A new Dungeons & Dragons supplement presents a new way at looking at the concept of race within the game. Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5E is a 70-page supplement that examines how Dungeons & Dragons presents race and proposes an alternative solution that not only keeps the core "racial traits" mechanics mostly intact, but offers more flexibility to represent a more nuanced world in which people of different ancestries aren't entirely monolithic. The core proposal of the supplement is to divide racial traits into two categories - ancestry and culture. Ancestry represents the physical traits that are passed along from a character's ancestors, such as Darkvision or a Dragonborn's Dragon breath. Meanwhile, cultural traits are traits that relate more to upbringing and aren't necessarily tied to one specific race. For example, growing up in a culture primarily made up of rock gnomes may mean valuing cleverness and ingenuity, which are represented with a higher Intelligence score and a higher Constitution score, and through the Tinker trait, which grants them proficiency in Tinker's Tools.
There are also rules to reflect characters of mixed ancestries or cultures - reflecting a world where tieflings can only be born to humans, or where dwarves and elves can have children together. There are even rules for players that wish to come from a diverse multicultural background, one where their ability scores, skills, and languages aren't tied to a dominant culture or society. There are even templates to allow DMs or players to create their own ancestries and cultures in order to reflect that lore built up in a homebrew world rather than trying to manipulate D&D's take on certain ancestries.
Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race is a nuanced look at a difficult topic for many Dungeons & Dragons (and fantasy) fans, especially as it means confronting the problematic ideas that were presented without much critical thought in every edition of the game. Not only does it acknowledge that characters may have different physical abilities, it also removes the idea that certain groups of people are inherently stronger, faster, or wiser than others. By tying ability score increases and other traits to culture, thus recognizing the role that upbringing and society has in a person's beliefs and abilities, it also sets up some really innovative roleplaying and story opportunities that aren't usually present in Dungeons & Dragons. Most importantly, Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race takes another step away from the hindrances that monolithic cultures and races have on the game and provide rules that make for more open and fulfilling stories.
Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race is available now on DriveThruRPG for $9.95. A print-on-demand version is also available.
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