The Player’s Handbook has a fairly standard suite of races in Dungeons & Dragons 5E… However, one race in particular is pretty different than the rest. The Dragonborn of 5E are the first race that a player has access to that is majorly different. They are clans of tall, muscular reptiles with the blood of the dragons. Their scales are bright, and their pride is much brighter. If you’re thinking about building one of these creatures, our Dragonborn 5E guide will push you in the right direction.
Dragonborn 5E Lore
Dragonborn from the Player’s Handbook are close to their draconic blood. Unlike most dragons, Dragonborn are largely communal, living in clans that prefer isolationism. Dragonborn that are in close contact with each other tend to form clan-like structures; each and every Dragonborn understands their duties to one another and follows them closely. To fail your tasks to your clan is to bring major dishonor to yourself. They are occasionally willing to serve dragons, in a role similar to Kobolds, but they are much more likely to be simply near a Dragon’s den than be under the control of anyone.
Dragonborn despise failure and push themselves to extremes before giving up on a task. Mastery to a Dragonborn is a perfect life objective; whether the mastery is of magic or weapons, Druidcraft or godly worship. This causes many Dragonborn to wander away from their clan, attempting to locate true mastery from exploration.
The pursuit of mastery does not mean they don’t understand help. They tend to look for help from other dragonborn before wanting help from others. However, a Dragonborn in an adventuring party will often consider them to be their clan, at least temporarily. Unlike a lot of similar races, a Dragonborn may be willing to back down from a demand if it’s considered foolish… Though it is not difficult to provoke a Dragonborn into accepting a challenge that may prove deadly for them.
Dragonborn in Eberron: Rising from the Last War are slightly different. The Ravenite clan are a slave class who have finally broken free from their Draconblood overlords… and seek revenge. The Draconblood are significantly smarter than the average Dragonborn, but much skinnier. They rely on social manipulation to provide for them.
All Dragonborn, whether from Eberron or otherwise, have a link to their clan. That causes their names to be very family-based. If you’re having trouble coming up with a name, check out our Dragonborn naming guide.
The three currently released versions of Dragonborn are vastly different from one another. However, they all share core parts of their kit; you must decide what Dragon you hail from, and this will determine your scale color. Your options are Black (Acid, 30 ft Line), Blue (Lightning Line), Brass (Fire Line), Bronze (Lightning Line), Copper (Acid Line), Gold (Fire 15 ft Cone), Green (Poison Cone), Red (Fire Cone), Silver (Cold Cone), and White (Cold Cone).
- +2 Strength, +1 Charisma. Interesting stats. Strength is great for the higher damage melee builds, and not much else. Strength saves are rare, carrying capacity doesn’t come up most of the time, and Heavy Armor doesn’t often need much Strength to work the best. Still, the best melee weapons in the game can’t use Dexterity. You can hit hard! Charisma, like Strength, is not amazing. The save is rarely rolled, and it only influences your Talking skills. If you’re the face of the party, then this Charisma is great for you! Otherwise… Whatever.
- Medium, 30 ft Speed. The normal stats for most races. You’re huge, at over 6 feet tall. You might be able to look over ledges better than a Human or Elf can.
- Breath Weapon. Based on your Ancestry, this is good or great. If you choose Acid or Lightning, then you’re in a good spot. Not many creatures resist or are immune to those types. In which case, you have a very consistent tool to deal area of effect damage in a fight, no matter what class you are. The Line attacks tend to be more useful in close, tight dungeons, while the cones are better in open-world exploration. No matter what element you choose, you’re going to be very happy with the usefulness of this attack!
- Damage Resistance. All five of these elements are useful for damage resistance… However, the most common damage types are also the most common ones that are resisted by enemies. Fire, for instance, is not the best Breath Weapon because it’s often resisted… But Fire is a great Damage Resistance! In general, you should value Damage Resistance over Breath Weapon, since you have Damage Resistance up 100% of the time. No matter what you choose, however, this is a great defensive ability.
- Languages. Draconic is one of the best languages in the game. It’s the language of magic and dragons.
Draconblood (Eberron: Rising from the Last War)
The Draconblood keep the Breath Weapon and Languages of the Standard Dragonborn.
- +2 Intelligence, +1 Charisma. Yikes! +2 Intelligence is pretty specific. Intelligence saves aren’t that common, and Intelligence skills are good, but very situational. Charisma and Intelligence don’t mix well, either; usually, you want to have one of those abilities to be much larger than another!
- Forceful Presence. You can use this ability to have advantage on a Charisma check. That’s… Pretty great! In an emergency social scenario, being able to roll twice is incredibly useful. This cements you as the primary or secondary talker in most cases.
- Darkvision. Being able to see in the dark is useful, especially as a squishier version of the Dragonborn. This lets you avoid needing to carry a torch around, or even need to use the Light cantrip. Great for keeping things subtle!
