D&D 5e: Dragonborn Race Guide

D&D 5e: Dragonborn Race Guide

Intro

“Come not between the dragon, and his wrath.” – William Shakespeare, King Lear

There isn’t much I can do to improve upon William Shakespeare’s take on dragons. However, what I can say is that I wish he could have played D&D. And more than that, I think he would have loved the Dragonborn.

When these guys were added to D&D, they caused quite the kerfuffle. A lot of people felt they went against the grain of the races that were included in the game. The classic races were non-scaled humanoids that departed from being human only by a minor physical feature or two. However, what those folks didn’t recognize is that D&D has a long and storied history of including more “monstrous” races which our current fifth edition has lovingly continued.  

A Dragonborn takes a player from the nascent stages of uncovering their draconic power as a mere whelp to fully embodying the force of an Ancient Dragon in the highest levels of play. Now, they might not literally be a dragon, but the power is there. 

Guide Key

Epic

Good

Meh

Bad

Dragonborn Traits from the PHB

ASI: +2 STR and +1 CHA. It makes sense; the POWER of the dragon combined with their natural commanding presence. 

–Age: They phrase this one in an interesting way in the PHB. They’re like a 10 year old human at age 3 and are adults by age 15. But they live much shorter than you might expect: 80 years.

–Alignment: Torn by cosmic battles between good and evil, Dragonborn are a little up in the air. Most are good, but some accept the evil of the Dragon Queen Tiamat! 

Size: Medium, though they tend to be taller and heavier than humans; 6ft, and 250 pounds respectively.

–Speed: 30 feet. 

Draconic Ancestry: Picking from the given table in the PHB, this will determine your breath weapon and damage resistance. Acid (Black/Copper), Lightning (Blue/Bronze), Fire (Red/Brass/Gold), Poison (Green), Cold (White/Silver). Pick according to what you think would fit best into your campaign.

Breath Weapon: The effect of the weapon is determined by your Draconic Ancestry and is based on your CON. It will either be a 5 by 30 ft line (Black, Blue, Brass, Bronze Copper), or a 15ft cone (Gold, Green, Red, Silver White).  The damage is pretty nice to start and recharges on a short rest, so rest often! And for a standard action, the damage scales decently well over the course of the game.The new Fizban’s Breath Weapon is superior in the long run though!

Damage Resistance: Associated with your chosen ancestry. Might be Epic depending on your campaign setting, could be meh.

–Languages: Common and Draconic. I’ve typically made the language of magic draconic in my home games. I feel like it gives it a feeling of some strange early roots long before the age of the small folk. Beyond my predilection there, it’s a pretty standard language breakdown: talk with everyone and with people of your race.

Dragonborn Variant

Explorer’s Guide to Wildermount introduces Dragonborn Variants. These function similarly to the Human Variant, where racial abilities are replaced with new options. In both cases, the variant options replace the Ability Score Improvement and the Damage Resistance Trait.

Draconblood

ASI: +2 INT and +1 CHA. It’s a crazy world where Dragonborn are getting INT bonuses. This opens LOADS of doors that were closed before.

Darkvision: 60ft. It’s the Darkvision standard. Always nice to have.

Forceful Presence: Advantage on one CHA (Intimidation or Persuasion) chec per short/long rest. Nice in a pinch, but does it feel good to lose that damage resistance? Not so much.

Ravenite

ASI: +2 STR and +1 CON. Losing the CHA is a bit sad since it’s been a staple of the Dragonborn race, but this also means your Dragonborn will be much more durable and your Breath Weapon will be that much more frightening!

Darkvision: 60ft. It’s the Darkvision standard. Always nice to have.

Vengeful Assault: When you take damage from someone within reach of a weapon you are wielding, you get a reaction to make an attack against them. Only once per short/long rest, but… wow. This is amazing.

Dragonborn Traits from the Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons

Then Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons comes out and basically revamps the Dragonborn, offering some more abilities and nuances between Chromatic and Metallic dragonborn. It also introduces the very cool Gem Dragonborn. Nothing indicates that the Explorer’s Guide to Wildermont Dragonborn Variants can’t be applied to the new Dragonborn. 

