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Dragonborn – A guide to D&D Races

Dragonborn are one of the ‘newer’ races added to the Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) starter races in the 4th Edition and cemented in 5th Edition (5e). Dragonborn dramatically increase the availability of dragons much earlier in the game through their heritage and history. While the Player’s Handbook states that Dragonborn are ‘Uncommon’, they remain a popular choice for their novelty.

Lore and Heritage

The lore surrounding Dragonborn hints back to an earlier time in D&D, but gives them a slightly ambiguous history. It is said that the original dragonborn were hatched from eggs laid by true dragons, but that time and breeding amongst themselves has led to them becoming a truly unique race.

Dragonborn have a clan-based society based partly on the colour of their scales – many Dragonborn have a brass or bronze colouration, but some have the colours of their chromatic or metallic ancestor dragons and are often held in high esteem.

Defining Characteristics

Being born of dragons goes a long way to explaining everything you might need to know about Dragonborn, but there is more to them than just their appearance. Culturally, the unit of Dragonborn society is the Clan, which is rated above the self, the family and, in some cases, even the gods.

Dragonborn define themselves by their relationship with the clan as much as they do with the colouration of their scales – which is often linked to the clan as well.

Dragonborn are stronger and more charismatic than humans and probably their most significant trait is their ability to use a breath weapon just like a dragon. They can use this ability once after each short or long rest, but it is an impressive and iconic ability. Dragonborn are also resistant to the damage type associated with the dragon ancestor.

Dragonborn are taller and heavier than humans as well, reaching maturity younger, but leaving about as long. A common misconception about Dragonborn is to do with tails and wings – according to the Player’s Handbook, Dragonborn have neither.

Dragonborn in Social Environments

Dragonborn are a lot like their draconic ancestors in a social situation. Some will rely on their large size and enhanced strength to carry them through with intimidation and threats, others use the natural eloquence and charisma of their draconic ancestors to beguile or browbeat others.

As Dragonborn tend to extremes in alignment, their social reactions tend to extremes as well. A strong sense of honour, self-sufficiency and a relentless drive for improvement are all hallmarks of the Dragonborn clans, so few will make the same mistake twice.

Class becomes an important carriable in the social attitude of the Dragonborn – martial characters are likely to be abrupt and direct in their dealings, while magical ones may well be more circumspect and absorbed in their otherworldliness. Roguish Dragonborn are rare, but not unheard of and their bonus to Charisma can make them powerful Sorcerers and surprising bards.

Owing to their strong sense of honour, good-aligned Dragonborn are likely to be up-front and honest, while evil-aligned Dragonborn will place their own honour above that of others and see them as unworthy or lesser beings.

Dragonborn in Combat Encounters

Dragonborn have a number of advantages in combat. With their large size, weight and increased strength, they can dominate a hand-to-hand fight easily, while their affinity for sorcerous magic can make for potent spellcasters, particularly specialising in Evocation magic.

On top of this, the Dragonborn have their ace-in-the-hole, their breath weapon. Based on their dragon ancestor, the breath weapon is powerful at first level and grows more powerful with the Dragonborn as the go up in levels. The breath weapon attack is good at short ranges and available in a variety of different elemental types – and poison.

Reasons to Play Dragonborn

Breath weapon at level 1!

For many players, the opportunity to be the dragon half of ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ is irresistible. Bringing with it the option for a martial class with better than human Strength or a Charisma caster such as a Sorcerer, Warlock or Bard, there is a wide range of versatility within the Dragonborn.

The clan structure and colour themed groups is an appealing character choice for players keen to focus on a tribal, honour-based culture without leaning too far into stereotyping and the ‘un-human-ness’ of the Dragonborn really makes them stand out against all the other races, with the possible exception of Tieflings.

Reasons NOT to Play Dragonborn

You probably don’t want to play a Dragonborn if you feel like being a stealthy character like a Rogue or Ranger. After all, a seven-foot tall, 280-pound bright red dragon-man is going to struggle to sneak around anywhere! Dragonborn are very well suited to direct characters and don’t fit the ‘morally grey’ niche that some players enjoy. If you like playing edgy rogues, you probably won’t enjoy Dragonborn as much as someone who likes great-sword fighters or evocation casters.

Unless Dragonborn are more common in your game-world, you can also expect to be the centre of attention in towns and cities. You are also a likely target for enemy attacks due to your large size and obvious appearance.

Dragonborn Mechanics

Dragonborn have a +2 bonus to Strength and a +1 bonus to Charisma. They begin with a walking speed of 30 – they’re tall, but also heavy. Dragonborn start with the ability to speak Common and Draconic. Dragonborn also gain a Resistance and a Breath Weapon based on their ancestor dragon, chosen at character creation.

Written by Rawand Al-Issa

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