Tortle Race Guide 5e – Abilities and History of the Tortoise People

Last Updated on January 22, 2023

The Tortle: Nature’s Armor

Tortles are a turtle-based race introduced to 5e in a supplemental package to Tomb of Annihilation, The Tortle Package. They are a nomadic race of humanoids with a rich culture unique from other 5e races.

These turtle-people spend their lives embracing the wonder in the world, traveling to new places in the spirit of adventure.

A simple people, they don’t put much stock into searching for meaning, instead enjoying the present and what the world around them has to offer.

From an early age, a Tortle will fend for themselves and find beauty in their travels.

As far as purpose goes they don’t even consider procreation until they get to be later in age, around 50, at which point they seek out a mate and wait for their eggs to hatch.

In their final moments, they will share their life’s knowledge with their newborn children, beginning the cycle of life again.

Tortle Abilities and Traits:  What Characterizes the Tortle Race

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

Age. Young tortles crawl for a few weeks after birth before learning how to walk on two legs. They reach adulthood by the age of 15 and live an average of 50 years. 

Alignment. Tortles tend to lead orderly, ritualistic lives. They develop customs and routines, becoming more set in their ways as they age.

Most are lawful good. A few can be selfish and greedy, tending more toward evil, but it’s unusual for a tortle to shuck off order in favor of chaos. 

Size. Tortle adults stand 5 to 6 feet tall and average 450 pounds. Their shells account for roughly one-third of their weight. Your size is Medium. 

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet. 

Claws. Your claws are natural weapons, which you can use to make unarmed strikes. If you hit with them, you deal slashing damage equal to 1d4 + your Strength modifier, instead of the bludgeoning damage normal for an unarmed strike. 

Hold Breath. You can hold your breath for up to 1 hour at a time. Tortles aren’t natural swimmers, but they can remain underwater for some time before needing to come up for air. 

Natural Armor. Due to your shell and the shape of your body, you are ill-suited to wearing armor. Your shell provides ample protection, however; it gives you a base AC of 17 (your Dexterity modifier doesn’t affect this number).

You gain no benefit from wearing armor, but if you are using a shield, you can apply the shield’s bonus as normal. 

Shell Defense. You can withdraw into your shell as an action. Until you emerge, you gain a +4 bonus to AC, and you have advantage on Strength and Constitution saving throws.

While in your shell, you are prone, your speed is 0 and can’t increase, you have disadvantage on Dexterity saving throws, you can’t take reactions, and the only action you can take is a bonus action to emerge from your shell. 

Survival Instinct. You gain proficiency in the Survival skill. Tortles have finely honed survival instincts. 

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

Tortles gain a few very exciting racial benefits centered around their turtle heritage such as an impressive natural armor class, and the ability to retreat into their shells for safety. 

Their Natural Armor puts your base AC at 17, which is useful considering Tortles gain no bonuses from wearing armor.

This doesn’t stack with any other abilities in RAW, so if you’ll gain a higher armor class from a feature like Unarmored Defense you will take the higher option.

Still, this puts you at an incredibly high AC to start, and you can still use shields or any spells that provide bonuses to AC to get higher. 

The other defensive feature you’ll pick up is Shell Defense, a situation in which someone at WotC dropped the ball and missed the opportunity to name a feature Shell Shield.

This feature grants you the ability to retreat into your shell for a +4 bonus to AC. You also gain advantages on Strength and Constitution saving throws.

Because nothing can ever be all good, you can’t perform actions or reactions, you have a speed of 0 and you have disadvantage on dexterity saving throws.

All of these make sense both thematically and mechanically, without tripping you up too much. What makes this feature useless in most scenarios is the fact that you are also prone while in your shell.

The prone mechanic gives foes advantage on attacks against you, so even with an AC of 21 your opponents are going to get an upper edge on you more often than not.

Of course there are other mechanics the tortle has that can more than make up for this small blunder.

