Dragonborn Guide 5e

Published on June 14, 2020, Last modified on May 6th, 2022

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What is this guide?

This guide is meant to give you an idea of whether or not the dragonborn will be right for your 5e character build.

The color code below has been implemented to help you identify, at a glance, how good that option will be for your dragonborn. This color coding isn’t a hard and fast rule; there are plenty of sub-optimized options out there that will be viable to your party and will be fun to play.

  • Black is a trait shared by many races and or will not impact the effectiveness of your character build
  • Red isn’t going to contribute to the effectiveness of your character build at all
  • Orange is an OK option
  • Green is a good option
  • Blue is a great option, you should strongly consider this option for your character
  • Sky Blue is an amazing option. If you do not take this option your character would not be optimized

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything Update

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything has added the "Customizing Your Origin" option that may affect the ability score increases, languages, and proficiencies in this guide. To read more about this, visit our D&D Race Guide.

What are Dragonborn in 5e?

Source: Player's Handbook

Dragonborn are bipedal, dragon-like creatures that originally hatched from dragon eggs. These creatures have scales, taloned arms and legs, and long, reptilian faces that resemble their elder kin. The color of a dragonborn’s scales resemble the dragon that they descended from. Dragonborn are notoriously proud beings and their clan is more important than life itself.

Dragonborn 5e Traits

Size: Medium is the typical size of most races, and is neither good nor bad.

Speed: The dragonborn’s walking speed of 30 feet is standard.

Dragonborn 5e Subraces

Chromatic

Ability Score Increase: Being able to choose between +2 ASI, +1 ASI, or +1, +1, +1 ASI means that you can pick exactly what your build will need.  

Breath Weapon: On average, this version of the dragonborn’s Breath Weapon does more damage than the original and can be used more often (equal to your prof. bonus per short or long rest). For classes with more than one attack, you can replace an attack with a use of your Breath Weapon which is amazing for action economy and damage output. Unfortunately, the AoE is a 30-foot line as opposed to a 15-foot cone. Still, overall this version of the dragonborn’s Breath Weapon is a large improvement over the original dragonborn’s Breath Weapon.

Draconic Resistance: Fire is the most common spell damage type, followed by cold, lightning, acid, then poison. Damage resistance is useful in basically any campaign.

Chromatic Warding: Being able to become immune to a damage type for 1 minute is extremely strong, especially if the damage type is fairly common. The long cooldown is a bummer but is necessary for balancing reasons.

Gem

Ability Score Increase: Being able to choose between +2 ASI, +1 ASI, or +1, +1, +1 ASI means that you can pick exactly what your build will need.  

Breath Weapon: On average, the gem dragonborn’s Breath Weapon has a better damage type than the original and can be used more often (equal to your prof. bonus per short or long rest). For classes with more than one attack, you can replace an attack with a use of your Breath Weapon which is amazing for action economy and damage output. The 15-foot cone allows you to more easily catch multiple enemies in your attack.

Draconic Resistance: The damage types available to the gem dragonborn are a bit more niche than the chromatic or metallic versions, but damage resistances are always welcome.

Psionic Mind: Being able to telepathically communicate with any creature within 30 feet is an amazing skill for social and exploration situations. Plus, you don’t have to share a language for them to understand you which can help when communicating with hostile monsters.

Gem Flight: Concentration-less flight once per long rest is great and all, but it only lasts for one minute. This could be beneficial in gaining a tactile advantage in combat but is likely too short of a time span to make much of a difference outside of combat. The long cooldown is another downside.

Metallic

Ability Score Increase: Being able to choose between +2 ASI, +1 ASI, or +1, +1, +1 ASI means that you can pick exactly what your build will need.  

Breath Weapon: On average, this version of the dragonborn’s Breath Weapon does more damage than the original and can be used more often (equal to your prof. bonus per short or long rest). For classes with more than one attack, you can replace an attack with a use of your Breath Weapon which is amazing for action economy and damage output. Definitely an overall improvement over the original dragonborn’s Breath Weapon.

Draconic Resistance: Fire is the most common spell damage type, followed by cold, lightning, acid, then poison. Damage resistance is useful in basically any campaign.

