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Custom Ancestries & Cultures

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Sixty-Two Custom Ancestries & Cultures To Replace Race in 5e!

A queen of orcish and elven ancestry knights a kneeling swarf-gnome woman as a tiefling-halfling person looks on

Based on Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e, this title contains sixty-one new character ancestries and cultures, each of which can be used in place of character Race. This document includes standards like dwarf, elf, and halfling, as well as anthropomorphic animal ancestries, monstrous ancestries, and some that are truly original. 

Standard fantasy ancestries, such as elf, dwarf, gnome, and halfling, include mutliple cultures for a wide variety of characters, such as: deep dwarf, rock dwarf, and sea dwarf; aquatic elf, deep elf, and forest elf; dark gnome and wood gnome; and sturdy halfling and urban halfling. Even more standard fantasy cultures, such as dragonborn, tiefling, and more, can be found in the core Ancestry & Culture rules.

The monstrous ancestries and cultures include awakened undead, azer, bugbear, construct, dhampir, dryad, giant kin, gnoll, goblin, hag folk, kobold, lizard folk, medusan, merfolk, mimic folk, minotaur, rakshasan, satryr, shapehsifter, and troll folk.

The anthropomorphic animal ancestries and cultures include bat folk, bear folk, cat folk, dog folk, fox folk, hippo folk, insect folk, kangra, octofolk, oxenfolk, raptor folk, rat folk, snake folk, spider kin, turtle folk, werecat, and wolf folk.

And thare are some truly original ancestries and cultures, including blood sprite, couatl folk, the crystar, the dullahan, entropian, grimalkin, hiveling, homunculus folk, ink hexen, leòmainn, lycanthrope descendant, nictator, noumenon, paragons, qīvux, quasi-phorcysite, re-forged, and more.

The choices are dizzying! Every new ancestry and culture comes with original features and traits to make your game more interesting and fun. And if you want even more choices, check out More Ancestries & CUltures, which features SIXTY more options, including rules for flavoring your cultures based on their location, from geography to the outer planes!

What Is Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e?

"Required reading for playing RPGs in 2020" - Polygon

"A flexible, highly adaptable system...In gameplay terms, Marshall’s design offloads the problematic issue of race in favor of expanded creativity and expression. In role-playing terms, it not only encourages but requires players to think long and hard about how their character relates to their own environment and to the family that raised them." Charlie Hall, Polygon

Have you ever wondered why there are half-elves and half-orcs in your favorite fantasy roleplaying game, but not half-tieflings, half-dwarves, or half-gnomes? And why only allow orcs and elves to have children with humans and not others? Why can't we play the child of an elf and an orc or a gnome and a halfling? What's more, what if we want to play a human raised by elves, like Tolkien's Aragorn, or a halfling who grew up among orcs? Wouldn't such characters be different than a halfling who grew up among her own people, for example? It would be a delight to be able play such a diverse cast of characters, with such a wide range of ancestries and cultures.

Well, now we can! This 70-page zine of rules and original fantasy art allows for the easy creation of a variety of new ancestral and cultural combinations and types, without having to make big changes to the core game rules. Perhaps more importantly, they replace the problematic concept of race as it is traditionally used in character creation. Ancestry provides those heritable traits a character might receive from their parents, such as height, average lifespan, and darkvision, and culture provides such teachable features as weapon training and ability. This frees us up to play the characters we want to play, without all the baggage, and provides us many more options, just dripping with role-play potential. In addition to the new character creation rules, Ancestry & Culture also includes two adventures, "The Light of Unity" and "Helping Hands," suitable for players of all ages, which highlight the themes of the title.

An bard of orchis ancestry and halfling cultureA monk of dragonborn and elven ancestryA rogue of tiefling and halfling ancestry

Credits for Custom Ancestries & Cultures:

Written by Eugene Marshall; layout by Amy Marshall; cover art by Dean Spencer; interior art by Dean Spencer, Daniel Comerci, Forrest Imel, Jose Murillo, Martin Sepion, Pawel Czerwinski, Masaaki Komori, JJ Shev, & Yannick Menard; sensitivity reading by Elijah Forbes and Michelle Churchill.

