Dungeons & Dragons: Which race should I choose?
Greetings gamers! Karthas here, and today I’m back with another guide for all you new players out there: which race should you choose. Dungeons & Dragons has many different races to choose from and once you start digging into some of the expanded content, you may get overwhelmed! But don’t worry, I am going to keep it simple, today we are just going to look at the races in the Player’s Handbook.
I will make some suggestions of good classes or builds that each race might have, but the reality is you can pick any race you want to. If you want to be a Half-Orc Rogue, do it! If you want to be a Halfling Barbarian, go for it! There is no best race, all that matters is that you have fun while you play! The suggestions I make are based purely on the ability score increases and other features each race may get. And if you are looking for some pre-made D&D characters, be sure to subscribe to our site to gain access to our Dropbox folder where we are always adding more characters!
Before we get started
As I go over each race I will mention a few words you may not be familiar with, below you will find a small guide to what these words mean in game.
I created a detailed guide for abilities here, but below is a quick summary
Strength: Pretty self explanatory, but in-game it plays into how much damage you do with melee weapons, how much you can carry, how athletic you are, and how easily you are to push around.
Dexterity: How quick you are and how good your reaction time is. In-game this plays into damage you do with ranged weapons (bows) and even certain melee weapons (rapier, dagger, etc), how sneaky you can be, and how acrobatic you are.
Constitution: This primarily deals with how much health, or hit points. To put it simply, the higher the constitution, the harder you are to kill.
Intelligence: This mostly has to do with certain skills. Intelligence is different than wisdom in that Intelligence is typically book knowledge, how many facts you know. So it plays into skills like: history, magic, religion, and even how well you understand nature. Additionally Intelligence plays into the damage that spells do for certain classes.
Wisdom: This has to do with skills as well, but is different from intelligence in that it has to do with “worldly knowledge”. So for example, how well you can read people, you’re understanding of medicine, and how well you can read a situation. For some classes Wisdom plays into the damage their spells deal.
Charisma: This has to do with how well you can do in social situations or the strength of your “inner-self”. Mainly plays into skills like how well you can lie, how well you can intimidate people, how well you can persuade people, or perform in front of people. For some classes charisma plays into the damage their spells deal.
Darkvision: Able to see in the dim light up to 60ft (Dark Elves can see 120ft).
Skill: These are areas of expertise for your character such as historical knowledge, knowledge of medicine, feats of strength, affinity for animals, etc.
Critical Hit: Rolling a 20 on the D20. This is great for you!
Proficiency: This represents the familiarity you have in a particular area (weapons, armor, skills, etc) that you add to your rolls. At level 1 it is +2.
Advantage: This means you roll the D20 twice and take the higher result.
Saving Throw: This is typically done to resist something. You roll a D20 for the result.
Cantrip: A spell that can be cast as many times as you’d like.
Resistance: Take half damage.
Feat: An area of expertise. These are little upgrades you can get and they are very strong.
Stubborn yet hardy, a Dwarf is one of the most loyal companions you can have. Thematically Dwarves are skilled warriors, miners, and workers of stone and metal. Though they are a bit shorter than the other races, their courage and endurance makes them a valuable asset to any party. They can live to be more than 400 years old and typically belong to a clan within Dwarven society.
In-game Dwarves make great warriors. All Dwarves get an increase to Constitution and know how to use certain weapons like a battleaxe or warhammer. They also have Darkvision, advantage on saving throws against poison, and resistance against poison damage. Finally they gain proficiency in a set of artisan’s tools (smith’s tools, brewers supplies, mason’s tools), and can add double their proficiency bonus on history checks regarding the origin of stonework.
Dwarves have 2 main subraces to choose from Hill Dwarf and Mountain Dwarf. Hill Dwarves are known for having keen senses, deep intuition, and remarkable resilience. They get an increase to Wisdom and they gain 1 extra hit point each time they level up.
Mountain Dwarves are strong and sturdy. They get an increase to their Strength and can wear light or medium armor regardless of class.
Good classes for a Dwarf: Barbarian, Cleric (Hill), Druid (Hill), Fighter (Mountain), Paladin, & Ranger.
Slender & graceful, Elves are a mystical race. Thematically Elves are lovers of the arts but also fierce warriors. Typically they can be found in one of their woodland kingdoms but many Elves venture out into the world. They are about the same size as humans with more angular features, but live much longer than humans (750 years).
