September 7, 2015


Comments from the Thumb: One of the earliest NPC bosses encountered in our 3.5 campaign was an illumian named Vox, who enjoyed carving himself up with explosive runes and detonating on enemies. Since 5e is lacking this particular race, we thought it would be best to bring it back.


Glowing sigils rotate around the head of a tall, pale man sitting at the bar. A few patrons stare, unalarmed, but rather perplexed. He writes upon a sheet of parchment emphatically, occasionally looking up to take a drink from his mug before continuing his work.
     A heavy-set orc throws open the tavern doors and marches to the bar, sitting down with a clomp next to the pale man. He mutters a thickly accented order for a drink at the barkeep and begins digging around in his rucksack for a coin when he takes notice of thin human and his rotating, arcane runes.
     "Oy! Hate'to ask mista, bu wha'cha doin' wit dowes them-there fancy glowin' things?" The orc questioned loudly, far above the volume of the room. The patrons stood quiet for a moment, listening for the man's reply.
     "It's quite alright" the man says in a genial tone. "I'm researching a spell that might end noisy interruptions once and for all. Maybe then we can all get some peace and quiet."

- Krog meeting Eth Vaul Hoon

Word Made Flesh
There is power in the written word. Legend says that long ago Words of Power spoken by the gods forged the world, anchoring the mountains and the sky from the pandemonium that preceded it. These words then created the races, the monsters, the cities, and the wilds.
     Illumian legend states that these words did not vanish or lose their power, for Power is eternal; they were merely forgotten. A monk, hailing from a powerful kingdom long since fallen, discovered some of these words and, to channel them, created a ritual to embody them, the Ritual of Word Made Flesh. It is unclear what the ritual entailed, or why it, too, was forgotten, but folklore holds this ritual alone created the first illumians who are a living manifestation of the Words.

Scholars by Nature
Illumians are an extremely focused people, who believe that being merely exceptional isn't good enough; one must have mastery. This strong belief in mastery and the competitive nature that brings illumians pursue it permeates every area of their psychology.

Cabals and the Black Table
The principle social structure within illumian society is the Cabal, a highly rigid hierarchy to which illumians belong at birth. Each cabal consists of one hundred to three hundred illumians and are typically seated in a fortress-like enclave. The structure and rules are precisely stated and typically unique to each cabal, though they all share a few commonalities.
     The Elders of each cabal rule from seats at the Black Table, which direct activities of the cabal down the hierarchy. Usually, the oldest member of the enclave acts as the heads of the Black Table, while the youngest member acts as the liaison to the rest of the cabal. The Black Table also appoints special positions in the society, such as the Arbiter, the Lorekeeper, and the Final Seed.

Illumian Names
Being a people of written words, the illumians following a naming scheme based largely upon three characters, each with meaning. The first character, which acts as a given name, is chosen by an illumian at birth by his parents, and may by from any language, including that of the illumians. The second two characters are the individual's power sigil, which are listed below. These combinations being sufficient to label all illumians, they make no distinction between male and female names.
     Illumian Given Names: Ash, Eng, Eth, Ethel, Ond,Thorn, Wynn, Yogh
     Illumian Power Sigils: Aesh, Hoon, Krau, Naen, Uur, Vaul.

Illumian Traits
Your illumian character has the following traits.
     Ability Score Increase. Your Intelligence score increases by 1.
     Age. Illumians age at the same rate as humans, reaching adulthood in their late teens and living less than a century.
     Alignment. The cabals that form the backbone of illumian society maintain codes of honor they expect members to follow, therefore illumians have a tendency toward lawful alignments.
     Size. Illumians vary widely in height and build, from barely 5 feet to well over 6 feet tall. Regardless of your position in that range, your size is Medium.
     Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
     Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common, Illumian, and two extra languages of your choice. Illumians are a scholarly race, and they often learn multiple languages in their leisure time.
     Glyphic Resonance. Illumians are the physical embodiment of a magical language, so they interact strangely with symbol-based spells. You are immune to the effects of 1 of the following spells: illusory script, glyph of warding, and symbol, provided you know and can cast it. You can change this selection when you finish a long rest.
     Luminous Sigils. An array of luminous sigils of Illumian orbit your head, shedding bright light in a 5-foot radius and dim light in a 10-foot radius. You may use a bonus action to make the sigils vanish or reappear, but you lose your Glyphic Resonance trait when they are suppressed.
     Versatile Learner. You are proficient in one skill of your choice. Additionally, when you take a level in a class other than your first, you can reduce one Ability Score Minimum for Multiclassing Prerequisites to 10 for a given ability score, rather than 13.
     Power Sigils. In addition to the array of dimly glowing luminous sigils that orbits your head, you have two slightly brighter sigils, known as power sigils, which grant you certain bonuses. Choose two of the options from the table below:

Power Sigils
Sigil       Meaning       Effect
Aesh      "vigor"          Your Strength score increases by 1.
Hoon     "life"             Your Wisdom score or Constitution score (your choice) increases by 1.
Krau      "magic"         You know one cantrip of your choice from the wizard spell list. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for it.
Naen     "mind"           Your Intelligence score increases by 1.
Uur       "grace"           Your Dexterity score increases by 1.
Vaul      "soul"            Your Charisma score increases by 1.

