Other races in D&D part two: some crunch

My musings on how to move a little bit away from strictly Tolkien demihumans — without descending into the anime style of 4th ed. D&D — have been a consistently popular post, garnering 50-100 hits every week.  I think there is a strong possibility most of those hits are 4e players looking for the newish Changeling race from the –3rd? 4th? 5th? — Player’s Handbook for 4e.  My Google penance for that will be to offer some slightly crunchier stuff…stats and numbers for how I can see a slightly fairy tale/Nordic take on the traditional D&D races. (I envision using a heavily house-ruled variation of C&C, which I’ll detail as my brother & I hammer out the details.)

An illustration for Peer Gynt by Arthur Rackham


My preference would be to make elves very alien, soulless, and basically chaotic, as they are in Poul Anderson’s works.  But in keeping with fairy tales, they should range widely in size.  Elves roll d8-1 for their height, in feet.  Treat 0 as 1.All elves get +1 Charisma and Dexterity, for they are fascinating and graceful.

Illustration by Brian Froud

If 1 foot tall, they are Fairies, with wings (flight = 18″). They may turn invisible at will but become visible until their next round if they attack.  -3 to Strength (they are still supernaturally strong though) and they can use only tiny weapons which generally deal 1-2 points of damage (bows and one-handed weapons) or d4 (for two-handed swords and the like).

If 2 foot tall, they are Pixies.   They fly with wings (15″) and are small. -3 Strength

Ernie the Keebler elf.

If 3 feet tall, they are Cobbler (Keebler?) Elves, the sort Santa employs.  Small and nimble, they lack wings but are excellent craftsmen. -2 Strength, +1 Constitution from living in extreme environments (trees, artic, etc.)

If 4 feet tall, they are Wood Elves, a very wild breed with green skin and hair.

If 5 feet tall, they are standard D&D Elves.

If 6-7 feet tall, they are Sidhe, also known as High or Courtly Elves, of the Seely (Good) and Unseely (Evil) courts. +1 Strength.

Little People

Occasionally confused with Cobbler Elves, the Little People live all over the world and come in  wide range of varieties.  All have +1 Constitution and -2 Strength.  Their appearance is closely tied to their alignment.  Optionally, a change in alignment will alter the appearance/breed of the Little Person!

Good little people are Gnomes, and live in the woods.  They can speak the languages of all woodland animals and generally will not be attacked by any but the hungriest or most vicious animal.

Lawful little people are Halflings (also called Munchkins, Bobbits, or Hobbits). They live in villages of their own and often have trade relations with Humans.  They rarely adventure but make adequate thieves and even become fighters on occasion.

Neutral little people are Bogarts (also called Brownies), a fairly unpredictable breed who live, often surreptitiously, in Human buildings like barns, houses, and shops.  They are the most shy of the little people, and covered in fur.

A Gobble of Goblins by Edward Foster

Chaotic little people are Goblins.  They live in caves and other wild places, and are extremely mischievous.  They usually become rogues if they adventure. -1 Charisma.  They can see well in the dark.

Evil little people are Kobolds (also known as Knockers or Tommyknockers).  The live in mines and dungeons and love to lure men to their deaths with their tricks and traps (the simplest ploy being to knock in a mine shaft to lure would-be rescuers to their doom). -1 Wisdom.  Kobolds can see in the dark.


I think standard D&D Dwarves are ok rules-wise, but I still think they need to have their culture revisited so that they are not miniature Vikings or Romans but instead live in underground, largely solitary.  Some have odd deformities like crow’s feet or backward knees that they try to hide.


As explained on the earlier post, these are human or demihuman babes raised among the other kind.  Changelings with a Charisma of 12 or more are known as Half-Elves, apparently favoring the human or elf influence; those with Charisma below 10 are known as Half-Orcs, Orc-Men, or Goblin Men.  Half-elves have no attribute modifiers and can be most classes; Half-Orcs get +1 Strength and Constitution but suffer a further -1 Charisma, and can only be of fighter and rogue type classes.

Woodwoses, or Wild men, have very acute senses (Listen as Thieves and track as Rangers), can hide in the wilderness even without shadows or cover (use Hide in Shadows as Thief of same level), and are never surprised in the woods.  However they do not begin the game with Common as a free language (although highly Intelligent Woodwoses may choose Common as one of their bonus languages).   They are covered in hair, like Bogarts, and need not wear clothes except in extreme environments (arctic cold, deserts), although they might do so to enter towns and civilized areas.


Unlike humans, they cannot be raised by means of Raise Dead or Resurrection.  Their life force stays on the Prime Material Plane and will be reincarnated.  A Reincarnation spell will bring them back with their memories (and experience points).  If Reincarnated as humans, they will still be soulless and should have uncanny features (mechanical or  wooden bodies or body parts; hollow chest cavities/no heart; etc.)

However, soulless demi-humans have much less to fear of the undead.  They merely suffer one of their own HD type in damage when suffering energy drain attacks (i.e., no levels are lost, just HP, and this is damage, not permanent).  Demi-humans slain by the undead never rise as undead creatures, but Animate Dead spells will animate demi-human skeletons or corpses.  Finally, demi-humans are not aged by ghosts nor paralyzed by ghouls and ghasts.  However, other special undead attacks still affect them (a vampire may still hypnotize an Elf, for example).

Because they are soulless, demihumans cannot be Clerics or Druids if these exist in the campaign.  (I am planning some house rules that eliminate all classes but Fighter, Rogue, and Magic-User, but more on that later.)

*I’m on the fence about Munchkins, Gnomes, and Changelings having souls.  Maybe they should have souls.  Woodwoses who learn to speak Common might have souls too.

Published in: on June 8, 2010 at 2:52 am  Comments (7)  
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  1. In my campaign setting I’ve adopted the idea from the Ring Trilogy that even though dwarfs are unearthly crafters and builders, but if they ever make a weapon it will be used to kill them, and cause madness, grief, and death to all who come in contact with it. One of the PCs settled a vendetta by forging and gifting a sword, which caused his death but also wiped out his rival’s family and led to the destruction of the entire city-state. I had considered foiling his plans with an untimely robbery, but thought it provided a better close to that part of the campaign to let his plans run their course.

    To prevent a repeat or copycats after this I also instituted a rule that doing so worked exactly like Enchant Item, requiring immense experience costs associated with the creation of such a powerful item.

    • Love that.

  2. Very cool post. Some fantastic campaign material here.

    For some reason, it makes me think of the UK series of modules and their English mythology and Celtic flavor.

    With a ‘no resurrection’ rule in place, demi-humans would be at a bit of a disadvantage – perhaps this is a nice counterbalance to doing away with level limits?

  3. That is an excellent incorporation of a more weird and folkloric approach.

    I agree, halflings don’t really fit in well as soulless little folk. It would be funny to have gamers playing Munchkins instead of being Munchkins for a change. Perhaps the lawful fairies can be those Brownies who have made beneficial arrangements with humanity, and the hobbits can be their own thing.

    • That’s not a bad idea. On the one hand I don’t want too many demi-human races but on the other which can you drop?

  4. I love the feel you’re developing here.

  5. Thanks!

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