Your character’s ancestry determines which people they call their own, whether it’s diverse and ambitious humans, insular but vivacious elves, traditionalist and family-focused dwarves. A character’s ancestry and their experiences prior to their life as an adventurer—represented by a background—might be key parts of their identity, shape how they see the world, and help them find their place in it.
A character has one ancestry which you select during character creation.
Ancestries express the culture your character hails from. Within many ancestries are heritages— subgroups that each have their own characteristics. An ancestry provides ability boosts (and perhaps ability flaws), Hit Points, ancestry feats, and sometimes additional abilities.
Each entry includes details about the ancestry and presents the rules elements described below (all of these but heritages and ancestry feats are listed in a sidebar).
This tells you how many Hit Points your character gains from their ancestry at 1st level. You’ll add the Hit Points from your character’s class (including their Constitution modifier) to this number.
This tells you the physical size of members of the ancestry.
Medium corresponds roughly to the height and weight range of a human adult, and Small is roughly half that.
This entry lists how far a member of the ancestry can move each time they spend an action (such as Stride) to do so.
This lists the ability scores you apply ability boosts to when creating a character of this ancestry. Most ancestries provide ability boosts to two specified ability scores, plus a free ability boost that you can apply to any other score of your choice.
This lists the ability score to which you apply an ability flaw when creating a character of this ancestry. Most ancestries, with the exception of humans, include an ability flaw.
This tells you the languages that members of the ancestry speak at 1st level. If your Intelligence modifier is +1 or higher, you can select more languages from a list given here.
These descriptors have no mechanical benefit, but they’re important for determining how certain spells, effects, and other aspects of the game interact with your character.
Any other entries in the sidebar represent abilities, senses, and other qualities all members of the ancestry manifest.
These are omitted for ancestries with no special rules.
You select a heritage at 1st level to reflect abilities passed down to you from your ancestors or common among those of your ancestry in the environment where you were born or grew up. You have only one heritage and can’t change it later. A heritage is not the same as a culture or ethnicity, though some cultures or ethnicities might have more or fewer members from a particular heritage.
This section presents ancestry feats, which allow you to customize your character. You gain your first ancestry feat at 1st level, and you gain another at 5th level, 9th level, 13th level, and 17th level, as indicated in the class advancement table in the descriptions of each class.
Ancestry feats are organized by level. As a starting character, you can choose from only 1st-level ancestry feats, but later choices can be made from any feat of your level or lower. These feats also sometimes list prerequisites—requirements that your character must fulfill to select that feat.
The true sum of a character’s lineage is a complex thing, ranging from an individual’s parents and direct family all the way back to their ancestors’ origins upon the world. A person’s legacy can encompass a nearly endless array of factors, including personal forebears, ethnicity, nationality, city of residence, religion, cultural traditions, historical events, and myriad other circumstances. While the complex and often messy facets of someone’s origins can never be completely represented by abstract rules—just as real-world labels are often insufficient—they are represented by a character’s ancestry. Ancestry represents what people a character calls their own or is most closely associated with, as well as what personal, cultural, historical, environmental, and even magical influences might have affected their development.