Races & Classes
Every player in Dungeons & Dragons chooses a race and a class.
Each race has racial traits that distinguish it from the other races. For example, a human is Medium sized, but a gnome is considered Small.
A character's class is the primary definition of what that character can do. It gives a variety of special features, such as a fighter's mastery of weapons and armor, and a wizard's spells. It's more than a profession; it's a character's calling.
Below is a short summary of the core races and class options available in Dungeons & Dragons. For more information, check out any of the official Wizard's of the Coast Dungeons & Dragons resources, many of which can be found online.
There are supplemental resources, both official Wizard's of the Coast and homebrew (fan made) creations, that provide additional options.
If you are interested in playing a character option that is not listed here, it must first be approved by the DM.
Humans are the most common people in the worlds of D&D, but they live and work alongside dwarves, elves, halflings, and countless other fantastic species.
Your choice of race affects many different aspects of your character, such as your ability scores and traits, and roleplaying cues for building your character's story. Of course, adventurers can deviate widely from the typical culture or expectations of their race.
Don't worry about whether your race and class combination is "optimized" from a numbers stand point -- if it sounds fun, then go for it.
Some races have subraces. For example, as a dwarf you can choose to be a hill dwarf or a mountain dwarf.
"Yer late, elf!" came the rough edge of a familiar voice. Bruenor Battlehammer walked up the back of his dead foe, disregarding the fact that the heavy monster lay on top of his elven friend. In spite of the added discomfort, the dwarf's long, pointed, often-broken nose and gray-streaked though still-fiery red beard came as a welcome sight to Drizzt. "Knew I'd find ye in trouble if I came out an' looked for ye!" ~ R.A Salvatore, The Crystal Shard
Dwarves are tough, bold, and known for their skill as warriors, miners, and workers of stone and metal. Their determination and loyalty can sometimes reach the point of stubbornness. Typically, they have strong sense of justice, and so are slow to forgive or forget wrongs done to them or their loved ones.
Dwarves gain a bonus to Constitution, are Medium sized, have Darkvision, a resilience against poisons, proficiency in axes, hammers, and some tools, and have a knack for understanding stonework.
There are two subraces of dwarves. The hill dwarf gains an additional bonus to Wisdom and hit points. The mountain dwarf gains an additional bonus to Strength and armor training.
"I have never imagined such beauty existed," Goldmoon said softly. The day's march had been difficult, but the reward at the end was beyond their dreams. The companions stood on a high cliff over the fabled city of Qualinost.
Four slender spires rose from the city's corners like glistening spindles, their brilliant white stone marbled with shining silver. Graceful arches, swooping from spire to spire, soared through the air. Crafted by ancient dwarven metalsmiths, they were strong enough to hold the weight of an army, yet they appeared so delicate that a bird lighting on them might overthrow the balance. These glistening arches were the city's only boundaries; there was no wall around Qualinost. The elven city opened its arms lovingly to the wilderness." ~Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman, Dragons of Autumn Twilight
Elves have an inherent grace and beauty that can be traced back to their Fey heritage. They love nature and magic, art and artistry, and music and poetry. They are one of the longer lived of the common races, and as such, tend to remain aloof and unfazed by petty happenstance. However, they can be relentless and very focused when they have a specific goal. They are slow to make friends and enemies, and even slower to forget them.
Elves gain a bonus to Dexterity, are Medium sized, have Darkvision, keen senses, and their Fey ancestry gives them an advantage against being charmed. They also don't need to sleep; instead they go into a deep trance for 4hrs every day to gain the same benefit that a human does from 8hrs of sleep.
There are three subraces of elves. The high elf gains an additional bonus in Intelligence and magic. The wood elf gains an additional bonus to Wisdom, speed, and stealth. The dark elf, or drow, gains an additional bonus to Charisma, superior darkvision, and magic, but is sensitive to sunlight and are rarely seen. Contact the DM for more information if you are interested in playing a drow.