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Reviews (0)
Discussions (4)
Customer avatar
Eric O July 10, 2020 5:12 pm UTC
Incredibly happy that this book exists and that tabletop RPGs are moving towards inclusivity, positive representation, and celebrating of diversity! This book and its predecessor are a great start by a thoughtful ally, and hopefully more diverse voices will be amplified as WotC and indie publishers hire and consult with POC and others from underrepresented groups.
My only question: how rigorously has this been playtested? Cracking open the rules can be a min-maxer's dream and a GM's nightmare. A small price to play for moving in the right direction, but I am curious.
Thank you for your work!
Customer avatar
Eugene M July 10, 2020 5:25 pm UTC
We did some play testing, but we weren't able to playlets every possible combination, obviously. There's too many! That said, we did utilize two techniques to try to attain some balance. First, we followed WotC's own design principles and mechanics wherever possible. You'll note, for example, the cultural magic traits are mechanically identical to 5e's racial magic traits. Second, we consulted the Detect Balance 5e Homebrew Race Guide when creating these.

Inevitably, there will likely be some combinations that result in more or less powerful results. I would argue that none of our combos are more powerful that the Yuan-ti or Aarakocra as WotC wrote them, nor as weak as the Kobold or non-variant human as WotC wrote them, though. But balance and power is pretty subjective, so some probably some folks will disagree.

If you find that specific combos are particularly broken, do let us know and we'll take a look!
Customer avatar
Robert G June 22, 2020 4:54 pm UTC
Any chance we could get a POD version of this? I have the first book and really enjoyed it and while I use PDFs at the table a physical copy is easier for me to read and just my preferred medium.
Customer avatar
Eugene M June 22, 2020 11:06 pm UTC

As we have had several request for it, we do plan to release a POD version of this file in the next few weeks. We are waiting for the proofs currently, which, unfortunately, takes a few weeks to process.

Thanks for your interest in our title.
Customer avatar
Matthias B June 18, 2020 8:55 pm UTC
A short look into the preview tells me that this book is as bad as "Ancestry and Culture: An Alternative to Race".
Customer avatar
Alan H July 01, 2020 2:04 pm UTC
If we take "bad" to signify "clever and well-written" then I have no issue with this comment.
Customer avatar
Matthias B July 01, 2020 8:25 pm UTC
No, I really mean that I wrote, because it suffers from the same problems as "Ancestry and Culture: An Alternative to Race".
Customer avatar
Nathaniel L July 11, 2020 2:51 am UTC
Which are...?
Customer avatar
Matthias B July 11, 2020 3:54 pm UTC
I'm too lazy to repeat here what I have written elsewhere. So, if you really want to know what is wrong with the whole product series, read the negative reviews (one and two stars) of the main book, especially that written by Sascha K.
Customer avatar
Eugene M July 11, 2020 5:25 pm UTC
(A) Don't feed the trolls.
(B) if you're going to bother hunting down whatever this guy is talking about, I'd ask you at least take the time to check out the free 30 page preview I've provided both on this book and the main text.

That way you can make up YOUR OWN mind instead of believing a stranger on the internet. If you don't like it after you've read the product, then I 100% support that judgment.

As for the critic above, I thank you for spending so much of your free time concerned about my product.
Customer avatar
Matthias B July 11, 2020 7:08 pm UTC
I'm not a troll. Just some one who is very disappointed. I've expected something like Pathfinder's Advanced Race Guide, but the preview is just a collection of known and new species with the features of each one more or less randomly assigned to either ancestry or culture.

And do not forget that reviews can only be written by people who own the reviewed product.
Customer avatar
Preston B June 17, 2020 8:14 pm UTC
Is "Ancestry and Culture: An Alternative to Race" requisite to use (or to get the most out of) the material in this book?
Customer avatar
Eugene M June 17, 2020 9:26 pm UTC
You could use this title without the core Ancestry & Culture rules. Simply use each entry's ancestry & culture combined, and they function as the Race option in character creation. Or mix and match one ancestry with another culture, if you like.

I do think you'll get more out of it with the first book, but it is not strictly required, no!
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This title was added to our catalog on June 09, 2020.