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I'm still relatively new to dnd, and was trying to build a homebrew race for the first time. I tried basing myself mostly on orcs and lizardfolk at first, but the race I was making took quite a turn while I developed the ideas on how they live and function a bit more. I tried my best to stick closely to the detect balance scale, but even though the numbers seem to be fairly close to those of the official races, I still can't shake the feeling that this homebrew of mine is still too unbalanced, and the fact I don't have a party I can ask for help or play-test it with now makes it harder to get a better idea.

From the perspective of someone who's more experienced in the game, is my "Fehl-her" race too overpowered?

[Fehl-her Traits]:

Ability score increase: Your strength score increases by 2 and your dexterity score increases by 1. Your charisma score is reduced by 2. (+12,-4)

Age: the Fehl-her reach maturity at 5 years old and live up to a maximum of 100 years.

Alignment: the Fehl-her strongly defend the importance of order as the most important thing to ensure proper functioning of their group, being usually lawful.

Size: a Fehl-her grows no larger than 7 feet tall, averaging at 6 feet, weighting between 160 and 180 pounds. Your size is medium. (0)

Speed: you have a walking speed of 30 feet and a climbing speed equal to your walking speed. (+2)

Languages: you can speak, read and write in common language, as well as speak in Fehl-her. (0)

Darkvision: The dark corridors of the colony are your home. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in Darkness as if it were dim light. You can't discern color in Darkness, only Shades of Gray. (+3)

Built-in armor: your tough exoskeleton makes you hard to harm. Your AC is 13+ dexterity. (+3)

Ambush predator: You're proficient in the stealth and perception skills. (+4)

Raptorial blades: your forelimbs have durable bladed appendages (finesse) which protrude from the forearms. Deal 1d6 piercing/slashing damage. (+6)

Bug bite: the chitinous plates in your head hide powerful Jaws. Deals 1d4+strength of piercing damage. (+1)

Always watching: You do not require sleep to survive. When you take a long rest, you must spend at least six hours of it in an inactive, motionless state, rather than sleeping. In this state, you appear inert, but it doesn’t render you unconscious, and you can see and hear as normal. (+3)

Balance score Result: 30

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    \$\begingroup\$ Funny side-note: "Fehl-Her" is very close to the German word "Fehler" which means "mistake" :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Philipp
    Jun 22 at 14:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ I assume you mean dexterity, not agility. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 22 at 14:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelRichardson Please don't answer in comments. We try not to do that here. Putting that into an answer would be a great move with support to gain that sweet sweet rep. \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Jun 22 at 16:02
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Overall this race is lacking.

Ability Score Increase: Almost all races get +2/+1, while yours have +2/+1/-2, making this race already weak off the bat. Further, their two increases are for what tend to be mutually-exclusive offensive stats, you either want to be focusing on Str for attacks and wearing heavy armor, or you want high Dex for attacks and to make up for only wearing light armor.

Age/Alignment/Size/Language: not relevant to balance.

Speed: 30 is the average for most other races, so not too strong or weak. Climb speeds aren't common, and this does make them have a slightly better niche.

Darkvision: A fairly common ability, and (if my memory serves me correctly) more races have it than don't. Again, not particularly strong or weak.

Built-in-Armor: Having a minimum armor score that is better than the best light armor you can get (and equivalent to Mage Armor) is pretty solidly good, but not exceptional. Rogues and arcane casters would get the most out of this, while fighters, barbarians, and the like would see little to no use from it.

Ambush Predator: Two skill proficiencies is fairly par for the course, and since Perception is the most rolled skill in the game, and Stealth is probably second or third, so even though they don't get a selection like the Lizardfolk do, these two skills are still very good. Overall these are fairly balanced.

Raptorial Blades/Bug Bite: Giving Raptorial Blades the finesse property isn't something you would normally see on natural weapons, but there are quite a few natural weapons that have rider effects and having finesse in place some other effect is certainly within the bounds of balance. Bug Bite, on the other hand, is entirely a waste. Since it's both weaker than the blades (from a damage perspective, d6 vs d4, as well as because it lacks finesse) and can't be used with Two Weapon Fighting, there's not really a reason to even have the ability, it'll never get used. Drop it and give them something that's actually useful.

