Guide to Building a Leonin Character—Best Classes: DnD 5e

When building a leonin character in DnD 5e, consider the following classes and features:

Leonin characters in Dungeons and Dragons 5e are fierce, powerful hunters who guard the golden plains of Oreskos.  Introduced in Mythic Odysseys of Theros, these lion people rarely leave their homeland and guard its borders.  However, some leonin are not content to live the lives of their ancestors—nomadic yet never leaving the plains.  Some venture past the border mountains to test themselves in new lands.

Leonin culture and personalities

The leonin race inhabits a valley within Theros named Oreskos.  At one point, the valley was dominated by wizardly humans of Meletis.  Now, the nomadic tribes have mostly reverted to the old ways.  Though they’ve left behind human ways, some still worship human gods.

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However, most leonin distrust outsiders and guard their ancestral home, only leaving for the occasional raid.  Nomadic hunters, this race blends the glory and hunting instincts of a lion with Strength and Constitution for a unique warrior.  Consider these leonin backstories for inspiration:

  • A young warrior makes a grave mistake in a hunt, which ends in the death of a great leader. Now, the warrior is disgraced and looking for redemption outside their homeland.
  • Summoned by the god Heliod to serve the light, a leonin takes the path of a paladin against the wishes of their clan. Leonin tend to leave human gods in the past.
  • My evil uncle murdered my father when I was young and made me feel like it was my fault. Now, I’m older and the call to be king is summoning me.  I must strengthen myself to battle my uncle and restore balance to the pride land (wink).

Leonin abilities and features

Leonin come with a +2 Constitution/+1 Strength ability score modifier—inherently making them tough.  However, their other racial traits offer abilities that give them a hunter’s edge, with a ferocious roar for added effect.

Darkvision is typical for nonhuman races.  So, of course, it is at the top of the list of hunting-related abilities.  However, leonin also have Claws that deal 1d4 slashing damage (Strength)Hunter’s Instincts gives me proficiency in my choice of Athletics, Perception, Intimidation or Survival.  To top off this set of skills, my walking speed is increased to 35 feet.

Finally, Daunting Roar gives me the edge of fear a lion deserves in battle.  Creatures within 10 feet of me must make a Wisdom saving throw or become frightened of me until the end of my next turn.  The DC equals 8 + proficiency + Constitution modifier.  Frightened creatures will have disadvantage on attack rolls and saving throws as long as I’m in line of sight.  This can be loads of fun as a tank—throwing myself into the hoard and letting it rip.

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Barbarian: Path of the Ancients

Nomadic, connected to nature and fiercely strong, the leonin fit the barbarian class well.  Increased athletic ability, movement speed and the notorious Rage state will play well off my lion-like appearance.  The proud and honorable leonin would certainly have a connection to kings of the past, ancestors who watch over them like Mufasa watches Simba.

In this way, a barbarian Path of the Ancients could utilize ancestor spirits to further aid and protect allies as I command the enemies’ attention.  Ancestral Protectors gang up on the first creature I attack, giving the foe disadvantage on attacks against my friends and my friends resistance against the target’s damage.

Later, I can summon these spirits to directly interfere with damage against my allies.  By interrupting the attack, they reduce damage by 2d6.  Ultimately, this ability leads to Vengeful Ancestors, which bounces the damage back to my enemies.  I can even consult these spirits, effectively giving me clairvoyance or augury spells without components needed.

Check out my full Barbarian: Path of the Ancients character guide here.

Barbarian:  Path of the Beast

Another barbarian path I like is Path of the Beast, which taps into my natural animal instincts and makes me more of a were-lion character.  This build explores a character who nearly rejects civilization completely.  Or perhaps I could play as a fish out of water trying to figure out how silverware works.  Either way, this is a radical character.

Form of the Beast gives me transformations that turn my body into a natural weapon.  At level 3, I can choose a transformation whenever I go into a Rage:

  • Bite: Jaws enlarge and turn bestial to deal 1d8 piercing damage. If I’m below half my HP, I recover HP equal to my proficiency bonus once a turn when I land this bite.
  • Claws: Both hands grow longer claws, giving me 1d6 slashing damage.  Once per turn, when I make an attack action, I can make an additional attack.
  • Tail: A tail grows and becomes a 1d8 piercing weapon with reach.  I can also roll 1d8 and add the number to my AC or the AC of an ally within 10 feet as a reaction.  I imagine this tail might look like a fluffy ball and chain as a lion tail.  However, maybe we could substitute for a scorpion tail—manticore

At level 10, the were-lion angle is enhanced with Infectious Fury, which forces foes to make a Wisdom saving throw or lose their mind.  Now, the target must make a melee weapon attack against a creature of my choice or takes an extra 2d12 psychic damage.

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Paladin: Oath of Glory

Something about a leonin paladin just fits—the lion has been a symbol of divine power to humans for eons.  However, the leonin of Theros have unique story angles they could use as a paladin.  The deity this character serves could be left over from human influence.  Or this leonin could serve a god of the old world—or even a primal force.

Naturally, this character will be well armed, tanking for allies and dishing out Divine Smite (+2d8 radiant damage) against foes.  I’ll use Lay on Hands to heal myself and others, drawing from a pull that equals 5 X my paladin level.  Plus, having a few healing spells on hand (cure wounds, lesser restoration) will keep me on my feet.

However, the Oath of Glory taps into an epic, Olympian theme of a hero—mixing well with my lion vibe.  My innate athleticism will be amplified by my Channel Divinity ability Peerless Athlete.  Plus, Aura of Alacrity will jack up my speed even further and inspire others to follow me into battle.  However, they are following me into battle with my other Channel Divinity feature, Inspiring Smite, and receiving temporary HP with each Divine Smite I pull off.

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