The best-selling supplement at DriveThruRPG is Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e and it has been that way for weeks. It is not surprising to see alternatives hit the shelves. Today, An Elf and an Orc Had a Little Baby: Parentage and Upbringing in D&D was published and is one of the best.
An Elf and an Orc Had a Little Baby: Parentage and Upbringing in D&D also takes the usual step of recommending alternatives to itself; including the previously mentioned Ancestry & Culture download but also Grazilaxx’s Guide to Ancestry and The Half Race Handbook.
V.J. Harris and Adam Hancock’s supplement isn’t the cheapest, coming in at $17.95 but it’s a large one at 113 pages. The art from Atornii is impressive, and I don’t think the cover picture does the supplement justice. The cover, of course, shows the titular elf and orc but that’s not what the supplement is about. These 113 pages are all about bringing exciting characters to life; characters with mixed parents and different upbringings.
It’s a straightforward system; the D&D supplement has a long list of races from which to pick your parents. You have two. You don’t get ability score modifiers from either of those two choices. You get one upbringing and your ability scores tweaks come from there.
Your alignment is whatever you want. As the supplement puts it;
You are a sentient individual with agency to make your own choices. Your alignment is not confined by your parentage, upbringing, background, or class.
An Elf and an Orc Had a Little Baby has a system for working out your age and height as well. Your life expectancy and height both start at zero, and as your add parent one and then parent two these increase based on those choices.
For example, I’m going to go with a half-dragonborn, so I add 40 to my life expectancy and 33 + 1d8 inches to my height. I rolled 5, so that’s me at 38 inches tall. I’m going to give myself a Firbolg mother. Why not. That adds 250 years to my life expectancy to take me up to a potential of 290 years old. Big mamma also adds 37 + 1d12 inches to my heigh. I rolled 10, must have been a big baby, so my hero PC will tower in at 76 inches tall, or 6’4″. The supplement notes that half-firbolgs are usually shorter than their firbolg parent.
My default speed is 30 feet and doesn’t change unless I’m told. We’re told that traits don’t stack. I’m not clear what happens if I half a slow-moving mother and a fast father, but that’s a niggle.
Many of the races listed in An Elf and an Orc Had a Little Baby have more than one option. Some have three.
For example, one option for a Celestial Birth Parent means I inherit Darkvision and Healing Hands. The other option for a Celestial Birth Parent gives me Celestial Resistance and Light Bearer.
The only race I got stuck on was Centaur. One option for Centaur Birth Parent gives me the charge ability and an Equine Build. The Equine Build says I’m one-size larger, I can charge, and climbing is hard. It doesn’t explicitly say horse-body. The other option for Centaur Birth Parent increases my speed to 40 and gives me hooves. So, does that mean I can be a biped with hooves or a taur with four wriggly feet?
At the back of the book, page 108, appendix B gives DMs an alternative option. Each of these parent traits is given points, and so players can be given a certain number of points to split between their lineage.
For example, in Centaur Parentage; the equine build is worth 1 point, hooves 1 point, charge 4 points and the speed boost 6. As it happens, Centaur are also Fey (2 points), but both default options have that.
I’ve a day 1 download, updates are likely to come, and I hope clickable indexes are one. The contents list only provides types of parents (like dwarf) rather than specific races (like hill dwarf).
I’ve jotted down a more detailed list with page numbers to the stat-blocks rather than the section opener;
- Aarokocra (page 5)
- Celestial (Aasimar) (page 7)
- Centaur (page 10)
- Changeling (page 12)
- Dragonborn (page 14)
- Dwarf (classic) (page 18)
- Dwarf (hill) (page 18)
- Dwarf (gray) (page 19)
- Dwarf (mountain) (page 19)
- Dao (or earth genasi) (page 22)
- Djinni (or air genasi) (page 22)
- Erfeeti (or fire genasi) (page 22)
- Marid (or water genasi) (page 22)
- Elf (classic) (page 25)
- Elf (dark) (page 26)
- Elf (eladrin) (page 26)
- Elf (sea) (page 27)
- Elf (shadar-kai) (page 27)
- Elf (wood) (page 27)
- Firbolgs (page 29)
- Gith (page 33)
- Gith (Githyank) (page 33)
- Gith (Githzerai) (page 33)
- Gnome (classic) (page 36)
- Gnome (deep) (page 36)
- Gnome (forest) (page 36)
- Gnome (rock) (page 36)
- Goblinoid (page 38)
- Goblinoid (Bugbear) (page 38)
- Goblinoid (Goblin) (page 38)
- Goblinoid (Hobgoblin) (page 38)
- Goliath (page 40)
- Grung (page 43)
- Halfling (classic) (page 45)
- Halfling (ghostwise) (page 45)
- Halfling (lightfoot) (page 45)
- Halfling (stout) (page 45)
- Human (page 48)
- Infernal (Tieflings) (page 51)
- Kalashtar (page 53)
- Kenku (page 55)
- Kobold (page 57)
- Leonin (page 59)
- Lizardfolk (page 61)
- Locathah (page 63)
- Loxodon (page 65)
- Minotaur (page 67)
- Orc (page 70)
- Satyr (page 72)
- Shifter (classic) (page 74)
- Shifter (Beathide) (page 74)
- Shifter (Longtooth) (page 74)
- Shifter (Swiftstride) (page 75)
- Shifter (Wildhunt) (page 75)
- Simic (page 76)
- Tabaxi (page 79)
- Tortle (page 81)
- Triton (page 83)
- Vedalken (page 85)
- Warforged (page 87)
- Yuan-ti (page 89)
That’s quite a list! If you have the default rules for all those races, then your D&D collection is far larger than mine.
I also want to see someone draw a Loxodon-halfling.
Races, though, are only half the story. You can see by the page count that they take up the lion share of the book. This is thanks to the art and because every now and then we get a sample character.
Upbringings are not about where you were brought up but about what was dominant in your upbringing.
For example (and I won’t list them all);
- Acrobatic upbringing
- Airship upbringing
- Aquatic upbringing
- Doa upbringing
- Defiant upbringing
- Draconic upbringing
- Laborer upbringing
- Labour Soldier upbringing
- Limbo upbringing
In other words, this is the bit of character generation which looks at the skills and chores you would have picked up as a kid.
Limbo upbringing has your raised in the turbulent churn of the plane of Limbo. Your Wisdom increases by 2 and your Intelligence by 1. Also, you get a Mental Discipline (advantage versus charm and fright), and you get one extra language on top of Common.
Frankly, the system works for me.
An Elf and an Orc Had a Little Baby makes it easy to create refreshing D&D characters.
Usual disclaimer, though, check with your DM that these races exist in the game universe first.
Warforged parents? Why not? They’re magical, after all. There’s even an appendix on Dragonmarks if you’re a hardcore Eberron fan.
I suspect that Wizards of the Coast official will find it very hard not to dip their toes into the options that this, and other, race-alternative supplements are exploring. Each time I look at one, I see ways to make D&D better and last longer.
I’m glad I bought the book. You can check it out at the DM’s Guild.
Have you dabbled in any of the alternatives to D&D 5e core race rules yet? Which ones work best for you?