Always Watching: This is functionally the same as the elf Trance or the warforged Sentries Rest. Not a particularly powerful ability, this is borderline a "ribbon ability" or that is to say, an ability that exists for flavor purposes but mechanically doesn't contribute much, if anything.


Bottom line, this race is to weak. The relevant abilities are their natural armor and weapon, the skill proficiencies, and the ability score penalty, which overall makes them somewhat lackluster compared to other race options.

This race seems to be intended as a stealthy ambusher who drops on prey from above, likely native to a heavily forested area, or possibly a more arid environment with cliffs, canyons, and mesas. With that in mind, my recommendations are:

  1. Drop the Cha penalty.
  2. Drop the bite.
  3. Focus on either the Str or Dex score, and possibly swap one for a Wis or Con bonus, or perhaps an Int bonus if they're especially cunning predators. Personally, I think Dex would make more sense than Str for the type of creature you appear to be going for, and without Dex, the finesse property on the blades wouldn't be very good.
  4. Give them some sort of ability that plays into them being an ambush predator. Maybe some sort of bonus on attacks or initiative when they get a surprise round. Alternatively, perhaps you could give them some special attack when they drop onto a target from above.
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This is probably on the weak side.

I'm going to compare to the Lizardfolk, which is pretty close to your idea in general. (That might be another concern, but not a balance one)

Ability scores: Felh-her have +2/+1/-2 while Lizardfolk have +2/+1. Clear winner: Lizardfolk.

Speed: Felh-her have 30ft + climbing, Lizardfolk have 30ft + swimming. About the same.

Armor: Both have 13+dex natural, so the same

Skills: 2 fixed ones for the Fehl-her versus choose 2 out of 5 (including the two the Fehl-her gets) for the Lizardfolk. Clear winner: Lizardfolk

Natural weapons: 1d6 with finesse versus for the Fehl-Her versus 1d6 without for the Lizardfolk. However Fehl-her get an ability boost to Strength, so using the Finesse means going against your best natural ability. I'm saying it's about the same.

These are the most powerful abilities your race has, and the Lizardfolk does most the same and two substantially better.

Then to add to it, the Lizardfolk gets a bonus action special attack and two minor abilities (Cunning Artisan and Hold Breath). All the Fehl-her get is Darkvision and Always Watching.

You should probably drop the Cha penalty and add at least potent feature to this race, just to bring them up to the level of most other races.

As an added bonus, this lets you differentiate them from the other races, because right now it has nothing fancy that makes it unique and all races should have at least one thing that makes you go "ah, you're a [Race]".

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I see. I honestly thought as it was it had too many traits, and that having 2 built in blades would be too big of an advantage. I even reduced the bite damage from a d6 to a d4 as a result. Would you kindly elaborate a little on what do you mean by adding a potent feature? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 22 at 14:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Something not worth separate answer as it agrees with this one - ability score penalties were common in 3.5 era and 5e removed them almost completely. Another reason to remove cha penalty. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Jun 22 at 15:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ProjectApex A natural weapon dealing 1d6 damage is as useful as a 10gp standard-issue short sword. The only advantage is the situational benefit that a natural weapon can't be taken away. And it gets obsolete as soon as magical weapons become available. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philipp
    Jun 22 at 15:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ProjectApex were you thinking this creature could use both built-in weapons at the same time, or in addition to another weapon or something? Because that's not currently the case. They can't claw and bite at the same time, so the bite will almost never see any use. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Jun 22 at 16:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Tbh: when would you ever use the bite except for very very weird circumstances? Its just a weak arm attack so nobody would ever use it \$\endgroup\$
    – Hobbamok
    Jun 23 at 8:24
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Please don't include a penalty to an ability score. This leads to overspecialization -- people who take this character will be people who plan to never use CHA at all. Players have more fun when their characters are not overspecialized. Also, the system has more integrity when people don't have near-meaningless disadvantages.

