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Dungeons & Dragons Races List and Guide

The world of Dungeons & Dragons is filled with interesting and fantastical creatures. From standard high fantasy to nasty grimdark characters, there’s an open world ready to be explored. Today, we’re looking at some of the playable character races in Dungeons & Dragons for Fifth Edition (5e).

The 5th Edition Player’s handbook has 9 standard races that you can choose from. We are talking about Dungeons & Dragons, though, so you’re really only limited by your imagination. There’s a limitless number of different races, both official and homebrewed. 

That’s partially what makes the world of D&D so interesting but for this guide, we’re just looking at the 9 standard character races. 

So get ready, we’re guiding you through the world of character races in Dungeons & Dragons. 

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D&D Character Races

D&D Races List Dungeons & Dragons Guide Featured Image

GET THE D&D 5E PLAYER’S HANDBOOK: BUY ON AMAZON | BUY AT WALMART

D&D Player’s Handbook
  • The essential rulebook for Dungeons & Dragons (5th edition)
  • Contains all the rules you need to know to play D&D
  • Step-by-step guide to creating and leveling up characters

Dragonborn

Dragonborn, as the name implies, are creatures born from dragons. They’re humanoid-looking and walk on two legs but lack a tail and wings. 

The first Dragonborn were hatched from dragon eggs and took on the color of the chromatic dragons that spawned them. They’ve since lost the chromatic coloring in their scales and most Dragonborn scales are brass or bronze colored. 

D&D 5e Dragonborn Race
Dragonborn Race

Ages: Dragonborn reach adolescence around 3 years old and are considered fully matured adults at 15 years.
Size: Dragonborn are medium-sized creatures that are larger than your average human at around 6ft with an average weight of about 250lbs.
Speed: Base speed is 30ft.
Languages: Common & Draconic

Special Abilities:

Due to their dragon ancestry, every Dragonborn has a Breath Weapon associated with their chromatic dragon ancestor. Which type you want can be chosen upon character creation. It originally does 2d6 damage and increases as the character levels up. The AoE (area of effect) and the type of damage are dependent upon which type of dragon is chosen. It can be used once per rest period (long or short.)

Ability Score Modifiers:

Strength +2
Charisma +1

Dragonborn are actually a really good all-around race to choose. The increased strength can make them excellent melee fighters and the charisma boost makes them decent casters.

The only real disadvantage of playing as a Dragonborn is the potential “outsider” narrative that’s developed within the story. They’re not incredibly common and they carry a bit of a stigma in the D&D world. That’s also entirely dependent upon your DM, though. 

Dwarf

Dwarves follow the typical fantasy stereotypes. They’re a short, stout race that is known for their blacksmithing and crafting skills. They live in massive underground cities in hollowed-out mountains and are known for valuing their clan and honor above all else. 

D&D 5e Dwarf Race
Dwarf Race

Ages: Dwarves reach adulthood at around 50 years old, but can live well past 400 years.
Size: Dwarves are medium-sized creatures with an average size of around 4ft and weighing around 150lbs.
Speed: Base speed is 25 ft.
Languages: Common & Dwarvish

Special Abilities:

Dwarves have impressive dark vision due to their familiarity with living underground. They’re also known as a hearty race so they have advantage on poison saving throws. 

Because Dwarves live in a martial society, they also grow up knowing how to handle an ax. So a Level 1 Dwarf will automatically start with proficiency with the battle ax, hand ax, war hammer, and throwing ax.

Finally, they know about stone. Seriously. 

They have an advantage on knowledge checks involving stones or being underground. You pick up a few things when you live under a mountain for so long. 

Sub-Races: Dwarves have 2 different subraces that give different unique bonuses, Hill and Mountain.

  • Hill Dwarves: In addition to all the other Dwarf perks, Hill Dwarves gain +1 to wisdom and gain +1 max hitpoints at every level. They’re the more rural of the Dwarves and it’s reflected in the stats. 
  • Mountain Dwarves: The Mountain Dwarves are the more intense cousins to the Hill Dwarves. Their society is a bit more martial and they get a +2 strength bonus, and start with light and medium armor proficiency. 

Ability Score Modifiers:

Constitution + 2

Dwarves are an all-around great choice. Their hearty nature makes them great tanks for soaking up and dishing out physical damage. Their increased constitution scores let them soak up more damage than most of the other races and allows them to stay in the fight longer. The initial weapon and armor proficiencies also help quite a bit in making a tank or a fighter class. 

As far as roleplaying goes, it’s always interesting playing a dwarf. The age difference is interesting to play with considering a Dwarf going through a mid-life crisis will still have a century of experience over their other party members. 

Elf

Elves also fall along the classic fantasy lines. Elves are beautiful, graceful, and powerful creatures. They seem almost otherworldly and ethereal. 

