Chapter 4: Peoples of Imaria
It wouldn’t be a third party D&D setting without new races and subraces, and Legacy of Mana delivers this in spades. We should start out with what Legacy of Mana doesn’t have: Halflings. Well, they existed in the old version as humble farmers living on Lunalia, but given that the Skytouched more or less cover the “good-hearted short people” role there’s not much missing.Old vs New:
Beyond the missing halflings, quite a few races got mechanical buffs or had abilities made more versatile. For example, the Blooded humans’ default race was pushed hard into charisma-based roles via +2 Charisma in the old version, but in the new version the default option gains +1 to an ability score of their choice to better reflect the versatility of humanity. Additionally, the older version had more flavor text overall, including sample names, sidebars with general views of other races not unlike the racial entries in 5e’s core PHB, and such. This is perhaps the most blatant for the Phoenixborn (formerly Phoenixian) who in the new version had their fluff text entirely excised!Blooded
are those humans whose lineages had higher exposure to mana in the distant past and thus become the ruling class in most lands of their race. Physically speaking they appear identical to normal humans, but mentally and socially they differ. One, as they were spawned by mana to safeguard the land they are strongly compelled towards good alignment and have an inborn intuitive compulsion to tend to their ancestral dwellings and their overall welfare. Blooded who defy this end up afflicted with curses (no game effects, but there’s a sidebar of vague sample penalties). Mechanics-wise they are their own race, although are treated as humans for the purposes of spells/items/etc, and their subraces are specific noble Houses. The base Blooded has +1 to a single ability score and learns one cantrip of their choice.Old vs New:
Originally the Blooded were physically incapable of suicide; so important were they to the land that mana itself would seize their bodies and direct them away from said self-destructive action.
We have six Blooded Houses as subraces. Ansalebin
are tough northerners skilled in survival, with traits such as +2 Constitution, proficiency in Athletics, resistance to poison damage, and the like. Dewisk
are a House cursed with the taint of near-undeath, and get things like +2 to a score of their choice, Darkvision and proficiency in Intimidation, but are saddled with some debilitating penalties such as being immune to healing magic and recover 1 less hit point per Hit Die spent during rests.
Scarred Bloodline: You heal a number of hit points equal to any necrotic damage you take. This cannot heal more than your maximum number of hit points.
This is a bit oddly worded. Do they immediately regain hit points from necrotic damage, or are they immune and instead heal whatever damage would be dealt? I don’t think it’s the former as they’d simply be listed as Immune, but this could be reworded better.Khenbians
are the Blooded house of southern Krymaris, and their nomadic lifestyle allowed them to better evade and hide from the Iltherians. They are geared towards mobile builds, with +2 Dexterity, +10 feet to walking speed, can Dash as a free action a limited number of times per long rest, are resistant to fire damage, and cannot have their speed reduced due to exhaustion. Lynnvander
are very much the stereotypical knightly benevolent lords; they get +2 Charisma, are immune to the Frightened condition, are proficient in Persuasion and add double their proficiency bonus on checks with it, and gain a bonus proficiency in a mental saving throw of their choice. Phoenixborn
hail from Lunalia and have the unique ability to revive instantaneously upon death. They are Small size, proficient in Air Vehicles, able to cast a smattering of low-level divination spells (Detect Magic, Speak with Animals, Augury, etc) as rituals, and also gain a bonus wizard cantrip. They explode into a fiery burst among death and gain the benefits of the Resurrection spell immediately, but this ability can only be used once per 10 years. Finally, the Vanduschel
interbred with orcs after being driven off their lands by Iltherians, creating a novel orcish-blooded yet mostly human bloodline. They have +2 Strength, Darkvision, advantage on saves vs illusion and enchantment spells, and can make an additional attack as a bonus action whenever they score a critical hit with a weapon.
In comparison to Humans, the Blooded are more specialized and overall gain some useful abilities. The Ansalebins and Dewisk are weaker choices if only due to the former having more situational abilities, and Dewisk having a harder time of healing will be a persistent penalty. Lynnvander’s bonus saving throw really stands out, and is tailor-made for paladins. In comparison to default Humans they are a stronger choice depending upon class, but for those Variant Humans who get a free bonus feat they may be more situational depending upon the desired class and feat in question.
