D&D 5e: Five New Genasi Subraces 13

Posting over in Twitter about 4e, I happened to recall that 4e genasi had a lot more varieties than 5e genasi do. Their metagame position is also quite different; 4e genasi have unique offensive powers, while 5e genasi have spells that might be offense or utility, and are substantially varied in usefulness. In this post, I’m offering genasi subrace features for storm genasi and corrupted fire, air, water, and earth genasi, which 4e calls cindersoul, voidsoul, causticsoul, and plaguesoul genasi. And, um, causticsoul doesn’t really roll off the tongue, so I’m going with venomsoul. Best subrace name, or best subrace name of all time?

Storm Genasi

“Storm” or “tempest” – because it readily includes so many elements – is treated as a fully separate element in 4e, including tempest elementals and so on. 5e hasn’t embraced that, but I don’t super care about matching the default 5e cosmology in this blog.

  • Ability Score Increase. Your Charisma score increases by 1.
  • Lightning Resistance. You have resistance to lightning damage.
  • Coruscating Power. As a bonus action, you conjure lightning energy into your hand, a metal melee weapon that you wield, or a ranged weapon that you wield. The next time you deal damage with that weapon, or a lightning or thunder spell, before the beginning of your next turn, you deal 1d8 additional lightning damage. At 11th level, the additional damage increases to 2d8. At 20th level, the additional damage increases to 3d8. You can use this feature once, and regain use of it when you finish a short rest.

It’s… definitely possible that Coruscating Power is too much. I’m going with it for now.

Corrupted Genasi

I’m far from the first person to think of converting these, as a casual Google search reveals, so I’m pointedly not reading any of those versions. With only a tiny number of features to use to distinguish my ideas, well, I’m only too likely to come to the same conclusions as those creators, all the more if I read their work.

The 4e concept, in a Dragon Magazine article, is that they’re Abyssal genasi. I’m okay with that, but I’m not sure it speaks to me as much as I’d like. Let’s lean into the Elemental Evils: their spread across the land (or, for non-FR settings, prefiguring their rise someday, maybe a thousand years from now, I don’t know your life) corrupted some existing genasi, as well as whatever secret lineage creates new genasi. (I don’t have a copy of Princes of the Apocalypse… do they do anything with corrupted geniekind, and if not, why?)

What does this origin mean for them as a people? Some of them hope to purify or cut out the corruption that changed them, just as some tieflings reject their diabolic countenances. Others recognize that it is, indeed, nothing more than appearance. With precious little social acceptance in pure or corrupted form, well, what’s the harm? (Possibly your PC is the only member of this subrace in the whole world, or one of a tiny number.)

But I don’t actually want to pawn this off as a strictly cosmetic change. This post would be an awfully long way to go for that, don’t you think? The corruption needs to mean something. Let’s see if I can do something with Hit Dice to represent physical corruption.

Let’s try this: A corrupted Hit Die restores half of (die result + your Constitution modifier) when you expend it during a short rest. You can purify up to one corrupted Hit Die when you finish a long rest. Greater restoration and more powerful spells purify a number of Hit Dice of your choosing, up to your full number of Hit Dice.

When you would expend a corrupted Hit Die, you can instead corrupt and expend a normal Hit Die.

As more of your Hit Dice are corrupted, the more obvious your corrupted nature is.

Cindersoul Genasi

Cindersoul genasi have a fundamental link to Imix, the evil archomental of Fire. This corruption weaves necrotic power into their flesh – and their fire magic. As you corrupt more of your Hit Dice, fiery cracks appear in your skin. First your irises, and then the whole of your eyes, looks like fire.

  • Ability Score Increase. Your Intelligence score increases by 1.
  • Cindersoul Resistance. You have resistance to fire damage. As a bonus action, you can expend one corrupted Hit Die to gain resistance to necrotic damage for 1 minute.
  • Firedeath. You learn the fire bolt cantrip. You can choose either Constitution or Intelligence as your spellcasting ability for this spell. Further, when you deal fire damage to a creature, you can expend one corrupted Hit Die to deal 1d4 necrotic damage + your current number of corrupted Hit Dice to that creature. You can use this feature up to once per turn.

