More Unusual Races for D&D 5th Edition

by Karl Brown

5th Edition is bringing many veterans back to D&D. Some of these have been enthusiastic about playing unusual creatures since the days of 1st edition. First edition had tens of magazine articles offering new races, 2e had the The Complete Book of Humanoids as well as new races specific to campaign settings, and 3.5 had Savage Species. Fans from all these editions are looking to get into the new 5th edition but there is no official way to convert oddball races. Until an official solution is released this article provides a fair way to create PCs of many monstrous races utilising evidence from canon rules.

What is this?

Most of this article describes a process to convert monsters to PC races but I have included some examples of new races at the end. Some creatures start at level one, just like PCs of the core races. Others have a Level Adjustment (LA) representing how many class levels the race is equivalent to. Creatures also have a Joining Level (JL), usually LA+1. A monster PC can't join a party until the other characters
are at this level. When a monster joins the party his LA+Class levels should be equal to the JL and therefore the career level of the

I have not provided 3.5 style race-classes. Playing an immature creature always felt like killing time until you got to play the character you really wanted to play. Not doing so also ensures these unusual characters have the same access to the class-based roleplaying hooks provided in 5th edition core classes.

How was this done?

Modern games are built around (often hidden) frameworks. Inevitably clues about these hidden design systems end up in the game. Put together enough of these clues and you can reveal portions of the design systems and put them to work. I'm a 30+ year veteran of the hobby
and a complusive tinkerer with a good grasp of algebra so these house rules have a little expertise behind them. However, nobody but our
friends at WOTC can claim to be expert in the 5th edition yet.

This article was written when only the free Basic Rules and the PHB were available.

I'm confident most of the races produced by this process will be balanced. However the best test is the table. 5th edition is too new for my group to have properly playtested these rules. That said, I have calculated numerous example races, generated characters, and done preliminary testing. The aim here is to get this to you sooner rather than later to facilitate the switch to 5th.Players and DMs should treat these rules like a play-test beginning with what is presented here, proceeding with good-faith at the table, and accepting that some tweaking may be neccesary. I have provided method to seamlessly adjust over-powered characters during a campaign.

Limits and overcoming them

The Player's Handbook (PHB) assumes PCs are going to be roughly like humans; PCs are going to be about human-sized, have hands, be able to
speak, and not be able to fly or swim like a fish. The PHB only gives rules for Medium sized equipment. To open up more options I have
provided ways to deal with larger, Tiny, mute, powerful, and non-humanoid creatures that are fair to the other players. Just bear
in mind that the more strange and powerful your choice the more experimental your character will be.


Monsters are rated by combat effectiveness and these rules use that fact to produce PC versions of the creatures that can make an contribution in combat equal to a typical PC of the same level. This approach may lead some to question the roleplaying aspects of these new races and their utility out of combat. The PHB PC races have descriptions full of roleplaying hooks. I could not provide this detail for the races here. Reading the detailed monster entries and other materials from earlier editions, particularly 2nd editions detailed
Monster Manual entries and the old Ecology of… articles in Dragon issues of that era, will give more background on the race if you have
access to those. However PC monsters will have a core class and background providing roleplaying hooks and non-combat powers. In
short, characters of these new races should have the nearly same degree of utility out of combat as regular races and fleshed out
personalities for roleplaying.

Process for converting monsters to PC races

Effective Level (EL)

Determining the Effective Level (EL) of the monster is the first step towards calculating the race's Level Adjustment (LA). EL is the level where a party of the monsters (3-6) is a deadly encounter for a party of PCs. To determine this multiple the xp for one creature x2. Now consult the Deadly collumn of the table on p57 of the Basic Rules.

If xp is less than 100xp (ie. 1st level) use xp/50. Record to two decimal places (round up). eg. 0.12321 rounds to 0.13. If xp
is exactly on the amount listed for a level record that level. If between levels you will need to interpolate as follows:

  • Subtract the xp for the lower level from the xp for a party of creatures. This is 'A'.
  • Next subtract the xp for the lower level from the xp for higher level. This is 'B'
  • Divide. A/B. The result is 'C'.
  • Add C to the lower level.
  • Record to two decimal places (round up). The result is your EL.

For example an Ogre is 450xp. So for a party of ogres double this (900xp) and consult the Deadly collumn of the table. 900xp falls between 4th (500xp) and 5th (1100xp). Threfore A=900-500=400. B=1100-500=600. C=A/B=400/600=0.6666667. The EL for an ogre is 4.67

How was the EL procedure determined?