Chromatic Dragonborn

–Everything from the standard Dragonborn traits from the PHB, except the breath weapon is now always in a line, and gets a slight debuff to 1d10 to accommodate the new feature. But it is now usable a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus per long rest. Really nice..

Chromatic Warding: At 5th level, get immunity to your chosen Draconic Ancestry’s resistance type for a minute once per long rest. Getting an immunity is HUGE. It is an action, but that action will be worth it.

Metallic Dragonborn

–Everything from the standard Dragonborn traits from the PHB, except the breath weapon is now always in a cone (15ft), and gets a slight debuff to 1d10 to accommodate the new feature. But it is now usable a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus per long rest. 

Metallic Breath Weapon. At level five, you get a new breath weapon that can be used as a part of Attack actions using multiple attacks once per long rest. Those options include Enervating Breath (Forces CON saves, failure means their incapactiated) and Repulsion Breath (Pushes creatures 20ft away and knocks them prone). This is pretty gorgeous. More options are always a good thing.

Gem Dragonborn

Gem Ancestry: The Draconic Ancestry expands! Force (Amethyst), Radiant (Crystal), Psychic (Emerald), Thunder (Sapphire), Necrotic (Topaz).

Breath Weapon: Works like the other Fizban’s Breath Weapons. You’ll want a high CON score to get the most out of it. It’s a cone!

Draconic Resistance: You’ve got it! And it’s tied to your Gem Ancestry.

Psionic Mind: Telepathy out to 30ft to creatures able to understand at least one language. Decent little tool to pick up at level 1.

Gem Flight: Bonus action to get spectral wings for a minute, allowing you to hover and gives you a fly speed equal to your walking speed, once per long rest. Classes that get speed boosts will love this. This is epic because it’s a Bonus Action. Anything that gets you more maneuverability that doesn’t take away from the rest of your turn is HUGE.

Best Classes and Archetypes for Dragonborn

I’ll save you some time and pair the archetypes with my preferred subrace combination. At the end of the day, the reasoning comes down to three things:

1) Does the race satisfy the expectations of the class?

2) Does the class synergize with subclass abilities?

3) How easy would it be to get started with this race-class/subclass combo?

4) When I refer to the Standard Dragonborn, I am simply referring to any version of the Dragonborn race that is not using the Variant options from Explorer’s Guide to Wildermont.

You can try to turn D&D 5e into as much of an exact science as you want, but at the end of the day, you need to figure out what works best for your playstyle, your campaign, and your playgroup. Alrighty, here we go!

Artificer

Take the Draconblood variant for the INT bonus and you’ll be a VERY happy camper, or don’t. You can also focus on being an Armorer that uses STR in place of INT. Either way, you’ll be loving this.

Draconblood

Alchemist: The mad scientist Dragonborn. I’m in love. I think this fits particularly well with an Acid (Black/Copper) Dragon. If you can breathe it, can you secrete it into vials to be thrown later? Chat with your DM! This is Epic, not only because it’s a good fit, but because the flavor is just too good.

Armorer: I love the armorer. I might recommend going Ravenite here since this basically turns you into a frontline fighter and you could greatly benefit from the CON boost. Your spells will suffer though.

Artillerist: Being a Dragonborn will give you a few more tools to survive out there than are typically provided by the Artillerist which tends to focus on its Eldritch Cannon. 

Battle Smith: Using INT in place of STR/DEX when using magical weapons will take the edge off of losing the +2 STR boost. Really nice toolset.

Dragonborn


Barbarian

The Ravenite variant is BUILT for this. +2 STR, +1 CON, and a reaction to attack someone who hits you. That veritably reeks of Barbarian. I’m kind of aching to play a Ravenite Dragonborn Barbarian.

Ravenite

Ancestral Guardian: Flavor them as your Draconic ancestors. Yes.