In-game Elves are good at a wide array of roles. All Elves get an increase to their Dexterity, have Darkvision, gain proficiency in the perception skill, and have advantage on saving throws against being charmed and can’t be put to sleep by magic. Unlike many of the others races, Elves do not need to sleep. They enter a trance instead remaining semiconscious during it, making for excellent watchmen.
Elves have 3 different subraces to choose from: High Elf, Wood Elf, & Dark Elf. High Elves have a keen mind and a mastery of the basics of magic. They get increase to their Intelligence as well as 1 free cantrip. They gain proficiency with the longsword, shortsword, shortbow, & longbow.
Wood Elves have keen senses and intuition. They get an increase to their Wisdom score, & gain proficiency with the longsword, shortsword, shortbow & longbow. Additionally they get an increase to their base walking speed and can attempt to hide when lightly obscured.
Dark Elves are mysterious yet deadly. They get an increase to their Charisma score and get Superior Darkvision allowing them to see twice as far as other races. They get access to some spells, have proficiency with the rapier, shortswords and hand crossbow. But because Dark Elves are use to living dark areas, they get some penalties when they stand in direct sunlight.
Good classes for an Elf: Bard (Dark Elf), Cleric (Wood Elf), Druid (Wood Elf), Fighter, Monk (Wood Elf), Ranger (Wood Elf), Wizard (High Elf)
Kind & curious. Halflings are a practical race, seeking only to find a quiet place to settle and live their lives. Although some set out on adventures to see the world around them. Thematically Halflings are a cheerful people making friends with those they come across. They value community & friendship. Very rarely will you find one who isn’t excited to make new friends. Halflings can live to be around 250 years old & typically stand at 3ft tall and weigh about 40 pounds.
In-game Halflings make excellent thieves due to their small stature. All Halflings get an increase to their Dexterity and are able to move around the battlefield easily, taking advantage of their size. Additionally Halflings have exceptional luck, allowing them to re-roll a 1 on certain checks or abilities.
Halflings have 2 main subraces to choose from: Lightfoot & Stout. Lightfoot Halflings are more prone to wanderlust than Stout Halflings, giving them an increase to their Charisma score. They are also better at hiding, being able to hide behind bigger creatures.
Stout Halflings are hardier and more resilient. They get an increase to their Constitution score, have advantage on saving throws against poison, and are resistant to poison damage.
Good classes for a Halfling: Barbarian (Stout), Bard (Lightfoot), Fighter, Monk, Paladin (Lightfoot), Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer (Lightfoot), Warlock (Lightfoot)
Adaptable & ambitious. Humans, though short lived, create legacies that last for ages. Thematically Humans are a young race in a world of elder races. It may be due to their shorter lifespans that humans strive to create a name for themselves, as if they have something to prove to the other races. Their daring ambition may come across as being brash to an Elf or Dwarf, but their success is a testament to their drive. Humans rarely reach age 100 and stand between 5-6ft tall.
In-game Humans are the most versatile race. They can literally be good at anything. When it comes to human traits there are 2 options, we will call them the variant & non-variant options. The non-variant option increases every ability score by 1. The variant option increases 2 ability scores by 1 and allows you to choose a feat.
Good Classes for a Human: Honestly…any class. Since you either get an increase to all stats or, if you are using the Human variant, get to choose which stats to increase and get a feat.
Self-Sufficient and skillful. Dragonborn seek excellence in all that they do. Though they look like dragons, a Dragonborn can be as honorable as any Dwarf. Thematically Dragonborn live for their clan, without their clan they may struggle to find purpose. They are larger than humans weighing about 300 pounds and standing at 6 1/2 feet tall. Their scales typically reflect their heritage, which may be a good thing or bad thing. Typically Dragonborn seek mastery of some skill, finding companionship with those who strive for the same goal.
In-game Dragonborn make great melee characters as they get an increase to their Strength & their Charisma. Additionally they get an ability called Breath Weapon which lets them attack enemies with either acid, cold, fire, lightning, or poison damage. This damage is dependent upon which type of dragon they are descended from. This also gives them resistance to that type of damage due to their draconic ancestry.
