I'm working on a party and one of my players wants to be a tiefling with an air genasi mother and a tiefling father. They want to Look like a tiefling but have the race bonuses of an air genasi.

In addition to this, this player wants to have 'wings' that are purely for the aesthetic but move when they cast Levitate. This is understandable and I think it's a great concept, with the addition to other additional information they cobbled together to make the reasoning behind their unique circumstances (which will take way too long to list) that I think will fit in with my campaign...but a large majority of the other party members are now wanting to do something akin to the tiefling/genasi player.

It goes from simple stuff like a human who's eyes glow red because they have some ancestor that had some orc blood in them to some wild explanations like "my mother's father's wife was a Dragonborn and my dad's great great grandfather was a rock gnome so I want to be able to spit fire AND have the ability to tinker tiny contraptions!" (yes, this is an actual example from a player)

I think the tiefling/genasi is alright and letting someone add rock gnome's tinkering abilities to a character who's race and class doesn't qualify for it seems harmless but I have no idea how destructive it might be in the endgame.

The question is: To what extent should I allow my players to modify their races' stats? I don't want to have too many confusing stat changes and I don't want to seclude everyone from concept ideas that they like but I'm willing to cut it if it's unacceptable. Any advice is highly appreciated.

Note: None of them are sorcerers and they're starting at level 2 Edit: The issue I'm more conflicted with are the players who want to mix and match race mechanics.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I can't tell if you're asking if players can reflavor something or if they actually want to mix and match mechanics. Can you please clarify? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Feb 13, 2020 at 5:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ They want to do a bit of both, but the ones I'm conflicted with are trying to mix and match mechanics \$\endgroup\$ Feb 13, 2020 at 5:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ It'd help if you can edit your question with that clarification. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Feb 13, 2020 at 5:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: How do I create a custom playable race?. Also, do you have access to the Dungeon Master's Guide? Chapter 9 has a section "Creating New Character Options" that addresses player race customization. \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeQ
    Feb 13, 2020 at 5:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ So to be clear: the tiefling - air genasi is just re-skinning? And now others want to get extra powers (or combinations) in addition to just re-skinning? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 13, 2020 at 6:05

1 Answer 1


It depends, but whatever you do, do deliberately.

The level of homebrew that you allow is very much a decision you should make with your group. If changing things around as your players like works for you, go for it! If you'd rather play more by the book, that's also totally valid. As the DM, you have the right to set limits on what players in your group can do. That said, make sure you think clearly about what you're actually allowing. If you don't set specific parameters, it can lead to confusion on what your players are allowed to do. You've already seen some of that.

Changing flavor is different from changing mechanics.

In general, there is no problem with a player wanting their character to have some special aesthetic feature not accounted for in the character creation process, as long as they understand that it will not have a mechanical effect. I've done this a few times, and really it's all upside. It sounds like this is what your Tiefling/Genasi player is doing: they are not changing the mechanic that their character receives during character creation, only the appearance of that character. This is actually mentioned as an option in the DMG (p.285.)

Changing the abilities you get out of character creation is something very different. The DMG speaks to these too, but does not give much guidance on how to do so, stating that it's a more involved process. This is true; the various pieces that go into a race's features are diverse and can have drastically different power levels from each other.

Doing this properly can require some homework to figure out the right balance, especially if everyone wants to do something similar.

If you want to keep things simple, only allow reskinning existing options.

Make it clear to your players that you're more than willing to accept creative explanations for why their character has the abilities that they do, but you don't feel comfortable trying to balance homebrew at this stage of the game. Make sure they understand the difference, and talk to them about why they want a specific feature. You may find that their character concept can be realized within the rules, without needing wholesale changes to character creation.

If you want your players to have maximum flexibility, work with them to create something everyone is happy with.

Make it clear to your players that what they're asking for is different from what you've already allowed, but you're willing to accommodate it. Set some ground rules immediately. For example, you might want to say that any homebrew is subject to being revisited if it causes problems in the future. You also might want to limit changes to strictly during character creation, to prevent the game slowing down later on as people start to re-evaluate what they thought they wanted.

Either way, communication is key.

The best way to make sure you're being fair is to talk through your decision-making process on this with your players. Make sure they understand why you're drawing the line where you are, and make extra sure they understand where that line is.

Above all, remember that your decision now isn't set in stone. As you get more experienced, you might feel more comfortable making changes on the fly, and compromising by reskinning when things go too far. Or, you might find that it's simpler to just play withing rules as written, and tighten your boundaries for future games.


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