Thri-kreen Guide 5e

Published on November 21, 2022

Have you ever wanted to play a telepathic bug person? Well, with the release of Spelljammer, now’s your chance!

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What is this guide?

This guide is meant to give you an idea of whether or not the thri-kreen 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 thri-kreen. 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 Thri-kreen in 5e?

Source: Spelljammer: Adventures in Space

Thri-kreen are bipedal insectile creatures that hail from the deep reaches of Wildspace.  They have a unique, chitinous armor that serves as a protection in combat and change change color to allow thri-kreen to blend into their environment. Sporting a pair of secondary arms and insectile head, thri-kreen are not able to speak languages other than thri-kreen. When communicating with other creatures, thri-kreen resort to a form of telepathy.

Thri-kreen 5e Traits

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.

Creature Type: Monstrosities cannot be targeted by spells that normally target Humanoids, like hold person, nor spells like normally target Fey, like protection from good and evil. This can innately allow thri-kreen to avoid some spell effects, even if magical resistance isn’t included as a racial ability.

Size: Being able to choose between Small and Medium allows you to fine-tune your build. Looking to go for a heavy weapon-weilding barbarian? Medium is the way to go. Wanting to lean a bit more to the stealthy side of things? Small size might be right for you.

Speed: 30ft is the standard walking speed for most races.

Chameleon Carapace: This is an insanely good trait for classes that don’t normally wear armor, or who can only wear up to medium armor. 13 + DEX is better than light armor and is on par with mage armor. Combined with the fact that you can use an action to gain advantage on Stealth checks without having to expend any resources makes this a very appealing trait for a lot of classes.

Darkvision: Darkvision is always great, but its advantage can be ruined if your party members do not also have it. That said, thri-kreen are built for stealthing, so this is a must have to make the most of the advantages their Chameleon Carapace provides.

Secondary Arms: Another stellar ability, this allows you to wield a regular weapon, a shield, and have a couple of hands free for bonus action offhand attacks with light weapons, using magic items, or manipulating spell components.

Sleepless: Remaining conscious during a long rest can certainly come in handy. That said, it’s up to the DM to determine what constitues “strenuous” activity. I imagine that casting spells, training, and tinkering likely wouldn’t be allowed, but having an ever-present watch for your party is always useful.

Thri-kreen Telepathy: Speaking telepathically is the main focus around a number of leveled spells, which makes the ability to do it for free seem like a bargain. This is extremely useful for sneaking and can also be used to confer with party members in social situations and combat. Keep in mind that your party can’t respond telepathically, so they’ll have to brush up on sign language. The cherry on top is you can communicate with any creature that understands one language, though if you can’t understand their language, you won’t know what they’re trying to say back.

Which 5e Classes Work With Thri-kreen?

Thri-kreen are certainly a unique race to play. If your appearance as a bug person isn’t enough, only being able to communicate telepathically can add some interesting hurdles to roleplay scenarios. When it comes to choosing a class for a thri-kreen character, you’ll want to look at non-heavy armor-focused builds. The thri-kreen’s Chameleon Carapace is an extremely potent ability when appropriately used, and you’ll want to build your character to make the most of it.

Artificer: Artificers have a medium armor proficiency that can be matched by the thri-kreen's Chameleon Carapace, but with their Infusions, artificers can make their armor more effective than the thri-kreen's natural option. This, combined with the fact that artificers are rarely in need of an extra hand to cast spells (they can use an infused item as a spellcasting focus), makes most of the thri-kreen's most potent features null.

Barbarian: Unfortunately, barbarians already get Unarmored Defense, which negates the baseline AC bump provided by Chameleon Carapace. That said, they do still get the benefit of being able to use their action to get advantage on Stealth checks. When it comes to the Secondary Arms, you can wield a two-handed heavy weapon like a greatsword in your two primary hands, then hold a shortsword in your Secondary Arms. This allows you to offhand attack, which can be another opportunity to output Rage damage. If you want to beef up your barbarian, you could also instead to wield a shield along with a longsword in your primary hands, and a shortsword in your Secondary Arms.

Bard: A free armor upgrade, advantage on Stealth checks, Darkvision, telepathy, and extra arms for extra instruments make the thri-kreen a solid start for most non-martial bard builds. As far as Swords and Valor bards, they already get access to medium armor and while the Secondary Arms can help make it so they don't have to juggle swords, shields, and their spellcasting focus, they'll usually pick up War Caster to nullify this issue.

Cleric: Clerics already get medium armor, which if you're wearing a breastplate, can make the thri-kreen's natural armor a downgrade. This doesn't even take into account heavy armor clerics, who will certainly want to suit up instead of taking the thri-kreen's Chameleon Carapace. Unfortunately, Secondary Arms don't offer much either because clerics can have their spellcasting focus on their shield.

