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Dragonborn Race Guide 5e: The Story of the Proud Dragon People

If you’ve played Skyrim you might be a little confused about the dragonborn race.

This is not some nord that’s going to fus-ro-dah you off a cliff, these are honorable people born of dragons.

While their origin isn’t completely agreed on, it is a well-known fact that these draconic humanoids have had a troubled history.

Many believe that the first dragonborns were created by the Io, the first dragon god, to do the bidding of true dragons. Others believe that they were literally born of the blood of Io when he was killed in a war with the primordials.

Regardless, their history reflects the first belief. For millennia they were slaves of dragons on Abeir, and it wasn’t until the Spellplague that they ended up on Toril along with the whole continent of Laerakond.

In their new lives on Toril, the dragonborn have developed a culture of their own based on many of the principles that slavery had taken from them. Dragonborn are hardworking, self-sufficient, and goal-oriented, they look great on a resume. 

This type of life comes from the trait dragonborns value above all else, even life in many instances, honor. To them, honor is where your worth lies, and doing honorable things should be your main purpose in life lest you let down your clan.

Perhaps due to their draconic nature, they constantly seek approval from others, and they see their deeds as a way to gain that approval.

A dragonborn will also likely dedicate their life to mastery over some specific skill in their life. Knowing what your dragonborn character’s goal in life is can be an excellent way to flesh out your roleplaying. 

Dragonborn Abilities and Traits:  What Characterizes the Dragonborn Race 

  • Age. Young dragonborn grow quickly. They walk hours after hatching, attain the size and development of a 10-year-old human child by the age of 3, and reach adulthood by 15. They live to be around 80.
  • Alignment. Dragonborn tend towards extremes, making a conscious choice for one side or the other between Good and Evil (represented by Bahamut and Tiamat, respectively). More side with Bahamut than Tiamat (whose non-dragon followers are mostly kobolds), but villainous dragonborn can be quite terrible indeed. Some rare few choose to devote themselves to lesser dragon deities, such as Chronepsis (Neutral), and fewer still choose to worship Io, the Ninefold Dragon, who is all alignments at once.
  • Size. Dragonborn are taller and heavier than humans, standing well over 6 feet tall and averaging almost 250 pounds. Your size is Medium.
  • Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
  • Draconic Ancestry. You are distantly related to a particular kind of dragon. Choose a type of dragon from the below list; this determines the damage and area of your breath weapon, and the type of resistance you gain.
  • Breath Weapon. You can use your action to exhale destructive energy. It deals damage in an area according to your ancestry. When you use your breath weapon, all creatures in the area must make a saving throw, the type of which is determined by your ancestry. The DC of this saving throw is 8 + your Constitution modifier + your proficiency bonus. A creature takes 2d6 damage on a failed save, and half as much damage on a successful one. The damage increase to 3d6 at 6th level, 4d6 at 11th, and 5d6 at 16th level. After using your breath weapon, you cannot use it again until you complete a short or long rest. HBInstead, you may use your breath weapon a number of times equal to your Constitution modifier. You regain expended uses on a short or long rest.
  • Languages. You can read, speak, and write Common and Draconic.

All dragonborns gain the impressive breath weapon feature. This ability is an incredibly strong and reliable method to create damage that scales with your level.

What sets this apart from other racial abilities is the agency you have in choosing your damage type. There are five damage types to choose from, which means you have half of the non-physical damage types available to you.

Dragonborn Variants

Standard Dragonborn:

  • Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 2, and your Charisma score increases by 1.
  • Damage Resistance. You have resistance to the damage type associated with your ancestry.

Standard dragonborns have the features you’ll find in the Player’s Handbook. They gain an additional feature based on the color of dragon you choose; a damage resistance. This can add a lot of difficulty into choosing the color of your draconic ancestry. 

Let’s say you chose Red Dragon as your ancestry, which is associated with fire. You’ll be gaining resistance to the magical damage type that appears most frequently in the Monster Manual, with 46 creatures using fire damage in some manner.

However you’ll also be dealing fire damage, a damage type that 37 creatures have resistance to, and 40 creatures have full immunity to. 

Poison deals with a similar problem, an incredible 90 creatures have full immunity to poison damage, while 43 creatures deal poison damage (the second highest magical damage). 

If you want to think about this in terms of vulnerability, or where you can deal double damage, then fire is the clear choice.

There aren’t many creatures with vulnerability, but 9 creatures are vulnerable to fire damage as opposed to the runner up, cold damage with 4 vulnerable creatures.

Basically, the draconic ancestry you choose can be a double edged sword if you start to choose it based on the resistance you’ll pick up through the standard dragonborn. While it can be useful to pick up a resistance, you should focus more on the damage you plan to deal with your breath weapon.

Draconblood:

  • Ability Score Increase. Your Intelligence score increases by 2, and your Charisma score increases by 1.
  • Darkvision. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
  • Forceful Presence. When you make a Intimidation or Persuasion check, you can do so with advantage once per long rest.

