PHB2, Races New and Old!

2009 March 15
by Dante

I was rather surprised when I began paging through the Character Races chapter of the Player’s Handbook 2. I had heard rumors of the return of the Gnome and Half-Orc (all true!), however I was happy to see a few new (or at least revised) dimensions to the core character races. Today we’ll take a look at the new kids on the block (the new races, not these guys).

The Deva – So That’s Where I put my Celestial…

For those who want to play refined, polite, moral characters who have apparently lived thousands of past lives in near immortality prior to cramming themselves into a fleshy jumpsuits to adventure, the Deva is your race of choice. The best part about having all of this hazy, latent experience is that it gives you a racial ability to add a d6 to certain rolls that “you don’t like.” Now that’s pretty neat stuff right there.

The Deva appears to be a haughty, good aligned corollary to the tiefling. The part of me that loves to develop balanced battles between good and evil is very relieved to have the Deva at my disposal.

The Goliath – Like a rock!

The Goliath is an 8 foot tall behemoth built for breakin’ stuff, and I really enjoy the honest attempt at not copping out and calling them a half-giant. They are skilled athletes which grants them some extra goodness when jumping or climbing. They also have very interesting stony protrusions on their skin that grants them Stone’s Endurance, allowing them to resist 5 points of damage with the added benefit of increasing their resistance as the Goliath’s skills improve.

The Goliath race is competitive, daring, and lovers of all things nature. That is good, since they are spec’ed around the size and stature of a small mountain. I can’t wait to build a Goliath barbarian, it sounds like a great fit!

The Shifter – Nothing like Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf, I swear.

OK, they really are. They’re shapeshifters, which take on the countenance of a wolf-like or cat-like form due to touches of lycanthropy in their family tree. The Longtooth variety of Shifter gains some extra damage and regeneration when bloodied (sweeet!), while the Razorclaw variety gains speed increases and bonuses to reflexes and defense.

The character listing paints a very vivid picture of the traits and histories that are common in these different types of Shifters, and that gives them a bit more specific detail than some of the other races presented in the PHB2. The concept of having a lycanthrope in your character’s bloodline provides some excellent pushing-off points for roleplaying and character development; in fact, it would be neat to have a whole campaign focused around a pack of Shifters exploring their bloodline. That might be an idea for a later time…

And the rest!

As mentioned briefly before, the half-orc and gnomes have returned to canon once more. Gnomes have a racial ability to blink away when taking damage, which is really great… however they have been characterized with large black eyes that made them look a bit odd. They also have a few additional racial abilities that cement their penchant for stealth and trickiness, but they feel very much like the gnomes we all know and love. I’m sure all the guys over at Gnome Stew are happy to have ’em back! Sadly, the PHB2 does not inform whether or not gnomes taste like chicken.

The PHB2 re-introduces the half-orcs and grants them the notable ability to do an extra 1[W] damage, or an extra d8 if it’s just fisticuffs. Most of the additional description relating to the half-orcs (like the gnome) feels very much like their previous 3.5 incarnations. I actually like that they didn’t mess with them very much; it brings a little familiarity to the fold of new characters.

The Paragon Paths

The PHB2 provides some pretty excellent racial paragon paths, which can be taken in place of a class-based paragon path. I’m not going to spoil all the surprises, but suffice it to say that these paragon paths stand up quite well to the class based options.

The racial paths represent the highest example of a race’s defining characteristics… they’re the best of the best that their race has to offer. Speaking of the best a race has to offer, the Twilight Guardian’s portait on page 29 is pretty excellent. Just sayin’.

The racial additions in the PHB2 really round out the very obvious omissions from the standard Player’s Handbook. The racial paragon paths provide different directions to take your characters. The evocative descriptions of each race paint a clear picture of how these races interact with each other and the world around them, which made ideas for new characters jump immediately to mind.

More PHB2 goodness!

The following sites are participating in the Player’s Handbook 2 online release event:

Atomic Array, Game Cryer, Gnome Stew, Critical Hits, Campaign Mastery, Uncle Bear, Critical Ankle Bites, Kobold Quarterly, The Core Mechanic, Flames Rising, and Musings of the Chatty DM.

Be sure to check them out, or stay tuned here for continuing coverage through the official release on Tuesday!

5 Responses leave one →
  1. MacGuffin permalink
    March 15, 2009

    one of the nice things about fluff is that it is easy to change. Gnomes don’t have to look like they describe it in the book,if you do not want them too.

    or they don’t have to exist at all!
    : D

  2. Dante permalink
    March 15, 2009

    Very true!

  3. ScottM permalink
    March 15, 2009

    The new races sound interesting– your take on the Goliath is a little more forgiving than many I’ve seen.

    I wonder what happened to suck the light out of the poor gnome’s eyes… the horror must have been terrible!

  4. MacGuffin permalink
    March 15, 2009

    I blame the edition wars.

    no particular reason, they just need to be blamed for something. (in addition to their own stupidity)

  5. Dante permalink
    March 16, 2009

    I actually blame the edition wars for our current economic strife. That’s usually a good thing to blame the edition wars on when nothing else comes to mind!

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