For a while now, the term “race” has been a topic of heated debate among the TTRPG community. Not just D&D, but other gaming franchises have also looked at moving away from using the term due to many real-world social issues. The Unearthed Arcana playtest released December 1st, 2022 introduces WotC’s plan for addressing this issue moving forward. Their new solution for this is using the term ‘species’ instead of race. I for one wholeheartedly agree that this is a much more proper term that fits the bill well. Let’s hope we can feel the same way about the few species they’ve given to us.
What’s In It?
This review focuses on the Species section of the new playtest document. For my reviews of the rest of this release, check out One D&D Cleric and Revised Species: Cleric Class and Feats, and stay tuned for the upcoming review on the rules changes. In this new UA, they introduce the first three playable species using the One D&D format, the Ardling, Dragonborn, and Goliath. Here we’ll go over all of the changes that have been made to the Ardling and Dragonborn since they were introduced in the Character Origins Unearthed Arcana as well as all of the changes that have been made to the Goliath from its 5th edition version. To read about the original Ardling and the initial changes that were made to Dragonborn, you can check out One D&D: The Next Phase of Dungeons & Dragons.
Each of the three species presented here follows the new format of traits that an adventurer will have using the One D&D rules. Changing the term from race to species has no real effect on how they function, but these species do introduce changes that have been made since the Character Origins playtest. As we had seen in that playtest, there are no subspecies featured here as either, but instead, each species has a trait that allows you to make choices between different abilities for a subspecies kind of feel.
Creature Type: Humanoid
Size: Medium (about 4–7 feet tall) or Small (about 3–4 feet tall), chosen when you select this species
Speed: 30 feet
Life Span: 200 years on average
As an Ardling adventurer, you have the following special traits.
Animal Ancestry. You are descended from a celestial animal. Choose one of the ancestry types below, then choose one of the example animals listed for that ancestry (or a similar
animal); you gain the benefits of that ancestry, and your head resembles the head of the chosen animal:
Climber (Bear, Cat, Lizard, Squirrel). You have hooked claws, sharp nails, or a serpentine tail. As a result, you have a climb speed equal to your speed, and once per turn when you deal damage with your unarmed strike to a target, you can increase the damage to that target by an amount equal to your proficiency bonus.
Flyer (Bat, Eagle, Owl, Raven). You have vestigial wings. As a result, when you fall at least 10 feet, you can use your reaction to safely glide downward, taking no damage from
the fall. In addition, when you take the Jump action, you can flap your wings to gain advantage on that action’s ability check.
Racer (Deer, Dog, Horse, Triceratops). When you take the Dash action, your speed increases for that action. The increase equals ten times your proficiency bonus.
Swimmer (Crocodile, Dolphin, Frog, Shark). You can hold your breath for up to an hour at a time and have a swim speed equal to your speed. In addition, you have resistance to cold damage.
Divine Magic. You can innately channel minor divine magic; you know the Thaumaturgy spell. Whenever you finish a long rest, you can replace that spell with a different 0-level spell from the Divine Spell list.
Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma is your spellcasting ability for any spell you cast with
this trait (choose the ability when you select the species).
Keen Senses. You have proficiency in the Perception Skill.
- The Animal Ancestry trait has replaced the Celestial Legacy trait that was introduced in the Character Origins UA.
- The Celestial Legacy trait allowed you to choose between the Exalted, Heavenly, and Idyllic legacies which linked you to a group of animals and granted you different spells at 1st, 3rd, and 5th levels.
- Now the Animal Ancestry feature grants you special abilities that are associated with the type of animal you have chosen.
- The Ardling has lost its resistance to radiant damage as well as its Angelic Flight feature.
- Now they are given proficiency in the Perception skill and an extra cantrip that they can change to another cantrip after each long rest.
Creature Type: Humanoid
Size: Medium (about 5–7 feet tall)
Speed: 30 feet
Life Span: 80 years on average
As a Dragonborn adventurer, you have the following special traits.
Draconic Ancestry. Your lineage stems from a dragon progenitor. Choose the kind of dragon from the Draconic Ancestor table. Your choice affects your Breath Weapon and Damage Resistance traits, as well as the look of your Draconic Flight. The chosen dragon also affects your appearance, with you displaying coloration and other features reminiscent of that dragon.
Breath Weapon. When you take the Attack action on your turn, you can replace one of your attacks with an exhalation of magical energy in either a 15-foot cone or a 30-foot line that is 5 feet wide. Each creature in that area must make a Dexterity saving throw against a DC equal to 8 + your Constitution modifier + your proficiency bonus. On a failed save, a creature takes 1d10 damage of the type determined by your Draconic Ancestry trait. On a successful save, a creature takes half as much damage. This damage increases by 1d10 when you reach the following character levels: 5th level (2d10), 11th level (3d10), and 17th level (4d10).
