Hey folks! The concept of racial feats and potential racial subclasses are great ways to add flavor and texture to a fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign world. Special techniques, tricks and traits not only add to the depth of fantasy races and cultures but also allow for expansion of the themes of the various races by building off of distinguishing characteristics and traits. In my own campaign dragonborn are experiencing their own dark age where the dragons who stood as leaders and gods for their society have been stripped from the world by neighboring kingdoms. For these dragonborn barbarian is a great fit for a character class and to this end I created a Primal Path for the 5E D&D barbarian drawing upon the draconic spirituality and ancestry of the dragonborn.
Dragonborn racial subclass for 5E D&D
While this 5E D&D Primal Path was inspired by my campaign world there is no reason it couldn’t work perfectly well in another setting. I have included optional rules for allowing non-dragonborn characters to take this subclass, if the Dungeon Master allows of course. There are plenty of human-dragon relationships in fantasy and fiction to draw from that could back such a choice — a human with a dragon in their ancestry to whom the dragon spirits call or a chosen elf destined to bring the dragons back into the world are two examples. Perhaps the character encountered a dying dragon in their background and it granted them its soul and its power. There are plenty of ways to make such characters work, even if this barbarian subclass was created with dragonborn in mind.
“Smoke wafted across the battlefield as the sounds of the wounded lilted on the breeze like the moans of ghosts. As Shthrask stepped over the bodies, both friend and foe, he glanced about for those who still clung to life and who might be in need of his healing arts. With a flurry of ashes the wind shifted, pushing aside the smoke and revealing the hulking silhouette of Gyrgarax looming before him. Known as the Iceblood, the warrior was said to be blessed by the ancient spirits who now took form in her flesh. When the raiders had come to the shores of the Dragon Coast, bent on plundering the ancient riches of the fallen dragon kings, it had been she and her band of sworn warriors who had met them. Clad in nothing but their scales, ancient jewels and the sigils of their bonding they brought the rage of centuries of loss and draconic pride to those who would rob them of their past and at their head was she, the blood and spirit of her namesake glowing from within, scales as ice, wings like the sails of dragon ships, the air around her hazed as the blur of raging cold radiated from her. The shaman stood in awe. She was as the ancient wyrms, resplendent in her majesty, terrifying in her rage and indomitable in her spirit.”
Path of the Dragon
The dragonborn of the Dragon Coast maintain their reverence for dragonkind even though the great wyrms have all but disappeared from the world. Among the clans and tribes of these dragonborn there are those who call upon the spirits of the dragons to empower them in battle. Those dragonborn deemed worthy of the dragon spirits are revered among their people and considered blessed.
Those who choose this path gain the ability to call upon the might and majesty of dragons. This power might come from a strong blood lineage or the spirit of a specific dragon choosing the barbarian’s body for its vessel. Those who are inhabited by a dragon spirit often know its name and gain glimpses of its life during time of meditation, when raging in battle and sometimes in their dreams.
At 3rd level, when you enter your rage you can transform, revealing the draconic power within you. Until your rage ends, your scales harden, your teeth sharpen and you grow retractable claws and a muscular whipping tail. You gain the following abilities:
- +2 bonus to Armor Class
- Natural weapons capable of inflicting 1d6 slashing (claws)/piercing (bite)/bludgeoning (tail)
The rage of the dragons bolsters your will and fury. Beginning at 6th level, you can’t be charmed or frightened while raging. If you are charmed or frightened when you enter your rage, the effect is suspended for the duration of the rage.
At 10th level, when you rage you now grow a set of draconic wings. You gain a flying speed of 50 feet. To use this speed, you can’t be wearing medium or heavy armor.
Breath of the Wyrm
When you reach 14th level, when you rage your Breath Weapon becomes a force that inspires fear and awe, devastating your enemies. When you use your breath weapon, roll double the normal dice for damage.
Non-Dragonborn Characters (Optional Rule)
If the DM allows a non-dragonborn character to take Path of the Dragon use the following rules when you reach 14th level:
Choose a Draconic Ancestry from the dragonborn traits. Damage for this ability begins at 8d6 of the damage type associated with the Draconic Ancestry. This increases to 10d6 when you reach 16th level. You also gain resistance to the damage type associated with your Draconic Ancestry. After you use your breath weapon, you can’t use it again until you complete a short or long rest.
[NERDITOR’S NOTE: If you love the idea of dragons and dragon themed characters for 5E D&D check out the wyrmkyne, an alternative dragonborn race modeled on the linnorm of Scandanavian myth on the website here.]