Plaguesoul Genasi

Plaguesoul genasi have a spiritual connection to Ogrémoch, the evil archomental of Earth. This connection allows them to carry diseases without suffering their effects, and exude toxic vapors to harm nearby enemies. As you corrupt more of your Hit Dice, your complexion comes to look like gray, blighted earth, and your hair and fingernails might fall out.

  • Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 1.
  • Plaguesoul Resistance. You have resistance to poison damage and advantage on saving throws against the poisoned condition. You can spend one corrupted Hit Die to ignore the effects of a disease for 24 hours.
  • Plague Herald. As a bonus action, you can expend one corrupted Hit Die to deal 1d6 poison damage + your current number of corrupted Hit Dice to each creature within 5 feet of you. While you have a disease, add your Constitution modifier to the damage dealt. You can use this feature once, and regain the use of it when you finish a short or long rest.

Venomsoul Genasi

Venomsoul genasi carry the poison of Olhydra, the evil archomental of Water, in their blood. This toxin also washes away acid and allows them to spit poison. As you corrupt more of your Hit Dice, your lips and tongue blacken, and veins of pulsating green energy appear on your neck, chest, and the backs of your hands.

  • Ability Score Increase. Your Wisdom score increases by 1.
  • Venomsoul Resistance. You have resistance to poison damage and advantage on saving throws against the poisoned condition. As a bonus action, you can expend one corrupted Hit Die to gain resistance to acid damage for 1 minute.
  • Amphibious. You can breathe air and water.
  • Swim. You have a swimming speed of 30 feet.
  • Venom Spit. You learn the poison spray cantrip. You can choose Constitution or Wisdom as your spellcasting ability for this spell. When you deal damage with poison spray, you can expend one corrupted Hit Die to deal 1d12 + your current number of corrupted Hit Dice to a creature within 5 feet of the target of your spell.

Voidsoul Genasi

Voidsoul genasi are connected to Yan-C-Bin, the evil archomental of Air. Yan-C-Bin leaves no breath in these children of his foes, the djinn; the void within these genasi is not just breathlessness but unbeing. As you corrupt more of your Hit Dice, your eyes turn solid black, and your hair changes color (perhaps to white or black – whatever color it normally isn’t). Cracks appear in your skin, such that it seems nothing is holding you together at all.

  • Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 1.
  • Voidsoul Resistance. You have resistance to psychic damage. As a bonus action, you can expend one corrupted Hit Die to gain resistance to necrotic damage for 1 minute.
  • Breathless. You do not need to breathe, and you can survive in hard vacuum.
  • The Void Beckons. As a bonus action, you can teleport up to 30 feet to an unoccupied space that you can see. You can expend one corrupted Hit Die to deal thunder damage equal to your Constitution modifier + your current number of corrupted Hit Dice to all creatures within 5 feet of you when you vanish or when you reappear. You can use this feature once, and regain use of it when you finish a short or long rest.
  • Nonbeing. When you teleport, you can choose to delay your arrival. You can expend one corrupted Hit Die to delay your arrival by up to 1 minute. You can expend additional Hit Dice to further delay your arrival.

Design Notes

Racial features are hard, y’all, especially with the giant question mark of the cost for corrupted Hit Dice. Maybe they’re a big cost (because your campaign relies heavily on Hit Die healing during short rests), maybe they’re a minor but meaningful cost because you only recover half of your expended HD when you finish a long rest. I could be way, way off here. By comparison, I think the EEPC genasi subraces are uneven – earth and fire the most reliably useful, air and water more corner-case.

