Players who want another take on Dragonborn can play a Yuan-Ti in Dungeons & Dragons 5e. While Dragonborn descend from dragons, Yuan-Ti come from serpents. They have a natural affinity with snakes, with most Yuan-Ti even adopting their physical characteristics. As one of the more obscure ancestries in D&D 5e, playing a Yuan-Ti definitely adds a flair of mystery to any campaign setting. Likewise, the lack of data on Yuan-Ti in the 5e Player’s Handbook can make them a rather difficult ancestry to get into.
This quick guide will help curious players create a Yuan-Ti from an exotic and foreign land. We’ll explore their origins, culture, and special traits in order to play a Yuan-Ti character that will spice up your adventure.
Basics: The Traits
Thanks to their foreign nature, not much is known about Yuan-Ti save for the fact that they have multiple variants depending on how “close” they are to their serpentine connection. As such, some Yuan-Ti appear extremely human-like save for some serpentine characteristics, while others adopt a fully snake humanoid appearance complete with a long tail for a bottom. In this article, we’ll talk about Yuan-Ti Purebloods, which appear similar to Humans save for scales and some special traits:
Ability Score Increase: CHA + 2, INT + 1
Age: Yuan-Ti Purebloods mature and live at the same rate as Humans.
Size and Speed: Medium (matching Humans in height and weight), 30ft walking speed.
Alignment: Most Yuan-Ti Pureblood have been raised to see others as tools they can manipulate, making them lean towards Neutral Evil.
Racial Features: Yuan-Ti have these qualities:
Darkvision, which enables Yuan-Ti to see 60ft of dim light as though it were bright light and in darkness as though it’s in dim light. They can’t see color and instead see things as greys.
Innate Spellcasting, which enables Yuan-Ti to cast certain spells with CHA as their Spellcasting Ability:
At 1st Level, they know the Poison Spray cantrip.
At 1st Level, they can cast Animal Friendship with this trait for an unlimited number of times, but only on snakes.
If they reach 3rd Level, they can cast Suggestion once every long rest.
Magic Resistance, which gives the Yuan-Ti Advantage on all Saving Throws against magical effects such as spells.
Poison Immunity, giving the Yuan-Ti immunity to being poisoned and all kinds of poison damage.
Languages, of which the Yuan-Ti can write, read, and speak Draconic, Abyssal, and Common.
Yuan-Ti: The Best Classes To Build
A Yuan-Ti’s ancestral connection with serpents can immediately add a lot of flair to both their character origins and their Class options. After all, a serpentine humanoid can have an innate appeal that makes them fit Charisma-based classes. Likewise, their snake-like agility may motivate Yuan-Ti to get into Classes that fully explore their potential in combat. Here are some of the Classes a Yuan-Ti can explore and take full advantage of given their special traits:
Bard: A Yuan-Ti Bard may bring tales, ballads, and stories of their adventures and exploits to people who would see them perform. Ideally, Bards remain cheerful and quite charismatic regardless of the situation. However, adventures where the Yuan-Ti have come from warring states and factions, would see the Yuan-Ti Bard as a cunning and sly individual - using their wit and charm to lull targets to their charms as the Yuan-Ti makes their way with them, making them perfect spies.
The innate CHA and INT Ability Score Bonuses of the Yuan-Ti make them quite fitting for Bards, as their CHA enhances their charm while INT ensures they’re just as cunning as ever. Yuan-Ti Bards can capitalize on a CHA-focused build to enable them to talk their way into any situation and even talk their way out of the most undesirable of circumstances.
The Yuan-Ti’s innate cunning makes them apt for the Bard. Moreover, Yuan-Ti can greatly benefit from the ever-growing roster of spells a Bard has, alongside their Bardic Inspiration. In addition, the Yuan-Ti Bard can grow in efficiency thanks in part to various traits such as Jack of All Trades, Song of Rest, Font of Inspiration, and Countercharm - all of which have uses inside and outside combat that can be used for various advantages.
The Yuan-Ti’s charm and wit may earn them a spot as some of the best Bards in any region and their cunning easily makes them versatile with regards to their roles. Yuan-Ti Bards fit in the College of Lore and Satire should they decide to share their various pieces with their audiences, while College of Whispers and Eloquence fit Yuan-Ti with a flair for espionage and subterfuge.
Cleric: A Yuan-Ti Cleric may find themselves away from their temples and into a life of adventure due to a holy mission or even an order from their deity. Given the exotic and foreign nature of the Yuan-Ti, it’s interesting for a Yuan-Ti Cleric to glean some insights into how Yuan-Ti would practice their religious customs, something that could definitely highlight and introduce various opportunities of interactions between the party.
