Have you been sitting around, making Dungeons & Dragons 5E characters, and wanting to try something fresh? Perhaps you’ve been feeling a bit unprotected, and want to see how it feels to be durable with no armor. And… Who knows, maybe you’ve wanted to be anciently wise and still shockingly dextrous. Well, fear no longer, because the Tortle race is just what you’re looking for! Tortles are more than just a meme pick, with no real legacy or reason to play them. Our Tortle 5E guide will show you why you might actually want to try these guys out!
Tortles are available in the 5E Tortle Package, a small guide just for them. Tortles hatch from the egg with their parents about to die. Their parents have a year to teach the young Tortle how to survive, and weave the want to adventure into their minds. The Tortle is then an orphan, and is expected to fend for itself, where it must hone it’s survival skills. Usually, this leads to the Tortle leaving their homes and exploring as much of the world as possible. Then, the cycle repeats; have children, teach the children what they can, and then pass on.
Because of their individualist, survivalist mindset, Tortles don’t often find time to revere specific gods. They may learn to worship gods of religions of races they meet over time. They tend to worship the gods whose stories are fantastic or great. Therefore, a Tortle in the Forgotten Realms might like Eldath or Savras, while in Greyhawk they tend towards Celestian or St. Cuthbert.
Rather than believing in a god, they have faith that the moon and the sun watch over them and make sure they are safe. As long as one of those eyes is looking upon them, they are safe… Which makes spelunking or cloudy, stormy days uncomfortable for the Tortle. Eclipses are cause of great celebrations for Tortles, as they presume that their spirits are watching over them as vigilantly as possible. During eclipses, a Tortle might do some dangerous task.
Tortles, like most tortoises or turtles, consider their shell to be a home. Therefore, they are incredibly nomadic, not considering any place their home for longer than they ever need to be. They are not necessarily evil or cruel concerning places where other races call home; they simply don’t see why they are responsible for defending it. Also, they just move on when something happens.
For a Tortle, the world is a place to wander and experience. They want to get all that they can from the world in their 50 years of life, and enjoy learning new skills and seeing new sights. They befriend whoever they can, whenever they can. Then, at the end of their life, they head back to find a family.
Tortle names change dozens of times in it’s life, and most Tortles stick to having two syllables. They also care little for gendered names. A male or female tortle might be named Gura, Krull, Nortle, Olo, Tibor, Ubo, or Xopa, among many other. Tortles also feel no long-term attachment to their family, and thus don’t take a family name.
Tortles have no subraces; all Tortles follow the same racial traits. So, you might be a bit more limited than other races. However, Tortle Attributes follow the same aspects of Tortle-hood that may be expected; the Shell, and Survivalism.
- +2 Strength, +1 Wisdom. +2 Strength is fairly common among races, allowing the races to become effective damage dealers in melee. This is great for two-handed builds, and Athletics is a decently common skill check. Wisdom is more commonly used in Perception and Saving Throws than Strength, making it a fantastic option for the Tortle. This is the most commonly rolled mental stat in the game, so having it as a slight boost is extremely good for you.
- Medium Size, 30 ft Move Speed. These are both normal for a race in 5E, though the 30 ft speed may come as a surprise. You’re a fast turtle, my friend! You don’t really have any advantages or downsides compared to other races here. It’s a good spread!
- Claws. Super basic natural weapon. It deals just a touch of extra damage, and means you’re always armed and dangerous. Remember that you have them if you get stripped of weapons or what have you!
- Hold Breath. An hour of breath holding is a fairly long time. If you get Swim, then you can be the party’s underwater navigator very easily. This ability can actually come in very handy, since you actually don’t get too many spells to handle underwater situations.
- Natural Armor. Your shell! This is a crazy ability, giving you a base AC of 17 with no way to increase it. 17 AC is far from bad; you can boost it to 19 AC with a shield, and you still have some enchantment bonuses to go. For the early game this is great. Later on, you’ll want to find some magical ways to increase it, or you’ll lag fairly far behind standard magic armor.
- Shell Defense. Not much of an emergency getaway, since you can’t do much while you’re in the shell. Maybe you can have a party member roll your 450 lb butt away while you escape a TPK, or roll down a hill. But otherwise, this is a fun, niche skill that might occasionally come in handy. Remember the advantage for Constitution saves if you’re in, for example, a room where you’re being gassed. Also remember that this is a great way to sleep.
