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Project Black Flag Friday: All Hands on Deck

Project Black Flag Friday: All Hands on Deck

It’s February, and Project Black Flag playtesting draws ever closer!

As our Kobolds work their nimble fingers designing and editing the first playtest material, we’re excited to answer some of your burning questions.


First, let’s reveal just a few of our partners raising the flag with us. The virtual space is increasingly important to Kobold Press and tabletop games, so we’re excited to announce some of the VTT and Digital Tool partners we’ll work with over the next few months.

Some Things Stay the Same…

As announced, Project Black Flag will be compatible with 5E. But there’s more! Kobold plans to revise and sharpen familiar mechanics while offering new, streamlined options for a core tabletop game.

Dice goblins of the world, rejoice! You can keep your hoard as Project Black Flag will use the beloved, time-tested set of Platonic solids, d4 to d20 (and also the d10, which, okay, sure, isn’t a Platonic solid, but everyone loves it so much, no one brings it up.)

And what kind of Kobolds would we be if we didn’t show love to our monsters? You can expect a Project Black Flag core book of 400 monsters, fully illustrated! It will include some of your favorite classic fantasy monsters and all new ones to bedevil players.

…And Some Things Change

Now let’s talk about ongoing design. The first playtest packet in February contains rules and mechanics that focus on character creation.

  • Talents & Backgrounds: A new talent system helps players customize their characters with potent Magic, Martial, or Technical advantages.
  • Lineage & Heritage System: Not every dwarf was raised among dwarves, so we’ve split those aspects to help refine character concepts. During character creation, choose a lineage, which represents a character’s biology, and a heritage to represent upbringing in a particular group or society. Choose a standard match of race and heritage for a more traditional character or mix ‘n’ match to craft a unique origin!

We look forward to your feedback in helping us refine these options. We’ll have a new playtest packet each month highlighting new features and options. Do you want to get these packets and help us playtesting? Sign up to join our playtest crew!

Thank you to everyone who continues to support us as we develop Project Black Flag. Raise those flags high!

*This article has been updated as of 2/6/2023. The original post used the term “race,” which will be replaced with “lineage” throughout Project Black Flag.

172 thoughts on “Project Black Flag Friday: All Hands on Deck”

    1. Several 3PP have been doing this for a while, including myself (first with Chromatic Dungeons, and later with Bugbears & Borderlands). So it’s nice to see it become more mainstream.

      1. One thing I would like to see is another big class choice at level 13 or 14 to represent the characters stepping into the final leg of their destiny. All of the other choices seem great

  1. Question – are the new monsters going to be “Net New” monsters, or are these beasts from the Creature Codex/Tomes of Beasts?

  2. What about character generation/management apps? This has always been the Achilles’ Heel of D&D 5E if you’re not a Beyond subscriber and/or intend to use third-party material (like Kobold Press stuff). My crew has been muddling along with Fight Club 5 and Game Master 5 thanks to a somewhat-dated bundle of fan-authored Kobold Press data. But it would be great to finally have a proper character generator that supports your ruleset, the SRD basics, and Midgard material.

    Are there plans for such a tool, or maybe a partnership with Lone Wolf Development for Hero Lab Online support?

    1. Look to Demiplane for character tools, Bear. It is helmed by one of the original founders of DnD Beyond and looks like it will have a very similar model. I’m in on the PF2 stuff while anxiously awaiting PBF.

    2. My crew has all been using Shard for our Empire of the Ghouls campaign. We have the Heroes Handbook loaded and all my players can use it – they’ve been building Kobold Press inspired characters for several levels now. it’s an excellent tool that runs on multiple devices – all of my players state it’s easy to use both during game play and leveling up their character. I also have Vault of Magic on Shard, so I can easily provide them access to any magical “goodies”. Dndbeyond be gone! Raise the black flag!

    3. Why not use the free version of Fantasy Grounds Bear? It does everything you ask. You really only need the paid version -which I use a lot and recommend- if you are running games online.

  3. I think if possible, ditch race altogether. It was probably the one smart move WotC made in 2022 and I think it’s crucial to growing the hobby. The market for growth is in inclusivity anyway.

    1. I like the feature described, but going with a different name I think would be a good move.

      Perhaps Nature/Nurture instead of Race/Heritage with the same description.

      1. Adventures Unknown

        My thoughts exactly! I felt so clever thinking of it, but it’s such a good fit for the idea that really I just have to be glad you agree :)

    2. Most people couldn’t care less. That word only carries the baggage that you attach to it yourself. Most people simply choose not to do so…

      1. that’s remarkably incorrect actually. It’s a word that massively polls poorly and the number of people of color who told WotC they don’t play their particular game because they use that word still after all these years and many games moving away from it was really telling.

        1. It’s a sensitive subject these days, for sure. But to Backcountry’s point, the concept of, and the term “race,” is not racist. But it is a loaded word today because of all the negative connotations attached to it, so it makes sense that it would poll poorly. However, I still think its usage is appropriate in the context of D&D and adjacent game rules.

          1. As long as the word rolls off the tongue better than, “Geographically Isolated Group of a Species Who Express Similar Biological Features Which When Viewed By Others Of Their Species Find It Fairly Easy To Abstract Into a Single Term to Describe Them In Far Fewer Words, Although In The Past They Frequently Mapped This To Culture or ‘Ethnicity’ But Not So Much Anymore” or something, then I’m good with it.

          2. The problem is, languages evolve, and connotation is part of the evolution of language. Telling people that a word is “technically” correct when it bothers them doesn’t address the fact that the word has been used to marginalize them.

        2. It only polls poorly in democrat echo chambers. The rest of the world doesn’t care.
          A dwarf… is a RACE. And Elf… is a RACE. Stop injecting these stupid woke nonsense politics into our beloved subculture. Man up.

          1. Species.
            I believe you meant that they are species.

            Stepping aside from American politics, or “woke culture”, you are assuming race similar to it’s more recent etymological usage: a term to separate those of the same species (human) into groups based on the ethnical features they share (such as the colour of one’s skin).

            Continued usage of Race in this manner brings with it many many hundreds of years of racist usage along with it.

            So why is changing this word so disturbing if a new word corrects this and removes it’s connotations from a game?

          2. So, most elves have two races, then? The sub-races are closer to the real definition of race after all. And what if there are multiple high-elf civilizations with different cultures and phenotype? Does that mean that a given high-elf has three races now? Maybe even more?

