Imagine if death wasn’t the final act that we all think it is. That shuffling off this mortal coil wasn’t the point of no return that poets and writers have waxed lyrical about for millennia. Wouldn’t that be cool…in a horrific and nightmarish sort of way?
Well, thanks to some new customization of the core rules as laid down in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft, players can now have an option that allows them to create and inhabit whatever undead monstrosity their mind can conceive. Rather than just your run-of-the-mill zombie, skeleton, or ghost, the Reborn option enables you to introduce whatever not-dead type you like rather than merely inhabit a creature found in the core rules.
Were you raised by necromancy against your will? You’re in. Cursed to walk the earth in limbo because that wizard hadn’t performed the Resurrection spell correctly? Join the ranks of the Reborn. Have you dug your way back out of the grave driven by an unfulfilled thirst for revenge? These are your people. Well, not people, but you know what I mean.
Table of Contents
What is Reborn 5e?
Rather than introduce a new set of rules for playing each and every type of undead, from sun-bleached skeletons to chittering ghouls, from rotting zombies to ghostly manifestations, what the Reborn rules do is create an umbrella process for all sorts of undead as playable characters.
It allows you to create a unique backstory as long as you have died and come back to walk the earth; the details are up to you. The form that you take now is something to be worked out by you and your Dungeon Master, either something that ties into a campaign storyline (imagine the fun that could be had if you were the zombie reborn of another player’s beloved fallen character) or just a form that takes the players fancy.
For campaign balance, the DM might prefer to allow this option sparingly. After all, contrary to the popular saying, there isn’t one reborn every minute. Unless, of course, your campaign is based on horror themes rather than fantasy, or you are running a unique, one-shot Halloween adventure.
Designing Your Reborn
The Reborn character covers a lot of ground, everything from a freshly dead youth who could still pass as a callow teenager with a slight hygiene issue to a literal walking skeleton. You might opt to be a zombie built of body parts, a leftover from a Dr. Frankienstien-like deranged wizard’s experiments that wandered free after he was run out of town by the locals. Or things might have taken a more magical turn, and your “not alive, but not quite dead state” might result from more ethereal and magically animating forces.
One word of caution. The more alive you can pass, the easier it might be to explore the character’s potential. Walking amongst the local townsfolk without provoking too adverse a reaction will lead to more inclusive storylines than spending your life in the basement of a deserted temple living off rats for fear of detection.
Basis of Lineage
The Reborn state itself is not a race but a lineage. However, all player races are long-lived mortals, so if and when they experience death, they can also be brought back to life. And this is where you can develop your back story to explain what is wrong and the form you find yourself in today. This means that as a Reborn, you need to choose what race you were before the change. You might be a zombie orc, a spectral Dwarf, a skeletal gnome, or even a lizardfolk ghoul!
Once your original race is decided, you can roll up your attributes according to the standard build rules. Just from the selection of the backstory, the form you now take, and the racial preference means that you already have the basis for a unique and fun character. No two Reborn will ever be alike…unless you specifically decide to be one of a pair of nightmarish, undead twins or one of a brood of eerie spawn. That could be fun.
Origins cover the character’s back story: who were you before your death, who did that death occur, and what caused you to come back? There are myriad opportunities to use your imagination here.
- Did your nemesis slay you before you could complete your lifelong quest, and you have taken the form of a specter to come back and take revenge?
- Were you once the zombie minion of an evil necromancer who somehow regained enough awareness and sanity to leave and start a new, albeit very slow, life?
- Maybe you were cursed into this state or the victim of a spell not made for you, which spilled over the cemetery where you intended to sleep for eternity. Imagine how upset you would be if you woke up again after the promise of everlasting peace.
Horror movies are obviously the go-to source for ideas here, some offering straightforward explanations for your rebirth, others more complex. Collaborating with your Dungeon Master to outline the specifics of your situation will allow them to build your story into the overall campaign narrative, which will reap many rewards in the form of play experience down the line.
As a Reborn, your memories will have experienced an interruption caused by the period when you were dead. This interruption could range from merely not recollecting events during your demise to a complete erasure of all pre-rebirth experiences. You can treat this as a minor memory impediment, or your reborn persona could represent a blank slate, reacquainting itself with the fundamentals of existence as it navigates the world once more.
A highly effective approach involves devising vague, fragmentary memories to share with your Dungeon Master, who can build a personal story arc around it. This enables you to uncover, alongside your character, the individual you once were slowly over time. It may eventually cause you to remember the circumstances of your death and compel you to seek revenge or answers—all good campaign plotlines to explore.
Lineage Not Race
The fact that Reborn’s creation rules are based on lineage rather than race does confuse the issue. Do you start the game as Reborn as a build choice, or is it something that you become later in the campaign? Similarly, are your Reborn skills and abilities driven by your lineage or the race that you were before the change?
Essentially, you have three options for acquiring the Reborn status.
- The Reborn is built during character creation, using only the Reborn stats.
- The Reborn is built during character creation but uses another race’s stats that are then modified by the Reborn stats.
- The Reborn begins as a normal race, who then becomes Reborn during the campaign and has their stats modified to Reborn stats.
It is down to the DM running the campaign as to what specific rules are used to govern the Reborn character. And if the class/race/lineage abilities and skills seem somehow to contribute to an overly strong character, just rule that the trauma of their death and resurrection has caused them to lose some of the abilities, thus allowing you to make them a better fit with your campaign.
Again, it is essential to remember that Reborn is a situation driven by lineage rather than race. So many factors driving the character need to consider both the original race and how they were caused to make the transition beyond their demise.
