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Leaflings are a small race of fey creatures, resembling human children with pointed ears and green tinged skin, that inhabit idyllic places of natural beauty in proximity to humanoid settlements. These creatures live on the inside of large trees, most commonly ancient oak trees, or under roofs made of thick, thorny bushes. Natural friends to all animals and creatures of the woods, it is not uncommon for a band of leaflings to refer to a dryad or nymph as an incarnation of their goddess, treating her with great respect. A colony of Leaflings is lead by a Thornpriest - a druid or nature cleric devoted to the Soil Mother, a goddess of woodlands and the idyllic beauty of nature. As creatures of immense curiosity, they often venture into human settlements, especially those of a less industrialised nature. Here are the stats:

  • Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2 and either your Wisdom or Intelligence score increases by 1.
  • Size. Leaflings average at around 2 and a half feet tall, with the tallest among them reaching up to 3 feet in height. Your size is Small.
  • Speed. Your base walking speed is 25 feet.
  • Heartsight. As a bonus action, you can touch a creature and magically detect its current emotional state. If the target fails a Charisma saving throw with a DC of 8 + your Charisma modifier + your proficiency bonus, you also know the creature’s alignment. Celestials, fiends, and undead automatically fail this saving throw.
  • Bite Like Ants. If you surprise a creature and hit it with an attack on your first turn in combat, the creature's movement speed becomes 0 until the start of your next turn. You can use this trait only once per combat.
  • Small and Hidden. You have proficiency in the Stealth skill. In addition, you suffer no penalties while squeezing.
  • Languages. You can speak, read and write Common and Sylvan.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ What is emotional state? \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Jul 27 at 11:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri "Emotional state" doesn't need a rule-ish definition. It's used in its standard English meaning just like in the Sprite statblock \$\endgroup\$ Jul 27 at 11:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ It would help to have a definition given this time it is in a players hands rather than the DM. The DM gets to decide what it means on a case by case basis, a player doesn't, so they need something to work from in order to make good use of that kind of feature. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Jul 27 at 14:09

4 Answers 4

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This is significantly underpowered

I have used the Detect Balance spreadsheet, a handy tool for balancing homebrew races, to assess your race, here is how the breakdown looks down:

  • Ability Score Increase - 3 ASI is standard for most official races. Des + Wis/Int is a good combination, widely useful. The newest trend in 5E has been to get rid of ability-specific modifiers though, and use floating ASI, that might be something you might want to consider. +12 points.
  • Size - Being Small has a few advantages and disadvantages but most of them are really minor and situational. +0 points.
  • Speed - 25 feet is slower than most races' 30, if you're playing on a grid, that gives you 1 fewer square of movement per round. A drawback but not a very severe one. Detect Balance rates this at -2 points.
  • Heartsight - this is worded exactly like the Sprite's ability with the same name, the only difference being the DC of the save. This is an almost exclusively out-of-combat feature, can be use effectively at will but is quite situational, its primary use will be in social situations. The information gained is quite limited. Taking all this into account, in my opinion this is worth between +2 and +3 points.
  • Bite Like Ants - this is similar to Bugbear's Surprise Attack, which Detect Balance rates at 5 points, except that it makes the target's speed 0 for one round instead of dealing extra damage. Usable once per combat, which is quite good. I think no movement for 1 round is worth considerably less than 2d6 extra damage. In addition, a surprised creature doesn’t get to move on its first turn anyway so this will only be useful if the creature rolled higher on the Initiative than the PC and will in that case make the creature unable to move on its second turn. This isn’t completely useless but the usefulness is situational, after some deliberation I am rating this at +2 points.
  • Small and Hidden - one relatively useful proficiency + removed penalty on squeezing. Proficiency without a choice of skill is rated at 2 points. Stealth is a relatively good one and goes well with the +2 to Dex. Squeezing is something that comes up rarely and almost never in the context of PCs trying to squeeze into tiny spaces so the other part of this feature is not going to see a lot of use. It will be quite strong when it does come up but as it's likely that you will go through the entire campaign without ever using this, I would rate this at either 1 or 2 points, for the total for this feature coming up at between +3 and +4 points.
  • Languages - Common + one other. Standard. +0 points.

