Dungeons & Dragons Supplement Reexamines the Game's Race Mechanics

A new Dungeons & Dragons supplement provides alternative rules for one of the game's more [...]

A new Dungeons & Dragons supplement provides alternative rules for one of the game's more problematic aspects. When creating a character in Dungeons & Dragons, one of the first things players are asked to do is pick a race for their character. Not only does choosing a race (such as a dwarf, an elf, or a halfling) provide certain standardized physical features, it also provides default stat boosts and penalties for one or more of the game's six core stats. However, Dungeons & Dragons' approach to race comes with some problematic connotations, especially when it comes to certain negative stereotypes (such as the dark-skinned drow being inherently evil) or by pushing that all members of a certain race have the same physical or mental affinities and attributes (such as all orcs having a -2 penalty to Intelligence).

To help address some of these issues, Ryan Langr released Grazilaxx's Guide to Ancestry, a new DMs Guild supplement that presents an alternative set of mechanics for races. The terms race and subrace are replaced by ancestry, region, and branches, terms that more accurately reflect why characters would have certain traits or affinities. For instance, both aakakokra and kenku have a shared avian ancestry, but come from different branches and have different major and minor inheritances that players can pick and choose from when making a character. Generally, players can either choose two major inheritances and two minor inheritances, or one major inheritance and four minor inheritances.

Additionally, ability score increases are also removed from race entirely in Grazilaxx's Guide to Ancestry. Instead, the players can choose from one of several alternative ability score increase options, which can be based on class, background, or modified distribution of the standard point buy or standard array of picking stats.

Grazilaxx's Guide to Ancestry reminds me a bit of Pathfinder Second Edition's approach to Ancestry, with players picking and choosing traits to provide additional customization options and to remind players that everyone has their own skills and unique abilities. I particularly enjoyed how the supplement totally separated Ability Score Increases from ancestry, which always discouraged players from choosing certain race/class combos. There's no reason why a player can't be a kobold barbarian or an orc wizard in Dungeons & Dragons, and Grazilaxx's Guide to Ancestry presents an efficient way of framing the race mechanic in a way that's much less problematic and much more celebratory of a character's history instead of fixating on who the character's parents were.

Grazilaxx's Guide to Ancestry is available on the DMs Guild for $12.95.