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Lizardfolk Race Guide 5e: Abilities, History, and Tales of Scales

Who Are the Lizardfolk?

First details by Volothamp Geddarm in Volo’s Guide to Monsters, the Lizardfolk have since been a playable race in Dungeons & Dragons 5e. The Lizardfolk are a scalykind race that, according to Volo, “share more in common with iguanas or dragons than people,” despite their humanoid appearance.

If you’re considering taking a scaled one along on an adventure, remember this important fact. The strange, inhuman glint in its eyes as it looks you over is the same look you might give a freshly grilled steak.

-Tordek, dwarf fighter and adventurer

The average Lizardfolk has a mindset that is entirely alien to most humanoids. They have limited emotional capacity, driven chiefly by feelings of fear, aggression, and pleasure.

The Lizardfolk experience of emotion is detached and descriptive; while they may see and acknowledge the feelings of others, they do not share the feeling. Where a human may feel fear, a Lizardfolk does not experience the emotion.

They simply understand that the situation is one they must escape from and confront with aggression only if necessary.

The Lizardfolk are cold-blooded, both literally and figuratively, but not evil. As truly neutral creatures, seemingly cold and unfeeling calculations drive their outlooks and decisions.

Fearsome things must be treated with respect in the form of avoidance. Prey must be treated with the aggression of a predator. Pleasurable things must be protected at all costs. These represent the tents of the Lizardfolk mindset, their modus operandi.

They don’t often stray beyond the bounds of their hunting grounds. The Lizardfolk view anything and everything in terms of hunters and prey. They treat every creature who enters their hunting grounds as fair game and thus do not move to leave their hunting grounds’ safety.

They very rarely, if ever, cohort or even trade with that outside of their tribe. Any Lizardfolk who have learned the value of outsiders will treat those outsiders with the same fierce protectiveness as their tribe.

The Lizardfolk treat magic with reverence and awe. Shamans lead the Lizardfolk tribes and oversee all the rituals and rites. Most Lizardfolk tribes are led by Shamans empowered by the Lizardfolk God, Semuanya, but a second group of Lizardfolk has risen to power amongst the Lizardfolk.

Lizardfolk, who have been touched not by Semuanya but by the reptilian demon lord, Sess’inek, are larger and more aggressive than the average Lizardfolk. They wrest control of tribes from the Shamans and rule with a violent, iron fist over their kin.

Lizardfolk treat the smooth-skins with pity. Their lack of scales and claws to protect themselves with is viewed as a great tragedy to the Lizardfolk. While the soft ones may not be outright prey, the Lizardfolk don’t particularly like them either.

They might not be food, but they’re not friends either. Much like a hatchling, the soft ones cannot necessarily fend for themselves but may prove useful if tended to.

Naturally, this combination of apathy towards other humanoids and propensity to avoid conflicts that might befall their supposed allies might seem like a disaster brewing in the party.

Luckily, for those who wish to play a Lizardfolk, it isn’t entirely unheard of for a small subset of Lizardfolk to make an effort to understand the emotions of other humanoids, even if only intellectually.

This unusual Lizardfolk may never empathize with their cohorts, but it doesn’t stop them from trying to meet them halfway. They make fantastic, invaluable allies because of their active choice to be a part of regular humanoid societies in whatever way they can be.

Lizardfolk Abilities and Traits

Ability Score Increase. Your Constitution score increase by 2, and your Wisdom score increases by 1.

Ability score increases are very straightforward. They make you stronger in the noted abilities.

Age. Lizardfolk reach maturity around age 14 and rarely live longer than 60 years.

Lizardfolk live short lives, aging faster, and dying younger than most humanoids.

Alignment. Most Lizardfolk are neutral. They see the world as a place of predators and prey, where life and death are natural processes. They wish only to survive and prefer to leave other creatures to their own devices.

Neutral alignment means that the Lizardfolk are generally not a knight in shining armor, but they’re also not complete bastards either. They’re not going to stab you for fun, but they won’t dive in front of a Nikita missile to save you either.

Size. Lizardfolk are a little bulkier and taller than humans, and their colorful frills make them appear even larger. Your size is Medium.

You’re a medium creature who takes up a 5’x5’ space.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet, and you have a swimming speed of 30 feet.

Notably, the Lizardfolk have a base swimming speed, and it is pretty fast. They can swim about as fast as the average humanoid can walk — something most humanoids can’t do. 

Bite. Your fanged maw is a natural weapon, which you can use to make unarmed strikes. If you hit with it, you deal piercing damage equal to 1d6 + your Strength modifier, instead of the bludgeoning damage normal for an unarmed strike.

This feature is so much more potent than people give it credit for at first glance. The Bite feature allows a player to increase their unarmed strike damage by biting the enemy instead. This natural weapon means that Lizardfolk are much more adept in close-quarters unarmed combat.

Cunning Artisan. As part of a short rest, you can harvest bone and hide from a slain beast, construct, dragon, monstrosity, or plant creature of size Small or larger to create one of the following items: a shield, a club, a javelin, or 1d4 darts or blowgun needles. To use this trait, you need a blade, such as a dagger, or appropriate artisan’s tools, such as leatherworker’s tools.

This trait allows the Lizardfolk to make their own weaponry and some small ammunition as well. The dart and blowgun needle option is solid as it can replenish the ammunition used in the battle.

Hold Breath. You can hold your breath for up to 15 minutes at a time.

Lizardfolk are crocodilian in appearance, so this makes sense.

Hunter’s Lore. You gain proficiency with two of the following skills of your choice: Animal Handling, Nature, Perception, Stealth, and Survival.