            I just swap the typical DnD use of ‘race’ with ‘lineage’ or ‘kinship’, but what do you do to address this pile-o-races?

    3. I think race should be there. If you call all the races species then you promote the idea that they are genetically incompatible and then you would not be able to have all the lovely half races. I think we should have race ancestry and heritage. Raise being the blanket for example elf. Ancestry being what type of Alf. Heritage being how you were raised. For example if you were a wood elf raised by dwarves you might look at other elves as snobbish.

      1. The world is magic. Dragons can have children with humans and other humanoids. Genetics doesn’t matter, so there really isn’t a good argument to say that implied genetic incompatibility should take precedence over empathy.

        1. Well, if any biological elves and dwarves complain, I guess it will need to be addressed. Until then, maybe we should focus on gameplay instead of worrying about the sensitivity of mythological beings.

      2. To retort, exactly this logic. The only half variants I’ve historically seen are half humans. I don’t see hybrids between other playable races (elves, dwarves, dragonborn, aaracocra, etc.). Either let race be what it is, with very fuzzy borders, or call it species.

    4. On on hand. Ditching the word race is kinda meaningless. Ancestry and heritage. Whatever it is all a reference to you biological construction. Except that these titles also suggest culture as well. Which obviously is not the same as race. If I was designing a modern rpg in the real world. I would not use the term race. Because it would be stupid and racist to say a Japanese and Korean, African, White etc. Have a variance in ability scores at character generation. But race is correct for fantasy role playing. A 40 pound Kobold and 300 pound Minatour. Well their just is a strength modifier here. It’s just a fact. So I would keep race. Because it makes sense. But I would add culture as a second part. Maybe your dwarf did not grow up in a mining society. Maybe your orc was raised in a peaceful farming community. Why does a elf just know how to use a long sword. These things I always thought were kinda stupid. But at the same time. Your dealing with a world where the Gods may have created Elves and said. You know what they will know about long swords. I think people are reading to much into those words. Their is reason to use them in this setting.

    5. How would one go about “ditching race”? It’s great having dwarves, elves, humans, gnomes, etc adventuring together. Wh would you want to exclude all races except one?
      And what do you even mean by “market for growth”? I don’t see how inclusivity is a marketing gimmick. If you want to be inclusive, get more women and girls into RP games, get more kids to play, get people of all ethnicities to play. Encourage players to play characters of all races and ethnicities.

  4. I would greatly appreciate it if all of the VTT apps could use existing 5e products. I have a huge investment in 5e Kobold Press products on Fantasy Grounds and being able to use the PBF engine instead of 5e would be fantastic.

  5. I do like the “race” and “heritage” system as a very good take on the nature vs. nurture scene; I also appreciate how we’re not changing “race” into “species” :D

  6. I’m all for separating race from heritage, but I really think you need to move away from a loaded word like race if you want to be as inclusive as possible. Ancestry, Kindred, Lineage, Origin . . . I think it’s time to move on from Race, and I think there are plenty of options that still feel “fantasy.”

        1. I think people are smart enough to decide for themselves without someone deciding for them. Stop “White Knighting” please.

    1. This is well said. I don’t care if “it’s always been that way we’ve done it”, that’s a dumb response to anything, especially in a time of change and growth. Ditch the term and grow from the past.

      1. You might not understand the purpose of Black Flag. The only reason to make a 5e compatible game system is to leverage the legacy of that game and its prior editions, and allow we enthusiasts of the game to continue playing it with minimal interruption and, ideally, with our existing libraries of physical and digital game books still relevant useful.
        If all that was sought was something new, there would be no reason to cling to legacy terminology. You could have all new stats that are easier to apply to circumstances in-game. You could have a rational armor and injury system instead of an abstract AC and pool of hit points. Then, you could really “grow from the past” without limitation.
        If you’re trying to make a 5e compatible game that existing D&D players are comfortable with, and which will appeal to new players interested in the history of the hobby and looking for something recognizable as the game that started in Lake Geneva, lo those many years ago, then you’d better not ditch any legacy terminology unless you’ve got a bloody good reason. I don’t think a handful of wanna-be DEI consultants suggesting that a term *might* be offensive to some hypothetical prospective gamers whom they’ve never met reaches that standard, but hey… that’s just, like, my opinion, man.

        1. An appeal to nostalgia is not a reason to retain a word that is harmful to people, and signals that they may not be welcome playing the game. If the game is going to appeal to 5e players, then it has already conceded that many things from the past aren’t integral to the experience for a significant number of gamers. There aren’t alignment restrictions on classes, racial restrictions on classes, or strength limits on female characters, and rightly so. There is no reason to so vehemently cling to the term race.

        2. I like Kin(dred) the most but it implies close familial ties. Species is too clinical and not accurate really, depending on the Milieu. I think People(s) is good term, relegating Elf, Dwarf, Human, etc. to an adjective form, but unfortunately it reminds me of Ross Perot’s constant use of “you people” in that disastrous speech he gave. And as far as changing terms is concerned, a simple thesaurus / translation glossary is sufficient.

    2. I like Kin(dred) the most but it implies close familial ties. Species is too clinical and not accurate really, depending on the Milieu. I think People(s) is good term, relegating Elf, Dwarf, Human, etc. to an adjective form, but unfortunately it reminds me of Ross Perot’s constant use of “you people” in that disastrous speech he gave.

  7. Love it. BUT this is the perfect chance to ditch the loaded word “race”. You don’t have years of history to contend with to make the change (which isn’t a good reason not to change it anyway). Lineage is perfect. Ancestry is great. Origin? Kin? From what we’ve heard so far, this is so close to being near-perfect but that’s holding it back.

        1. No. It’s just a word. I couldn’t care less. I’m just tired of people pretending thier own prejudices are actually everyone else’s.

          1. I do find it odd that half of the comments on this article are you going to bat for keeping the word “race” to describe the concept. Are you *sure* you don’t care? Because you sure do seem to be putting a lot of time and energy into showing otherwise.

          2. I think a fair bit of the resistance to changing the word race comes from the implication that it was somehow wrong to use it in the first place, like anyone who is comfortable with legacy terminology might as well admit to believing in phrenology-based eugenics or similar nonsense.
            The term “race” isn’t racist, the term “class” isn’t elitist, and the term “level” doesn’t denigrate new characters. I, for one, am not impressed by a few self-anointed would-be change agents coming along and projecting their own biases onto things that have been getting along just fine without them for generations, and demanding that everything be changed to conform to their new, modern, morally superior way of seeing the world.

