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The Travelers of the Multiverse unearthed arcana seems to have finally confirmed that a 5e spelljammer book is on the way and we’ve got a bunch of new interplanar races to play with. Thri-Kreens (aka thrikreen) are practically the poster children of beloved settings like spelljammer and dark sun and it’s exciting to see these bugs skitter their way into 5th edition D&D. One of the most alien creatures that players have had the privilege to play, Thri-Kreens are essentially praying mantis people. They’re big insects with sentient intellect driven by heightened survival instincts. But what’s it like to play them now that they’ve reached 5e? Are their features buggy or a dark sun triumph? Grab some protection from the post-apocalypse and try not to act like a tasty fly as we go through everything you need to know.
Take a praying mantis, size it up, and give it humanoid intelligence and telepathy and the result is basically a Thri-Kreen. They have an insectoid exoskeleton that changes color for camouflage, antenna, weird little bug mouthparts, the whole deal. You also get an extra set of arms, with big praying mantis claws on the bigger arms. Said mouthparts can’t really be used for speech either, and they communicate with wiggles of their antennas and substantial telepathic abilities. They believe in survival of the fittest and are solitary most of the time, making it odd for them to team up with groups. I expect that aspect will be downplayed once we get the full 5th edition lore, but we’ll see what shakes out.
Just like all the other newly released races the Thri-Kreen are a “lineage” rather than a “race”. This means that the ability score increases are up to you and the selection is all about the features. Thri-Kreens have a LOT going on in their features too. Let’s go through these and then analyze what they’re all about:
Creature Type. You are a Monstrosity.
Size. You are Medium or Small. You choose the size when you select this race.
Speed. Your walking speed is 30 feet.
Chameleon Carapace. While you aren’t wearing armor, your carapace gives you a base Armor Class of 13 + your Dexterity modifier.
As an action, you can change the color of your carapace to match the color and texture of your surroundings, giving you advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks made to hide in those surroundings.
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 discern colors in that darkness only as shades of gray.
Secondary Arms. You have two slightly smaller secondary arms below your primary pair of arms. The secondary arms function like your primary arms, with the following exceptions:
- You can use a secondary arm to wield a weapon that has the light property, but you can’t use a secondary arm to wield other kinds of weapons.
- You can’t wield a shield with a secondary arm.
Sleepless Revitalization. You do not require sleep and can choose to remain conscious during a long rest, though you must still refrain from strenuous activity to gain the benefit of the rest.
Thri-Kreen Telepathy. You have the magical ability to communicate mentally with any number of willing creatures you can see within 120 feet of you. A contacted creature doesn’t need to share a language with you, but it must be able to understand at least one language. Your telepathic link to a creature is broken if you and the creature move more than 120 feet apart, if either of you is incapacitated, or if either of you mentally breaks the contact (no action required).
Put it all together and you’ve got a race that plays VERY differently from most other races. Now let’s go through and analyze each feature one by one:
Creature Type: While the “monstrosity” creature type isn’t terribly relevant, not being humanoid is huge. Many spells and abilities only target “humanoid creatures” and as a monstrosity you’ll be essentially immune to them. Hold Person and Charm Person are common examples of this, and your big mantis can smugly shrug them off.
Size: Once again we get to choose between small or medium with Thri-Kreen, which seems to be a regular thing with the new lineages. This is doubly strange as I haven’t found any “small Thri-Kreen” in the old edition lore but maybe they want to go another way with it. Mechanically there’s not a whole lot of difference between small and medium, so you can really just go with what feels better flavorfully. The exception is heavy weapons, if you plan on swinging something big, you’ll need to be a bigger bug.
Speed: No special movement bells and whistles for you, 30-feet is standard. Not a penalty, but not a bonus either.
Chameleon Carapace: Here we get two very big features sandwiched into one, both representing your color-shifting exoskeleton. The first half is a Dexterity-based natural armor with a baseline of 13 just like lizardfolk. 13 + Dex produces a solid AC, particularly for classes that don’t normally get armor. The second half is the chameleon part which is a tad vaguer since it doesn’t quantify “surroundings”. The strictest interpretation would force you to use an action every time you move since you’d be in “new surroundings”. The looser interpretation would give you the benefit of advantage on stealth so long as you remain in similar surroundings, like while in the woods, or while indoors Etc. How your DM rules this varies its strength a TON since it’s the difference between basically permanent advantage on your stealth checks, to only a static bonus when you specifically have time to hide.
Darkvision: Does every race need darkvision? My whining aside, darkvision is very common but no less useful, and your DM must work a bit harder to keep you unaware of threats in the dungeon. Be thankful you don’t need to keep track of torches.
Secondary Arms. They were rightfully cautious here in how they actually function, but Thri-Kreen get an extra pair of arms. Note that this does nothing with your actions, so you’re still limited on your attacks and other things by your action and bonus action. They also smartly limited your extra hands to light weapons, and you can’t use them for shields.
However, I don’t think they were cautious enough and there’s still ample room to make use of all your hands.
The first glaring issue is that while it restricts you from using your secondary hands to hold shields, you can still totally use your primary hands for a shield. This means a Thri-Kreen can wield two light weapons and a shield, something practically no other race can manage. Two weapon fighting plus a shield is crazy good.
Next, the feature is very specific about weapons and shields, but it seems to give you full utility for everything else. This means you can do things like grapple with them while still holding weapons, use a spellcasting focus or a wand while still holding weapons, or you could even keep a couple healing potions at the ready in your little hands, so you don’t have to dig through your pack in an emergency.
Sleepless Revitalization. Here we get what is possibly the STRONGEST version of the “alternate rest” feature we’ve seen so far. While you do still require the full 8 hours, you are fully conscious and aware for the entire time. Thri-Kreens are the ultimate watch captains, and you’ll be pulling 1st, 2nd, and 3rd watch every night.
Thri-Kreen Telepathy. We’ve seen half-measure telepathy features before, but this is a full-fledged telepathy that you’ll essentially be using constantly instead of talking. And talking is a point of contention here because the lore makes it seem like Thri-Kreens can’t talk using their insect mouth parts and instead rely on their telepathy. BUT there aren’t any features limiting your speech here. This telepathy is strong enough that it won’t matter in most cases, but I anticipate a change in the final version to catch those fringe cases. As it is now, this telepathy lets you have silent conversations with all your friends within range for free and completely unlimited. Ok, a 120-foot limit but that’ll almost always cover the entire relevant area.
Building a Thri-Kreen Character
There’s no more ability score matching now with the “lineages”, so there’s also no real “ideal” classes anymore. However, the Thri-Kreen has a lot of features that really push them into particular strategies. Firstly, since the Thri-Kreen gain a natural armor save based off their Dexterity, classes that focus on Dexterity already that don’t gain access to medium armors or another alternate AC can make great use of it. Bards, Rogues, Sorcerers, Warlocks, and Wizards are all great fits for this reason. With their extra arms giving them access to dual light weapons AND a shield, Fighters and Rangers focused on dual wielding are also excellent fits. Out of everything though, I feel that Rogues are perhaps the best option for Thri-Kreen due to their telepathy and camouflage abilities working perfectly for any missions where stealth is essential.
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Last updated: January 27, 2019
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