Ultimately what I want out of this is for genasi as a whole to enjoy the same surge of popularity that tieflings have had for the last several years, because their look and powers have a lot of appeal.

don’t know a lot about the archomentals and casual Google searching is not especially helpful, so I’m not making a concerted effort to match their lore. If they can have full careers in Greyhawk before suddenly showing up in FR, then… this’ll have to do.

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13 thoughts on “D&D 5e: Five New Genasi Subraces

  • Craig Cormier

    I am a big fan of the Genasi as a race and was a fan of the 4th edition abyssal genasi, so this hits all the right notes with me. Using hit dice as a racial mechanic is interesting and it tells a story about who these people are in the world. I imagine NPC corrupted genasi would look sickly and gaunt because on average they are commoners with only 1 hit die.

    But I also have this plaguesoul villain in mind that would use abilities keyed off of Plague Herald to spread disease and corruption. Maybe he has something that allows the rapid spread of a magical disease. Great fodder.

    This also makes me think that there should be feat support for all races that allows them to spend hit dice for some racial effect.

    • Brandes Stoddard Post author

      I’m so glad you like it! You’re absolutely right about corrupted genasi commoners. Also I hope you get to use that plaguesoul villain, that sounds awesome. =)

      Spend HD to do (thing) is an interesting field, though it has its risks – I mean, you’re eating into one of the game’s big bulwarks against the 5-minute adventuring day, AND the feature that relieves a lot of spell slot pressure from the party healer. So, you know, move forward – but delicately. =)

  • Ray

    Regarding Princes of the Apocalypse, I don’t recall any corrupted djinn or genasi coming up, but I’ve only ever played in that campaign so not book here either.

    When I first read through the corrupted hit dice idea, I was intrigued but had some concerns with the alignment/RP aspects of playing a corrupted genasi. Unless I missed something (and I’ll come back to this bit momentarily), there’s really nothing other than hit dice being finite to stop a genasi PC from corrupting all of their hit dice every other adventuring day or so provided that they have access to bulk purification in between corruption sprees. That sort of behavior should come with something more than a cosmetic downside. But I think a thoughtful PC would see the cosmetic changes as a physical manifestation of their inner turmoil in the pursuit of power at any cost. So from the RP-side done right, I think you’ve created a pretty cool representation of self-conflict over alignment boundaries – something 5e otherwise doesn’t do well (more on wishy washy alignments in 5e another day…)

    Anyways, have you considered implementing stricter penalties for corrupting hit dice too frequently – i.e. adding a very real danger to tapping into your corrupted patron’s power. I haven’t thought about this in too much detail but maybe something like this:
    If at any time you use your corrupt hit dice feature and your total number of hit dice exceeds half your level (rounded-down),
    Option I) You suffer one point of exhaustion
    Option II) You must make a Wisdom(/Constitution might make more sense?) saving throw with a DC of 8 + # of Corrupted Hit Dice, you completely succumb to your corruption, becoming a thrall of your corrupted master. Only a god or a Wish spell can end the effects of this corruption.

    I suspect that this would put more than just the healing hit points pressure onto purifying corrupted hit dice between adventure days. I really liked option II thematically, but it feels heavy-handed? Curious to see what you think / why you didn’t want to go down this road. Anyways, overall I really like your premise here, but I think there’s room for more downsides to frequent corruption use. Cheers!

    • Brandes Stoddard Post author

      My feeling on it amounts to… if warlocks don’t face a corruption mechanic that costs them their soul, and if their class progression doesn’t require thorny deals with Hell or the Abyss or whoever, do I really want to make a genasi subrace the one place that really goes deep on that?

      If I had both a corrupted genasi PC going deep on their corruption AND a strong interest in running evil archomental story, I would probably frame the whole thing more as a benefit to the archomental rather than a penalty to the PC. The “punishment” is spread around in the fights and the narrative – maybe some fights that might normally be Medium to Hard get kicked up to Deadly/Deadly+. Maybe some elemental corruption is presented as “intrusive” in other encounters as well. What do I know, maybe that comes across as worse. This is the kind of thing we talked about a LOT when we were running Dust to Dust.