Metallic Breath Weapon: This functions as a separate breath weapon to your original Breath Weapon gained at the 1st level. You can only use this breath weapon once per long rest, but it has some pretty potent effects:

  • Enervating Breath: Being able to incapacitate one or more opponents as part of your attack action is extremely strong. An incapacitated creature can’t take actions or reactions and loses concentration on any spells they’re concentrating on (among other potential interactions). If you’re able to catch more than one creature in this effect, it can swing the tides of a battle. Unfortunately, this effect triggers a CON save, but the effects are worth it, especially if you have a beefed-out CON modifier.
  • Repulsion Breath: Knock creatures 20 feet away may be beneficial if you need to retreat or can knock them into a hazard. The main benefit of this ability comes from the potential to knock an enemy prone. Seeing as this effect can be used in place of one of your attacks, you can knock an enemy prone, then follow up with a couple attacks with advantage.

Standard

The standard dragonborn isn’t particularly good for any class except the paladin, which can make good use of the ASI. 

Ability Score Increase: +2 STR is a fairly uncommon double racial bonus. Dragonborn are the only race with a +2 STR and +1 CHA bonus. This particular bonus isn’t great because most STR melee fighters are dumping CHA, and most CHA casters are dumping STR. The biggest exception to this is the paladin who absolutely loves this racial bonus.

Draconic Ancestry: Being able to choose a resistance and damage type with your breath weapon is fun for character customization and provides lots of utility.

  • Damage Resistance: Fire is the most common spells damage type, followed by cold, lightning, acid, then poison. Damage resistance is useful in basically any campaign.
  • Breath Weapon: The damage doesn’t scale very well. Seeing as fire is the damage type with the most immunities, it is kind of a double-edged sword to take fire as your Draconic Ancestry. Cold is a fairly common damage type and also has a lot of creatures with resistance. The main thing you want to to avoid is poison, which has by far the most immunities. 

Draconblood

Draconblood dragonborn give up damage resistance

Ability Score Increase: +2 INT is great for wizards and artificers, +1 CHA won’t necessarily be wasted because social skills can be quite important. A DEX or CON bonus would be preferred for the squishy casters.

Darkvision: Darkvision is always great, but its advantage can be ruined if your party members do not also have it.

Forceful Presence: Getting one Persuasion check with advantage is solid, but it is rare that a face class will want to play a Draconblood dragonborn so this will likely only serve to offset a dumped CHA stat.

Ravenite

Ravenite dragonborn dragonborn give up damage resistance

Ability Score Increase: +2 STR is a fairly uncommon double racial bonus and pairs very nicely with +1 CON. Most builds that want STR also want CON.

Darkvision: Darkvision is always great, but its advantage can be ruined if your party members do not also have it.

Vengeful Assault: Paladins and other melee classes will love this extra attack.

Which 5e Classes Work With Dragonborn?

Given the variety of the dragonborn subraces, most classes can find something that will work.

Artificer:

  • Chromatic: Damage resistance and immunity are great for survivability and the breath weapon gives you an AoE burst of damage. This is especially good for Battle Smiths and Armorers who get extra attacks.
  • Draconblood: Draconblood offers the +2 INT that artificers want, though the CHA is not as good as DEX or CON would be. Darkvision is handy but Forceful Presence likely won't be too useful given your CHA score.

Barbarian:

  • Chromatic: Great option to make your barbarian even more tanky while also giving you a solid option for AoE damage.
  • Metallic: The damage resistance is great for helping you tank, plus the Breath Weapon can add a potent AoE effect multiple times per long rest. The Metallic Breath Weapon is an extremely strong ability, especially considering the barbarian's pumped CON modifier.
  • Standard: +2 STR is perfect for this class, damage resistance further improves tankiness, and an AoE is something most barbarians don't have.
  • Ravenite: +2 STR and +1 CON is perfect for this class. The extra attack is great to dish out additional damage in a pinch and Breath Weapon is useful for an AoE attack.

Bard:

  • Standard: STR and CHA could work for a College of Valor bard.

Cleric:

  • Standard: The STR bonus is okay but the lack of WIS and CON makes this a suboptimal choice.

