Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition introduced several mechanics that allowed players more comprehensive customization options within the game’s framework. One of those features is the Lineage system.
What Are Lineages?
Lineages are another way players can customize their character’s backstory and story trajectory.
What’s the Difference Between a Race and a Lineage?
Lineages are distinct from Race; while a player’s race is an immutable trait chosen by birth, lineages are determined by the player’s action and the actions of their ancestors.
Some lineages are tied to your character’s race. For example, the standard lineages released with the Player’s Handbook (5e) are based on the subset of your character’s race. So, they define what kind of Elf you are, and so on.
However, starting in later books, perhaps most notably, Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft, lineages that had no bearing on your character’s race were introduced.
Instead, they were intended to provide a more comprehensive mechanical framework for further character customization.
Who Are the Hexbloods?
Hexbloods are blessed — though some might say “cursed” — by the Hags.
The ancient magicks of the hags run through their veins, influencing their appearance and giving them power beyond that of the average mortal.
How a Hexblood comes to be depends on the source of their magic. Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft left the door very open for unique sources of Hag magic within the Hexblood Lineage.
A more standard Hexblood backstory may involve a character whose single parent made a deal with a Hag in exchange for a baby.
Perhaps a player was born a little bit too close to some Fey woodlands, and the Hags living there cursed the baby for eternity.
These examples of Hexblood backstories work best for Hexbloods who were born as Hexbloods.
However, the fantastic thing about the Ravenloft Lineages is that they can be applied even after a character has been born and adventured extensively.
Unlike with standard races, a player could make a deal with a Hag in the present and become a Hexblood at any age.
Additionally, how the hex of the Hags affects the remainder of their life may vary based on the age they take the hex on.
What Do Hexbloods Look Like?
Hexbloods have no rigidity in their standard appearance with one exceptional trait that makes them stand out in a crowd. Hexbloods have a crown of horns, often called an Eldercross.
The Eldercross has no standard appearance beside the fact that it is always made of horn growing from the affected’s head and that it resembles, in some ways, a garland around the crown of the head.
The horns that make up the Eldercross can be changed to fit the backstory of each individual Hexblood.
For example, a Hexblood whom the Feywilds blessed may have horns that resemble a garland of leaves, while a Hexblood whom a Hag cursed may have jagged, pointed horns.
Hexbloods generally have a non-standard skin tone, and most canonical examples of Hexbloods sport skin tones in the blues and purples.
However, the only “requirement” for the Hexblood skin tone is that it be non-standard for your race. So, there’s a lot of wiggle room for uniqueness here.
Hexbloods are also often covered in magical tattoos tied to their magic and the hex that affects their lineage.
So while not all Hexbloods will have visible tattoos, your Hexblood likely has at least some tattoos that signify their contract with the Hags, even if they weren’t the ones who made the contract in the first place.
How Are Hexbloods Made?
There are many methods by which a Hexblood may come in contact with mortal civilization, although every process involves the Hags who give the Hexbloods their innate magicks.
Hexbloods come to be through a dark ritual performed by Hags. The Hags use this ritual to create more of themselves; this is their method of reproducing. The resulting baby Hag is the Hexblood.
Hags are traditionally female creatures that produce “daughters” in the myths they’re based on. However, in D&D, the limitations are a bit looser, and the Hags can produce male Hexbloods.
It’s worth noting that Hexbloods are meant to be an in-between step between a mortal and a Hag. A Hexblood is neither a Hag nor a mortal. Instead, they’re a type of half-gestated Fey creature.
Hexbloods can undergo a further ritual that turns them into a full-fledged Hag.
This ritual will twist their senses, turning them into either a Hag of the same type as those performing the ritual or one that better suits the internal characteristics of the character being turned.
Hexblood Traits Explained
Hexbloods have different lineage traits independent from the original racial characteristics chosen by the player.
When taking the Hexblood Lineage, a player can choose to take the features at the first level and use “Hexblood” as their “race,” or they can take a separate race and modify the racial traits with the Hexblood traits.
When taking Hexblood as your race, you’ll want to have a backstory that supports your early transformation into a Hexblood and lack of social graces from any known culture.
Perhaps your parents abandoned you, fearing the wrath of the Hags if they were to try and raise you, or maybe you were the victim of some Fey baby-swapping shenanigans, and your “parents” wanted no part of that.
However you decide to work the Hexblood traits into your backstory, you want to make sure that it fits with your introduction so that your character fits seamlessly into the world they’re being dropped into.
Here are the full traits given to Hexblood characters.
Ability Score Increase
Increase one ability score by 2 and increase a different one by 1, or increase three different ability scores by 1.
If you are replacing your race with this lineage, replace any Ability Score Increase you previously had with this.
This is a very straightforward trait that simply increases one ability score of your choice by two and another by 1. Alternatively, Hexbloods can choose to increase three different ability scores by 1.