Despite lacking the WIS bonus for their spellcasting, a Yuan-Ti Cleric can benefit from the Yuan-Ti’s CHA and INT Ability Score Bonuses from a non-combat perspective. For instance, a Yuan-Ti with decent Charisma enables their Cleric to be able to act as diplomats to foreign parties, with just enough INT to make them experts in religion and other scholarly studies. In turn, Players can invest points in WIS to enable the charming and smart Cleric to be able to fulfill their support roles perfectly.
Yuan-Ti Clerics make full use of their versatility thanks to their Spellcasting and Channel Divinity features, both of which can help them switch into various roles in battle. Moreover, their various Divine Domain features, Divine Intervention, and even Destroy Undead allows them to face various foes and hold their ground while the rest of the party recovers.
A Yuan-Ti Cleric may hold devotion to the Divine Domains of Arcana, Life, and Order should they focus more on their attraction with knowledge and attaining power. Meanwhile, Yuan-Ti who want to follow their more malicious stereotypes may want to hold devotion to the Divine Domains of Grave, Trickery, and War. Regardless of their choice, these Domains grant them access to unique abilities and features that make them flexible in the battlefield.
Rogue: Yuan-Ti society can be described as ruthless and merciless, with Yuan-Ti trained early on to defend themselves from threats from all directions. As such, it makes sense for some Yuan-Ti to take this to the next level - learning the very techniques and strategies that could be used to bring them down. Likewise, a Yuan-Ti Rogue with this kind of knowledge can make a profit in the criminal underworld - stealing ancient relics from various individuals, extracting various kinds of information from warring states, or even eliminating targets for the right price.
Despite the lack of DEX bonuses for stealth, a Yuan-Ti Rogue can prove that stealth isn’t the only thing necessary for Rogues to do their job. Thanks to their CHA and INT Ability Score Bonuses, a Yuan-Ti Rogue can serve as great spymasters capable of weaving webs of lies and deceit to get what they want from other parties. In turn, Players can begin investing other points into DEX in order to transform their charming yet smart Yuan-Ti into a deadly Rogue.
The Rogue offers the Yuan-Ti a wide array of special abilities that cement their role as stealth powerhouses. For instance, Expertise enables the Yuan-Ti Rogue to have a lot of specializations in a wide range of skill areas. Meanwhile, their Cunning Action and Sneak Attack enable them to deal devastating damage to foes - and coupled with Evasion, kill enemies without being spotted.
A Yuan-Ti Rogue can be extremely versatile and fit a variety of roles both in and out of combat. Yuan-Ti Rogues with a penchant for assassinations might appreciate being an Arcane Trickster, Assassin, Scout, or even Soul Knife. Meanwhile, Yuan-Ti who want to use their skills outside combat may be more helpful to the party as an Inquisitive, Mastermind, or Thief.
Warlock: A Yuan-Ti with an explicable lust for power would make great hosts for various entities lurking between the realms. Moreover, a Yuan-Ti’s natural aptitude for magic makes them sensitive to the arcane arts, giving them quite the potential to become spellcasters themselves. Yuan-Ti Warlocks would make great characters, especially considering their potential banter with the beings that choose to grant them their various gifts - if they can be treated as such.
The CHA and INT Ability Score Bonuses of the Yuan-Ti make them perfectly capable of becoming Warlocks. Thanks to these bonuses, it also makes sense for the Yuan-Ti to stumble upon some way of summoning an otherworldly entity to form a pact with - as the Yuan-Ti has just enough CHA to convince said entity to lend them their powers and have enough INT to be able to discover just how to do it without dying.
Despite their lack of Spell Slots, Warlocks gain massive boosts from their Otherworldly Patron in the form of Pact Magic, Eldritch Invocations, and Pact Boons. Essentially, these further diversifies the Warlock's abilities that separates them from typical spellcasters. Moreover, future levels grant them access to Mystic Arcanum, or massive upgrades to their favorite spells.
Thanks to the unique nature of Yuan-Ti, they may find themselves serving different kinds of Patrons. Interestingly, all of them offer unique abilities and perks that can spice up the Warlock both inside and outside the battlefield. Yuan-Ti can take on traditional Patrons such as the Archfey and the Fiend, while they can also take on weirder and more unpredictable Patrons such as the Kraken, Undead, and the Undying.