"Regis the halfling, the only one of his kind for hundreds of miles in any direction, locked his fingers behind his head and leaned back against the mossy blanket of the tree trunk. Regis was short, even by the standards of his diminutive race, with the fluff of his curly brown locks barely cresting the three-foot mark, but his belly was amply thickened by his love of a good meal, or several, as the opportunities presented themselves. The crooked stick that served as his fishing pole rose up above him, clenched between two of his toes, and hung out over the quiet lake, mirrored perfectly in the glassy surface of Maer Dualdon." ~ R.A Salvatore, The Crystal Shard
Halflings are an affable, empathetic, cheerful. They desire family, friendship, and the comforts of home. cherish the bonds of family and friendship as well as the comforts of hearth and home, harboring few dreams of gold or glory. Even adventurers among them usually venture into the world for reasons of community, friendship, wanderlust, or curiosity.
They stand about 3 feet tall, and are inclined to be stout. Their skin ranges from tan to pale with a ruddy cast, and their hair is usually brown and wavy with brown or hazel eyes. Halfling men often sport long sideburns, but beards are rare among them and mustaches even more so.
Haflings reach adulthood at the age of 20 and generally live to the middle of their second century. They are a practical people. When faced with a problem, they have a knack for finding the most straightforward solution and have little patience for dithering.
Halflings gain a bonus to Dexterity, are considered Small sized, are lucky, brave, and nimble.
There are two subraces of halflings. The lightfoot halfling gains an additional bonus to Charisma and stealth. The stout halfling gains an additional bonus to Constitution and resilience.
"These were the stories of a restless people who long ago took to the seas and rivers in longboats, first to pillage and terrorize, then to settle. Yet there was an energy, a love of adventure, that sang from every page. Long into the night Liriel read, lighting candle after precious candle. She'd never given much thought to humans, but these stories fascinated her. In these yellowed pages were tales of bold heroes, strange and fierce animals, mighty primitive gods, and a magic that was part and fabric of that distant land." ~ Elaine Cunningham, Daughter of the Drow
In the histories of most worlds, humans are the youngest and shortest lived of the common races. Perhaps their shorter lives cause them to strive to achieve as much as they can in the years they are given, or perhaps they feel they have something to prove to the elder races. Whatever drives them, humans are the innovators, the achievers, and the pioneers of worlds.
Humans display much more physical diversity than other common races. An individual can stand from 5ft to over 6ft tall, and wight from 125 to 250 pounds. Human skin shades range from nearly black to very pale, and hair colors from black to blond in every possible variation. Males might sport facial hair that is sparse or thick.
Humans reach adulthood in their late teens and rarely live even a single century. They are the most adaptable, ambitious, and widespread people among the common races. In the many different lands where they have settled, they have widely varying tastes, morals, and customs.
Humans gain a bonus to all ability scores, and are considered Medium sized. There is a variant option that instead gives humans a bonus to two ability scores, proficiency in a skill, and one feat.
"Her father stood on the first of the three stairs that led down from the portal, unmoving. The scales of his face had grown paler around the edges, but Clanless Mehen still looked as if he could wrestle down a dire bear himself...For all her life, Farideh had known that reading her father's face was a skill she'd been fortunate to learn. A human who couldn't spot the shift of her eyes or Havilar's would certainly see only the indifference of a dragon in Clanless Mehen's face. But the shift of scales, the arch of a ridge, the set of his eyes, the gape of his teeth-her father's face spoke volumes." ~Erin M. Evans, The Adversary
Born of the dragons, as their name proclaims, the dragonborn walk proudly through a world that greets them with fearful incomprehension. None are certain how the dragonborn came into existence, and every clan has a different story. Some say they were made directly by draconic gods, others by the spilled blood of those same gods, and still others believe they were made by the dragons themselves.
Dragonborn look very much like dragons standing erect in humanoid form, though they lack wings and usually lack a tail. They are covered in small, fine scales. These can be of vibrant hues matching the colors of their dragon kin, but often the generations of interbreeding have created a more uniform appearance.
Dragonborn are tall and strongly built, often standing close to 6 1/2 feet tall and weighing 300 pounds or more. Their hands and feet are strong, talonlike claws with three fingers and a thumb on each hand.
Young dragonborn grow quickly. They walk hours after hatching, attain the size and development of a 10-year-old human child by the age of 3, and reach adulthood by 15. They live to be around 80 years old.
To dragonborn, the clan or family is more important than life itself. Individuals have a continual drive for self-improvement and value excellence in all endeavors. Although they strive to be self-sufficient so they might bring honor to their clan, they also recognize that help is sometimes needed.
