I consider my gaming tastes to be a tad more ‘alternative’ than most other gamers out there.
I mean, I enjoy any player who brings a hard-drinking dwarf to the table as much as the next gal, but I do truly love to see builds and characters that really go ‘all-in’ on the creative side of role-playing.
So how’s about we dive into something completely different?
Credit: Nathaniel Alfred
Price Tag: Pay What You Want
First, this is more of a rough draft than a finalized supplement. When I saw this on the Guild it immediately appealed to me. It was something different and I tried to recall if I had seen something like it in the past. I don’t believe I have.
Honestly, I don’t recall any previous edition of the game having a racial option specifically for primates. Certainly other beasts (cats and the like especially) have been polymorphed into anthropomorphic versions of themselves, but a treatment devoted to apes and monkeys alone, to my knowledge, has never been done. In fact, I don’t even recall any gamer (not even once) in any game I have been in mentioning they would seriously like to play a monkey. Or a chimp for that matter. Perhaps playing a ‘dirty ape’ is an unappealing option for your typical gamer.
Which is a little weird actually.
Considering the number of gamers I’ve sat alongside who were more than happy to personify the dumb-witted barbarian (“Kill. Orc. Now!”) I suppose an ape might actually reflect the hack-and-slash mentality of D&D just a bit too succinctly– you know?
Anyway, back to the actual supplement: Primate Race options for 5e. It really is a very loosely fleshed out attempt at creating a playable race. It can be summed up as follows:
- Its a racial option for primates! You can play a chimpanzee, gorilla, spider monkey or baboon. Want to play an authentic tribal barbarian? Why not play a freakin’ gorilla!
- The gorilla Rite of Leadership trait grants you a partial feature that barbarians have: resistance to bludgeoning damage. This is an excellent flavor-wise implementation of what you would expect to have as a ‘great ape’ and is illustrative of the potential of such a race.
- Chimpanzee’s gain small tool proficiencies that double your proficiency with them.
- Spider monkey’s have prehensile tails to allow for object manipulation (like tielflings from 4E and the Unearthed Arcana 5e variants).
- The appearance of Son Goku, a primate god! (A beast idea!)
- The author had an obvious appreciation for the material.
- The supplement is really more of a draft than a finalized product.
- The background history to the race of primates could use some work. The author mentions magic as the primary source of primate ‘enlightenment’ but also partially attributes their rise to fey influence. For example, baboons can cast the dancing lights cantrip (of all things). This reoccurring elvish connection, including primates’ ability to speak Sylvan, feels a bit out of place. A more consistent narrative would greatly elevate the work overall.
- Most of the subrace traits are incredibly underwhelming and need heavy re-work. The wording is very open (the chimpanzee’s tool proficiency is a prime example) but again this is largely due to the fact that this appears as more of a draft than anything else. Play-testing is definitely needed.
- No art.
Overall, Primates is an interesting idea and I would love to see a version of this racial option built into something that is truly playable. The chance to flesh out a character modeled after Ceaser or Koba (#teamKoba) as they navigate a fictional world of magic just seems pretty cool! As an aside there is a rather balanced Beast race supplement on the DMSGuild [Beastfolk] that does a good job of encompassing all beasts as playable characters, but nothing specifically for primates!
Credit: Travis Morrow
Price Tag: 1.00
This supplement is 19 pages long and its creator definitely took the time to flesh out his creation. It was a pleasure to read this guide and its appeal, like Primate Race options, lay in its off-the-beaten path nature.
The guide presents a robust treatment of how players can take on the roles of sentient wolves. How they became sentient is entirely up to the player, but once they do players have options for both a wolf race and wolf-specific classes. These options are explained with a high level of detail and thoughtfulness.
Sentient Beasts breaks wolves up into three distinct subraces with Wisdom as the prime stat; I presume this symbolizes the enlightening nature of becoming sentient. The subraces each gain a +2 bonus to secondary stats, different from the normal +2/+1 ratio common to all other races in the 5e canon of races. The second biggest variation from the core racial traits is that wolves in this supplement have the Quadruped trait– they have four limbs, lack hands which means they have a good deal of difficulty on things most humanoids take for granted like opening doors but have advantage on being shoved or knocked prone. It is an interesting change to a core playable character race trait that you might take for granted but immediately has a huge amount of role-play implications (The entire party is unconscious inside a burning tavern except for the wolf party member. The only thing between her and their rescue– a simple unlocked wooden door. Annnnnnd..action!)
