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Could you please evaluate the below race in terms of balance issues? I am trying to keep it at ECL 0 but some of the qualities while minor are a bit difficult to evaluate when combined.

Sidhelien (Elf)

  • Ability: -2 Strength, +2 Dexterity, -2 Constitution, +2 Intelligence, +2 Charisma.

  • Size: Medium

  • Speed: 30 feet.

  • Immunity (1): To magic sleep spells and a +2 racial saving throw bonus against Enchantment spells & effects.

  • Immunity (2): To normal disease and +2 racial saving throw bonus against magical disease spells & effects.

  • Senses (1): Low-light Vision.

  • Senses (2): +2 racial bonus on Listen, Search, and Spot checks. Do NOT gain the automatic search check within 5’ that standard Player’s Handbook elves receive.

  • Weapons: Proficient with longsword, shortbow, longbow, composite longbow, and composite shortbow.

  • Sleep: Elves do not require sleep (but can do an elven version if they desire it). Instead they need to only rest (light activities such as keeping watch) for the same amount of time as a human sleeps (eight hours).

  • Timeless: Immortal (in regards to aging). Do not suffer penalties from aging (still receive bonuses) (Fluff:- Can be killed but otherwise can live forever).

  • Nature Stride: May move in natural terrain without leaving any tracks as per the Pass Without Trace Spell and with their normal movement rate and without suffering any damage or penalty.

  • Automatic Language: Sidhelien. Bonus Languages : As per Campaign.

  • Favored Class: Choose any one arcane spellcasting class (Bard, Sorcerer, Wizard).

  • Alignment Restriction: Must follow a non-lawful alignment.

  • Infamous Reputation (Alien Mein)**: Sidhelien receive a -4 racial penalty to Diplomacy and Gather Information and a +4 racial bonus to Intimidate.

  • Soulless (1)**: Cannot be raised by Raise Dead or Resurrection, only by a Wish or Miracle same as Outsiders.

  • Soulless (2)**: Cannot be a member of classes which channel Divine power such as clerics, druids or paladins. May become a non-spellcasting variant of a ranger.

The experienced ones among you might recognise this race as a conversion of the elves in the 2E Campaign Setting "Birthright". I've always preferred this version of elves over others as they seem more "Tolkien-esque" then the ones in the PHB. Immortal, Not needing to sleep, moving without trace etc. I've used them in 3.5 Birthright games but want to use them in other settings (being a planar traveller or something) so was concerned about balance issues. (Let me put it this way: In Birthright Halflings could basically Detect Evil/Undead/Magic at will and use Dimension Door or Shadow Walk three times a week.)

Race Details & Changes From Normal Elves:

Bonuses:

  • They have an unbalanced ability bonus (3x +2 attributes and 2x -2 attributes) but according to the DMG on page 173, a Strength penalty is worth a bonus to Intelligence AND Charisma while Dexterity and Constitution are given equal weight.
  • They are immune to normal disease and slightly resistant to magical disease. My personal experience in games is that normal disease was never a problem for characters so I don't think the immunity is an big advantage. The resistance to magical disease might be but I don't know how much to weigh the +2 bonus.
  • They do not gain the automatic search check that normal elves receive. My personal experience... this is not a big penalty at all (or an advantage for that matter).
  • Not requiring sleep: In all honesty I do not know exactly how to weigh this. While Sidhelien do not need to sleep or trance they do require rest for the full eight hours a human does (not four hours), on the other hand how often does this come up in games?
  • Immortality, this is almost pure fluff as I have never seen any character/campaign last long enough for age penalties/bonuses without a timeskip where we also prepare their replacement characters.
  • Nature Stride, this is perhaps the most obvious and biggest boost. The Sidhelien get what is effectively a 1st level spell and also the ability to ignore terrain penalties in natural environments but is it worth a level adjustment?

Penalties:

  • As per the Birthright setting, Sidhelien are fairly chaotic and cannot be lawful at all.
  • Again as per the Birthright setting, Sidhelien cannot be members of divine classes and practically never worship deities (They are all faithless...).
  • Infamous Reputation: This came from 3.0 BRCS (a fan-made conversion of 2E Birthright) as a way to give penalties to the Sidhelien race. In 3.0 BRCS, this was justified as the Sidhelien had waged war against practically every humanoid race. As I intend to use a character of this race in other settings I was going to change the justification to Sidhelien being a bit in-human that despite being humanoid there was just something in the way they moved, spoke and behaved that was a bit alien that struck people as intimidating because they otherwise looked normal.
  • Resurrect like Outsiders, partly to simulate Tolkien and partly to reflect certain revelations that came in one of the last splat books for Birthright. This is a penalty if your group handles character death strictly.

So is it balanced for ECL 0?