Good classes for a Dragonborn: Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Fighter, Paladin, Sorcerer, Warlock
Energetic and vibrant. Gnomes squeeze every moment out of life. They always find something of interest no matter the task. Thematically Gnomes love to understand and explore the world around them. At times they may struggle to get all of the thoughts in their head out of their mouth. Their curiosity typically leads them to become engineers, alchemists, tinkers or inventors. They are willing to make mistakes and even take bold risks in the name of dreaming large. Gnomes can live to be between 350-500 years old, stand between 3-4ft tall, and usually weigh about 40 pounds.
In-game Gnomes do well with magic. All Gnomes get an increase to intelligence, have a base walking speed of 25 feet, Darkvision, and have advantage on all Wisdom, Charisma, and Intelligence saving throws against magic.
Gnomes have 2 subraces to choose from: Forest Gnome & Rock Gnome. Forest Gnomes have a knack for illusion magic and are inherently quick and stealthy. They get an increase to their Dexterity ability score, know the minor illusion cantrip, and are able to communicate with small creatures.
Rock Gnomes have a natural inventiveness & hardiness. They get an increase to their Constitution ability score, get to add double their proficiency when they make a history check on magical items, alchemical objects, or technological devices. Finally they can spend an hour and some gold crafting a small device such as a clockwork toy, fire starter, or music box.
Good classes for a Gnomes: Barbarian, Fighter, Ranger (Forest), Rogue, Wizard
Diplomats & wanderers. Half-Elves are stuck between two worlds. Some say they combine the best qualities of Humans & Elves. The curiosity, inventiveness, and ambition of humans, tempered by the refined sense of a love of nature and the arts from Elves. Thematically Half-Elves are diplomats and wanderers. They don’t truly belong to either race, thus they are use to being the outsider. This typically leads Half-Elves across the land until they find a place they can fit in. Half-Elves typically live to be around 180 years old, and are about the same size as Humans.
In-game Half-Elves can fill many roles. Their human ancestry gives them some versatility while their Elven heritage grants them some affinity toward magic. Half-Elves get an increase to their Charisma score and 2 other ability scores. They have Darkvision, advantage on saving throws against being charmed and magic that would put them to sleep. Finally they gain proficiency in 2 skills of their choice.
Good classes for a Half-Elf: Most classes due to freedom in choosing ability score increases, but Bard, Paladin, Sorcerer, Warlock
Scarred & Strong, Half-Orcs are similar to Half-Elves in that they don’t truly belong anywhere. Thematically Half-Orcs are either fighting their Orcish desires or giving in to them. They feel emotion powerfully, laughing heartily & feeling the shame of defeat strongly. Some live among their Orcish brethren living in their clans, while others may seek to make a name for themselves among the more civilized races. Half-Orcs rarely live longer than 75 years, usually weigh about 250-300 pounds, & are between 6-7ft tall.
In-game Half-Orcs make great melee fighters, getting an increase to their Strength & Constitution. They also have Darkvision and gain proficiency in the Intimidation skill. They are able to keep standing after taking a hit that would drop them below 1 hit-point & deal extra damage when they score a critical hit.
Good classes for Half-Orcs: Barbarian, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, & Paladin.
Self-reliant and suspicious. Tieflings are the result of a pact long ago that infused their human ancestors with the essence of the overlord of the Nine Hells, Asmodeus. And while they may have the physical characteristics of a devil, they are still mostly human. Thematically Tieflings are outcasts. They are looked upon by some with distrust while others outright despise them. Their horns and tails remind many of the horrors and atrocities committed by creatures of the Nine Hells. Because of this, Tieflings often grow up on the fringe of society, becoming common thieves or swindlers. Tieflings live a little longer than Humans, and are about the same size as Humans.
In-game Tieflings can do well in many different roles. They get an increase to their intelligence & their Charisma. Their infernal blood gives them an innate connection with magic and a resistance to fire. They have Darkvision and learn a few spells as they level up.
Good classes for a Tiefling: Bard, Paladin, Rogue, Sorcerer, Warlock, & Wizard
So that wraps up my guide on the core races from the Player’s Handbook. If you did not find a race that interested you, you can check out the Elemental Evil PDF which is free, or pick up Volo’s Guide to Monsters for more playable races. Please let me know your thoughts below in the comments! And be sure to subscribe to our site to stay up to date on all the latest!