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This question already has an answer here:

I got to thinking Wouldn't it be cool to play some kind of proper dragon with Character levels?

So I wonder, is there a rules-based way to make a dragon player character?

My guess is that this is one of those DM fiat sort of things, and that it could be unbalanced. But is there any way?

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marked as duplicate by SevenSidedDie dnd-5e Jun 3 '18 at 19:17

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A metallic dragon's Change Shape doesn't give them class features

The dragon magically polymorphs into a humanoid or beast that has a challenge rating no higher than its own, or back into its true form... Its statistics and capabilities are... replaced by those of the new form, except any class features or legendary actions of that form.

[emphasis mine]

However...

A GM can add class features to any monster using the rules for Creating a Monster in the Dungeon Master's Guide

See this question for more details on this option.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I read the question as about making a PC dragon (and it's conflating “having class levels” with “being a player character”). If you see that too, it may be worth addressing directly. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 2 '18 at 17:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I didn't read it that way but I can see that as an interpretation. I'll ask a clarifying comment \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Jun 2 '18 at 17:01

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