The enslavement of the Dwarves
became a priority for the Iltherian Empire. Although the race was not as magical as others, their underground kingdoms were closer to renik veins and thus a priority for the anti-magic war machine. Postwar many dwarves are debating their place in the world, and from their suffering became less dour and hidebound and sought to find newfound joy in life in a world awash with hardship. The Redbeards
are an exception, as the only innately magical dwarven subrace they were slain to the last on Krymaris, with only enclaves in Thalagrant surviving. Redbeards are rather one-note as a subrace: they get +1 Intelligence or Wisdom, and learn fire-based spells such as Produce Flame, Searing Smite, and Scorching Ray as they level up in a manner similar to the Tiefling race. Shallowskin Dwarves
prefer the open sea over mountains, gaining +2 Dexterity, proficiency in the Deception skill, firearms, Water Vehicles and Navigator’s Tools, and trade in their Stonecunning trait for a swim speed.Elves
have four major subraces. The victims of genocide by the Iltherian Empire, Surface Elves
have become a lot more reserved and self-centered as a result, knowing that much rebuilding is to be done to make up for the losses. They use the rules for High and Wood Elven subraces.
Because of their long lives, rocky history, proficiency with mana, and connection with nature, elves place less importance on gender and relationship choices than Imarian humans tend to. Because so many were killed, everyone pitches in to do all manners of work, and if someone shows an interest in a skill or knowledge, they are encouraged to learn it. Elves are likely to have multiple romantic and life partners, ranging from casual romances to life-bonded friendships. Their androgynous appearance often confuses humans, but they consider gender a fluid concept, and place little importance in its expression.
Legacy of Mana is far from the only setting to do this, but whenever sourcebooks call out a specific race or culture as gender-egalitarian that raises questions for the rest of the setting at large. Are most Imarians patriarchal and monogamous by comparison? Are elves the only culture that acknowledge nonbinary identities? The book doesn’t really say.Aerial Elves
are a subrace from Lunalia, and are known for being friendly, accepting, trusting, and make frequent visits to their ground bound kin who they regard as distant family...except for all those times Lunalia cut off contact with the rest of Imaria. Mechanics-wise they get +1 Strength, trade in Fey Ancestry for a natural flight speed, and trade in darkvision for immunity to the blinded condition.Deep Elves
are not drow, but another underground elven subrace who safeguard the mana wells. They played an important role in smuggling surface elves to other continents after the burning of Crystalfellen, and fought many Iltherian Knights who sought to destroy their subterranean storehouses of magic. Mechanics-wise they get +1 Wisdom, ignore all kinds of difficult terrain when underground, trade in darkvision for 60 foot blindsight, lose said blindsight for one round whenever they’re exposed to bright light and instead are blinded during that time, and increase the spell save DC of all magical abilities by 1 due to growing up close to the mana wells.Old vs New:
Dark elves had their own entry, but it was super-short. Basically they are just like in any other setting: insane sadists who are killed on sight by everyone else. They only get the briefest of mentions in the new version.
