So you’ve taken a hard look at Dungeons and Dragons and decided that it’s time to make your first character for Dungeons & Dragons. First off, welcome to the family. You’ve taken your first steps into a world of shared storytelling and high adventure. We’re going to take a look at the process for building your character and go over the options you have available in the Player’s Handbook (we use the 5th edition, as it’s the most recent, and we think it’s one of the most accessible systems we’ve seen in a long time.). So grab your scratch paper, your pencil, and your character sheet as we explore the magical world of Dungeons and Dragons.
The first step you should really take when building a character is to think about what kind of a character you want to play. Before you make any decisions or write anything down, you need to stop and think what you’re going to enjoy playing. A secondary consideration would be what the party of adventurers you are going to be a member of needs. You may desperately want to break out a brand new half elf warlock, but your party desperately needs a tanky fighter or a healing cleric. You decide what you want to play, and what story you’re going to enjoy telling and playing. Whichever character you decide to make, you’re going to have to make a few decisions. Let’s take a look at the options for the first one of those decisions.
What Race is your character?
Your character’s race defines a lot of the basic physical and mental characteristics. It more than anything else will be the first thing an observer uses to define you. How many times have you read a passage that starts “And we saw the Dwarves standing there in their armor, beards immaculately groomed…” In a fantasy setting Race is a defining trait that gives other people a rough idea of what your character is, and how they can be expected to behave. In Dungeons and Dragons, Race has a couple of other features that we’ll discuss.
The Player’s Handbook offers nine racial choices for a new player to consider for their character. Each one is distinct, and has several subraces to choose from. When you select a Race, the offered selections of a subrace are offshoots of that main racial group. It may change baseline racial features, add new options, or give different physical and mental characteristics. The character creation process starts with choosing your race, so let’s go through the races and see what looks like fun to us.
Dragonborn are a relative newcomer to the fantasy races you can play in a Dungeons and Dragons game. Most folks attribute their origin to the Dragonlance world, where the evil dragonlords enslaved the corrupted spawn of good dragons to conquer the world. Eventually these Draconians were renamed and the Dragonborn as we know them came to be. Dragonborn were incorporated into other places and changed from their evil bend to be accepting of all colors of dragon kind and having the full range of alignments as part of that consideration.
Dragonborn in 5th edition are kin to the Dragons, and serve in a variety of interesting ways. Operating in large, extended families called Clans, the Dragonborn tend to separate themselves by Coloration and clan. They strive towards self-sufficiency, preferring not to rely on the assistance of others, possibly as a nod to their draconic ancestry. After all, no Dragon wishes to owe another creature.
Mechanically, in game, the Dragonborn have the following benefits
Dragonborn are mighty and willful. They gain a +2 bonus to Strength and a +1 bonus to charisma.
Dragonborn age very quickly. They are often the size of a 10 year old human child (or a full grown halfling) by age 3. They start adventuring around 15, and are usually in their graves by age 80.
Dragonborn tend towards extremes of alignment in both directions. They believe deeply and take their alignment to heart. Their virtuous members are extremely so, and their wicked kin are doubly so.
Dragonborn are usually taller and heavier than humans. Most are greatly above 6 feet tall, and weigh more than 250 pounds. They are medium sized creatures.
Dragonborn can move 30 feet per round
Dragonborn can speak Common, and their native language, Draconic.
Dragonborn have a trait called Draconic Ancestry. Basically, the Dragonborn can select which branch of Dragonkind his ancestors come from/identify with. This has two primary outcomes. First, it determines the energy type and saving throw associated with the Dragonborn’s breath weapon (more on that in a moment). Second, it determines which type of energy the Dragonborn is resistant to.
Breath Weapon, or the other awesome thing about being a Dragonborn is the Breath Weapon attack. Like a True Dragon, a Dragonborn can exhale an energy based attack that hits an area of effect. The Draconic Ancestry chosen above will tell you what the area of effect is, what save to roll against it, and what type of energy it is. Best of all, the Dragonborn gets this ability back after either a long or short rest.
Dragonborn have both a Strength and a charisma bonus so let’s see where we can get into some trouble with those ideas?
- A Dragonborn sorcerer channeling his inner Draconic bloodline ability gets draconic scales and sorcerous magic for his troubles. These characters are more iconic even than human sorcerers. You can even use the extra strength to good effect smashing the head of a bad guy in with your trusty Sorcerer staff.
- Barbarian. This one may seem a little stretchy, but a barbarian with a strength bonus and a charisma bonus that can lead off his day with a breath weapon attack before raging seems like a really handy thing. It may not work depending on your region or home game, but always give this idea a chance when you’re planning out a character.
- Paladin: Many of the best Dragonborn in the world worship the Platinum Dragon, Bahamut. In his service, they will lead armies, oppose tyranny, and be the absolute best heroic warrior types in the world. A strength and a charisma boost are both icing on the cake.
Dragonborn are basically the first race we’ve encountered that doesn’t come from Tolkien or a variety of other old fantasy sources. They are very much a product of the gaming worlds created for Dungeons and Dragons. As a result, they have ideal options and character motivations ready to go. That’s our look at the Dragonborn race for Dungeons and Dragons, 5th edition, and next week we’ll be back to take a look at our dear friends, the Gnomes.
Game on, Game Fans