Thanks for adding the point scores to your question! It makes our job easier. :)

Although your point count is correct, your points are fighting each other:

  • on the one hand, you have a +2 to STR, which suggests a high-strength build wearing heavy armor (8 points)
  • on the other hand, you have a +1 to DEX and an armor ability that is only useful if you have a DEX-based build (7 points)

Anyone who uses this race will have to choose one of the two paths above, and the other points will be mostly useless to them. I understand that this is a thing that happens with the base Lizardfolk race as well, but honestly the conclusion I reach is that the base Lizardfolk race is sort of weak. (I've never seen anyone playing as a Lizardfolk in any game I've been in, which reinforces my belief that it's a weak choice.)

Likewise, the natural weapons seem like a pure-flavor choice; I can't think of a build that would benefit from them. (Also, as before, one of the attacks is STR based and the other is DEX based!)

I don't necessarily think this race needs a "single signature ability" -- it's fine IMO to just have a collection of useful traits. But you should think carefully about the STR/DEX split.

The Detect Balance sheet has a "Synergy" section which suggests you could deduct half the point cost of the cheaper abilities. I'd deduct four points for this incompatibility (DEX and armor cost seven points, and then the two natural weapons being incompatible is maybe an extra point) and use them to cancel out the -2 CHA penalty.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the bite attack is pure flavor; it won't be useful no matter what you do. Adding +2 to DEX instead would help. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan B
    Jun 22 at 16:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Correction: One natural weapon is Str based, and the other is Str or Dex based. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 22 at 17:51
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Ability score increase: Your strength score increases by 2 and your dexterity score increases by 1. Your charisma score is reduced by 2. (+12,-4)

Negative ability score are not in the PHB and should be avoided.

Also, note that the Tasha's optional rules let you float these.

Next, Dex and Strength are the two least synergous stats in 5e. High dex means you don't need strength that much, as you can attack with bows/finesse melee weapons, and wear light armor for near heavy armor AC.

High strength means you can wear heavy armor, which ignores dex to AC, and attack with melee and thrown weapons.

Languages/Age/Alignment/Size aren't important to balance I don't think.

Darkvision: The dark corridors of the colony are your home. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in Darkness as if it were dim light. You can't discern color in Darkness, only Shades of Gray. (+3)

I'd actually cut darkvision. It is too common, honestly. But it is a minor bump.

Speed: you have a walking speed of 30 feet and a climbing speed equal to your walking speed. (+2)

Climbing isn't bad.

Built-in armor: your tough exoskeleton makes you hard to harm. Your AC is 13+ dexterity. (+3)

This is reasonably strong. Even on a barbarian, you'd need 16 con to match this AC unarmored. And as equivalent to mage armor or +1 studded or a few class features, isn't nothing.

It does tend to make a dex-build for this race more optimal. Which makes the str boost less useful, outside of tasha's optional rules.

Ambush predator: You're proficient in the stealth and perception skills. (+4)

These are among the two most rolled skills in the game. It does sort of make sense for an ambush predator, but I might drop perception here and make it survival or athletics.

Ambush predators aren't good at spotting ambushes, they are good at setting them. Prey have better perception than predators.

Raptorial blades: your forelimbs have durable bladed appendages (finesse) which protrude from the forearms. Deal 1d6 piercing/slashing damage. (+6)

The wording here needs work.

Piercing/slashing, do you mean they can pick on each attack? There is no hybrid damage in 5e.

Is it an unarmed attack that does this, or is it a weapon?

Bug bite: the chitinous plates in your head hide powerful Jaws. Deals 1d4+strength of piercing damage. (+1)

This is strictly worse than the other natural weapon, unless you are holding items in your hands, and those are worse than your natural weapons, so you need to bite.

I'd rewrite this. Or delete it. If you keep it, it is noise, and worth 0 balance wise.

