Are you tired of the official options available to you in Dungeons & Dragons? Maybe you have such an unorthodox character idea for your world that none of the official species fit. Or, you want to play as a Beholder, but you’re tired of waiting for them to become an option for player characters. Well, we’re here to help you — though if you are a player, talk to your Dungeon Master; we don’t decide what is in their game.
Through creativity, logical analysis, and reference, creating a new species for a Dungeons & Dragons campaign can be complex, but it’s also a fun thing to do. What do you need to watch out for when creating a species, though?
5 Elaborate The Basic Concept
Before you do anything, you need to start your idea somewhere. What do you feel like doing? Usually, lots of species originate from analyzing a specific animal and adapting its traits into a humanoid — which we’ll get deeper into soon.
However, you can go further into more alien beings, such as the Githyanki or even Plasmoid. You can also go with making undead species, like a pure-skeleton creature, or turning a Golem-like creature into playable, with no organic parts whatsoever. Still, you need to choose something, so you can get things started.
4 Analyze Similar Real-Life Creatures
There’s no better reference than life itself. If you want to create a canine species, for example, then looking at dogs and their behavior will help you out a lot and even create the whole thing in your head for you.
They’re speedy, have better smell and hearing than us, and work well in a group, regardless of whether you’re thinking about yourself and your dog or a pack of wolves in the wild. Those details are so significant that, if you pick the wolf creature from the Monster Manual, they’ll have all those traits there: increased movement speed, keen hearing and smell (which improves their Perception checks), and Pack Tactics, which give them an advantage when attacking alongside their allies. And these are all traits you can give to your ‘wolfolk’ species.
A rhino-like creature would have a powerful charge. An alligator-like creature would have a strong bite and swimming speed. And again, you have stat blocks for these animals, so you already have an in-game version of their traits. You can even use non-animal things for reference: a golem creature could have resistance to certain weapons — you’re not breaking a rock with a dagger that easily.
3 Analyze Similar Monsters From The Manual
If animals and materials don’t get close enough to your idea, you can still use the more unique monsters from the manual as a reference. For instance, Mind Flayers are a perfect point of reference for you if you want to create a species with psychic abilities. Just make sure you balance things out because monsters are made to fight multiple people simultaneously — aka the party — while a PC can’t be that strong. Otherwise, they’ll handle everything themselves, and they’ll be too powerful compared to the rest of the group.
Another example is Beholders. If you don’t mind a player that flies, you just need to balance things out. You could make them medium, remove the anti-magic cone, or have it as a trait they can activate once per rest, and let them use eye rays for a number of times equal to their proficiency before resting.
They’re random, so even if a level-one player has disintegration ray, the chances of it happening right away are small. It would be fun if the player got lucky and disintegrated someone, too. Oh, and make sure to lower the damage of these rays while also increasing them when the player reaches certain levels — you can use a Dragonborn’s breath attack upgrade as a reference.
2 Ability Scores, Skill Proficiencies, And Other Details
When it comes to other mechanical buffs, ability scores are probably the easiest. You can go with the current default for most species — a +2 on one ability and a +1 on another — but there is a charm in species that offers more than that. Half-Elves and some Dwarves get two +2, and the default Human is still an efficient, balanced option with their +1 on everything.
Most species also offer a few skill proficiencies; our dog example could get a free Perception or Survival. You can give one or two or maybe a list where the player chooses which one to take. Lastly, you could add free spells, similar to Tieflings, or even create a whole trait from scratch.
Wolves’ bites can knock people prone. You could give this trait to the wolf-character idea, maybe through a bite that can be done as a bonus action, like the Lizardfolk, and when used like that, it can knock people prone, with a DC calculated using one of the player’s ability scores. Put on some sort of limitation, such as the proficiency score’s value, and you have quite an efficient trick for martial characters, who would be able to knock people before attacking for real.
Lastly, do some field-testing to ensure your ideas aren’t under or overpowered. You can always have your players involved to do some testing, and their feedback can be extremely important.
1 Think Of Their Place In The World
We’ve mostly discussed the mechanical ways of creating a species, but don’t forget to think about their roleplaying. Integrating culture and how that affects their behavior and worldviews, how other societies view them, and stuff like that. How do they fit in your scenario?
Their origin is a good place to start — starting from the beginning tends to work. They can be created by a God for a specific goal, scientific experiments, or transformation from another creature type, among others. Or, if they just got into the world like everyone else — probably through a deity as well — you can start by the creation of their society, explaining their culture and behavior.
You could even have your player be a unique being if their story accommodates such a concept. Being the only member of your species can lead to curious interactions among NPCs and create a lot of drama due to the loneliness. Many options work here.
NEXT: Dungeons & Dragons: Tips To Be A Better DM