D&D 5e: Human Race Guide
Humans: Humans are one of the most common races in D&D. They are also among the most ambitious peoples of the material realms. Exploration, conquest, learning, power, and enlightenment are a few of the myriad pursuits that humans chase after. They reach adulthood in their late teen years with a century being the typical upper limit of their lifespans. Many believe it’s their short lifespan they have compared to other races that drives their ambitions. After all, they feel the passage of time very keenly and are all too aware of their mortality.
Humans can devote themselves to various religions, gods, philosophies, and these can be integral parts of a class choice. Most human societies have class systems, though by no means are they all rigid and immutable. An ambitious human can rise from a lowly station to one of respect and prestige and a noble can fall to a life in the gutters if they squander the resources they have.
Humans get along well with most other races. While elves, dwarves, and halflings have usually run into some bad humans during their lengthy lives, the majority are quite happy to live and let live. Humans can expect to be treated with respect by other races, though there is no special closeness or fondness shared between them. Humans will serve as ambassadors, magistrates, administrators, and merchants among the other races.
Humans are all over the map (literally) when it comes to their origins. From deserts to jungles and from frozen mountaintops to tropical coasts you’ll find some group of humans that call these places home. Thus you’ll have lots of options for your character’s appearance.
Ability Score Increase: All your ability scores increase by +1 and receive no negative modifiers! If you want to be good at everything, then this across the board boost gives a big jumpstart.
Alignment: Good-Lawful to Evil-Chaotic. Being so varied, you can find humans of every alignment, though generally you’ll find the average person somewhere in the Lawful-Good/Neutral area.
Age: Humans reach adulthood in their late teens and live less than a century. You have a short life compared to other races. While age doesn’t change any game mechanics and is thus technically unimportant, it can have a big impact on roleplaying. Does your character have big ambitions or is your character trying to make up for lost time and fill their remaining years with adventure?
Size: Humans vary widely in height and build, from barely 5 feet to well over 6 feet tall. Regardless of your position in that range, your size is Medium.
Speed: Your base walking speed is 30 feet, which is average across the common races.
Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common and one extra language of your choice. Humans typically learn the languages of other peoples they deal with, including obscure dialects. They are fond of sprinkling their speech with words borrowed from other tongues: Orc curses, Elvish musical expressions, Dwarvish military phrases, and so on.
If your campaign uses the optional feat rules from chapter 6 in the player handbook, your Dungeon Master might allow these variant traits, which replace the human’s +1 to all Ability Scores traits.
Ability Score Increase: Two different ability scores of your choice increase by 1.
Skills: You gain proficiency in one skill of your choice.
Feat: You gain one feat of your choice. If you want to boost your character into their
specialty, an extra feat will go a long way.
Best Classes and Archetypes for Humans
Because of their flexibility, humans can be proficient in nearly any class due to the general lift to their ability scores. Be wary of being TOO generalized though, as you may find you don’t have enough proficiency in any one thing to really contribute much. As they say, a Jack-of-all-Trades is a master of none.
Subclasses: These are optional paths you can choose starting at level three that give you access to different focuses and abilities. The first, colored option will be the recommended subclass.
Artificers are magic users who have an interest in the physical applications of magic. The innate benefit being a human provides is better modifiers to skills. Such skills include arcana, nature, investigation, medicine, to name a few, which help when looking to make a weapon, elixir, empower armor, or any other such utilizing their magic. Constitution and intelligence are the main attributes for artificers.
Armorer: Merge with your armor and become the lightning shooting, walking fortress of your dreams. Starting at level 3, the armorer can begin enchanting their armor to serve as a magical conduit, and becoming a second skin. The strength requirement disappears for that set of armor, it cannot be forcibly removed, expands to cover the whole body, and it will create artificial limbs to replace ones a character has lost.
There are two options for the type of armor you want to create, Guardian and Infiltrator. Guardian will give you lightning fists and a bonus action that gives you temporary hit points equal to your level in Armorer. You can use this action once for each proficiency you have in it. Refilled after a long rest. Guardian will make combat much more forgiving with all the bonus hit points it can give you. As you continue to level, you’ll get extra attacks, more enchantment options for your armor, and even pull creatures 30 feet toward you during combat.
Fighters who rely on strength above all else. The Rage ability will be the bread and butter for this class. This provides advantage on strength checks, gain bonus damage, and resistance to slashing, bludgeoning, and piercing damage. While a regular human can do this well, variant humans and other races can do it better being sturdier and stronger than the typical human. Strength and constitution are your two important attributes.
