Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition has brought us a host of new races to choose from. Bladelings, Devas, Shardminds, and yes, Genasi. All of these races, and more, are brand new to the D&D universe, and many DMs struggle with how to fit these races into their campaigns.
Some DMs take the kitchen sink approach, while others opt to limit the races allowed in their campaign. Both approaches are valid, and both work.
Now, I am not going to talk about limiting choices for your players because I feel as though many bloggers more able than I have already fully covered this topic. Needless to say, this is a decision best made by the DM and agreed to by the players. Instead, what I’d like to do is approach this subject from the NPC angle. After all, even if players are limited in their choices of race, that doesn’t mean the DM has the same restrictions (Drow, anyone?). Assuming you agree, we ask ourselves: where would a typical PC find one of these new races in their campaign?
I first started thinking about this because we have very set ideas as to the environment in which one is likely to find the classic D&D races – dwarves, for example (underground) or elves (forest). What about Devas? Where would you be most likely to encounter a Deva? Or (cue the title music) Water Genasi?
Let’s think about the Genasi in general and the Water Genasi specifically. The obvious thing that jumps out about this race, and I mean really obvious, is the elemental tie that each of the Genasi types has. In light of these special “affinities,” wouldn’t it stand to reason that a Water Genasi would be found near, well, water? And…boats? (Let it sink in for a minute) That’s right kids, Water Genasi make perfect pirates. Which is great because there wasn’t really a “sailor” race in D&D before now. But it makes perfect sense for your PCs to encounter, for example, a shipping company (legitimate or otherwise) run and staffed by Water Genasi, or a boat whose entire crew was the same. And, of course, the aforementioned pirates. It wouldn’t even have to be one random ship of pirates, either. The PCs could be tasked with taking down a whole pirate cartel.
This also fits very well with the recent adventures I ran for my group because they’d been traveling aboard a ship. I decided to spring my large scale naval combat on them, and once the battle was more or less over, one of the players expressed the desire to do “a boarding action.” Not wanting to be the type of DM who says “no,” I went home that night and planned out a fun skirmish in which the PCs boarded the ship and captured the pirate captain they were after. And the crew was entirely Water Genasi.
Now, I don’t know if the players cared about it at all, but for me, using the Water Genasi just felt right. Who better to spend their lives on the open water? Below are the stats for the pirates I used, if you need a starting point to crew a ship of your own. The Monster Builder has a few Water Genasi to choose from as well.
Let me know what you think of this article in the comments. I’m willing to turn this into a series if there’s enough interest.