Historically, race has had only a minor impact on a character– at least mechanically. There is an initial impact on character creation in the form of stat bonuses, racial traits, and racial abilities, but beyond level one, race is more of a role playing element rather than a game play mechanic. The new Heroes of Shadow races change all that.
New Racial Utility Power Options
Shades, Vryloka, and Revenants, now offer the ability to forgo new class powers in favor of racial powers. These new options appear to function in a similar manner to the character themes of Dark Sun. The difference is that the racial options are limited to utility powers.
At levels 2, 6, 10, and so on, when a character would earn a utility power, they may choose a racial utility power of the same level or lower. With any luck, hopefully Wizards of the Coast will continue to move DnD in this direction, and we’ll eventually see this trend develop for more races.
Why This Is Awesome
These new power choices are a great D&D game play enhancement for two reasons. First, it allows race to have a big impact over the course of a character’s adventuring career, not just at level one. Second, it allows for a huge amount of racial diversity– with the new racial ability bonus rules, races were losing a degree of individuality, and these new utility powers will help restore their unique flavors.
Sure, it might make the game a bit more complex, as the tree of options grows another branch, but the more options there are, the more likely that no two characters in the world will be completely alike (mechanically)… and frankly, that touches the heart of the game– individual creativity evinced through fantasy.
How do you feel about the new racial utility options? Do you think it should go a step farther, and there should also be attacks like the Dark Sun character themes? Are you hoping to see racial utility powers for other races?