    1. It a modern real world setting yes. No reason to give a American and Korean a variance in ability scores. But in a fantasy world with half man half bird or a kobold or human etc. These really are actual races. A kobold simply on average has a vast disadvantage in strength to a orc or say Minotaur. There are really physical attributes here. Now getting away from all Dwarves mine. All goblins are evil because they are goblins. Ya thinking self aware beings capable of culture. Well they should not have the racial morality built so strong into them. It’s not racist in the fantasy setting. People need to step back and remember context.

  8. I am happy to see you are keeping the term race. It has been part of the RPG vernacular for decades. It shows you respect tradition even in the process of innovating and aren’t cowed by faux outrage. I play games to get away from the real world – not to drag its debates into my escape time.
    I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with. I’ve been subjecting my players to the playtest materials from The Other Company, but now they may have to try Black Flag.

    1. I’m glad as well. In the fantasy setting. It’s a meaningful fact. Half bird half man, Kobold, Minotaur. Clearly these are not the same as trying to use race in a modern setting with only humans. I’m glad the game is also considering more and more. Your race is not your culture by default. I mean to some degree with a fantasy setting it would be. Like vampires are just going to be naturally at odds with the mortal world do to their biology.

  9. I know this is a ways off, but regarding fantasy grounds I’ve got a ton of 5e modules for fantasy grounds. Will I be able to utilize those modules in black flag’s ruleset providing it’s its own ruleset? Or will it be a 5e ruleset add-on like Level Up?

    1. I am sort of hoping for the same thing, but for FoundryVTT, where I have a number of modules for 5E, including a large amount of KP modules. Presumably, some work will be required to convert, but I would hate to have to lose my paid content, or having to pay full price to get it again.

  10. Ditch “race”
    Ancestry = your parentage and biology
    Heritage = the society or culture you were raised in
    Background = the thing you were raised to or steered towards being (e.g. a farmer who got conscripted into the army)
    Calling (class) = the thing you (as a player or character) *chose* to be

    The first two include features your character acquires *passively* by virtue of birth and circumstance
    The last two include features your character acquires *actively* through experience, study, or training

  11. I think we should listen to the people who have been directly harmed by being of a different “race” in real life and drop the term. “Tradition” is a terrible excuse to continue using a term when it’s inaccurate and drives people away from the game.

    1. There obviously is no accurate term. And who exactly has been driven away by this innocent word?? I keep hearing people claim it can happen, but the people making that claim never seems to be someone who might have actually been affected by it. It’s almost as if they’re trying to give some sort of signal…

    2. I’ve played RPGs with many people, across a range of ethnicities and nationalities. I’ve know plenty of people who were not interested in trying an RPG. I’ve known a few who tried playing, and did not enjoy it, or at least not enough to keep at it.
      I’ve never met anyone put-off by the term “race” to describe an elf or a dwarf. Not one. Ever. I’m not saying they don’t exist, but I have my doubts that it’s ever driven anyone away from the game.

      Elves and dwarves aren’t real, so there’s not likely to be an accurate term for them. They’ve always been races in the context of RPGs, so that’s the most accurate term you’ll find, simply because it’s the original definition. It’s definitive.

      1. Perhaps you never met them because they already knew that game used race and included other things that made them feel unwelcome, so they never showed up to begin with. Maybe they really liked the game, but were never comfortable enough around you to let you know what aspects of the game bothered them.

  12. I’ll express what I have in the discord , If you are going to keep race , that’s fine but if you want to change it up I’d suggest keeping it away from WotC’s choice for odnd ‘s playtest of “Species” as that’s too scientific sounding. Instead : Kind (E.g. Humankind, dwarf/dwarvenkind, elf/elvenkind) .
    if not that then something similar like Folk that feels very down to earth, yet fantasy ( e.g. The Gnomefolk)

    To expand on this tho And if you’re looking for specific offshoots that’d fall into the “subraces” of 5e I’d go with “Variants” as the word suggest something that it’s different different without suggesting they’d below or something that subrace/subspieces/subkind/subfolk may imply.

    Have a safe weekend everyone.

  13. Please make flags for sale! The sooner the better. We can’t raise the flag if we don’t have one. And you need to have a flag being waved at GenCon. Even better, have a photo spot where people can take pictures waving the black flag. These suggestions are courtesy of Nerd Immersion’s video discussing this article.

    1. Ooh if we’re doing merch request : a PBf shirt with grey or white shirt options so the logo and kobold are black .

  14. I love the idea of splitting origin into a biological and cultural heritage! To echo a lot of other people here, it’s a good chance to move away from the term ‘race’, even if it’s traditional in the ttrpg space. Race isn’t a biological concept, it’s a societal concept, and so using it to describe biology is inaccurate as well as it being a loaded term that polls rather poorly. It really is more than semantics, and it would mean a lot more to the people who want it changed to change it than it would to the people who want to keep ‘race’ as the standard term. I’m so excited to see the playtest once it releases!

    1. +1 This.

      The term being used for ethnically similar group of people (and specifically their outward appearance) is recent (see past 300-350 years).

      I can agree with folks thinking that species is too clinical, regardless if it has a more correct definition for what it’s being used for.

      And for those claiming tradition: traditions change. Especially if a tradition is, or was, harmful.

      1. 200 years is about as far as you could go back and still understand people speaking “modern English.” The ‘great vowel movement’ greatly changed the way words were pronounced despite being similarly spelled.

        Inventing harm to a mythical species and then being outraged over it in a game were people murder kobolds for experience points seems beyond silly.

        Do you think a real world racist couldn’t use enough venom to make any term you invent for differences between us sound offensive? Tell you what, head down to the gym and find an attractive young woman. Nudge someone and say in a voice loud enough to be heard, and in a suggestive tone, “Hey man, how’d you like to adjust her clutch?” See how long it takes for you to wind up on TikTok in spite of the fact that she is highly unlikely to even know what a clutch adjustment is.

  15. Perfect!
    Will integrate into our current groups gaming nights so easy.
    Can’t wait to try it out.
    Raise the flag!!!!

  16. Put me down in favor of moving away from the word “race.” I ultimately think it’ll be more good than harm for the popularity of the product, which is really important if PBF is to be anything more than a niche of a niche like most TTRPGs are. People generally play what they think they can get other people to play, from what I can tell. And I think it’ll be easier to convince people to play a game that doesn’t use “race” than one that does.

