The more I looked at it and mulled it over, the less I am excited about my proposed variants for Cerilian races. Ultimately it feels unnecessary to change the foundation of a thing that works, and the Cerilian demihumans most of all seem like they would function perfectly well without such drastic modification. And let's face it, no one likes giving up their favorite toy in exchange for one they may not like.
My new proposal is less drastic, but still supported by rules put in place by the Powers That Be (that is, D&D developers). My new proposal for these races revolves around Racial Feats, even for humans. This way, we're not reinventing the wheel, but still giving players something to make them more like the "ideal" Cerilian representations of their given race.
As such, Cerilian dwarves are identical to the mountain dwarf from the Player's Handbook in all respects. However, I introduce a new racial feat to represent their preternaturally dense bodies.
Tough as Stone
Prerequisites: You must be a dwarf to take this feat.
Effect: Your Constitution score increases by 1. Your incredibly dense body is as tough to break as the mountain stone. You gain resistance to bludgeoning damage.
Simple, right? That's all there is to it. Since dwarf PCs do not gain their first feat until (potentially, if they forego the attribute point increases) fourth level, this suitably delays the effectiveness of the power and gives it a trade-off. It also doesn't force the player to pick "crappier mountain dwarf" just to get two points of bludgeoning damage resistance that they may not even want.
Cerilian elves were already almost identical to wood elves, but my proposal gave them a point of Intelligence instead of Wisdom. Here's another angle using a racial feat.
Prerequisites: You must be an elf or half-elf to take this feat.
Effect: Your Intelligence score increases by 1. Whenever you are in a province with a Source rating, you add one third of of its Source rating (rounded down, minimum 1) to the outcome of ability checks (skills and saving throws included).
Crazy strong-looking, right? Elves are most powerful in their ancient, primeval domains, where Source ratings are highest. In most provinces, the rating is anywhere from 1 to 4, depending on how developed it is. They are treacherous on their home turf, which is super in-theme for elves in this setting.
(If Source ratings went over your head, don't worry; I'll get to that in a later chapter. It's basically how strong the magic is in a given piece of land.)
Cerilian halflings are (seeing my pattern?) pretty much just stout halflings from the Player's Handbook. They get their Lucky feature back, and their racial feat becomes the following:
Prerequisites: You must be a halfling to take this feat.
Effect: Your Wisdom score increases by 1. You gain the following abilities:
- As an action, you may open your awareness to know the location of any fey, fiend, or undead with 60 feet of you that is not behind total cover. You know the type of being whose presence you sense, but not its unique identity. Within the same radius, you can detect the presence of magic from the necromantic school. You must complete a short or long rest before you can use this ability again.
- The halfling may also use the misty step spell while standing in any condition of dim or darker lighting (such as a crowded tavern, a wilderness cave, or conditions or moon or starlight). You must complete a short or long rest before you can use this ability again.
- Upon reaching 7th level, the halfling may also use the dimension door spell under the same conditions. You must complete a long rest before you can use this ability again.
To that end, I think the humans can get racial feats as well, rather than introducing a whole bunch of new subrace variants to the existing base human and variant human.
Prerequisites: You must be a human descended from Anuirean blood and not possess any other cultural human feats.
Effect: Your Charisma score increases by 1. You are considered to have proficiency and advantage on any History checks made to identify heraldry, quote Anuirean laws, or recall historical events taking place in Anuire or as they relate to Anuirean historical figures.
Prerequisites: You must be a human descended from Brecht blood and not possess any other cultural human feats.
Effect: Your Dexterity score increases by 1. You have advantage on rolls made to determine the value of an object, identify its origin, or haggle over the price of goods. This also grants you advantage on saving throws to see through illusions.
Prerequisites: You must be a human descended from Khinasi blood and not possess any other cultural human feats.
Effect: Your Intelligence score increases by 1. You may choose to know one from among the following cantrips: dancing lights, friends, mending, or prestidigitation. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability.
Prerequisites: You must be a human descended from Rjuven blood and not possess any other cultural human feats.
Effect: Your Wisdom score increases by 1. You are unimpeded by difficult terrain caused by undergrowth or the entangle spell. Further, you will always have a neutral reaction with fey creatures unless you or your companions demonstrate hostile intentions.
Prerequisites: You must be a human descended from Vos blood and not possess any other cultural human feats.
Effect: Your Strength score increases by 1. At the end of any turn in which you did not use the Attack, Cast a Spell, or Dodge actions, you may take a bonus action to make a single melee attack against any opponent in range.
I like this loads better than the last incarnation, that's for sure. Players can pick the variant human from the Player's Handbook to grab these feats up right away (for great statistical benefit), or choose the standard human and pick it up at 4th level in lieu of an ability score increase. No abrupt changes or taking away toys from players, while also allowing them to avoid being bland tofu if they so desire.
This does, of course, require the player to keep track of where they are descended from. A Dungeon Master should make sure no one claims to be a mutt of all five (or six, see below) cultural groups so they can pick any of the feats at their whim upon hitting 4th level. Though it certainly stands to reason they could be of mixed Anuirean/Brecht, Anuirean/Rjuven, Anuirean/Khinasi, or Brecht/Rjuven descent. I'd probably contend that mixed-blood Vos are rare since Vos parents would consider the offspring weak and abandon it, and any other parents would consider it a great shame.
To that end, the new stuff I wanted to propose is fairly straightforward.
Half-elves are unchanged from the Player's Handbook. They have good ability score bonuses and racial powers, and Birthright half-elves were never particularly outstanding in any field, so if anything this is an upgrade. If you were really brave, you might even allow half-elves to take the cultural feats that are allowed to humans...
Khinasi lands are home to a second tribal group that crossed over to Cerilia and were subjugated by the Basarji (the precursors to the Khinasi people). The Masetians have all but sublimated into Khinasi society, but there are undoubtedly small pockets of its cultural traditions hidden throughout the vast territories of the Khinasi.
There's precious little documented about this culture (even within the Cities of the Sun splatbox), but they are implied to be a spiritual and willful people. Let's use that as a springboard.
Prerequisites: You must be a human descended from Masetian blood and not possess any other cultural human feats.
Effect: Your Wisdom score increases by 1. You have advantage on saving throws against charms and enchantments.
I feel that this isn't too overboard. Masetians are little more than a footnote in most Birthright books, and we know next to nothing about what the designers intended for them.
So that should cover it for the races of Cerilia (until I do a bonus entry for crazy stuff like goblin and orog characters!), and I can move on to a new chapter. Next time I'll do an entry on classes, which may have some controversial resurgence of Old Design (gasp!) for the sake of keeping the theme of the original Birthright. Stay tuned!