Three pieces of evidence were used:

1) Adventurers venture forth in diverse parties. Measuring one monster against one PC of a particular class does not reflect this.
The EL then is the level of a party of core race PCs when a party of that breed of monster has a 50% chance of winning; i.e. when the two
parties are of equal power in a fight.

2) Since editions 3.0 and above D&D squews the odds in favour of the PCs. A fair fight with the monsters having a 50% chance of winning would probably be called Hard or Deadly encounter by the designers (Basic Rules p57). Alternatively, I considered the
recommended xp per day (Basic Rules p58).

3) The Mage NPC is effectively a 9th level wizard with d8s for HD instead of D6s. The Mage's EL must therefore be more than 9. How much more? Having determined the value of a HD (see below) I determined how many levels this difference in HD was worth, 4, and added it to 9, the answer was 13. Checking our three alternatives from step 1, a party of NPC Mages is a a Deadly Encounter at level 13.

Level Adjustment and points

EL can be a value between levels but LA is always an integer or zero. To account for this we us a point system to reduce the race's power
and thereby remove the fractions of a level. If EL has digits after the decimal then subtract the integer; any remainder is multipled by
x-8 (round down) to give you points (pt). Remember rounding a negative down increases the magnitude. In later steps the goal is to
reduce points to zero.

For example our ogre has EL4.67. So LA is 4 and there is 0.67 left over. 0.67x-8=-5.33333, rounds to -6pt (negative six points).

LA must be 19 or less or the race cannot be used as a PC.

Awakened Animals

Awakened animals are beasts raised to human-like intelligence by magic. For these creatures subtract the usual animal intelligence from 10 and subtract this from the point total. This will make the total more negative.

Racial HD

Monster versions of creatures have HD not gained through a class. In 5th edition monsters have more HP than PCs of the same EL because
monsters generally don't act in teams of complimentry individuals like PCs do, nor do they often have magical healing etc. Our new PC
race will be part of a diverse adventuring party so we need to adjust the racial HD.

  • Multiply the monster HD by x2/3. Record to two decimal places (round up).
  • You have a number of HD of the same type as the monster equal to the integer.
  • Removing the integer you'll often have a remainder. Multiply this by a factor
    'H' and round up to an integer to give pts (round down). What's 'H'? That depends of the HD: d4=2, d6=3, d8=4, d10=5pt d12=6,
  • Add these points from your point total.

Example Ogre: a monster ogre has 7d10HD. 7x2/3=4.67. A pc ogre at this point has 4d10hp. 0.67x5pt=3.333 rounds to 3pt Add these to the point total-6+3=-3pt left.

So what about the point costs? We set 1pt to be 1 in an Ability Score. We know from the human that a race is 6pt and the
variant rule for humans gives us the means to price a few other items. A Background has to be worth more than 4. We also know from
the Barbarian at 4th level that the value of a level has to be whatever a d12 HD is worth +2.

HDx2/3 is derived from comparing the Mage NPC to a PC 9th level wizard. Mage NPC has 1.5x more hp (about 4 levels worth, caster level+4=13=EL). But not all HD are equal. Points equal to half the number of sides on a die gave sensible results.

Racial ability score adjustments

The starting point for racial ability score adjustments is the monster stat block attribute-8 except Strength which is -9. Unlike core races these can be negatives.

In the next steps the ability score adjustments will be modified by points to approach zero.

Never change the Str modifier.

If the point total is negative reduce ability scores. When subtracting start at the highest modifier, other than Str, and reduce each by one stepwise. If at any point two ability scores are equal use the order of preference Con, Dex, Wis, Int, Cha. Never reduce below zero.
If the point score is positive increase negative ability score adjustments towards zero. When adding start at the lowest (most negative)
modifier, other than Str, and increase each by one stepwise towards zero. If at any point two ability scores are equal use the order of
preference Con, Dex, Wis, Int, Cha. Never raise above zero.

Example ogre: Str+10, Dex+0, Con+8, Int-3, Wis -1, Cha-1. We need to add -3pt (i.e. subtract 3). So we reduce positively adjusted ability scores proceeding stepwise:
Str+10, Dex+0, Con+7, Int-3, Wis -1, Cha-1. The highest non-Str score is Con.
Str+10, Dex+0, Con+6, Int-3, Wis -1, Cha-1. Checking again, it's still Con.
Str+10, Dex+0, Con+5, Int-3, Wis -1, Cha-1. No points left.

For PCs the maximum for ability scores is 20 and the minimum is 3 after these adjustments.

