Meta Description:Humans in Dungeons & Dragons 5e don't always have to be the "typical" knights, mercenaries, and wizards. In this D&D 5e guide, we'll explore Humans as a 5e race and their story potential.
Humans are perhaps the most familiar race we'll ever get with Dungeons & Dragons 5e, as they're the TTRPG's analog to humans in the real world. Most campaign settings portray them as the most common species in the realm: of humans conquering lands, establishing cities, and expanding their empires. Unfortunately, this also makes players think Humans in D&D 5ecampaigns won't have anything new to offer. Thankfully, your creative mind can change that.
In this quick guide, we'll explore Humans from D&D 5eand how you can transform one of the most common races in any TTRPG into something unique in your adventure.
Basics: The Traits
Most adventure settings consider Humans as the most common, yet the most diverse set of creatures. While their Medium humanoid appearance makes them very similar to other races in any campaign setting, Humans tend to lack any particular “special” characteristics that other races often have. As such, Humans compensate for their inquisitiveness, thirst for adventure, and sheer bravery. Here are some other traits:
Ability Score Increase:+ 1 to Each Ability Score
Age:Humans reach adulthood by 18 and live for around 100 years.
Size and Speed:Medium (5 to 6ft), 30ft walking speed.
Alignment: Most Humans lean towards any kind of alignment, depending on their background and beliefs.
Racial Features:Humans have these characteristics:
Language,of which Humans can write, speak, and read Common and another language of their choice. As well-traveled creatures, Humans tend to mix their tongue with terms, phrases, and concepts borrowed from other tongues.
Players can also choose to become a Variant Human, which enables players to have:
Ability Score Increase:2 different Ability Scores + 1 (instead of the original ASI for a normal Human)
Skills, which gives the Variant Human proficiency in one skill.
Feat, of which a Variant Human is granted one.
Humans: The Best Classes To Build
Despite being "ordinary," Humans usually get a lot of room for creativity as one of the more "mundane" humanoid races. They don't have many traits to go with, which makes them rather "ordinary" in adventuring parties. However, their sheer willpower and desire to make the most of their short lives make them great adventurers.
Technicalities-wise, Humans don't get many features and instead get an Ability Score Increase for their attributes (for non-variants). This factor further stresses the reality that it's not with characteristics that make a human special, but rather the skills and the trade they pick up in their adventures. Here are some nifty classes for your Human character:
Fighter:Thanks to the Human's natural attachment to almost any skill set, they make perfect Fighters. Given a Human's affinity to learn multiple skills, they can fully take advantage of the vast customization options available for Fighters, opening up various flavors fit for almost any campaign setting. Aside from potentially gaining new Feats every other level, Human Fighters have the makings of a traditional hero or antihero - with their skills almost always putting them in a position to do heroics, whether they do it for the glory, the gold, or the good of all.
The extra Skill Proficiencies of Humans fit well into the versatile nature of Fighters. As a Human Fighter, they can choose to either get an Ability Score Increase (ASI) or an extra Feat every other level starting from Level 4. As such, a Human Fighter can easily have one of the most versatile builds in the game - and this is without their Martial Archetype. Moreover, if they choose a Variant Human build, Human Fighters immediately start with one Feat right off the bat.
Thanks to Action Surge, Human Fighters may take advantage of any number of Feats they have in order to make the most out of their extra actions. Moreover, the fact that they get additional attacks aside from the initial Extra Attack on Level 5 immediately sets up the Fighter to be a juggernaut in the endgame.
Additionally, Human Fighters can take up any Martial Archetype to add a bit of flavor and spice into their personal stories. Thanks to the wide reach of Martial Archetypes, a Fighter can start off as a melee character, but eventually branch out into a magic user or an additional support character later on.
Druid:Humans almost always get type casted into roles that denote heroics or otherworldly feats - knights and princes of kingdoms or wizards of powerful arcane orders. However, not all Humans stay in vast city-states or villages in need of rescuing. An interesting character choice might be making a Human Druid who retreated into the wilds to have a more comfortable life with nature. This might be a Human Druid forced into adventure due to a mission or perhaps the past calling them back for one final mission.
Players who feel like their Humans are too “normal” can rely on the Druid’s Wild Shape to enhance their utility options. Since Druids can use Wild Shape to morph into various creatures, they adapt their chosen creature’s special traits and abilities.
Human Druids also get enhanced combat and utility options depending on their Druid Circle of choice. Druids of the Dreams and Moon specialization enhance their support options, while their Land and Shepherd specializations improve their healing and summoning abilities.
Sorcerer:Wizards in most settings hate Sorcerers for blatantly playing with the arcane arts, that just because potential for magic "exists" doesn't mean people can simply abuse this potential. For a Human Sorcerer, they perfectly understand the craving to tamper with the very fabric of the arcane - for magic to call upon them like a moth to a flame. A Human's impeccable nature to strive to "be better" make them great Sorcerers, with their Sorcerous Origins perhaps the result of experimentation, a desire to gain power from generations ago, or even from sheer potential.
Given the innate Ability Score bonuses granted by Humans, it's easy to see them fit almost any class. However, players who want a more talkative Human might want to go for a Sorcerer. Thanks to the Sorcerer's reliance on CHA, it's easy for players to invest on CHA-based skills to supplement their charismatic or intimidating personas.
