New Rules: Cultural & Tribal Feats

Our Bukana game uses the Feat rules presented in the 5E Core Rules. Instead of being optional, as they are in that document, they are the standard for us, although we will present optional rules for NOT using them.

The portrayal of race has been a hotly debated topic in roleplaying games for years for obvious reasons. The mere use of the term “race” to designate members of different species and the assignment of predetermined ability score modifiers has been extremely problematic. While this practice is largely baked into most early games (especially Dungeons & Dragons), today many of us bristle when anyone states that all ___ are good at ___. Although negative racial ability modifiers have been removed from 5e, is it any better to say that “all Elves are dextrous?” Even if you establish that the unique physiology of elves allowed for fast reflexes and manual dexterity, aren’t adventurers supposed to be exceptional characters? Fifth Edition makes numerous allowances for customizing characters, especially with GM approval. However, Secret Garden Games wants to make our games more inherently open to building unique character origins.

  So we introduce to you our Cultural and Tribal feat system. Here, we boil down each Ancestry (race) to a couple of traits that are inherent to their physiology such as darkvision, resistances, and unique movement speeds. These are supplemented by two feat slots which must be used to select a Cultural Feat and a Tribal Feat. These special feat types can only be chosen during character creation, so have a prerequisite of “Starting character.” Beyond that, cultural feats generally only require the ability to speak the appropriate language of the culture, so if an elf wanted to take the Dwarf Society cultural feat, they would only need to be able to speak Dwarfish. The tribal feats are a bit less straightforward, These have prerequisites of a bloodline (subrace) OR an associated cultural feat. For instance, the Dalaketnon tribal feat requires that the PC is either a Bane Elf or has taken the Elven Society feat. For those who want to make characters that balk at societal norms or who are from a less populous culture, fear not, because there are “build-your-own” cultural and tribal feats. These sacrifice benefits for versatility, but are perfect for those players who don’t let others’ expectations determine their destiny.

  Let’s look at some examples. Here are the Dwarf and Elf entries in our Player’s Guide:

Dwarf Traits

Your dwarf character has an assortment of inborn abilities, part and parcel of dwarven physiology.

  Age. Dwarves mature at the same rate as humans, but they’re considered young until they reach the age of 50. On average, they live about 350 years.

  Size. Dwarves stand between 4 and 5 feet tall and average about 150 pounds. Your size is Medium.

  Speed. Your base walking speed is 25 feet. Your speed is not reduced by wearing heavy armor.

  Darkvision. Accustomed to life underground, you have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. 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.

  Dwarven Resilience. You have advantage on saving throws against poison, and you have

resistance against poison damage.

  Languages. You can speak, read, and write two languages. These are often dwarvish and common. Dwarvish is full of hard consonants and guttural sounds, and those characteristics spill over into whatever other language a dwarf might speak.

  Culture Feat. You gain one cultural feat of your choice (see “Feats”) that you meet the prerequisites for. The Dwarven Society feat represents common training of people that have been raised in the ancient traditions of the dwarves.

  Bloodline. Dwarves of Bukana usually belong to one of two playable bloodlines: Blood Dwarves and Terrace Dwarves. You may choose one of these bloodlines. You gain one tribal feat of your choice (see “Feats”) that you meet the prerequisites for. The Sagay and Calanget feats represent common training developed by those who have embraced the traditions of the blood and terrace dwarves, respectively.

Elf Traits

Your elf character has a variety of natural abilities.

  Age. Although elves reach physical maturity at about the same age as humans, the elven

understanding of adulthood goes beyond physical growth to encompass worldly experience. An elf typically claims adulthood and an adult name around the age of 100 and can live to be 750 years old.

  Size. Elves range from under 5 to over 6 feet tall and have slender builds. Your size is Medium.

  Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

  Darkvision. Accustomed to twilit forests and the night sky, you have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. 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.

  Fey Ancestry. You have advantage on saving throws against being charmed.

  Languages. You can speak, read, and write two languages of your choice. Frequently these are elvish and common. Elvish is fluid, with subtle intonations and intricate grammar. Elven literature is rich and varied, and their songs and poems are famous among other races. Many bards learn their language so they can add Elvish ballads to their repertoires.

  Culture Feat. You gain one cultural feat of your choice (see “Feats”) that you meet the prerequisites for. The Elven Society feat represents common training of people that have been raised in the ancient traditions of the elves.

  Bloodline. Most elves of Bukana belong to one of our playable bloodlines: spirit elves, bane elves, whistling elves, & fire elves. You may choose one of these bloodlines. You gain one tribal feat of your choice (see “Feats”) that you meet the prerequisites for. The Mahomanay, Tamahling, Dalaketnon, Palasekan, and Jinn feats represent common training developed by those who have embraced these traditions.