Why 8?

Why are the ability score adjustments not based around 10? Firstly, because the Commoner NPC is little more than a HD and ability scores.
The sum of his ability score adjustments should be almost the same as the human PC, who also has no race powers, i.e. +6 total. Run this
method with all base ability scores -10 instead of -8 and the Commoner has -5 total attribute modifiers, a shortfall of 11.
Proceeding from -8 to most and -9 to Str recreates the human race as described in the PHB.

Secondly, Monsters are built around a base of 10, again look at the Commoner, on ability scores but the average raw ability score for a
PC is 12.

Monsters with few race powers will have higher ability scores as compensation, just like a human, this is especially true for high LA

Remaining points

Still have points left? If you have a positve number of points first buy skill slots costing 2pt each. Use the following phase in the new
race's description: "Your unusual past that has driven you away from the usual life of your kind is represented by (number)
skill proficiencies of your choice.".
If after buying skill slots you still have 1pt left raise the highest non-Str ability score
adjustment by +1. If two or more ability score adjustments are tied use the order of preference Con, Dex, Wis, Int, Cha.

If points are negative first reduce any racial HD using the costs above, eg. -7pt, 3d6HD becomes -1pt and 1d6HD. Next, further reduce ability scores. Apply a -1 to the lowest ability score adjustment (other than Str) stepwise. If at any point two ability scores are equal use the order of preference Con, Dex, Wis, Int, Cha.

Checking LA

Some monsters have features that throw out this system. For example merfolk are worth low xp and have low EL because they have poor AC. A
PC merman can wear armour or assign a high roll to Dex. To catch these outliers we perform one last check. First sum the ability score
adjustments then add points for any racial hit die (d4=2pt, d6=3pt, d8=4pt, d10=5pt, d20=10pt). The race's total should be less than
6+LAx8 (see the table below). If not, raise LA.


Allowed points








Example Ogre ability score adjustments plus 4x5 for HD makes 25. At LA4 the ogre is allowed up to 38pt. Since the total is below that allowed we leave the ogre at LA4. We do NOT reduce the LA.

Example: Merfolk are LA0 with Str+1, Dex+3, Con+3, Int+3, Wis+3 Cha+4 and 1d8 racial HD. This is 21pt. At LA0 only 6pt are allowed. LA is therefore raised to LA2.

Joining Level (JL)

Joining level is the level of PHB race characters when your weird character can join them. Generally, JL=LA+1. However PCs usually don't have a substantial access to some forms of movement until later levels (evidence in parenthesis). Therefore these and other kinds of
enhanced mobility set minimum joining levels of 4 if swim speed (Druid Circle Forms) or if they can levitate (vertically only, the
level where Wizards gain three uses of the spell), also 4 if they can walk up smoothe walls and across cielings (the level were the wizard
gets three uses of the Spider Climb spell), 6 if the race has limited teleport like a blink dog (Benign Transposition), 8 for flying speed
(Druid Circle Forms), 12 if able to teleport self, and 14 if able to teleport and take others with them, planeshift, or go ethereal. These
are the only abilities that do this, I'm assuming all others are covered by the LA. You'll note that what counts as 'substantial
access' varies, this is because some modes of movement are likely to be more useful more often than others. Flight will be used a lot
while planeshift is likely to see use once or twice an adventure.


Ignore the movement type JL limits and accept that some obsticles and challenges will be easier for the party to overcome at low levels.


Allow races with unusual movement to join at LA+1 but they don't get their special movement powers until the JL indicated above. This
could be explained by lingering wing or tail injuries, clipped feathers, young wrymlings, etc.

JL must be 20 or less or the creature cannot be used as a PC.

Example: The ogre joining level is 5. An ogre PC joins a 5th level party with one level in a class.

Low xp monsters patch rule

After doing some examples I noticed that 10xp and 0xp monsters when converted seemed under-powered. As a work around try this final
tweak. If the monster version is worth less than 20xp then total up the ability score adjustments. If less than 3 (the total for
most PHB races) add points to bring the total to three, ie. pt=3-(sum of adjustments), remember subtracting a negative adds. Restore the
bonus to the monster version's (non-Str) highest score (up to the monster ability score-8). If there are points left to spend, repeat
for the second highest score of the monster version and so on. Never alter Str. Don't forget the monster version of awakened animals are
Int10 and therefore Int+2. If there are still points left over use these points to reset negative modifiers towards zero (never higher
than zero) starting from the least penalised. Again, don't alter Str. If there are points left over, tough these are lost.

