D&D: How to Play a Dragonborn
Big, scaly, and awesome – Dragonborn is one of the most popular options in D&D. Try one today! Here’s how to play a Dragonborn.
Dragonborn are among the top five player options in D&D, according to D&D Beyond. And it’s not hard to see why. They’re big and scaly and can breathe fire. Though that last feature is actually a little bit lackluster.
But nevertheless, the idea of an imperious dragon person endures. It has since Dragonborn were first introduced in 4th Edition D&D when the ancient empires of Arkhosia and Bael’Turath brought Dragonborn and Tieflings into the foreground of D&D. And they haven’t gone back ever since.
It helps that Dragonborn look like they’re meant to be adventurers. They look like dragons in humanoid form, and though they lack wings or tails, they still have plenty of options for customizing their appearance.
A Dragonborn might have beautiful sweeping horns, like gold dragons. Or the fan-like spined crest of a silver. Maybe they have the spines of a green dragon. Or perhaps they blend together the features of many dragons. As their scales can become vibrant and multicolored, ranging to scarlety and copper-green and other hues not present in the traditional dragons of the world.
They’re also big and beefy. The average Dragonborn stands six and a half feet tall, and weighing 300 pounds or more.
The power of dragons courses through their blood, and can even influence their abilities. But what does that mean for your D&D character?
Join us as we look at how to play a Dragonborn in D&D. You’ll want to look at:
All Dragonborn, whatever their ancestry, have a few similarities. They get the same +2/+1 that most standard PHB races get. In the pre-Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything days, they got +2 Strength/+1 Charisma, making them especially suited to Fighters, Bards, and Paladins.
With the release of Fizban’s Treasure of Dragons came the reintroduction of gem dragons to 5th Edition. And along came variant Dragonborn: gem, metallic, and chromatic; all of which feel a little better than the slightly outdated PHB version. These have slightly more powerful abilities, as they were made post-Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, but with One D&D, it seems change is on the horizon.
The main features of a Dragonborn center around their Draconic Ancestry, which determines their breath weapon and damage resistance to certain kinds of energy damage. Here’s a handy chart:
And the more specific Dragonborn introduced in Fizban’s Treasury take this a step further, gaining further powers based on their ancestry. Gem Dragonborn gain psionic powers and the ability to fly. Metallic Dragonborn gain enhanced breath weapon options. Chromatic Dragonborn, meanwhile, gain the ability to become temporarily immune to certain types of energy damage.
Interestingly enough, Dragonborn are one of the few races not to get darkvision.
But now let’s talk briefly about the Dragonborn variants. If you’re playing a new Dragonborn character, we recommend playing with the rules out of Fizban’s Treasure of Dragons, DM permitting.
They not only can use their breath weapons more often, but they also have more abilities and gain extra powers at 5th level. These variant Dragonborn feel much more flavorful than the vanilla version found in the PHB.
These Dragonborn can use their breath weapon as part of the attack action, replacing one of their attacks with an exhalation of magical energy, usable [proficiency bonus] times per rest. On top of that, Dragonborn gain other abilities, outlined above.
Chromatic Dragonborn get Chromatic Warding at 5th level, which allows them to take an action to become immune to the damage type associated with Chromatic Ancestry for up to a minute, once per long rest.
Gem Dragonborn gain two abilities, Psionic Mind which lets them send telepathic messages to any creature they can see within 30 feet. And at 5th level, they gain Gem Flight which allows them to use a bonus action to manifest specral wings that grant them a fly speed equal to their walking speed for up to a minute, once per long rest.
Metallic dragonborn gain a second breath weapon at 5th level, choosing from Enervating Breath, which causes creatures affected by it to become incapacitated for a turn, or Repulsion Breath which pushes foes 20 feet away, knocking them prone.
Dragonborn in One D&D
As we look ahead to One D&D, the niche carved by Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons seems to lead the way into their future. The newest Unearthed Arcana sees the return of the Fizban’s breath weapon. As well as a 5th level power up for Dragonborn that, for now, is a total of up to 10 minutes of flight. Much like the Gem Dragonborn have in Fizban’s.
Though it’s sad that we don’t see any variants like chromatic, metallic, or gem, while species like Ardlings and Tieflings get to pick from their three different lineages. Perhaps the new survey will push things further in that direction.
With all that in mind, what makes for the best Dragonborn? As it happens, they’re really flexible. Especially if you play with the Dragonborn variants.
What it comes down to, whatever version of a Dragonborn you play, is what you do with your breath weapon.
If you’re not playing with the Fizban’s Variants, your choice largely comes down to what color/energy scheme you want to play with. Since you’ll rarely use your breath weapon past level 2.
If you are playing with Fizban’s, then Dragonborn are best suited to classes that want to make Attack actions. Dragonborn make for a surprisingly fun gish build, especially if you pick an option where you can replace an attack with a cantrip-like green flame blade that lets you make an attack as part of casting it, and then replace another attack with a breath weapon.
But even something like Monk or a higher level melee Bard works well, as Dragonborn shine when making attacks.
Tips and Tricks
When playing a Dragonborn, remember that they are the descendants of majestic dragons:
Born of dragons, as their name proclaims, the Dragonborn walk proudly through a world that greets them with fearful incomprehension. Shaped by draconic gods or the dragons themselves, Dragonborn originally hatched from dragon eggs as a unique race, combining the best attributes of dragons and humanoids. Some Dragonborn are faithful servants to true dragons, others form the ranks of soldiers in great wars, and still others find themselves adrift, with no clear calling in life.
To any Dragonborn, the clan is more important than life itself. Dragonborn owe their devotion and respect to their clan above all else, even the gods. Each Dragonborn’s conduct reflects on the honor of his or her clan, and bringing dishonor to the clan can result in expulsion and exile. Each Dragonborn knows his or her station and duties within the clan, and honor demands maintaining the bounds of that position.
A continual drive for self-improvement reflects the self-sufficiency, of the race as a whole. Dragonborn value skill and excellence in all endeavors. They hate to fail, and they push themselves to extreme efforts before they give up on something. A Dragonborn holds mastery of that particular skill as a lifetime goal. Members of other races who share the same commitment find it easy to earn the respect of a Dragonborn.
Look for ways to bring in that sort of draconic perspective. And the devotion to clan can be taken a few ways. Perhaps your Dragonborn is a fiercely loyal friend/found family member.
Oh, and that breath weapon is an excellent roleplay tool as well. Sure you can deal damage, but heat up your tea with a blast of fire. Or cool your coffee with a breath of ice. It’s a lot of drinks stuff, sure, but adventurers spend a lot of time in taverns. So. It’ll come up.