D&D 5e Elf Race
Elf Race

Ages: Elves have a long life, reach adulthood at age 100, and they can live to be over 700 years old.
Size: Elves are medium-sized creatures that have a similar build to humans. They average 5-6 ft and 100-145 lbs.
Speed: Base speed is 30ft.
Languages: Common & Elvish

Special Abilities:

Because of their magical bloodlines, elves have a few advantages. First, all Elves have a degree of dark vision at 60ft. Their fey bloodlines also give them immunity to any kind of magic that puts them to sleep — and Elves don’t ever really sleep. They go into a meditative trance to recharge when they’re resting. 

Sub-Races: Elves have three different sub-races that give them different abilities. 

  • High Elves: High Elves are the more prestigious of the three subraces. They are more intelligent with a +1 Intelligence modifier and have an innate sense of magic. They start with a wizard cantrip and a choice of 1 additional language. 

They’re also adept with elven weapons; longsword, shortsword, longbow, and short bow.

  • Wood Elves: Think Legolas when you think of Wood Elves. They are more attuned to nature than their counterparts. They have a +1 wisdom modifier, and the same Elven weapon proficiency as the High Elves. 

They also can attempt to hide in plain sight if they are surrounded by natural features like rain or mist. Finally, they’re faster than other elves and have a base speed of 35ft. 

  • Drow: Drow or Dark Elves are the final sub-race of Elves. They typically live in the Underdark or underground and have dark skin. 

Because of this, their dark vision is even better than most elves. They have 120ft of dark vision, but that comes at a price. Because they’re so adept at seeing in the dark, direct sunlight causes them problems. They have disadvantage to attack and perception rolls in direct sunlight. 

They are still rather alluring as far as Elves go with a +1 Charisma modifier and they have some innate mage skills. 

Ability Score Modifiers:

Dexterity +2

Elves are an all-around excellent race. Their high dexterity makes them graceful but deadly melee fighters. Their modifiers to intelligence or charisma combined with their innate magic abilities make them formidable spellcasters. 

Gnome

Gnomes are bright and intelligent creatures that enjoy life. They live in communal burrows and are known throughout the D&D world as tinkerers and artificers. 

D&D 5e Gnome Race
Gnome Race

Age: Gnomes mature slower than humans with full adulthood around 40 years old, and a much longer life expectancy of 350-500 years.
Size: Gnomes stand at about 3ft and adults average 40-45 lbs as small creatures.
Speed: Their base speed is 25ft.
Languages: Common & Gnomish

Special Abilities:

Gnomes are cunning and intelligent creatures and have an advantage in all Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma saving roles against magic. In addition due to their familiarity with living underground, they start with dark vision.

Sub-Races: Gnomes have 2 subraces to choose from. 

  • Rock Gnomes: Rock Gnomes have a  +1 Constitution bonus.
  • Forest Gnomes: Forest Gnomes have a +1 Dexterity bonus. 

Ability Score Modifiers:

Intelligence +2

Gnomes are a great class especially if you’re going for something a little bit different. Their high intelligence modifier lends itself to spellcasting, and their Gnome cunning allows them a fair advantage against spells. 

If you don’t want to go the spell route, they also have the dexterity or constitution bonus, which is helpful for any class. If you’re looking to add a bit of quirkiness and intelligence to your roleplaying, Gnomes are a fun way to add something a little extra to your game. 

Half-Elf

Half-Elves are the odd ones out in the D&D world. They’re not quite as graceful or magical as the Elves, but they’re also not quite as well-rounded as the Humans.

They’re stuck in between where they don’t truly fit in either society, but have a few traits from each. 

D&D 5e Half-Elf Race
Half-Elf Race

Age: Half-Elves mature and age at the same rate as Humans but have the advantage of a longer lifespan. The average Half-Elf lives to be about 180 years old.
Size: Half-Elves are considered medium-sized creatures with the same size variation as Humans. 
Speed: The base speed for Half-Elves is 30ft.
Languages: Half-Elves start knowing Common, Elvish, and 1 other language of their choice. 

Special Abilities:

Half-Elves retain some of the magical properties inherited from their Elven side. They cannot be put to sleep with magic and start out with dark vision. 

Ability Score Modifiers:

Charisma +2
+2 of the player’s choosing

Half-Elves offer the best of both worlds. They have a bit of the versatility of Humans as well as some of the magical properties of Elves. If you’re unsure of what you want to be, this is also a good starting race to choose. 

For roleplaying purposes, they tend to be diplomats or ambassadors because they can freely move between the two different worlds of humans and elves. 

Halfling

Halflings are probably my favorite class in D&D. The little people are great characters and super fun to roleplay. 

D&D 5e Halfling Race
Halfling Race

Age: Halflings are considered adults at 20 years old and can live up to 200.
Size: Halflings, as you can imagine, are considered small creatures with an average height of 3 ft and an average weight of 40-45 lbs.
Speed: Their average speed is 25 ft.
Languages: Halflings know Common & Halfling

Special Abilities:

Although small Halflings are a brave race. They have advantage roles on all check for being frightened. They can utilize their small stature to their advantage and can move through spaces occupied by larger creatures. 