Battlerager: It’s for Dwarves, and doesn’t scale great in the end game, but a Dragonborn in spiked armor charging into combat is pretty cool.

Beast: Lean into the animal… and grow a second tail…

Berserker: Like the Battlerager, it doesn’t scale that great toward the end. Pass.

Depths: Only for water based campaigns, but using a Blue/Bronze Dragonborn for the Lightning damage is pretty nice. It’s water, be shocking!

Juggernaut: Break it all! YES! (Your damage isn’t the best out of the Barbarian subclasses, but you’ll have a lot of fun)

Storm Herald: More elemental effects, excellent damage, plenty of utility. Great! You might even flavor this as shifting through different draconic bloodlines that run through your blood while you represent the dominant line.

Totem Warrior – Bear: Bear Dragon. Didn’t know I wanted it, but yes. This works amazingly.

Totem Warrior – Eagle: Eagle Dragon. Your mobility and utility will come in handy.

Totem Warrior – Elk: Elk Dragon. The STR will help you knock people around. You may be hunted for sport.

Totem Warrior – Tiger: Tiger Dragon. Terrifying. If you’ve played Monster Hunter, you are literally the Tigrex. If you don’t plan on flying at any point, you might as well remember the day your people had wings and leap into combat.

Totem Warrior – Wolf: Wolf Dragon. Hunt in a pack with your crew. I like the feeling of this one quite a bit. 

Wild Magic: Let your inner Dragon get a bit weird. Since the effects are random, you’ll have to think on the fly, but that is a very fun way to play for veteran players (or heck, new players that just want to dive into the deep end).

Zealot: The single-most survivable subclass out there. You shall know pain, but you will not know death.

Bard

Your natural +1 to CHA is quite nice, and you have some flexibility between picking a more frontline fighter in the Standard Dragonborn, or the Variant Draconblood Dragonborn for a less combat focused character. But remember, you won’t want to be the only frontline fighter.

Standard or Variant Draconblood

Creation: Needs a creative mind, but it’s crazy what you do with this subclass.

Eloquence: It wants a slightly higher CHA bonus from the race, BUT it’s my number one Bard subclass right now. Infectious Inspiration is… broken.

Glamour: You need to shine your scales every day.

Lore: Needs the Draconblood to maximize their skill-monkeying.

Maestro: A lot of variety that sets you apart from other bards. Lots of fun.

Swords: You want the Standard Dragonborn here for the STR bonus. 

Valor: You could do it, but these guys need an overhaul.

Whispers: I think it needs a +2 CHA boost, especially if this is going to be a part of social campaigns where you won’t want to be operating with suboptimal builds when the story is relying on your gift of gab.

Blood Hunter

This is an interesting one. You fit weirdly well into this class, but it is an unusual fit. You won’t have the DEX to boost one of your Saving Throws, but you can pick up the INT if you wish. However, being a Dragonblood Blood Hunter puts you firmly into the realm of frontline striker. My thought is that you’ll want the Variant Ravenite option for the STR and CON, and lean into those. In the end, this will be a bit of a “jack-of-all-trades” approach. You don’t have the obvious tools for the task, but you can find a way. 

It’ll be like forcing a square piece into a circular hole, but I’ll be damned if you don’t make an impact. 

Ghostslayer: I can’t pronounce its name, but I can probably kill it.

Lycan: My blood has got a lot of things going on.

Mutant: I’m not a junkie if I’m in control of the addiction.

Profane Soul: I don’t know why you want to make that deal, but I’ll flex for you while I sign my life away.

Cleric

Oh boy, you just need the WIS for this. You can try, but your spells’ efficacy is going to be awful. Look toward the trusty Paladin. How many ways can I express that you need WIS before it gets old? 

Arcana: You need the WIS.

