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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.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Did you mean to upgrade the Breath Weapon from a normal Action to a Bonus Action? That seems kinda hidden in the text right now, but it's a serious bump and might be worth pointing out explicitly, in case people skim over that because they expect it to be a copy of the normal ability. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Dec 28 '18 at 9:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ balancing aside (which is why I'm posting this as a comment, not an answer) - not all dragonborn have horns (even the first image presented in the PHB on page 32 doesn't). Giving dragonborn a horn-based racial ability therefore seems restrictive (playing a dragonborn without horns feels weird then) and doesn't suit the lore. I'd drop that feature, if not for balancing reasons, then for lore reasons. \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster Dec 28 '18 at 11:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PixelMaster I'm not pretending to follow the base lore of the dragonborns presented in the book, hence the inspiration in another source. But it is reasonable to drop it... it would turn the race in a Simic Hybrid with both feature from the start (and a Breath Weapon instead of Darkvision). \$\endgroup\$ – Kuerten Dec 28 '18 at 11:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @András I did. Skipped resistance to add the other features. \$\endgroup\$ – Kuerten Dec 29 '18 at 11:43
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It is fine

Stronger than the original, about the same as a half-elf.
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 secondary 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

Yours compared to the original and half-elf

Dragonborn

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.

Half-elf

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 action3.
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
2) Dual wielders for example lose their bonus action attack too, if they use their action for breathing
3) Unless you would have advantage on your attacks

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "You gave better Breath Weapon by changing it to a bonus action" - OP seems to have edited their question to change it back to an action. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Dec 29 '18 at 1:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast Just clarified that in the original post. \$\endgroup\$ – Kuerten Dec 29 '18 at 1:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast, thanks for the warning, this changed the whole equation (and the answer) \$\endgroup\$ – András Dec 29 '18 at 13:59
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This is VERY overpowered

All of the features your race provides are among the strongest or at least medium level feats found among all races. (Potentially with a few exceptions.) This clearly makes your version of the Dragonborn race overpowered.

Comparison with Variant Human

Let's consider Horns and Gording Rush approximately worth a feat (Charger+Tavern Brawler). Both get +1 to 2 different attributes.

The remaining benenefits of Variant Human are the fact that they get proficiency in one skill and the fact that they have free choice of the feat.

Your Dragonborn gets

  • +2 CHA
  • Swimming speed/Underwater breathing
  • Breath Weapon
  • Gliding wings

This is much more powerful than Variant Human's benefits

Comparison with Half-Elf

ASIs are the same

Half elves get

  • Advantage on saves vs being charmed
  • Darkvision
  • 2 Skill proficiencies
  • 1 language

Dragonborn

  • Gliding wings
  • Gorging Rush
  • Horns
  • Breath Weapon
  • Swimming speed/Underwater breathing

The first 3 are at least as powerful as the remaining benefits of the Half-Elf, probably even stronger. Swimming speed/Underwater breathing is not a minor feature. Breath Weapon is also not a minor feature.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I fail to see the "VERY" overpowered. It may be indeed overpowered, but Goring Rush+Horns isn't better than 2 skills proficiencies (or any of the other half-elf features), as they are quite situational. The breath weapon buff may be a bit overkill. \$\endgroup\$ – Kuerten Dec 28 '18 at 3:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kuerten Gliding wings are eqivalent to monk's Slow Fall feature on average at level 7 for preventing damage. In addition it also allows you to move horizontally. \$\endgroup\$ – fabian Dec 28 '18 at 10:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ I feel like the only reason this answer wasn't accepted is because it disagrees with what the OP wanted to hear. My initial reaction to the question was exactly this as well. \$\endgroup\$ – Paul Dec 30 '18 at 14:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ It obviously overpowered if you are taking each feature and considering it is being used extensively, @Paul. But look at Glider Wings and Draconic Swimming Training. They are almost excluding each other. On average, all added features are quite (if not extreme) situational to make great impact. \$\endgroup\$ – Kuerten Dec 30 '18 at 22:52
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It seems out of flavor and overpowered

I would keep the original abilities and add:

  • Natural armor: 13 + DEX (like lizardfolk)
  • Claws: natural weapon of 1d4 (or 1d6) + STR Slashing damage

Dragonborn are not known to have wings or to be skilled swimmers.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Out of flavor in what way? The idea is to create a dragonborn based on Spyro, your suggestion doesn't fit it. \$\endgroup\$ – Kuerten Dec 28 '18 at 2:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ The idea of a playable Spiro is OP, since very rare PC races can fly/glade. I would drop 2 of the 4 new features you added so can it at the same level of the other races \$\endgroup\$ – Fernando Fuentes Martins Dec 28 '18 at 2:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Gliding is very different when compared to flying. You can't go up when gliding. \$\endgroup\$ – Kuerten Dec 28 '18 at 2:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ But you still take less damage, that can make a big difference. Simic hybrids can get that as one of the only two abilities they have \$\endgroup\$ – Fernando Fuentes Martins Dec 28 '18 at 2:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ Why would a dragonborn use Dexterity for their claws, and why would their claws work differently than the natural weapons from other races (which count as unarmed strikes) \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Dec 28 '18 at 2:43

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