Dragons are to a Dragonborn as turtles are to a Tortle in Dungeons & Dragons 5e. Tortles live a relatively nomadic and simple life as farmers near coastlines, with their shells protecting them from harsh weathers. As a relatively peaceful ancestry, Tortles are rarely violent and aggressive. However, they do have a thirst for adventure, with a longing to explore the wilderness outside their homes. Players interested in creating a character with an innocent desire to explore the world can find the Tortle perfect for their needs. Moreover, their strong stature and timid nature holds a lot of character development potential.


As with other exotic ancestries in D&D 5e, making a Tortle can be difficult for new players. This guide will help you build a Tortle that fits the kind of character you want to make while making room for you to add your creative flair.

Basics: The Traits

Tortles tend to be conflict-averse creatures, something reflected both by their cultural characteristics and their ancestral traits. Given domesticated lives, some might notice that Tortles are experienced when it comes to manual labor and living simpler lifestyles. However, some Tortles in more compact communities may also follow a more complex sociocultural system - which may also enable them to undertake more complex roles that can fully expand their capabilities. Here are some noteworthy traits of the Tortle:

  • Ability Score Increase: STR + 2, WIS + 1
  • Age: Tortle reach adulthood as early as 15 years and live up to an average of 50 years of age. Baby Tortle walk for a few weeks before managing to walk like most humanoids.
  • Size and Speed: Medium (5 to 6ft tall, 450 pounds average), 30ft walking speed.
  • Alignment: Tortles like to live their lives following specific rituals, routines, and customs that they follow throughout their lives, making most of them Lawful Good. Few Tortle tend to lean towards Evil as well, but it’s rare for them to lean towards Chaos.
  • Racial Features: Tortles have these racial features:
    • Claws, which grant Tortle natural weapons for unarmed strikes. They deal 1d4 + STR Mod of slashing damage, instead of the usual bludgeoning damage.
    • Hold Breath, which allows the Tortle to hold their breath for up to an hour.
    • Natural Armor, which provides Tortle natural protection with a base of AC 17. They gain benefits from wearing Shields, but not when wearing armor.
    • Shell Defense, which lets the Tortle retreat into their shells as an action. Tortle inside their shells get AC + 4, with Advantage on CON and STR Saving Throws. However, their speed is 0, are considered prone, and have Disadvantage on DEX Saving Throws. Moreover, they can’t make reactions, and they can only emerge from their shell as a Bonus Action.
    • Survival Instinct, which gives Tortle proficiency with the Survival skill.
    • Languages, of which Tortle can write, read, and speak Aquan and Common.

Tortle: The Best Classes To Build

Despite the rather pacifist or conflict-averse nature of the Tortle, it doesn’t mean they can’t fight. In fact, thanks to their ancestral traits, Tortles can become very efficient when it comes to combat - making them fit for melee roles. However, Tortles may also resort for professions that rely more on helping them support their community, be it as healers, laypersons, or protectors of the land. Here are some of the best Classes that can take full advantage of the Tortle’s offerings:

  • Barbarian: Due to the Tortle’s isolated and homely nature, it’s natural for some of them to grow attached to their homes and communities. In turn, some Tortles may have cultivated a protective spirit dedicated to ensuring that their families remained safe from various threats. Tortle Barbarians may tap into their inner Rage to unleash wrath to those who dare lay even a finger on their loved ones. Likewise, Tortle Barbarians who choose a life of adventure would easily be protective of their comrades.
    • A Tortle’s Strength Ability Score Bonus easily makes them perfect for the Barbarian role, as their innate Rage taps into this primary attribute. Moreover, their added Wisdom enables them to withstand spells and abilities that would otherwise hinder their performance in battle. Moreover, thanks to their STR bonus, Tortles can focus on other Abilities to enhance their battle prowess, such as DEX for evasive maneuvers and other Barbarian traits.
    • The natural Strength of the Tortle makes them quite fit for the Barbarian’s Rage mechanic, which relies heavily on maximizing their Strength traits. In essence, this makes their attacks much stronger and hit harder. Moreover, Tortles who get to invest properly in defense can benefit from Unarmored Defense and Reckless Attack, which boosts their efficiency in the battlefield.
    • A Tortle Barbarian’s Rage is shaped by their chosen Primal Path, which gives them unique bonuses and features that they can use in battle. Of all the available Paths, perhaps Ancestral Guardian, Berserker, Totem Warrior, and Wild Soul all blend well with the Tortle’s innate flavor and potential in performing in combat.
  • Cleric: A Tortle’s isolation in their communities may have led some of them to be much closer to their chosen deities, with some of them even chosen as their respective avatars and representatives. Tortle Clerics would grow fond of their homes, often using their sway with their deity to ask for blessings to be sent their way. Likewise, a Tortle Cleric choosing a life of adventure may do so at the encouragement of their deity - it may be in the form of a secret mission or even solving a mystery plaguing their tribe.
    • A Tortle’s Wisdom Ability Score Bonus makes them a perfect fit for the Cleric role, as they need their WIS for much of their spellcasting. Moreover, the added Bonus to Strength enables them to go for the offensive as a melee combatant, enabling them to dish out damage and still support the team. In turn, Tortles can also focus on other Ability Scores such as Constitution for better health and even Dexterity for evasion and reflexes.
    • The straightforward nature of a Tortle’s various features allow them to take on diverse class roles as the Cleric. Moreover, their Channel Divinity and Spellcasting features immediately enable a Tortle to branch out into different roles in battle. However, Tortle Clerics shine when facing holy trains, as Destroy Undead and Divine Intervention can easily turn the tide of battle, especially when facing the forces of darkness.
    • Given the nature of the Tortle, perhaps the Divine Domains of Life, Nature, and Protection work best with the Tortle Cleric. Thanks to these Domains, Tortle Clerics have access to more healing and defensive spells to benefit the party, all the while ensuring they have just enough firepower to deal damage should the need arise.
  • Druid: Tortles who grew fond of their isolation in their peaceful communities may have developed a “connection” with nature that no other member of their families possess. With this, Tortle Druids can tap into nature’s essence not only to transform into various creatures, but to discover part of their identity and purpose within the greens, the flora, and the fauna around them. A Tortle Druid may be following the guidance of nature to finish a quest. Or perhaps the Tortle Druid may have received their powers in order to stop a grave threat.
    • The Druid’s reliance on Wisdom for spellcasting matches the Tortle’s innate WIS Ability Score Bonus, enabling them to be more efficient with a support role. Moreover, their Strength Ability Score Bonus also enables the Druid to have a more melee role for the team, which perfectly complements their other abilities such as shapeshifting into stronger beasts.
    • While Druids do have an innate arsenal of useful spells, the Tortle Druid shines with Wild Shape. After all, this feature essentially allows them to transform into any kind of creature within the confines of their abilities. In turn, their beast forms can grant Druid special abilities native to the creatures they have chosen, all of which can be an asset inside and outside battle.
    • Druidic Circles of the Land, Stars, and Twilight work with the Tortle Druid thanks to their flavor and potential WIS-based builds. Moreover, their features are uniquely tailored to ensure the Tortle Druid can perform well both in and out of combat, thanks in part to various traits and features that maximize their use of spells and Wild Shape.
  • Fighter: Tortles who want to fight for their communities would likely have trained early on as to how to best defend their homes. These Tortle Fighters may be experts in using various kinds of weapons and tactics in order to defend their tribes from various threats that may come from the mainland. Likewise, Tortle Fighters who become adventurers will likely do so in the search of treasure, or even as a part of a mercenary force.
    • A Tortle’s innate Strength Ability Score Bonus enables them to become efficient melee Fighters capable of eliminating enemies up close. Moreover, their added WIS Ability Score Bonus enables them to withstand mentally damaging spells and effects that would otherwise lessen their efficiency in combat. Thanks to these bonuses, a Tortle can focus on other Abilities such as Dexterity for added mobility and Constitution for their health.
    • Despite its straightforward nature, the Fighter offers a lot of flexibility to characters compared to other classes. Fighters can choose a Fighting Style early on, enabling them to dictate the way they want to approach combat. Moreover, their Ability Score Increase can be replaced with a Feat, which further diversifies their skillset. Finally, their various archetype traits allow Tortle Fighters to maximize their specialization to aid their comrades.
    • Tortle Fighters may excel in melee combat, making simple and straightforward Fighter Archetypes such as the Champion ideal for them. However, Tortle Fighters looking for a more diversified role can opt for the Maneuvers-reliant Battle Master and Monster Hunter or further add an arcane flair to their spells as an Eldritch Knight.
  • Ranger: Unlike the combat-oriented Fighters, Tortle Rangers may find more focus in defending their tribe or community from threats before they even discover the location of their homes. Thanks to the Ranger’s expertise, Tortle Rangers may easily navigate the complex swamps and unimposing coastlines that make their home. Not only that, but the Ranger’s innate familiarity with the various creatures and plant life that live alongside them can enable them to spot threats and take care of them without having to make any direct encounters.
    • A Tortle’s Strength Ability Score Bonus can make them perfect for Rangers with a more melee role, with the Tortle’s Wisdom Bonus an added plus for the Ranger’s spellcasting abilities. Additionally, these bonuses can help Rangers focus on other Abilities they may need, such as Dexterity for mobility and range attacks as well as Constitution to become much healthier.
    • Tortle Rangers demonstrate their expertise in combat with Favored Enemy and Natural Explorer, enabling them to get advantages when fighting in certain environments and against certain enemies. Moreover, their Fighting Style allows them to dictate how they want to fight. Perhaps most importantly, their innate Spellcasting ability allows them to offer more diverse combat options to the party unlike other melee classes.
    • Of all the Ranger specializations, perhaps Beast Master, Swarm keeper, and Fey Wanderer work best for the flavor of the Tortle. Moreover, their flexible nature in combat allows the party to have a more versatile support unit that can dish out damage just as well as they can cast defensive and healing spells.