The elven subraces are pretty strong choices. Deep Elves make for great scouts and spellcasters, while flight speed for Aerial Elves is nothing to sneeze at. In fact, there is a feat and a few subclasses who can also increase spell save DCs further. In 5e this is a very big deal; even if they’re not Wisdom-focused this more or less makes Deep Elves the best spellcasters overall.Mutates
are so named for their anthropomorphic physiology. Just about every mutate bears a resemblance to some variety of mundane animal, and their folklore teaches that they sprung spontaneously from mana. Most hail from the continent of Tensire, but smaller bands immigrated elsewhere. Each mutate subrace has a language of their own, which is incredibly difficult for others to pronounce as the sounds are keyed to their biology. They are shorter-lived than humans, often reaching maturity in the single-digits and rarely living beyond 50 years. There is no “default mutate race,” with each entry effectively a race of their own.Vulpines
are fox-people who operate in close-knit matriarchal family units, and tend to keep out of world affairs. Their racial abilities hew closely to roguish pursuits, such as +2 Dexterity, darkvision, proficiency in Persuasion or Deception, can reroll a failed Dexterity or Acrobatics check once per short rest, and their 2 subraces grant either +1 Intelligence and double proficiency in Stealth or +1 Wisdom and the ability to glide like a flying fox.Leporines
are loyal, good-hearted rabbit folk whose only true enemies are the Vulpines. Such hatred is one-sided as the Vulpines don’t have strong opinions on them, but Leporines are prone to conspiracy theories and instinctive flight-or-fight reactions when hearing of their presence. They are geared towards roles as “helpful fighters,” gaining +2 Wisdom, the ability to jump an additional number of feet equal to their Dexterity modifier, can grant advantage to the attack roll of an ally with who they share a space with,* and their subraces grant either +1 Dexterity, advantage on initiative and proficiency in Perception (and advantage on hearing) or +1 Strength, proficiency in Persuasion, and grant advantage on attacks of opportunity performed by adjacent allies.
*Leporine can share spaces with allies due to communal living.Lupines
are community-oriented, highly-social wolf-people who find it the easiest to integrate into non-Mutate society.
Lupine society is ruled by an alpha, who listens to the council of elders and makes decisions for the pack as a whole. Any who don’t bow to the will of the alpha are either killed or exiled. There is a clear hierarchy of strength in Lupine society where the strongest rule and the weakest serve. Craftsmen and other useful but weaker members of the pack have a place in the hierarchy due to their contributions. Any Lupine out of alignment with the will of the alpha will soon find themselves either beaten or killed depending on the severity of the crime.I know it’s a fantasy setting, but I never get tired of pointing out the myth of the alpha male in wolf packs. It’s basically an artificial state brought about by a zoo’s pseudo-prison culture.
Mechanics-wise lupine are geared towards martial roles with some wilderness survival, such as +2 Strength, darkvision, proficiency in Perception (advantage on scent-based rolls), a natural 1d6 bite attack, can gain advantage on one attack roll once per short rest, and their two subraces grant either +1 Constitution, +2 on all melee damage rolls on a single designated target the lupine dealt damage to previously, or +1 Dexterity and double proficiency in Survival rolls (advantage on hunting and tracking).Ursine
are natural wanderers with strong moral compasses. They are very strong but are no more prone to violence than humans. Mechanics-wise they have no subrace, so get a lot of default abilities. They are geared towards melee combat, with +2 Constitution, +1 Strength, natural 1d6 claw attacks, advantage on grappling checks, and they also get some exploration-based features such as proficiency in Athletics, climb and swim speeds equal to their walking speed, and can choose to ignore the difficult terrain of either tundra or forests at character creation.Aven
are a diverse assortment of nomadic bird-people who are viewed as impatient by other races. They are highly selfish and the closest thing they have to government is consulting shaman druids when they need advice on a matter. Mechanics-wise they have +2 Dexterity, a natural fly speed with restrictions (cannot wear medium or heavy armor while flying, disadvantage on all attack rolls save with Talons or Wing Blades), have a natural 1d4 talon attack, and are proficient with Wing Blades (a new weapon in a later chapter). They have four subraces, which include +1 Constitution and the ability to heal hit points once per short rest when consuming flesh from a fresh corpse, +1 Charisma and telescopic vision which allows for observing fine details up to a mile away and proficiency in Perception (advantage on sight), +1 Strength and the ability to fly better (fall slowly if unconscious and airborne, +10 flying speed, can wear medium armor), or +1 Wisdom, +1 hit point per level, and superior 120 foot darkvision where one can see normally in all levels of darkness and discern color within said range.Mantideans
are an otherwise friendly race but whom most outsiders detect contact with due to their liberal use of capital punishment. They are a highly communal caste-based society where the will of the individual is expected to live for the good of the group. The bodies of the fallen are eaten, which is viewed as a way of giving back to the community while also avoiding needless waste, and also to honor the sacrifice of those who died. Most adventurers among their people are either on a mission from the hive or wish to learn more of the world so they can teach the rest of their kind how to adapt in unknown lands. Mechanics-wise they are versatile, gaining +1 to three ability scores of their choice, +1 AC from a chitinous hide, 1d4 natural scythe attacks, resistance to one magical damage type of choice,* and can regain hit points once per short rest by eating flesh from a fresh corpse.
