Racial Abilities

In my back, I decided I wanted to have different races (called species in my game) similar to traditional fantasy.

So far I settled on having a special ability that your character gets from their species like gaining +1d for certain roles or pushing themselves to cast a certain kind of spell.

What I’m trying to figure out is how to balance that with the playbook’s special abilities when first getting started. I figured I’ll just have to playtest to see if starting with 2 special abilities was OP.

But, I also thought I’d throw it to the brain trust and see what others have done to make a fantasy style race mean something more than just flavor without being overpowered.

Now, I’m not one to talk about keeping things from being overpowered, but it doesn’t seem too ridiculous to have characters start with one extra ability, especially if your going for a more heroic fantasy tone.

As for what Ive done, though it’s still early on, in the fantasy hack I’m working on the abilities are more of passive traits meant to lead players toward a certain play style to reflect their lineage, such as:

  • Elves start at max level, because they’ve already lived for at least twice the average human lifespan, but they also are the only ones who can trauma out and leave for the undying lands. This is meant to make elven characters fall more into a cautious protector role.

  • Humans ignore the mechanical effects of pain due to their extreme mortality, meaning they’re primed for action-hero moments where they keep fighting despite their injuries.

  • Changelings are a lineage which are defined by their past experiences, so every time they level up they can change one of their physical attributes to reflect their past adventure.


That’s a pretty fascinating way to handle it. I dig it for sure!

For Deathwish, species-innate abilities are all represented as Special Abilities that are either open to everyone, or to the Chimera Shocktrooper playbook (for species you have to opt into, like vampire or demon.)
Players start with 3 Special Abilities, so it is easy to take one or more at character creation to make the exact combo you want. They aren’t mandatory though, so if you want to play an Elf who doesn’t have innate luck, or a garuda who can’t fly, that is fine too. You can spend your Special Abilities on just training instead.