When we initially started working on the Book of Conflict, we planned 2 or 3 subraces for each race. As we began brainstorming ideas for these subraces, we realized that some ability modifiers would be left unassigned. For example, when it comes to the hobgoblins, it was clear that we would provide charisma and constitution as racial bonuses. Since many races inherently had strength, these two seemed fitting for hobgoblins in D&D 5e.
For the subraces, Castellan and Grunt hobgoblins were on our minds from the beginning. We knew that one would have a strength bonus, while the other would have a constitution bonus. During our discussions, we noticed there wouldn’t be subraces providing bonuses to intelligence, wisdom, or other ability modifiers. This situation was also applicable to orcs, where strength and constitution bonuses were the norm. Purebloods would receive a strength bonus, but orcs with intelligence or charisma bonuses were not in the picture.
At this point in our discussions, we decided to add a subrace related to each ability modifier for every race. In other words, there would be six subraces for each race! It seemed like a crazy idea initially, especially considering that we were planning only four races at the time, excluding stretches. We were also thinking of including kobolds and gnolls as stretches. In summary, there would be thirty-six different subraces for six distinct races. (This number would later increase to fifty-four subraces with the addition of stretches.) This was challenging from a design perspective.
We didn’t want to rely on the classic ideas we’ve seen countless times, such as fiery orcs, necromantic hobgoblins, or larger and dumber bugbears. These ideas didn’t resonate with us. We aimed for each race’s six subraces to differ not only cosmetically or with racial traits but also culturally. The ability modifiers assigned to different subraces would be decisive. Of course, there would be racial differences as well.
Additionally, there were power balances among the races and their subraces. This was also applicable to half-orc variants. In this power balance, we believed there could be significant differences between those more socially acceptable and those potentially more socially ostracized. Some subraces or half-orcs, due to their appearance or lore details, could easily find their place in various environments. However, others, due to similar circumstances, might struggle to navigate non-brutal settlements in most settings. Consequently, subraces or half-orcs of this nature could be more advantageous in certain aspects. We wanted them to convert their social losses into mechanical gains.
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