*an odd choice of words, as damage types in 5th Edition do not specify magic/non-magic divisions.
Overall mutates are a bit specialized and samey in places. Quite a few get proficiency in Perception and advantage on rolls for a specific sense, which is nice to have. Natural weapons are a bit more situational. Some like the Leporine are tailor-made for Rogues, while others such as the Aven or Matidean have abilities of broader use.Neranians
hail from the swamps of the same name. They are large green people often mistaken for ogres, but unlike ogres they are contemplative pacifists who love all forms of artwork. They live in simple agrarian communities who have a democratic system on the local level and with village representatives in the cases of affairs that affect multiple communities. Mechanics-wise they have no subrace, gain +2 Strength and +1 Intelligence, darkvision, ignore difficult terrain in mountains and swamps, proficiency in Insight, count as Large for carrying capacity (are actually Medium) and have advantage on all saves to avoid the Prone condition. Besides the Intelligence bonus and Insight proficiency, their stats highly encourage martial builds which is rather ironic.Skytouched
are a diverse race of short people who hail primarily from Lunalia. They have varying levels of fey ancestry, and their cultures promote individualism. As a race they all get +1 Intelligence and +1 to another ability score of choice, are Small size, and proficient with Air Vehicles. Not much there.Squirrelly
are hyperactive child-like people regarded as annoying by most other races.
“Hello!” The little brown head popped out of the oak’s branches, face beaming. “I like your sword! Can I have it? What’s your name?” The paladin, still staring in shock up at the rustling tree, took a breath before answering the small, furry humanoid.
“Good day, young one. You may not have my sword. And my name is Allyn Stonesteel.” The knight performed a slight bow.
“What a great name! I like it so much. My name is Allyn Stonesteel as well. What a coincidence, us meeting this way! I just know we’ll be the best of friends.”
They often forage for a living and don’t often do much work. Squirrellys will trade for anything shiny and often lose interest shortly after acquiring their mark. They prefer to live off of the wealth of other races and are more often the visitor than the one receiving visitors.
Squirrellys do not have a formal social hierarchy, decisions are often just made by the popular decisions, and any who are upset simply leave to find any who will agree with their decision
Squirrellys often piggyback on the cultures of other races, adopting the fun bits and throwing away the boring ones. They rarely have time to sit for an entire ceremony and they prefer to just be active and on the move at all times. Unable to take even the gravest of situations seriously, Squirrellys are eager to be a part of adventures.
Holy shit, they’re kender with wings.
They gain +1 Dexterity, a climbing speed, can glide, and are always considered to have a running start when jumping.Pinn Pan
are fey who look like children. They have strong moral compasses and are eager to help ease the burden of others, either through helping out with chores or saving the lives of the innocent when violence becomes inevitable. They get +1 Charisma, +2 AC vs all ranged attacks, and have a limited levitation flight where they must remain within 20 feet of the ground or a surface capable of supporting their weight while doing so.Sun Children
almost exclusively live in fancy crystal spires on Lunalia, deriving supernatural powers from the sun. They are peaceful but when forced into violence or the necessities of adventuring they will commit to the cause with single-minded devotion. Mechanics-wise they get +1 Intelligence, are immune to the blinded condition, are resistant to fire and radiant damage, and learn fire-based spells as they level up in a manner similar to Redbeard Dwarves and tieflings.Minor Peoples
cover the races of Imaria who are too low in number and influence to make a dent on world affairs. Dragonborn are descended from dragons and are practically mythical due to their rarity save for a small community in Tensire. Gnomes live in Lunalia and invented airships, which sounds like a pretty major innovation for a Minor People to me! Half-elves used to be more common before the rise of the Iltherian Empire, but suffered just like their elven parents. Half-orcs and orcs have traditionally been pushed to the most inhospitable climates due to generations of war and distrust from the other races. The Iltherian Empire dealt with them in one of two ways: employing them as laborers and soldiers, or as slaves. While the slaves were treated poorly, orcish numbers grew in imperial lands due to not being one of the races targeted for annihilation given that they’re not much of a magical race. Tieflings are as rare as dragonborn, but are regarded as demons and killed on sight in most places.