The total for the race comes up at 17-19 points, which is quite significantly below the recommended range of 24-27 as well as the average for all official races (25). The official races vary between 17 and 33 points so there is quite a big spread but the creators of Detect Balance strongly discourage going below 20 or above 30 with homebrews.

This is just an approximation though, a lot of your features are highly situational so the strength of this race will depend on the type of campaign you're playing but it will not be very strong in any campaign.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Uh... whose standard? That’s clearly not official, and while I’m not enmeshed in the 5e homebrew scene enough to know how widely consensus agrees with it... I have my doubts. Such point-based systems rarely achieve actual balance. It may be useful, and the results here may be correct, but I think a little more backing up of the tool and/or its results in this particular case would be warranted. (For the record, though, I haven’t voted.) \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jul 27 at 14:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan most people who do homebrew. I've never stated it's official but it's well known, widely used and generally produces reliable results. \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Jul 27 at 14:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical I agree that it is on the weaker side but I don't think it's necessarily underpowered, I think it's comparable with the weaker of the official races. Heartsight will come up much more often than you seem to think - handshakes are a thing after all, patting someone on the back is pretty socially acceptable, you can feign a trip and steady yourself on someone etc. With the squeezing thing, you do have a point , I was initially going to give 2 points to this because as you said, it's going to be very rare and I might edit that part. \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Jul 27 at 15:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan It's a pretty commonly used reference for homebrew race balancing on the site. This search turns up 53 answers using the phrase "detect balance". \$\endgroup\$ Jul 27 at 19:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov Fair enough—this is certainly a case where it makes sense for expert voting to back up an answer, since experts will be able to confirm that where it’s hard to imagine anything else could (since ultimately expert consensus is what is being asserted). Like I said, I didn’t vote—for exactly that reason. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jul 27 at 19:59
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Rather than try and put this in a balance calculator, I will simply say This is weak and most of the features are useless.

Detecting a vaguely defined emotional state from touch might as well be an insight check unless you come up with a more useful definition or want the DM to say "this creature is furious you touched it without gaining consent first".

So that feature doesn't do anything.

Bite like ants doesn't need a cooldown because preventing movement on an ambush round is nigh pointless, you already have surprise. This is only useful against flyers and things that want to run away, but even those will likely stick around for a round so by the time they want to run away they can.

So that feature doesn't do anything.

Then we get onto squeezing, a rule I have never seen used, ever. Certainly not in a combat situation which is the only place your feature is going to have any effect, and certainly not in the phb form because it is quite poorly written.

So that feature doesn't do anything.

Overall I like where you are aiming in theme, but don't be afraid to make the traits actually useful and powerful. Buff the existing traits, add definition where it is needed, add damage to the bitey one, and probably add another for good measure.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While I agree that the race is weak, those features are far from useless. There is a benefit to knowing something for sure rather than having to rely on a check that might fail and there are plenty of social situations where touch is consensual, or it can be disguised, for example I doubt someone would be furious at you for accidentally brushing past them. The bite prevents movement until your next turn, which won’t be pointless if the creature rolled higher on initiative than you did. \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Jul 27 at 16:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ cont. Regarding the squeezing, I am incline to agree, that part isn’t very useful, the feature as a whole includes a skill proficiency though, that’s not useless. This isn’t a very good race overall but I don’t think it’s as horrible as people are making it out to be. \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Jul 27 at 16:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think you're definitely heading in the right direction here, but I think you're overstating how useless the features are. You're right, they aren't good. Like really not good. But they do something and in certain niche contexts they are actually useful. Softening your take a bit would probably net an upvote from me. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 27 at 19:13
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They are fairly weak - verging on very weak, as races go.