Here are the cultural feats associated with the overarching traditions of the dwarves and elves:

Dwarven Society (cultural)

Prerequisites: Starting character and can speak Dwarfish

  The societies of dwarves focus on hard work, stringent laws, and rigorous training in both craft and war. A deeply ingrained sense of heritage and justice creates a tendency toward Lawful alignments. You have been conditioned to think before you act and to move methodically. Your base walking speed is reduced by 5 feet, to a minimum of 25 feet. However, you gain the following benefits:

  • Increase your Constitution score by 2, to a maximum of 20.
  • You have proficiency with the battleaxe, handaxe, light hammer, and warhammer.
  • You gain proficiency with the artisan’s tools of your choice: smith’s tools, brewer’s supplies, or mason’s tools.
  • Whenever you make an Intelligence (History) check related to the origin of stonework, you are considered proficient in the History skill and add double your proficiency bonus to the check, instead of your normal proficiency bonus.

Elven Society (cultural)

Prerequisites: Starting character and can speak elvish

  Grace and fluid movements are valued by elven cultures. Furthermore, you are trained to hone your mind so that you may truly enjoy the myriad forms that magic and beauty take. Elven cultures usually place little value on rules and encourage their people to follow their hearts in all things, so Chaotic alignments are common. You gain the following benefits:

  • Your Dexterity increases by 2, to a maximum of 20.
  • You have proficiency in the Perception skill.
  • You don’t need to sleep. Instead, you meditate deeply, remaining semiconscious, for 4 hours a day. (The Common word for such meditation is “trance.”) While meditating, you can dream after a fashion; such dreams are actually mental exercises that have become reflexive through years of practice. After resting in this way, you gain the same benefit that others do from 8 hours of sleep.
  • Magic can’t put you to sleep.

Here is a selection of tribal feats for dwarves and elves:

Dalaketnon (tribal)

Prerequisite: Starting character and either bane elf bloodline or Elven Society feat

  You have trained in the witch courts of Dalakit City with its dark masters. The treacherous politics of the bane elves follow few rules and rarely reward kindness, so Chaotic Neutral, Chaotic Evil, and Neutral Evil are prevalent alignments among the Dalaketnon. You gain the following benefits:

  • Your Charisma score increases by 1, to a maximum of 20.
  • You gain proficiency with the dagger, short sword, and hand crossbow.
  • You gain proficiency with one of the following tools: Disguise Kit, Forgery Kit, Poisoner’s Kit, or a Musical Instrument of your choice.
  • You know one cantrip of your choice from the warlock spell list. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for it.
Jinn (tribal)

Prerequisites: Starting character and either fire elf bloodline or Elven Society feat

  You have been raised in the ways of the fire elves. You are touched by the burning essence of your faroff homeland. Chaotic alignments appeal to people of this tribe, like moths to a flickering flame. You gain the following benefits:

  • Your Constitution score increases by 1, to a maximum of 20.
  • You gain proficiency with the scimitar.
  • You gain proficiency with Acrobatics and Survival.
  • You have resistance to fire damage.
Sagay (tribal)

Prerequisites: Starting character and either blood dwarf bloodline or Dwarven Society feat

  Decades of intense labor has imbued you with a strong physique. Your people forge the finest metal armor and weapons in Bukana. Toil in dangerous environments and belief in harsh justice make Lawful Neutral and Lawful Evil common alignments. You gain the following benefits:

  • Your Strength score increases by 1, to a maximum of 20.
  • You have proficiency with all armor and shields.
  • You have proficiency with the artisan’s tools of your choice.
  • You can see in dim light within 30 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. If you have the Darkvision feature from another source, its range increases by 60 feet, to a maximum of 120 feet.
Calanget (tribal)

Prerequisites: Starting character and either terrace dwarf bloodline or Dwarven Society feat

  The Calanget are engineering experts. Furthermore, they rely much more heavily on trade with outsiders than other dwarven clans. This interaction promotes compassion and understanding, so they lean toward Lawful Good, Neutral Good, and Lawful Neutral alignments. You gain the following benefits:

  • Your Intelligence increases by 1, to a maximum of 20.
  • You gain proficiency with one artisan tool of your choice.
  • You gain proficiency with light armor and shields.
  • Choose up to two of your artisan tool proficiencies. Your proficiency bonus is doubled for any ability check that you make that uses either of these two proficiencies.
  • You can speak, but not read or write, one additional language of your choice.

With this handful of options alone, you could create a wide range of character origins. For instance, if you want to play a bane elf, you could play an archetypical Dalaketnon, who has spent their entire lives in cutthroat intrigue with the Elven Society and Dalaketnon feats. Alternately, you could have been captured by blood dwarves and raised as one of their own by taking the Dwarven Society and Sagay feats. Or perhaps you are a member of a minority community of Dalaketnon who live within a Calanget community, you could take the Dwarven Society feat, but then choose to take the Dalaketnon tribal feat to show that while you are part of the larger Calanget culture, you still maintain many of your traditional ways.

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