Now available for download here
as a .doc)
Well, I must admit that I'm a little bitter that Mr. Perkins didn't like my article idea, especially given his reasoning, but I'm not going to let all of this work go to waste, so I decided I would post it here.
The premise of this could-have-been-article is simple: What if we had more alternative racial feature options the same way that we have so many alternative class feature options? Yes, we have the option to customize our races through other mechanics such as feats, paragon paths, backgrounds, and so on, but the actual racial trait block itself hasn't seen much innovation other than the introduction of flexible ability score options. Having variant racial feature options allows us to cram a lot more flavor into a race and also allows us to get away with having more class- or role-specific features as long as those features have more general alternatives. As this is now a thread and not an article, I'm cutting out all of my fluff-talk and just going right into design decisions.
I selected very carefully what races I would create alternate features for. I would not create alternate features for any races that already had racial feature options. The only exception would be for cases where there were particular racial features that pigeon-holed the race too much without alternative options. The goal also isn't to add any new information to a race, so in the vast majority of cases, the new racial features presented do not reflect subrace but rather just an alternative interpretation of the default version of the race.
Well, I guess I might as well get right to it then! Feel free to steal any of these ideas or tell me what you think or PEACH or whatever. CHANGELING
The Changeling was the first subject that I tackled. I've long felt that its racial Will bonus was a wasted opportunity to introduce some really cool any unique features, so I gave it some of those features as an alternative. Next, its racial power was one that I did not like at all because it was too melee-centric, so I give it an alternative racial power option that called to mind the days when doppelgangers could read minds. Worldly-Wise:
Select either Cosmopolitan or Mental Defense:Cosmopolitan:
You learn 2 additional languages of your choice, and you gain a +3 bonus to Insight checks made to see through disguises. Illusion effects and Polymorph effects do not grant other creatures a bonus to their Bluff checks versus your Insight checks.
Select either Changeling Psych or Changeling Trick:Changeling Psych:
You have the Changeling Psych power.Changeling PsychYou can read actions and motives so proficiently that many would swear you can read minds. Encounter
Minor Action, Close
One creature in the burst.Effect:
The target cannot gain combat advantage against you as long as you can take actions, and you gain a +4 power bonus to Insight checks and Perception checks against the target. The effects of this power last until the end of your next turn.DEVA
I often hold the deva up as one of 4E's most well-designed races. Beause of those, I didn't really feel like I needed to "fix" anything, and I could really get to playing around with the idea of adding in alternative racial feature options as something other than a necessity. After deciding that I wanted Astral Resistance to be a constant, I went with providing alternative to Astral Majesty. Astral Brilliance:
Select Astral Justice, Astral Majesty, or Astral Utterance:
When an enemy that you can see makes an attack that has combat advantage against an ally that you can see, you gain a +1 racial bonus to attack rolls against that enemy until the end of your next turn.
You gain a +2 racial bonus to Diplomacy checks, and you learn the Supernal language. When you speak Supernal, listeners who don't speak Supernal understand your words as if you used their own languages. You can choose to disguise your speech, but in general Supernal is a universally understood language.DRAGONBORN
Dragonborn are already a very well supported race, and they were among the first race to receive official alternative racial options, in the form of the Dragonfear power that could be selected in place of Dragon Breath, so I really didn't want to touch them. However, the more I thought about it, I just couldn't deny that they needed an alternative to their CON-centric Draconic Heritage, and INT- or WIS-primary characters still don't have a viable racial power. I had a hard time thinking of a good racial power, but there is one thing that people have been wanting Dragonborn to do since the very beginning: Fly. From there, I challenged myself to create a balanced racial power that would still be useful even if characters later obtained genuine flight. Draconic:
Select either Draconic Ancestry or Draconic Heritage:
Choose acid, cold, fire, lightning, or poison. You gain resist 5 to that damage type. This resistance increases to 10 at 11th
level and to 15 at 21st
level. If you choose the Dragon Breath racial power, then you must choose the same damage type for this feature as you do for that power.
