One of the great aspects of TTRPG’s is the ability to play any kind of character no matter their background, age, size, sexual orientation, or race. Though I personally recommend new players stick to the standard playable races for ease of use while learning more about TTRPG’s, seasoned players may find another elf or dwarf a bit bland for their next campaign. Depending on your DM/GM it may be time to explore gameplay as races that are normally categorized as a creature or monster, but how do you convert them to a playable race?
First and foremost, I think the first reasonable step is to talk at length with your DM/GM about your ideas and work together to find a good starting point. It may be fun to fantasize about playing a beholder in your next D&D game, but let’s be honest, you would far outweigh your fellow party members and make it hard to enjoy the game as a team if you had every ability a beholder has at the start. Keeping in line with the beholder idea, let’s explore some questions and concerns you should have when converting a “non-playable” race to something everyone can enjoy at the table.
As I said before, the first step is to find a happy medium with your DM/GM. Scale back the natural abilities of your race, despite this maybe feeling unfair initially, as it would become very obvious that you are overpowered compared to your fellow teammates. My suggestion would be to create a level-up system that includes those abilities which can be unlocked as you level up in-game. As a beholder, it would make sense that your eye stock beam abilities would be added as you grow stronger. Personal suggestions for those looking to play a Level 1-20 campaign would be to add them every other level so by the time you reached level 18 you will have unlocked all of your eye stock beams, just in time to fight the BBEG, Hooray!
Like a standard character race, you would need to develop an appropriate leveling chart that is balanced for gameplay. You and your DM/GM will determine what conversions would be appropriate, and not-so-surprisingly, there are plenty of resources online to help make a “non-player” race a playable version.
If you are looking for an easy conversion, you’ll want to look at the creature or monster in question and see where its natural abilities lie. Continuing with our beholder example, a beholder is first and foremost a caster, yet this doesn’t inherently mean it has to be a casting class to be a fun character. The simplest way to make it a playable character is to make the beholder both a race AND a class. Create a level-scaling spell list, with your DM/GM’s permission, for spells you can acquire throughout the campaign and remember your abilities would also count as uses of spell slots and/or legendary actions depending on your DM/GM’s allowance.
Your character should also adhere to the point system used at the beginning of the game. This is also the point where you need to be honest with yourself and know that the standard bonuses and skills added to the monster combat form of a beholder (or any other creature or monster) are insanely powerful for a new player character. Scale them back a bit and give yourself room to grow as your journey continues.
As for the condition immunities, skill proficiencies, and known languages, most of them should still be applicable, but be sure to get permission from your DM/GM before adding them to your character sheet. Senses can be a bit more daunting. Sure, a beholder should naturally get to keep their darkvision, but a 22 passive perception at level one? VERY unlikely. This is another point where you should talk to your DM/GM about how they want to rule it. Standardly, your passive perception is calculated by starting at 10 and adding your Wisdom modifier, and if you are proficient, you also add your proficiency modifier. I recommend sticking to that method when converting characters.
For time’s sake, I’m going to stop here for today, but be on the lookout for part 2 as we discuss more natural ways to convert a “non-playable” character race into a fun and challenging playable race in your next TTRPG campaign, mini-series, or one-shot.