Dragonborn gain bonuses in Strength and Charisma, are considered Medium sized, and have additional resistances and a breath weapon based on their draconic ancestry.
"Skinny and flaxen-haired, his skin walnut brown and his eyes a startling turquoise, Burgell stood half as tall as Aeron and had to climb up on a stool to look out the peephole. Like most habitations in Oeble, that particular tenement had been built for humans, and small residents coped wit hteh resulting awkwardness as best they could.
But at least the relative largeness of the apartment gave Burgell room to pack in all his gnome-sized gear. The front room was his workshop, and it contained a bewildering miscellany of tools: hammers, chisels, saws, lockpicks, tinted lenses, jeweler's loupes, and jars of powdered and shredded ingredients for casting spells." ~Richard Lee Byers, The Black Bouquet
A constant hum of busy activity pervades the warrens and neighborhoods where gnomes form their close-knit communities. Gnomes take delight in life, enjoying every moment of invention, exploration, investigation, creation, and play.
Gnomes average slightly over 3 feet tall and weigh 40-45 pounds. Their tan or brown faces are usually adorned with broad smiles and their bright eyes shine with excitement. Their fair hair has a tendency to stick out in every direction. Male gnomes can grow beards, and they will often style them in unique ways to suit their personality.
Gnomes mature at the same rate as humans and most are expected to settle down into "adult" life by around 40 years old. They can live 350 to almost 500 years. Unlike the other long lived races, this doesn't temper their enthusiasm or industry. As far as gnomes are concerned, being alive is a wonderful thing, and they squeeze every ounce of enjoyment out of their centuries of life. Although they love jokes of all kinds, they're just as dedicated to the more serious tasks they undertake. Many are skilled engineers, alchemists, tinkers, and inventors. They're willing to make mistakes and laugh at themselves in the process of perfecting what they do, taking bold (sometimes foolhardy) risks and dreaming large.
Gnomes gain a bonus to Intelligence, are considered Small sized, have darkvision, and their cunning gives them advantage against some magic.
There are two subraces of gnomes. The forest gnome gains an additional bonus to Dexterity, knows the minor illusion cantrip, and can speak with small beasts. The rock gnome gains an additional bonus to Constitution, is an expert of history related to magical or technological devices, and is proficient with tinkerer's tools.
"Flint squinted into the setting sun. He thought he saw a figure of a man striding up the path. Standing, Flint drew back into the shadow of a tall pine to see better. The man's walked was marked by an easy grace-an elvish grace, Flint would have said; yet the man's body had the thickness and tight muscles of a human, while the facial hair was definitely humankind's. All the dwarf could see of the man's face beneath a green hood was tan skin and a brownish-red beard. A longbow was slung over one shoulder and a sword hung at his left side. He was dressed in soft leather, carefully tooled in the intricate designs the elves loved. But no elf in the world of Krynn could grow a beard...no elf, but...
'Tanis?" said Flint hesitantly as the man neared.
'The same.' The newcomer's bearded face split in a wide grin. He held open his arms and, before the dwarf could stop him, engulfed Flint in a hug that lifted him off the ground. The dwarf clasped his old friend close for a brief instant, then, remembering his dignity, squirmed and freed himself from the half-elf's embrace." ~Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Dragons of Autumn Twilight
Walking in two worlds but truly belonging to neither, half-elves combine what some say are the best qualities of their elf and human parents: human curiosity, inventiveness, and ambition tempered by the refined senses, love of nature, and artistic tastes of the elves. Some half-elves live among humans, set apart by their differences, watching their loved ones age while time barely touches them. Others live with elves, growing restless as they reach adulthood while their peers continue to live as children. Many choose lives of solitary wandering, or, alternatively, find their place as diplomats between the two societies.
Half-elves are similar in height to both parents, but are neither as slender as elves nor as broad as humans. Half-elf men do have facial hair, and sometimes grow beards to mask their elven ancestry. Their coloration can be anything found in either of their parent's races, but they tend to have the eyes of their elven parent.
Half-elves mature at the same rate as humans, but can live much longer, often exceeding 180 years. They are generally welcome in human cities, but somewhat less welcome in elven communities. Like elves, they are often driven by the wanderlust that comes of their longevity.
