Human Guide 5e

Published on July 26, 2021, Last modified on November 7th, 2022

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What is this guide?

This guide is meant to give you an idea of whether or not the human 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 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 Situationally good, but a below-average option otherwise
  • 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 Human in 5e?

Source: Player's Handbook

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 5e 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 5e Subraces

Mark of Finding

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: Giving your allies advantage is really good, especially if you have a rogue or paladin in the party. Invisible creatures can also be a nuisance, so having a way to deal with them as extra value is sweet.
    • 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 or travel long distances in a short time.
  • 2nd level
    • Locate Animals or Plants: Extremely situational spell. So much so that it will likely not see use in an entire campaign.
    • Locate Object: 1,000 feet isn’t a particularly wide radius but this spell will be extremely useful when it’s needed. Great for city campaigns where everything is packed in tighter together.
  • 3rd level
    • Clairvoyance: Not many situations will call for this spell but it can be useful for scouting.
    • Speak with Plants: The flavor is spot on with this spell, it just doesn’t have that many uses.
  • 4th level
    • Locate Creature: More thorough than locate animals or plants, and can be used to find people. It’s still pretty situational.
    • Divination: This is best used when you’re asking about a relatively straightforward event that will happening in the near future. As with most “message from a deity” spells, it relies heavily on your DM and is intentionally vague which can impact its usefulness.
  • 5th level

Mark of Handling

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.
    • 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 does not have a ton of uses, especially because you can’t control what the beast does or where it goes.
    • 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.
    • Conjure Animals: Conjure animals can greatly improve your action economy in a fight by giving you more allies to attack with in a turn. It is also extremely useful as a way to divert damage from party members. 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 an effect.
    • Dominate Beast: Not many Beasts are going to be worth your 4th level spell to dominate. If you’re fighting a CR8 T-Rex you’ll wish you had this spell.
  • 5th level
    • Awaken: Love the flavor of this spell. It’s great for your traveling animal buddies, or, if you have enough time and money, you can create an army of trees that would make Treebeard proud. It is not useful in combat but this is one of those spells that can create really powerful effects if you have some downtime.

Mark of Making

The Mark of Making human feels like a slight extension of the artificer class, but the focus on artisan’s tools 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 lackluster.

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.
    • Tenser’s Floating Disk: Being able to carry 500lbs is typically out of the question for most player characters not being buffed by enlarge/reduce or something similar. Getting this ability for an hour at the cost of a 1st-level provides a lot of utility, especially if you need to carry treasure out of a dragon’s horde.
  • 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.
    • 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: Does roughly half the damage of fireball for the same level spell slot. Can be good if you can catch twice as many enemies in the larger radius, but it won’t happen often. A slightly disappointing spell that can still make the cut if you don’t have other ways of doing big AoE damage.
    • Elemental Weapon: The damage just isn’t great for a 3rd-level spell and concentration. If damage vulnerabilities were more common in 5e, it could be worth it. Unfortunately, as it stands it’s just not an effective use of the resources is requires.
  • 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.
    • 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: Allows you to make a rope, or a rock. Yeah.

Mark of Passage

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: 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.
    • Jump: Tripling a creature’s jump distance isn’t usually worth a 1st level spell slot.
  • 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.
    • Pass without Trace: If you are infiltrating an area with your party that you are unwelcome, the +10 bonus to Stealth is massive.
  • 3rd level
    • Blink: 50% chance of completely avoiding any damage for a turn is more consistent over a long period than mirror image and better for builds with lower ACs than blur. Plus, it isn’t concentration.
    • Phantom Steed: Situational. If you need to do any serious traveling, this spell means you won’t need to buy a horse but only lasts for one hour.
  • 4th level
    • Dimension Door: Teleport, with a friend, over a much longer distance than misty step. Unfortunately, it’s two spell slots higher than misty step and a full action to cast. Still, this spell can save your bacon is a tight circumstance.
    • 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: Great teleport spell that requires some prep before it can become really effective. That said, it’s nice to not have the ability to fail during your teleport like is possible with teleport. Awesome utility spell to have in your back pocket.

Mark of Sentinel

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 spell can make a strong enemy target you over weaker allies. This is good, but the spell ends if an ally casts a harmful spell at it. Essentially, if you cast this spell you’re committing to 1v1 the target, which can certainly end poorly.
    • Shield of Faith: +2 AC is quite good, especially in the early game. Sadly, this spell requires concentration. Great buff for a tanking party member if you intend to stay out of the fray.
  • 2nd level
    • Warding Bond: This buff is really good, but can be quite risky for yourself if used at the wrong time. Make sure you aren’t overwhelmed by enemies and have a sizeable amount of hit points and AC.
    • Zone of Truth: Great for when you need to gain the trust of some NPCs, or when you don’t quite trust them yourself.
  • 3rd level
    • Counterspell: Always get counterspell. Even if you don’t want to pick it up as soon as it is available to you, come back and get it at a later level. It can literally save lives when facing a powerful spell caster.
    • Protection from Energy: This is typically outshined by absorb elements except in the specific circumstances when you are constantly being subjected to a type of damage.
  • 4th level
    • Death Ward: Has an 8-hour duration and doesn’t require concentration so it could be a good spell to cast pre-emptively if you have the ability to regain spell slots during a short rest.
    • 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: Bigby’s hand truly does it all. It can do turn after turn damage, help you escape dangerous situations, hold down a baddy, and allow you to fly all while increasing your action economy because it only uses a bonus action to command.

Standard

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

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.

Which 5e Classes Work With Human?

