Add a Draconic Lineage to Your 5E D&D Game
Draconians existed since first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons introduced them through the Dragonlance franchise and they are very different from the Dragonborn we get to play these days in fifth edition D&D. Along with lizardfolk, kobolds and tortles there’s a great selection of reptilian races to play in 5E D&D. But none of them seem to capture what people are looking for when it comes to playing an iconic dragon character. Maybe it’s because dragons are put on a pedestal of power and the playable version of dragonborn doesn’t hold up by comparison. Or maybe they are underwhelming when put beside what many agree are better performing races from a mechanical perspective. Explorers Guide to Wildemount introduced a couple of new options with the dragonborn variants of Draconblood and Ravenite. These options provide the darkvision dragonborn should have and they get traits that can be more useful than the breath weapon as an action presented in the 5E D&D Player’s Handbook. So how do we fix this?
Be the draconic 5E D&D character you really want to play
If you are familiar with Nerdarchy the YouTube channel we have discussed our thoughts about 5E D&D dragonborn many times. For starters giving dragonborn darkvision does not break the game. I feel this trait was not included on more of a whim than anything else. Elves are magical and dwarves live underground but a race of creatures descended from dragons — one of the most magical creatures — should be able to see in the dark. If you are running a 5E D&D game relying heavily on the use of darkvision to see in the dungeons and other dark places than maybe a house rule granting dragonborn darkvision might be too powerful but I am just not seeing those style games being run in the circles I engage with so to me it is almost insulting for them not to have this trait.
frog themed stuff dragons come in a close second! — Nerditor Doug
Onto the other dragonborn traits. An area effect attack from Breath Weapon and elemental resistance from Damage Resistance via Draconic Ancestry starting at 1st level can be game changers in the right situations. Fighting a group of weak creatures like stirges or low challenge rating beasts finds dragonborn burning them down with cones or lines of acid, cold, fire, lightning or poision. Awesome. Dragonborn characters can use their resource designed for exactly these sorts of scenarios. But as they level up the Breath Weapon not only falls short but falls out of usefulness. By 5th level the amount of options regardless of what class the dragonborn goes with are better than using an action for Breath Weapon. A martial character like fighters and barbarians — even half of the Artificer Specialists — gain the Extra Attack feature to swing twice with a weapon and add their modifier to each damage roll rather than a set 2d6 with a saving throw to potentially halve this amount before any resistance gets taken into account.
I want to fix this situation for 5E D&D players out there. I am going to go crazy and propose two house rules, one of which I have never discussed before and I would love your feedback on. The first one we came up with for our games from almost the very first time we played 5E D&D — the dragonborn Breath Weapon uses a bonus action instead of an action. This makes it useful no matter what the character winds up doing with their action. They still have a bonus to interact let loose their Breath Weapon. Second and potentially controversial is a house rule modifying dragonborn Breath Weapon damage to a number of d6s equal to your proficiency bonus. Is this too powerful? I do not think so and I just might make this addition going forward in my own games to see if this ups the interest in the dragonborn race.
But I am not through yet!
Lately Wizards of the Coast has begun making sweeping changes to a core concept of D&D by moving away from the term race and instead presenting lineages, which remove racial Ability Score Increases and place this choice in the players’ hands along with languages. We here at Nerdarchy still like the concept of either culture, race or lineage having an effect on characters’ ability scores at least as a suggested guideline even if things are different than they’re traditionally been for the history of the game. As it is written mountain dwarves are hardy and strong and get +2 Strength and +2 Constitution but this does not stop players from creating mountain dwarf characters who are neither.
Here’s my idea idea for a new lineage to capture what I imagine a dragonborn ought to be in 5E D&D.
You claim a heritage descended from dragons. Cultivated over many millennia your people are the proud servants of dragons as well as drawing respect yourself from many sentient creatures across the multiverse.
