Wasted: Homebrew Review
13 June 2018
Astral Angels (5e Race)
Author: TheKnights Radiance
I'm not going to lie, I picked this one by looking down the list of 5e races on dandwiki and picking the first one that looked likely to be a dumpster fire based on the name alone. Despite this I found something more fleshed out and interesting than I was expecting. Let's dive right in, because we've got a lot to get through.
We kick off with this cryptic opening description:
When thought gain power all feared in its wake. Now they lay forgotten in the void of the Astral sea
I'm guessing this is supposed to be flavour text. By the name and this description I'm expecting maybe a psionic race of angels that live in the Astral Sea? Interesting concept, unlikely to be balanced for a 5e race, but let's see where this takes us.
The original Astral Angels looked like bits of star dust put together to make a humanoid shape. To be exact they look like mini galaxies or nebulas given human shape.
Got to give the author credit here, this is a fairly unique description.
They can also shapeshift into any other race to deceive those around them.
...and also they're shapeshifters I guess.
They appear to be able to look like any medium sized creature they want, even the Games Workshop Saurus Warrior that's been tacked onto the article for seemingly no reason. At least, I thought it was Games Workshop art, but the image claims to be owned by a website called d20radio.com - an easy mistake to make when stealing images for your homebrew.
Before we get too bogged down in the shapeshifting and its consequences, let's carry on with the lore. Who are these creatures and where did they come from?
The Astral Angels live in large floating cities that spin in the Astral Plain. This race of shapeshifters where brought to life during the rule of the Mindflayers. An Astral Dragon was circling a large piece of stone with all the thoughts he collected from those eaten from the Mindflayers. He then used a special type of magic thought to only used by the gods and brought life to the collected thoughts. From there they watched the jackals and learned to shapeshift with ease. These people then went out and help the revolution against the menace of the mind eaters.
I'm trying to work out what's going on here. A god-dragon rescued stray thoughts from Illithid victims and used its magic to give those thoughts life (but not, apparently, proper bodies). The thoughts then watched jackals (???) which taught them how to shapeshift.
Admittedly it's not the worst creation myth I've ever heard. Ranks fairly well alongside having a deity make you out of clay and breathe into your nose. At least Dragons are awesome. Space dragons doubly so. Do we get any more details on this cool and unique story? Sounds like there's a lot to explore here!
Rest of their history is lost to the stars.
Let's see what else we've got here. What is their society like?
The oldest of their kind live in the schools and only exist to pass knowledge down to the younger generations. The younger Astral Angels are collectors and hoarders of vast knowledge and are generally stingy with sharing research or books they have collected.
Apparently their entire society revolves around acquiring knowledge and tomes for unspecified reasons, guarding them jealously, and then when you get old just saying fuck it and telling everyone everything you know. Makes as much sense as anything else in the astral sea. But how old is old for an Astral Angel? If we look at their age entry, they can apparently live forever. I guess we just don't know.
Content Warning: Childbirth and complications
The only other detail about their society is that they can't have living children. It's not that they can't reproduce; apparently they can try but the resulting offspring are always stillborn because the shapeshifting nebula people born from thoughts and given life by magic are "genetically incompatible". This all seems like a pretty unnecessary way to add a sense of pathos to the race, but there you go.
There's an entry for names at least. But I shit you not, these are the actual examples given:
Male: Jerry, Arakos, Song, Laughter, Etc.
Female: Maria, Ellie, Thought, Pleasure, Etc.
Jerry the Astral Angel. Has quite a ring to it.
Stats are fairly straightforward. INT +2, CON +1. Makes sense for living thoughts I suppose. A solid choice for a Wizard, particularly with the CON secondary for help with hitpoints and concentration checks.
Some fairly basic other traits - chaotic tendency, medium size, some languages, darkvision, immortality. You know, the usual.
Base walking speed of 35ft. What is it with homebrew races that have to be just slightly faster than everyone else? I guess this means you don't reveal your shapeshifter disguise when you can't keep up with all the other wood elves in the footrace.
Shapeshifting. You can change your shape to another medium sized creature. You regain use of this trait after you finish a short or long rest.
I initially thought that the per-short-rest restriction might make this one not broken, but there's something key that's missing in this description. You can turn into any medium creature without restriction. Maybe this is intended to be just like the Changeling Shapechange ability, but it has none of the restrictive language of that trait, and it would be pretty easy to argue that you gain abilities from the new form.
To explain just how bad this would be, you could turn into any number of nasty creatures right from the bat ranging all the way up to above CR 20. Like a Mindflayer. Or a Lich. Or a Mindflayer Lich, if you're into that sort of thing. You could be any one of a number of devils; yugoloths of various flavours; undead including vampires, mummy lords, and death knights, and a lot more besides.
A sensible DM would restrict the things you could shapechange into, or would not allow you to get certain abilities like spellcasting - but it's still fairly trivial to find a creature that has wings, has claws or some other method of getting a climb or burrow speed, has powerful natural weapons, is insubstantial, or even isn't a single creature (for example you could turn into a swarm of poisonous snakes).
Personally I would fix this very simply by just copy-pasting the Changeling text over here and saying that shapeshifting is cosmetic only. We'll probably need that quick fix since there are some other interesting traits to look at yet.
Next is a trait that says that they are "Immuned to having their intelligence lowered in anyway." Immunity to intellect devourers and the feeblemind spell seems like a niche but useful perk, and I can see how if you squint it fits the fluff at least.
Next is less of a positive trait but instead a weakness - creatively titled, "Weakness".
Weakness. Since they are thoughts given life they are not physically strong and are weak to melee attacks. They take 4 more points of physical damage from slashing, bludgeoning, and piercing weapons.
This is going to be crippling at early levels. Assuming you're something squishy like a Wizard, basically anyone can punch you to death with ease. Even another Wizard would be able to beat you up and steal your lunch money.
In a way it's kind of nice to see some recognition that something needs to offset the pile of traits this creature has. Don't worry if you thought this was going to make things more balanced, though, because it's immediately followed by this:
Resilience. You are thoughts give life through magic so you have an innate resilience to magic. So you take half damage from magic.
No subraces here, which I guess makes sense for an effectively-sterile monoculture of beings created from the thoughts of encephalectomy victims by a magical space dragon.
Weirdly this is one of the few homebrew races I would like to rewrite and rehabilitate. There's a really interesting kernel of an idea here. Quite how a thought being from the astral sea named Jerry would fit into your average first level dungeon crawl may have to be left as an exercise for the DM, but it only requires relatively minor tweaking to the traits to make them acceptable.
Sadly, as written, it's broken. Even without the shapeshifting, the other traits would make this a strong pick (resistance to magic damage is particularly nice, particularly if you can convince your DM that this can affect things which aren't strictly speaking spells). With it, you have at best a creature that's better at shapeshifting than a changeling and at worst something that can cast the equivalent of a 9th level spell once per short rest.
The article has some tables for suggested personality characteristics for your Jerry. Here are some choice examples:
Loves to talk about how amazing everything all the time
If someone touches me, I'ma kill em
Hatred- Everyone in these plains are stupid, and must be exterminated
Its my duty to kill those that wish to harm books
Is extremely lustful and any relationship all leads to the same thing, us between the sheets.