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:

  • Mark of Making: 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.
  • Standard: A middle of the road pick because they increase all their ability scores by 1.
  • Variant: Variant humans are usually good, and this is no exception for artificers. Variant humans can boost their INT and DEX/CON and also get a free feat. Depending on your feat of choice, you should be able to pick up another +1 INT at level 1.

Barbarian:

  • Standard: A middle of the road pick because they increase all their ability scores by 1.
  • Variant: Variant humans are usually good, and this is no exception for barbarians. Variant humans can boost their STR and CON and also get a free feat like Tavern Brawler, Charger, or Great Weapon Master.

Bard:

  • Standard: A middle of the road pick because they increase all their ability scores by 1.
  • Variant: Getting bonus CHA plus a proficiency and a feat at first level is typically pretty good. Feats aren’t great for bards that aren’t going to run with the College of Valor or Swords, which makes this choice a bit less appealing if you do not plan on going for that option and picking up the War Caster feat.

Cleric:

  • Mark of Finding: Provides WIS and some decent spells.
  • 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.
  • Mark of Sentinel: Will make an extremely tanky cleric but has a lot of overlapping spells.
  • Standard: A middle of the road pick because they increase all their ability scores by 1.
  • Variant: 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:

  • 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.
  • Mark of Sentinel: Since druids often have trouble with survivability, the Mark of Sentinel is a reasonable option to pump CON and get access to shield. Tanky Circle of the Moon druids will love the ability to swap places with weaker party members to absorb damage.
  • Standard: A middle of the road pick because they increase all their ability scores by 1.
  • Variant: Increased WIS and a feat at 1st level. Great for picking up the Shadow or Fey Touched feat or something like War Caster for a Circle of the Moon druid.

Fighter:

  • Mark of Making: 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.
  • Mark of Sentinel: No STR or DEX but does provide +2 CON. A free casting of shield is always welcome, as is the ability to swap with a party member to tank damage.
  • Standard: A middle of the road pick because they increase all their ability scores by 1.
  • Variant: Variant humans get a bonus to two ability scores of their choice and an extra feat, both of which are wicked for all types of fighters.

Monk:

  • Mark of Finding: Monks will love that extra hunter’s mark damage but the subrace lack the all-important DEX bonus and monks can't cast the other spells of the mark.
  • Mark of Passage: Mark of Passage builds on the monk’s maneuverability by giving them a free casting of misty step and synergizes with the need for DEX.
  • Standard: Standard humans are pretty great for monks since they look for DEX, CON, and WIS when creating a character.
  • Variant: You can increase your DEX, WIS, and CON scores as you see fit. Also, having a feat at 1st-level is really powerful, especially because monks usually want to take ASI over feats when they level up.

Paladin:

  • Mark of Passage: No CHA for spellcasting, but Mark of Passage could lay the groundwork for a really cool DEX paladin with plenty of movement options.
  • Mark of Sentinel: +2 CON is welcome, as is the extra spells granted by Spells of the Mark. A free casting of shield can go a long way to help paladins hold onto spell slots for Divine Smites and the ability to swap with an attacked party member will help them tank. All around a great choice, even though the ASIs aren't on point.
  • Standard: A middle of the road pick because they increase all their ability scores by 1.
  • Variant: Variant humans get a bonus to two ability scores of their choice and an extra feat, both of which are wicked for paladins.

Ranger:

  • Mark of Finding: May have significant overlap with the ranger but provides a free daily usage of hunter’s mark.
  • Mark of Handling: Will help provide some free nature-based utility spells for your spell slot-starved ranger.
  • Mark of Passage: Taking WIS as your free ASI here is perfect for both melee and ranged builds that want to have more movement options.
  • Standard: A middle of the road pick because they increase all their ability scores by 1.
  • Variant: The variant human is a strong choice for the free feat. Typical rangers can boost their WIS and DEX and still be very happy with the feat.

Rogue:

  • Mark of Making: Arcane Tricksters can receive their INT increase from the Mark of Making and get some interesting melee spells as well.
  • Mark of Passage: 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.
  • Standard: A middle of the road pick because they increase all their ability scores by 1.
  • Variant: Variant humans are a good choice, but try to pick a passive feat like Skulker as rogues already have good uses for their bonus action and reaction.

Sorcerer:

  • Mark of Passage: Can work for an interesting and mobile Hexblade, but it will still be at a disadvantage without CHA.
  • Standard: A middle of the road pick because they increase all their ability scores by 1.
  • Variant: Getting CHA plus a proficiency and a feat at 1st-level is typically really good. Picking up Shadow Touched or Fey Touched is a great way to get extra spells at 1st-level.

Warlock:

  • Standard: A middle of the road pick because they increase all their ability scores by 1.
  • Variant: Getting CHA plus a proficiency and a feat at 1st-level is typically really good. Picking up Shadow Touched or Fey Touched is a great way to get extra spells at 1st-level.

Wizard:

  • Mark of Making: Mark of Making provides the best ability score increases for a wizard with +2 INT, but has a ton of overlap with classes’ spells list.
  • Mark of Passage: Useful for Bladesingers for mobility, though they will need to focus on their INT as much as possible for future ASIs.
  • Standard: A middle of the road pick because they increase all their ability scores by 1.
  • Variant: Getting INT plus a proficiency and a feat at 1st-level is typically really good. Picking up Shadow Touched or Fey Touched is a great way to get extra spells at 1st-level. Bladesingers would really enjoy the free feat for something like Mobile, Spell Sniper, or War Caster.

Sources Used in This Guide

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.

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