Sub Races: There are two Halfling subraces to pick from. 

  • Lightfoot Halflings: Lightfoot Halflings are the more personable bunch with a +1 charisma bonus and they have the ability to hide when near other creatures. 
  • Stout Halflings: Stout Halflings are the hardier of the two with a +1 constitution bonus, and it’s thought that they are cousins to the dwarves due to their hardy nature and ability to resist poisons naturally. 

Ability Score Modifiers:

Dexterity +2

Halflings are great. They’re just a fun class to play and combined with their size and dex bonus, they can make some decent melee fighters. After all, you can’t hit what you can’t find. 

Half-Orc

Half-Orcs are a half Human and half Orc hybrid. The 5e Player’s Handbook suggests that this usually only comes about after a marriage alliance is forged between an Orc tribe and Humans. The other connotations aren’t as pretty. 

D&D 5e Half-Orc Race
Half-Orc Race

Ages: Half-Orcs mature faster than humans and are considered adults at 14 years old with a max life expectancy of around 75 years.
Size: They are much larger than their Human counterparts, averaging 6-7 ft with an average weight of 180-250 lbs. However, they are still considered medium-sized creatures.
Speed: Half-Orcs have a base speed of 30ft.
Languages: Common & Orc

Special Abilities:

Orcs can be a ferocious opponent. They have a natural ability to see in the dark. They’re inherently intimidating and have an advantage on all intimidation rolls. If they get knocked down to zero health, there’s always a chance they’ll get right back up in a final surge of endurance. And when they critical hit, they do more damage than any other race. 

Ability Score Modifiers:

Strength +2
Constitution +1

It’s hard to beat Half-Orcs when it comes to pure strength. They’re one of the only races to get such a huge strength bonus combined with a Constitution bonus. Add that with their relentless endurance and savage attack, and you’re looking at an excellent melee fighter. 

They work well with any of the martial classes and can dish out some serious melee damage with their savage attack ability. They’re also much harder to kill with the Relentless Endurance. They make great front-line characters for players who want to be in the thick of combat, whether you’re looking to play a mercenary, berzerker, or professional soldier. 

Human

If you have no idea what race you feel like playing, Human is a solid choice. They’re the most common race that you’ll encounter.

They don’t have any particular weaknesses, but they also don’t have any great strengths. 

D&D 5e Human Race

Ages: Average Human lifespan.
Size: Can vary just like real Humans but still count as medium-sized creatures.
Speed: Humans have a base speed of 30ft.
Languages: Humans know Common and +1 language of their choice. 

Special Abilities: none

Ability Score Modifiers:

All +1

If you’re really unsure of what race to pick, it’s really not a bad idea to go Human. They’re the most common race you’ll find and are the definition of all-rounders.

They’re the vanilla ice cream of the D&D world. Vanilla is pretty boring by itself, but you can also add almost anything to vanilla and it’ll work great. The same can be said for Humans. They can be magical, sneaky, punchy, or a weird combination of all 3. Their ability modifiers let the player choose exactly the role they want their character to be. 

The Player’s Handbook does a pretty good job of summing up Humans, “The best and the worst are found among them.” 

Tiefling

In an ancient deal with the literal devil, the race of Tieflings was infused with infernal blood. This manifests physically in their genetic makeup, giving them a demonic-looking appearance with odd colorings, glowing eyes, and horns. 

Whether they are actually good or evil is irrelevant and therefore, Tieflings are treated with suspicion almost everywhere they go. 

D&D 5e Tiefling Race

Ages: Tieflings have the same maturity rate as Humans but tend to live longer.
Size: Tieflings have the same size variation as humans and are considered medium-sized creatures. 
Speed: Tieflings have a base speed of 30ft.
Languages: Common & Infernal

Special Abilities:

Due to their infernal nature, Tieflings are naturally resistant to fire and can use dark vision. They also make excellent magic users, as they have an innate magical ability and learn some infernal-themed cantrips. 

Ability Score Modifiers:

Intelligence +1
Charisma +2

Tieflings are the cool race on the block. Think the Fonz from “Happy Days” with slicked-back burning hair that can kickstart a golem with a swift hit. At least that’s how they were first introduced to us in 4.0. 

Tieflings have fleshed out their characters and have become more widely spread in the D&D world. They’re still met with suspicion and disdain, but they do make for some excellent spellcasters, especially warlocks. 

GET THE D&D 5E PLAYER’S HANDBOOK: BUY ON AMAZON | BUY AT WALMART

D&D Player’s Handbook
  • The essential rulebook for Dungeons & Dragons (5th edition)
  • Contains all the rules you need to know to play D&D
  • Step-by-step guide to creating and leveling up characters

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