Changelog: 9/7/15: Versatile Learner cut down. It now only changes 1 prereq, instead of eliminating all of them, and only reduces that to 10, rather than 13 originally.
12/14/15: Versatile Learner: Gives proficiency with 1 skill.


  1. In terms of flavour, versatile learner is nice but I don't see anyone ever using it.

    1. Yeah. If you're going to bother multi classing then you'll probably have put a good stat in the necessary slot.

    2. Any suggestions on getting this a little more powerful? We're going for an adaptable race for multiclassing, and had a hard time striding the line where it might be balanced.

      We were thinking maybe Int, Wis, or Cha (choose 1 at character creation) to hit for 1 weapon or something similar, but I'm convinced it'll be too powerful.

    3. Maybe letting them pick a skill proficiency from the new class? There's a table under multiclassing that shows what proficiencies one gains when multiclassing, and you could let them choose a skill from that class's skill list (multiclassing into Bard, Ranger, and Rogue already offer this, maybe possibly bump them up to two? might be too strong)

    4. I considered this idea, but I wasn't sure that there was a concise way to put this idea. Maybe:

      Versatile Learner. You ignore Ability Score Prerequisites for Multiclassing. Additionally, when you take a level in a class other than your first, you gain proficiency in a skill of your choice from that class.

      Does this adequately make the race powerful enough to roll with the PHB races or should I think about allowing it to use a mental ability score to hit?

    5. versatile learner i think is extremely overpowered think of the builds that come from this rogue /pally sneak with smite barb/pally

    6. Why are people so invested in the pally smite + melee class build? Smite isn't that powerful on its own. For a 2-level class investment, you get +2d8 on an attack once/long rest.

  2. Versatile learners is sooooooo broken. you go pure dex con rogue and multiclass to paladin, now your sneak attack smiting with out the MAD (many attribute dependencies)

    warlock rage mage dump str, free damage reduction and dmg increase for your backline caster.... what?

    1. I mean, multiclassing is still a thing without Versatile Learner. You're still basically capped to getting 16 on two ability scores here until 4th level, and you can't go straight SAD in 5e past that. I might chop it down to ignoring 1 ability score prerequisite if you have a 10 or higher, or something to that effect, but this doesn't invalidate that neither of those builds are 'free'; you need to invest the levels from the main class.

    2. why do people always say the highest you can get is 16 in 2 stats its not D&D if you aren't rolling stats it's pathfinder.

    3. You could change versatile learner so that when selecting a multiclass, you reduce the ability score requirement by half/all of your proficiency bonus?
      Scales upward that way, and keeps the multiclass flavor too.

    4. @Maxwell_Bruder: You're welcome to that opinion, but when designing its much easier to assume that characters conform to the point-buy table. (It's simply hard to account for the inherent randomness of rolled stats for a race like this. Moreover, accounting for that randomness is basically meaningless here.)

      @Khaz: That's an interesting idea, but I feel like it allows for cheese when using this in higher level builds. For example, a player might build a character at 10th level. It's in his favor to just assume that his multiclassing happened as late as possible, at 9th level, while that might not have been in his interest if he needed to play the character from level 1. Because in my gaming experience, it's more often the fashion to build characters at levels higher than 1, I don't think I want to have a character-creation mechanic scale by level, since that adds an ordering to the class levels that didn't necessarily matter beforehand. This might just be personal taste, but I'm not a fan of that direction.

  3. i personally would change it to reduce the require meant by 1-3

  4. While I like most of this race, I'm not a huge fan of Versatile Learner. Since multiclassing is DM caveat according to the book, having a racial feature intricately tied to it is either potentially overpowering when multiclassing is allowed or utterly lackluster when it isn't allowed.

    Thinking back on the phrase in the description "merely exceptional isn't good enough; one must have mastery"... it might be more suitable to instead give them an extra skill proficiency or two in their starting class. Seems more like "mastery" over what they do if they are better at it instead of being built to spread themselves thin.

    1. This feature has given us no end of headaches. I actually like the idea of throwing in a free skill proficiency.

    2. I feel awesome having my suggestion actually added into one of your homebrews. My regular table are all huge fans of your stuff (Hell, one of the guys I play with actually commented above [Hi Max!]). Keep up the great work!

  5. I think that the Versatile learner trait should be replaced with something to do with spell casting such as spells may be cast without using a verbal component if they require one & if they only require a verbal component they may be cast without consuming a spell slot or possibly as a bonus action (because the race is made of magic words) this could also possibly apply to scrolls. I think this would be more balanced and would give some uniqueness to the race.

  6. I think that the Versatile learner trait should be replaced with something to do with spell casting such as spells may be cast without using a verbal component if they require one & if they only require a verbal component they may be cast without consuming a spell slot or possibly as a bonus action (because the race is made of magic words) this could also possibly apply to scrolls. I think this would be more balanced and would give some uniqueness to the race.

    1. Well, Versatile Learner currently helps this race fill the 'race that's good at multiclassing' niche, which I like because it's not a niche that is filled by any other race. Moreover, this was the race's focus in 3.5, so I'm happy with where that feature is.

  7. I'm doing a campaign with variant magic rules that are based entirely on written magic. This race in that campaign is so broken I had to limit the player to one power word.
    Of course it has a proxy buff from the variant rules themselves from the Glyph Resonance feature, so it balances out.

    1. Seems like the perfect race to put into such a campaign. Glad it's getting some solid use!