Example: An awakened frog has 0xp. Base Int for a frog is 1 so 1-10=-9xp, then the frog is given +1pt for loosing it's one monster HD. This makes -8pt! After adjusting ability scores and remaining points as described in early sections the frog is left with Str-9, Dex+0,
Con+0, Int+0, Wis+0, Cha-6. The sum of these is -14pt. So we apply the patch, 3-(-14)=17pt to spend. Monster frog highest score is
Dex13, so we spend 5pt to get Dex+5. Next highest score for a monster awakened frog is Int10, so we spend 2pt on this. We still have 7pt
left so we look for negative modifiers. Str is -8 but you never change Str. Resetting to Cha+0 uses 6pt. 1pt left but there is
nothing legal to spend it on so its lost. Final frog ability scores are: Str-9, Dex+5,Con+0, Int+2, Wis+0, Cha+0.

What you get

A PC of a monster race gets most of the monster's features: size, type, tags, natural armour, speed, skills (but recalculate the bonus these are assumed to be cultural or instinctive), vulnerabilities, resistances, immunities, senses, languages, innate spellcasting, spellcasting (again cultural), proficiency in all the armour, weapons, and natural weapons listed (again cultural or instinctive), any natural weapons (but not the attack bonuses or ability score derived damage bonuses), multiattack, any magic powers, any special reactions, legendary actions, and lair actions. You gain any natural armour (minus the moster Dex bonus), if you wear armour use the highest of the natural armour and the worn, they do not stack (like the barkskin spell). If the creature does not speak Common add Common to the list of languages for the PC version. You also gain any save proficiencies the monster has, if any. PCs do not get: alignment, any equipment including armour, creatures attribute mods including Dex modifier to AC and bonus on saving throws, hit points and hit dice, ability scores, challenge, and xp.


The WholeHalf-Ogre: LA4, JL5, Racial HD: 4d10. Str+10, Dex+0, Con+5, Int-3, Wis -1, Cha-1. Remember
PC ability scores are limited to the 3-20 range. The ogre gets: Large Size, Giant type, Speed 40, darkvision 60ft, Languages: Giant and
Common, Proficiencies: Great club, javelin, both scaled to Large users.

How does the ogre compare?

Let's compare an ogre in a class he is good at, Barbarian, to the most similar core race, the half orc. Both are at the ogre's joining
level of 5th. Both created with the standard array 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8

Urg the Ogre

Ront the Half Orc

Dex14, Con20, Int9, Wis12, Cha7 Total 82)

The ogre has to use the 10 on Str
to stay within the 3-20 allowed range.

Dex13, Con15, Int10, Wis12, Cha8 (Total 77)

The half orc can arrange the
array in the optimal way for his class.
His 4th
class level raised his Str by 2

AC 17, HP: 56 HD: 4d10+1d12

AC 13 (plus any magic items), HP:
45, HD5d12

Size Large (more opponants can
attack you, you have to squeeze often, etc), Speed 40, Darkvision
60, Languages Common, Giant and Orc.

Size Medium, Speed 40,
Darkvision 60, Languages Common, Orc and Giant.

No race powers, rage, unarmoured
defense, wanderer.

Menacing, relentless endurance,
savage attacks,
rage, unarmoured defence, relentless
attack, danger sense, primal path (berserker frenzy), extra
fast movement, wanderer.

5th level with +3
proficiency bonus

5th level with +3
proficiency bonus

gear only. Large great axe* (2d12+5), Large great club*
(2d8+5), four Large javelins (2d6+2),
explorer's pack,
staff, hunting trap, wolf skin, traveller's clothes, pouch 10gp.

The ogre lacks the extra attacks
and other damage enhancing features of the half orc's 2nd-5th
level barbarian features.

axe* (1d12+4), Great club* (1d8+4), four javelins (1d6+1),
explorer's pack, staff, hunting trap, wolf skin, traveller's
clothes, pouch 10gp. Plus all the gains from adventuring
possibly including magic items and weapons.

*Note how extra attack, savage
attacks, relentless attack, and frenzy increase the half orcs
damage dealing capability somewhat.

In summary there isn't much in it. The ogre is tough and hits harder but the half orc has more attacks, a greater selection of race and
class benefits, and probably magic items from adventuring.

Overcoming the limits

The PHB is designed to support humanoids of Small or Medium size as PCs. Fortunately, we are given general tools for players who play within the limitations of a role, Disadvantage, and Inspiration.