Blood: Be a Hill Dwarf

Death: Be a Wood Elf

Forge: Be a Human

Grave: Be a VARIANT Human

Knowledge: Be a Half-Elf

Life: Be a Githzerai

Light: Be an Aarakocra

Nature: Be a Water Genasi

Order: Be a Ghostwise Halfling

Peace: Be a Firbolg

Tempest: Be a Kenku

Trickery: Be a Lizardfolk

Twilight: Be an Aasimar

War: Be a Protector Aasimar

Druid

Like the cleric, but more specifically the Devotion of Ancients Paladin. Shall I continue?

Dreams: Be a Warforged.

Land: Be a Centaur

Moon: Be a Simic Hybrid

Shepherd: Be a Vedalkin

Spores: Be a Changeling

Stars: Be a Tortle

Wildfire: …Please, be something else

Fighter

Glory, Glory, Praise Bahamut. You’re right at home.

Draconblood

Arcane Archer: Sad DEX noises, but the INT will be nice.

Metallic Dragonborn with Variant Ravenite Traits

Battle Master: Your versatility will keep things fresh and your Breath Weapon will be a great way to break up the standard flow of combat.

Cavalier: Only if you want to be on a mount ALL the time.

Champion: Standard fighter. It’s just fine. A single thumb up.

Echo Knight: Requires some getting used to, but it’s pretty excellent if you’re down to manage what essentially becomes another player on the battlefield.

Eldritch Knight: You’d need both STR and INT to make this feel right. You’ll have to lean into one or the other.

Gunslinger: Sad DEX noises.

Psi Warrior: See Eldritch Knight. It’s the same situation.

Renegade: Sadder DEX noises.

Rune Knight: Sadly, feels more interesting in the earlier levels of play than in the later stages. Just fine overall, but you’ll feel more and more pigeon-holed as the game goes on.

Samurai: High offensive capability with a social aspect. That’s the Dragonborn!

Gem Dragonborn (Amethyst)

Purple Dragon Knight: Decent ally boosting skills. You’ll be able to dish out some hard hits while helping your pals. You will literally be a Purple. Dragon. Knight.

Monk

Your STR will be carrying you through here, but your lack of any WIS boost means you’ll be struggling to pull your weight in combat. Your AC will struggle to keep up, and since Martial Arts requires you to not wear armor… you might look elsewhere first. BUT, that doesn’t mean that the Dragonborn doesn’t bring something to the Monk in their durability and raw power.I’ll recommend the Metallic or Gem Dragonborn here just for the damage resistances with some solid utility. Gem for the flight, and Metallic for your ability to mix up your multiple attacks with a breath weapon.

Metallic or Gem Dragonborn

Ascendant Dragon: Get a variety of a bunch of different dragon types and a fly speed at level 6. Hot. Plus, it’s good just for the flavor of being a Dragonborn Ascendant Dragon. 

Astral Self: Visually, this could be a lot of fun to flavor your inner self as much more (or maybe even less) Draconic than you are physically. 

Cobalt Soul: Socially, it feels pretty cool to be a Dragonborn inquisitor, but it functionally isn’t going to be the best for you.

Drunken Master: It’ll only be SUPER EPIC if your DM allows you to chug booze and flame breath weapon it out of your face., 

Four Elements: More elements? Why not!

Kensei: The STR will feel really great here.

Long Death: It’ll struggle like I mentioned above.

Mercy: The healing is alright, but you need the WIS to really maximize your time on the battlefield.

Open Hand: Standard monk. It’ll struggle like I mentioned above.

Shadow: Emo Dragonborn. You’re definitely not like those other people. They just don’t get you.

Sun Soul: Goku Dragonborn. Needs the WIS and DEX that you just don’t have. I’m so sorry, Goku.

Dragonborn Paladin


Paladin

This is the path you were built for. The STR and CHA are essentially a road map to bring you right here. Joe Mangianelo’s famous Dragonborn, Arkhan, is an Oathbreaker Paladin that has found his way into the official D&D module Descent into Avernus. So, the Dragonborn is essentially the best Paladin race out there, in my humble opinion. Plus, I think there is something to be said about the intense devotion (obsession) of dragons to their hoards being analogous to the way a Dragonborn might approach their way of life. Any Dragonborn subrace that maintains its base +2 STR and +1 CHA is good to go.