Draconbloods trade their resistances for a focus on charisma based abilities. You might look at the forceful presence ability and be discouraged by the once a day nature of the ability.

Realistically speaking you shouldn’t have to make an ability check like that more than once a day. Gaining that advantage means that when you do encounter someone who you need to persuade or intimidate, you’ll have  a great way to make sure you succeed.

Draconbloods also have +2 in intelligence which is rather rare. Not just rare, there are only two other official WotC races who get this bonus; Gnome and Vedalken. If you’re looking to build an uber powerful wizard or artificer, this becomes a great subrace.

Ravenite:

  • Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 2, and your Constitution score increases by 1.
  • Darkvision. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
  • Vengeful Assault. When you take damage from a creature in range of a weapon you are wielding, you can use your reaction to make an attack against that creature. You can do this once per short or long rest.

Where draconbloods flourish in their charismatic nature, ravenites are dragonborns who embody a hard spirit. The ability to react with an attack is hugely beneficial, and used at the right time can make all the difference in the world.

What Classes Are Well Suited to the Dragonborn?

Which class you choose as this race will largely depend on which variant race you choose, since the ability scores differ enough.

Paladin

The standard dragonborn is basically built to be a paladin. +2 strength for fighting and a +1 to charisma for your spellcasting sets you up nicely.

To boost the class you’ll enjoy a damage resistance and an extra type of damage to cover any bases your build might be missing.

Fighter

While fighter could use the standard variation, they’ll benefit much more from a ravenite dragonborn. The +1 to constitution is exactly what you should be looking for rather than charisma.

You’re also adding to types of attack to your arsenal, with a reaction attack from the variant and whichever dragon’s breath you choose filling the need for some magical damage.

Barbarian

This echoes the reasons behind fighter. Perhaps better suited to barbarian, the Vengeful Assault requires taking damage, which you can do with ease.

You also have very little reason to pick up an extra resistance, as they won’t stack and you’ll probably gain them in-class.

Wizard

This is where the Draconblood becomes an interesting option. While the ability bonuses aren’t very synergistic, there aren’t enough options for a +2 in intelligence to be super picky.

The Forceful Presence might feel a bit out of place for your standard wizard, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play a charismatic wizard.

Artificer

Again, echoed sentiments to the wizard’s reasons, and an artificer can come up with some exciting ways to enhance their own dragon’s breath as well.

It might not be exactly RAW but doesn’t a prismatic mouthpiece sound like a perfect dragonborn artificer infusion, something that allows you to change the damage type of your breath?

Dragonborn Appearance: General Looks Found Among Them

Dragonborn typically stand about six and a half feet tall and weigh in around 250 pounds (~2 meters and 120 kilos). Basically they have the same build as most professional wrestlers. Slap some scales and a dragon head on Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and you’ve got yourself a dragonborn.

Their draconic influence means that they have claws instead of normal hands, a blunt snout for their mouth, and draconic frills alongside their head. They also have hornlike scales coming out the back of their head that appear to be very similar to braids, and will often wear them as such.

Surprisingly, the color of your draconic ancestry will have little to do with the color of your scales, since generations of inbreeding have brought most scales to copper, bronze, or scarlet hues. Dragonborns of purer lines could still have blue, green, or white coloring, but those would be extremely rare, and likely carry some level of status.

Draconbloods are among the few dragonborns who actually have tails. They can take great pride in this similarity to their ancestors while other dragonborns might see it as a deformity.

Dragonborn Names: Male and Female / Neutral

Dragonborn have naming traditions similar to humans, but their heritage name comes first as a symbol of respect to the clan. Their given names which come second tend to have rather draconic sounding names.

The basic composition is one or two syllables with a softer flowing sound followed by a harsh sound.

Dragonborns will also have an honorific childhood nickname referring to a trait they exhibited in youth. These names will often be used by other members of their clan as a term of endearment.

Male Names: Arjhan, Balasar, Bharash, Donaar, Ghesh, Heskan, Kriv, Medrash, Mehen, Nadarr, Pandjed, Patrin, Rhogar, Shamash, Shedinn, Tarhun, Torinn

Female Names: Akra, Biri, Daar, Farideh, Harann, Havilar, Jheri, Kava, Korinn, Mishann, Nala, Perra, Raiann, Sora, Surina, Thava, Uadjit

Childhood Names: Climber, Earbender, Leaper, Pious, Shieldbiter, Zealous

Clan Names: Clethtinthiallor, Daardendrian, Delmirev, Drachedandion, Fenkenkabradon, Kepeshkmolik, Kerrhylon, Kimbatuul, Linxakasendalor, Myastan, Nemmonis, Norixius, Ophinshtalajiir, Prexijandilin, Shestendeliath, Turnuroth, Verthisathurgiesh, Yarjerit