Human 5e Guide

Published on July 26, 2021

What is this guide?

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

The color code below has been implemented to help you identify, at a glance, how good that option will be for your Human. 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 Humans?

If you’re reading this you are most likely a Human, and therefore know what a Human is!

Humans are known to be the youngest of the races that one commonly sees when walking the streets of any given town or community. They also have the shortest life span of the common races, which could be the reason that Humans tend to be hard workers, innovators, and conquerers. 

One thing that separates Humans from other races is the sheer diversity in their ranks. From appearance, cultures, customs, and institutions, every group of Humans you may meet in your travels will be notably different.

Human Traits

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

Speed: Humans have a standard walking speed of 30 feet.

Human Subraces

Standard Human

Source: Players’ Handbook

The most basic of all the races in D&D 5e, the Standard Human is a solid pick for any build. While it doesn’t come with any fancy racial features, the Standard Human sports the highest number of ability score increases out of any race.

Ability Score Increase: Unique to the Standard Human, you increase each ability score by 1. Most races get three total ability score increases (+2 to one ability score, +1 to another) but the standard Human gets a whopping six. Admittedly many of these are usually a waste, like INT on a Barbarian, but this spread means that the Standard Human will be at least average for any build you could imagine.

Variant Human

Source: Players’ Handbook

Many believe that the Variant Human is the best race in all of D&D 5e, and we tend to agree. Variant Humans get ultimate flexibility in their ability score increases, a free skill proficiency, and a feat at 1st level. This makes them one of, if not the best option for nearly every build because they are completely customizable.

Ability Score Increase: Most races get three total ability score increases, but the Variant Human only gets two. The upside here is that you may assign them however you like, as long as they are two different ability scores. This means that every class will be able to choose the best ability scores for their purposes.

Skills: Typically, racial features that give you a choice of a skill proficiencies let you choose from a short list. The Variant Human lets you pick any skill you want, ensuring that the skill is never wasted because you can choose a skill that your character will actually be able to use effectively.

Feat: Getting a free feat at 1st level is very powerful and is unique to the Variant Human. Certain builds require one or more feats to work, so getting it early and not having to sacrifice an ASI on a level up helps tremendously. Even builds that don’t necessarily need a feat will always find something interesting to complement the character. 

Mark of Finding Human

Source: Eberron: Rising from the Last War

The Mark of Finding seems to exist to squeeze every last bit of information, backstory, and exposition out of your poor DM. If any person, object, or even plant goes missing, you’ll know about it and be able to find it. With a niche ability score spread, the Mark of Finding Human is best suited to a campaign that revolves around investigation and mystery solving.

Ability Score Increase: A +2 WIS and +1 CON ability score spread isn’t appealing for most classes, and some builds may even want DEX or STR over CON.

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

Hunter’s Intuition: Anything that makes Perception checks better is extremely useful, and improved Survival checks doesn’t hurt either.

Finder’s Magic: Hunter’s Mark is a cool spell, so it’s nice to see it available for classes other than the Ranger and for free at that. It can only be used once per long rest but the spell lasts for an hour so you should still be able to get some decent mileage out of it. You should probably never use this to cast Locate Object instead since the Mark of Finding grants that spell anyways.

Spells of the Mark: Only characters that have Spellcasting or Pact Magic can use the spells below.

Mark of Finding Spells:

  • 1st Level – Faerie Fire: Good debuff if you can get a number of enemies in one go. Can also solve situational invisibility issues.
  • 1st Level – Longstrider: An extra 10 feet of movement is noticeable, especially since this spell lasts for an hour so you can use the buff before you find yourself in a battle.
  • 2nd Level – Locate Animals or Plants: Extraordinarily situational, this spell will only be useful if your DM has worked an animal or plant into their story.
  • 2nd Level – Locate Object: Nearly as situational as Locate Animals or Plants, this spell is just a bit more useful since objects are more likely to be plot devices than animals or plants.
  • 3rd Level – Clairvoyance: Useful for scouting unknown territory or for avoiding an ambush.
  • 3rd Level – Speak with Plants: Situationally useful. Speak with Animals is usually more reliable but you don’t get access to that spell here.
  • 4th Level – Divination: More putting your DM on the spot! Asking a question and receiving a truthful answer from your DM is really useful and a ton of fun.
  • 4th Level – Locate Creature: More thorough than Locate Animals or Plants, and can be used to find people. It’s still pretty situational.
  • 5th Level: Commune with Nature: The best way to extract a bunch of information about your surroundings from your DM, but only works in natural settings.