Ravenite (Eberron: Rising from the Last War)
Similar to the Draconblood, Ravenites keep Breath Weapon and Languages. However…
- +2 Strength, +1 Constitution. Wowza! Rather than the Charisma of the original Dragonborn, these guys get Constitution. This is a better fit for roles like Barbarian and Fighter who care less about Charisma. Constitution is an essential stat for any character, boosting Health and Constitution saves (one of the more commonly targeted saves).
- Vengeful Assault. Instead of resisting damage of an element, you just swing at the opponent instead. This is a relatively minor ability, but being able to throw out damage outside of your standard turn is always nice. You can make this work well if your party likes to take short rests, basically giving you an extra attack in fights.
- Darkvision. Not as important as on the Draconblood, but this does allow the Ravenite to see outside of the range of their Light or Torch. Good for keeping watch over bad situations.
Because of the Draconblood and Ravenite, the Dragonborn are pretty damn versatile. They don’t excel especially hard in any role, but they have a ton of good classes.
Good Classes for Dragonborns
- Artificer. The Draconblood make for fine Artificers. The Charisma is worthless, and you’re not likely to be the talker for your party. However, the breath weapon gives you an Area of Effect tool that Artificers don’t have much of, and your high Intelligence is a great offensive tool.
- Barbarian. Awesome, both Ravenite and the Base Dragonborn have good tools here. You get the Strength either way, a great damage-dealing stat for you. You get the utility of the Breath Weapon and a neat defensive option (either dealing more damage back, or resisting an element). Good choice!
- Bard. Ugh, Draconblood Bards are solidly fine. Intelligence isn’t necessarily great, but your Charisma will be at a high enough modifier to function. Then you can use your Breath Weapon offensively, your Forceful Presence for social situations, and your Darkvision to spot treasures. Not amazing, but far from bad! And normal Dragonborn make fine Valor bards!
- Fighter. Normal and Ravenites are both solid here. Fighters benefit a ton from the Breath Weapon, since they normally don’t have good Area of Effect. Get in, deal a ton of damage in melee, and you’ll be tanky with your heavier armor!
- Paladin. The Base Dragonborn was basically made for Pally. You get great stats, fantastic offensive utility, solid defensive utility… It’s a great package, although maybe a little basic. Your lack of Darkvision won’t even matter! You can go Ravenite if you prefer, but I love Charisma on my Pallies!
- Sorcerer. Not a big fan. Draconbloods are the best sorcerers, with the ability to chat, the bonus to Charisma, and Darkvision to see threats. You can be a Normal Dragonborn Sorcerer, but mages have better ways to deal with elemental damage (typically), so your Resistance is less important.
- Warlock. Normal Dragonborn can make for extremely cool Heavy Armor Hexblade builds, if you really want. Both the big fellas and Draconbloods can do good enough, though at slightly different jobs. You’d still prefer +2 Charisma, but hey… At least you got something.
- Wizard. Draconbloods are still not amazing; +1 Charisma means you’ll have 9 Charisma, and Wizards rarely talk to people; it scares them. However, the +2 Int is great, and the breath weapon is essentially another spell slot to throw out. It’s far from perfect, but you have weird utility, and who knows? Maybe you can succeed at a Persuasion every now and then.
Bad Classes for Dragonborns
- Cleric. No Wisdom? Huge problem. Ravenites can be acceptable Heavy Armor Cleric builds, but you’d essentially be building them just for the Breath Weapon and the chance to hit back. There are better races with +2 Strength, +1 Con… And some races that actually have the Wisdom to make your spells matter!
- Druid. Similar to Cleric, but Druids care even less for Races without Wisdom. Your utility is almost completely wasted on Druids, since Druids have the best elemental defenses in the game, and are good on elemental offense. Your Dragonborn will just not be as useful as it would in most other roles.
- Monk. There is nothing in the Dragonborn kits that helps Monk. At most, one can argue that the breath weapon gives all Monks a valid Area of Effect option… Something Monks don’t need that much! Monks ignore Strength almost entirely, and your awful AC is going to mean you’ll take so much damage in early fights… No, this is not worth the headache. Try Unarmed Fighter.
- Ranger. Ravenites can theoretically make alright melee Rangers, but melee Rangers aren’t the best idea. You really like sitting back with a bow and shooting. Strength characters aren’t the best for dual wielding, either, since most light weapons are finessable. Please, don’t let this stop you from going Ravenite… Just make sure Paladin isn’t a better option first.
- Rogue. Strength Rogues aren’t great. You’re basically gimping your AC just to stab them really hard with Dexterity-driven weapons. So you’d be playing Rogue so you can… Sneak up on the enemies and breath attack them? Not exactly what I’d call perfection. Maybe you can do something with an Arcane Trickster and Draconblood, but I’m not sure if that “something” would be better than just going Wizard.
Conclusion – Dragonborn 5E Race Guide
I’m a huge fan of the Dragonborn’s flavor, but they always seemed to be… Very minimal in comparison to some of the other race options. If you can master the Breath Weapon and use their defensive tactics well, these prideful, dragonblooded creatures will be great… But keep your mind open, and try to build for character. Hopefully, this Dragonborn 5E guide helped guide you through what makes these guys tick!