I know it's on the high end for ECL 0 (and definitely better than normal elves, but I don't see normal elves being that popular for their abilities - they are more popular for being elves). That being said, if you really think they need further penalties are needed, then could you please consider the following:

  1. Breaking Nature Stride into two abilities and delaying them to 3rd (No Terrain Penalty) and 5th level (Pass without trace) of whichever class the Sidhelien PC takes?

  2. Beneficial Divine Spells cast on you function suffer a penalty of 2 Caster level. If this lowers the caster level below the minimum required for the spell, the spell fails to affect the character. This does not apply towards Druid spells (due to nature connection).

If the above are not suitable, then any ideas would be welcome.

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The race is unbalanced but not for the reasons in the question

I've gone through the abilities point-by-point. I hope that's okay. I think with some minor changes this could be fine.

  • Ability Scores: While the listed ability score adjustments are −2 Strength, +2 Dexterity, −2 Constitution, +2 Intelligence, and +2 Charisma, the ability score adjustments that you'll see at the table are −2 Strength, +2 Dexterity, −2 Constitution, +5 Intelligence, +3 Wisdom, and +5 Charisma. This is unbalanced. See the Timeless bullet below.
  • Immunities and Resistances: These elves have the normal elf immunity to magic sleep effects and the normal elf +2 racial bonus on saving throws against enchantment effects. In addition, these elves have immunity to normal diseases and a +2 racial bonus on saving throws against magic diseases. In my experience with traditional campaigns, the latter is typically only a frequent thing at very low levels (q.v. dire rats); afterward, its utility plummets.
  • Senses and Skill Bonuses: The typical elf low-light vision and the typical elf racial skill bonuses, but the loss of the standard elf's automatic Search skill checks to find secret and concealed door is a drawback. but, again, usually only at low levels.
  • Racial Weapon Proficiencies: The loss of the rapier isn't actually that big of a deal. Anyone who wants to play this kind of elf is taking it to play a wizard and, even if the player is taking this race to play a rogue or fighter, those classes will get proficiency with the rapier anyway. It's an unusual drawback, but not a significant one. (Few wizards were going to take the feat Weapon Finesse anyway!)
  • Sleep: The ability to trance instead of sleep is already an elf feature, albeit one that's easily overlooked. The Player's Handbook on Elf on Physical Description says

    Elves do not sleep, as members of the other common races do. Instead, an elf meditates in a deep trance for 4 hours a day. An elf resting in this fashion gains the same benefit that a human does from 8 hours of sleep. While meditating, an elf dreams, though these dreams are actually mental exercises that have become reflexive through years of practice. The Common word for an elf’s meditation is “trance,” as in “four hours of trance.” (15)

    This seems to serve the same purpose as this race's Sleep entry; I recommend using it as written but changing its flavor to suit.

  • Timeless: Gaining ability score increases for aging while not suffering the decreases is the big deal. (See also this question.) The Player's Handbook says, "You can choose or randomly generate your character’s age" (109). If a player isn't penalized for having his PC be a million years old, then a designer can expect the occasional PC to be a million years old, and the DM is forced to deal with the ramifications of that. (It's kind of incomprehensible to have a million-year-old level 1 PC, for instance.) However, if a player is rewarded for having his PC be a million years old, then a designer can expect a lot of million-year-old PCs!

    That's what happens here. This amateur designer would expect every sidhelien PC to be venerable so as to receive ability score adjustments of +3 on Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma while suffering none of the venerable age category's downsides. If that's what you're after, that's cool, but the race's description needs to account for it. If you're thinking Well, no one would do that because that's absurd my own experience and Internet messageboards have taught me that folks can be pretty absurd when they realize they can get a significant mechanical advantage for nothing.

    The easy fix? Add A sidhelien's ability scores neither increases nor decrease due to her age. Done.

  • Nature Stride: An ability extremely similar to this already exists: the druid 3 extraordinary ability trackless step (PH 36). I recommend using identical mechanics, much like the bamboo spirit folk (Oriental Adventures 14–15). Alternatively, it's legit to give the race the following spell-like ability: 1/day—pass without trace (PH 259) except that the creature can only target itself.

  • Languages: Races do actually need a list of bonus languages. Without a list, high Intelligence creatures get no additional languages for having high Intelligence scores. If the Bonus Languages entry is Any, you may also want exclude secret languages like druidic.
  • Favored Class: A slight benefit here. Note that most campaigns eschew completely the favored class rules. Changing the traditional elf favored class from wizard to a choice is a slight upside that probably few will notice. (As an aside, players in my campaign have never lobbied me to remove the favored class rules; I think they may find the favored class rules an interesting additional bind for their fairly optimized PCs. Likewise, I, too, have NPCs use the favored class rules. Again, though, I expect I'm in the minority.)
  • Alignment Restriction: If a sidhelien must follow a nonlawful alignment, either there must be punishment associated with not following the alignment or the DM must step in and say, You're character wouldn't do that when the player says his PC is going to violate his alignment. If kept as presented, the DM and the player will spend hours having philosophical and legal arguments about alignment. None of these options are palatable.