Not-So-Slow: Interesting Character Backgrounds

As nomads, not a lot of Tortles end up taking up the mantle of an adventurer. However, when they do, Tortles become extremely dedicated to their cause and their goals while exploring the land. Players might want to take advantage of the rather friendly or even careful nature of the Tortle to get more acquainted with the lands they try to explore. Likewise, Players may want to fully immerse themselves with the domestic and coastal life by choosing a Background inclined with these characteristics. Here are some Backgrounds their Tortle can take full advantage of:

  • Acolyte (Player’s Handbook): A Tortle Acolyte would fit right in a story where their tribe or community worships a particular deity - be it the god of the seas, the harvest, or the primary focus of their community. This type of background fits a Tortle character who wants to lean on roles related to faith and religion.
    • Skill Proficiencies: WIS (Insight), INT (Religion)
    • Tools: None
    • Languages: Any two of their choice
  • Clan Crafter (Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide): A Tortle Clan Crafter is renowned for their skill in their craft, so much so that their tribe or community refers to them whenever their trade of specialization is being spoken about. A Tortle Clan Crafter may decide to leave the community to go on an adventure in search of methods to improve their craft, or if they’re perhaps sent to search for a magical artifact related to their trade.
    • Skill Proficiencies: INT (History), WIS (Insight)
    • Tools: Artisan’s Tools x1
    • Languages: Any one of their choice
  • Far Traveler (Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide): A Tortle fits the Far Traveler background perfectly, especially if they’ve come from a community inside a faraway region or country. Their general lack of knowledge about the world beyond them can be a great way to set up the setting. Meanwhile, their knowledge about their own region or community could be a great way to integrate a new place to explore once the party reaches a certain point in the campaign.
    • Skill Proficiencies: WIS (Insight), WIS (Perception)
    • Tools: Choose from: Musical Instrument x1, Gaming Set x1
    • Languages: Any one language of their choice
  • Gladiator (Player’s Handbook): A Tortle might end up becoming a Gladiator in a variety of ways. In real-world history, Gladiators often come in the form of war criminals, people from lower classes, those who want to earn their own freedom, or those who want to earn fame and glory. A Tortle who stumbled upon the city may end up choosing to become a Gladiator for any of these reasons, all of which could be perfectly applicable to their foreign and exotic background.
    • Skill Proficiencies: DEX (Acrobatics), CHA (Performance)
    • Tools: Disguise Kit, Unusual Weapon x1
    • Languages: None
  • Harborfolk (Elemental Evil): Harborfolk Tortle have a quiet and peaceful life in the harbor, paying their dues to the city while they live in peace in their own territory. Thanks to their relative peace in life, they may specialize in doing manual labor, especially over the seas. They may be thrust into a life of adventure after their harbor has been ransacked by bandits, or they may perhaps be in search for something new to do with their lives.
    • Skill Proficiencies: STR (Athletics), DEX (Sleight of Hand)
    • Tools: Gaming Set x1, Vehicles (Water)
    • Languages: None
Earl Morris