When it comes to races, there are few races in Dungeons & Dragons so straightforward as the Leonin.
The Leonin are bipedal cat folk with features resembling lions. Mechanically, they are a Strength-based race that excels in close combat.
Who Are the Leonin?
The Leonin are a race of cat-folk that foil the cunning, agile Tabaxi. Where the Tabaxi are Dexterity-based focused and excel in both melee and ranged combat, the Leonin are a warrior race that excels in close-quarter combat.
The Leonin are a proud people that tend towards isolationism. The Leonin roam the golden plains of Oreskos in nomadic prides.
Leonin prides tend to be matriarchal. They operate under the advice of the Pride’s Elders, especially the Speaker, a female Leonin elected by her pride to represent them.
Sometimes the Leonin prides gather together to share stories and information that they have learned, expanding the general knowledge base of all the Leonin.
In ancient times, Leonin served the Archons, lawful-good Celestial beings from Mount Celestia.
This service is viewed as one of the black marks in Leonin history; they deeply regret their service to the Archons and detest the idea of serving anyone.
Because they served the Archons, Leonin have come to conflict with many other races in Theros, including Humans and Tritons.
Some of these conflicts have resulted in full-scale wars, leading to a lingering air of suspicion between the Leonin, Humans, and Tritons.
The Leonin are not atheistic, as it would be hard to disbelieve in the gods when you can see their gargantuan forms lumbering by.
However, they have deemed the gods unworthy of worship and are a generally areligious group of people. Still, players may find the odd devout Leonin, usually following Nylea or Heliod.
Leonin view everyone with suspicion at first. However, their trust can be won if they are willing to walk a mile in their shoes.
Though Human and Triton compatriots may have a longer road to walk, a Leonin that leaves the plains to travel will be more open to accepting those from other backgrounds.
What Are Leonin Like?
Leonin are a proud and confident but reclusive group of people.
Having been betrayed by the very gods they worshipped, the Leonin have adopted an isolationist outlook on the world. Leonin are slow to trust and prefer to stay cooped up in their prides.
Leonin prides are nomadic groups of Leonin that are led by the female members of the pride, especially the Elders and the Speaker.
The pride members self-elect their Speaker to represent them both as individual leaders and representatives among Leonin.
However, not all Leonin prides follow this model of governing themselves. Notably, the Ironmane pride does not have a Speaker.
Societally, Leonin generally live in tent villages or dens carved into the sides of hills in the plains of Oskeros.
While this setup may appear primitive from the outside, adventurers should not take the Leonin for simple savages.
They are pretty handy and are capable of producing intricate textiles, tools, weapons, and furniture with which they adorn their homes.
Once upon a time, the Leonin worshipped the gods just as everyone on Theros did. However, their gods betrayed them after a time, leaving the Leonin high and dry without any protection from others.
Thus, the Leonin have adopted a sense of mistrust between themselves and the other civilizations on Theros.
Opinions of others differ between Leonin. Aside from the rare devout Leonin, most Leonin view the gods as a nuisance at best.
Some particularly jaded Leonin find themselves placing all mortal woe at the feet of the gods. They view the gods as traitorous and untrustworthy overall.
Much like the gods, Leonin view those of other races as dangerous and inherently untrustworthy.
They have a special place of mistrust for the Humans and Tritons, whom they’ve warred with several times. However, once trust is established, a Leonin will put their life on the line without a second thought for people.
Once a Leonin has become established in a group, they are courteous and confident but highly competitive.
They love to compete and fight in all forms and hate to lose. If a Leonin finds themselves on the losing end of a competition, you can be sure they’ll train earnestly to surpass their newfound rival.
When Were the Leonin First Introduced to Fifth Edition?
Leonin were first included in D&D 5e’s Mystic Odyssey of Theros sourcebook.
Where Can I Find the Leonin?
Leonin live on the plane of Theros where they inhabit the golden plains of Oskeros.
The plains of Oskeros hold everything that the Leonin need to survive, from good weather to a seemingly endless supply of game for them to hunt.
The Leonin travel in nomadic prides. There are too many prides to count, but if you travel through the plains of Oskeros, you will find more than enough Leonin prides wandering about as they move along with the traces of their prey.
Why Should I Play a Leonin?
Leonin characters are best played by players who enjoy the finer things in life in Strength-focused melee classes.
By far, the best class choices for the Leonin are Fighter, Barbarian, and Paladin as these classes utilize the high Strength scores afforded to Leonin characters and their skill proficiencies.
Leonin also have a racial feature called Daunting Roar. Daunting Roar is the only thing that sets the Leonin apart from the Tabaxi mechanically – a somewhat ironic choice of mechanics since lions don’t actually roar very loudly.
Leonin Traits & Abilities Explained
(Traits from Mystic Odyssey of Theros)
Ability Score Increase
Your Constitution score increases by 2, and your Strength score increases by 1.
This is a very straightforward trait. Your Constitution and Strength scores are boosted. This spread of Ability Score Increases allows Leonin to excel as both Tanks and DPS players depending on their allotment of skill points.