- Survival Instinct. Free proficiencies are always nice. Survival is a bit niche, unless you’re a Druid or Ranger. But you have it, so you might as well use it.
- Languages. Aquan is shockingly good, especially for underwater campaigns. You might never use it, but it’s a solidly long-reaching language to start with.
The Natural Armor ability of the Tortle opens up some hilarious options for classes, but that doesn’t make the Tortle good at all of them.
Good Classes for Tortles
- Barbarian. Without the need to worry about armor, the Barbarian Tortle can throw away Dexterity entirely and still have fantastic AC. The free Survival is nice, Wisdom is honestly not a bad idea to have on a Barbarian, and you have some weird utility in Hold Breath and Shell Defense. Noticeably missing is a Low-Light or Darkvision, but that can be worked around.
- Cleric. A Cleric that doesn’t need Dexterity is a happy cleric. Tortle Clerics can be domains away from Heavy Armor without worrying about going for a Heavy Armor build. That’s neat! Clerics don’t really need Tortle’s armor (especially War or Forge domains, or any other Heavy Armor option), but the Tortle still offers emergency weapons and decent utility even with those domains.
- Druid. Tortles make better Druids than Clerics. Druids have a rough time getting into Heavy Armor, something a Tortle doesn’t worry about. Then you get free Survival and other weird pieces of utility to play around with. It’s not a bad idea at all!
- Fighter. +2 Strength is one heck of a drug. But Fighters already have access to Heavy Armor, and Fullplate is better than your natural armor. Still, you at least don’t have to worry about armor or anything like that, and you’ll still have the utility of the standard Fighter. You’re not a great Ranged character, unfortunately.
- Monk. So, the Tortle Monk is one of the few ways you can make a Strength Monk without getting just destroyed. Why do you want to be a Strength monk? No idea; Monks have basically everything they want as Dexterity-based. But Tortles can do it! And it works fine.
- Ranger. Melee Ranger isn’t really the best thing that a Ranger can do, but a Tortle does it well. Free proficiency is nice for a Ranger (even though they basically get Survival for free). The armor is fantastic, and you have the weird exploration stuff. Your stats are perfect, at least! Though the lack of vision sucks.
Bad Classes for Tortles
- Artificer. Artificer Tortles aren’t necessarily completely awful, but the lack of Intelligence boost really lowers your early game damage. The AC can seem enticing, but Artificers have enough ways to use Intelligence for attack rolls that your high strength won’t matter.
- Bard. The armor is great, especially for an early melee build, but your Charisma won’t be great. Strength doesn’t matter too much on bard, though this allows for a two-hander build. Simple weapons don’t make great two-handed weapons though, and your spells won’t be very effective.
- Paladin. You have Heavy Armor proficiency right off the bat, you don’t get Charisma. You do have an immense Strength bonus, and some Wisdom for anti-spells. It’s not bad, don’t get me wrong! It’s just that usually, a Barbarian or a Fighter will do the job better. If you need that extra bit of healing or support, the 5E Paladin is an okay option for a Tortle.
- Rogue. Strength rogues don’t really work well. The weapons that allow you to sneak attack tend to favor Dexterity, and you’re well-wanted for your lockpicking ability. The Strength build doesn’t handle that well.
- Sorcerer. You have great AC early on, you can defend yourself alright. But your low Charisma is going to be a problem quickly, and you don’t even get Darkvision or Low-Light to help your combats. It’d be rough.
- Warlock. Same thing as Sorcerer, your lack of Charisma is going to be a problem until you can get a few ABIs under your belt. You’re basically trading your ability to cast spells for acceptable AC, which is rarely worth it.
- Wizard. Basically the same thing as the other casters. You’re trading your spellcasting for AC, which will be troubling early on. Is +2 AC enough for your spells to be less effective? Maybe! But there might be better race options than Tortle for you.
The Tortle is a somewhat specific class. That +2 Strength really puts them in an aggressive melee role, which is unfortunate because most of those classes get Heavy Armor anyways. However, these guys are legitimately interesting to roleplay as. Give them a try for your next Cleric or Druid… Or even Barbarian or Fighter!
I have a tortle build with STR(10) DEX(20) CON(13) INT(10) WIS(20) CHA(12) no items.
His names oogway
Way of mercy because for lore reasons