While Sorcerers don’t have the same arsenal of spells as the Wizard, they do compensate thanks to Metamagic. With this trait, Human Sorcerers can modify their spells to do a variety of things, increasing their versatility in any kind of battle.
Thanks to the Human’s versatility in terms of skills, Sorcerers can be shaped into almost any role players want, especially outside combat. However, Human Sorcerers can also rely on their Sorcerous Origins to diversify their combat options. Draconic Bloodline, Divine Soul, and Wild Magic add utility and support opportunities to the Sorcerer, while Shadow and Storm specializations add special damage components to their spells.
Wizard:Sorcerers don't like Wizards for being too "uppity" - for focusing more on theories and rules, instead of going with the flow. A Human Wizard might understand exactly how dangerous the arcane arts would be, and how important it is to enforce its usage. As such, a Human Wizard might go on an adventure in search of an ancient artifact, to gain power, or even uphold the rules of magic to those who abuse their Gift and upset the magical order.
While Wizards compensate for their weak stature with weapon proficiencies with light crossbows, quarterstaffs, slings, darts, and daggers, the additional Ability Score bonuses from Humans do help give the Wizard a reasonable advantage when dealing STR or DEX-based attacks.
Thanks to the bonus in Ability Scores and Skill Proficiencies of the Human (or the Feat from the Variant Human) a Human Wizard can be extremely useful even in the early stages of the adventure. While Wizards by nature can only choose two Skill Proficiencies from INT (Arcana), INT (History), INT (Investigation), INT (Medicine), INT (Religion), and WIS (Insight), Human Wizards can very well become an INT-based skill powerhouse or dwell on other specializations.
Unlike other classes, Wizards don’t have a lot of Class Features as they rely heavily on their vast list of spells and spellbooks. As such, Human Wizards can go all out with thematic spells that can add to their chosen flavor.
Artificer:Humans are known not just for their skills, but for their ingenuity. Whereas other races might be too "stagnant" or behind the times, Humans always try to find a way to make themselves better. And what better class to represent this trait than the Artificer? The Artificer reflects the intuitive and innovative nature of humans, as they take full advantage of technological improvements and imbue them like with magic. A Human Artificer may be an outcast from the academy, or someone in search of ancient relics. Likewise, a Human Artificer may be out to make a name for themselves, bent on establishing a legacy they'll be remembered for.
Thanks to the Ability Score bonuses of Humans, they have a lot of opportunities experimenting with Artificer Specializations. They can choose the iconic support Alchemist role or take on new roles such as the defensive Armorer, the melee-based Battle Smith, or the ranged-based Artillerist.
Moreover, the tinkering nature of the Artificer fits the daring and ingenious nature of Humans. Magical Tinkering allows Artificers to grant items with special but mundane abilities, while Infusions, depending on the specialization, give Artificers the ability to imbue magical effects on various items and equipment.
Artificers have proficiencies with heavy crossbows, hand crossbows, and simple weapons, which makes a Human Artificer an ideal ranged combatant. With their spells and tinkering abilities, Human Artificers can easily become a reliable support member for the party.
Generic No More: Interesting Character Backgrounds
Players and in-game characters generally look at Humans as very “generic” and “ordinary.” After all, we’re already Human, so what difference does that make? Interestingly, players might find the “generic” nature of humans as the very key in making them special.
In fact, adventure settings that make Humans as one of the most common races may motivate players to put them in roles that can reflect the more mundane or the more “unexplored” stories in usual D&D 5egames. Here are some examples:
City Guard(Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide): Gone are the days of Humans taking on the roles of grandiose princes, stalwart commanders, and heroic soldiers. Why, who says a City Guard can’t become an adventurer? A crisis in the city or a deed from the mayor may have forced the Human City Guard member to traverse the land, meeting new friends, making new enemies, and uncovering various conspiracies along the way.
Languages:Any two of their choice.
Proficiencies:STR (Athletics), WIS (Insight)
Faceless(Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus): It’s easy for people to turn a blind eye on a Human, given their prominence as a race in any adventure. Players can add a spin to their Humans by making them Faceless - someone hiding behind a public persona. This means any Human could easily be something much more sinister or benevolent than what they make out of. Why they do this; however, may always remain a mystery.
Languages:Any one of your choice.
Proficiencies:CHA (Intimidation), CHA (Deception)
Haunted One(Curse of Strahd): Another interesting take on a Human’s story is to explore it from the perspective of other experiences - such as a Human being haunted by a different presence in their lives. This background may provide unique roleplaying opportunities for a player, as being haunted isn’t always something adventures explore.
Languages:Any two, provided one is considered exotic (Undercommon, Sylvan, Primordial, Infernal, Draconic, Deep Speech, Celestial, Abyssal)
Proficiencies:Any two from WIS (Survival), INT (Religion), INT (Investigation), INT (Arcana).
Inheritor(Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide): Another take on a Human’s background would be positioning them as an Inheritor. Instead of the usual tale of knights, wizards, and mages, an Inheritor Human may provide an interesting narrative take on their story, especially if they’re being chased by those who wish to cause them harm.
Tools:A musical instrument or a gaming set.
Languages:Any one of their choice.
Proficiencies:WIS (Survival), and choose from INT (Religion), INT (History), or INT (Arcana).