    My personal feelings on the matter aren’t particularly strong in and of themselves; however, I’d rather side with people who do have a distaste for calling the various sapient creatures in fantasy “races,” who are going out of their way to at least try to be respectful towards others, instead of siding with people who think “how it’s always been done” is a good reason to do, well, anything.

    1. Well said.
      The term IS divisive as this very discussion demonstrates. So why side against inclusivity? It’s particularly problematic for younger players, and the hobby needs younger players, doesn’t it?

      1. Younger players seem to have been drawn to 5th edition in record numbers, and haven’t found the legacy terminology to be problematic unless and until people look for things to take issue with. Inclusivity would include people already familiar with and quite fond of the several editions of D&D and its RPG progeny, would it not? Messing with that established terminology, especially with the implication that it was somehow insensitive or worse to have used it in the first place, will exclude a lot of players who are unimpressed by moralizing.

        With regard to young players specifically, I’ve noticed a number of younger players become interested in (and even enamored by) OSR games and retro-clones, and I suspect that’s reflective of a desire to participate in a hobby with a history, and to engage with the legacy and traditions of D&D and other RPGs that have accrued over these 50 years of gaming. I doubt you’d have to look very far to find some of these younger game enthusiasts who would think less of Black Flag if it started throwing established terms, conventions, and tropes out the window.

        1. I started playing with 1e and I was uncomfortable with the term ‘race’ 40 years ago. It’s time to move on.

          (Not fond of ‘species’ as an alternative — too sci-fi for a genre where different people-groups are individually handcrafted by the gods. I like ‘folk’ or ‘stock’, but ‘kind’ works too.)

          To the people who are upset at the idea of making a change, do you still talk about lizardmen and mermen?

          1. Of course I still talk about lizardmen, they’re a staple of D&D. Mermen come up less often, but sometimes. What, you don’t have any lizardmen in your game world?

          2. So I’m clear on this, you’ve viewed “race” as an offensive term since the early 1980’s, but referring to groups of people as part of, or coming from a “stock” is a palatable change?

  17. As many others have already said, it is time to move on from using ‘race’ in this context. Ancestry, lineage, species, heritage, kind, folk etc so many other options that don’t play into real world hatreds. I love the idea of separating the biology from culture though. In character creation we’re answer the questions about what happened before the adventure starts. Who were your parents? Why are you adventuring? What do you do? Where were you raised? (Ancestry, Background, Class, Culture or figure out a good D word for one of those for your ABCDs of character creation. )

  18. Guys I really hope that you leave all the real world politics out of our pretend game.

    I like the word race, in fact when I hear ‘race’ alternatives all i see is ways to relabel the issue.

    When I play DND I strive to avoid real world issues in game. It becomes divisive. Suddenly we are not working n a problem together, in combat or a bunch of other things we are talking about imported problems that have real world impact in a fantasy world where frankly, they have no place.

    Please please dont give in to the fanatics and radicals, let us play our fantasy game in a fantasy setting as we always have done.

    1. It is a fallacious argument that altering language that is exclusionary is a political choice, but retaining exclusionary language is somehow “apolitical.” Both choices are equally political. However, one is predicated on wanting to make the game inviting to people of color, and the other is either intentionally exclusionary or is an act of willful ignorance refusing to listen to marginalized voices. Language and culture are constantly evolving, and our entertainments evolve with it. There’s nothing radical about that.

      1. To project your own issues onto terms that have been in use for generations and then demand that the lexicon be changed and “evolve” according to your own sensibilities seems pretty radical to me.

        1. Plenty of words that were in common use for generations are considered unacceptable now. And providing feedback to a playtest is not “demanding” anything. It is doing exactly what the publisher invited us all to do.

          1. You are correct, of course. Many terms of yester-year are genuinely and obviously offensive. “Race” isn’t one of them, and I don’t think anyone seriously thinks it will be scrubbed from the common vernacular.
            Providing feedback is absolutely not demanding, and is completely appropriate here. When you suggest that anyone who doesn’t agree with your feedback is morally compromised, engaging in “an act of willful ignorance refusing to listen to marginalized voices” or some such nonsense, that’s when it becomes demanding.
            “I think we should do it this way” is feedback. “Do it my way or you’re really bad and wrong” is demanding.

      2. That is crazy!
        What part of the current wording excludes people of colour? I see no explicit statements that says this subsection of the human race only.
        I run 6 campaigns a month and have male & female and a wide spectrum of the human race in each group. what I am doing differently than you?

  19. I would be curious to know why they are using “race” instead of “species”? It seems like an odd choice to refer to different species as different races, given the ongoing struggles associated with race.

  20. So I am a long time D&D player. I am over 50 and have played sice the original basic set. I don’t understand the fear of the word “race”. Why are so many afraid to use it? I have read one in post in particular that mentions people of color being offended. I would like an explanation sice there is NO people of color “race”. There is a human race and everything else is ethnicity. So in a fantasy game you certainly should have “race” in the game as each group is NOT human but an entirely seperate genome zooilogically. They are not all the same say genetically but could be similarly ethnically. No person of color today is any different from a white person racially. We r ALL human, just different ethnically.

    1. Agreed. We here on planet earth are all humans; our ethnicity makes us different, but someone decided to make “race” a loaded word that the vast majority of the humans on the planet don’t think it is. I’m a black, gay human that lives on planet earth. I find that word to be perfectly acceptable. Not everyone lives in a bubble ;-)

      1. Thank you, this was worded in a way better way than I could.

        Like i say I run 6 campaigns and I have a right mixed bag in terms of skin colour. Chinese, African, and caucasian and yet all British. I have mallest length of time any one campaign group has been going for is 4 years, and race hasn’t come up even once.

        I have no ideas on sexuality as I hold a table [on all campaigns] that kids can join so my session zero bans sexuality in game.

        I honestly dont understand the issue but am getting fed up of it being forced into the game

  21. I think the partnership of VTT platforms provides an opportunity to really achieve an “O5R” game experience, where the slick mechanics of 5e can meet an Old School style of play. I am mostly familiar with the Fantasy Grounds VTT, and I am thinking specifically of the toggles currently available in the 5e ruleset. Things like “Slow Natural Healing” and “Re-Roll Initiative Each Round” are helpful, but I think a game system designed to have the broadest appeal should have as many options and variant rules as can reasonably be included. Things the 5e ruleset doesn’t offer, for example, are an old-school death mechanic, or the ability to key recovery to an extended rest beyond a day’s long rest (I find the “gritty realism” 1 day short rest, 1 week long rest to be inelegant.)

