I have for you today three subraces for Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons. They’re based on my want of something a little less Faerunian for players when choosing these races. The Dark Elf especially is my attempt to come up with an elven subrace more connected with the unseelie side of the fairy/elf mythos than the now ubiquitous drow.
The Brownie Halfling is a classic take on the halfling based on fairy myth. I enjoy the image of a furry halfling, similar in my mind to the Orlan from Pillars of Eternity. Brownie tales were some of my favorite ones from my childhood.
The Dark Elf is a bit of a gothy-take on bad elves. I like the idea of not-good elves that have a code of honor and are very orderly. Living in stone fortresses among the cold highlands, wearing heavy cloaks and thick sable boots and looking around haughtily.
The Deep Dwarf is just an update of a subrace that often gets overlooked in favor of the Duergar. Not all deep delving dwarves are evil illithid-slaves that can inflate like Mario.
Update: And now a River Gnome for your perusal!
Anyway, enough gabbing. Here you go! (Expect a PDF version later today for those that like that sort of thing.)
A Selection of Subraces
When choosing a race in the Player’s Handbook, you may instead select one of the following subraces when choosing to play a dwarf, elf, gnome, or halfling instead of those provided in the book.
As a deep dwarf, your kind live deeper underground than your close cousins the Mountain Dwarves, being more used to the stagnant air of tunnels and caves then the fresh air of the open surface. Many deep dwarves go their whole lives without ever leaving the abyssal underground world.
Deep dwarves are often cited as the most ancient kind of dwarf, the other subraces being lines of deep dwarves who moved closer to the surface and more readily deal with the other races. Most deep dwarves don’t consider themselves “deep” dwarves at all, just dwarves; the other kinds of dwarves are the outlier to them.
Deep dwarves often have fair hair that ranges from light blonde to light gray or stark white. Occasionally red hair appears, but it is not common. They are also more fair-skinned than their more surface oriented cousins.
Deep dwarves are even more standoffish than other dwarves (if that is possible), and do not like strangers as a rule. They speak brusquely even among themselves, and don’t have much use for complicated social rituals or anything else that gets in the way of what they see as their true purpose: their labors and crafts.
Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 1.
Alignment (addendum). Deep dwarves are almost always lawful and neutral.
Superior Darkvision. Your darkvision has a radius of 120 feet.
Sunlight Sensitivity. You have disadvantage on attack rolls and on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight when you, the target of your attack, or whatever you are trying to perceive is in direct sunlight.
Master Craftsman. You may double your proficiency with the Artisan Tool chosen with the selection of this race.
Earth’s Gift. You know the cantrip Mend -however in order to cast it you must have access to mud, dirt, or gravel. You may, once per long rest, use your Mend cantrip on an unbroken metal weapon. The next time that weapon is used in a successful attack, the wielder adds 1d4 to the damage.
(This is an alternative to the normal drow elf, which is also sometimes called a dark elf).
Dark elves are a rare subrace from an ancient elven line, descended from elven clans from boreal mountainous or highland areas that made war on other mortal races instead of choosing to civilize and teach them. They are at odds with the elves of the vale and temperate wood, lacking the parental kinship those elves feel for the younger races and being far more proud and haughty. They also are more likely to delve into dangerous dark magics that other elves fear.
As a dark elf, you have a keen understanding of the ways of honor, war, and intrigue. Often proud of their heritage, they train their young very early in the ways of battle and in the often convoluted and complicated personal family history. They are a severe people, seeing other races as weak and often as liars, which they abhor. Many follow codes of honor, and dark elf knights are common.
Where other elves make their homes in the spring trees or in the comfortable green vales that show the soft side of nature, dark elves instead make their home in dark coniferous forests and craggy rocky places. Sometimes living underground or in huge fortresses with grand buttresses of stone and rock among the feet of mountains, they nevertheless instill their homes with the same sense of beauty and art as the other elven races and do not enjoy tight, claustrophobic living spaces.
Dark elves have very dark hair that ranges from dark brown to black or purple-black and pale skin that can range from porcelain white to near translucent pinkish. They tend to wear their hair long and dress in flowing dark clothing such as cloaks or hooded capes.
Alignment (addendum). Dark Elves are very often neutral or evil, and almost always lawful.
Dark Elf Weapon Training. You are proficient with the shortsword, long sword, lance, and shield.
Choose One of the Following Traits:
Truthseeker. Your Strength score increases by 1. While you can see directly into a creature’s eyes, you gain advantage on Wisdom (Insight) ability score rolls when determining if that creature is being false. If such a creature is being false and your Wisdom (Insight) roll is successful, you gain advantage on all Charisma (Intimidation) checks against the creature for the next twenty-four hours.
Dark Elf Adept. Your Charisma score increases by 1. You know one cantrip of your choice from the Warlock spell list (excluding eldritch blast). Charisma is your spell-casting ability for it. (If you choose this option, with your DMs permission, you may roll on the Indefinite Madness table located in the Dungeon Masters Guide (pg.259-260) and gain the flaw mentioned.)
As a riverfolk gnome, you are a member of small and tight-knit group of gnomes that live on or travel the river-ways of temperate and woodland regions. Closely related to forest gnomes, river gnomes share some traits but are less magical in nature.
The riverfolk gnomes live in small riverside hovels or on river boats and barges. They are often on the move, being a nomadic people, returning to their hovels only in winter to wait out the cold and snow. They are thusly are quite bit more social than other gnomes, engaging in trade with the towns and villages on the rivers.
Stories are an important part of river gnome society, as they keep no records. A lot of stock is put into the ability to memorize and recall a tale, especially if the telling is entertaining. An old gnome with many tales to tale is considered a person of very great importance among the riverfolk.
As river travelers, these gnomes are accustomed to being on the water and to swimming. They have an almost preternatural quickness based on the ever-changing conditions of the rivers they travel on, and seem to be prepared for any eventuality.
Ability Score Increase. Your Charisma increases by 1.
Ever-ready. You gain a +1 bonus to initiative checks.
Riverborne. You gain proficiency in Vehicles (water) and gain advantage on Strength (Athletic) checks regarding swimming.
As a brownie, you’re a very different sort of halfling then most expect. A very rare sight, most know of your kind only through old stories and myths. Your body is covered almost entirely by the coarse brown or black hair usually only found on top of other halfling’s feet or on the sides of their head, and you tend to be slighter than other halflings.
Brownies are more in touch with the fey-wild because of a history as servants and domestic caregivers of the manors and castles of ancient elven nobility. This gave rise to many tales of brownies secretly taking care of hovels and homes, almost like family spirits, in exchange for milk or food. This isn’t reality for modern brownies, however.
Brownies these days often live alone or in small families in rocky areas, likely near large rivers. They like to keep to themselves, but are affable to strangers. They have an easy geniality and do make good servants; though can be quite vicious if abused in such a capacity. They are known for a natural wisdom and thoughtfulness. They also often have a love for fashion (if of a somewhat pastoral or peasant simplicity), taking pleasure in making and wearing vests, hats, coats, and capes.
Ability Score Increase.Your Wisdom score increases by 1.
Alignment (addendum). Brownie halflings are almost always lawful, and are very often neutral or sometimes good.
Tinker. You gain proficiency in one artisan tool of your choice.
Natural Utility. You know the mending and prestidigitation cantrips and can cast them at will.