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We are starting a new campaign tomorrow. It is a more flexible campaign than the usual, “Oh hero, go and save us" style campaign. For once we decided to RP as evil characters.

Someone picked lizardfolk, another yuan-ti pureblood. I am confused about how yuan-ti pureblood work. Although I get that all-in-all yuan-ti is quite OP, there is one thing I can't understand:

In lore, as far as I know (and I might be wrong of course), in the Forgotten Realms wiki it suggests ...

Like all yuan-ti, they could morph their bodies into the form of any viper by force of will alone and could sense the presence of any poison nearby.

How do I handle that? I know that changeling is a race and it has a similar ability, but do the yuan-ti’s stats change, can they bite, or what?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Required reading when using that source for questions \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 17 '18 at 18:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ So the source you're linking to doesn't have any specifics on the race and for the most part, your question is focused upon asking us to help you build a race. I think the answers below provide you enough info to better adjudicate your problem for 5e, but other answers would require us to simply create a race for you which is beyond the scope of SE. \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical Aug 17 '18 at 19:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast: The label on the link was misleading; it's actually the Forgotten Realms wiki page. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Aug 17 '18 at 20:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast I was getting a "page not found" so I had to guess. thanks for catching that. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 17 '18 at 20:40
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In Volo's Guide to Monsters, the block that describes Yuan-Ti Purebloods as a Playable Character Race does not describe them as having the ability to transform, at least in a mechanically-relevant capacity. The only noteworthy features are:

  • Its Innate Spellcasting, allowing at-will casting of the Cantrip Poison Spray and the first level spell Animal Friendship (but only on Snakes), and once-per-day casting of Suggestion.
  • Its Magic Resistance, giving Advantage on Saving Throws from Spell effects (this can be really powerful, consider whether you're going to permit this or not!)
  • Its Poison Immunity, providing, as the name suggests, immunity to the Poisoned condition and all sources of Poison Damage.

The Magic Resistance trait is usually what people talk about when they call Yuan-Ti overpowered. Advantage to Spell Saving Throws is mathematically similar (though not identical, to be clear) to receiving a +5 bonus to all spell-based saving throws, which basically just makes it a slightly weaker version of the effect given by a Paladin's Aura of Protection, itself a very powerful effect, and one that stacks with Advantage rather powerfully.

Any other abilities they have, like the ability to transform, are down to DM fiat, not part of the official statblock.

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    \$\begingroup\$ As a quick note: Removing the Magic Resistance feature is the most common homebrew solution to the Yuan-Ti being overpowered, as it brings them from one of the most OP races to merely middling-level power. Basically, removing the Magic Resistance feature isn't enough of a nerf to make them the weakest playable race, or even a bad/low powered race in general. \$\endgroup\$ – Nicolas Budig Aug 17 '18 at 18:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ No matter how much the publishers wish it weren't true, +5 and advantage are very very different, mathematically. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Aug 17 '18 at 19:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer I'm simplifying because I don't think it's appropriate in this context to provide the entire math lesson on how advantage affects roll outcomes. Someone can edit in a link to one of the (numerous) other posts on the underlying math of advantage vs flat bonuses if they feel it's important to my post. \$\endgroup\$ – Xirema Aug 17 '18 at 19:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Xirema: Here's the relevant question/answers on the impact of advantage or disadvantage: How does rolling two dice and taking the higher affect the average outcome? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Aug 17 '18 at 20:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NicolasBudig while I agree Purebloods are overpowered as they are in VGtM, removing the magic resistance does make them one of the weakest races. Int is mostly wasted on any build that needs Cha, Poison Spray is one of the worst cantrips, and most classes needing Cha can take Suggestion. Poison immunity is great, but not enough to make it mediocre as a whole. \$\endgroup\$ – András Aug 18 '18 at 9:37
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The 'Yuan-Ti' edition-agnostic lore description is not the one people are talking about when they say they are OP

The one people are talking about is the official 'Yuan-Ti Pureblood' race in Volo's Guide to Monsters. That race is very good, but does not possess any of the shapeshifting powers you refer to, nor the ability to sense poison.

The powers you refer to are instead part of the D&D 3.5e abilities for the creature found in that edition's Monster Manual, as noted in the citation for the lore provided on the wiki you were reading.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, I see-It always confused me, the difference between lore and game play mechanics, thanks for the clarification! \$\endgroup\$ – Asildor Aug 17 '18 at 18:11

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