The author presents two classes for wolf characters: the Lycan and the Spirit Wolf.
The Lycan is for players seeking a martial combat wolf character. There are 3 paths that the Lycan branches off into that most resemble a rogue, a barbarian and a bard. For players who want to play a wolf with the ability to cast spells, the Spirit Wolf class fits the bill. It grants players a literal spirit wolf that is a powerful battlefield controller-enabling companion. The class comes with its own spell list, topping out at 5th Level.
The guide finishes with character backgrounds befitting a wolf– house-trained, pit fighter, lone wolf and wild born.
This is a real thorough treatment of not only an entire race, but of a pair of unique and really distinctive classes. It has some of the following in terms of:
- The flavor on the race and classes is well done. It could definitely stand to be improved but it really helps in crafting a truly canid character.
- Some of the traits for the race, like the quadruped or wolf eyes, which grants advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks to notice movement are well thought-out and highly unique, flavor-wise and mechanically. They really give this race a distinctive feel and not something that is simply a re-skin of core material.
- The breath of class detail for the Lycan is wide enough to offer a range of options that should suit most players looking to take on the role of a wolf front-line fighter. The Pack Leader is a really powerful enabler (a bit too powerful, see Disadvantages)
- The Spirit Wolf class is a fantastic concept. Its a really wonky blend between sorcerer, wizard and the 4E and earlier shaman that get a companion for controllery purposes. Its incorporeal ability is a nice addition to the concept and its legacies are a hodge-podge of other class features. The Spirit Powers, which are akin to sorcerer metamagic features come in a nice variety. Take for example shadow wolf which allows a character to merge with their spirit wolf to become invisible. The role-playing fun of this class is off-the charts.
- The backgrounds are decent and again showcase the author’s appreciation for their material.
- The artwork is a nice editing of actual real-world wolf pictures– good or bad depending on your taste.
- Like any single-party publication, grammar and wording needs work throughout.
- The subrace traits are entirely unbalanced, and only one would seem to be a serious choice. Additionally, the Pack Tactics ability, which is essentially a Rogue feature seems entirely overpowered for a race trait. The +2/+2 stat boost combo only adds to this feeling.
- The base Lycan class without inclusion of the paths seems very underwhelming. Its core ability, essentially a Power Attack from earlier editions also goes somewhat against the 5e mantra against granting +1’s here and there, but does fall in line with the preference for damage increasing over to-hit increases for bounded accuracy purposes.
- The Lycan paths seem both under and over powered throughout. They lack the true suite of features common to other classes or have incredibly powerful abilities. For instance the 3rd Level Pack Leader feature grants adjacent allies an attack bonus equal to your Strength bonus (already breaking the point of 5e proficiency bonuses) and then at level 13 allows for an additional bonus to ally attacks within 30 feet equal to a Pack Leaders Charisma modifier, meaning you could essentially be giving adjacent allies a hypothetical +7 per turn, every single combat.
- Most of the Spirit Wolf features are poorly phrased and entirely too varied. To compensate for the lack of class options to wolves the author seems to have condensed all the spellcasting classes into one, leading to a messy class overall. However the Spirit Powers are overall nicely done, and may have benefited from being the primary focus of the class, rather than as simply another feature.
- The quadruped trait of the wolf race essentially means that magical items are unavailable for players who want to play wolves. Sure I could see a wolf character walking around in a cute little hat (I’m thinking a fez perhaps?), but overall this is severely limiting to players, especially as magical items are a core pleasurable benefit to playing the game.
- Similar to the quadruped trait, the limited nature of wolf classes presents players with very few options. While I can imagine a wolf fighter, without the benefit of a shield, or even a sword, this limits a characters choices. However, to me personally, this isn’t a deal-breaker because playing a wolf character should be entirely different.
Overall this is a very well envisioned supplement that needs play-testing to fully make it a great title. It has enormous potential and while I don’t see it as being a core option most gamers would choose, for folks like myself, looking to play alternative and radical characters, it presents a good step in the right direction.
So there you have it, two animal races, one largely still in draft form, the other highly detailed but still highly unpolished. Both present options that to me would be a welcome and interesting addition to any 5e table.