Meta Description: Lizardfolk in Dungeons & Dragons 5e tend to get type casted as villains for a few encounters. Thanks to this D&D 5e guide, we'll make Lizardfolk into Player Characters.
Lizardfolk tend to be one of the more mysterious ancestries in Dungeons & Dragons 5e, not only because of unanswered questions, but rather in the way they operate compared to other "soft skin" ancestries that live in civilizations. Unlike humans and other warm-blooded creatures, Lizardfolk initially showed little to no interest with how civilization works - they're only concerned with the survival of their tribe. They rely on sheer strength and numbers in combat and are often great hunters. Players who want to make characters that want to come from a totally different environment can enjoy playing a Lizardfolk in their D&D 5e campaign.
In this guide, we'll go through a quick overview of Lizardfolk society and culture. Moreover, we'll explore some unique ways you can make your Lizardfolk character that can add a new perspective into a party of "soft skins."
Basics: The Traits
Unlike “soft skins,” Lizardfolk look extremely similar to the animals they’re associated with. Thanks to their amphibious nature, Lizardfolk can easily live aboveground and underwater, able to mingle with societies aboveground, should they wish. Unfortunately, their foreign appearance might be frightening to most people - especially those who haven’t encountered Lizardfolk yet.
Players interested in rolling a Lizardfolk should consider these traits:
Ability Score Increase: CON + 2, WIS + 1
Age: Lizardfolk mature quickly at 14 years, and usually live until 60 years.
Size and Speed: Medium (with builds similar to Humans), 30ft walking speed, 30ft swimming speed.
Alignment: Most Lizardfolk live only to survive, leaving most creatures to mind their own business. As such, most of them are Neutral in alignment, keeping to themselves.
Racial Features: Lizardfolk have these racial features:
Bite, which gives the Lizardfolk the ability to make unarmed strikes with their fanged maw. Their maw deals 1d6 + STR Mod piercing damage, instead of the usual bludgeoning damage from unarmed strikes.
Cunning Artisan, which gives the Lizardfolk impeccable ability to harvest materials from slain creatures of size Small or larger to create these items from their hide and bone: javelin, club, shield, or 1d4 blowgun needles or darts. In order to make use of this trait, Lizardfolk need a sharp blade and the right artisan’s tools.
Hold Breath, which gives them the ability to hold their breath for up to 15mins.
Hunter’s Lore, which gives the Lizardfolk proficiency in two of these skills: Survival, Stealth, Perception, Nature, and Animal Handling.
Natural Armor, which gives the Lizardfolk a natural AC of 13 + DEX Mod when not wearing armor. The benefits of wielding a shield applies.
Hungry Jaws, which gives the Lizardfolk the ability to use a Bonus Action to make a special maw attack that, when successful, gives them Temporary HP equal to their CON Mod. They can only use this once per short or long rest.
Languages, of which the Lizardfolk know how to read, write, and speak Draconic and Common.
Lizardfolk: The Best Classes To Build
Lizardfolk possess quite the great bonus to Constitution and Wisdom, making them ideal for almost any class - and especially ideal to any class reliant on WIS-based builds. However, due to the foreign nature of the Lizardfolk’s origins, players may want to try mixing up “conventional” class options they might associate with these Ability Scores to reflect the rather unknown and mysterious nature of the Lizardfolk.
As such, they may want to consider trying one of these classes:
Fighter: Lizardfolk are extremely hardy and wizened humanoids, having spent much of their days with their tribes as they find food and defend themselves from threats. As such, it makes sense for much of these Lizards to be trained in the art of combat, serving as warriors to defend the village from invaders and attackers. These Lizardfolk Warriors would most likely have training in using different weapons, as well as specialized forms of neutralizing threats for the rest of the tribe.
Despite the lack of innate STR and DEX Ability Score Bonuses, the Lizardfolk’s CON bonus makes it a good fit for a hardy fighter. If you want to make a decent damage-dealer in the party, you can invest points in STR and DEX - depending on the weapon focus you’re looking at.
What Lizardfolk lack in terms of Ability Score Bonuses, they can compensate with the Fighter’s array of extra features. They can compensate for these lack of bonuses if they opt for an Ability Score Increase every other level or even choose to become a powerhouse of Feats. They’re the only class to get a ton of Feats at early level, easily making them flexible fighters.
