Heroes of Shadow Races

heroes of shadow 150x150 Heroes of Shadow RacesRevenant. Shade. Vryloka (Vampire). These are the new Dungeons and Dragons Essentials races available in the upcoming Heroes of Shadow Heroes of Shadow Races player supplement.

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.

Your Thoughts

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?

6 comments for “Heroes of Shadow Races

  1. Galen
    March 21, 2011 at 2:21 am

    I have mixed feelings about the addition of racial utility power choices.

    -I like being able to recognize the differences in play between, for example, two fighters of different races.

    -Making utility powers a racial choice means that a player won’t need to spend feats to accentuate his race on the table.

    I do have some misgivings about the racial utility concept, much of which revolves around WOTCs stated shifts in design philosophy.

    -The more additional options races get the more pressure players will feel to play the “best” race for any particular class or build.

    -Every new racial utility is a utility power that can’t go to a class. WOTC has become concerned with power/feat overload and has been slimming down the release of new options across the board. With over a dozen races in need of racial utilities I would expect a further downturn in new class specific utility options. I am going to guess right now that most of the new shade racial utilities would have looked really good as assasin powers.

    -I don’t trust WOTC to release racial utilities evenly. With feats certain races have vastly broader and superior options while other races get pidgeonholed or forgotten.

    The two things that some up my aphrension in short would be balance issues, and content overload.

    My off the top of my head nit really plausible solution:

    There are already utility powers apropriate for racial stereotypes, currently they just exist inside classes. There are a plethora of fighter, barbarian, or warden utilities what would be perfectly suited to life as dwarven racial utilities. If utility powers had more thorough keyword perhaps it would be as simple as “all gnomes can take arcane illusion utilities in place of class utilities” or “shades have access to all shadow keyword utilities.” Better keywords could have included categories such as stamina, agility, movement/shift, etc. Then certain races could have access to certain utility “types.” The other option would be to just give each race a list of pre-existing class utilities that are appropriate for every member of their race.

    The comment became a little more rambling than I had intended…oops.

    • Sunyaku
      March 22, 2011 at 12:39 am

      You’re quite right Galen– these new racial options might further encourage people to play certain race/class combinations. I really like your “keyword based” approach to the problem… it might require a bit of reworking the meta data of the utility power pool, but I think it is an excellent idea.
      Sunyaku recently posted..DnD Community Contests- Infernal Wave of Lemming Liches

  2. Jk
    September 18, 2011 at 11:30 am

    What does the Shadow keyword do?!

    • September 18, 2011 at 3:17 pm

      It is an origin — like elves and eladrin are “Fey”.

      • Jk
        September 18, 2011 at 8:07 pm

        But, in powers, what does it MEAN!?
        Example:

        “Crimson Death. 130 Heros of shadow
        Daily*Shadow
        Free Action
        Trigger: using Lifeblood racial power.
        Effect: bla bla…”

        Does that Shadow keyword have ANY effect on the power?

        • Sunyaku
          September 20, 2011 at 5:37 am

          Ohh, I understand your question now. Shadow is a power source/keyword (see http://heroesofshadow.com/2010/shadow-power-source.html). Shadow doesn’t mechanically affect the power on its own, but there are items and abilities that do affect powers that have the “shadow” keyword, just like there are abilities that affect arcane, fire, thunder, divine, etc.

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