The player character ancestries presented in this book are dwarves, elves, gnomes, goblins, halflings, and humans (including the half-human groups of half-elves and half-orcs).
Your character also has a background that represents the training or environments she experienced as a youth.
This could include time spent working as an acrobat, a barkeep, or a farmhand, or an upbringing like that of a noble, a nomad, or a scholar. Your character’s background affords her extra ability boosts as well as other benefits, such as a feat and training in one Lore skill.
A character has one ancestry and one background, both of which you select during character creation. Once chosen, your ancestry and background can’t be changed.
Reading Ancestry Entries
Each entry begins with an overview of the ancestry, examining its culture and place in the world. This is followed by rules elements you need to know to build a character of that ancestry, including ability boosts and ability flaws, Hit Points, size, Speed, languages, and other special rules. The entries then list the ancestry feats you can select as your character increases in level.
Each ancestry detailed here follows the format described below.
Each entry begins with a brief introduction to the ancestry. This is followed by a section that provides the broad physical characteristics associated with an ancestry’s members and background information about the ancestry’s culture as a whole. This section also gives you a sense of the ancestry’s history, providing insight to personality types or viewpoints that are common among members of that ancestry. of course, you can always play a character whose personality and motivations run far afield of typical members of her ancestry.
This section includes all of the mechanical details you need to play a character of a given ancestry.
This tells you how many Hit Points your character gains from her ancestry at 1st level. When you determine your starting Hit Points, you will add your character’s Constitution modifier and the Hit Points provided by her class to this number. For more information about calculating Hit Points, see Apply Your Class.
This tells you the physical size of members of your character’s ancestry. Most ancestries are Medium, which corresponds roughly to the height and weight range of a human adult. Some ancestries are Small, which corresponds to a height and weight range roughly half that of a Medium creature.
This entry designates how far a member of your character’s ancestry can move each time she spends an action (such as Stride) to do so. Many ancestries’ Speed is 25 feet, though some are slower or faster.
This lists the ability scores to which you apply ability boosts when creating a character of this ancestry. Most ancestries provide ability boosts to two specific ability scores, plus a free ability boost that you can apply to any other ability score of your choice.
This lists the ability score to which you apply an ability flaw when creating a character of this ancestry. Most ancestries, with the exception of humans, include an ability flaw.
Your character’s heritage determines which of the world’s many peoples she calls her own, whether it’s diverse humans, insular but vivacious elves, traditionalist and family-focused dwarves. Both her heritage and her experiences as a youth might be key parts of her identity, and they likely shape how she sees the world and her place in it.
Languages and Bonus Languages
This tells you the languages that members of your character’s ancestry speak at 1st level, as well as a list of additional languages common among members of that ancestry. If your character’s Intelligence score is 14 or higher at 1st level, you can select one of the bonus languages from this list for your character to speak in addition to her ancestry language or languages. Additionally, your character might use sign language.
This lists the mechanical indicators, called traits, that apply to all members of your character’s ancestry. Traits your character gains through her ancestry often don’t convey any mechanical benefit, but they are important for determining how certain spells, effects, and other aspects of the game interact with your character.
This section presents the abilities, characteristics, senses, and other unique qualities that members of each ancestry manifest. Some ancestries do not have any special rules, in which case this section is absent.
This section presents ancestry feats, which allow you to customize your character. You gain your first ancestry feat at 1st level, and another at 5th level, 9th level, 13th level, and 17th level, as indicated in the class advancement table in the descriptions of each class.
Playing Half-Elves and Half-Orcs
Playing a half-elf or a half-orc requires building your character as a human and then, at 1st level, selecting the Half-Elf ancestry feat or the Half-Orc ancestry feat, as appropriate. This ancestry feat grants you access to elf and half-elf or orc and half-orc ancestry feats, respectively, in addition to human ancestry feats.
Some of the feats in this section are marked with symbols that denote how you can use them during play.
Ancestry feats list a number on the same line as the feat’s name, indicating the minimum level your character must be to select the feat. In most cases, ancestry feats are labeled with “Feat 1,” meaning that your character can select the feat at 1st level or anytime you gain an ancestry feat thereafter. Ancestry feats also sometimes list prerequisites—these are additional requirements that your character must fulfill before she can select that feat.
All ancestry feats have a trait that indicates which ancestry they belong to.
Ancestry feats that have the heritage trait are feats that your character can select only at 1st level. Unlike with other feats, you cannot retrain your character to learn a heritage feat or exchange a heritage feat for one that was selected at 1st level. Your character can never have more than one heritage feat.
This section includes some suggested backgrounds and classes that are popular among members of each ancestry.
Cultural proclivities and inherent abilities inform these common choices, but they certainly don’t define them, nor do all members of any given ancestry adhere to any of these norms. Ultimately, you should create a character from a concept that excites you!