Creating New Player Character Races

The races listed in the Player's Handbook are only a few of the possible intelligent races populating the worlds of the AD&D game. Adventurous DMs and players may want to experiment with characters of other races, such as orcs, lycanthropes, ogres, lizardmen, or even dragons.

Before you do this, however, you need to know very clearly what you are getting into. Unrestricted or ill-considered use of non-standard races can easily and quickly destroy a campaign. Always consider a new race from a variety of angles:

How does the new race fit with the other player characters? How does it fit in the campaign in general? What could you accomplish with this race that you couldn't with another?

The majority of players who want to play an unusual race desire only the thrill and excitement of a truly challenging role-playing situation. There are, however, a few players who see such races as a way to take advantage of game systems and campaign situations. As with changing level limits and classes allowed, you are well advised to move slowly and carefully in this area.

Allowing player characters of unusual races introduces a whole new set of problems. In creating a new non-human or demihuman player character race, the rules and guidelines below should be followed to preserve game balance.

The race should be humanoid (i.e., it must have two hands, at least two legs, and stand generally upright). The race must be able to move about on land. It must also be intelligent. An orc or a centaur would be acceptable.

The race cannot possess special abilities beyond the scope of those already given for the other player character races. Although a dragon can polymorph into human form, it makes an unlikely player character because it has a breath weapon, can change shape, can cast spells, and is not humanoid in its natural state. A brownie probably would not be a player character because it, too, has abilities beyond those of the standard player character races.

The race cannot be extra-dimensional or draw on extra-dimensional powers. It cannot have innate spellcasting ability, be undead, or possess magic resistance.

The race must be cooperative and willing to interact with the human world. The duergar, a race of deep-dwelling dwarves, have no desire to deal with humans and avoid contact whenever possible. Satyrs resent intruders into their woods and glades, which rules them out as player characters. You must judge this criterion based on the conditions in your game world.

If these conditions are met, the race can be considered as a possible player character race. Some examples of races that definitely fit the profile are half-orcs, orcs, half-ogres, lizardmen, goblins, centaurs, and kobolds.

When experimenting with a new player character race, allow only one at the start. Do not begin your experiment with a whole party of half-ogres! Start slowly, involving only one player. If the new race is too powerful, it can be easily eliminated.

Once the new race is selected, the real work begins. Examine the race and apply all of the following guidelines to it.

Character Abilities: All races, regardless of type, use the same ability generation method as all other player characters. Their scores will range from 3 to 18 unless modified by pluses or minuses.

Creature sizes, defined in the
Monstrous Manual , affect abilities as follows:

Creatures of tiny (T) size have a -3 modifier to Strength. Creatures of small (S) size have a -1 modifier to Strength. Creatures of large (L) size have a +1 modifier to Strength. Huge (H) creatures gain a +2 to Strength and Gigantic (G) creatures have a +4.

Those with an Intelligence less than average (as determined by the DM or as listed in the
Monstrous Manual ) suffer a -1 penalty to Intelligence and those exceptionally Intelligent or greater gain a +1 bonus.

All other ability modifiers are assigned by the DM. Likely candidates include minuses to Charisma and Wisdom and plus or minus adjustments to Dexterity. In all cases, bonuses and penalties should balance out. If a creature has a +1 bonus to Strength, it should have a -1 penalty to another ability. With the exception of Strength, no creature can have a modifier greater than +2 or -2 to any score.

Racial Ability Requirements: It is possible for a creature to have seemingly illogical ability scores. However, you can set minimums and maximums on these. Table 7 in the Player's Handbook shows these limits for the standard player character races. It is the DM's job to do the same for nonstandard races.

As a guide, creatures of large size should have at least an 11 Strength and, unless they are described as agile or quick, should have a ceiling of 17 to Dexterity. Dull-witted creatures (those of low Intelligence) should have a limit of 16 to Intelligence.

The DM can waive any requirements if, for example, a player wants (or gets) a hill giant character with Strength 6. Some rationale should be offered, however. (In the case of the weakling hill giant, perhaps he was the runt of the family, cast out by his fellows, and forced to take up adventuring.)

Character Classes: The DM must judge what character classes the new race can be. Use the information in the next chapter as your guide, and start with a narrow range of options. You can always widen it later.

Almost any sort of creature can be a fighter. None (except humans) can be paladins. Those favoring the outdoors (centaurs, for example) can be rangers.

Those with penalties to Wisdom cannot be priests; others can be priests only if their game description mentions NPC priests and the creature has some type of social organization (a tribe, clan, etc.). No nonstandard creature can be a druid, as this is a human belief system.

Those with penalties to Intelligence cannot be wizards. If the description in the Monstrous Manual implies that a creature is stupid, dull-witted, or in any way averse to magic and spell casting, it cannot be a priest or wizard.

A Dexterity penalty prevents the character from being a thief. Creatures of large size or greater cannot be thieves. If it is implied that a creature is clumsy or awkward, it cannot be a thief.

A new character race can be multi-classed if there is more than one potential class open to it (e.g., fighter and mage). Classes from the same group cannot combine into multi-classes (e.g., fighter/ranger). Characters from variant races must also have scores of 14 or higher in the prime requisites of both classes to qualify for multi-class standing. This particular condition does not apply to normal player character races.

Level Limits: Like all non-humans, new player character races have level limits. However, these limits are lower than those for other non-humans, since these races are often unsuited to adventuring. (Perhaps this explains why player characters of these races are so rare.)

The maximum level a character from a variant race can attain depends on the character's prime requisite ability score (or scores). Use
Table 9 to determine the character's maximum level.

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