Now that I’m running a 5th edition classic Greyhawk campaign I’m trying to stir some AD&D flavor into 5th edition… without unbalancing or over-complicating things. Between the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Elemental Evil Player’s Companion there are a total of 12 official races and 11 subraces to choose from : aarakocra, aasimar, dragonborn, dwarves (hill and mountain), elves (dark, eladrin, high, and wood), genasi, gnomes (deep, forest and rock), goliaths, halflings (lightfoot and stout), half-elves, half-orcs, humans, and tieflings.
One easy way to run a 5th edition game that feels a bit more like old-school AD&D is to limit the racial choices permitted at my table while adding new subraces and a new race (the half-ogre) to the mix.
Races that don’t make the cut: Aarakocra, aasimar, deep gnomes, dragonborn, drow, eladrin, tieflings, genasi, and goliaths. While I have a soft-spot for planar races (aasimar, eladrin, tieflings, and genasi), I’d save them for Planescape. Drow do exist in Greyhawk but are reclusive, villainous schemers that are seldom seen above ground. They are best reserved for NPC foes for the PCs.
RACES OF GREYHAWK
Humans must be from one of the classic Greyhawk cultural groups: Baklunish, Flannae, Oeridian, Suloise. I’d probably allow Rhennee characters as well since I may integrate Ravenloft into my campaign.
Baklunish, Flan, Oeridian, Olman, Rhenee, and Suliose humans
Dwarven characters have no new options in Greyhawk; they must be either hill or mountain dwarves. While duergar do exist, they are a malevolent and largely unknown subrace in Pre-Wars Greyhawk.
As noted above, elven players characters may not choose to be drow but have three new subraces to choose from: Grey elves (faeries), Valley elves, and Wild elves (grugach). Both Valley and Wild elves would be exceedingly rare as player characters due to their outlook towards other races:
Grey Elves: These elves are the most noble of elves, and the most aloof. They are of higher intellectual capabilities than other elves, and tend to be taller than high elves. They live in isolated mountain strongholds, and rarely allow access to outsiders. They have silver hair and amber eyes, or gold hair and violet eyes, and wear clothes of white, silver, yellow and gold, and usually wear regally colored cloaks. Those with gold hair are generally called faeries. They worship the standard elven pantheon and are played as high elves, except that they may replace the standard elven ability score increase to Dexterity with a +1 increase and increase their Intelligence score by 2.
Valley Elves: Valley elves are thought to be an offshoot of the gray elves and have all of the powers and abilities of that subrace, but speak the gnomish language as a starting language. Valley elves are unusually tall, some of them growing to the height of humans, with hair color of silver or gold and eyes of amber and violet. They are shunned by other elven sub-races, who do not consider them “true elves” but are greeted with goodwill by gnomes. The name of valley elves is derived from the Valley of the Mage, where the sub-race is headquartered in the WORLD OF GREYHAWK™ Fantasy Game Setting. They are played as high elves, except that their extra language must be Gnomish. Valley elves are distrustful of outsiders, to the point of xenophobia. Valley elves are despised by all other elven subraces, including the drow. The reason for such antipathy is uncertain, but some have speculated that it was because they sold their loyalty to a powerful master in exchange for extraplanar knowledge. Despite their xenophobia, valley elves work closely with the gnomes and humans of the Vale of the Mage to be in defense of their mutual home. Most needs of the valley elves are provided by the Mage of the Valley. Foraging makes up for the rest.
Wild Elves: Wild elves, or grugach, are the most reclusive of all the elves; xenophobic towards all other races including other elves. The wild elves, who are found in the depths of the Phostwood, pride themselves on their isolation and skill at keeping hidden. Their skin tends to be brown and they have similar colored hair which lightens with age. They are played as wood elves but gain proficiency with spears in place of longsword proficiency.
Surface and deep gnomes use the Gnome Traits presented in The Player’s Handbook on pages 36-7. Use the subraces below for Greyhawk gnomes:
Surface Gnomes: Surface gnomes, also called rock gnomes, normally dwell in shallow cave complexes close to the surface. Gnome villages can be hard to find, as they blend with nature and even artificial structures are often constructed to resemble trees, rocks, or hills. Though naturally a hill-dwelling folk, orcish and goblinoid threats have driven many gnomes into the plains of human-dominated lands where they seek help to reestablish their old heartlands. Many, too, co-exist with elves in the woodlands; where the elves are active in working with human interests, so are the gnomes. Surface gnomes often share living space with dwarves, and are a brave, tough folk who are loyal to their neighbors and fight side by side with them. While they are not particularly fond of water, surface gnomes are more willing than dwarves are to live in such areas, and gnomes have even been reported dwelling in bubbles of air in undersea caverns. Gnomes have also been reported in the arctic and in places with mild volcanic activity. The traits and abilities for surface gnomes are:
- Ability Score Increase: Your Constitution score increases by 1.
- Gnomish Combat Training: You have proficiency with the warpick and warhammer.
- Speak with Small Beasts: Through sounds and gestures, you can communicate simple ideas with Small or smaller beasts. Surface gnomes love animals and often keep squirrels, badgers, rabbits, moles, woodpeckers, and other creatures as beloved pets.
- Stonecunning: Whenever you make an Intelligence (History) check related to the origin of stonework, you are considered proficient in the History skill and add double your proficiency bonus to the check, instead of your normal proficiency bonus.
Deep Gnomes: In the dark below earth, svirfneblin protect their enclaves, keeping their small communities safe from the terrors of the lightless depths. Serious creatures, these gnomes vary greatly from their surface cousins by choosing to live in the shadowy depths and protect the world above from the foul creatures sharing their chambers, vaults, and tunnels. Svirfneblin closely resemble their rock gnome cousins; they are slightly thinner than rock gnomes, though just as strong. Male svirfneblin have little or no hair, while females have thin, stringy hair typically worn no longer than shoulder length. Their skin is the color of rock, typically gray or brown. Their eyes are always some shade of gray. They are stunted and gnarled creatures averaging three to three-and-a-half feet in height. They gain the typical Gnome Traits, though they make speak Undercommon in place of Common and tend towards neutral alignment. Use the Elemental Evil Players Companion rules for deep gnome player characters.
Both lightfoot and stout halflings are played as described in The Player’s Handbook. Tallfellow halflings may also be played in the Greyhawk setting.
Tallfellows: Taller, thinner, and fairer than their halfling cousins, it is rumored that elven blood runs in the veins of tallfellows. Tallfellow halflings are on good terms with elvenkind and often build their communities within woodland havens. They are played as lightfoot halflings but replace the Naturally Stealthy ability of lightfoots with the Mask of the Wild ability of wood elves.
Half-elves are played as described in The Player’s Handbook.
Half-orcs are played as described in The Player’s Handbook, except that some (10% chance) pass for humans.
Coming soon: The Half-ogre