Standard Dragonborn

Ancients: Loving nature, for the win.

Conquest: Crushing your enemies, for the win.

Crown: King and Country, for the win.

Devotion: Being dedicated, for the win.

Glory: Me, for the win.

Oathbreaker: Not doing it for this one. Oh yeah, I’m “breaking” from the pattern. Meta, right?

Open Sea: Water campaigns, for the win.

Redemption: You, for the win.

VengeanceI am Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die… for the win.

Watchers: It’s what is on the inside (of existence) that counts, for the win.

Ranger

Your spellcasting is going to rely on your WIS score. Since you don’t get a lot of spells, you’ll want to try and get the most out of them, but that will be hard to do with the Dragonborn. STR will help you hit harder, but your CHA boost is basically going to waste. So, you’ll want the Variant Ravenite, otherwise this class is pretty much a hard pass.

Variant Ravenite

Beast Master: With Tasha’s additional options, this is okay, but not great.

Drakewarden: I’m bumping it to good for the flavor, but also the companion is the main focus of this thing. 

Fey Wanderer: It’ll be adequate, but passable. 

Gloom Stalker: You’ll benefit from all of the AMAZING tools the Gloom Stalker brings to the table. Though your WIS will be sad, you’ll have a decent CON to weather the storm.

Hunter: It’s just fine. Nothing to write home about.

Monster Slayer: The STR will be helpful to getting out of grapples and your magic and teleportation denial will be awesome down the line.

Swarmkeeper: I think I’m just salty that this class could have been way cooler than what Wizards of the Coast did with it. It’s just fine.

Amethyst Gem Dragonborn

Horizon Walker: It’s interesting since you get to continue the force damage theme.

Rogue

It might not have the DEX that you really want for a Rogue, but like other races that offer STR bonuses with no DEX in sight, you still have the ability to be a true brute! A rapier can still use your STR bonus and it’s a finesse weapon for the purpose of Sneak Attack.

Variant Draconblood

Arcane Trickster: The INT is nice for spell casting

Inquisitive: The INT is nice for getting into people’s heads so you can hit them harder.

Standard or Ravenite Draconblood

Assassin: Always solid. Your enemies will perish.

Mastermind: This is almost always good just because of their ability to use the help action as a bonus action out to 30ft.

Phantom: Since this guy doesn’t really hurt you for not being DEEP into DEX, the Dragonborn works wonders here.

Scout: The mobility is kind of to die for which is something that the Dragonborn kind of misses out on (until the Gem Dragonborn gets to fly, but even then, that’s just for a minute).

Soulknife: This guy does want a high DEX for their later game play.

Swashbuckler: The CHA boost will help your initiative and you can manhandle a rapier till the cow comes home.

Thief: Standard ol’ thief. It expects you to have more DEX than other subclasses.

Sorcerer

While it isn’t a +2 CHA, you add so much more to your toolbelt with your racial abilities that you won’t feel that optimal Ability Score as much as other races/classes might.

Chromatic Dragonborn (add the Variant Draconblood if you wish)

 

Aberrant Mind: Flexible spell list and some excellent abilities. Great.

Clockwork Soul: Basically the tank of all sorcerers thanks to their Bastion of Law ability. Great.

Divine Soul: Healer sorcerer. Can’t really fault it. The wings will be nice.

Draconic Bloodline: Do you need more Dragon blood? Why not?

Rune Child: The ability to overcome resistance or immunity is pretty sick. But you’ll be hurting for sorcery points.

Shadow Sorcery: Emo Sorcerer. Solid. Teleporting in the darkness/dimness is game breaking if your campaign will have you in the dark regularly.

Storm Sorcery: Controlling the battlefield with storms! Though I love it, I think you need a +2 CHA for Storm’s Fury if you want to push people around effectively.

Wild Magic: It’s fine unless a DM uses it regularly, then it becomes very, very fun. Might not always be good, but it’ll be fun.