Druid: While you may not be able to use Chameleon Carapace or Secondary Arms while wild shaped, your telepathy should still work which offers a unique ability to communicate while transformed. Beyond that, the armor upgrade is huge as druids don't get mage armor or medium armor and can usually devote a decent amount of resources towards DEX. The advantage on Stealth checks and Darkvision are also both welcomed bonuses to any druid's repertoire.

Fighter: Most fighters are going to want to maximize their AC with heavy armor, which negates the thri-kreen's strongest ability. That said, telepathy, Darkvision, and extra arms will all come in handy. With the thri-kreen's Secondary Arms and the Two Weapon Fighting Style, you can wield a greatsword in your regular hands and two shortswords in your Secondary Arms. Once you get your Extra Attack feature, you attack with the greatsword, with one short sword, then use your bonus action to attack with the other shortsword. This outputs slightly more damage than simply attacking twice with a greatsword.

Monk: Monks already have unarmored defense, but the ability to get advantage on Stealth checks is a nice boost. When it comes to Secondary Arms, it surprisingly doesn't make a huge difference. Monks can already attack as a bonus action using Martial Arts, and don't need to be wielding a weapon to make the offhand attack effective.

Paladin: Wearing heavy armor will negate most of the benefits of Chameleon Carapace, but weilding a shortsword in your Secondary Arms allows you to offhand attack each turn while still toting a greatsword or other heavy weapon. This can amount to some solid extra damage, especially when combined with Improved Divine Smite, and the opportunity to land a smite if you missed with your other attacks.

Ranger: Thri-kreen are almost purpose built for rangers. The natural armor compares with medium armor initially and can allow for +5 DEX bonus, which rangers typically stack into allowing them to get heavy armor AC while also getting advantage on Stealth checks. On top of this, Darkvision and telepathy are good utility, and the Secondary Arms feature can lead to a solid increase in damage output and combat versatility. You could decide to wield a greatsword in your primary hands and two shortswords in your Secondary Arms. Combined with Two Weapon Fighting and Extra Attack, this can lead to a huge increase in damage output when you factor in hunter's mark. If you don't want to commit to a STR build, you could wield a rapier in one primary hand, a shield in the other, and still get offhand attacks with a shortsword in your Secondary Arms. Ranged builds won't necessarily get a bonus in damage from the Secondary Arms because offhand attacks can only be made with melee weapons, though if you pick up Crossbow Expert, you can wield a light crossbow in one hand, a shield in the other, than bonus action attack with a hand crossbow.

Rogue: Thri-kreen offer rogues a lot of benefits. Their armor is a straight AC upgrade, especially with the rogue's DEX, and allows for advantage on Stealth checks. This, combined with Darkvision and telepathy can make for an extremely stealthy baseline rogue build. The thri-kreen's Secondary Arms don't offer a ton of mechanical value beyond being able to open doors and interact with objects while your hands are already full.

Sorcerer: Free mage armor can go a long way as you won't have to stock it or waste a 1st-level spell slot every day to cast it. The free advantage on Stealth checks can allow you to sneak around without stocking or casting invisibility. Darkvision and telepathic communication are also abilities that normally come from spells that you don't have to worry about, allowing you to focus your limited learned spells on more powerful ones.

Warlock: Even though you can get free castings of mage armor with an invocation, going with the thri-kreen can allow you to take a different, more beneficial invocation. The thri-kreen's armor also gives free advantage on Stealth checks and they get Darkvision and telepathy, which can be quite beneficial. Unfortunately, the Secondary Arms feature has little to no benefit here.

Wizard: Most of the thri-kreen's abilities are replicateable through spells, which you have plenty of ability to learn and cast as a wizard. Mage armor mimics the 13+DEX of the thri-kreen's armor, invisibility for sneaking, and message for telepathic communication.

Sources Used in This Guide

  • BR: Basic Rules
  • GotG: Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants
  • SotDQ: Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen
  • ERLW: Eberron: Rising from the Last War
  • EEPC: Elemental Evil Player’s Companion
  • EGtW: Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount
  • FToD: Fizban's Treasury of Dragon
  • GGtR: Guildmasters' Guide to Ravnica
  • MotM: Monsters of the Multiverse
  • MToF: Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes
  • MOoT: Mythic Odyessys of Theros
  • PAitM: Planescape: Adventures in the Multiverse
  • PHB: Player's Handbook
  • SAiS: Spelljammer: Adventures in Space
  • SCoC: Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos
  • SCAG: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
  • TCoE: Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything
  • TTP: The Tortle Package
  • WBtW: The Wild Beyond The Witchlight
  • VRGtR: Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft
  • VGtM: Volo's Guide to Monsters
  • XGtE: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

Mike Bernier

Mike Bernier is the lead content writer and founder of Arcane Eye. He is a Adamantine best-selling author of Strixhaven: A Syllabus of Sorcery on DMs Guild and is a contributing author at D&D Beyond. Follow Mike on Twitter.

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