Mark of Handling Human

Source: Eberron: Rising from the Last War

The Mark of Handling Human is focused on calming, controlling, and asking for the aid of animals. In that sense, a Druid should be able to accomplish most of what this subrace can do. Although the Mark of Handling Human will be at its best in a natural habitat, even large cities will have rats or cats that you could use to give your party some advantage or insight.

Ability Score Increase: This subrace also comes with +2 WIS, but having a +1 ASI of your choosing makes it much more flexible when it comes to building a character.

Wild Intuition: Improved Animal Handling and Nature checks fit nicely into the role this subrace is playing, with the latter making up for a lack of INT increase.

Primal Connection: A free cast of either Animal Friendship or Speak with Animals per short rest opens up many options for encounters with beasts without the need to use spell slots or having the spells prepared.

The Bigger They Are: Monstrosities are some of the most violent creatures you will encounter, and more often than not, cannot be reasoned with. Extending Animal Friendship and Speak With Animals to monstrosities is a very unique subrace feature that not only improves those spells, but will make for some interesting encounters.

Spells of the Mark: Only characters that have the Spellcasting or Pact Magic class feature can use the spells below.

Mark of Handling Spells:

  • 1st Level – Animal Friendship: A cool spell for low level encounters, but you won’t need to prepare it most of the time due to the free cast from Primal Connection.
  • 1st Level – Speak With Animals: A great way to gain information or ask for help from animals. Also won’t need to be prepared most of the time due to the free cast from Primal Connection.
  • 2nd Level – Beast Sense: This spell is like a much worse version of Find Familiar. Speak With Animals can already gain enough information about what the animal can see or hear.
  • 2nd Level – Calm Emotions: The fact that this spell has two different use cases makes it decent, even if those events may not come up too often. Enemies often have effects that charm or frighten in an area of effect, so being able to suppress those effects also in an area of your choosing could save your whole party. When used on enemies, you can make them non-hostile for a whole minute, giving you enough time to escape. The main issue with this spell is the concentration and the relatively small radius.
  • 3rd Level – Beacon of Hope: Beacon of Hope seems to be best used in a moment of desperation, when many of your party members are severely hurt. Unfortunately, this spell uses up your action so you can’t get to healing until the next round.
  • 3rd Level – Conjure Animals: Conjure Animals can greatly improve your action economy in a fight by giving you more allies to attack with in a turn. If your DM is friendly they may even let you summon an animal that could help you achieve your goal (like a flying creature to get something from up high), although they won’t be obligated to give you the creature you want.
  • 4th Level – Aura of Life: Protection from hit point maximum reduction is very situational, although resistance to necrotic damage is handy when facing the undead. Bringing up all downed allies within the radius at the start of their turn sounds useful, but you will need to maintain your concentration until then for this to have effect.
  • 4th Level – Dominate Beast: This spell can accomplish what Animal Friendship and Speak with Animals just can’t – complete control over the target. It also lasts an entire minute, meaning you could have a very powerful ally for the rest of a battle if the creature fails its WIS saving throw. 
  • 5th Level: Awaken: Absurdly long casting time (8 hours) and cost (1000 gp), but the results are worth it. Transform your dog into a highly intelligent companion, or make your very own Groot to join you on your adventures.

Mark of Making Human

Source: Eberron: Rising from the Last War

The Mark of Making Human feels like a slight extension of the Artificer class, but the focus on artisan’s tools hampers may feel like a waste of subrace features. Builds that will get the most use out of this subrace are INT casters that also use martial weapons, as most of the other spells feel quite lacklustre.

