When building a tortle character in Dungeons and Dragons 5e, consider the following elements and classes:
- Tortle characteristics and background
- Natural abilities: Shell Defense, Hold Breath, Survival Instinct…
- Druid: Circle of Wildfire, Circle of Spores
- Cleric: Nature Domain, Tempest Domain
The turtle-like tortle people in DnD 5e are imposing yet wise, gaining a +2 Strength/+1 Wisdom ability modifier and several race abilities. This is a fun opportunity to play a character in touch with nature, pulling from themes related to turtles—water ecologies, mythology, etc.
Tortle characteristics and background
By far one of the most solitary races, tortles venture out from their coastal birthplaces to explore the world. This odd behavior means that tortles rarely build towns and communities, giving them an inherent sense of adventure. In some ways, they pull from their sea-turtle heritage, covering great distances with uncanny sense of direction.
Therefore, a tortle character is likely to be a loner—giving me a perfect excuse to lean into elemental classes like druids and tempest clerics. These traits make my character perfect for a guide, wise hermit, relic hunter or teacher. Plus, tortle natures tend to be lawful good, due to their ritualistic habits and routines.
Natural abilities: Shell Defense, Hold Breath, Survival Instinct…
The tortle race comes with several inherent survival abilities that relate to their turtle natures.
- Claws: Unarmed strikes count as 1d4 + Strength slashing damage.
- Hold Breath: I can stay submerged underwater for up to 1 hour.
- Natural Armor: I don’t fit in normal armor. Therefore, my shell and scales count as 17 AC.
- Shell Defense: My shell acts as a bunker as I slip into it. I’ll gain a +4 bonus to my AC and advantage on Strength and Constitution saving throws. Withdraw into the shell as an action.
- Survival Instinct: Gain proficiency in Survival skill.
- Aquan Language: I can speak, read and write Aquan and Common.
Druid: Circle of Wildfire, Circle of Spores
Druids and tortles go together like fine wine and cheese, gaining an advantage from the tortle’s inherent survival skills and Wisdom bonus. Thematically, it fits perfectly with the tortles’ wandering tendency, giving me options to play with island or swamp ecologies as magic. I could come from a volcanic island as a Circle of Wildfire druid or a swampy coast as a Circle of Spores build.
However, my major Strength bonus shouldn’t go to waste, so I’ll focus on druid circles that allow me to implement a shield/sword druid with area-of-effect spells. Plus, druids can’t wear normal armor to begin with, so my Natural Armor will be of great use here. I’ll add a wooden shield for extra defense and maybe even carry a scimitar, acting as a tank at early levels and smacking foes with my high Strength score.
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Circle of Wildfire
The Circle of Wildfire relates to the destruction and resurrection cycle of forest fires. Along with a special list of fire spells, these druids gain inherent healing spells, growth spells and a Wildfire Spirit with impressive abilities. As I level up, I’ll gain enhanced fire damage and healing spells in synchronization with my Wildfire Spirit.
My first few Wildfire Spells are:
- Burning Hands: Creatures within a 15-foot cone must make a Dexterity save or take 3d6 fire damage.
- Cure Wounds: Heal 1d8 + Wisdom modifier HP. Add 1d8 per spell slot above 1.
- Flaming Sphere: Create a 5-foot diameter sphere on the field. Creatures who end their turn within 5 feet of the sphere receive 2d6 fire damage. Fortunately, the sphere remains on the field, giving me a bonus action to move it. I can even ram it into foes and force them to make the Dexterity save.
- Scorching Ray: Generate 3 heat rays to attack 1 or multiple targets. Each target receives 2d6 fire damage.
- Plant Growth: Cover a 100-foot radius in difficult terrain, causing each 1 foot of space to cost 4 feet of movement to get through. I can also enhance a half mile radius if I cast this spell for 8 hours, doubling food production.
Along with these spells, I’ll gain my Wildfire Spirit companion—an elemental fire beast with the ability to fly and hover (if I choose). The form of this spirit can be whatever I choose, as long as it is Small. My Wildfire Spirit can make a ranged Flame Seed attack and teleport allies away from danger, leaving flames to burn surrounding enemies.