Artificer: A Yuan-Ti might grow fond of adventures due to the various discoveries they might make along the way. After all, with the right companions, a Yuan-Ti might stumble upon ancient ruins or civilizations with technologies only people would imagine in their dreams. A Yuan-Ti Artificer will be able to use their knowledge in magic and machinery in order to tap into these ancient technologies - using these newfound powers perhaps to help save the world, make a profit, or make a new world in their own image.
Thanks to the Yuan-Ti’s Ability Score Bonuses in CHA and INT, they can make great Artificers. Granted, the Artificer might not find much use of their CHA except perhaps when communicating with various other scholars. However, the Yuan-Ti’s INT bonus makes them quite capable of harnessing their arcane potential in order to breathe life into their various machinations.
Yuan-Ti Artificers have the special ability of creating magically infused trinkets (Magic Tinkering) to aid their allies in battle. Likewise, they can infuse various objects with magical abilities (Infuse Item) to improve their performance. Moreover, Artificers also become skill powerhouses with Tool Expertise and The Right Tool For The Job, enabling them to find almost any tool to tackle any challenge that face their way.
Thanks to the versatile nature of the Artificer, the Yuan-Ti may find multiple uses to their Artificer role depending on the need. For instance, their Alchemist can create various trinkets that may be able to help the party in times of need. Meanwhile, the Forge Adept may be able to help the team when it comes to various weapons and armor. However, in terms of combat, the Yuan-Ti’s base statistics may synergize with the Artillerist, which makes the Artificer a long-ranged role in combat.
The Serpent’s Gaze: Interesting Character Backgrounds
As one of the more mysterious ancestries in the game, Dungeon Masters and Players can actually work together to create a compelling backstory that can make the Yuan-Ti just as compelling a culture compared to common ancestries in any game world. Moreover, their foreign and exotic nature makes any Yuan-Ti both a mystery and a threat to people they meet, which Players can take full advantage of when choosing a Background for them. Here are some Yuan-Ti Backgrounds a Player can choose for their character:
Cloistered Scholar (Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide): A Yuan-Ti who’s a Cloistered Scholar may have spent years of their lives studying various ancient and arcane secrets, hoping to gain mastery over some form of mystical relic or artifact that they possess in their person. Or perhaps, this background entails a kind of innate curiosity that led the Yuan-Ti to stay buried in books for years, with a quest or a journey having prompted them to finally step into the light and begin their mission.
Skill Proficiencies: INT (History) and Choose 1 from: INT (Arcana), INT (Nature), INT (Religion)
Languages: Any two languages of their choice
Inheritor (Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide): A Yuan-Ti Inheritor will find themselves thrust into a life of peril and mystery as they somehow inherit something from someone - perhaps a plot of land, riches beyond belief, or an ancient artifact they didn’t even know existed. Whatever it is, a Yuan-Ti Inheritor will find adventuring life filled with unexpected dangers from both people who want to steal their inheritance and those posing as allies, willing to strike when the time is right.
Skill Proficiencies: WIS (Survival) and Choose 1: INT (Arcana), INT (History), INT (Religion)
Tools: Gaming Set x1, Musical Instrument x1
Knight (Player’s Handbook): A Yuan-Ti Knight becomes a great background for a character who wants to represent the ancestry in an Order of Knights, something not always associated with the ancestry. Moreover, a Yuan-Ti Knight may become the DM’s way of showing an interesting take on Yuan-Ti society - this time comprised of kingdoms with their different Orders of Knight, each with their own purpose and beliefs.
Skill Proficiencies: INT (History), CHA (Persuasion)
Tools: Gaming Set x1
Languages: Any one of their choice
Noble (Player’s Handbook): A Yuan-Ti Noble will find themselves immersed in the life of politics and social gatherings, nimble in both combat and the arts of communication and subterfuge. DMs and Players can take this opportunity to transform part of the game into a social experience, motivating the Yuan-Ti Noble into representing their house or even building a powerful one from scratch.
Skill Proficiencies: INT (History), CHA (Persuasion)
Tools: Gaming Set x1
Languages: Any one of their choice
Vizier (Plane Shift: Amonkhet): A Yuan-Ti Vizier may have served - or is continuing to serve - a noble, an emperor, or a king. As an advisor, part of what happens to the noble house or kingdom relies on them - and why the Yuan-Ti Vizier is out on an adventure instead of being inside the royal palace is up to the Players and the DM. Did the Vizier get cast out because of a rebellion? Were they on a mission to retrieve an ancient artifact from the king?
Skill Proficiencies: INT (History), INT (Religion)