Druid: No WIS or DEX for Druids.

Fighter:

  • Chromatic: Great option to make your fighter more tanky while also giving you a solid option for AoE damage. Being able to use the breath weapon in place of one of your extra attacks will offer huge boosts in damage when you have enemies lined up properly.
  • Metallic: Great survivability and combat utility from the damage resistance and Breath Weapon. The Metallic Breath Weapon can offer some battlefield control and, if you're able to knock an enemy prone in place of your first attack, you can follow up with a bunch of attacks with advantage.
  • Standard: +2 STR is perfect for a STR build, damage resistance further improves tankiness, and an AoE is something many fighters lack.
  • Ravenite: +2 STR and +1 CON is perfect for a STR-based fighter. The extra attack is great to dish out additional damage in a pinch and Breath Weapon is useful for an AoE attack.

Monk: Monks need DEX to be effective.

  • Chromatic: Monks typically struggle with survivability in melee, so a free passive elemental resistance + an activated immunity can go a long way to help them stay up. This, combined with the extra burst damage from the Breath Weapon makes the chromatic dragonborn a solid choice for a monk.

Paladin:

  • Chromatic: Great option to make your paladin more tanky while also giving you a solid option for AoE damage. Unfortunately you only get one extra attack as a paladin and you'll be focused on landing your attack to make sure you can smite. Still, the option to use an AoE if your enemies are lined up properly is always a good choice to have in combat.
  • Metallic: Solid choice for paladins that have pumped their CON modifier. The breath weapon can help with AoE damage, something that paladins struggle with, and the Repulsion Breath could offer a chance to make an attack with advantage for extra smite potential.
  • Standard: +2 to STR and +1 to CHA make dragonborn an ideal race for paladins. Combine this with the Breath Weapon and damage reduction and you are looking at a very strong base build.
  • Ravenite: +2 STR and +1 CON is perfect for a paladin. The extra attack from Vengeful Assault helps with dishing out more damage and landing smites.

Ranger:

  • Gem: The Breath Weapon can be useful when you're caught in melee range and the flight can help you keep out of reach from most melee creatures. The damage resistance helps with survivability and the telepathic communication can help when sneaking.
  • Ravenite: Could work for a STR-based ranger. Vengeful Assault can assist with moving around your hunter's mark.

Rogue: Rogues need DEX to be effective.

  • Gem: The Breath Weapon can be useful when you're caught in melee range and the flight can help you keep out of reach from most melee creatures. The damage resistance helps with survivability and the telepathic communication can help when sneaking.

Sorcerer:

  • Gem: Quite flavorful and effective when combined with Aberrant Mind sorcerer subclass. Any sorcerer build will appreciate a bit of damage resistance and the ability to get out of dodge with a flying ability.
  • Standard: Not terrible due to the +1 CHA, but besides the damage resistance there isn't much else here that is interesting to a sorcerer.
  • Draconblood: Only +1 CHA but Forceful Presence can assist with social skill checks.

Warlock:

  • Gem: The flight can help you keep out of reach while you eldritch blast your enemies. The resistance and Breath Weapon can help if you get caught in melee range.
  • Standard: Not terrible due to the +1 CHA, but besides the damage resistance there isn't much else here that is interesting to a warlock.
  • Draconblood: Only +1 CHA but Forceful Presence can assist with social skill checks.

Wizard:

  • Gem: The flight can help you keep out of reach while you cast powerful spells down on your enemies. The resistance and Breath Weapon can help if you get caught in melee range.
  • Draconblood: Draconblood offers the +2 INT that wizards want, though the CHA is not as good as DEX or CON would be. Darkvision is handy but Forceful Presence likely won't be too useful given your CHA score.

Sources Used in This Guide

Mike Bernier

Mike Bernier is the lead content writer and founder of Arcane Eye. Outside of writing for Arcane Eye, Mike spends most of his time playing games, hiking with his girlfriend, and tending the veritable jungle of houseplants that have invaded his house. He is the author of Escape from Mt. Balefor and The Heroes of Karatheon. Mike specializes in character creation guides for players, homebrewed mechanics and tips for DMs, and one-shots with unique settings and scenarios. Follow Mike on Twitter.

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