It’s been several weeks, but I’m finally coming back to this series—which isn’t to say that we’re finishing today. No, we’re finishing just the player races today, from sea elves to yuan-ti.
Naturally, we here at Under the Seas of Vodari HQ watch this one with intense interest.
- Humanoid + Elf, Medium, 30-ft speed, swimming speed equal to walking speed.
- Note the change from your swimming speed being set to 30 feet.
- Child of the Sea lets you breathe both air and water, and it now grants resistance to cold damage. I like that this feature does something for you even if you’re not switching back and forth between air and water adventuring.
- Darkvision, 60 ft. (As a reminder, this is now your “whole” race—this isn’t a subrace added onto another package of features.)
- Fey Ancestry grants advantage on saves to avoid or end charms, as is standard.
- Friend of the Sea lets you speak to Beasts with swimming speeds. They understand you, anyway; not so much in reverse.
- Keen Senses still grants proficiency in Perception. Elves gonna elf.
- Trance… is still Trance, I’m not reiterating the whole thing. At the end of this trance you gain two weapon or tool proficiencies until your next long rest. In case this isn’t obvious, I think we can expect the 2024 high elves and wood elves to have an identical Trance feature.
The biggest surprise here, such as it is, would be the cold resistance replacing weapon proficiencies you were absolutely not using. It’s a clear upgrade in power, bringing them probably to the middle of the pack.
Shadowfellves! A lot less pain-cult-y than they have been in previous iterations, and I’m just enough off an edgelord to miss that. It helps that 4e (and then Critical Role) presented the Raven Queen as Mostly Pretty Chill.
- Humanoid + Elf, Medium, 30 ft speed.
- Blessing of the Raven Queen is a bonus action for a 30-ft teleport. PB uses per long rest. This is super strong all by itself, but at 3rd level, it also grants resistance to all damage until the start of your next turn after a teleport. This is a very compelling race for tanks, especially in the new late game that MotM and Fizban’s establish, where broad-spectrum resistance is more important than B/P/S resistance. (To get the full story on that, you have to wait until Part Four of this series. I am a literal monster.)
- Darkvision, 60 ft.
- Fey Ancestry grants its standard effects, see above.
- Keen Senses still do the same as well.
- Necrotic Resistance does what it says on the tin.
- Trance is likewise unchanged.
The only change here is Blessing of the Raven Queen jumping from 1/long rest to PB/long rest. I’ll be thinking hard about a shadar-kai next time I start a skirmisher or defender.
This is the signal that shifters are moving out of Eberron and into the multiverse.
Oh, they let the dogs out! Mystery solved.
- Humanoid, Medium, 30 ft.
- Bestial Instincts grants proficiency in one of Acrobatics, Athletics, Intimidation, or Survival. This unifies the skills granted by the Beasthide, Longtooth, Swiftstride, and Wildhunt subraces previously.
- Darkvision, 60 ft.
- Shifting is a bonus action and lasts for 1 minute, and grants temporary hit points equal to twice your proficiency bonus, a big step down change from your level + your Con modifier. You can shift PB times/long rest, a change from 1/short rest. I’m not at all convinced that letting you keep shifting to grab a smaller number of temporary hit points more often is going to be a lifestyle improvement. You choose your shifting type when you select shifter as your race.
- Beasthide grants a few extra temporary hit points and a point of AC – unchanged from its previous form.
- Longtooth gives you a bite attack as a bonus action, dealing 1d6 + Str piercing damage. The only change is that you get this attack on the round that you shift as well as later rounds.
- Swiftstride is unchanged: it boosts your walking speed by 10 and gives you a reaction to move 10 feet without provoking OAs when a creature ends its turn within 5 feet of you. (But if that’s a move-and-attack, your reaction trigger comes after they finish stabbing you.)
- Wildhunt grants advantage on Wisdom checks (Perception ftw), and creatures can’t have advantage on attacks against you unless you’re incapacitated. The wording is unchanged but I find “no creature… can make an attack roll within advantage against you” an odd and slightly misleading wording. I assume it means “can’t benefit from advantage,” rather than “can’t target you with an attack if they would have advantage,” which is what it seems to literally say.
Very little net difference here other than the frequency of shifting. I think it’s a great example of how the game will now let you exhaust all of your power for the day a lot faster, opening the door a lot more to a 60-second adventuring day without introducing any additional support for time pressure. Trusting players not to ruin their own fun is… a thing we learned not to do, the hard way, and we’ve had to re-learn that for every individual gaming medium.
I like that the most dog-like player race and the cat people are on facing pages here. I like even more that noted sphynx-cat-minion Dan Dillon got a reference to Archibald into the tabaxi lore here, not found in the VGTM text. (I don’t actually know if that’s what happened, but if it wasn’t, it should be.)
- Humanoid, Medium or Smol, 30 ft walking speed and a climbing speed equal to your walking speed.
