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My campaign setting currently requires a High Elf variant with three major caveats:

  • It cannot have darkvision (all permitted races must have human-level vision).
  • It lacks the flexibility to choose its own racial spells. (Namely its cantrip)
  • It doesn't get an additional language at character creation.

I'd like to make up for these three caveats by replacing them with an equally powerful suite of abilities. (Note that by default "Sun Elf" is merely descriptive text added to the standard High Elf stat block.)

Since the Sun Elves in my setting actually descend from a Sun Goddess, I saw fit to fill in the blanks with celestial-related features. Namely:

  • The essence of Darkvision and Cantrip have been merged into the Light cantrip.
  • The extra language has been replaced with the Noble Background's skill proficiencies.
  • To make up for the lost feature, I've added resistance to two relatively uncommon damage types.

Below is the new subrace breakdown:

Sun Elf (Variant)

Light Bearer. You lose your racial Darkvision trait; instead you know the Light cantrip, which you can cast without requiring any material components. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for it.

Ability Score Increase. Your Intelligence score increases by 1.

Elf Weapon Training. You have proficiency with the longsword, shortsword, shortbow, and longbow.

Noble Heritage. You have proficiency in the History and Persuasion skills.

Celestial Resistance. You have resistance to necrotic damage and radiant damage.

I'm not asking for advice or opinions. However, based on experience or game design expertise, Are these two sets of features roughly equivalent to another? I know that I can't remove the original features without adding something similar to replace them, but I'm afraid that this new selection is too powerful.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ For your first bullet, do you mean they see as well as humans while in darkness, or do you mean darkness totally blinds them? For the third point, do you mean they don't get an additional language as a racial trait, or that they're literally incapable of learning new languages? I'm pretty sure I know the answer to both. \$\endgroup\$ – Joel Harmon May 21 '18 at 11:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would suggest adding immunity to light-based blinding/confusion effects, like the Flare spell from old. Those are rare enough to not be an issue, and would be flavorful for a light-based race. \$\endgroup\$ – T. Sar May 21 '18 at 12:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JoelHarmon I've edited the question to address your points. \$\endgroup\$ – Robert May 21 '18 at 16:58
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These are approximately equivalent.

2 Skill proficiencies are more useful than a language overall (both in my experience and according to the rulebook in so far as you can train languages, but not skills, with the Downtime rules in the Player's Handbook), so you have to be careful, but losing your choice of a cantrip for one of the least useful ones (in my experience) should account for this discrepancy.

This can also be seen by comparing the Half-Elf and High Elf racial traits side by side (as these official races are roughly balanced with each other).

">" is slightly better than; ">>" is noticeably better than; ">>>" is much better than

\begin{array}{rcl} \bf\text{High Elf} & & \bf\text{Half-Elf} \\ \hline \text{+2/+1 ASI} & \text{<<} & \text{+2/+1/+1 ASI}\\ \hline \text{Fey Ancestry} & \text{=} & \text{Fey Ancestry} \\ \hline \text{Darkvision} & \text{=} & \text{Darkvision}\\ \hline \text{Extra Language} & \text{=} & \text{Included}\\ \hline \text{Keen Senses} & \text{≈} & \text{1/2 Skill Versatility}\\ \hline \text{Cantrip} & \text{>} & \text{1/2 Skill Versatility}\\ \hline \text{Trance} & \text{>} & \text{none}\\ \hline \text{Elf Weapon Training} & \text{≈} & \text{none}\\ \hline \end{array}

I consider Keen Senses and "skill of your choice" to be roughly equivalent since Perception is one of the more useful skills available from experience and WoTC Adventure Module analysis. Elf Weapon Training is a very minuscule benefit.

Now let's take your Sun Elf Homebrew and compare it in the same manner.

\begin{array}{rcl} \bf\text{Sun Elf} & & \bf\text{Half-Elf} \\ \hline \text{+2/+1 ASI} & \text{<<} & \text{+2/+1/+1 ASI}\\ \hline \text{Fey Ancestry} & \text{=} & \text{Fey Ancestry} \\ \hline \text{none} & \text{<} & \text{Darkvision}\\ \hline \text{none} & \text{≈} & \text{+1 Language}\\ \hline \text{Noble Heritage} & \text{<} & \text{Skill Versatility}\\ \hline \text{knows } light & \text{>} & \text{none}\\ \hline \text{Trance} & \text{>} & \text{none}\\ \hline \text{Elf Weapon Training} & \text{≈} & \text{none}\\ \hline \text{Celestial Resistance} & \text{>>} & \text{none}\\ \hline \end{array}

This hinges on the fact that Necrotic and Radiant are rarer damage types in your setting and that History and Persuasion are not used more often in your campaign. In a setting with heavy intrigue and/or many creatures that deal Necrotic or Radiant damage, this race may be unbalanced as Celestial Resistance is pushed to much better than status and/or Noble Heritage is roughly equivalent to Skill Versatility (I've not done any analysis on the proportion of campaign-styles where this is relevant like the WoTC balance team likely did, so I can't say for sure if this is balanced overall, but it seems to be).

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    \$\begingroup\$ The only thing I would change is, in the second comparison table, Light could be compared to Darkvision, as this is OP's intention. From my experience, either they would be almost equivalent or darkvision slightly superior. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint May 22 '18 at 18:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HellSaint unfortunately in my experience, they are somewhat dissimilar. Light and darkvision each have their own distinct strengths and weaknesses \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron May 22 '18 at 18:26

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