Enhancement of Ability Scores
When building the Reborn from the ground up, as opposed to an in-campaign creation, you must adhere to the ability scores set down by lineage guidelines. Unlike races, lineages lack predefined ability score bonuses. Instead, you can allocate a +2 increase to one ability score of your choice and a +1 boost to another. Alternatively, you can opt for +1 increases in three distinct ability scores.
Things get intriguing when you deal with a character transforming from an existing character into a Reborn. The core rules employ loose and unconventional wording. Still, the consensus seems to be that you should replace your race’s ability score bonuses with the “select whatever” approach characteristic of the lineage process. Again, discuss your arguments and ideas with the DM and work out something that best fits the situation, is balanced for the campaign, and makes for exciting gameplay on the part of the character.
Through a somewhat unusual choice of words, you must “opt” to be either small or medium upon fashioning your Reborn. This accommodates any race you wish to adopt as your “original” form before becoming Reborn.
This “choice” of size is made when you acquire the lineage. Strangely, the wording allows you to alter your “base race” size if desired. This facet enables the creation of scenarios such as small-sized Reborn orcs or medium-sized Reborn goblins. Not strictly logical, but in this scenario, where creatures rise from the grave and transform into undead versions of their former selves, what is logical?
Check out our guide to DnD 5e Sizes for more information.
Reborn entities possess a standard movement speed of 30 feet (which is unexpected given the anticipation of a slower and “shambling” pace). Still, swift-moving zombies have become a feature of more modern horror movies, so it’s in vogue, I guess. Regardless of your base race’s speed, your movement will consistently be 30 feet, eliminating any advantage in selecting a base race for swifter movement.
Heritage of Ancestry
This constitutes the prominent aspect of your original “base race” that endures while all other elements are discarded. Any skill proficiencies bestowed by your base race remain intact. Similarly, if your base race granted varied movement speeds like climbing, flying, or swimming, those also persist.
If your base race didn’t grant any proficiencies or unique movement types, you would gain proficiency in any two skills you prefer. This distinctive approach encourages you to opt for a “base race,” offering alternative movement speeds and, ideally, proficiencies. If not, the acquisition of two skills is a valuable trade-off.
This section introduces the pivotal attribute of the reborn that underscores their “not alive” essence. It comprehensively brings together the diverse abilities gained from your undead status:
- You have an advantage on saving throws against diseases.
- You have an advantage on saving throws against poisons.
- You have resistance to poison damage.
- You have an advantage on any death-saving throws.
- You’re dead and are fine without eating, drinking, or breathing.
- Like elves, you are immune to sleep effects and can’t be put to sleep.
- Also, like elves, you only need 4 hours for a long rest, which you spend quietly and motionlessly contemplating your shattered past.
Collectively, these traits amplify your reborn character’s resilience against specific threats. The advantage of death saving throws is particularly impactful, substantially increasing your chances of survival compared to most player characters.
Insights from a Prior Life
Although your memories remain disjointed, fragments of wisdom occasionally emerge from the confusion. You can add a d6 to any skill check, introducing this extra d6 after rolling the d20 but before learning the outcome from the Dungeon Master. This ability can be employed several times, equivalent to your proficiency bonus, refreshing upon a long rest.
This feature is versatile, serving as a means to bolster skill checks that carry considerable importance. It can complement other bonuses, such as the bless spell, enhancing the reborn character’s suitability for skill-focused roles.
Reborns follow a different build ethic than most other characters, and the character’s class and background are the reason for their death and resurrection, which will drive the build. Race has much less to do with things than with most other builds. Any background and class choices will work well as a Reborn. Work with your DM to tweak and fine-tune the character so it is logical and balanced.
A character Reborn, whether through divine intervention, necromantic magic, or some other unique method, will have skills and aims to match the experience they have undertaken through this ghastly rebirthing process.
By understanding the character’s background, building an exciting and logical backstory, and weaving some of those threads through the overall campaign narratives between you and the DM, you can create a character that fits perfectly with the existing game. The Reborn best suits someone less concerned by squeezing every advantage out of the build process to make the most powerful character they can and instead prefers a challenging roleplaying experience. If only all players were this way!
Reborn 5e FAQs
What does it mean for a character to be “Reborn” in D&D 5e?
In D&D 5e, “Reborn” refers to a character who has been revived or resurrected following their demise. This revival could be due to magical spells, divine intervention, or other supernatural occurrences, especially if those actions haven’t been entirely successful.
Are there particular subclasses suitable for a Reborn character?
While most classes work as a Reborn, some subclasses can make for great options and sit well with the character backstory. These include the Paladin’s Oath of Redemption, the Sorcerer’s Divine Soul origin, the Warlock’s Undying Patron, and the Druid’s Circle of the Shepherd.
How can I incorporate my character’s rebirth into their backstory and roleplay?
Examine the circumstances of their death and rebirth and imagine how that might affect them mentally and emotionally. Did they come back from beyond the grave with new insights and abilities? Knowing that death is not the end, they now have a different perspective on danger. Work with your DM to build these elements into the overall campaign storylines.
Kendra has always been a hardcore fantasy nerd. Growing up in the worlds of Tolkien, Sanderson, Jordan, and Abercrombie, DnD & board games just came naturally. She and her husband, Bryan, started GameCows.com in 2018 as a fun passion project that just took over their lives. An avid board gamer since childhood and chronic DnD chronicler for more than two decades, she loves to play, write, travel, and learn dead languages. She is also a professional content writer at SlashGear.com