Extra skill proficiencies, nothing fancy to see here.

Natural Armor. You have tough, scaly skin. When you aren’t wearing armor, your AC is 13 + your Dexterity modifier. You can use your natural armor to determine your AC if the armor you wear would leave you with a lower AC. A shield’s benefits apply as normal while you use your natural armor.

Natural Armour is less underrated than Bite, and for a good reason. It’s a potent tool that leaves the Lizardfolk as a powerful character since their natural armor will kick in when they have armor that would leave them with a lower AC than their natural amour. 

This means casters with naturally lower martial prowess will calculate their AC using their natural Lizardfolk armor. It also means that classes who benefit from being unarmored, like the Monk or Barbarian, will gain an extra boost at low levels when their unarmored defenses aren’t as high. 

Hungry Jaws. In battle, you can throw yourself into a vicious feeding frenzy. As a bonus action, you can make a special attack with your bite. If the attack hits, it deals its normal damage, and you gain temporary hit points (minimum of 1) equal to your Constitution modifier, and you can’t use this trait again until you finish a short or long rest.

Hungry Jaws is a powerful skill that gives Lizardfolk exceptional tanking abilities. It is a single extra attack. However, this leaves the Lizardfolk with a pool of up to 5 temporary hit points, which, especially at low levels, can be essential to the Lizardfolk’s continued survival.

The other notable thing about Hungry Jaws is that it is a bonus action, so your action is still free for you to use. When used in tandem with a class with Extra Attacks, this adds one more attack to one of those rotations.

Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Draconic.

Different languages — nothing particularly notable or unique about this trait.

Volo’s Guide to Monsters

What Classes are Well Suited for the Lizardfolk

Optimized Classes

Optimal classes for Lizardfolk are the Monk and Barbarian classes. The Lizardfolk’s natural armor, Bite, and Hungry Jaws features will perfectly synergize with these classes, and Cunning Artisan works exceptionally well with the Monk class.

Monk

★★★★★

Ability Score Increase

Lizardfolk gain Constitution and Wisdom increases from their ability score increase racial trait. This has perfect synergy with the Monk’s Martial-Wisdom focus.

Martial Arts

Martial Arts has excellent synergy with the Lizardfolk class, mainly because of the Martial Arts feature. This feature allows the Monk to choose whether they use Strength or Dexterity for their unarmed strikes, but that’s not the most crucial feature. The critical component here is that Bite outscales Martial Arts in raw damage until 5th level and is roughly equal in damage to Bite until 11th level. The Lizardfolk has a 5th level Martial Arts strike at the 1st level.

Unarmored Defense

When the Lizardfolk’s Unarmored Defense score is lower than their Natural Armor, they get the benefits of Natural Armor and vice versa.

Unarmored Movement

A Lizardfolk will virtually never miss out on the benefits of the Unarmoured Movement feature. There is no reason to wear armor unless they play a class that benefits from heavy armor, and Monk does not.

Barbarian

★★★★★

Ability Score Increase

The Lizardfolk’s Ability Score Increases give bonuses to some of the most critical skills for Barbarians, but the lack of a Strength increase can be a bit of a damper.

Rage

The Barbarian’s Rage fits right in with the Lizardfolk’s Hungry Jaws, both in roleplay and mechanical play. 

Unarmored Defense

The Barbarian Unarmored Defense is a little better than the Lizardfolk than the Monk’s. Still, given the Barbarian’s move away from unarmed strikes, the Monk is overall a better class for the Lizardfolk. With that in mind, the Barbarian’s Unarmored Defense skill is undoubtedly one of the better synergies in the game for the Lizardfolk race.

Roleplay Classes

Roleplay classes for the Lizardfolk will be determined by the outlook the player chooses to give their Lizardfolk. A Lizardfolk that follows a traditional perspective will err towards classes like the Barbarian or even Rogue.

This Lizardfolk may struggle to fit into a conventional party as they won’t want to ally with their “designated” party but will fit in well for a campaign focused on darker themes with less focus on heroics.

An “enlightened” Lizardfolk will be able to fit more into the traditional party. They won’t, and probably can’t, ever learn genuine empathy, but they will try because they have chosen to do so.

For these Lizardfolk, the Monk class will be perfect, or they could branch out into caster classes that are less common amongst the Lizardfolk’s natural order.

Lizardfolk Appearance

The Lizardfolk are medium humanoids, though their reptilian frills and other features cause them to appear larger than they are. They are covered in thick, rough scales that serve as a protective barrier between their skin and the outside world. These scales come in many different colors and give the Lizardfolk a sense of identity. 

This external physical connection to the reptilian is very important to the Lizardfolk. It is a gift from their God, Semuanya, and the thing that sets them apart from other humanoids while joining them with each other.

Lizardfolk Names

Lizardfolk names are given to the individual based on traits or accomplishments. Volo notes that the names come from the Draconic language and generally carry meaning chosen by their respective tribe.

Some examples of Lizardfolk names and their associated meanings are:

Achuak (green), Aryte (war), Baeshra (animal), Darastrix (dragon), Garurt (axe), Irhtos (secret), Jhank (hammer), Kepesk (storm), Kethend (gem), Korth (danger), Kosj (small), Kothar (demon), Litrix (armor), Mirik (song), Othokent (smart), Sauriv (eye), Throden (many), Thurkear (night), Usk (iron), Valignat (burn), Vargach (battle), Verthica (mountain), Vutha (black), Vyth (steel) (from Volo’s Guide to Monsters).