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Mythic Odysseys of Theros gave us some new catfolk that are far more ferocious than their distant tabaxi cousins. Where the tabaxi are catfolk, the Leonin are lionfolk with muscular jaws, claws, and resplendent golden manes. These kings of the savannah are brand new to D&D, and while they technically only exist so far in the world of Theros, you can expect some new Leonin characters to roar into your next adventures. Does their pride hold muster? Sharpen your claws and practice your best roar as we go through everything you need to know.
Leonin prides are close-knit communities within Theros, isolated in their “blasphemy”. Unlike every other civilization on Theros the Leonin have rejected the gods. They don’t deny their existence (it’s quite difficult to ignore the deities when their titanic forms stroll past) but rather they denounce them as unworthy of worship. While there is an odd devout Leonin (usually to Nylea or Heliod) most regard them at best as a nuisance and at worst as the cause for all mortal woes. Leonin are prideful and self-reliant, and most have no need of gods to coddle them. In the ancient past they served the archons (a service that still leaves a bitter taste among the other races) and they do not intend to make the same mistake twice.
Leonin have a matriarchal society, and each pride is led by an elder female called a “speaker”. Most female Leonin will stay within the pride they were born into, while the males will wander and marry into other prides. Most Leonin live among the plains of Oreskos, an area of great golden fields and savannas nestled in between the foothills of the Katachthon and the Oraniad Mountains. Most prides live in either tent villages or dens dug into the foothills. While this may sound primitive, the Leonin are no savages and their homes are often decorated with woven textiles, bone sculpture, and intricate pottery. Most non-Leonin rarely get to see all that, however.
Leonin guard their territory well, and non-Leonin usually get a cold reception. Many other peoples (humans in particular) still regard the Leonin with suspicion due to their ancient allegiance to the archons. More than once this has led to full on wars, but the Leonin now coexist in peace with their neighbors, as long as they keep to their own territory. However, the Leonin understand that an individual is not the culture they came from. Given time anyone can earn their trust, though humans and tritons will have their work cut out for them.
Once the cold reception has worn off, most Leonin are prideful, confident, and competitive. Leonins tend to love fighting in all its forms, from traditional sparring to arguments and debate. Leonins love any opportunity to prove themselves, and usually come out on top. That confidence, self-reliance, and pride is the core of Leonin culture and philosophy. The gods have failed them in their eyes, and they’re determined to do better on their own without some deity’s strings attached.
Image created by SketchGoblin
Unlike tabaxi that get a generic “cat” description to work from, Leonin are very definitively lions. Leonin are muscular, covered in fur, stand 6 to 7 feet tall, have feline tails, and their heads look damn near identical to those of lions. I’m afraid to say this doesn’t give a whole lot of wiggle room beyond “lion man” as a description. You can play around with their fur color to an extent, mostly they have the tawny or golden fur, and rarely they have dark brown, black, or even white fur. You can also shift the color for the mane (for male Leonin anyway).
You should also feel free to get creative with scars, pride markings, braids, tassels, and anything else that may set them apart from the pride.
Leonin NamesEach Leonin has a personal name followed by the name of their pride and usually includes the preposition “of the”. For example, a member of the Ironmane pride named Doxia would introduce herself as “Doxia of the Ironmane”.
Female Names: Aletha, Atagone, Demne, Doxia, Ecate, Eriz, Gragonde, Iadma, Koila, Oramne, Seza, Ziore
Male Names: Apto, Athoz, Baragon, Bryguz, Eremoz, Gorioz, Grexes, Oriz, Pyxathor, Teoz, Xemnon, Xior
Pride Names: Embereye, Flintclaw, Goldenfield, Ironmane, Starfeller, Sunguides
Your Leonin character has the following racial traits.
Ability Score Increase: Your Constitution score increases by 2, and your Strength score increases by 1.
Age: Leonin mature and age at about the same rate as humans.
Alignment: Leonin tend toward good alignments. Leonin who are focused on the pride lean toward lawful good.
Size: Leonin are typically over 6 feet tall, with some standing over 7 feet. Your size is Medium.
Speed: Your base walking speed is 35 feet.
Darkvision: You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
Claws: Your claws are natural weapons, which you can use to make unarmed strikes. If you hit with them, you can deal slashing damage equal to 1d4 + your Strength modifier, instead of the bludgeoning damage normal for an unarmed strike.
Hunter’s Instincts: You have proficiency in one of the following skills of your choice: Athletics, Intimidation, Perception, or Survival.
Daunting Roar: As a bonus action, you can let out an especially menacing roar. Creatures of your choice within 10 feet of you that can hear you must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or become frightened of you until the end of your next turn. The DC of the save equals 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Constitution modifier. Once you use this trait, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest.
Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common and Leonin.
Leonin have straightforward rules but let’s really go into each trait one at a time and explain what they mean for your next character.
Ability Score Increase: +2 to Constitution and +1 to Strength. This really pushes you hard into a martial class and most of their other abilities support that. Barbarians, Fighters, and paladins will likely get the most use out of these stats. Blood Hunters as well fit perfectly for Leonin if your DM is allowing such class options.
Age: Standard age range shouldn’t be an issue one way or the other.
Alignment: The strong good to lawful good push can make barbarians slightly awkward but paladins and fighters are still right in the wheelhouse.
Size: Another victim of “big but not large”, but otherwise standard medium size.
Speed: 35-foot movement speed is a powerful extra oomph for a martial character. That extra speed stacks with other movement bonuses (thinking here mostly of barbarians and monks) and can zip you around the battlefield just a little bit better than most.
Darkvision: Darkvision is fairly common but it’s nothing to sneeze at. In many scenarios it won’t come up, but when the lights go out and it is an issue your darkvision will become vitally important. Most of the time if your party has anybody without darkvision you’ll walk around with torches or magic lights. Sometimes though the stars will align and the whole party can stalk the dungeon in the dark (hopefully surprising a few light-loving enemies along the way).
Claws: Sadly, natural attacks just aren’t that useful in 5e. They’re nice to have as a backup but you’ll almost always outpace their damage output with practically any other weapon. Think of your claws as a last resort weapon for when your primary weapon gets thrown off the cliff, or when you’re tossed in prison with all your stuff taken away.
Hunter’s Instincts: Bonus skill proficiencies from your race are always appreciated. Perception is the most universally useful option, but generally you should select whichever skill you’re looking for that isn’t already provided from your class or background.
Daunting Roar: This is the “core” trait that sets Leonin apart from every other racial option. A 10-foot fear burst as a bonus action with a short rest recharge is very strong. You can ignore your allies with the effect, and since it’s a short rest recharge you’ll really want to be using this every encounter. Run into the thick of the enemy, let out your roar, and you’ll likely end up negating a good chunk of their next turn’s attacks due to the frightened condition.
Languages: Common and Leonin. Leonin is a racial language (which means only Leonin speak it). Like most other obscure racial languages, it’s just not very likely to come up during the course of your campaigns. There’s some chance that your DM will want to introduce a ton of Leonin NPCs and artifacts that’ll need some translating for, but don’t hold your breath.
Leonin Builds5e is modular and very flexible to begin with, and Leonin with their +2 to Constitution could work to beef up any class. You’ll have to intentionally try to mess things up to get a Leonin character that’s wrong. Any class or background selections you make will combine to make a functional character, even if some of the abilities go underutilized. If you’re wanting to build a more streamlined or optimal character, the following builds are great places to start:
Cat-DogLeonin barbarians line up incredibly well with the +2 to Constitution and the +1 to Strength. That movement speed bump also stacks along with the barbarians extra movement making Leonin barbarians both extra-fast and extra-chunky. The one mismatch is that activating rage uses a bonus action as does your roar, but all that means is your roar will probably need to go off in the 2nd round of combat rather than the 1st. I recommend taking the Path of the Totem Warrior and taking the Wolf as your totem spirit at 3rd level. I realize this is a cross-flavored cat dog character now but granting advantage to your allies in range while imposing fear (and thus disadvantage) on your enemies with the roar is a nasty combination I can’t pass up.
Lion KnightCavalier fighters already want to tank hits and hit hard, and the +2 Constitution and +1 Strength already fits well into that tactic. All the Leonin and cavalier abilities want you right at the forefront of a combat, and mesh perfectly once you’re there. The real synergy here is the interaction between your roar and the cavalier’s unwavering mark ability. Normally a frightened enemy’s best tactic is to get away from you and attack your allies instead. Marking and then frightening your target makes sure they have no good options left. Get yourself stuck in, and just mark and roar at whichever target is otherwise going to be the most trouble for the party.
So, the actual damage output here is a little iffy, but you get to transform into a giant cat monster with flaming claws and I have to put this build out there for people to abuse. The blood hunter class (definitely not adventurer’s league legal but legal in most games) already wants that +2 Constitution and for our build the +1 Strength works just fine. We’re going for the order of the lycan which will allow you to transform into a monster form that can conveniently still use your blood rites and your roar while transformed. That extra movement kicks in here too. The main issue is you’ll end up with a lot of abilities fighting for the same bonus action, but come on, demon cat with fire claws!
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Last updated: January 27, 2019
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