Half-elves gain a bonus to Charisma as well as two other abilities, the are considered Medium sized, have darkvision, their fey ancestry gives them advantage on being charmed, and they have proficiency in two skills. Unlike full-blooded elves, they do require sleep, but their heritage prevents them from being put to sleep by magical means.
"The warchief Mhurren roused himself from his sleeping furs and his women and pulled a short hauberk of heavy steel rings over his thick; well-muscled torso. He usually rose before most of his warriors, since he had a strong streak of human blood in him, and he found the daylight less bothersome than most of his tribe did. Among the Bloody Skulls, a warrior was judged by his strength, his fierceness, and his wits. Human ancestry was no blemish against a warrior-provided he was every bit as strong, enduring, and bloodthirsty as his full-blooded kin. Half-orcs who were weaker than their orc comrades didn't last long among the Bloody Skulls or any other orc tribe for that matter. But it was often true that a bit of human blood gave a warrior just the right mix of cunning, ambition, and self-discipline to go far indeed, as Mhurren had. He was master of a tribe that could muster two thousand spears, and the strongest chief in Thar." ~Richard Backer, Swordmage
When an orc and human tribe form alliances, they are often sealed by marriages, and, thus, half-orcs are born. Some half-orcs rise to become proud chiefs of orc tribes while others venture into the world to prove their worth among humans and other civilized races. Many become adventurers, achieving greatness for their mighty deeds and notoriety for their barbaric customs and savage fury.
Half-orcs' grayish or greenish pigmentation, sloping foreheads, jutting jaws, prominent teeth, and towering builds make their orcish heritage obvious. They typically stand 5 to 7 feet tall and weigh between 180 and 250 pounds. Orcs regard battle scars as tokens of pride or beauty. Other scars, though, mark them as a former slave or disgraced exile. Any half-orc who has lived among orcs has scars; it is up to the individual and their circumstances if they view them proudly or hide them in shame.
Half-orcs mature a little faster than humans, reaching adulthood at 14 years old. They also age noticeably faster and rarely live longer than 75 years. Whether proving themselves among rough barbarian tribes or scrabbling to survive in the slums of larger cities, half-orcs get by on their physical might, their endurance, and their sheer determination.
Half-orcs gain a bonus to Strength and Constitution, they are considered Medium sized, they have darkvision, are intimidating to others, have a relentless endurance that can keep them fighting past normal odds, and can land savage attacks with melee weapons.
"'But you do see the way people look at you, devil's child.'
Those black eyes, cold as a winter storm, were staring right into her heart and the sudden seriousness in his voice jolted her.
'What is it they say?' he asked. 'One's a curiosity, two's a conspiracy-'
'Three's a curse,' she finished. 'You think I haven't heard that rubbish before?'
'I know you have.' When she glared at him, he added, 'It's not as if I'm plumbing the depths of your mind, dear girl. That is the burden of every tiefling. Some break under it, some make it the millstone around their neck, some revel in it.' He tilted his head again, scrutinizing her, with that wicked glint in his eyes. 'You fight it, don't you? Like a little wildcat, I wager. Every little jab and comment just sharpens your claws.'" ~Erin M. Evans, Brimstone Angels
Tieflings are greeted with stares and whispers, suffer violence and insult on the street, and see mistrust and fear in every eye. It is not for anything they have done, but due to the choices of their ancestors to consort with devils - whether by rituals, pacts, or physical unions.
They derive from human bloodlines, but their infernal heritage has left a clear imprint on their appearance. Tieflings have horns that take a variety of shapes: curling horns like a ram, straight and tall like a gazelle's, spiraling upward like a antelope's, to name a few. They have thick tails, four to five feet long, which lash or coil around their legs when they get upset or nervous. Their canine teeth are sharply pointed, and their eyes are typically solid colors-black, red, white, silver, or gold-with no visible sclera or pupil. Their skin tones cover the full range of human coleration, but also include various shades of blue, red, and purple. Their hair is usually dark, from black or brown to dark red, blue, or purple.
Tieflings mature at the same rate as humans but live a few years longer. Lacking a homeland, they know they have to make their own way in the world and must be strong to survive. They are not quick to trust anyone who claims to be a friend, but when a tiefling gives someone loyalty, they form a firm friend or ally for life.
Tieflings gain a bonus to Intelligence and Charisma, are considered Medium sized, have darkvision, resistance to fire damage due to their heritage, and innately know some infernal magic.