Ability Score Increase: INT is wasted on most classes, but getting +2 to INT is quite rare. The combination of +2 INT and +1 of your choice will be perfect for those builds that do need it.

Artisan’s Intuition: Artisan’s tools in 5e often don’t get the love they deserve, as their usefulness is up to your DM’s interpretation. Arcana checks are more consistently helpful.

Maker’s Gift: Combining proficiency in an artisan’s tool and the added d4 from Artisan’s Intuition makes your skill checks with that tool very dependable. That being said, tools are most often used for role-play and require your DM to agree to whatever shenanigan you are trying to pull off.

Spellsmith: Having the Mending cantrip won’t turn any heads, but being able to use Magic Weapon without concentration is awesome. This means that, once per long rest, you can have a buffed weapon for an hour of encounters.

Spells of the Mark: Only characters that have the Spellcasting or Pact Magic class feature can use the spells below.

Mark of Making Spells:

  • 1st Level – Identify: You can spend a short rest in physical contact with a magical item to identify it. In addition, most cursed items are not revealed to be cursed when this spell is cast. The main purpose this spell serves is to identify something quickly, which is rather situational. 
  • 1st Level – Tenser’s Floating Disk: Not useless, but this spell is very situational. It can only be moved by you moving away from it.
  • 2nd Level – Continual Flame: Most of the time you can just cast Light or use a torch as a light source and save yourself the 50 gp.
  • 2nd Level – Magic Weapon: If you don’t cast this using the Spellsmith feature it’s still a pretty good spell for overcoming enemies that resist non-magical weapons.
  • 3rd Level – Conjure Barrage: The damage is awful compared to most area of effect damage spells like Fireball.
  • 3rd Level – Elemental Weapon: This spell is interesting because most classes don’t get access to it. The damage is better than Magic Weapon and you can do even more by choosing an element your target is vulnerable to. The downside is you don’t get the benefit of being free from concentration like Magic Weapon does from the Spellsmith feature.
  • 4th Level – Fabricate: Fabricate scales in its usefulness depending on your creativity, but it is hampered by quite a few restrictions which are clearly in place for game balance reasons.
  • 4th Level – Stone Shape: Can be used to deal damage if you get creative, or circumvent annoying parts of caves and dungeons since they are usually made of stone.
  • 5th Level: Creation: As with Fabricate, this spell is nerfed by many restrictions, the biggest of which is that the created items must fit within a 5-foot cube. Perhaps in the right hands this spell could be immensely powerful, but most people won’t know what to do with it.

Mark of Passage Human

Source: Eberron: Rising from the Last War

The Mark of Passage Human is all about mobility. Equipped with good ASIs and some fun and powerful spells, this subrace is excellent for a wide array of character builds.

Ability Score Increase: +2 DEX is great since most builds want at least some DEX for AC and initiative rolls, and the +1 ability score of your choice means that you could make this subrace viable for nearly any character.

Courier’s Speed: Increasing base walking speed is useful, especially for melee characters, but the extra 5 feet will hardly make a noticeable difference most of the time.

Intuitive Motion: Acrobatics is not nearly as common as Athletics. Operating land vehicles is situational and may occur rarely, depending on your campaign.

Magical Passage: Misty Step is an amazing spell, so you will probably always use your one free cast per long rest.

Spells of the Mark: Only characters that have the Spellcasting or Pact Magic class feature can use the spells below.

Mark of Passage Spells:

  • 1st Level – Expeditious Retreat: Obviously redundant for a Rogue, this spell could come in handy for characters that value high movement and may have no real use for their bonus action, like a Bladesinger.
  • 1st Level – Jump: Increasing jump distance is rarely useful and is severely outclassed by other movement spells.
  • 2nd Level – Misty Step: Misty Step is the staple movement spell for those classes lucky enough to have access to it. It can be cast as a bonus action and avoids opportunity attacks. 
  • 2nd Level – Pass Without Trace: A huge bonus to Stealth for the whole party. This spell will make even your hulking Barbarian into a sneaky infiltrator. 
  • 3rd Level – Blink: For ten rounds of combat, you have a 50% chance of poofing over to the Ethereal Plane at the end of your turn, meaning you will avoid all damage for that round. Pretty neat.
  • 3rd Level – Phantom Steed: Situational. If you need to do any serious traveling, this spell means you won’t need to buy a horse.
  • 4th Level – Dimension Door: Teleport, with a friend, over a much longer distance than Misty Step. Unfortunately, it’s a full action to cast.
  • 4th Level – Freedom of Movement: It’s nice to give extra movement options to allies, but there are better buff spells and this one is pretty situational.
  • 5th Level: Teleportation Circle: Lots of utility here to transport you and your party around the plane you are on. 

Mark of Sentinel Human

Source: Eberron: Rising from the Last War

The Mark of Sentinel Human cares primarily about protecting oneself and others, much like how Clerics and Paladins can be built. A mediocre ASI is offset by great uses of your reaction and powerful protective spells.

Ability Score Increase: Another CON and WIS combination, this time with +2 CON and +1 WIS. The same issue exists as with the Mark of Finding in that many builds won’t be looking for this combination, and instead prefer DEX or STR.

Sentinel’s Intuition: Anything that makes Perception checks better is extremely useful. Insight is less useful but is a nice bonus.

Guardian’s Shield: The Shield spell is awesome when a devastating attack comes your way. Being able to cast it for free once per long rest could absolutely save your life on more than one occasion.

Vigilant Guardian: This trait is virtually unusable if playing a caster like a Druid. A tankier Cleric, however, could take the damage for a weaker ally without breaking a sweat, if the enemy’s attack even makes it through their AC.

Spells of the Mark: Only characters that have the Spellcasting or Pact Magic class feature can use the spells below.

Mark of Sentinel Spells:

  • 1st Level – Compelled Duel: The fact that this spell is cast as a bonus action is nice, but it isn’t really a viable for option for characters that want to stay out of harm’s way and attack from a distance. As a tank character, this spell will make battles a lot easier for your bow and magic users.
  • 1st Level – Shield of Faith: A staple low level Paladin spell. +2 AC can make low AC characters much more resilient, and high AC characters near impossible to hit. The main downside is concentration, especially if you plan to fight in melee range.
  • 2nd Level – Warding Bond: Most casters don’t want to be taking damage when their warded fighter walks into battle.
  • 2nd Level – Zone of Truth: Fun spell to use, but it is situational. Crafty DMs can weasel their way out of providing any meaningful information because affected creatures are aware of the spell.
  • 3rd Level – Counterspell: Once you start facing higher level spellcasters, having Counterspell in your back pocket is critically important to avoid some devastating spells.
  • 3rd Level – Protection from Energy: Another spell competing for your concentration slot, although this one is good even if you aren’t playing a tank-style character. Essential when you know you are facing lots of one type of elemental damage.
  • 4th Level – Death Ward: 8 hours is a long time to be protected from dying. 
  • 4th Level – Guardian of Faith: A decent way to get some extra damage in if you know that a fight will take place in a specific location. Guardian of Faith can also be used as a sort of alarm when taking a long rest in a dangerous place.
  • 5th Level: Bigby’s Hand: A change of pace from the rest of the spells on this list, but a welcome one. The hand is capable of doing a good amount of damage, but can also move enemies, grapple them, provide cover, and help you escape. To top it off, it only requires your bonus action to command after the turn you cast it.

Which Classes Work With Humans?

Humans in D&D are the classic “jack of all trades, master of none”. Because the Standard and the Variant Human subraces exist, there isn’t a class out there that would be outright bad as a Human. Standard Humans provide a better ability score spread for the multi-ability dependent classes, while Variant Humans are just fantastic across the board for the free feat at 1st level.

On the other hand, the Eberron subraces are more focused in their efforts and each has a place for certain character builds.

Artificer: Artificers are very INT focused. The most INT you could achieve would be through the Mark of Making, which provides +2 INT and comes with thematic racial features and spells. 