  • Use Disadvantage when the race can do something but with difficulty.
  • When a race can't do something say 'no' but if this prevents the character from taking an action critical to survival or achieving important goals award Inspiration. Inspiration is explained as the character trying harder to proove themselves useful.

The Inspiration awards are important. Awarding Inspiration when the handicap becomes critical compensates the player in proportion to how
often the handicap is actually inportant during play.

Specific examples follow in the sections below on Size and Beasts.


For smaller than Small and bigger than Medium characters whenever the limitations of your Size place you in danger or prevents you from
doing something critical your referee might award Inspiration (PHB p125). For example a giant might be rewarded Inspiration for not
being able to enter a room where the rest of the party was loosing a fight but not if the door went into an inn on a warm summer night. If
your Size makes something more difficult but not impossible apply Disadvantage, for example a hill giant trying to pick a human built

The other issue is equipment of the right size. For scaled armour we learn from the barding rule, the armour does not differ in AC from
Medium scale, cost is x4 per scale up and x1/4 per scale down, weight is x2 per scale up and x1/2 per scale down. In the PHB Small armour
costs and wieghs the same as Medium you may wish to change this. These rules could be used for any worn equipment including packs. For scaled weapons there are three ways to handle the issue.

  • If the weapon is in the monster's description use the damage listed (minus the monster version's Str mod).
  • Alternatively, based on the Enlarge/Reduce spell is to add 1d4 per Size increase and -1d4 per Size decrease. However, this spell has worked this way for several editions and never reflected scaled weapons seen in monster descriptions.
  • Each increase in size adds another die in the monster examples we have. Ok what about smaller? Well sprite tells us 1d8 at Medium goes to 1pt at Tiny but we currently don't really have any other data points for smaller than medium scaled weapons. While we wait on further evidence I suggest subtracting 2 from the number of sides of the dice used per reduction in scale below Medium (for example a 2d8 becomes 2d6, a d2 becomes 1pt). At Tiny any slashing or piercing weapon can be built with the finesse quality if damage is reduced to 1pt.
  • Weapon cost probably increases in proportion to the average damage of the weapon compared to the Medium version. Wieght increases by x8 per size increase or x1/8 per size decrease in the real world.

    For other non-worn gear my best guess is cost x2 per increase in scale, x1/2 per scale down. The exception is items with value based on their materials such as gold jewellery those increase in cost as per weight. Wieght increases by x8 per size increase or x1/8 per size
    decrease in the real world.

    Beasts and other oddities

    There are issues if you cannot speak or wield tools. Whenever the limitations of your race place place you in danger or prevent you
    from doing something critical your referee might award Inspiration (PHB p125). For example an awakened panther might be rewarded
    Inspiration for not being able to open a door to a room where the rest of the party was loosing a fight but not if the door went into
    an Inn on a warm summer night.

    Not being able to talk can cause communication issues that could occasionally be worth Inspiration. You might understand languages without being able to speak or write them. If you can speak humaniod languages then you use words for somatic components. If you are polymorphed or shape-changed into a form that cannot sound out words you can't cast spells with somatic components until the effect ends. If you can't speak humanoid languages then spells with verbal components assume you are able to translate the words into noises you can make. If shape-changed into a form that cannot make your natural range of sounds you cannot cast spells with verbal components until the effect ends even if your temporary form can speak humanoid languages. If you can't vocalise at all then you can't cast spells with a verbal component and spellcasting classes are not recommended

    Armour is usually no problem, exotic barding can exists in D&D, oozes, trees, or gas monsters would be exceptions. You may need help to get in or out of armour (see below).

    You cannot begin play with equipment you cannot use, nor proficiencies in weapons, shields. or tools you cannot use. This also applies to any class benefits you cannot physically do. You are not directly compensated for this you just loose these benefits. However, the more
    often this comes up the more limited your character is and the more likely they are to earn Inspiration during play.

    For those without hands a spell focus can replace most material components and can be simply grasped or worn. I would assume you can
    interpret somatic components into complex sets of movements you can perform in your natural form (if you are polymorphed or otherwise
    shape-changed into a body substantially different to your usual form you can't use somatic components. Just as a human transformed into
    a handless parrot can't cast spells with somatic components a parrot transformed into a human cannot use somatic components even
    though the new form has hands. If you can't write you cannot write into a spellbook and cannot be a wizard.

    Based on the polymorph spell and the exact wording of the spellcasting rules only creatures with good hands (Tool Use 5 below)
    can cast spells with somatic components and only creatures that can speak words can use spells with verbal components. This however is
    very limiting for non-humanoids and is not recommended if they are to be PCs.