Circle of Spores
A tortle druid Circle of Spores uses the Wild Shape feature to fuse with a fungal spore cloud. This spore cloud is at the center of my abilities, creating a necrotic area that damages enemies around me and creates other zombie effects. That’s right, this druid is dipping into necromancy. Therefore, I’ll be able to add extra necrotic damage with weapon strikes, deal necrotic damage with my spore cloud and even raise zombies.
Once again, I’ll gain access to a special list of spells. The first several are:
- Chill Touch: Create a ghostly, skeletal hand to reach out and grasp an enemy for 1d8 necrotic damage. The creature can’t regain HP until the start of my next turn.
- Blindness/Deafness: On a failed Constitution saving throw, target becomes blind or deaf.
- Gentle Repose: I can protect bodies from decomposing or becoming undead. Effectively, this means I can save the bodies for myself 10 days later.
- Animate Dead: Raise a corpse as a zombie or skeleton and command it with a bonus action. The spell lasts for 24 hours. Then, I’ll have to cast it again to regain control.
Plus, my spore cloud grants me necrotic abilities like Halo of Spores, Symbiotic Entity and Fungal Infestation.
Halo of Spores deals 1d4 necrotic damage to enemies who begin their turn within 10 feet of me when they fail a Constitution saving throw.
Symbiotic Entity uses my Wild Shape to fuse the spore cloud into me, enhancing my melee attacks with 1d6 necrotic damage. Plus, my Halo of Spores deals double the damage in this form.
Fungal Infestation uses my spore cloud to animate creatures who die within 10 feet of me, raising a zombie with 1 HP.
For my complete Druid Circle of Spores article, Click Here.
Cleric: Nature Domain, Tempest Domain
Tortle clerics combine their Strength and Wisdom affinities for yet another wise warrior character. Because tortles are inherently lawful good, the class fits thematically well—especially with Nature or Tempest Domains.
I’ll build the initial cleric with a shield/mace combination. This time, I’ll be able to wield a martial shield, giving me a +2 to AC. I’ll still likely use my Natural Armor, so this should place me at a solid 19 AC to start. Plus, I’ll flex my Strength score with a mace (1d6 + STR bludgeoning) in the other hand. As for my basic cleric spells, I’ll lean into the healing/divine aspects of the class. My Domain spells will give me plenty of elemental choices.
My basic Channel Divinity ability will be useful against the undead, granting me bonus abilities depending on my domain.
The Nature Domain connects me with a deity of nature or nature itself, granting this cleric druid-like features, elemental abilities and a special list of nature-based spells.
First, I’ll gain a bonus proficiency in Animal Handling, Nature or Survival. Because I’ll already have Survival as a proficient skill, I’ll choose Animal Handling to leverage my Wisdom score. I’ll also gain proficiency with heavy armor, though I won’t need it.
My special Channel Divinity ability is Charm Animals and Plants. Whenever I use my Channel Divinity, every plant and animal creature within a 30-foot radius must make a Wisdom saving throw or become charmed. This charm lasts for 1 minute, making the creature friendly toward my entire party.
Dampen Elements (level 6) gives me the ability to grant my friends resistance to cold, fire, lightning and thunder damage. My allies will need to be within 30 feet for me to use this reaction, but it makes for a fantastic tank ability.
Divine Strike (level 8) gives me a bonus 1d8 cold, fire or lightning damage to melee strikes. I can cause this extra damage once per turn. Plus, the damage increases to 2d8 when I reach level 14.
Finally, Master of Nature grants me the ability to command charmed plants and animals.
Nature Domain Spells
Along with the Nature Domain cleric abilities, I’ll gain a list of unique spells to learn as I level up. The first several are:
- Animal Friendship: On a failed wisdom save, an animal I can see is charmed. A beast with an Intelligence of 4 or higher is unaffected.
- Speak with Animals: I can communicate magically with animals.
- Barkskin: When I touch a willing creature, its base AC can’t be below 16. It’s not so much for me as those I’m protecting.