- Cat’s Claws got bumped from 1d4 to 1d6 weapons. I may never understand why they don’t embrace natural weapons getting the same kinds of qualities as other weapons, because finesse, people. Or, if not stored as a quality, then just… explain within this feature that you can use Str or Dex. Tabaxi should feel good about a Dex build. Also your claws should be viable weapons for a Sneak Attack.
- Cat’s Talent grants Perception and Stealth proficiency. No change.
- Darkvision, 60 ft.
- Feline Agility is unchanged: you double your speed for one turn of movement, then have to spend a turn not moving to reset it. Have you heard the fable of the Tortle and the Tabaxi?
Minor tweaks here overall. My only issue is that they haven’t changed it more.
You too can be a Hero on the Half-Shell! I’m sorry they don’t get special boosts from eating pizza. Also worth noting – the unusually short lifespan of the tortle doesn’t get a mention here. They’ve presumably moved to a standard lifespan.
- Humanoid, Medium or Small, 30 ft speed. If there were ever a race to argue for a speed less than 30, this would be it! But no.
- Claws have been bumped from d4 to d6 weapons, and deal slashing damage.
- Hold Breath lets hold your breath for up to an hour, for those long dives.
- Natural Armor gives you an AC of 17, but blocks you off from wearing any other armor. It’s a good ability, but comes close to being a drawback when you think about the cool magic armor you won’t be wearing.
- Nature’s Intuition gives you proficiency with one skill, chosen from Animal Handling, Medicine, Nature, Perception, Stealth, or Survival.
- Shell Defense is unchanged, and really very hard to see how you’d use well. It costs an action to withdraw and a bonus action to emerge. It grants a hefty bonus to AC but makes you prone. It grants advantage on Str and Con saves but disad on Dex saves, and you can’t move. I’m really not sure this is better than no feature at all.
The tortle just… isn’t my deal, I guess. If I were to play one, I’d probably go for a druid, but man. Its features are doing you very few favors.
Different backstory from water genasi, but each one’s story would still be perfectly fine if they swapped racial features. I’m not really sure if that’s good or bad–there’s just more than one way to express “water people that aren’t elves.”
- Humanoid, Medium, 30 ft speed, swimming speed equal to walking speed.
- Amphibious does what it says on the tin.
- Control Air and Water (and I know it’s a legacy thing but I’m still not completely sure why Air is here) teaches you fog cloud, then gust of wind at 3rd level and water walk at 5th. I’m really not sure why water walk and not water breathing, but okay. You get one free use of each per day, and can spend spell slots for more castings. Water walk replaces wall of water, which also lets them not reprint wall of water… but I gotta say that wall of water made more sense to me in context.
- Darkvision, 60 ft. For better or worse, this feature is a necessary standard for aquatic people.
- Emissary of the Sea lets you speak to Beasts, Elementals, and Monstrosities that have a swimming speed, though as with sea elves, you’re on your own to understand any response.
- Guardian of the Depths grants cold resistance. You’re gonna want that.
Emissary of the Depths picking up communication with Elementals and Monstrosities is nice; permission to spend spell slots on your racial spells is nice. They’re both very small changes overall. I would really like to see a setting (uh, other than the one I’m in the credits for, I hope that’s obvious) do a lot with tritons and make them an exciting part of play, because I haven’t seen that happen yet.
Am snek. Without the kinda-gross pureblood part, which didn’t make a ton of sense from the yuan-ti outlook… in much the same way that driders being hated outcasts didn’t make a ton of sense.
- Humanoid, Medium or Small, 30-ft speed.
- Darkvision, 60 ft.
- Magic Resistance grants advantage on saving throws against spells. As I’ll be covering in more detail in Part Four, specifying spells here matters a lot, and isn’t nearly as powerful a thing as it used to be. This feature used to say “and magical effects,” which is what you’d expect something called Magic Resistance to mean. I think this is a good change for power balance, but not great for features doing what their names say.
- Poison Resilience replaces Poison Immunity. If grumbling about no passive immunities for players has to be my legacy in D&D commentary (with some outside risk of having nudged this change into being), so be it. Anyway, this now grants advantage on saves to avoid or end the poisoned condition and resistance to poison damage. Solidly useful feature that doesn’t derail whole encounters.
- Serpentine Spellcasting teaches you poison spray and animal friendship (snakes only). At 3rd level you also gain suggestion. You get one free use of animal friendship and suggestion per long rest, and can spend spell slots for more. The spellcasting stat is your choice of Int, Wis, or Cha.
I very much like the change away from Poison Immunity, enough that any quibbles I have with other changes are irrelevant.
From here on out in this series, it’ll be all Bestiary, all the time. I don’t yet know what level of detail I’ll be giving you, but some of the named creatures in particular call for significant study and commentary. Thanks for coming with me on this three-part journey through Chapter 1: Fantastical Races.