You can use this Breath Weapon a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.
Damage Resistance. You have resistance to the damage type determined by your Draconic
Darkvision. You have darkvision with a range of 60 feet.
Draconic Flight. When you reach 5th level, you learn how to channel the magical energy of
your Draconic Ancestry to give yourself temporary flight. As a bonus action, you sprout
spectral wings on your back that last for 10 minutes or until you are Incapacitated or you retract the wings as a bonus action. During that time, you have a fly speed equal to your speed. Your wings appear to be made of the energy used by your Breath Weapon. Once you use this trait, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest.
- When compared to the traits introduced in the One D&D Character Origins UA the Dragonborn function in the same way aside from three key differences.
- The first difference is that the Breath Weapon trait gives you the option to exhale it as a 30-foot line in addition to using it as a 15-foot cone. In the original version featured in the Player’s Handbook the type of exhalation was determined by the type of Dragon Ancestry you chose.
- The second change is another change to the Breath Weapon feature, this time to the amount of damage it deals. This feature has gone through many changes in 5th edition and WotC still can’t seem to make up its mind on how it should work. In the Character Origins UA, they introduced it as dealing damage equal to 1d10 + your character level. Now in this version, they have gone back to 1d10 + your proficiency bonus with the damage scaling up like a cantrip as you gain levels which were introduced in Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons.
- The final change is the addition of the Draconic Flight trait which gives you spectral wings, similar to the Gem Dragonborn’s Gem Flight in Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons, with a longer duration and without the ability to hover.
Creature Type: Humanoid
Size: Medium (about 7–8 feet tall)
Speed: 35 feet
Life Span: 80 years on average
As a Goliath adventurer, you have the following special traits.
Giant Ancestry. You are descended from giants. Choose one of the following benefits
—a supernatural boon from your ancestry; you can use the chosen benefit a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest:
Cloud’s Jaunt (Cloud Giant). As a bonus action, you magically teleport up to 30 feet to an unoccupied space you can see.
Fire’s Burn (Fire Giant). When you hit a target with an attack roll and deal damage to it, you can also deal 1d10 Fire Damage to that target.
Frost’s Chill (Frost Giant). When you hit a target with an attack roll and deal damage to
it, you can also deal 1d6 cold damage to that target and reduce its speed by 10 feet until the
start of your next turn.
Hill’s Tumble (Hill Giant). When you hit a Large or smaller creature with an attack roll
and deal damage to it, you can knock that target prone.
Stone’s Endurance (Stone Giant). When you take damage, you can use your reaction to roll a d12. Add your Constitution modifier to the number rolled and reduce the damage by that total.
Storm’s Thunder (Storm Giant). When you take damage from a creature within 60 feet of
you, you can use your reaction to deal 1d8 thunder damage to that creature.
Large Form. Starting at 5th level, you gain the ability to supernaturally grow. As a bonus
action, you change your Size to Large, provided you’re in a big enough space. This transformation lasts for 10 minutes or until you end it as a bonus action. During that duration, you have advantage on Strength checks, and your speed increases by 10 feet. Once you use this trait, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest.
Powerful Build. You have advantage on any saving throw you make to end the Grappled condition on yourself. You also count as one size larger when determining your carrying capacity and the weight you can push, drag, or lift.
- I think this re-working of the Goliath is close but not quite there. The first change that we see is their movement speed which increases from 30 feet to 35. I had assumed they would be giving all creatures the same movement speed of 30 feet as they had stated in previous releases, so this is the first playable species we see with a different movement speed.
- The Goliath species loses its Natural Athlete trait which is fine considering what comes next.
- The Giant Ancestry trait finally gives us the closest thing to a Goliath subspecies we’ve seen so far, and it’s long overdue. Stone’s Endurance is now an option among a list of different abilities that represent your character’s ancestry.
- Powerful Build remains a trait for the giant kin but they lose their Mountain Born feature. This is pretty understandable with introducing the abilities of the different giants, but it would be nice to see them get a damage resistance based on the resistances of their ancestors. If this happened, I’d be pretty satisfied with this take on the Goliath.
- WotC has finally taken a clear step in starting the process of removing the term race from D&D’s wording.
- This set of rules introduces the latest takes on three races, the Ardling, Dragonborn, and Goliath.
- Ardlings have seen changes to what their ancestry offers them and have had their magical abilities toned down in addition to losing their ability to fly for short bursts.
- Dragonborn have seen yet more changes to how their Breath Weapon operates and have gained the ability to fly for 10 minutes once per long rest.
- Goliaths have finally seen the introduction of a subspecies with their Giant Ancestry trait as well as an increase to their movement speed, but they no longer have a damage resistance or proficiency in the Athletics skill.
If you’d like to get the full details of the Cleric Class and Revised Species Unearthed Arcana you can find it with this link right here!