Minor Peoples also has pictures of a goblin and minotaur, but said races are not mentioned at all elsewhere in the book. I suppose this was done to show that the more exotic choices from Volo’s Guide and other official sourcebooks have a place in Imaria, but without text on their place in the world the Dungeon Master is more or less left to homebrew it out.Old vs New:
In the older version half-elves of Aerial or Deep ancestry could trade in their darkvision for either immunity to the blinded condition (Aerial) or blindsight (Deep). As Deep Half-Elves don’t suffer from light blindness, this was a pretty strong choice for them.Thoughts So Far:
I like some of the new races more than others. I’ve often been surprised by how rare animal-people are as a common race in D&D settings, and even when we get them are often just a few, made harder to play, or not well-supported in existing lore. I like the addition of Mutates as a common archetype in a realm otherwise awash in Tolkien options. I can tell that the author is fond of defying the “big strong dumb guy” conventions with Ursine and Neranians, although the latter race doesn’t have much going for them to defy this. I was expecting some more features like artwork which can positively influence people, or said artistic society granting them attention to fine detail for some visual/perception/etc bonus. There are times when it seems like the author wants to defy conventions, but still includes iconic choices for the sake of compatibility. The removal of halflings and relegation of gnomes to a minor race is clearly due to the Skytouched filling their niche, but even then gnomes get a big role in Lunalia’s history. It feels odd to have drow in a setting when dark-skinned underground elves are a new (non-evil) subrace. Legacy of Mana does have some nods to anime-inspired fantasy, and plenty of work in that genre still has dark elves who in such cases are just treated as just another pointy-eared civilization than psychotic spider-worshipers. Legacy of Mana could have easily gone that route with deep elves, but even in the new version there’s a very brief shout-out to drow.
I do have quite a bit of thoughts regarding the Blooded, and the larger implications that they have for the setting. I’d like to add that Legacy of Mana has in places averted Tolkienian tropes of race and morality; most of the new races have alignment tendencies, but are more shaped by environment and culture. And of those who are biologically inclined, like the Blooded and the Skytouched, they tend towards Good. Even races typically designated ‘evil’ like the orcs are given a more even-handed treatment, their harsh lives shaped by being the losing side in many wars and the “brutal marauders'' being peculiar holdouts. Low-level humanoid cannon fodder in the vein of orcs and goblins isn’t really a thing, as the Iltherian Knights more or less occupy this role. Furthermore, their willingness to condemn entire races to enslavement and death is viewed by most as a crime without comparison.
Legacy of Mana seems less a product of 19th century Western racial attitudes a la Tolkien and Gygax, but a more distant callback to medieval feudalism: you’re not noble because you’re human, you’re noble because you’re a human of regal bearing. You are a benevolent ruler not because of your upbringing or the values others instilled in you, but due to an innate awareness instilled in you since birth courtesy of your ancestors and the land itself appointing you as its champion. There are those who would defy this or seek alternative forms of government, but the natural order of things ensures that there will always be Blooded. Even when there are bad apples this is treated more as a mutation or aberration, which mana itself will surely correct over time. And even then such cursed Blooded or those who err in judgment isn’t much much dwelt upon, what with Iounia’s harmonious golden age society but also intentionally-undereducated and overworked peasants. Legacy of Mana tries at times to provide multiple viewpoints (“not everyone wants a return to the rule of the Blooded, and that doesn’t make them wrong”) but many of the options, organizations, and popular narratives in the book seek to protect their legacy and/or return them to their right to rule.
While I can understand finding an answer as to how and why hereditary monarchies are so popular in a world of mages, monsters, and other powerful contenders, Legacy of Mana’s Green Feudalism leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth in trading one problematic trope for another.Join us next time as we cover Chapters 5: Orders & Societies and Chapter 7:Backgrounds! Yes I’m reviewing them out of order, but it’s for a very good reason!