    Another thing important when appealing to players and DMs with long familiarity with D&D across its many iterations is maintaining the terminology the the greatest practical degree. In addition to the stats we’re all familiar with (which I know are somewhat arbitrary at times) I’m glad to see that Black Flag looks to be keeping the established Race, Class, Level, etc. Adding a subcategory like Heritage is no problem–it takes nothing away and it is easy enough to simplify to the “standard match” if you want a streamlined or basic version, for example for a quick one-shot. I would suggest a streamlined background proficiency option would be useful in that same context.

    As a final note, I’ve played D&D and several successor games with many friends of various ethnicities over the course of a few decades now. This includes black, Hispanic, and Asian folks, and people from quite a few different countries. I have never run into anyone who was offended by describing a character by race, class, and level. I’m sure that a diligent search would find a few people offended by literally anything you could hope to find, but it seems to me that the calls to ditch legacy terminology are all coming from people who are vicariously offended on behalf of hypothetical victims they’ve not met, either. I could be wrong, that’s just my opinion based on observation.

  22. This is wonderful news and exactly what you promised. That is more than the other company has done for us. We will have a new, better gaming system and still get to use our 5E stuff that we bought and will buy from Kobold Press and the other 3PPs and from that other company that makes substandard material for their own gaming system. Raise the Black flag high!

    1. I could totally get behind this as an option. The 5e DMG has this option, but it’s not implemented in any VTT that I’m aware of. Using your partnership with these VTTs to bring options like this to us would be fantastic.

  23. I think the race/heritage split makes a lot of sense.

    Some are screeching about the use of the word race, yet seem oblivious to the fact that the way the word is used in RPGs is much more accurate than words like “lineage” or “ancestry”. Lineage and ancestry are specifically pertaining to family lines.

    1. Race is less accurate for what RPGs are describing, as race is not a biological concept but a social one. Humans, genetically speaking, aren’t very different from each other, and in fact only 10% of human genetic diversity exists between races as they’re typically defined irl. The difference, in a fantasy setting, between a human and an orc is not a societal conception. This race/heritage system specifically splits biology and culture, which is awesome, but race does not, and has not ever, referred to actual biology.

      1. I try not to just make assumptions when someone says something I think is incorrect, so I looked up “race” on Merriam-Webster to be sure. What I found there:
        –Race is a distinction “based on physical traits regarded as common among people of shared ancestry.” It’s “a group of people sharing a common cultural, geographical, linguistic, or religious origin or background” and “the descendants of a common ancestor.”
        –Race is also “a group of living things considered as a category” or a “breed.”
        –Race can be “a group within a species that is distinguishable (as morphologically, genetically, or behaviorally) from others of the same species” or “a group of people sharing some habit or characteristic (such as profession or belief).”

        Race seems like the perfect term to describe elves and dwarves, orcs and goblins. It is a term broad enough to cover distinct species as well as more metaphysical differentiation. In Norse myth, for example, it’s not always easy to know the difference between a dwarf, and elf, or a troll. Sometimes it appears there is a bright line distinction between Aesir, Vanir, and Joten, but other times they seem more like different tribes of the same people. I myself consider the gnomes and goblins of my world to be the same creature with wildly different characteristics based on their affiliation, because of their inherent connection to fey magic.

        This will be one game intended to enable RPG play in myriad different worlds, and not all of those worlds will work the same way. In some, elves will have sprung from the spilled blood of a god, in others they will be and eldritch offshoot of humanity. Race is a broad and general enough term to cover almost any taxonomy.

        The other take-away from reading the “official” definition of race, for me, was that there is nothing about the word that anyone could reasonably take offense at. Sure, you can use it to describe a distinction based on any trait or collection of traits, but there is nothing about the term that is necessarily pejorative. It’s completely value-neutral.

  24. Wonder what the feasibility is of planning to run playtest games at an upcoming (May) local tabletop gaming convention…

    Don’t suppose there are any Kobold Press folks in the Northern Virginia/Western MD/NE West Virginia area?

  25. Really looking forward to this, can’t wait to see it on Foundry!

    I’m going to agree with a lot of other people here, please do not use race. The hobby is already moving away from it, there’s no reason here to hitch to a wagon that has always been criticized and controversial. This is coming from someone who has ran those older editions in the day, and has had to grow with time.

  26. This all looks super interesting. PBF seems to be building off the strengths of 5e with a more open system that has some tweaks to make it even better. In that spirit, I would strongly encourage you to take the time to tweak the language a bit and replace “race” with “ancestry”. It’s a small change that will improve the experience for current and future players.

  27. I’ve been playing with ENPublishing’s LUA5e for over a year now and I love that more projects are jumping on separating nature/nurture. It brings so much freedom to character creation. One of my players has a Dragonborn raised by Eladrin, who then was exiled.
    I’m hoping that since A5e is backwards compatible, and PBF we might be able to mix things with relative ease (at the very least I hope to still enjoy KP’s monster creations!).
    Only thing I don’t look forward to will be the confusion. LU uses Heritage/Culture for their nature/nurture naming scheme so going Race/Heritage will totally mess with my brain when I cross reference things.

  28. I would like to chime in here as a real-life mixed race poc who GMs for several other poc.

    We are all uncomfortable with the use of the word “race”.

    People in this thread have already pointed this out, but it bears repeating. In real life, race is a socially constructed concept, that actually has a fairly recent history and had a specific political/economic purpose (justifying colonization). There are many biological differences between humans. For example, my big toe is longer than my second toe, whereas for others it is the other way around. This difference hasn’t been used in the construction of a category like race or gender though, so it is totally irrelevant. In a different social context things like skin color or hair texture could be equally irrelevant, but they aren’t because of the categories that have been constructed using them – and the violence enacted using those categories.

    Using race to describe the difference between an elf and a dwarf, which in many fantasy traditions have completely different creation mythologies/origins, reifies the real-life concept of race as having a probably biological basis.

    It is also the case that many fantasy “races” use stereotypes associated with real life groups of people in many classic fantasy settings. E.g. dwarves and Jewish people or orcs and the “asiatic hordes”. Attaching mechanical things like intelligence ability score modifiers to fantasy “races” in this context does not feel good.

