The Dragonborn in Dungeons and Dragons 5e: A Race from Regal Roots
One of the five base "uncommon" races in 5e Dungeons & Dragons, the dragonborn like the tiefling, sticks out immediately even in a high fantasy world. In many worlds they carry a reputation for strength and an aloof haughtiness, and this is actually fairly understandable considering they are proud of their heritage and the dragons that they come from. Playing a dragonborn offers a lot of potential for some serious role playing and unique in-game situations. So what do you need to know about this popular 5e D&D race? Read on to find out!
Tied Closely to Draconic Heritage
One of the most important aspects of any dragonborn is understanding their connection to dragons. The two really can't be separated without neutering much of what makes the dragonborn so interesting. Dragonborn names, clan names, class featured skill, and even their very appearance is directly tied to bloodline! One of the first thing to think about is if you have a preference for which one you come from.
Color of dragon determines the color of the dragonborn descended from them, as well as the specific type of attack that your character would have as a class feature. Each element generally has two colors of dragon associated with it: one that tends to be aligned good and another that tends to be aligned evil. For example, acid is associated with black and copper dragons. Fire could be red or gold.
Give this some thought since this decision of ancestry can affect a wide variety of different things about any character from this race.
What Alignment Are You Playing?
Whether you are playing a good, evil, or neutral aligned character can have some influence in determining which draconic background you want to associate your character with. If you want to wield fire and are good, you might choose to go gold instead of red, or vice-versa if you're evil.
While this can be an easy way to give a sense of possible alignment or loyalty, don't assume that you must play a certain way based on color. This tells where that line of dragonborn came from (and can give hints as to what their family tree has likely been like) but it is not a set in stone rule. There's no reason you can't be a red dragonborn who is a lawful good paladin for Bahamut.
Common Main Characteristics
All dragonborn can speak Draconic which not only allows them to speak with one another but also with dragons or other creatures who speak this language (like many kobolds and some lizard people). They are often very clan based, much like stories of the Scottish Highlander clans if you want a real world historical reference. Family comes first, clan comes second, then village/society and individual self far after.
Dragonborn in 5e tend to be obsessive with what they put themselves to. If they practice magic, they are obsessed with mastering their particular skills. If they are fighters, they train ceaselessly to be the best. Paladins and clerics make sense thematically because of the obsession with service to something greater. Those from other races who show the same will have an easier time interacting with dragonborn since they will earn their respect.
Outside of their communities, many times dragonborn will get a bit of a reaction when out in public as in many areas they are very uncommon. Other things to think about would be how they would view actual dragons, how they might be revered by dragon worshippers or lower beings who honor dragons like kobolds.
What Classes Should Dragonborn Play?
The racial benefits are +2 strength and +1 charisma. This is absolutely built as the perfect starting bonus for a paladin, and considering the D&D battle between good and evil is often between the good dragon god Bahamut and the evil dragon god Tiamat, this makes a lot of sense. If going paladin really isn't your thing, Dargonborn can do fairly well with most martial classes as the +2 strength will be a boon to barbarian and fighter classes, as well.
On the magic caster side sorcerer, warlock, and bard are charisma based. Theme-wise sorcerer is the easiest to justify if you're angling for pure caster as the sorcerer class even has "draconic bloodline" as one of the major routes in the main book. That being said, choosing certain specific routes for bard or warlock can lead to some really interesting or fascinating builds and storylines - but this will take some story building to justify in a way that makes sense.
Interesting Builds: The Dragonborn Bard or Warlock
For players who love the idea of playing a dragonborn character but also want characters that defy the obvious stereotypes, two good possibilities for the dragonborn that still take advantage of their racial bonuses would include going with a bard or a warlock build. They key with these classes are not only are they charisma based for casting but each have certain routes that rely on combat, which will take advantage of the +2 strength.
For the bard, the College of Valor from the Player's Hand Book or the College of Swords from Xanathar's are both excellent choices. These are combat based bards who get magic, extra attacks, and allow you to take advantage of your opening stat boosts. Most interesting would be deciding how your dragonborn came to this path. Were they unlike other serious dragonborns who obsessed on skill and blew off leisure and so you left never fitting in, or are you a dragonborn bard regaling tales of dragons and other draconic figures while finding contempt for the dalliances of most bards of other races?
There's a lot here to play with while developing a battle mage type character that can do some serious work while offering some very interesting role playing opportunities.
For the warlock, the Pact of the Blade from the PBH or the Hexblade from Xanathar's are both good choices as they are heavy combat based warlock classes. Here the limited magic of the warlock supplement's the ability to tank as a mainly combat figure with some neat tricks.
Perhaps most interesting for this route is the build. Coming from a proud draconic bloodline - what could cause your character to make a deal with a non-draconic entity to become a warlock? What situation or circumstances could create a situation where you were willing to make that deal? There's inherently a lot of mystery and question that arises backstory-wise from this combination, making it pretty fascinating to look at.
Have Fun with Dragonborn Names
Although maybe not as over the top with names as gnomes, dragonborn names have some really interesting dynamics to them. The clan name actually comes before the first name. Dragonborn names tend to be regal and more formal, with a great list of examples given in the Player's Handbook. Clan names tend to be extremely long - which is why many players choose to go with shorter or abbreviated versions of the examples given that still follow the same theme.
Back where they grew up, many dragonborn will have nicknames those close to them know them by. These are usually based on childhood traits: Climber, Hider, Pious, Earbender, Wailer, etc. These are names that may remain even into adulthood as another way of easy identification - but these are often not shared outside with others.
Dragonborn Characters in Major Pop Culture
One of the best examples of a dragonborn character in more mainstream "nerd culture" is Donaar Blitzen of "Aquisitions Inc. The C Team," a very popular online D&D show. It is also worth noting although he wasn't part of Critical Role for very long, Orion Acaba's character was a dragonborn sorcerer named Tiberius Stormwind who appeared in the first 27 episodes.
Dragonborn offer plenty of fascinating role playing options but generally are still on of the least chosen races based on survey in many d&d games.
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Last updated: January 27, 2019
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