Dragonborn Racial Power:
Select Dragon Breath, Dragonfear, or Dragon Flight:
You have the Dragon Flight power.Dragon FlightYou unfurl your leathery wings and take to the sky to deliver your next attack. Encounter
Standard Action, PersonalEffect:
You can fly a number of squares equal to your speed and then use a standard action at-will attack power. After the attack, if you didn't end the flight on solid ground, then you descend to the ground slowly without taking falling damage.Special:
When you fall, you can expend this power as a free action. If you do, then you take no damage from the fall.DWARF
Again, we have a very well supported race here, and the Dwarf is even one of the few races to have already gotten subraces. There's only one little thing about it that's always bugged me: Encumbered Speed. It's so useless to so many classes, those that don't wear heavy armor anyway, so I took a page from my Genasi playbook... Steadfast:
Select either Encumbered Speed or Unhindered Speed:
When you are slowed, your speed becomes 3 instead of 2, and you can still benefit from bonuses to speed. Carrying a heavy load does not cause you to be slowed.GITHZERAI
Finally, another race like the Deva! I really got to do whatever I wanted for this one, so I experimented with a new idea: What if there were racial features that could modify racial powers? I always thought that the Githzerai racial power was a little bit "meh", so I could use this opportunity to beef it up a bit... Githzerai Mettle:
Select either Defended Mind or Inner Focus:
Being dazed, stunned, or surprised does not cause you to grant combat advantage.
Select either Mercurial Flow or Shifting Fortunes:
You can use your Iron Mind power as a minor action with no trigger. If you use the power as a minor action, then you can also shift 1 square.GNOLL
The poor, poor Gnoll, redheaded stepchild of playable races. You're about as badly designed as the Minotaur is (though I never really fixed you before because I don't even like you as much), and you didn't even get flexible ability score options! Your existance really is quite sad, but I will not ignore you in this thread! Here are your new toys: Ability Scores:
+2 Dexterity and either +2 Strength or +2 Constitution
Select either Pack Attack or Pack Hunt:
You gain a +1 racial bonus to attack rolls against any enemy that grants combat advantage to at least two of your allies but not to you.
Select either Ferocious Charge or Ferocious Counter:
You have the Ferocious Counter power.Ferocious CounterInstead of recoiling from your foe's attack, you recklessly lash out to exact your revenge. Encounter
Immediate Reaction, Personal
An enemy hits you with an attack.Effect:
You use a standard action at-will attack power. You must target the triggering enemy with the attack. If you are bloodied, then you can shift one square either before or after using the attack power.GNOME
Unfortunately, fixing Small size is just not something that this is meant to do. What I can do, however, is offer a new option for how you can use that racial power, especially useful for character not that great at Stealth. The Ghost Sound alternative may be a bit lazy, but I think that Pretidigitation fits the Gnome very well. Defense Mechanism:
Select either Proactive Stealth or Reactive Stealth:
You can use your Fade Away power as a minor action with no trigger. If you use the power as a minor action, then you can remain invisible only until the end of your turn, rather than until the end of your next turn.
Select either Master Prankster or Master Trickster:
Once per encounter, you can use the wizard cantrip Prestidigitation as a minor action.GOLIATH
There were a few races that actually gave me a lot
of trouble, and this one one of them. Powerful Athelete is basically two different features, so how do I work with that? The results aren't as exciting as a like, but they do include my first realization that when a race gets alternative feature options giving it new features exclusively useful to only some classes and roles is totally okay
. Powerful Build:
Select Powerful Athlete, Powerful Grip, or Powerful Stride:
Creatures take a -2 penalty to checks made to escape your grab. When you make an Athletics check to climb, roll twice and use either result.
You ignore difficult terrain when you run. When you make an Athletics check to jump, roll twice and use either result.HALFLING
This was the other race that gave me a surprising amount of trouble. I've always thought that Bold was sort of a "meh" feature, so I knew from the beginning that I wanted to give alternative options to it, but it was surprisingly difficult to figure out what. I ended up settling for one rather standard feature and another that I'm not totally sure about. It's hard to say that I'm totally happy with this one, but options are still better than no options. Halfling Courage:
Select either Bold, Daring, or Defiant:
When your use of a power provokes an opportunity attack from one of that power's targets, and you have combat advantage against that target, that opportunity attack takes place after you finish your action rather then before.
You can attempt to escape as a minor action, rather than as a move action.HALF-ORC
It's funny, the three races that game me the most trouble are all clumped together here. Swift Charge was, of course, the target of my hatred here, but coming up for alternative for it was actually surprisingly hard, considering that I didn't want to add anything that would be redundant with the Half-Orc's other features. I'm actually pretty content with how this one turned out, though. Savage Aspect:
Select Feral Heart, Swift Charge, or Vicious Critical:
You gain a +4 racial bonus on Perception checks made to find tracks and Nature checks made to calm or train animals.
When you score a critical hit against a creature, you can make an intimidate check against that creature as a minor action, instead of as a standard action, until the end of your turn.KALASHTAR
I've long thought that the Kalashtar racial power wasn't very good because of how limited in use it one. It's just not going to come up in too many encounters. The challenge was to craft a power similar in flavor and balanced in mechanics but also more generally useful. Battle of the Minds:
Select either Bastion of Mental Clarity or Siege of Mental Fog:
Siege of Mental Fog:
You have the Siege of Mental Fog power.Seige of Mental FogYou project an obscuring cloud into the minds of your enemies, concealing yourself and your allies. Encounter
Free Action, Close
An enemy hits or misses you with an opportunity attack.