    For weapon and tool use rate the creature into one of the below catagories:

    1: Paws or similar. Unable to use any weapons, shields, or tools. Cannot don or remove armour without help. Cannot apply the bonus for Dexterity to thrown or missile weapons except objects dropped from above. Cannot open locks, disable traps, pick pockets, open a
    doorknob, or write. Cannot be a wizard. Spells requiring specific material components with a gp value cannot be cast. Can cast spells
    where a focus can substitute. Cannot use a component pouch. Somatic components require your whole body to be free to move. (dolphin,
    giant eagle, slithering tracker, worg).

    2: Grasping paws or similar. Able to grasp items and point wands but due to weak grip, lack of coordination, or limited range of movement
    cannot wield weapons, use shields, or perform fine manipulation such as writing. Cannot don or remove armour without help. Cannot apply
    the bonus for dexterity to thrown or missile weapons except objects dropped from above. Cannot open locks, disable traps. Can pick
    pockets with a Disadvantage. Requires a DC10 Dex check to open a doorknob though if the door was intended for people two or more Sizes
    larger you are at a Disadvantage. Cannot be a wizard. Able to cast most spells requiring material components. Spells requiring specific
    material components with a gp value cannot be cast if fine manipulation is described in the spell description. Can cast spells
    where a focus can substitute. Can use a component pouch. Somatic components require your whole body to be free to move. (dragon,
    raven, parrot, otter, otyugh, raccoon, possum).

    3: Basic hands or tentacles or similar. Able to wield Simple Bludgeoning weapons such as clubs and maces. Can use shields. Cannot apply the bonus for dexterity to thrown or missile weapons except objects dropped from above. Can remove armour without help but cannot don
    armour without help. Cannot perform fine manipulation such as writing. Cannot open locks. Can disable simple traps but with a
    Disadvantage. Can pick pockets and open doorknobs normally. Cannot be a wizard. Able to cast most spells requiring material components.
    Spells requiring specific material components with a gp value cannot be cast if a fine manipulation is described in the spell description.
    Can cast spells where a focus can substitute. Can use a component pouch. As for humanoids, somatic components require two
    free manipulators (hands, tentacles, or whatever) rather than one. (baboon, carnivorous ape, kraken, shambling mound, su-monster).

    4: Able to 'pinch' using something like fingers but still not as good as human hands. Able to wield Simple Bludgeoning weapons such as
    clubs and maces. Can use a shield. Cannot apply the bonus for Dexterity to thrown or missile weapons except objects dropped from
    above. Can perform fine manipulation such as writing and manipulating lock picks. Able to disarm traps, pick pockets, and open doorknobs.
    Can don and remove armour unaided. Can be a wizard. Spell casting unaffected. (elephant, orangutan, homonculous, muck dweller,

    5: Able to use all weapon types and tools. Able to be a wizard. Spell casting unaffected. Can apply the bonus for dexterity to thrown or missile weapons. Combines strong grip and precise manipulation. Normal rules apply. (gnome, human, thri-kreen, tako, yeti).

    Awakened animals and plants

    These are products of the awaken spell. As monsters awakened plants have Int10, Wis10. I'd rate trees and shrubs as tool use 3. PC
    awakened plants speak Common and any one other language. We assume they learned one of these some time after being awakened.

    Awakened animals are exactly the same as the monster stat block would indicate except the monster's Int ability score is 10. They also gain the ability to understand and speak one language. PC awakened animals speak Common and any one other language. They understand ordinary non-intelligent creatures of their kind and similar creatures. They also look like normal animals which can be useful.

    First level characters

    Monsters in 5th edition are generally tougher than in previous editions therefore very few have a JL1. The following list is of all monsters in th PHB and Basic Rules with less than 50xp and therefore likely to be LA+0, merfolk for example are not.
    Those bolded have hands or tentacles as good as human hands. Those with a line through have movement types that
    raise JL unless you choose to ignore this rule. Where an animal is listed the awakened version is assumed.

    awakened shrub, baboon, badger, bat, blood hawk, camel, cat, crab, deer, eagle, flying snake, frog, giant crab, giant fire beetle, giant rat, giant weasel, goat, hawk, hyena, jackel, kobold, lizard, mastiff, merfolk, mule, octopus, owl, poisonous snake, pony, pteranodon, pseudodragon, quipper, rat, raven, scorpion, seahorse, spider, stirge, twig blight, vulture, and weasel. A twig blight can't vocalise.