Warlock

While it isn’t a +2 CHA, you add so much more to your toolbelt with your racial abilities that you won’t feel that optimal Ability Score as much as other races/classes might.

Chromatic Dragonborn

Archfey: Make friends with The First Ones.

Celestial: Make friends with angels.

Fathomless: Make friends with Cthulhu. (Situationally useful)

Fiend: Make friends with devils. (At this point, Hexblade is just… better)

Genie: Make friends with Robin Williams. 

Great Old One: Make friends with Azathoth in deep, deep Space.

Hexblade: Make friends with the Raven Queen. (You may pick a Metallic Dragonborn since you’ll be in melee often)

Undying: Make friends with Liches

Wizard

A +2 INT from the Variant Draconblood Dragonborn is amazing and you still get the benefits of a breath weapon and the added cherries on top to the various Dragonborn Subraces provided in Fizban’s. The only “sad” thing here is that I think Wizards do want some CON to operate optimally to make those concentration checks, which sadly, you don’t get.

You must go Variant Draconblood, OR ELSE!

Abjuration: Personal and group tankiness. Nice.

Artificer: JUST PLAY THE ARTIFICER CLASS PLEASE. It does everything this subclass wanted to do, and more.

Bladesinging: For elves only, so it’s only epic if your DM is cool. This can be a really fun way to get your Wizard into the front lines and get some use out of your breath weapons (especially if you pick an ancestry that uses a cone).

Chronurgy: Time magic, some epic abilities, nothing to complain about here.

Conjuration: Solid summons in the late game, struggles in the early game. Decent.

Divination: Just one of the best Wizard subclasses out there. Yes, please.

Enchantment: Similar to the conjurer, it really takes off MUCH later in the game. So, it’s pretty good, but not when most people are playing it.

Evocation: As a Dragonborn blasting elemental power from your face… this is a good fit.

Graviturgy: Good toolkit, needs some set-up to work effectively. 

Illusion: You really have to be creative to get the most out of this (which can be a WHOLE lot of fun). But it’s not the strongest of the Wizards out there.

Necromancy: I’d usually say to pick a Death Cleric, but that’s out of the question here. The Necromancer has some really cool abilities, but you’ll never be raising an undead army. If anything, you’ll have an undead executive assistant.

Order of Scribes: If you collect ALL the spells, this is one of the best Wizard subclasses ever. 

Transmutation: The abilities are pretty small-beans compared to what the Artificer is pulling out now. I’d recommend just going that direction.

War Magic: If you can be a Bladesinger, this is another AWESOME way to go for your Dragonborn. Adding your INT to your initiative is a *chef’s kiss*. If you can multiclass into something that gives you medium/heavy armor proficiency, you’ll be a very happy camper. Arcane Deflection will make it very hard to hit you. Counterspell/Dispel everything!

Racial Feats/Best Feats

Racial Feats

Dragon Fear: It’s a nice array of Ability Scores that you can improve (STR/CON/CHA) to help cover up anything you might be lacking. Especially if you go Variant Draconblood, picking up that extra STR/CON could make your life a lot easier if you’re ever in melee combat. However, this feat wants you to have a high CHA for the saving throw. I think there are better options out there in feat-land, but keep this on the backburner if you want more from your breath weapon.

Dragon Hide: You get AC 13 + DEX… are you kidding? Where in the world has DEX become a part of the world of the Dragonborn? Now, a cool DM might let you switch up Ability Scores, but that’s not a reality for everyone. And the claws are awful. 1d4 damage? Seriously? Do not forgo an Ability Score Improvement to take this feat!

General Feats
Mobile – The Dragonborn, on their own, has an average speed, but not many ways to use it in an interesting way. The Mobile feat changes that drastically and can open up the Dragonborn to being much more frightening on a battlefield where they are already crushing up.

Lucky – Free rerolls. You will someday roll a natural one on the most important dice roll of the night. Do you want to carry that burden with you forever? I thought not. Get the lucky feat.

Sage Gamers

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