Totem Warrior: If you are going the barbarian route, Totem Warrior is an excellent choice. Comes in 5 flavors, but you only get one. Each totem, Bear, Eagle, Elk, Tiger, and Wolf provide a different effect while raging. The Bear Totem is of particular note as it will provide resistance to all damage except psychic at level 3! As you progress, you gain advantage on strength checks to push, pull, lift or break objects, gain the ability to commune with spirits, and even cause enemies within 5 feet of you to have disadvantage on melee attacks if they can see you. Not bad since you’ll be seeking to engage in melee combat nine times out of ten.
Bards are spellcasters that channel spells through their musical mastery. You’ll have access to various healing, damaging, and utility spells. Not technically a bad choice for humans, there are other races that simply have a stronger start based on their inborn attributes and feats. Their main attributes are dexterity and charisma.
Spirit:The Spirit subclass gives the Bard temporary access to spells outside their class increasing their impact on the game. Tales from Beyond does so at level 3. This provides a randomized spell for them to use once before your next rest when the tale fades from your mind. The spells can make allies invisible and deal necrotic damage, gain temporary hit points, let you shoot a cone of fire, knock enemies prone, and even deal psychic damage. Level 6 will allow the bard to memorize a spell from the Divination and Necromancy schools. And at higher levels you’ll get to influence and sometimes choose the Tale you receive from the beyond.
Clerics connect the mortal realm with those of the gods. Imbued with power, they seek to emulate their god’s methods and works whether for good or ill. Wisdom and Charisma are the main attributes for Clerics.
War Domain: The War Domain makes your Cleric into a combat specialist. It provides access to some powerful spells and buffs, with eight of 15 being usable by level 5. This will up your damage output big time.
Wielding primal magic, these individuals embody the elements or transform into various animals in the service of the natural world. They can specialize as long range spellcasters or melee combatants. Humans aren’t the most connected to nature out of the mortal races, so powerful druids are typically elves and other beings with strong ties to nature. Intelligence and wisdom are the key attributes for Druids.
Moon: The Circle of the Moon subclass will multiply the impact your character makes in the game. Focusing on shapeshifting, the Moon Druid can transform into a Wild Shape as a bonus action when hitting level 2. No more spending an entire action on shapeshifting! You’ll also have access to more powerful Wild Shapes than the other subclasses, so you will have tons of flexibility.
The simple name conceals a great depth of skill and knowledge. Fighters can be defenders, archers, duelists, or specialize in great weapon fighting, thrown weapons, and even unarmed combat. A very flexible class if you aren’t sure about specialization right off the bat, making humans a good choice for race. Strength and constitution are the main attributes for fighters.
Echo Knight: Imagine you had a copy of you that runs around, fights, and even serves as a teleportation spell. That is what you get with the Echo Knight. At level 3 you can swap places with your echo as a bonus action, sacrificing 15 movement to do so. Considering they can be up to 30 feet away (later one ability can let them get 1000 feet away!) this is a big mobility boost. You can also have your echo attack each time you attack, equal to the value of your Constitution modifier.
Monks are spiritual individuals who tap into the energy flowing through them. They fight unarmored with simple weapons, using their agility and mystic energy to provide their defense and offense. The broad range of skills monks utilize benefit from the wide range of ability modifiers humans can offer. Strength and dexterity are the main attributes for monks. Especially dexterity, as it is the modifier for AC when not armored.
Drunken Master: This subclass is awesome for getting in and out of combat. At level 3 your Flurry of Blows allows you to disengage, avoiding those nasty attacks of opportunity and provides an extra 10 feet of movement. As you level up, you’ll get the ability to redirect attacks, spend ki points to remove disadvantage, and even take on swarms of enemies.
Paladins are warriors, oathsworn to serve a power higher than their own. They are foes of evil and the undead, and will do what it takes to fulfill their oath. It may be my own bias, but without extra modifiers and racial traits, humans are middling paladins. Wisdom and Strength are the primary attributes for paladins.
Devotion: The Oath of Devotion is the subclass that exemplifies everything a classic paladin is. A warrior, a healer, and a defender. At level 3 you get access to a pair of Channel Divinity abilities, Sacred Weapon and Turn the Unholy. Great for running through campaigns with undead and fiends, you will gain more power and utilize attributes like Charisma to provide bonuses to attack rolls. This is the area where the basic human has an advantage, having the +1 to all attributes will be very useful to the Oath of Devotion Paladin.
Rangers are solitary individuals, preferring to be deep in the wild connecting with nature, away from the bustle of cities and towns. You can specialize in a variety of weapons and skills as a ranger, and you will even have access to ranger spells. Humans can make good rangers; while their key attributes are strength and dexterity, they will also make good use of a higher wisdom score when spellcasting.
