Welcome to part two of my look at Studio Agate‘s new 5e setting, Fateforge. Last time I took a high-up view of the project and noted things that set it apart from other D&D 5e settings. Today, I’m getting a little more in the weeds to look at what character choices are opened up in Fateforge.
First off, I want to reiterate the idea of civilizations. There are many different lands scattered over the face of Eana, the world of Fateforge, and none of them are synonymous with a specific race. I’ll be talking more about these in a later post and (as I’ve said) there aren’t really mechanical changes from civilization but it’s Step 1 of making a character and it makes for a more varied party. Or, more interestingly, it can create bonds within a party where other settings might have nothing to latch onto. I’m excited to get into it more.
Let’s start with the dragonborn, the first species listed in this book. It’s noted in several places that most hybrids between different species are sterile. While there is a half-dragon template in the upcoming Fateforge: Bestiary, for example, these hybrids can’t create more. Dragonborn, though, are hybrids who can lay eggs without issue, though they only live to be about 80 which might be related.
They were created as guardians of the ancient dragon rulers’ sacred places and this is actually the only mechanical deviation from PHB dragonborn: they add their proficiency bonus when using any of the ancient artifacts from the age of dragons. Oh, and there are no known silver or white dragons which is a mystery. All in all, a fairly interesting take on the dragonborn.
Next up are the dwarves or the dvaergen in their own tongue (though as it’s close to some insults, they prefer you not butcher it). They delve into mountains as usual and sometimes dig too deep and run into a horror called Canker that wants to kill everyone. Whoops. The base mechanics of the dwarves are unchanged but the two subraces are. Rather than having dwarves from different territories, Fateforge has guardian dwarves who are strong fighters and resistant to corruption and builder dwarves who are tough and skilled, well, builders.
The elves are the only species with close to a country all to themselves: the great forest of Ellerìna which forces non-elves and to stick to a huge port city. The base mechanics of elves are unchanged and one of the subspecies, elenion or “light elves,” are basically high elves with an extra proficiency in an artistic tool kit. The aldaron or “sap elves” superficially resemble the wood elves of the PHB but they have different powers: forest whispers turns the surrounding woods into a creepy place, they also gain a proficiency in a simple craft, and they all can talk to tree creatures.
Gnomes in Fateforge are both mischievous little scamps and dangerous inventors. They are unchanged from the PHB except that forest gnomes are no longer listed and rock gnomes get a proficiency in vehicles (which sounds fun). The svirfneblin are mentioned but their mechanics are reserved for Fateforge: Bestiary.
Halflings end up halfway between the expected and the new. They are skilled mediators and have stepped in to settle wars between humans and elves going back a long time. They have a pastoral land that they call their own but frequently travel and live elsewhere too. The basic mechanics and the lightfoot halflings abilities are the same (except for a tool proficiency) but surefoot halflings are from equatorial jungles. They have dark skin, curly hair, Survival proficiency, and some cool weapon proficiencies. Seems like they found a healthy balance between hobbits and Eberron‘s Talenta halflings.
Humans are, unsurprisingly, the same as always but they get an interesting new ability. Fateforge has rules for learning new things and training in between adventures (more on those in a future post) and huans can do this in half the amount of time. This gives a mechanical reason for the proliferation of humans: they can literally outcompete the other species.
Melessë, the Fateforge name for half-elves, fill a role that halflings do in many settings. They have a reputation as refined diplomats as in books but they have a wanderlust that they can’t shake and freely travel the world. They are unchanged mechanically except that Skill Versatility now gives a tool proficiency as well.
Merosi, or half-orcs, carry the same stigma that they do in many other settings but they live separately from many of the more civilized lands. The largest merosi population lives in the northern steppes of Kaan where they dominate a large Mongolian-like culture of riders and tradition. As a microcosm of the different path taken by Fateforge, their mechanics are unchanged but the biggest part of their section is a sidebar on their philosophies.
At this point, I’d like to say that I think all of these are awesome interpretations of the PHB races. They’re recognizable and easily grasped, but there are also surprises baked in that will delight veteran players. In this way it reminds me of Arkadia that I also reviewed recently, though of course this isn’t as single-sourced. You’re probably waiting for the “but” here, though it’s only a soft one: I like the tieflings too but they’re also a little problematic. The base traits for these tieflings are the same as in the Player’s Handbook but there’s a long sidebar of optional traits for different feels.
You can add an evil presence in their heart that makes extra actions on their turn if they fail a Wisdom save, or they can pick out their own cantrips. There’s also a dark goddess named Xonim who watches over tieflings and you can give them a chance for divine intervention. On the other hand, there’s way too much (like a full page) on all the ways that tieflings are conceived through rape, body trauma, and demonic sex trafficking. One might say that this is unnecessary but even if you want a page-long trigger there are more nuanced ways to do that.