[RPG] Is this version of the dragonborn race unbalanced


When comparing the dragonborns with the other races of the Player's Handbook, it is pretty clear they are a bit underpowered. A quick search in google shows many people also think so.

Besides their damage resistance, dragonborns only get their breath weapon. Dwarves get five traits along their resistance to poison (their only let down being -5 feet of movement) while tieflings get two traits along their resistance to fire, with a free cantrip and 2 spells/1 day with some levels being one of the traits.

The problem is that the breath weapon doesn't make up their lack of traits. It is indeed a very good damage AOE in lower levels, but it scales poorly, takes an action and it can be used only once per rests. Most races have traits that are much more useful independent of level/scaling.

So I created this version of the dragonborn using other racial traits, loosely based on what a humanoid dragonborn version of Spyro the Dragon would be. I plan to present this as a player option in an upcoming campaign where I will be the DM. Is this somehow unbalanced when compared to the other races of the PHB?

Ability Score Increase. Your Charisma score increases by 2, and two other ability scores of your choice increase by 1.

Size. Dragonborn are taller and heavier than humans, standing well over 6 feet tall and averaging almost 250 pounds. Your size is Medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Breath Weapon. You can use an action** to exhale destructive energy. When you use your breath weapon, each creature in a 15-foot cone must make a Dexterity saving throw. The DC for this saving throw equals 8 + your Constitution modifier + your proficiency bonus. A creature takes 2d6 fire damage on a failed save, and half as much damage on a successful one. The damage increases to 3d6 at 6th level, 4d6 at 11th level, and 5d6 at 16th level. After you use your breath weapon, you can’t use it again until you complete a short or long rest.

Draconic Swimming Training. You have a swimming speed of 30 feet and you can hold your breath indefinitely while underwater and you’re not incapacitated.

Horns. Your horns are natural melee weapons, which you can use to make unarmed strikes. If you hit with them, you deal piercing damage equal to 1d6 + your Strength modifier, instead of the bludgeoning damage normal for an unarmed strike.

Goring Rush. Immediately after you use the Dash action on your turn and move at least 20 feet, you can make one melee attack with your horns as a bonus action.

Glider Wings. You have small wings that you can use to slow your fall or allow you to glide. When you fall and aren't incapacitated, you can subtract up to 100 feet from the fall when calculating falling damage, and you can move up to 2 feet horizontally for every 1 foot you descend.

Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Draconic.

** Posted originally as bonus action, just to clarify.

Best Answer

It is fine

Stronger than the original, about the same as a half-elf, which itself is not the best race, so this cannot be overpowered.
This homebrew race is so far from the original in the PHB that I would call it something else entirely, but it is not too strong.

Why is the original weak?

It is not about the number of features a race gets, but how often they come into play and how much they matter1:

  • Resistance is rare and powerful in 5e, but of course it is hard to know at character creation what will come up most
  • Breath Weapon is used with a tertiary stat, has horrible damage, and takes up an action
  • The abilities are not complementary, only a combination of mental stats (like Int+Cha) would be worse. Beside Paladins, only some niche builds find Str + Cha useful

To make matters worse, Resistance goes against Breath Weapon, in that for the first you should pick something common like fire or poison, for the second something rare like acid. With the current setup, you should prefer Resistance, as Breath Weapon is close to useless for the following reasons:

  • For any reasonably optimized character, about 3 enemies have to be in the area just to break even with your usual damage output2
    • Most of the time so many enemies cluster only around one of your fellow adventurers, whom you do not want to hurt
  • It costs an action, and very few characters can do something useful with just a bonus action

Yours compared to the original and half-elf


You replaced the dragonborn's best feature (Resistance) with some new, less useful ones. They come up rarely, and are not really powerful. All things considered, I would say the overall usefulness decreased.

The big change here are the ability modifiers, now dragonborns are good choices for Bards, Sorcerers, Warlocks and Paladins.

Other features

  • Size. Same as original
  • Speed. Same as original
  • Breath Weapon. Same as before (pretty weak, see above)3
  • Draconic Swimming Training. Very niche, close to inconsequential
  • Horns. Very few weapons are worse, so why would you use this?
  • Goring Rush. This is closest to useful from all the features, still significantly worse than Resistance would be. Above level 4, doing 1d6+Str damage is not much better than 0, compared to your usual damage output
  • Glider Wings. Similar to swimming. Inconsequential compared to Aarakocra
  • Languages. Same as original


Same ability modifiers, different features.
For most classes, I would still prefer the half-elf, two skills and darkvision come up much more frequently than gore attacks.

Simple fix to the original

Breath Weapon should either do decent damage, or should cost less.

If you want tactics to be relevant, increase the damage die to d10 from d6. In this case 2 enemies are usually worth an action4.
If you want it to be easy, leave the damage, but make it a bonus action.

Do not change anything else.

  1. Variant Humans were still the best race for most builds even without the extra skill, with only one feature (the bonus feat)
  2. Dual wielders for example lose their bonus action attack too, if they use their action for breathing
  3. Actually a bit better than the original, at least it does not clash with the Resistance now
  4. Unless you would have advantage on your attacks. Similarly, Breath Weapon can be useful if you have disadvantage on your attacks
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