Posted by : David Guyll October 05, 2012

Note: Sorry if this has been cropping up a lot. I have had a very difficult time getting this article mostly formatted.

Since I completed my conversion of Keep on the Shadowfell, I have been working on Thunderspire Labyrinth. It has gone somewhat smoothly considering that I was about halfway done recreating it for 4th Edition. Really the hard part is going through those notes and restructuring encounters to better fit 5th Edition's model (which is similar to 3rd Edition's, so it is more like getting back on a bicycle).

A big theme in Thunderspire Labyrinth, besides minotaurs (well...not so much in the original version) are duergar. 4th Edition duergar are, well, kind of silly. During my remake I provided some traits that swapped out their beard quills for more infernal traits. Classic duergar lacked either of these things, instead being able to turn invisible and increase their size. So as a nod to previous editions--and a kind of sneak peak at the conversion--here are duergar as a dwarf subrace:

Ability Score Adjustment: Your starting Constitution score increases by 1.
Spell Resistance: You gain advantage on saving throws made against spells.

Simple, kind of close, but lacks their supernatural powers (and one immunity). Given that this is about as much as one could expect from a 5th Edition race, and that I guess feats are going another direction, I decided to use another mechanic I recall from 3rd Edition: racial levels. You can opt to pick up a level of duergar instead of another class at level 2 and up. Each time you do, you get the following:

Racial Features
A duergar gains the following racial features.
Hit Dice: 1d10 per duergar level
Hit Points: 1d10 (or 6) + your Constitution modifier per duergar level gained.

Weapon Attack
Power Points
Racial Features


Immunity to Paralysis


Level 1: You gain the chameleon power.
Level 2: You are immune to the paralysis condition.
Level 3: You gain the expansion power.

1st-level psychometabolism

Your skin changes appearance to blend in with your surroundings.
Effect: For 1 minute you have advantage on checks made to hide.

2nd-level psychometabolism

Your body grows to the size of an ogre.
Effect: For 1 minute your size increases to Large, your reach increases by 5 ft., you gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls, and you have advantage on Strength checks.

NOTE: Power points refresh after a long rest (like a sorcerer's Willpower). Each power costs one power point per level.

I went with psionics because A) I really like psionics, and B) this way they can synch with other psionic classes (so long as they use power points, I guess). I figure that deep underground with all those mind flayers that it makes sense to a point, but if you do not like it you can just change them into 1/day powers. The upside is that you can opt to snag all of the duergar's racial abilities at the cost of another class, the downside is that the race is best suited for melee classes (though I could see rogues going in for a stealth boost).

What do you think? Do you like the racial class and psionics model of 3rd Edition? Do you prefer the infernal origin of 4th Edition?

{ 4 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. I didn't know about racial levels, but on first spot it looks... silly...

    OK. This is more on racial levels than your proposal, sorry! :-)

    Mechanically it would work, but misses connection to the world. Getting levels in something that is immanent part of character? I don't buy it. So when some character levels in profession/class it's racial part is paused/frozen?

  2. I see it as the PC choosing to focus on the potential inherent in their race, or on their profession instead. Cool idea, I like it!

  3. 3rd Edition originally handled more powerful races via level adjustment, which was a heavily flawed system. They later introduced the idea of monster classes (which was also heavily flawed, especially for spellcasters), and eventually in the last run of books made it so that extra abilities were simply delayed until a much later level (which worked better, I think). Some races had feat trees, but given how few feats you got were almost never worth it, except in specialized builds perhaps.

    4th Edition had racial feats which were worth it (getting feats every other level also helped), and there were swappable racial powers (also, often worth it).

    Given that feats in 5th Edition seem to be more general, really the only option I can think of that fits the style is to make optional racial levels that you can snag in order to gain additional benefits. Since the math is flatter, I think it works out much better than it did in 3rd Edition.

  4. There is also the possibility that racial paragons could wind up being specialties in D&D Next.



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