Barbarian: None of the Eberron Humans come with STR, so you’re left with the Standard and Variant Humans. Standard provides all the ability score increases Barbarians are interested in, while the Variant Human opens up the possibility for fun low level feats like Tavern Brawler, Charger, or Great Weapon Master. 

Bard: No CHA for the Eberron races means those are off the table outside of the Mark of Passage for melee mobility and DEX. Valor or Swords Bards are typically the best for Variant Humans as they can make use of some of the powerful melee spellcaster feats like War Caster.

Cleric: The Mark of Finding provides WIS but is only situationally useful. The Mark of Sentinel will make an extremely tanky Cleric but has a lot of overlapping spells.  The Mark of Handling provides more flexibility with some nature-based spells and access to extremely powerful spells that aren’t typically on the Cleric’s spell list. Variant Human Clerics will be able to take WIS and either STR, DEX, or CON, while having access to useful feats like War Caster or Healer. 

Druid: The Mark of Handling seems like an obvious fit, but there will be a lot of overlap between the spells and abilities Druids have access to. Since Druids often have trouble with survivability, the Mark of Sentinel is a reasonable option, especially at higher levels when they get access to some of the better protective spells.

Fighter: Mark of Sentinel could be a good option for a tank build, although it doesn’t provide any STR or DEX. Eldritch Knights can get their INT and one ability score of their choosing from the Mark of Making as well as get some interesting spells for a melee spellcaster build. Ultimately, the Fighter wants STR or DEX, CON, and access to feats so the Variant Human is an amazing choice as well.

Monk: Standard Humans are pretty great for Monks since they look for DEX, CON, and WIS when creating a character. There are several good choices from the Eberron subraces: Mark of Passage builds on the Monk’s maneuverability and synergizes with the need for DEX, Mark of Handling could work if you’re lacking a nature expert in the party, and Mark of Finding fits in with an investigative campaign and Monk’s love that extra Hunter’s Mark damage but the subrace lacks the all-important DEX bonus. 

Paladin: The Standard and Variant Humans both work nicely with a Paladin, with the former providing coverage for all their ASI needs and the latter opening up some multi-feat builds. No CHA from the Eberron races means that a spellcasting-focused Paladin would be harder to attain, but Mark of Passage could lay the groundwork for a really cool DEX Paladin.

Ranger: The Variant Human is a strong choice for the free feat, especially for those attempting to make a melee Ranger. Mark of Handling will help provide some free nature-based utility spells for your spell slot-starved Ranger, the Mark of Passage taking WIS as your free ASI is perfect for both melee and ranged builds that want to have more movement options, and the Mark of Finding may have significant overlap but provides a free daily usage of Hunter’s Mark.

Rogue: Variant Humans are a good choice, but try to pick a passive feat as Rogues already have good uses for their bonus action and reaction. The Mark of Passage is perfect for a Rogue, with a strong ASI spread, movement options, and the Pass Without Trace spell that makes a Rogue virtually undetectable. Arcane Tricksters can receive their INT increase from the Mark of Making and get some interesting melee spells as well.

Sorcerer: No CHA for the Eberron races means those are off the table. The best bet for the Sorcerer is probably the Variant Human, though they aren’t particularly effective for this class.

Warlock: No CHA for the Eberron races means most of these are off the table. Although Mark of Passage can work for a Hexblade, it will still be at a disadvantage without CHA. Variant Human is worth considering for Spell Sniper or War Caster, especially as a Pact of the Blade/Hexblade Warlock.

Wizard: Like the Artificer, most Wizards are basically locked into maximising INT, so the Mark of Making provides the best ability score increases but has a ton of overlap with classes’ spells list. Bladesingers could do well with the Variant Human for melee feats or the Mark of Passage for mobility, though they will need to focus on their INT as much as possible for future ASIs.

Roland Drews

Roland Drews is a content creator and editor at Arcane Eye. When he isn't watching basketball or noodling on his guitar, you can find Roland reading, writing, or playing D&D. He currently lives in Bonn, Germany with his girlfriend Jess.