    I do think it is okay to say, hey if you are a fairy you have wings and can therefore fly. If you are a tiefling you are resistant to fire damage etc. But I don’t think abilities or skills should be tied to what kind of sentient creature you are, and we really really need to find a better word than “race”. If you need an example of someone who is turned off by it, I am turned off by it.

    1. I hear what you are saying and I say lets celebrate the differences. But when we are taking social constructs and people groups and saying this REAL people group is that fantastical made up race [and to use your example] ***dwarves and Jewish people or orcs and the “asiatic hordes”*** is pure nonsense. I would love to see the source attribution for this. I cant imagine that it exists anywhere but please show me it from the minds and pens of the rulemakers like Gygax or Arneson or more recent contributors like Crawford or Perkins.

      These kind of assertions are the ones I have to go back to the text and read and apply the new definition to it as that new definition does not arise from a plain reading of the text and believing that the text means what it says. It all sounds a lot like deconstructionalism. For example, its not what the text says but what the text doesn’t say. If you start down that road no text is safe!

      We play a fantasy game. A Game! None of it exists in real life, none of it is an allusion to real life. I see this kind of comment and see it being inserted into the game when those assumptions were not already there. Its devastating in fact as it brings racism to the game table, in a way it was never there before :(

      Thank you Kobold for making the distinction of race then heritage. This covers the very thing you are trying to address. But please recall it is a complete work of fantasy that we play.

      1. Tolkien in interviews and letter compared dwarves to Jews and orcs to Mongols. Gygax citing John Chivington, who justified murdering Native American infants because they would grow up to become enemies, as falling under a “Lawful Good” alignment. So yeah, there is some terrible baggage that needs to be addressed, rather than ignored.

        1. Thank you for citing sources but I dont recall reading that in the 5e books.

          Could you please provide me page numbers from the official 5e releases please?

          1. I wouldn’t really call that citing sources. More “cherry picking.”
            Tolkien’s comparison between dwarves and jews were that of a displaced people, finding themselves strangers in the lands of different people. Tolkien’s statement on the orcs is more focused on physical characteristics than that of the dwarves, but again, important things left out. In his statement, Tolkien draws a very clear line between the fictional orcs, and actual real life mongol people. A person more versed in Tolkien’s lore and writings could explain either in far better detail than I ever could.

            Still, it doesn’t really have any bearing on the use of the word race itself, though.

  29. Please include a more robust skills system or at least provide the option for one. While the current streamlined skills system is nice as it removes a barrier for entry to some new players, it can be frustrating for veteran players who enjoy more robust (crunchy) rules.

    Also providing the option for a more robust skills system (something similar to the system from 3rd edition DnD) would go a long way to creating character diversity which has been limited with the introduction of the more streamlined skills system when 4e DnD was released and continues in 5e DnD.

    1. Perhaps something like a skill web as I saw in another game once where skills are linked but with declining effectiveness.
      I want to dance. If I have the dance skill, I use that modifier. If not, I can use skills once removed for X-2. Let’s say for example acrobatics and society. I could use skills twice removed for X-4. Those might be history, arcana, athletics, disguise, and persuasion. At three spaces removed, you probably just using a stat.

      These EXACT numbers may not work, but something similar to that maybe?

  30. Vince Snetterton

    Ah well, guess I will have to gut this product like I do the wotc products, because in my game, there is only a very limited amount of species, cross-breeding is limited to half-orcs and half-elves, and there is no such thing as “heritage”. Each species has underlying strengths and weakness, just like the hobby was designed 50 years ago.

    1. Do you still wear fashion from 50 years ago? Only watch shows or read books from 50 years ago? You should get rid of whatever device you used to write your comment on this website because neither that device nor this website existed 50 years ago.

  31. Thanks for listening to people and changing your decision to use Race to Lineage instead.

    And kudos as well for keeping that separate from things like culture and learning in the idea of Heritage.

  32. Negromaestro Games

    I am here excited for Project Black Flag. But if some of our community wants to brow-beat everyone over real world historic wrongs, then the phrase “black” has many more negative connotations than positive ones (a black heart, inky black darkness, etc).

    I am a Games Master of Black African origin myself, and most people from various nations in Africa who settled in America outside the tragic slave trade force migrations, do not use the phrase “African American” but instead Ghanaian American, Kenyan American, Nigerian American, etc.

    So let us talk about fantasy race. Dwarves and elves are hot humans. All humans in popular fantasy fiction belong to one race, the human race. Humans are not orcs, so you cannot say orcs are representative of real world black people unless you chose to be racist yourself.

    Please let us create a wonderful Project Black Flag experience without dragging real world politics to divide and make the hobby hostile by ostracizing those using “race” in classical fantasy terms.

    Thank you.

  33. Negromaestro Games

    So in a nutshell, humans chose to continue to discriminate one another even here in a supposedly inclusive community..

    Dominant noise makers shout “we hate the word race” in fantasy and you are racist for using it.
    Other noise makers shout, “we want to continue using race” and you are woke bigots for forcing change.

    In the end, we cannot have unity if everyone is intolerant of another person’s worldview. Which is where we are again with “lineage” replacing “race” just real world discrimination turning fantasy escapism to yet another political divide for nor discernible reason. :-(

    1. I saw a lot of people (more frightened than angry) about the word “race” not because they disagreed with using it, but simply because there was a risk of being called racist just because of the impression that could be given in using it, from a purely commercial point of view I have to say through gritted teeth that it was still the right choice… Kobold Press saved itself a lot of “possible” problems.

  34. Kotaku, Polygon and others reported on D&D’s decision to drop the word Race in December, if you want the wider perspective on the matter.

  35. I’m out. You had my full support until you decided to cave in to modern politics. I just want to point out the ridiculousness of changing an innocuous word that clearly describes something because you thought that the people playing your MURDER SIMULATOR might be offended. The majority of your rules will undoubtedly center around different ways to kill things better. Next up: Battle Wheelchairs in a world where Gods and Magic are demonstrably real. Stop it.

  36. In various games, there have been part human part demon or part Angel or part dragon. Can we work these into the lineage system so that ANY race can be corrupted, ascendant, or draconic?

    I just like the idea of slight different variations because a Dragonborn dwarf manifests differently than a Dragonborn human and so on.