It’s essential to remember that this does not stack with a normal race’s Ability Score Increase. You can only take the one from either your primary race or Hexblood but not both.
You can speak, read, and write Common and one other language that you and your DM agree is appropriate for the character. If you replace your race with this lineage, you retain any languages and gain no new.
Another very straightforward trait. You can read and write languages based on your backstory. Later in the game, characters who take the Hexblood traits later do not get this trait.
You are a Fey.
This is a fascinating trait because it’s one of the only published methods by which a player character can become a Fey!
While some of us (me) have homebrewed our own Fey races, no standard Fey race has been released in a published sourcebook besides the Hexbloods.
It’s worth noting that you don’t lose your original race if you are taking Hexblood as a secondary type. You’ll be considered a Fey and whatever else you have taken.
Some Dungeon Masters may stipulate that you lose your original race depending on how you became a Hexblood, though. It’s a very case-by-case situation with this trait.
You are Medium or Small. You choose the size when you gain this lineage.
Exactly what it says on the tin. Notable is that you choose the size when you gain the lineage. So, late-life Hexbloods can shrink if they want to.
Your walking speed is 30 feet.
Another completely straightforward trait. Hexbloods walk as fast as the average Human.
If you replace a race with this lineage, you can keep the following elements of that race: any skill proficiencies you gained from it and any climbing, flying, or swimming speed you gained from it.
If you don’t keep any of those elements or choose this lineage at character creation, you gain proficiency in two skills of your choice.
This trait is worth discussing because it has specificities for the players who choose to overwrite or merge their original race with the Hexblood Lineage.
You can choose to retain the original physical elements of your base race or overwrite them with what you would gain from the Hexblood Lineage. But it’s worth noting that it is a choice.
You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light and in darkness as if it were dim light. You discern colors in that darkness as shades of gray.
Very standard Darkvision application. Most races come preloaded with Darkvision nowadays, so this isn’t an exceptional trait.
As a bonus action, you can harmlessly remove a lock of your hair, one of your nails, or one of your teeth. This token is imbued with magic until you finish a long rest.
While the token is imbued this way, you can take these actions:
As an action, you can send a telepathic message to the creature holding or carrying the token as long as you are within 10 miles of it. The message can contain up to 25 words.
If you are within 10 miles of the token, you can enter a trance as an action. The trance lasts for 1 minute, but it ends early if you dismiss it (no action required) or are incapacitated.
During this trance, you can see and hear from the token as if you were located where it is.
While you are using your senses at the token’s location, you are blinded and deafened in regard to your own surroundings. When the trance ends, the token is harmlessly destroyed.
Once you create a token using this feature, you can’t do so again until you finish a long rest, at which point your missing part regrows.
This is the most unique trait of the Hexbloods. It allows them to remove pieces of their bodies as tokens for their magic.
The tokens will enable them to send messages or view the token’s location in a trance as long as they’re at least 10 miles from its current location.
You can cast the Disguise Self and Hex spells with this trait.
Once you cast either of these spells with this trait, you can’t cast that spell with it again until you finish a long rest. You can also cast these spells using any spell slots you have.
Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma is your spellcasting ability for these spells (choose the ability when you gain this lineage).
The final trait of the Hexblood is their Hex Magic. Using these traits allows them to use spells commonly associated with Hags, such as Disguise Self.
Notably, you get to choose the spellcasting ability for the spells in question, making them a compelling addition to a character with strong mental stats.
Becoming a Hag: The Final Fate of the Hexblood?
Like the Changelings before them, Hexbloods are always at risk of becoming Hags. However, unlike the Changelings, the Hexbloods are not at risk of becoming Hags purely through their own actions.
While Changelings risk becoming corrupted and turning into Hags, Hexbloods can only become Hags through the ritual performed by other Hags. This makes Hexbloods an innately safer pick when it comes to racial traits.
However, this also takes away one of the most compelling reasons for Changelings to maintain good standing with those around them.
Hexbloods have no risk of becoming corrupted through evil actions.
But, in that same vein, they’re given more freedom than Changeling characters because they’re able to choose what they want to do rather than just doing what they should do.
Still, it’s always a risk that a group of Hags could jump out and carry you away to become a Hag at any time. You just have to have enough Hags for it to work!
Final Thoughts About Hexbloods
Hexbloods are a great addition to the Dungeons & Dragons universe that allows players to customize their characters further to fit the stories they want to tell. But, really, that’s what Dungeons & Dragons is: a group storytelling experience.
It’s currently unclear whether Hexbloods or Lineages, in general, will return for Dungeons & Dragons Sixth Edition.
Still, hopefully, we’ll see some kind of callback to this content and the mechanical implications in the future!
As always, the most important thing in any D&D game is that you and your players are having fun.
Don’t be afraid to take risks and change things to improve the gameplay environment for your table!
Homebrew exists to be used as a tool for the Dungeon Master to improve the gameplay experience for themselves and their players.
No matter how you play, good luck, have fun, and happy questing!