The claws feature turns your unarmed strike into 1d4 + strength modifier of slashing damage instead of the normal bludgeoning damage. 

You also gain the ability to hold your breath for up to an hour. This feature isn’t limited to just underwater use so you are free to think of creative uses for this like playing dead or hiding in an airtight container. 

What Classes are Well Suited to the Tortle?

The Tortle’s skill bonuses in strength of +2 and wisdom of +1 make an excellent choice for classes focused on strength and a decent choice for a wisdom-based class looking for better armor.

We believe the following classes are the best choices for this race:


In order to get to an AC of 17 with the unarmored defense feature you’d need a minimum of 18 (+4) in strength and 16 (+3) in dexterity.

This feature alone is going to allow you to disregard dexterity as a useful barbarian skill and focus everything on your strength and constitution.

While the +1 to wisdom is going to be wasted on almost every build for this class you can utilize the origin customizations from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything to throw that +1 into constitution and round out the perfect barbarian.


Paladins are going to benefit from not worrying about dexterity just as well. This will give you the opportunity to focus on strength and charisma while still boasting an admirable AC.

Tortles are also known to adopt the gods of people they meet in their travels, so being convinced to fight in service to a god would make a lot of sense to this race thematically.


Druids tend to need some serious help in the AC department, and a racial feat is an excellent way to do this.

While most druids will be using shillelagh or a wild shape to deal combat damage, the strength bonus shouldn’t be enough to deter you from this class.

And you can always use TCoE to make the old switcheroo if you want to, cough cough. 

This race is basically an amazing and easy way to get yourself some extra AC if you’re struggling to justify putting a good number in dexterity. The other features of this class aren’t going to rely on your class to be effective, and vice versa. 

Tortle Appearance: General Looks Found Among Them

Tortles unsurprisingly look like large human-sized turtles.

Unlike most other animal-folk species they tend not to wear clothes, instead sporting necklaces, bracelets, or headwear to express themselves or remember people from their travels.

Tortles’ coloration can range anywhere in the earth tones from a bright shade of blue-green to a darker brown hue, even including more orange tints at times. Their eyes will echo these tones.

Similar to human fingerprints, each Tortle will have different patterning on its shells, mostly geometric or spiral patterns. Oftentimes they will sport similar patterns on the crest of their heads.

As for the build of a Tortle, even though they tend to be about 5 or 6 ft tall, they tend to be rather stout with a hunched appearance.

Tortles’ legs are like small tree trunks, necessarily so, since they are carrying around 400 lbs of weight around, with around a third of that accounted for by their shells.

Their arms reflect this bulkiness and tend to be very wide, differing just enough from their feet to receive a different classification. 

Tortle Names

Tortles are one of the few 5e races to not include gendered names.

The naming tradition of Tortles is very relaxed, and not looked upon with much importance.

A Tortle chooses their own name, favoring simple names no more than two syllables, with pleasing sounds.

Tortles will often change their names if they no longer feel connected to it, as nomadic in their personality as they are in the physical world. 

Tortle names include:

Baba, Doru, Gana, Rodi, Eela, Mudgraw, Kwilgo, Sunny, Ugos, Anga

If you’re looking for a name generator that fits the naming theme of turtles go here

So that’s Tortles folks. They are an excellent race with one of the best defensive features you’ll gain as a racial bonus.

If you think you’re turtley enough from the Tortle club use this for your next character and enjoy coming out of your shell. 

1 thought on “Tortle Race Guide 5e – Abilities and History of the Tortoise People”

  1. It would have been nice if you had explained why the natural armour bonus will not stack, and just saying “because” isn’t good enough. Now I know you didn’t say because, what you also didn’t give is a reason.
    If you had made a statement saying that the natural armour will be considered heavy armor without the disadvantage and would therefore rule out unarmored Defense and therefore would not stack with any other feature that requires you not to wear armour could have been acceptable ……simple explanation. Save a lot of arguments


Leave a Comment