  37. Jeffrey Visgaitis

    Having issues with your playtest form. It has email and confirm email fields, but when the email I input is the same in both fields it gives me an error and says it needs to be unique.

  38. Chenlie Shortdragon

    I’m excited to start reading and trying the PBF test materials!

    It seems the entire spectrum of opinions on terminology of a specific character-building mechanic has been covered here, but I do want to say THANK YOU for showing a willingness to listen and adapt to feedback. I hope that proves to be a consistent sign of this game throughout its development and beyond, especially in light of the recent showing of rigidity by other game systems in how they wish to handle game mechanics and their legal standings.

  39. Well I hope your games turns out good but I’m going to opt out of participating in a playtest where semantics hold as much weight, if not more, than mechanics.
    5e has been steadily heading downhill by catering to a certain crowd. If that crowd is in charge here too, I don’t hold much hope. Luckily I’ve already got plenty of games to play.

  40. Negromaestro Games

    I am still happy to see Project Black Flag succeed among others.

    I just leave this thought on the nature of Tyranny and that many a Tyrant starts with good intentions. Today a small but extremely vocal and intolerant minority falsely claimed to represent the views of the silent majority. Sadly, it took just a few such load voices on this single page to influence Kobold Press here.

    But I also appreciate that it is safer for Kobold Press to make this minor change to a word than to face off against an intolerant and vocal Twitter mob calling Kobold Press staff racist over a fantasy game.

    Just know that intolerance is not something alien, but even people with the best theoretical intentions can be absolutist bigots in their pursuit of Utopia.

  41. Interesting to divide talents between Physical, Magical and Technological as the third was never really well supported as any sort of thing within any version of D&D. In fact, I would even go as far as to say that any sort of Technological system within ttrpg has always been quite lackluster. It’s a pretty big risk to take with a game that is aiming to replace D&D– a much bigger risk than any Paizo took with Pathfinder 1.0. Here I was half expecting you to just blindly copy the current D&D edition with some super minor adjustments like they did.

    As for breaking races up into “lineage” and “heritage”– sounds fine and all, but I will be skeptical until I see how you handle Orcs or Hobgoblins– strike that– those are relatively easy in comparison (despite historically done poorly) — I have to wonder how your lineage vs. heritage thing will hold up once you start stretching out to include Satyrs, Minotaurs, Dryads, Vanara, Rakshasa, Naga, Oni, Tengu, Kumiho, Succubi, Werewolves, Vampires…. how far can you really stretch things before you hit the “this race would require so many bonuses to encapsulate their powers that we don’t really have room to have both lineage and heritage based benefits.”

  42. Disappointed in the change from races. Disappointed enough to probably not buy what you are selling to be honest.

    I am tired of woke politics invading the game. I will happily provide photographic proof of the wide variety of players I have in my campaign that have a huge variety of different “racial” backgrounds, none of which when asked think the word “race” is inherently wrong.

    This is clearly the case of a few dictating for the majority again :(

    This is very frustrating and sad.

    1. It sounds that way because you literally made it up yourself and that’s what you wanted to hear. Which is interesting because you don’t seem to be applying that same logic to the people who actually have a problem with a simple word.
      It’s not the word. It’s that this “playtest” hasn’t even started and it’s already being dictated by TikTok drama. This isn’t going to be an actual playtest anyway. It’s going to be a popularity contest based, in part, on semantics. As we can clearly see. That sounds like a waste of time.

  43. Nothing wrong with the term ‘race’. I much prefer it attached to dwarves, elves, and orcs than to subgroups within them, as some undesirables do with humans.

    No, ‘species’ does not work. It is, certainly, the scientifically correct term, but that’s the problem: this is fantasy, not science-fiction. We don’t use ‘species’ for the same reason we don’t use the metric system and describe game effects in laymans terms rather than technical ones. Can you imagine if the teleport spell read, “You open an Einstein–Rosen bridge that instantaneously transports you to another point in the space–time continuum, matching your velocity and orientation to local relative conditions”?

    I much prefer ‘lineage’ and ‘heritage’ to WotC’s ridiculous solution, and I don’t mind Black Flag using those terms. That said, I’m a bit leery to see changes in this area, and I’m hoping it doesn’t signal that BF will replicate the same nonsense that WotC is doing with races now, divorcing ability scores from your biology. Intelligent/wise, agile elves and big, dumb orcs are part of what makes the game what it is. Race should be a meaningful choice when you build your character, not a throwaway slot on your character sheet like ‘hair colour’. Any argument that ASIs don’t belong in the entries for biologically distinct creature types is completely untenable.

  44. What I want to see is more martial combat options like maneuvers (parry, disarm, bull’s rush, etc). I personally would like it work like proficiencies (skills, tools, etc). It would be nice to have generic maneuvers, and class, and subclass maneuvers.

    1. Proficiencies for martial skills that grant unique tactical advantages.
      If you have Elaborate Footwork, you can force 5’ of movement on a hit.
      Defensive Style: use you attack bonus for AC instead until the start of your next turn (affects your attack this turn).
      Master’s finesse: you can disarm your opponent rather than deal damage.

      For all its flaws, one thing 4e did right was give fighters something tactical to do besides “I swing again.”

  45. My three RPG groups have been using Dragonix’s Talents for the past 3 years (weekly & bi-weekly games, so VERY well tested).
    Talents effectively function as half-feats that are acquired at character levels 1,3,6,9,12,15, & 18.
    We loved the extra customization and perks, and it helped with the problem of boring class levels.
    As a DM, it made encounters a bit easier as the characters were more versatile, but it was really easy to adjust to.
    I really like the terms Lineages & Heritages, and will help us get the characters we envision. :)

  46. I’m looking forward to testing something. Since so many people are having an issue with the word “race” maybe having a way where people can choose what verbiage they like and then see what the results are, better than polls. I prefer “Shard’s” character sheet and mechanics for its all on one platform. Plus they are very hands on with their customers via Discord.

  47. The word “race” is more accurate than “lineage” and “heritage”. This is just politically correct rubbish.

    Sorry, you’ve completely lost my and my large table’s support now.

    1. I don’t think someone who yearns for people they don’t agree with to die has any standing to call other people fragile.

  48. Thanks Kobold Press for stepping up (and thanks to WOTC for the biggest own goal in RPG history). I doubt I’ll play or buy another WOTC product ever again.

  49. I just hope their is a kobold lineage in the basic rules. It would be cool if there is advanced book later that works like and “an elf and an ork had a baby”.