Gloom Stalker: This Ranger subclass focuses on the stealth aspects of the class. Boy do they work well. At level 3, your human will get access to Darkvision out to 60 feet and also become invisible to creatures with Darkvision when you are hidden in darkness. You’ll have access to disguise self, fear, and even invisibility down the line. At level 7 you get proficiency in all Wisdom saving throws. Turning missed attack into another attack is a level 11 ability, and you’ll be able to force disadvantage on creature attacks that don’t already have advantage. All this combined with the Natural Explorer (move at normal speed in stealth, no difficult terrain slow) an extra attack at level 5, and the option to be proficient in Athletics, Stealth, and Perception the Gloom Stalker is an excellent match to enhance human’s strengths and mitigate some of their weaknesses.
Rogues are individuals engaged in clandestine activity, whether burglary, spying, or assassination is their specialty. The reason rogue is ranked low for humans is that there are other races with bonuses to stealth and rerolling failed checks. Dexterity and intelligence are the main attributes for rogues.
Swashbuckler: Humans can make excellent use of the Swashbuckler subclass due to a variety of abilities that rely on Charisma checks. Most of your abilities focus on combat, gaining advantage or inflicting disadvantage plays a central role. You’ll also be able to strike and retreat freely during combat. .
Drawing magic from within, sorcerers gain power through their bloodline, some cosmic force, or otherworldly influence to access exceptionally powerful spells. The best sorcerers are highly specialized and really benefit from racial feats, so once again, humans can do it but others are better. The main attributes are constitution and charisma.
Shadow Magic: This subclass deals with dark things like death, ill omens, and looking shadowy. No Mom, it’s not a phase, this is the way I am! Jokes aside, this is a sweet class. From level 1 you get 120 feet of Darkvision and an extra save when being reduced to 0 health. You’ll get access to the Darkness spell at level 3, and be able to summon Hounds of Ill Omen during battle. Later you’ll be able to blink step 120 feet from shadow to shadow – as a bonus action! Always great when you find yourself in a sticky combat situation.
Warlocks gain power through pacts made with entities beyond the material realm. These can be demons and devils to fey beings and even celestials. Once again, humans can do a fine job, warlocks benefit from having a path in mind, and utilizing the character race to get a headstart. Their main attributes are wisdom and charisma.
Fiend: If you’re set on playing Warlock, making a pact with a fiend is never a bad move. (Well, they are bad but it’s not bad for you!) At level 1 you already feel the benefits of your patron; whenever you deal a finishing blow to an enemy you get bonus hit points equal to your Charisma modifier and your Warlock level. Later, you get to add 1D10 to any saving throw once per rest. Eventually you can fling enemies through Hell itself and inflict an eye watering 10D10 of psychic damage if it’s not a fiend.
Great Old One
Wizards are strong spellcasters with a wide range of schools of magic to access and subclasses that can drastically alter the way they play. Much like fighters, humans can do well in this class and allow newer players a chance to feel out the class before specializing. Intelligence and wisdom are the main attributes for wizards.
Evocation: If you want to fling fireballs and loose lighting with wild abandon, this is your subclass. At level 2 you can begin sculpting your spells cast to make allies automatically pass saving throws and eliminate half damage they’d take on a success. As you progress, your spells become more potent, adding intelligence modifiers to damage and having cantrips deal half damage to creatures who made saving throws.
Order of Scribes
Racial Feats/Best Feats
Prodigy: There is but one feat that only humans and half humans can access, Prodigy. Prodigy is an excellent pick for a human character as it gives an extra skill proficiency, an extra tool proficiency, and another language fluency. Additionally, you can take a skill which you have proficiency in and turn it into an expertise. This doubles your proficiency bonus for any ability check you make with that skill. Athletics, Arcana, Intimidation, Persuasion, Perception are all potential picks for you!
Polearm Master: Polearm master is a deceptively good feat for melee combatants.It provides a second attack when you attack with a polearm. With the modifiers and extra attacks many subclasses provide, this can turn into a brutal beatdown of your foes.
War Caster: In my mind, this is a must take for almost every spellcaster. Not only do you get advantage on concentration saving throws, you can still cast with shields and weapons in hand, plus instead of performing a regular attack of opportunity you can fire off a spell.
Lucky: This feat gives you three luck points after every long rest. You can expend one luck point to add a D20 to one of your saves, or to roll a D20 when an enemy makes an attack to make them use whichever is lower. Having those extra dice during a tense encounter makes all the difference more often than you’d expect. (Or maybe I just roll poorly. If only I could have this feat while playing D&D…)