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Sounds Infinitely Better Than “Hagborn”
With funky horns and skin tones in all your favorite primary colors, the hexbloods from Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft are one of 5e’s newest creations sure to be hitting a game table near you. Essentially a reimagining of the “changelings” of old, hexbloods are born either through curses, wishes, prevalent fey magic all over the place or through the machinations of hags. The result is a crown-like set of horns, brightly colored, often sigil-inscribed skin, and some truly interesting fey magic powers. Grab some gifts for a hag and get ready to traverse the Feywild as we go through everything you need to know.
What’s a Hexblood?
If you’ve dug through the less Disney-friendly fairy tales, you’ll find a lot of kids getting kidnapped and swapped out for freaky fairy creatures like the humanoid version of a cuckoo bird. In earlier editions of DnD we established that these baby swaps were the principal method in which we get new hags, powerful witch-like fey creatures. They used to be called “changelings” but 5e has decided to mix things up a bit.
Hexbloods roll up all the old “changeling” lore into a broader set of origins. Some hexbloods are still the result of baby swapping fey shenanigans, but now it also includes those blessed or cursed by fey creatures, those that were simply raised in the feywild, and even fey creatures that have been punished and transformed into mortals.
Designing Your Hexblood
Hexbloods are a wonderfully blank canvas when it comes to design as you have a few general consistent elements and a ton of stuff that was left vague for you to play with. The constant elements all equate to a generally magical or fey appearance including pointed or forked ears, and a very non-standard skin tone. They also have perpetually long hair that magically regrows when cut. The rest of it is up to you:
We’ll get into the mechanical implications more in a bit, but hexblood is a lineage rather than a race. Anybody could run afoul of fey curses and become a hexblood so your “original form” could be any race. Do you want your hexblood to be part orc? How about part dwarf? You could even double down on the horns with a hexblooded tiefling. In the end these will mostly be cosmetic changes, but it’ll go a long way towards informing your character’s look and backstory.
How’d you get to be a hexblood and is that an ongoing issue? For those hexbloods “created” by hags you may well have a hag somewhere getting ready for the right time to transform you into a full hag. Were you swapped at birth? Were you simply born too close to some fey woods? Were you blessed with your hexblood powers as a wish granted, or cursed with your hexblood powers as part of a bargain you or your parents struck? There’s a lot of room to get creative with this and you can really make your hexblood unique. You can even become a hexblood mid campaign if your DM feels like it as you could pick up some fey curse in the middle of an adventure.
The actual physical descriptions of hexbloods are very vague and brief, giving us only “lurid shades” to describe their skin. The official artworks however give us examples including bright purples, sky blues, and light greens. We also see most hexbloods covered in complex and possibly magical tattoos and markings which may be a cultural choice or more interestingly they may be “natural” patterns on their skin. If you go for the straight-up hag origins they’ve definitely color-matched the hexbloods to hags (blue skin for sea hag ancestry, green for green, purple for night) but It isn’t mandatory. Really, we’ve got a blank slate and you can do practically anything you want with your hexblood.
Called an eldercross or a witch’s turn, each hexblood has unique horns (or some sort of similar growths) that form a sort of crown or garland shape on their heads. When designing your hexblood these special horns are a great place to tie into your origins. You could go for a particularly jagged and spiky crown for a curse origin, a leafy garland for a green hag origin, or perhaps something that looks almost genuinely regal for a “blessing” origin. Much like tiefling horns, your hexblood eldercross is a point of uniqueness you should consider when making your character.
Lineage Not Race
Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything introduced lineages as a sort of alternative to races, and hexbloods are designed as a lineage as opposed to a race which is a bit more complicated.
You can take a lineage later through roleplaying (say you get cursed by a hag, suddenly you could be a hexblood) which means you could easily be a hexblooded half-elf, or a hexblooded dragonborn, or a hexblooded dwarf. I found that the book explained this whole situation poorly, but you basically have 3 options for playing a hexblood:
- Create a hexblood during character creation, using only the hexblood stats.
- Create a hexblood during character creation, using another race’s stats that are then modified by the hexblood stats.
- Create a character using a different race, who then becomes a hexblood during the campaign and has their stats modified to hexblood stats.
As this is a lineage rather than a race what exact features a hexblood has are a bit malleable. We also can’t print the exact rules here (WotC wants you to buy a book) but we can paraphrase the rules so you get the gist and then explain what they’ll mean for your new hexblood character.
Ability Score Increase
If you make your hexblood from scratch, you have to follow the lineage rules for picking out your ability scores. Lineages don’t have presets on your ability scores, instead you simply put +2 in an ability score of your choice and +1 in another ability score of your choice. Or you can put +1 in three different ability scores.
Where it gets weird is what happens if you take a race and transform into a hexblood? The book uses some very loose and funky wording, but best I can figure you’ll have to replace the existing ability score bonuses of your race with the “pick whatever” mode of a lineage.