Players who roll their stats will find that they can start with 20 Constitution, making Leonin characters incredible tanks when choosing Barbarian or Paladin as their class.
Additionally, the boost to Strength allows them to deal hefty damage, even at level one when playing as a Barbarian or Paladin.
Players who are rolling their stats should put an odd number of stat points into their Strength skill as the extra one from the racial trait will allow them to start with a higher modifier number without losing any stat points from the initial roll.
Leonin mature and age at about the same rate as humans.
Another very straightforward trait. Leonin mature, age, and die along a similar timeline to humans.
Leonin tend toward good alignments. Leonin who are focused on the pride lean toward lawful good.
This is one of the major differentiating factors between Leonin and Tabaxi.
Where Tabaxi tend toward neutral and are rarely lawful, Leonin tend toward good and may even lean toward lawful when introduced as members of a pride.
Leonin are typically over 6 feet tall, with some standing over 7 feet. Your size is Medium.
While Leonin are still medium creatures, they’re much taller than the average human, standing over 6 feet tall on average and going above 7 feet tall easily.
Your base walking speed is 35 feet.
Leonin are a tad bit faster than Humans but not by much. They can move 5 feet further each turn than the average Human.
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.
Like many races on Theros, Leonin have Darkvision allowing them to see for up to 60 feet in dim light or darkness.
Your claws are natural weapons, which you can use to make unarmed strikes. If you hit with them, you can deal slashing damage equal to 1d4 + your Strength modifier.
Leonin take to the Claws feature better than theTabaxi even though they both share the feature. Since Leonin focus on Strength as a stat, they get full use out of their Claw feature, no matter what class they take.
You have proficiency in one of the following skills of your choice:
Hunter’s Instincts offers extra skill proficiencies. It’s worth noting that Hunter’s Instinct provides fewer overall skill proficiencies than Cat’s Talent.
However, the ability to use the Claws feature raw makes Hunter’s Instinct just as powerful in practice.
As a bonus action, you can let out an especially menacing roar. Creatures of your choice within 10 feet of you that can hear you must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or become frightened of you until the end of your next turn.
The DC of the save equals 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Constitution modifier. Once you use this trait, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest.
Daunting Roar is the signature skill of the Leonin. It allows them to Frighten nearby creatures that can hear. Since the DC scales off of Constitution, it will continue to get stronger as your Leonin gets stronger.
Players who start with a 20 in Constitution will gain the full benefit of Daunting Roar from the first level, and the only way it will scale is with their Proficiency Bonus.
You can speak, read, and write Common and Leonin.
This is a very straightforward trait. It’s not much different from any other Race’s Language trait.
Leonin Appearance: Explained
Leonin have a much more rigid appearance base than the Tabaxi, who are just generally “catlike.”
Leonin are explicitly based on lions and cannot look like another big cat.
If you want to play a Leonin, you must accept that you will be playing a lion person. There is no wiggle room on the lion-like appearance of the Leonin; that’s kind of their “thing.”
Customization for Leonin appearance is generally based on coloring. Leonin are covered in fur, and it’s possible to choose a color for your Leonin that you feel best suits your character’s personality.
The most common colors for Leonin are golden and brown, but colors like black and white are not out of the question.
Leonin Names: Explained
Leonin names are short and snappy. They generally have meanings in Leonin, but there’s no errata for Leonin language that stipulates exactly what means what.
It’s up to the player and Dungeon Master to choose the name and designate a meaning to it.
Leonin pride names follow a similar structure to Dwarven Clans using a Noun-Noun structure or an Adjective-Noun structure.
Female Names: Aletha, Atagone, Demne, Doxia, Ecate, Eriz, Gragonde, Iadma, Koila, Oramne, Seza, Ziore
Male Names: Apto, Athoz, Baragon, Bryguz, Eremoz, Gorioz, Grexes, Oriz, Pyxathor, Teoz, Xemnon, Xior
Pride Names: Embereye, Flintclaw, Goldenfield, Ironmane, Starfeller, Sunguides
– Mystic Odyssey of Theros
When a Leonin introduces themselves, they will present themselves as “Name of the Pride Name,” i.e., Baragon of the Ironmane
Final Thoughts About Leonin
Leonin are a great Strength-based foil for the Tabaxi.
They’re mechanically designed to excel at tanking and melee DPS, making them a unique and fantastic choice for players who enjoy playing melee classes that focus on Strength.
Strength-based races are not as prominent in DnD 5e as Dexterity- or mental-based races, and 5e’s design often shies away from pigeonholing players too strongly.
However, this narrow design choice is what makes Leonin so strong! While plenty of races can do just about anything, Leonin really does excel at melee damage and tanking more than a lot of other races.
They’re kind of like a mechanically more robust Orc, the quintessential buff-tank-man race in many ways.
Still, the essential thing in any game is that the players and Dungeon Master are having fun. Only you can know what will work best for you and your players, and that’s what should always be prioritized.
Just because something isn’t mechanically robust doesn’t mean a player can’t play it. So, don’t be afraid to allow your players to branch out, even if you have to homebrew some extras for them to excel within the parameters of the story.
As always, good luck, have fun, and happy questing!