Each enemy in the burst.Effect:
The target takes a -4 penalty to hit with opportunity attacks until the end of your next turn.MINOTAUR
The Minotaur! A lot of you already know how much I love this race but hate how poorly it was designed. Well, here it is. Here are the alternative racial feature that I would give Minotaurs to make them more generally useful. This doesn't
mean that I would give them these features instead
of the ones that they have now. Rather, I think that these features complement
the existing features in terms of the Minotaur's flavor, its struggle between civilization and savagery. Inner Struggle:
Select either Labyrinth Cunning or both Ferocity and Heedless Charge:
You gain a +4 bonus to all checks made to navigate or avoid becoming lost.
Also, being unable to see a creature does not cause you to grant combat advantage to it.
Select either Goring Charge or Uncanny Guard:
You have the Uncanny Guard power.Uncanny GuardA brief moment of vulnerability is negated thanks to your superior senses and innate cunning. Encounter
Immediate Interrupt, Personal
You are hit by an attack.Effect:
You do not grant combat advantage to the attack, and you gain an additional +3 bonus to your defenses against the attack.Special:
You can use this power even if surprised.SHADAR-KAI
Not very much to work with here, considering that the race is pretty light on features, but I did have a cool idea for its racial power, an idea which I admittedly ripped the mechanics off from one of my earlier projects. Do you know which one? Umbral Soul:
Select either Shadow Jaunt or Shadow Reach:Shadow Reach:
You have the Shadow Reach power.Shadow ReachYour shadow is your greatest ally, always by your side and often able to reach what you cannot. Encounter
Minor Action, PersonalEffect:
Until the end of your turn, you can treat creatures and objects up to two squares away from you as though they were adjacent to you, and the ranges of your melee and ranged powers increase by one.THRI-KREEN
I actually really like this race. It's just a shame that the power is so melee-centric and that so many characters will still be unable to find a good ability score to use with it. No problem, this is a perfect opportunity to bring back the Thri-Kreen racial poison from earlier editions and to try my hand at creating the rare move-action attack power. Thri-Kreen Attack:
Select either Thri-Kreen Bite or Thri-Kreen Claws:
You have the Thri-Kreen Bite power.Thri-Kreen BiteYou leap at your enemy and inject it with a paralyzing neurotoxin before springing away. Encounter * Poison
Move Action, Melee
You can jump 2 squares both before and after the attack. These movements do not provoke opportunity attacks.
Highest ability score +3 vs. Fortitude Level 11:
Highest ability score +6 vs. Fortitude Level 21:
Highest ability score +9 vs. FortitudeHit:
The target is slowed and takes a -2 penalty to Reflex defense until the end of your next turn.TIEFLING
The Tiefling racial power already went through one revision when the developers realized it was so underpowered, but they still tied it to only a few ability scores, so its utility is tragically diminished for a lot of characters. I went with giving the race another sin to pick from. I almost went all-out and created a new power for each sin, but I decided too cool it for now. Maybe in the future... Infernal Vice:
Select either Infernal Pride or Infernal Wrath:Infernal Pride:
You have the Infernal Pride power.Infernal PrideThe fires of your spite will bring your foe to its knees, as though to bow before you. Encounter * Fire
Free Action, Close
During your turn, you miss an enemy with an attack, and you would not otherwise still deal damage to that enemy on the miss.
The triggering enemy in the burst.Effect:
The target takes fire damage equal to your highest ability score modifier and is also knocked prone.WARFORGED
This is another one of those races that I just have nothing to complain about. It really is amazingly well designed! I got to have some fun with this one, so I played around with alternatives to Warforged Resilience. I know that many people would be sad to see the auto-success on death saves go, but that's a very game-specific sort of feature. In some styles of games, it's just not going to come up very often, so here are some flavorful alternatives. Forged:
Select Warforged Armor, Warforged Fortification, or Warforged Resilience:Warforged Armor:
Combat advantage does not grant a bonus to attack rolls versus your Fortitude defense.
Also, you take only a -2 penalty, rather than a -5 penalty, to Armor Class and Fortitude defense for being unconscious.
When an attack would score a critical hit against you, you can make a saving throw to turn it into a normal hit.
Also, a coup de grace cannot slay you outright by dealing damage to you greater than or equal to your bloodied value.(This thread is cross-posted in Races, as is my usual practice for homebrewed racial material)