Slow walking speed, and their major racial ability is to detect the emotional state of creatures they are touching.

The only one of their abilities which is more than very occasionally useful is 'Bite Like Ants'. For a ranged attacker that hopes to achieve Surprise regularly, such as a Gloomstalker Ranger or a Rogue, stopping a melee foe from moving for a turn might be as effective as a stun. It won't be if melee attackers in the group close into melee range before the creature's turn. Which they very well might, as if the Ranger/Rogue has a surprise turn, so likely will the melee attackers. So to make use of Bite Like Ants, any melee users in the party would have to pick different targets or wait 1 or 2 turns of inaction to make use of this (depending on if they went before, or after, the melee enemy).

Since the ability is called 'bite', restricting it to melee will instantly make it far more balanced - the enemy will still be able to attack, either as an Opportunity when the Leafling moves away, or on their turn when they can't move but can attack. To make it even more restrictive, you could specify that the Leafling cannot move away from the creature without returning its ability to move (they 'release' the 'bite' to move away).

Even if left as is, it's likely not going to be super effective. Most parties have a few members without great Stealth. Usually, parties do not achieve Surprise. When they do, the free turn before enemies can even roll initiative is so overwhelming, the combat is usually very one-sided. So stopping 1 enemy moving is just a very minor advantage compared to that.

Most races have superior features to Leaflings, as written, for the usual situations D&D characters find themselves in. Some races are on par, but only the very weakest ones. The strongest races are much better.

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    \$\begingroup\$ So your suggestion is to make a race that you already consider fairly to very weak even weaker? \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Jul 27 at 13:58
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When it comes to traits, the race is pretty balanced. My only concern would be

  • Small and Hidden: "In addition, you suffer no penalties while squeezing"

    Is this meant to remove ALL penalties from squeezing?

    That's a pretty strong trait, but in my experience squeezing doesn't come up that often, so I guess it being very situational makes up for its strength.

That being said, there are a few little things I would suggest you to modify:

  • Bite Like Ants: "If you surprise a creature and hit it with an attack on your first turn in combat"

    Can be simplified: "When you attack and hit a creature that is surprised".

    That is a direct quote from the Death Strike ability of the Rogue: Assassin. In 99.99% of encounters, creatures will only be surprised on the first turn (if at all), so it's a bit redundant to specify "on your first turn in combat".

  • Bite Like Ants: "You can use this trait only once per combat"

EDIT: As noted in the comments, the is a similarity with the Bugbear's racial trait. I would suggest conforming to that same wording:

"Surprise Attack: If you hit a creature with an at­tack roll, the creature takes an extra 2d6 damage if it hasn’t taken a turn yet in the current combat."

Personally, I would limit its use to once per short rest, or PB times per long rest, as most other racial features are.

  • One last question. Is Bite Like Ants supposed to work on both weapons attack and spell attacks?

    Because the way it is worded, a wizard could use it with firebolt, or a warlock with eldritch blast, and so on...

If not, you might want to specify "weapon attacks" (which is pretty much any attack that is not a spell attack, even if unarmed or using objects not classified as weapons)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Surprised creatures are still surprised even if they are aware of you - your appearance might be what caused the surprise. A high level fighter could hit quite a few surprised creatures. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Jul 27 at 12:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sure, which is why I said I'd personally replace it with "Once per short rest" or limiting it to PB. The "once per combat" wording is pretty bad. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mr_Bober
    Jul 27 at 12:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mr_Bober the wording is pretty much a word-for-word copy of Bugbear's trait Surprise Attack, it's fine \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Jul 27 at 13:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AnnaAG The newest entry for Bugbears comes from Monsters of the Multiverse: "Surprise Attack: If you hit a creature with an at­tack roll, the creature takes an extra 2d6 damage if it hasn’t taken a turn yet in the current combat." Same meaning, different wording. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mr_Bober
    Jul 27 at 13:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mr_Bober Sure but plenty of people still use the previous edition \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Jul 27 at 13:35

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