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I am homebrewing a race based on the Skeksis for D&D 5e. The canonical Skeksis have a strong sense of smell, so I am using this as a racial trait. I looked up references but could only find a modified version of ability from 3.5 DnD and a very ambiguous trait for 5e. I took part in the 3.5 ability and modified it. The race has no other racial traits currently unless the ability score modifiers are counted.

The original ability:

Scent. This extraordinary special quality allows a creature to detect approaching enemies, sniff out hidden foes, and track by sense of smell. Creatures with the scent sense can identify familiar odors just as humans do familiar sights. Creatures that would have this sense normally have Keen Smell trait or similar feature such as the Wolf, but it is ultimately up to the DM to grant this sense to a creature. The Scent sense will grant the creature the ability to do the following below:

Detection. The creature with the Scent sense can detect other creatures within 30 feet by sense of smell. If upwind, the range increases to 60 feet; if downwind, it drops to 15 feet.

Strong scents, such as smoke or rotting garbage, can be detected at twice the ranges noted above. Overpowering scents, such as skunk musk or troglodyte stench can be detected at triple the ranges noted above.

When a creature detects a scent, the exact location of the source is not revealed, only that its presence is somewhere within range. Whenever the creature with scent comes within 5 feet of the source, the creature pinpoints the source’s location.

My modified version:

Keen Smell. You can detect other creatures within 30 feet by sense of smell and determine what race they are solely by smell. You cannot detect how many there are. If upwind, the range increases to 60 feet; if downwind, it drops to 15 feet. When a creature detects a scent, the exact location of the source is not revealed, only that its presence is somewhere within range.

Racial Features

ASIs: Skeksis get +2 to constitution,

Young adult / ≤300: +1 dexterity

Adult / ≥500: +1 intelligence, +1 strength

Elder / ≥700: +2 intelligence, -1 dex.

Skeksis lifespan. 900 years, skeksis reach maturity by 250 years

Language. Although they do have their own native language, Urske, it has become a nearly dead language as Skeksis have switched over to speaking Common as a first language. Only linguists and a few others still know or even use Urske.

Alignment. Skeksis are known for many things, however a kind and generous nature is not one of them. Skeksis, while not wholly inclined towards evil, have found themselves to be such as a result of their selfish nature. However most Skeksis tend towards neutral. Skeksis are quite inclined towards lawfulness due to their tight-knit societies however some who are more distant from Skeksis society may be neutral.

Speed. Due to their short legs, most Skeksis shuffle to get around. However those who have trained their legs with lots of exercise can boast a faster gait to get around. Base walking speed is 25.

Size. Skeksis are 6 feet tall on average. Your size is medium.

Keen Smell. You can detect other creatures within 30 feet by sense of smell and determine what race they are solely by smell. You cannot detect how many there are. If upwind, the range increases to 60 feet; if downwind, it drops to 15 feet. When a creature detects a scent, the exact location of the source is not revealed, only that its presence is somewhere within range.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I removed the lore section as it isn't really relevant and removed the previous comments as they where dealt with or tangential. I would still like to see your design notes on this. Specifically why you think this race is balanced, or why you are suspect/fear it isn't. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Sep 28 '20 at 23:20
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Balance is not a problem with keen smell. The design is potentially a problem.

This adds complexity that runs contrary to the design principles of 5th Edition.

I would not want to DM this. Typically, if you are good at smell, I just have to say, "roll at advantage", and your extra good tracking skills are baked into the advantage roll and proficiency (or expertise) in the survival skill. I don't have to change anything about my world building for it to be a useful trait. This ability requires that I put in extra work into my scene-setting for it to be applicable at all.

If one of the players at my table has this ability, now I have to pay careful attention to the exact positioning of undetected creatures and the precise direction of the wind throughout a scene for you to make use of the ability. But let me emphasize, I would find this problematic, but another DM may not.

As written, this ability probably wouldn't play out too much differently than if I were DMing and it was written as:

Keen Smell. You can detect other creatures within 30 feet by sense of smell and determine what race they are solely by smell. You cannot detect how many there are. You have advantage on Wisdom (Survival) checks relying on smell.

I would be sure to let you get mileage out of it, but I wouldn't be checking windy.com every time I set the scene. But I must be clear, another DM might have no problem keeping track of this.

It's balanced, but ask your DM how they would prefer to implement this feature, whether as written, or more simply just using advantage.

Overall, the race is slightly weaker than average to average.

The strongest age group here gets two +1s and a +2, which is pretty strong, and your base speed is 25 feet.

Compare to the base Dwarf race (PHB, pg. 20) which gets a +2 to CON, three racial features, some weapon proficiencies and a tool proficiency.

Your race is somewhat weaker than the standard dwarf, in my estimation. The ASIs are stronger than most races, at +2/+1/+1, but I think one more racial feature, probably a proficiency would bring it up to par or to slightly above average, depending on what it is.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The wind mechanic could be simplified to that the ability simply has a range of 60. Thoughts? \$\endgroup\$ – MintySweeTea Sep 28 '20 at 13:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mintysweetea the range isn't the issue, it is the mechanics. There are a lot of additional mechanical issues I would have with your class that isn't part of this question. Sticking to 5e principles is usually best. \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Sep 28 '20 at 13:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Perhaps a bonus proficiency in Survival, to reflect the ability to track via scent ... \$\endgroup\$ – Pugmonkey Sep 28 '20 at 19:16

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