- Spike Growth: 20-foot radius of thorny spikes makes the ground difficult terrain. Creatures who move through this area take 2d4 piercing damage for every 5 feet moved. I could surround myself and allies if we get swarmed by minions.
- Plant Growth: Create a 100-foot radius area of verdant plant growth, causing every 1 foot of movement to cost 4 feet. If this spell is maintained over 8 hours, I’ll enrich the land around me, causing food production from crops to double. This could come in handy before a big adventure, stocking my party with rations beforehand.
On the other hand, I could tap into a seafaring turtle trope and become an acolyte of storm entities and the planet’s weather systems.
First, I’ll gain a bonus proficiency with martial weapons and armor, expanding my available weapon choices. I’m looking at using a battleaxe (1d8 + STR slashing) to enhance my damage output. Plus, I’ll gain Wrath of the Storm off the bat, giving me the ability to hit those who damage me with 2d8 lightning damage. The opponent must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw to take 1d8 lightning damage instead. I can use this ability an amount of times equal to my Wisdom modifier.
My Channel Divinity ability is enhanced with Destructive Wrath, which causes all lightning and thunder damage I deal to max out with Channel Divinity. This means the 2d8 damage from Wrath of the Storm deals 16 damage instead of rolling when I use Channel Divinity.
Thunderbolt Strike pushes Large and smaller creatures back 10 feet whenever I deal lightning damage to it.
Divine Strike grants me an additional 1d8 thunder damage to melee weapon strikes. I can use this ability once on each of my turns.
Finally, Stormborn (level 17) grants me the ability to fly my walking speed. Go ahead, laugh at the flying turtle. When he or she lands, they’re bringing the thunder with them.
My first few spells from the Tempest Spell list include:
- Fog Cloud (level 1): Produce a 20-foot diameter cloud of fog that hinders sight of foes.
- Thunderwave (level 1): Creatures within a 15-foot cube must make a Constitution saving throw or take 2d8 thunder damage and be pushed 10 feet. Successful saves reduce the damage to 1d8 and the target remains in place.
- Gust of Wind (level 3): A line of strong wind 60 feet long and 10 feet wide pushes creatures who fail a Strength saving throw 15 feet back. Creatures in the path of the wind must spend 2 feet of speed for every 1 foot of movement.
- Shatter (level 3): a 10-foot area of my choice deals 3d8 thunder damage when creatures in range fail a Constitution saving throw.
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Pulling from Japanese mythology, I though a kappa-style Samurai class could be a fun build. This fighter class will put my high Strength score to good use, while my appearance adds thematic flavor. Plus, my Natural Armor and even my Claw attack can come in handy with this fighter.
Naturally, my basic fighter build will utilize a katana (1d8 slashing), using the versatile property (1d10 +STR). This means I’ll forgo the shield for more damage output—I’m already fairly tough, so it works.
Basic fighter class fundamentals in include a Fighting Style, Action Surge, Second Wind, Extra Attack and Indominable, making this tortle build a straight-forward warrior. I’ll choose Interception Fighting Style from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything to reduce damage against allies who are within reach (1d10). Then, Second Wind grants me a pool of HP to draw from, healing me once a day for 1d10 + fighter level.
On the action side of things, Action Surge allows me to take 1 extra action a day, giving me the opportunity to finish an opponent or flee in a hot situation. Extra Attack (level 5) gives me a second attack action when I take my first. Finally, Indominable (level 9) gives me an option to reroll a saving throw.
Samurai Martial Archetype
At level 3, I’ll gain my major Samurai features, including Bonus Proficiency, Fighting Spirit and Elegant Courtier.
My Bonus Proficiency will give me proficiency in History, Insight, Performance or Persuasion. Or I could decide to learn a language of my choice.
Fighting Spirit is the samurai’s main combat feature, giving me advantage on melee attacks 3 times a day. When I use this feature, I also gain 5 temporary HP.
Elegant Courtier offers my Wisdom modifier to add to Charisma (Persuasion) checks. Plus, I gain advantage on Wisdom saving throws. Those who already have this advantage instead gain advantage in Intelligence or Charisma saving throws.
Guide to Building a Samurai Fighter: Dungeons and Dragons 5e