Generally, most Dungeons & Dragons settings are home to many different races and cultures. The races available in D&D Next include all the classic races from every D&D edition to date, such as the humans, dwarves, elves and halflings. These classes are considered the ‘core races’ in D&D Next.
There are also a number of unusual and exotic races such as gnomes, half-elves, kenders and dragonborn. If you have played any version of D&D before, it might seem strange that gnomes and half-elves fall under this category, but the rationale behind this is that some of these races are secluded and rarely travel the world.
Surly Dwarves and Arrogant Elves
The playtest gives you information regarding each race, including their history, culture, religion, language, common names, physical appearance, outlook on life and typical motivations when pursuing the life of an adventurer. This information serves as a guideline when determining how your character should act in any given scenario.
The core races can be summarised as follows:
- Dwarf – short but stout folk who value clan identity and are generally distrustful.
- Elf – slender and graceful folk of the woodlands who are aloof and somewhat prideful.
- Halfling – small and humble, halflings avoid conflict and are content with the simple comforts.
- Humans – rulers of the mightiest kingdoms and driven to excel in all areas of life.
It is possible to deviate from these base assumptions and create a character that is unusual in his behaviour, maybe a bit eccentric or even a little rebellious – at least compared to other members of the same race. That said, the background information is useful for those who simply want to pick up the game and play.
In contrast, the other races are summarised briefly or not at all. This could be a good or a bad thing: the good thing is that a game master can flesh out each race however he wants. The flipside is that most experienced DMs do that anyway, so some guidelines would help those who are completely new to Dungeons and Dragons and know little about D&D and the ‘lore’ of the game.
Also, it feels a little incomplete. I can only assume that each race will be described in more detail once the game goes into final print.
The optional races that are described in the playtest can be summarised as follows:
- Dragonborn – offspring of dragons born without the blessing of Bahamut.
- Gnome, Forest – small, good natured folk who commune with small animals and forest spirits.
- Gnome, Rock – tinkerers, scientists and inventors of technological marvels and wonders.
- Kender – independent creatures of Krynn who are curious and utterly fearless.
- Tiefling – offspring of mortal and fiendish parents, their appearance betrays their infernal blood.
- Warforged – living constructs and remnants of the Last War in the world of Eberron.
Not much is written regarding the drow, half-elves and half-orcs. You could assume that the drow are the same xenophobic, vicious and backstabbing dark-skinned elves that we all know and love. The latter two races possess the blood of humans and elves or orcs, respectively.
Fit No Stereotypes
Each race is blessed with traits that offer them unique advantage and unlike previous editions before D&D 4e, there are no racial penalties to ability scores in D&D Next which I think is a good thing. This means you can go to town with the design of your character and shatter all pre-conceived ideas or stereotype of a certain race.
Do you want to play a half-orc who defies all expectation to become an established member – or even the leader – of a mage council? You can. How about a lunatic gnome barbarian who likes to crush the kneecaps of all who stand in his way, so they never walk far enough to disturb his tinkering again? That’s possible too.
Sometimes, playing the racial stereotypes straight makes a lot more sense from a mechanical point of view, since each race appears to be optimised for a particular calling over others, but for those who want their campaigns to be a little different, the lack of penalties ensure that any character concept is viable.
Some races are divided into sub-races and each sub race grants extra ability bonuses and advantages which are cumulative with the benefits already gained from the base race.
So there you have it. If you are currently playtesting D&D Next, please feel free to share your experiences and how well you feel the classes are handled in D&D Next.