Guide to Playing a Dragonborn Character: DnD 5e

When playing a dragonborn character in DnD 5e, consider the following:

  • How natural dragonborn features affect my selection
  • Dragonborn culture and background
  • Melee classes: Paladin and Barbarian
  • Magic classes: Sorcerer and Bard

The DnD 5e dragonborn race is built around Charisma and Strength, which has spawned a warrior culture between the tribes where independence and loyalty mean everything.  Naturally, these characters project power, both in attitude and physical stature.  They carry an innate breath weapon that connects to an element and the color of their scales—giving me multiple creative hooks to make a unique character.

Most of the time, I fall back on creating a professional wrestler personality—especially when I’m playing a warrior class like Paladin, Fighter or Barbarian.  You ask me, wrestlers are the pinnacle of strength and charisma.  That being said, we can have a lot of fun breaking this intimidating race out of common “warrior” clichés.

Before we jump in, try out your dragonborn character in my original pirate adventure, Dead Man’s Tale.  Click here or below to learn more.

Deadman's Tale an Island Pirate Adventure DnD 5e friendly 3rd party campaign

How natural dragonborn features affect class selection

Dragonborn receive a +2 Strength/+1 Charisma bonus combo.  I recommend leaning into these score combos for maximum Strength and Charisma scores overall.  Therefore, I should consider classes that use these abilities the most.  Fortunately, Strength and Charisma are popular ability scores.

Plus, depending on the color of scales I choose, I’ll have an elemental Breath Weapon that fires in a straight line or cone.  This damage begins as 2d6 (fire, lightning, acid, poison, cold) damage.  As a melee fighter, I could use this as a ranged attack.  Or I could connect with the element further as a Draconic Bloodline sorcerer.

Dragonborn culture and background

Dragonborn have mysterious origins but are certainly related to their dragon god ancestors.  Granted the best of both worlds between humanoid and dragon, they developed warrior cultures where the clan is held above all—even the gods.

Self-improvement, courage and loyalty are common values among the clans.  In fact, this warrior culture is so clan-based that they would rather ask another clan for help before the gods.  Therefore, any other dragonborn NPC I come across could have an unspoken understanding with me.

Clutchmates—dragonborn siblings who hatched together—often give each other nicknames.  These terms of endearment come from old childhood stories or habits the character had as a clutchling.  As tough and scary as I may look, running into a sibling who calls me a cute nickname could be a funny story moment.

When playing this race, I like to lean into this gregarious culture—it gives me reason to be ridiculously confident.  I think of Klingons from Star Trek or the northern Free Men of A Song of Ice and Fire—intimidating with over-the-top personalities.

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Melee classes: Paladin and Barbarian

The more obvious class selections for a dragonborn are melee tank warriors—the guy who draws the aggression so the squishy wizard, ranger or rogue can work other angles.

A paladin build would take advantage of both my Strength and Charisma.  Between Divine Smite adding 2d8 to my melee damage and Lay on Hands to heal myself and comrades, I can leverage this build with my dragon ancestry.  I could use background story hooks that involve the tension between my loyalties to my clan and my deity.  Check out my dragonborn paladin build here.

The barbarian class would tap into my natural warrior culture and ferocious Strength.  A frenzied dragon-man making bonus attacks with a battle-axe is unquestionably awesome.  Plus, the bonus elemental resistance makes a nice addition to the resistances already offered to a barbarian.  This class is a great opportunity to play a primal slayer of foes.

Magic classes: Sorcerer and Bard

Let’s hop outside of the battle box for a moment and think about what sort of mage characters a dragonborn would fit.  One way or another, I’ll likely be in melee combat.  Therefore, I’ll probably lean into the battle mage categories as a Draconic Bloodline Sorcerer or Bard College of Valor.

A dragonborn sorcerer with a draconic bloodline is obvious and seems a bit built-in.  However, this is a fun build that plays on elemental specialization.  For instance, I could play a blue dragonborn sorcerer who specializes in storm magic.  I’ll go all in on blue, gaining extra damage to my lightning spells and throw in thunder and wind spells to push enemies away.  Then, I’ll throw in a lightning breath weapon and powerful melee abilities.

On the other hand, the dragonborn bard is a left-field idea.  A friendly, singing dragonborn could be fun and different.  However, the College of Valor works well with the Strength and Charisma bonus combination inherent to the race.  I can lean into my Charisma for bardic spellcrafting and leverage my Strength score when I gain my shield and armor at level 3.  Plus, Bardic Inspiration could bring out my loyal nature in a game-changing way.

So, what’s your favorite class for a dragonborn character?

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