Magical. Many Draconborn possess the innate magical abilities of their progenitors. This might manifest as the ability to cast spells, exhale an elemental breath weapon or resist the element inherent in their blood. Draconborn tend to be guided by their kind toward magical pursuits but culturally their people encourage each other to follow any path they choose.
Powerful. You are instilled with might belying your size. Draconborn can have scales as tough as armor, develop remarkable physical power and even grow wicked claws or horns equal to any fabricated weapon. Draconborn born with these types of traits tend to be guided to a martial pursuit.
Proud. Draconborn have scales to show their lineage. When you see a Draconborn with white scales you know it is descended from a white dragon and it might be able to breath cold or resist cold damage. Beyond this unless they are in direct servitude to a dragon they need not share the alignment of their ancestors.
Your draconic heritage manifests in a variety of traits you share with other draconborn.
Ability Score Increase
Draconborn are often stronger and more charismatic than other races, reflecting the power and majesty of their dragon ancestors. When determining your character’s ability scores increase one of those scores by 2 and a different score by 1, or increase three different scores by 1. Follow this rule regardless of the method you use to determine the scores.
You have darkvision out to a range of 60 feet.
Young draconborn grow quickly. They walk hours after hatching, attain the size and development of a 10-year-old human child by the age of 3, and reach adulthood by 15. They live to be around 80.
Draconborn are not limited in their alignment. You may choose any that suits your character.
Draconborn are taller and heavier than humans, standing well over 6 feet tall and averaging almost 250 pounds. Your size is Medium.
Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Your draconic heritage manifests in any number of ways. Choose 2 options from the Draconic Heritage table below. If you choose an elemental trait it must match the type of dragon you descend from and influences any further traits you select from here or through feats.
- Elemental Resistance
- Elemental Breath Weapon
- Natural Attack – Horns
- Natural Attack Claws
- Tough Scales — You gain a +1 bonus to AC
- Learned — Gain proficiency in one skill of your choice
- Physically Adept
- Practiced Endurance — Your carrying capacity is doubled
Elemental Resistance. You embody your Draconic Ancestry. Choose one type of dragon from the Draconic Ancestry table. Your damage resistance is determined by the dragon type as shown in the Draconic Ancestry table.
Elemental Breath Weapon. You have a Breath Weapon you can use as a bonus action that deals damage of the type associated with your Draconic Ancestry. When you select this option you also choose is your Breath Weapon is a 15 ft. cone or 5 by 30 ft. line. Your Breath Weapon deals damage is a number of d6s equal to your proficiency bonus. After you use your Breath Weapon you can’t use it again until you complete a short or long rest.
Natural Attack. You gain a natural weapon attack, either horns or claws. When you choose this option you decide to make your horns or claws into natural melee weapons. If you hit with them, you deal piercing damage (horns) or slashing damage (claws) equal to 1d6 + your Strength or Dexterity modifier (your choice), instead of the bludgeoning damage normal for an unarmed strike.
Physically Adept. You are a superb athlete. Whenever you make a Strength (Athletics) checks you can choose to do so with advantage. You may do this a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus and regain all uses after you complete a long rest.
|Dragon||Damage Type||Breath Weapon|
What do you think? Let me know if you like my new version of 5E D&D dragonborn or if it this custom lineage feels too powerful. If you like this I’d certainly be happy to expand upon these ideas with some cool feats and magic items to make them even better.
Before I let you go let me throw a huge shout out to our awesome friends over at Hero Forge. They totally inspired the draconborn with all the new horn designs they recently dropped. I have been a big fan of Hero Forge since their launch years ago and I continue to support and get all my customized miniatures from them. Help out the channel by helping out the sponsor and see what kind of amazing hero you can forge over at Hero Forge here.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, stay nerdy!!
*Featured image — Johan Egerkrans retells the most exciting and imaginative sagas of the Norse mythology from the creation myth in which the first giant Ymer is hacked to pieces by Odin and his brothers to the gods’ final destruction in Ragnarok. [Art by Johan Egerkrans]