Persuasion Check: Unearthed Arcana 2021 – Gothic Lineages

It’s a new year but we still have some new Unearthed Arcana to take a look at! This time around we’re given Gothic Lineages to dive into, so let your inner goth out with these macabre player options!

As always, our Persuasion Check articles are less hardcore analysis and more commentary drawing insights and some light analysis where needed. If you want a more flavorful approach to opinions on playtest content backed up with some insights, this is the place for you! Now, follow along and let’s dig into these lineages!

Changes to Character Creation
As a note, this Persuasion Check continues the work from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything in that it begins to dismantle the idea of race in Dungeons & Dragons, especially if you read the sidebar on the second page. While some people might have some opposition to the idea or a kneejerk reaction to getting rid of race in D&D, we encourage you to keep an open mind, especially as these lineages are quite a good replacement and offer additional player flexibility. There’s no reason human, elf, or dwarf could not function as a lineage as opposed to race following the same guidelines.

The actual changes occurring to character creation with these lineages aren’t that drastic, and actually fit pretty well given that each of these can either be chosen at character creation or if something happens to your character that would cause them to transform into one of them. The first change is that it removes static ability score increases, instead letting the player pick two different ability scores to bestow a +1 and +2 upon. The second change is that the player knows Common and another language of their choice rather than a racial language. I actually like this change, as an elf raised by gnomes is far more likely to speak gnomish and not elvish.

At the end of the day, most dungeon masters have probably homeruled these changes in the past or perhaps already allow their players to mix things up as makes sense. Nothing bad here, and when you consider all of the following lineages are “humanoids who are no longer what they originally were”, the options here make total sense and can line in tandem with the race options in the existing supplements.

Wanted to play a vampire but your DM, for good reason, wouldn’t allow it? Fret no more! The Dhampir is both a Humanoid AND an Undead, and most likely thirsts for blood after an altercation with a vampire, but other means and hungers may gnaw at you. Warlock pacts gone wrong may leave you fiending for flesh or seeking to eat the dreams of others. Whatever the case, this is your way to play a cool undead character with some built-in edginess.

So, as this is a replacement for race, there’s not too much to dive into. Firstly, as mentioned, you count as both a Humanoid and an Undead, and earlier in the article they make sure to remind you that so long as a spell can affect ONE of your types, it can affect you. You also choose Medium or Small and have a great speed of 35 feet! Darkvision out to 60 feet comes standard as a Dhampir, as does Spider Climb, granting a climbing speed and eventually being able to walk upside down!

The last item is the Vampiric Bite, which is a natural weapon that adds Constitution of all things to attack and damage roles and has advantage if you are missing half or more of your hitpoints. Despite being a small 1d4 damage, it also allows you to choose one of two effects on each bite (provided the target wasn’t undead or a construct):

  • Regain hit points equal to the damage dealt
  • gain a bonus on the next ability check or attack roll equal to the damage dealt.

It does have its limits, only being able to be used a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus between long rests.

That’s the facts, so what’s my opinion? I don’t think anything jumps out at me as broken or bad. The only thing that I’m not going to look into is anything exploitive about being Undead and spells or effects, but I think the bite seems pretty balanced as it’s fairly limited in use. Even at a 20 Constitution, that’s very limited healing or a few potentially high bonuses. I think it’s fluffy and fun, and setting permitting I’d love one of my players to take the Dhampir for a spin.

They say to not make a deal with the devil, but a deal with a hag could turn you into a Hexblood. So, make that deal, I guess? Hexbloods are those with fey or eldritch power in them as the result of making a deal with a hag or having some influence from a hag in their life. The only downside if you then have a magic appendage that looks like a crown behind their head that shows the mark of the hag.

Statwise, Hexblood have some similar features as the Dhampir. They count as both Humanoid and Fey, can be Medium or Small in size, but have a normal move of 30 feet. They also have Darkvision but gain Fey Resilience much like an elf, granting advantage on rolls against being charmed.

Hexbloods also come with some innate magic that includes disguise self and hex. They can cast one of these per long rest, or if they have spell slots from their class they can use any slot to cast them again. Also interesting is they can choose the ability score to cast them with, choosing between Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma.

Lastly, they also can create magic token. Somewhat grossly, they can remove a tooth or fingernail or some hair and imbue it with magic and then give to another creature or place somewhere of their choosing. If a creature is carrying it, they can use an action to send telepathic messages to them. Additionally, they can enter a trance for a minute during which they can see and hear from the point of the token, after which the token is destroyed. Fear not, however, whatever the token was made of regrows after a long rest along with the ability to make another token.

While somewhat gross with the Magic Token, I really like the take on the Hexblood here. I feel like hags never quite get enough love in D&D, and this might help endear them to some players as well as provide some excellent roleplaying opportunities. As far as balance goes, nothing here seems much better or worse than standard race options, again notwithstanding any potential weird interactions having to do with being fey.

Rounding out our trio of spooky lineages is the Reborn; those who have died but aren’t quite dead. This one seems pretty fun as a lineage option, as their past is a blur to them but randomly get sensations or flashes of it as they go about their new life. Also, there’s some options here as to exactly how being Reborn work. Some are those who died and now walk as the Undead, showing the scars of their demise, while others were stitched together Frankenstein style, and are actually constructs of flesh and bone.

So let’s take a look at what makes a Reborn unique mechanically: they too are Humanoid but can choose between Undead or Construct as is befitting of them, are Medium or Small, and have that standard 30 foot movement. They also have Darkvision, which at this point, shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

They also have a slew of benefits under their Deathless Nature trait. This includes advantage on saving throws versus poison and resistance to poison damage, advantage on death saving throws (since they’re so familiar with it), don’t need to eat, drink, breathe, or sleep, and they can’t magically be put to sleep. As a matter of fact, they can complete a long rest in four hours if they remain motionless but awake and therefore alert.

And lastly, they have knowledge from a past life, that allows them to add a d6 to any ability check that uses a skill a number of times equal to their proficiency bonus between long rests. This represents flashes of the past coming back to them as they attempt whatever it is they’re doing.

So let’s talk about all that; this is starting to sound familiar to me. Oh yeah, that’s because it’s very similar to my much disliked Revived Rogue that we got in 2019. That said, flavor-wise not as a Rogue subclass, I really like the option of the Reborn, but I do feel like the Construct version, for me, is taking the fluff a little far. I feel like a character trying to figure out their own murder is fun, but I’m not sold on the idea of Frankenstein in my player group (but if you do, then awesome!) I’m also not a big fan of the idea of not needing to sleep or even meditate for four hours. I don’t usually start encounters with the party asleep, but something about that feature specifically doesn’t sit well with me. The rest of the lineage is fine, if a little underwhelming, so I’d likely let one into my group if a player provided me with a killer backstory and we got to fill in the details and discover the mystery of their past as a group.

And that’s it for this macabre edition of Unearthed Arcana! I really enjoy the Dhampir and like the linages and I hope that Wizards of the Coast continues to put more lineages out there as I feel like in a lot of cases they are a great replacement for what we currently have in terms of player options.

Be sure to give these class options a try and give Wizards of the Coast your feedback with their usual post-Unearthed Arcana surveys so that these options can get refined and added to the game!

What did you think about this Unearthed Arcana? Be sure to join in the discussion over on our Discord channel where we talk tabletop!

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