      Another option – the Soul-Marked rules I posted some time back. https://www.brandesstoddard.com/2016/12/dd-5e-alternate-threat-tracks/

      Anyway, great points – ultimately I also just figured that halving your healing from Hit Dice was a pretty strong kick in the teeth, but wasn’t SURE.

      • Ray

        Ah, corrupted elemental intrusion does sound like an appropriate option for handling the moral aspect here. It would effectively tie the characters’ choices to the world – again, an example of tangible alignment – and possible commentary on society’s impact on the environment if you and the PCs care about that sort of thing and want to see it at the table.

        Thanks for the thoughtful reply! I’m definitely considering something akin to your system here in world building my first (mostly) homebrewed setting. Briefly, I’m developing a world in which humans are not the dominate/commonplace race and the primary lore reason for this is that the largest human empire collapsed after its ruling cabal meddled with powers of the Great Old Ones bringing a curse upon the land’s inhabitants. As such one of the human subraces present is cursed but gain magically enhancing abilities (at a price).

  • KaijuMoose

    I love these rules. I’ve always been a fan of the genasi race and had a voidsoul in 4th edition. I’m bringing a version of her to 5th, but saying that the fact that the spellplague ended and magic is now a thing again reset her to a low level.

    The corrupted Hit Dice are a little complex, but it seems so worth it. The change in appearance is a fantastic roleplaying detail too. Our group always tries to describe things instead of just saying “I shoot you. Take 6 damage.” Haha.

    I’ve only got to play a few sessions with her so far, but I’m really liking it. Fortunately, our group so far hasn’t as much been relying on Hit Dice heavily for healing, nor have we been in a serious amount of combat. We like to balance slightly more towards roleplaying. It’s so far worked out great.

  • Theo Lopes

    I’m showing up late to the party, but just here to say that I really loved your concepts! Genasi are my favorite race, i’m currently playing a Earth Genasi Blood Hunter and a Air Genasi Warlock and all the possible flavor is amazing. The idea of having a elemental PC being corrupted by the evil archomental linked with their element is amazing.
    Brought the idea to a player of mine who was thinking of playing a air genasi and now we just finished completing the sheet of a Voidsoul Sorcerer. Thank you so much for this. I can’t even imagine the amount of fun that we’ll have playing along all this corruption and how the other players at the table will face it.

  • Random Human

    I have one question that I didn’t see in the article, but I’m also blind and it might have been there. How long does it take to corrupt a hit die, or can you do it whenever. The only mention I saw of corrupting hit die was when you said “When you would expend a corrupted Hit Die, you can instead corrupt and expend a normal Hit Die.” but if you don’t want to expend one, but still want one corrupted, how/when would you do so? Also, I love the genasi, and this is a very welcome addition to one of my favorite races.
    – Thanks in advance (assuming you see this)

    • Brandes Stoddard Post author

      Right, the idea is that you can’t corrupt one at any random moment, for no reason. You might have to build up the level of corruption you want to maintain over a few uses.

      That said, you won’t likely break anything if you can freely corrupt additional hit dice as part of taking a long rest.

  • Zoe Blakeslee

    So what are the corrupted dice, and how do you track them per class/level? What if someone multiclasses? For the Voidsoul, the teleportation ability, “The Void Beckons”, which corrupted hit dice do you use if you have corrupted HD from say, a fighter class and some from a rogue class?

    • Brandes Stoddard Post author

      I would have no problem with a player deciding to corrupt their smaller hit dice first. It matters, but it doesn’t matter THAT much – once you halve the die value as a result of corruption, it’s just not that big of a deal, IMO.

      That said, if the editor and I ever get around to going forward with this one again, we may be completely rethinking corruption – I’m concerned that it’s too complicated for something that probably isn’t the core of your gameplay.