    Just allow PCs to be of any alignment and if you make a monster stat block for these creatures, list their alignments as always nonlawful (and, even then, always doesn't mean always; see this answer).

  • Alien Mein: While it's rare for a DM to allow the Diplomacy skill to be weaponized to the degree that it can be, allowing the Intimidate skill to be so weaponized is much more acceptable, and this is a significant bonus—enough that it matters for the best Intimidate-skill based feat, Imperious Command (Drow of the Underdark 50). Nonetheless, neither bard, sorcerer, nor wizard get Intimidate as a class skill.

    Consider omitting this completely. It's just numbers that are meant to reflect role-playing—which, to be clear, I generally approve of—, but everybody hates you is better represented by lowering creatures' starting disposition toward the race: "When a creature that possesses an Intelligence score of 3 or higher initially realizes you are a sidhelien, the creature's disposition toward you is worsened by one band (e.g. an indifferent creature becomes unfriendly)."

  • Soulless I: Note that I like a lot that a creature that can't die of old age also can't be brought back to life if it dies (short of 9th-level magic). Narratively, that's kind of awesome: "The gods gave you eternity so, for heaven's sake, be careful!"

    However, the downside of not being able to be brought back from the dead except by high-level magic is not playing, and—seriously—players show up to play. Failing a saving throw and dying for most PCs means the others bring him back from the dead; to bring this PC back from the dead is a quest. (I always assumed Gygax had rules like this because old-school PCs fit on an index card and a new one could be made and introduced quickly, the player only not playing while he rolled his new PC's stats. Contemporary PCs are far more complicated.) This is a bear to handle in-game and out, and a downside for everyone, including the DM.

    Consider an alternative that's still painful but not overwhelming, like doubling the price of the material components that must be spent to bring back from the dead the PC. Justify this with The gods demand extreme sacrifice to loose the unaging sidhelien's soul from the afterlife or something.

  • Soulless II: I think this is better phrased as follows: "A sidhelien cannot take levels in a class that casts divine spells." That's an unusual restriction but not an unprecedented one (a few monsters that advance by character class have similar restrictions).

By an extremely conservative Player's Handbook comparison or by using Savage Species, I suspect the race—with minor changes, not the least of which to the racial traits soulless I and timeless—comes in at a Level Adjustment of +1, removing the racial skill bonuses completely would certainly lower it to +0. However, this reader thinks that removal an overreaction. Were those minor changes made, the race seems like an acceptable (even sort of underwhelming) LA +0, probably taken most often by those who like its flavor.


Note: My familiarity with the Birthright setting is only passing. I've read the Third Edition articles about the setting in Dragon magazine, and I've looked through the fan-made-but-Wizards-of-the-Coast-apporved Third Edition conversion books for interesting material, but I am by no means a Birthright scholar. My suggestions are made from a Third Edition game balance standpoint, not a Birthright fluff standpoint.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for your answer, in regards to Timeless I suppose I should have made the following clear : In our table's games if you try to take advantage of age like that you would have to explain why your decades / centuries old character is at Level 1. One DM / player took this somewhat seriously and we all rolled with it in all our games. Elves and Dwarfs for example have their starting ages lowered to 40 and 25 respectively so it does not seem like they spent decades without learning anything. So in all honesty age progression is a bit more of a fluff / npc advantage. \$\endgroup\$ – Sarethus Jul 2 at 12:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Sarethus While that's fine for your campaigns, other folks' campaigns may not have the same strong gentlemen's agreement. (My house rules, in fact, mandate PCs have the age category adulthood, and fellow user KRyan, I think, says Pick any age; aging modifiers don't apply.) If you're considering this race solely for your campaign, that's solution's fine, but readers who are considering it for their campaigns need to be aware of the pitfalls! (Seriously, the linked question on dragonwrought kobolds shows that this is a big enough deal to warrant serious attention.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jul 2 at 12:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Regarding Alient Mien : What I am trying to do is bring this race to other worlds where Sidhe are not known but I do understand and agree with your general idea. I'll edit it in. Regarding Alignment I will add consequences as you suggested (Maybe XP frozen due to 'insanity'). Regarding Souless I think your right will try to think of a consequence (Maybe permanently looses a level?). Regarding your second comment (was typing this at the time) I will make it clear that it is an NPC advantage only. \$\endgroup\$ – Sarethus Jul 2 at 12:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Sarethus If you're going to make significant changes to the material—and I suspect you are—pose a new question instead of editing this one. My answer is predicated on the current material. Changing the current material obsoletes my answer and confuses those who come later. (To be clear, a new question for updated material is SOP here.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jul 2 at 12:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ hmm, I don't mind posting a new question but I thought it was better ettiquete to edit the above one (just updating the traits in response to your points and to include a few of your points to be honest.) but if you really feel it's better to post a new question, I will do so. Just let me know in response to this comment. \$\endgroup\$ – Sarethus Jul 2 at 12:38

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