With an entire sourcebook dedicated to dragons, it’s no surprise that we got some new dragonborn variants.
While the dragonborn of the PHB gives us a great playable race with some cool breath weapons, these new variants on the concept allow us to really dig into our draconic heritage.
Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons introduces us to three variants of dragonborn, the chromatic, gem, and metallic dragonborn races.
If you’re familiar with the original race, you may recall that your draconic ancestry could be from either chromatic or metallic dragons, but don’t let the repetition fool you. All of the variants in FToD are in fact new races.
Shared Dragonborn Features
There are several features of the variants that don’t change, so rather than bore you by repeating them, I’ve placed those stats here.
Creature Type. You are a Humanoid.
Size. You are Medium.
Speed. Your walking speed is 30 feet
Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and one other language you and your DM agree is appropriate for your character.
Ability Score Increases. Instead of set ability increases, these variants allow you to choose where your bonuses go. You can either take +2 in one ability score and +1 in another, or +1 in three different ability scores.
Breath Weapon. When you take the Attack action on your turn, you can replace one of your attacks with a breath attack in a 15-foot cone. Each creature in that area must make a Dex save (DC = 8 + your Con modifier + your PB).
On a failed save, the creature takes 1d10 damage of the type associated with your (Chromatic, Gem, or Metallic) Ancestry. On a successful save, it takes half as much damage. This damage increases by 1d10 when you reach 5th level (2d10), 11th level (3d10), and 17th level (4d10).
You can use your Breath Weapon a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.
Draconic Resistance. You have resistance to the damage type associated with your (Chromatic, Gem, or Metallic) Ancestry.
Variant Dragonborn Features
Chromatic Ancestry. You trace your ancestry to a chromatic dragon, granting you a special magical affinity. Choose one type of dragon from the Chromatic Ancestry table. This determines the damage type for your other traits as shown in the table.
Chromatic Warding. Starting at 5th level, as an action, you can channel your draconic energy to protect yourself. For 1 minute, you become immune to the damage type associated with your Chromatic Ancestry. Once you use this trait, you can’t do so again until you finish a long rest.
The chromatic dragonborn is going to feel very similar to the original dragonborn race, except for the introduction of chromatic warding. This is a relatively small extra feature, turning your draconic resistance into a full immunity. Immunities are great to pick up and any of these 5 damage types are going to be coming up frequently enough to really make it worth it. Remember that 1 minute is often a full combat, so if you’re only running into one or two combats a day, you don’t have to be conservative with your one-a-day use.
Gem Ancestry. You trace your ancestry to a gem dragon, granting you a special magical affinity. Choose one type of dragon from the Gem Ancestry table. This determines the damage type for your other traits as shown in the table.
Psionic Mind. You can telepathically speak to any creature you can see within 30 feet of you. You don’t need to share a language with the creature, but the creature must be able to understand at least one language.
Gem Flight. Starting at 5th level, you can use a bonus action to manifest spectral wings on your body. These wings last for 1 minute. For the duration, you gain a flying speed equal to your walking speed and can hover. Once you use this trait, you can’t do so again until you finish a long rest.
Gem dragonborns have long been awaited and they are showing up in full force. Their draconic ancestry damage types round out the options so that we now have everything except for the physical damage types covered in breath weapons. I think you’d have a hard time explaining piercing breath to me anyways.
They also get some standout side abilities. Telepathy that is always online is incredible, although the wording is a bit vague. Typically an ability that features mental communication is very clear whether or not the recipient can talk back to you.
Since it doesn’t specify, I’d definitely rule it as a two-way communication, but we’ll keep an eye on the SA column to see what crops up.
Then we have a dragonborn that can not only fly, but hover as well. When a character doesn’t always have wings it’s very rare that we gain the ability to remain in the air at the end of our turn, but this dragonborn has finally done it. Kudos to you gemstones. I think I see a topaz necromancer in my future.
Metallic Ancestry. You trace your ancestry to a metallic dragon, granting you a special magical affinity. Choose one type of dragon from the Metallic Ancestry table. This determines the damage type for your other traits as shown in the table.
Metallic Breath Weapon. At 5th level, you gain a second breath weapon. When you take the Attack action on your turn, you can replace one of your attacks with an exhalation in a 15-foot cone. The save DC for this breath is 8 + your Constitution modifier + your proficiency bonus. Whenever you use this trait, choose one:
- Enervating Breath. Each creature in the cone must succeed on a Constitution saving throw or become incapacitated until the start of your next turn.
- Repulsion Breath. Each creature in the cone must succeed on a Strength saving throw or be pushed 20 feet away from you and be knocked prone.
Once you use your Metallic Breath Weapon, you can’t do so again until you finish a long rest.
Lastly, we come to the metallic dragons who are all about that breath. Maybe someone should give them a toothbrush? Jokes aside, the extra abilities these alternate metallic breaths have are pretty great.
Being able to decipher whether a con save or str save is more likely to be failed will be half the battle, but after that you’ll be completely altering the battlefield with these.
In our main dragonborn article, we have a section discussing what the best classes for a dragonborn are. It’s a question that comes up for just about any race, and more often than not the answer comes simply from looking at the ability scores and plugging in the right class.
Strength and constitution? Yep, that’s a fighter or barbarian. Intelligence and strength? Looks like we have an Eldritch Knight or Artificer.
That is the way of the past! Ever since November 17th, 2020 when Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything hit shelves, new playable races have been introduced with this +2 and +1 or three +1s set up for ability scores and it. is. everything.
Now we get to look at these variant races for their actual features, not just the numbers attached to them. What do these tell us?
Well they tell us that just about any race that’s frequently taking the Attack action is going to be golden. Or sapphire. Or whatever. Breath weapons function as part of the Attack action and are specifically stated to be one of your attacks, meaning a class with the Extra Attack feature can go in for the kill, deal some melee damage, and then let off a burst of whatever draconic breath they happen to have up their sleeves.
Which is the best variant?
Flying and telepathy are two extremely coveted abilities that are so rarely seen together that I have to say the Gem Dragonborn is absolutely blowing my mind.
Even if telepathy wasn’t an incredible ability, the fact that it is the only feature to not be limited is amazing. No time limit, no x amount of uses per long rest, nada. This is just good old-fashioned psycho powers.
Which brings me to the question no one has but I must answer.
What are the best subclasses for a variant dragonborn?
The first that jumps out at me is a Soulknife rogue. Taking the emerald gem ancestry so that you have a psychic AOE effect along with your psychic blades is traumatizing for your enemies.
In the very rare instance you come across psychic resistance you can find a way to overcome it, but most creatures have no way to deal with it.
Then of course we have two instances of telepathy, letting you save your group telepathy subclass feature. Finally, a flying gem dragonborn can utilize the teleporting throwing knives in ways that a normal soulknife could only dream of.
There’s also, of course, the circle of the moon druid. It doesn’t even matter which variant you go with, just being able to easily put a dragonborn’s breath weapons on any beast with a mouth when you wild shape is incredible.
Because of the ability score increases you can make an optimized druid without sacrificing a bit of your points to strength.
My last pick would have to be the echo knight. Since any attack you make can originate from your echo, you can create some amazing tactics, corralling your opponents until you’re ready to hit them all with your breath. Who need’s a party when you’ve got dragon breath coming from two points on the battlefield?
The dragonborn has long been an amazing race, offering up some of the coolest racial features out there. Thanks to ole’ Fizban, it may now be one of the strongest races in the running. We’ll just have to wait and see what WotC comes out with next.
As always, happy adventuring!