In terms of archetypes, Lizardfolk can become very diverse thanks to their CON and WIS bonus. Combat-oriented Lizardfolk Fighter can opt for more straightforward archetypes such as the Champion and Cavalier, while those who want more flexible options can try the Eldritch Knight, Rune Knight, or even Battle Master.
Cleric: Despite their connection with nature, Lizardfolk don’t necessarily have to be Druids. Moreover, just because Clerics are popularly “organized” doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be priests or wear religious uniforms. A Lizardfolk Cleric may come in the form of a chosen acolyte or messenger of the gods, an avatar chosen to become the bridge between the divine and the Lizardfolk tribe. Why the gods have chosen this particular Lizard as their Cleric would be up to the player to discover.
Lore-wise, Lizardfolk have an interesting relationship with their deity. While canon Lizardfolk do have divinity, their tribes tend to focus more on survival that they don’t necessarily pay much attention to accumulating knowledge. As such, a Cleric Lizardfolk might be a welcoming sight to both their tribe and the world at large.
Moreover, the Lizardfolk deity Semuanya is said to rule over propagation and survival and as such expects Lizardfolk who worship her to be crafty and resourceful. She’s not known to make any drastic moves to save her clerics immediately and instead only makes a move to help Lizardfolk as a whole. If a Lizardfolk Cleric worshipping Semuanya suddenly made a connection to her, just what was happening to the world?
The innate CON of Lizardfolk make them sturdier Clerics, with their WIS boost potentially enhancing their clerical abilities. Thanks to their survivalist nature, Lizardfolk Cleric Domains of choice may include Life and Nature.
Druid: It makes sense for Lizardfolk to be innately connected with the spirits of nature, with some awakening to become Druids. Thanks to their mystical nature, Lizardfolk Druids may serve as healers and councilors of their tribes, serving as the natural link between the Lizardfolk and the very ground they live in. It’s interesting to note how Lizardfolk society would function under the guidance or rule of the Druids.
Due to the WIS Ability Score Bonus of Lizardfolk, they may make the ideal Druid for the party. This is especially if they want to tap into their WIS without having to become the Cleric. LIkewise, their innate CON Ability Score Bonus also buffs their Hit Points, which is always a plus to make the party more long-lasting in encounters.
Unlike other spellcasters, Druids don’t have that many spells. However, what they lack in spells they do compensate with Wild Shape and their Druid Circle features. Thanks to these features, they can switch roles in combat and even apply their various skills and abilities outside of combat, making them ideal for both roleplaying and encounters.
Given the flavor of the Lizardfolk to have communities deep in places teaming with wildlife, it makes sense for Lizardfolk Druids to have access to a lot of creatures they can use their Wild Shape on. Moreover, this backstory makes it perfect for the Lizardfolk Druid to choose a unique Druid Circle that fits their environment. Dreams, Moon, Stars and Twilight seem to have a more mystical side with the Druid, making them ideal for more spiritually inclined Lizard Druids.
Ranger: Lizardfolk tend to be extremely protective of their tribe, doing everything they can to ensure their survival. As such, it makes sense for Lizardfolk to eventually train Rangers - warriors and fighters adept in navigating their tribal regions, scouting for any danger ahead. Their expertise with their particular homeland would prove invaluable in missions in faraway lands.
The CON and WIS Ability Score Bonuses of the Lizardfolk make them ideal for Ranger, as the latter reinforces their Spellcasting with the former bolstering their Hitpoints. Moreover, the innate bonus to their vitality enables the player to focus on choosing their method of optimization for the Ranger, be it if they want a melee or a range-focused experience.
Thanks to the survivalist nature of the Lizardfolk, they might make a perfect fit for the Ranger. In fact, their Ranger Conclave may help them specialize not just in their Ranger’s preferred environment, but also their prey of choice. Beastmaster, Fey Wanderer, Gloom Stalker, and Primeval Guardian seem to be choices ideal for the Lizardfolk’s flavor of being from mystical lands.