Always watching: You do not require sleep to survive. When you take a long rest, you must spend at least six hours of it in an inactive, motionless state, rather than sleeping. In this state, you appear inert, but it doesn’t render you unconscious, and you can see and hear as normal. (+3)

This seems more like a feature of prey, not a predator.

If you want to push the ambush nature, you could have a stealth torpor here. Add in a bit of hide in plain sight ness here somehow.

Like, you can hide against natural surfaces with no other cover or concealment over 10 minutes so long as you are motionless and not wearing armor. In this state, you are aware of your surroundings, and can take a short or long rest, blah blah blah.

This then lines up the built-in armor feature with your rest feature.


Reworking

Fehl-her Traits

Ability score increase: Your strength, dexterity and constitution score all increase by 1. In addition, you can pick any one statistic to increase by 1 point, including your strength, dexterity or constitution.

Age: the Fehl-her reach maturity at 5 years old and live up to a maximum of 100 years.

Alignment: the Fehl-her strongly defend the importance of order as the most important thing to ensure proper functioning of their group, being usually lawful.

Size: a Fehl-her grows no larger than 7 feet tall, averaging at 6 feet, weighting between 160 and 180 pounds. Your size is medium.

Speed: you have a walking speed of 30 feet and a climbing speed equal to your walking speed.

Languages: you can speak, read and write in common language, as well as speak in the tremor-language of Fehl-her. Fehl-her is communicated by vibrating a surface you are both touching; it has a range similar to speech, but that produces noise as loud as normal speech. Using it silently reduces its range to the tremorsense of the communicating creatures.

Tremorsense: The dark corridors of the colony are your home. You have Tremorsense with a range of 15'.

Exoskeleton: your tough exoskeleton makes you hard to harm. When not wearing armor, your AC is 13+ your dexterity modifier.

Ambush predator: You're proficient in the stealth and athletics skills.

Raptorial blades: Your forelimbs are durable bladed appendages. When not holding an item in a hand, you can treat your hand as holding a as 1d6 light finesse weapon that deals slashing damage you are proficient in when making an attack.

Bug bite: As a bonus action when you are grappling with a creature or on your turn after you strike a critical hit with a melee attack, you can make an attack with your powerful Jaws. On a hit, you deal 1d4+strength piercing damage.

Ambush topor: During a rest, you can spend 10 minutes entering an ambush topor. If you are not wearing armor you blend into a natural background, allowing you to hide without any cover or concealment. You can stay awake and aware and rest so long as you do not move, and if spotted you appear inert. Being in this state for 6 or more hours replaces your need for sleep for that day.


Tremorsense is worse than blindsight, and at 15' the range is quite limited. It also evokes the feel of a creature living in tight corridors underground.

Making the language be a Tremor-language is fluff.

The bug bite still exists, and has impact. It isn't a huge one.

Athletics is designed to avoid synergizing with the dex-bias of the rest of the race at this point.

+1 to all physical with a floating point (which can go to mental stats) is more in line with Tashas. The tertiary +1 isn't all that useful if you allow full floating, and if you don't the lack of str/dex synergy in 5e makes that benefit weaker anyhow.

I reworded the blades so they are clearly using the weapon rules.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Just for the sake of helping with the detect balance math, would you classify tremorsense, at a radius of 30 ft (for simplicity) more on par with 60 ft of darkvision or closer to 30 ft of blindsight with blindness beyond that radius? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 23 at 18:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ProjectApex Tremor is worse than blindsight, as it doesn't work against flying foes, but not by far. The range is also tiny. The goal was something about as good as 60 feet of darkvision -- 1/4 the range, can see invisible things, ground-touching limit -- but far more flavorful. My original idea was 5' to 10' blindsight, but then thought tremor would be a better match, so I boosted it to 15'. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yakk
    Jun 23 at 18:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ I see. I will try doing the math and see what I do. I'll probably consider it as a score of 3, 4 in case I consider 30 feet. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 23 at 18:45

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