    Creating characters

    When rolling ability scores you may not be able to adhere to the 3-20 caps on ability scores. If so assign your rolls to get as close as
    possible then raise to 3 or lower to 20. You still get the usual first level HP for your first class even if you have race HD and HP.
    Proficiency bonus is determined as if your level was LA+class level. There are no limits on Background. The Outlander is good for
    maraudering humanoids and wild creatures. The Urchin Background would be good for rats and other city creatures who are awakened. Equipment is as given by Class and Background or purchase. If you go with the Class and Background options weapons and armour are scaled to your size representing a significant saving in the cost of scaled goods for large races.

    Some races that we traditionally visualise as brutal and non-charismatic, like the orc, have positive Cha adjustments. Perhaps this represents a forceful personality, domineering will, or a savage animal magnetism? Alternatively, if this really bothers you assign your
    lowest roll (or the 8 on the standard array) to Charisma.

    Unusual characters in play

    The more human–like the character is, the easier it will be to include them in D&D's traditional types of adventures. Creatures of any
    Size could be adventurers. If your campaign features a lot of dungeons then Large is probably the maximum Size for PCs. If however
    your campaign consists mostly of outdoor travel and battlefields, arguably more realistic premises than the traditional D&D
    dungeon, then Huge PCs should play just fine. Tiny PCs can be useful in any type of adventure.

    Unusual shape is actually less of an issue than size if the character is part of a party. Compare a giant eagle and awakened raven, who can easily perch on another PC's shoulder. A solitary awakened panther is going to stuck when faced with their first doorknob but as part of a party they can get past the door and do their fair share to overcome whatever is on the other side.

    PCs with more LA than HD should find ways to do more damage to take down foes fast, or use special abilites to aid others while staying out of reach.

    What if the unusual PC seems too powerful?

    The process tries to determine an LA and ajust ability scores so the new race will be equal to the PHB races in power when they join. If
    during play the unusual character seems to powerful the table should negotiate a solution. One option is freeze the unusual PC's class
    level and then when the character advances a level add an LA instead (only add HD and HP of the race type, except on LA's divisible by 3
    (3rd, 6th, 9th etc.) these are dead levels you get no HD or HP for these). Keep doing this until the unusual PC seems to be equal to other PCs in play. This solution should work fine if everyone is there to have fun and acts in good faith.

    Future work

    This top down method values the complete monster then adjusts for PC use. I am working on what may be a better approach: to assign point values to features so that races can be built from features to meet a set number of points (enough for the human's +6 total to ability
    scores). This other bottom up approach requires a lot more analysis before it is ready.

    Example Races

    Here is a small collection of races chosen because either they have a histroy of use as PCs or because they are low power and therefore
    more likely to be of use for a new edition and newly started campaigns. Of the races presented here two can join a first level
    party: awakened rat and kobold. Of these the kobold is the least experimental as kobolds have hands, are not Large or Tiny, and can

    If an entry is missing from one of these race descriptions then it does not apply. Multiattack, when it occurs, applies only to attacks
    listed in the creature's multiattack description. You can't switch out weapons unless the description has that leeway in it.

    Awakened Frog

    Kiss me!

    Tiny Beast
    Str-8, Dex+5, Con+0, Int+2, Wis +0, Cha+0
    LA0, JL4. Speed 20ft, swim 20ft. Senses: darkvision 30ft. Tool Use 2
    Languages: Common and any one other. Able to communicate with non-intelligent frogs and toads.
    Proficiencies: Perception, stealth. No attacks!
    Powers: amphibious, standing leap (see PHB p305). Looks like an ordinary frog.
    Even after the 'patch' rule for low xp creatures the frog is still probably under-powered. This could be a great tool for a 'magic
    gone wrong' adventure where transformed PCs must go on a short quest to be returned to human(oid) form.

    Awakened Rat

    I ate Unseen U's garbage
    Tiny Beast
    Str-7, Dex+3, Con +1, Int +2, Wis +2, Cha +0
    LA0, JL1. Speed 20ft. Senses: darkvision 30ft. Tool use: 2
    Languages: Common, any one other language. The ability to communicate with rats.
    Proficiencies: Bite (1pt piercing finesse).
    Powers: Keen Smell (see Basic Rules p41). Looks like an ordinary rat.