In a very strange wording, you “choose” to either be small or medium when you create your hexblood. This is obviously to accommodate any race that you want to use as your “original” form from before you were turned into a hexblood.
You get to make this “choice” on your size when you gain the lineage, and the way it’s worded you could actually choose to distort your “base race” size if you wanted. So bizarrely, this feature allows you to create things like small-sized hexblooded dragonborn, or medium-sized hexblooded gnomes.
Hexbloods get the standard 30 feet of movement, nothing special, but keep in mind you won’t get to keep faster movement speeds from base races but you’ll improve over slower movement speeds from base races.
This is the “big” part of your original “base race” you get to keep while everything else gets chucked in the bin. If your base race gave you any skill proficiencies you keep them. If your base race had any alternate movement speeds (climb, fly, swim) you get to keep those too.
If your base race didn’t grant you any proficiencies or special movement types, you instead get to gain proficiency with any two skills of your choice.
This was a very strange way of doing things that weirdly incentivizes you to choose a “base race” that grants alternate movement speeds and ideally proficiencies as well. Two skills isn’t a bad trade off either so it’s not obligatory, but I anticipate a lot of “hexblooded tritons or aarakocras” in the future from people trying to game the system. For reference the 5e races that grant a climbing speed, flying speed, or swimming speed are: aarakocra, genasi (water), lizardfolk, merfolk, tabaxi, and tritons.
It seems like they hand this out to basically every non-human race but nonetheless hexbloods gain darkvision.
It’s the standard version with no bells or whistles, but it’s always nice to have.
I absolutely adore this feature as it’s unique, creepy, useful, and spot on point for flavor. Like hags and other fey beings that grant “boons” in the form of tokens, you can rip a part of yourself off and hand it to somebody as a magical token. This doesn’t hurt you, and you can be as creepy or innocuous as you like about it as you pluck a fingernail, a tooth, or just a lock of hair. While somebody else has your token, you get to do the two following things:
Telepathic Message: You can send telepathic messages to whoever has your token so long as they’re within 10 miles of you. Incredibly useful, but it’s only one-way and your token holder can’t talk back. And combined with the second half of this feature I think you’ll find most hexbloods become the “communications officer” of the party.
Remote Viewing: While within 10 miles of your token, you can enter a trance and shift your perceptions over to the token, much in the same way that you “see” through a familiar. This is especially useful since you can use your telepathic messages at the same time and since you can see and hear from the token the token holder and whoever else is nearby can essentially talk to you directly. The catch is that once you break your trance, the token breaks, so this level of communication isn’t perfectly free.
Finally, the token will only stay magic until you finish a long rest, and whenever you finish a long rest whatever bit you ripped off to become the token magically regrows.
This lets you cast the spells disguise self and hex once each per long rest. Both spells are excellent, and you’ll likely get a lot of use out of them even in later tiers. What’s even more impressive is they also get added to your known spells for whatever class you play, AND you get to choose what mental score (Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma) you want to use to cast them. Hopefully, this is the new gold standard for racial spells as it’s leaps and bounds better than what a lot of existing races get.
In addition, one thing you may have noticed missing from this list was a “languages” trait, and that’s because the new lineages system doesn’t have them. Instead, you know common and one language “you and your DM agree on”. This is obviously pretty squishy, but it’s an effort to let the DM dictate the languages of their setting rather than your racial selections. However, if you start your hexblood build as a race, you just keep the languages that race had.
Races aren’t actually that big of a part of your character when it comes down to it and these new lineages are even less build-dependent since your ability score increases are fully adjustable now. Any combination of class and background will work fine for your hexblood but if you’re interested in making the absolute most of your abilities there are a few strategies that synergize with the hexblood features:
Magic Cat Burglar
As with most of these new lineages, picking up an alternate movement speed from your “base race” is a solid move and I particularly like snagging the climbing speed of a tabaxi for a hexblooded tabaxi rogue. The hexblood eerie token feature is perfect for rogues and can act as an emergency line as you sneak past the guards. Being able to both scale walls and freely telepathically talk to your friends on the outside is like being in a spy thriller with active comms. Just snap off one of those cat fangs and hand it to your friends before you go on your mission and you’ll be able to keep them up to speed.
Messenger Pigeon Master
As a druid you’ll have access to all sorts of creature summoning abilities and with your eerie token feature they can also be walkie talkie delivery systems. Summon a bird and fly a lock of your hair over to your buddy. Or plant a literal bug in the bad guy’s office. Simply give a hair to the spider you summon (or whatever other tiny critter) and send them out to keep an eye on the bad guy before you storm the castle. You can enter your trance and become a literal fly on their wall with none of the risks of sneaking in wild shaped you’d normally have, or even the gold cost risk of sending in a familiar.
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Last updated: January 27, 2019
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