However, after posting I realised I wasn’t entirely happy with it, and felt it could be expanded and improved. So, finally, here is the expanded and improved guide for creating mixed race or hybrid characters in Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition:
(Since 22 March 2020, this link is to the updated version on Google Drive. Archives of the previous (Excel) versions linked from this page can be found here: v2 (22 March 2019) and v3 (10 May 2019). Alternatively, if you don’t want to download the file, you can browse the components at the end of this blog post.)
Whereas the previous guide included only 10 different official races (and some of their subraces), this new guide includes 71 different official races and sub-races, which can now be freely mixed and matched to create new racial options. You can still make your half-Elf/half-Dwarf Dwelf, but maybe you want to make a half-Dragonborn/half-Goblin, or a half-Shifter/half-Tabaxi, or one of over a thousand other possibilities. Now you can! Enjoy!
In the previous blog post, I talked about my problems with the limitations of the mixed race options available to D&D players in 5th edition (which certainly include Half-Elves and Half-Orcs, and may also include Genasi, Tieflings and Aasimar). I won’t go over them again, but I have issues with these mixed race options being treated as distinct races that sometimes appear very different from the races they’re supposedly descended from, with after-the-fact official justifications for why other combinations can’t exist (even when they sometimes do), and with the fact that one half of a mixed race character’s heritage is always assumed to be Human.
I talked about some ways of playing a mixed race character without introducing a bunch of new rules or character options, but let’s be honest and admit that the most interesting thing I did was provide character options for any pairwise combination of 10 official playable races and their subraces (Aasimar, Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Goliath, Half-Elf, Halfling, Half-Orc, Human, Tiefling), which I did by splitting the features of these official races into Left components and Right components that could be easily mixed and matched.
Why the update?
Last time, my list of components excluded some core races, most notably Dragonborns, and in retrospect I think I was wrong to leave them out. My argument at the time was that Dragonborn wouldn’t be compatible with other races because they don’t produce live young, but this is a stupid justification. For one thing, it’s contrary to my argument in the first blog post (that the options should be available for everyone and not limited just because of a narrow interpretation of what the races could be) and, for another, I’d already been in a campaign featuring a half-Human/half-Dragonborn player character (albeit using Dragonborn stats).
Once I got my head around my mistake, I felt like the only solution was to expand the guide to include all available races, and let the gaming groups that use the guide decide how these racial features are integrated. For example, I’ve included the robotic Warforged in the latest guide, and it’s up to players to decide if there exists a fertile Warforged, or whether the combination is achieved by magic, or just whether a character with Warforged traits is some sort of cyborg. I’m no longer going to try and impose my own view on it.
Formatting has been improved (which is to say that it has been formatted at all, unlike the first one), and there’s now a page that you can automatically populate with the traits of your chosen combinations. Plus there’s a guide for recreating the official races that the components are derived from, and a bit more commentary.
Rules-wise, there aren’t many changes. ASIs for Elves have been fixed so that they aren’t as ludicrously generous as they were in version 1, while still working for both Elves and Half-Elves. Also, there are now situations in which specific traits will appear in both a Left component and a Right component, and will grant additional benefits if you pick components that both have the trait. An obvious example of this is the Aarakocra’s Flight trait. While any character that is part Aarakocra can fly, they have a much lower flying speed (20 feet per round) if they aren’t full Aarakocra. This is partly flavour (flight is such an essential part of being Aarakocra that limiting the trait to only one component seemed wrong), but also partly balance (the 50 feet per round flying speed of Aarakocra is generally considered over-powered).
Beyond that, the biggest and most obvious change is simply that the guide now includes far more races. It includes all official races (except for some Eberron subraces for core character races) available in the following books:
Dungeon Master’s Guide
Elemental Evil Player’s Companion
Volo’s Guide to Monsters
Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
The Tortle Package
Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes
Wayfarer’s Guide to Eberron
I hope someone finds this useful, even as a thought experiment. While I’ve had some nice comments and plenty of views on the last blog post, I haven’t actually heard from anyone who has used it to make a character. If you do, please do drop me a line and let me know about the character you created!
CREATING HYBRID RACES IN D&D 5E (v3, 2019-05-10)
All character races have been divided into Left and Right components. The spreadsheet version (link updated; for archived versions see v2 or v3), includes a way of auto-populating race features that is not included on this page.
To create your character’s race, pick one Left component and one Right component from the lists below, then apply all benefits (and disadvantages) from both.
Ability Score Increases (ASIs) must be applied in the following order, regardless of which component they come from:
specified ASIs (Strength, Charisma, etc.) – increase the specified Ability by one, or decrease the Ability by one if it is preceded by a minus (-)
any (free) – increase any of the six Abilities by one without restriction
any (repeat) – increase an Ability by one that you’ve already increased under step 1 or step 2
any (other) – must increase any Abilities that were decreased in step 1 to remove the penalty or (if there are no Ability penalties remaining) increase any Ability that has not already been increased (including in this step)
When both of the chosen components give the same specific (non-ASI) benefit, it applies only once. In certain rare (and explicitly identified) cases, where a specific benefit is duplicated, one of the components will say that its instance of the benefit is replaced with something else.
The Fleet of Foot trait is reworded as “Increase movement speed by 5 feet”.
(This section should look like 2 columns/boxes next to each other that scroll independently. The one on the left contains Left components, the one on the right contains Right components. In each column, the individual components can be expanded to read the relevant features.)