
For either one of these above, though s/he wasn’t killed by the attack, the damage/ drain changed them in some fundamental way that echoes through the generations that allows you to draw on similar abilities.
- Sacrifice: Your ancestors captured and killed such creatures/ entities and the being exposed to the blood over time gave them powers
- Raw Talent: the bloodline you possess is a genetic thing that is passed on from generation to generation.
- Stolen: Your bloodline talent is taken from another, often with force of will.
- Symbiosis: You and another being occupy the same body in such a way that neither side can be separated and are strengthened by the other.
- Sealed: Something powerful is sealed in the person with the bloodline. This is the relationship of the Jinchūriki and their tailed beast (chakra monsters) in the Naruto series, though the tailed beasts can be removed from their hosts with great difficulty.
(Note: Run these ideas past your DM to see if they might be usable in the game you’re playing to give your character extra flavor)
- Unusual appearance: Something about your bloodline heritage shines through, marking you as not totally what you appear to be at first glance.
- Unusual Vulnerability: Your bloodline makes you unusually susceptible to things that would not normally damage you. Example: cold iron for someone with Fey bloodline, water for someone with fire elemental bloodline.
- Unusual Appetites/ requirements: You aren’t nourished by normal foods; hence you need to find a way to satisfy your urge to eat things others do (or can) not. Conversely, you may need an unusual item or substance to be near you or start to die.
- Geas / quest: due to your bloodline you have been geased or sent on a quest to do something based on your abilities.
- Unusually Sized/ shaped: You have difficulty finding things that fit because of your interesting anatomy.
- Harem: You collect a following of people of the appropriate gender that your character is attracted to who you can’t get rid of and are of no use to you in a fight, and may even put themselves in harm’s way to get you to save them.
- Bad dreams / nightmares: Your bloodline causes you problems to sleep at night. Treat a nightmare filled night as if the caster didn’t get a full 8 hours of rest.
- Talkative Ancestor: Your ancestor is still alive (in some fashion) & wants to talk. Usually at the worst times.
- Trackable: Something in your blood makes you able to be tracked
- Disconnected with reality: The bloodline makes you go through the world as if you’re walking through a dream.
- On Edge: Your bloodline makes you jumpy and unable to relax.
- Roll Twice, ignoring results of 12
Additional Benefit (d8)
(Note: discuss these ideas with your DM when fleshing out your character if s/he allows you take a weakness)
- Additional Powers: Pick something thematically appropriate and add it to your repertoire. Because there are quite a few powers on this list, creating additional powers is beyond its scope. Some ideas are
- Free Spell: Pick an appropriate spell to add to your list. You may cast in (casting stat bonus – 2 times) per day, minimum 1 without expending a s lot.
- Additional Spell Slots: You may cast more spells
- Additional Accuracy: The use of an ability does a caster no good if he can’t hit anything with it. Once again, how often and when these bonuses should apply is outside the scope of this article.
- Additional Damage: Your thematic spells get extra damage
- Extra health: Add your casting stat to your health. Retroactive.
- Harder Saving Throws: Enemies have a more difficult time resisting your magic.
- Roll Twice, Ignoring results of 7 or 8.
Bloodlines are often things that are ignored, but they needn’t be. Hopefully by reading this article, you’ve gotten some ideas as how to more fully incorporate them into your game.
As always, feel free to comment, like, and re-share! Thanks for reading.