Designing Dungeons & Dragons Races: Aatier
Very recently, in the wake of writing articles about modern firearms, I wrote a couple of articles about the ways we should think about designing and implementing various types of mechanics. Similar to the way that I shared my thoughts on modern firearms, I wanted to go over my thoughts on designing races, and the whys, whens, and wheres of doing it.
As I said in my previous article, one thing we need to do is think about the necessity of our creations. Are we creating creatures, classes, and races to fill a void? Are we doing it with purpose? Or are we just making it because we want to?
Today, I wanted to walk through the process of creating a race, instead of just putting one out. I wanted to explain each step I’m taking as I’m taking them, why I’m taking them, and how it relates to the overall design philosophy I’ve developed and shared here over those mentioned articles. I probably won’t be this extensive for races in the future since I’ve done this already, but I wanted to do it this one time.
Considering Our Creations
My Aatier, the half-Tiefling half-Aasimar, fills a void left in my world. Conversely, another element of my world is a replacement for the Underdark, which I call the Umbravale, an alternate plane of existence set in perpetual shadow. Even though I’m going to have to create some races from there, my goal is to limit that as much as possible. The Darklings can be converted to be a type of Halflings, and the Derros are a race of half-Drow, half-Duergar that exist already, which actually plays into my world, being that the Drow are the dominant race in the Umbravale.
As strange as it sounds, where we put things matter just as much. Even though I have a why to fill a void (a way to maintain alliances), and a when to make something (where no other substitutes exist), I also need to figure out where my creation needs to fit. At what levels of society do they exist? For the Derros, they would likely be more accepted than the Duergar, but still largely outcast from main society, and still working under the same conditions as the Duergar. Half-Elves aren’t really accepted by either of their parental societies, but they can make for effective bridges between two races that get along about as well as Vulcans and Humans do.
My Aatier need to find a place in the world, too. The core of the race is built off maintaining strong diplomatic ties between the Aasimar and Tiefling kingdoms through marriage and children. However, due to their genetic bloodline, they’ll never rule a kingdom. So, they sit somewhere between important and insignificant. The biggest achievement in their life is their birth. Noble Aatier would need find many different ways to fill their lives, and adventuring could be one. Of course, if the monarchy are doing it, then so would the common folk. The wealthy, influential, noble, and soldiers would be the most likely to have children, although some of those would parent with commoners, as is not uncommon. Unlike with Half-Elves, Aatier would be fully accepted into both societies and would thus have significantly different interracial experiences, which would be an interesting dynamic between the two races to explore in role play.
Building on Mechanics
Even when considering mechanics, we have to think about what makes sense for the race (or really anything we build), and not just what we want it to be. We should think of each race as what they would be, too. A prime example would be the Half-Elf. Neither Elves nor Humans are known for Charisma, but the Half-Elf gets a +2. I personally look at that as a defense mechanism for them since they’re largely cast outs. That can lead them to be diplomats or criminals, but because of their stations in life, Half-Elves aren’t allowed to be socially in the middle.
Aasimar and Tieflings both happen to have +2 Charisma scores. On the surface, that would make it easy to just give the Aatier +2 to Charisma and be done with it. However, when building the Aatier, I have to consider what their place in the world is.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m giving the Aatier a +2 to Charisma, but that’s because of the role they play in their societies. Noble Aatier are celebrated because of the role they play in keeping the peace between the Aasimar and Tieflings. Since Aatier come from parents that are more revered classes, even if they’re not a part of the monarchy, they’re going to have a somewhat elevated status. Not as high as their single-race parents, but their existence is often an assumed level of status, even if they grew up lower class.
I know this is uncommon for half-races in Dungeons & Dragons. Truth be told, I could go through a long explanation about how genetics don’t work like a recipe, where you can’t just use the same ingredients to make the same thing, that genetics are closer to a sliding scale. That’s not the reason why, though. The reason is that I want to. I like the idea behind Infernal and Celestial sides of the Aatier that manifest differently, with +1 bonuses to Intelligence and Wisdom, respectively. It’s true we need to have a reason for doing something, but part of that needs to be something inspiring. We’re not just creating something for our world. We’re creating something that would be fun and exciting for us to play. Having Infernal and Celestial Aatier creates a really cool roleplaying dynamic, especially if you have an Infernal Aatier living among Aasimar or a Celestial Aatier living among Tieflings.
Racial traits is where we, as content designers, can hit our most significant pitfalls. There’s not exactly a lot of correlating information we can use to define a balance, especially considering how widely varying the different races are. Racial traits are balanced as a whole, not like classes where you can balance them based on specific and identifiable criteria at power levels that make sense for how powerful they should be.
Then there are questions about what things would exist due to their genetic legacy and what things are societal. High Elves and Wood Elves have Elf Weapon Training, but Drow don’t, who have their own weapon training trait. However, Fey Ancestry applies to Elves and Half-Elves alike, so that’s a genetic trait.
For my Aatier, even though I have Infernal and Celestial sub-races, I have to make sure the essence of the race is maintained. For the Aatier, that means being a genetic and social blend of the Aasimar and Tiefling that’s representative of both races. Fortunately, they both have a number of similarities, including innate magics and resistances. Socially speaking, both halves are important, as are all diplomatic ventures, so they’d know Common, Infernal, and Celestial.
- Ability Score Increase. Your Charisma score increases by 2.
- Age. Aatier mature at the same rate as humans, but they can live up to 120 years.
- Alignment. The Aatiers’ natural function as connections between kingdoms makes their temperament lend towards a neutral alignment, and their lack of a proper place in the world gives them a more chaotic bent.
- Size. Aatier are about the same size and build as humans. Your size is medium.
- Darkvision. Thanks to your twin lineage, you have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet 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.
- Spiritual Resistance. You have resistance to fire damage, necrotic damage, and radiant damage.
- Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common, Infernal, and Celestial.
- Subrace. Two subraces of aatier exist: celestial aatier and infernal aatier. Choose one of them for your character.
- Ability Score Increase. Your Wisdom score increases by 1.
- Light Bearer. You know the light cantrip. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for it.
- Healing Hands. As an action, you can touch a creature and cause it to regain a number of hit points equal to your level. Once you use this trait, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest.
- Ability Score Increase. Your Intelligence score increases by 1.
- Infernal Ancestry. You know the thaumaturgy cantrip. When you reach 3rd level, you can cast the hellish rebuke spell as a 2nd-level spell once with this trait and regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for these spells.
I hope you have fun with this race, and please feel free to provide some feedback. Until then, stay nerdy!
[amazon_link asins=’B005MUAEG8,B005MUB8HM,B00B4Z3RB4′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’nerdarchy-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’dcf0bcd3-45de-11e7-b45f-4f518dd68c62′]