    Awakened Raven

    Roäc sent us
    Tiny Beast
    Str -7, Dex+6, Con +0, Int +2, Wis +4, Cha -2
    LA0, JL8. Speed 10ft, Fly 50ft. Tool use: 2
    Languages: Common, any one other language. The ability to communicate with ordinary crows and ravens.
    Proficiencies: Perception, Beak attack (1pt piercing finesse).
    Powers: Mimicry see p309 of the PHB. Looks like an ordinary raven.
    Notes: Most of a raven's survivability is in her power of flight. The best character options are those that enable the raven to attack
    or aid at a distance. The Sage Background is suggested for ravens attracted to "many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten


    Have you read the Centaur Papers?
    Large Monstrosity
    Str+9, Dex+4, Con+3, Int+1, Wis+4, Cha+3
    LA 5, JL6. Racial HD: 4d10. Speed 50ft
    Languages: Common, Elvish, and Sylvan.
    Proficiencies: Athletics, Perception, Survival, Pike, Hooves (2d6 bludgeoning),
    Powers: Charge and Multiattack (Pike and hooves or two longbow attacks).
    A centaur's unusual body shape means she uses medium sized weapons, shirts, etc for the upper torso but requires Large sized armour.


    Small Humanoid (goblinoid)
    Str-1, Dex+6, Con+2, Int+2, Wis+1, Cha+0
    LA 1, JL 2, Racial HD1d6. Speed 30ft. Senses: darkvision 60 ft
    Languages: Common and Goblin
    Proficiencies: Scimitar, shortbow
    Powers: nimble escape (see Basic Rules p30).


    Small Humanoid (kobold)
    Str-2, Dex+4, Con+1, Int+0, Wis+1, Cha+0
    LA 0, JL 1. Speed 30ft. Senses: darkvision 60ft
    Languages: Common, Draconic
    Proficiencies: Dagger, sling.
    Powers: Pack tactics, sunlight sensitivity
    Note: The pack tactics ability is well suited to being a cooperative member of an adventuring party.


    Return to Quag Keep anyone?
    Medium Humanoid (Lizardfolk)
    Str+6, Dex+2, Con+6, Int+0, Wis+4, Cha+0.
    LA3 JL4 Racial HD: 2d8. Natural Armour 13. Speed 30ft Swim 30ft
    Languages: Draconic, Common
    Proficiencies: Perception, stealth, survival, bite (1d6 piercing), heavy club, spiked shield
    Powers: Hold breath for 15 minutes, multiattack (two melee attacks each with a different weapon).


    Medium Humanoid (Merfolk)
    Str+1, Dex+3, Con+3, Int+3, Wis+3 Cha+4
    LA 2, JL 4, Racial HD1d8. Speed 10ft, swim 40ft
    Languages: Aquan, Common
    Proficiencies: Perception, Spear.
    Powers: Amphibious (breathes air and water).
    Notes: Best for maritime or undersea campaigns. If in an undersea campaign where everyone has a swim speed change to JL3. You should discuss how how you and the referee imagine issues like thirst, dehydration, and jumping and how Disadvantage and Inspiration will be used to make sure you are on the same page.


    Medium Humanoid (Orc)
    Str+7, Dex+4, Con+8, Int+0, Wis+2, Cha+2
    LA4, JL3, Racial HD 1d8. Speed 30ft. Senses: darvision 60ft
    Languages: Common, Orc
    Proficiencies: Intimidation, great axe, javelin
    Powers: Aggressive (see Basic Rules p39)

    Young Gold Dragon

    A gold dragon can assume human shape, so that is a common choice for monster characters. …"
    1st edition DMG.

    To be fair the rest of the quote actually discourages the use of dragon PCs, but too late the idea has already escaped in Council of Wryms and Dragon 320! The dragon presented is too young to assume human form yet too powerful to see a lot of use
    in games. It is included to show what is likely to be the most extreme race the system can accommodate.

    Large Dragon
    Str+15 Dex+6 Con+11 Int+8 Wis+5 Cha+12
    With the standard array you will need to trim excess ability scores to
    stay under the 20 cap for PCs.
    LA19, JL20. Racial HD11d10. Tool use 2. Natural Armour 16
    Speed 40ft, Swim 40ft, Fly 80ft
    Proficiencies: Dex saves, Con saves, Wis saves, Cha saves, Insight, Perception, Persuasion, Stealth, Bite (reach 10ft, 2d10 piercing), Claw (2d6 slashing)
    Damage immunities: fire. Senses: Blindsight 30ft, drakvision 120ft
    Languages: Common, Draconic
    Powers: Amphibious, Multiattack (one bite two claws), Breath weapons (see Monster Manual p115 for details).