Sorcerer: Given the mysterious nature of Lizardfolk culture and society, it makes sense for their magically inclined brethren to become Sorcerers. What they lack in the formal studies of the Wizards, they make up to the use of their sheer potential. Thanks to their connection with their Sorcerous Origins, Lizardfolk Sorcerers can make full use of their Wisdom Ability Source bonus to tap into their potential very early on.
The innate CON and WIS bonuses to Ability Scores make Lizardfolk Sorcerers quite the hardy and wizened magic users, something noteworthy and with sense given the Lizardfolk tribes being extreme survivalists. These bonuses also give the Lizardfolk Sorcerer a much-needed assistance to make them more long lasting and fit for battle.
The lore of the Lizardfolk in 5e make them ideal for the flavor of the Sorcerer, as they also have mysterious Sorcerous Origins. As such, Lizardfolk may opt for more nature-oriented Origins such as Sea, Storm, Pyromancy, or even Draconic Bloodline. However, DMs and players who want to add something more mysterious to their character can opt for Divine Soul, Phoenix, and even Clockwork Soul to their Lizardfolk Sorcerer.
Rising from the Deep: Interesting Character Backgrounds
As Lizardfolk tend to be more familiar with their territory rather than the soft skins’ confusing mess of villages, towns, cities, and countries, it’s easy for them to feel rather alienated when encountering the various pockets of civilization scattered around them. Lizardfolk may choose a life of adventure out of a need for their tribe or out of a rather rare desire to explore.
Players who want to roll a Lizardfolk might want to consider any one of these interesting backgrounds that may give their Lizardfolk a unique spin:
Cloistered Scholar (Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide): Given the Lizardfolk’s initial background, their focus on survival means the stereotypical Lizardfolk might not be too keen on learning about things that cannot contribute to the survival of the clan. However, other DMs and campaign settings might make the Lizardfolk a more mysterious ancestry with a culture almost unknown to the rest of the realms. A Cloistered Scholar Lizardfolk might be gleaming into the history of the known world, trying to learn everything they could with the books they can acquire. At least until such a time that they’ve decided the best way to learn about the world is to explore it.
Languages: Choose any two languages
Proficiencies: INT (History) and Choose one from INT (Arcana), INT (Nature), and INT (Religion)
Dragon Casualty (Curse of Strahd): Since the Lizardfolk are largely an unknown ancestry, there’s a lot of room for creativity on the part of the DM. In some adventures, the Lizardfolk may have hailed from dragons and are cousins to the Dragonborn. Others might have Lizardfolk as a completely separate people that have been attacked by dragons. A Dragon Casualty Lizardfolk may be one such survivor, now hell-bent on finding the dragon that attacked their settlement.
Tools: The Dragon Casualty can choose a skill based on their previous life. DMs can lead players to the Curse of Strahd sourcebook, or just choose the Tool Proficiency of another background.
Proficiencies: CHA (Intimidation), WIS (Survival)
Gladiator (Player’s Handbook): Gladiators in vast empires come from different places - from small villages on the outskirts of town, from noble families looking to make a name for themselves, or perhaps in the form of prisoners or trespassers captured by the local militia. A Lizardfolk Gladiator may have been caught by imperial troops as a child, only to be thrown away to a life of fighting in the pits. After acquiring their freedom, the Lizardfolk Gladiator may slowly try to find their life outside fighting.
Tools: Disguise Kit, Unusual Weapon x1
Proficiencies: DEX (Acrobatics), CHA (Performance)
Harborfolk (Princes of the Apocalypse): Adventurers don’t always come from huge cities and towns in the middle of vast empires. Sometimes, they may come from small towns and villages along the harbor, with adventurers seeing enough of the sea to clamor and wonder just what lies beyond the horizon. A Lizardfolk Harborfolk might be part of a remote town, with the adventurer in the form of a child who grew up with stories of wonderful things in the nearby town.
Tools: Gaming Set x1, Vehicles (Water)
Proficiencies: STR (Athletics), DEX (Sleight of Hand)
Outlander (Player’s Handbook): An Lizardfolk Outlander may be a perfect background choice for any player. Taking into account the nature of Lizardfolk to be an isolated society, it makes sense for a player’s Lizardfolk to have an Outlander background. Their unfamiliarity with the known world might be an interesting vantage point for the party. However, the Lizardfolk’s familiarity with the unknown might be something the party - and even other people in the setting - might be interested in as well.