  50. Although the character creation system changes sound good, I am definitely bummed this is being built off 5e. I have zero trust in WOTC at this point, and to be brutally honest for anything beyond an intro to D&D 5e is strictly sub-par. I am so sick and tired of having to ‘hack” the system to get it to the point where I can get any enjoyment out of running it. I had high hopes when it looked like Black Flag would be it’s own game from the ground up.

  51. Sounded interesting until I got to the comment section. Is this how your playtest is going to work? Whichever side of an issue throws out the most insults in the comment section gets thier way? Yikes. This whole thing is going to be a disaster if this is the way it works. Why even bother?? It looks like you can just do Twitter polls and go from there.

  52. Negromaestro Games

    Ubartu, who are these hurt people you claim to represent? I am a Black GM myself and have run D&D for decades since 3rd edition. And the only intolerant bigots I have met in recent times (we are not talking about decades past with real racists), but recent events show intolerant bigots these days usually claims to be “inclusive” but in truth are just modern gate-keepers.
    Because if we apply the same logic that “lineage” is just a word that hurts no one, then same can be said of “fantasy” races in D&D, they are not government documents used to re-introduce Jim Crow laws in America.

    1. Negromaestro Games

      By seeking real world hurts in a fantasy game, we just end up bringing all the negativity back into a hobby meant to promote positivity and common entertainment.

      For example, even the use of the phrase POC as “person-of-color” is a very racist Americanized term. In the history of Central and South America, after several revolutions and wars of Independence (please read up on that history), there was great discrimination by the “lighter” dark skinned peoples against their darker skinned brethren. To suddenly assume all “people-of-color” forget past hurts and today remain just one happy family to fight The Man is just ridiculous 21st century propaganda. People from Middle-Eastern descent, if we blame white people for slavery, checkout what happens with modern day slaves in the oil rich nations like Qatar. Darker skinned folk are treated poorly. So no “people of color” for me, please. I am Black and proud. And even in modern America, those so called white people you may refer to, had their own prejudices against other white migrants from Europe just a century ago, or you forgot all about the slogans about “No Irish need apply” have you?

      1. You’re just deflecting.
        POC or “gens de colour” is not an american only term but I’ll use non-white if you prefer, and sure, colorism does exists, but the discrimination in central and south america you’re talking was done by white creoles, not lighter non-whites. And sure, Irish weren’t treated as whites not too long ago, and still aren’t in northern ireland. Race is not biology, the meaning of what’s white depends of society and culture, a White Creole in Brasil may as well be a Latino “POC” in the US.
        And I didn’t blame all whites, nor said that poc are just one happy family or whatever, and for sure I didn’t say I speak for anybody else, you’re just making things up.
        This isn’t about idpol, non-whites can do harm, any group can do harm, and I know about the Kafala system, I have relatives working in Qatar as of now, I recommend you not try and teach me about this.
        Point is, the word is loaded, that much is clear, and it invokes a parallel between real world race constructs and the game’s humanoid “races”, which are different. The word was used because TTRPGs where made by mostly racist people in a mostly racist society. That’s history. Why keep the word? What’s so bad about lineage? I know why they whine about this. They feel that making this hobby more inclusive means their perspective is gonna be sidelined. And they’re right. But this ought to happen.

      2. Negromaestro nailed it!

        I was already leaving WOTC bc they have been forcing “inclusivity” into my beloved hobby; Radiant Citadel is absolute rubbish. I know from first hand experience that the people preaching “inclusivity” expect assimilation, or they denigrate, then cancel you.

        Role playing should be an escape from the politicized world we live in. I don’t need, or want, to buy into a game that pushes an agenda (I frequently have to edit out LGBT content from official material when I GM for my children.)

        *Suggestion- refrain from including sex/gender in BF. If players want the incestuous bard trope, or teifling, or whatever, leave it to the players and their tables.

        While the term Race is both precise and accurate language, I support the change to Lineage and Heritage for the simple fact it’s not a term used by DnD. Make as many subtle changes as possible to differentiate BF from DnD.

        Not a fan of doing a ton of halfsy-cross-races. Tolkien had deep lore why half elves existed. So if you intend to do it anyways, at least give us deep lore.

  53. Nah, doesn’t work both ways. I know they’re racist because if they weren’t, changing the race for lineage wouldn’t have been that of a game breaker, yet they’re leaving the project. They can’t stand that their perspective is being sidelined by a more neutral and inclusive one. They dog whistle about it being the word used in this genre, and about keeping “the tradition”, as if we didn’t know how it was when this hobby started.

  54. one thing I would like to see in the new system is a better proficiency management system. I’ve always found that having skill bound to players character level didn’t make them feel special as they leveled up. A Barbarian gets the same bonus to Stealth as a Rouge does when they level up. The characters get no control over this. Skills should have an additional property called “rank” (name is not important…), and this “rank” varies from a list like Untrained, Trained, Super Trained, Very Super Trained, Expert. Instead of gaining proficiency in a skill, you choose to gain a “rank” in that skill. Having any rank above Untrained in a skill, makes you proficient in that skill.

  55. I apologize for the nearly blank comment. Somehow I posted the comment prematurely.

    Get rid of alignments. Let players pick two or three core motivatons or drives.

    Try a slightly different set of core lineages. Human, elf, dwarf, yes. Reptilian kobolds, perhaps, since that’s your mascot. Maybe trolls similar to firbolgs. Maybe jinn similar to tieflings. Maybe some non-humanoid options like talking wolves similar to those in princess mononoke or big talking spiders similar to the Mirkwood spiders.

    Maybe, similar to Fate, players should be able to invoke aspects of their character for benefits. Players might also have troubles that a game-master might compel and potentially get the whole team in trouble, though with a chance to resist that.

    Maybe some kind of mental health gauge similar to that in Call of Cthulhu.

    I know that I’m spitballing. What do you folks think?

  56. One thing I’m worried about every time I read “compatible with 5e” is to what extent? Adventures and monster statblocks often don’t need much adjustment if any at all to work, and I imagine Kobold Press wouldn’t want to invalidate all the work they put into the Tome of Beasts to then have people not be able to use them.

    However I have piles of 5e 3pp books on my shelf. Will I be able to use the classes, races, and subclasses in those books with Black Flag? How much is the character creation going to change? OneD&D is also “compatible with 5e”, but that only extends to adventures and monsters.

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