Family… am I right? No matter who you are, we all have some kind of heritage and lineage we hailed from, whether good, bad, or unbeknownst to us. When selecting your character’s race these are just some of the things you need to consider. 

In a previous article, I mentioned that, when it comes to D&D races, we’re a little more spoiled for choice than the real world. Here’s where those fantasy characters we all know and love come in, in a big way. By now, you probably already have an idea what your character will look like and the class you’re all giddy about playing and you probably can’t wait to start blasting or swinging away. I like your eagerness, young Padawan! Keep that stuff up! But before you go conquering the world we need to get you all set up first. Let’s talk about choosing your race…

Rick & Morty battle monsters dressed as D&D characters
Families who D&D together, stay together.

Strange faces…

There’s no doubt that by now you’ve envisioned the look of your character. You’ve probably already seen your character as some elven or dwarven or human variant (remember that word, we’ll get back to that). As pop culture is inundated with images of elves, dwarves, halflings and other (mostly) human-looking races, it’s possible that you’re most likely immediately drawn to those races. That’s perfectly acceptable and a lot of fun to play but, depending on the heritage and backstory of your character, as well as the class you wish to play, there may be a better option for you.

I feel pretty

If you have no previous experience with D&D, it’s likely that you’ve never heard of tieflings, firbolgs or the aasimar before, that’s perfectly natural. There are so many different kinds of races to choose from, there are even different variants of certain races (yep, we’re getting back to that). With certain races, eg. elves, humans etc. you even get different types of that specific race to choose from. The different variants focus on different abilities or skills and may sometimes have slight aesthetic differences. More importantly, each variant may give you different modifiers that may benefit your character greatly depending on what it is you wish to do with them.

Wait… modi-what? Don’t panic, you don’t have to worry about them too much yet. Think of modifiers as bonuses or penalties to your stats, but we’ll go into the technical stuff later. It is important to keep in mind, that if you’re playing a specific class, you may want to look out for any racial modifiers or feats that will give you bonuses to your stats. Of course, you don’t specifically need them, so the choice is still yours to do what you want, but having a +1 or 2 on certain stats may give you a real leg-up on some particular situations.

When you have a +1 to your strength as a wizard:

Think puzzles…..

If you already have a class in mind, you may want to choose a race that benefits your abilities. Humans are quite adaptable to most classes but if you’re looking to play a warrior, you’ll greatly benefit from something a little bit more sturdy. Dragonborn, goliaths and half-orcs, for instance, would be perfect for this as they get bonuses to their strength. If you’re more interested in playing a rogue, for example, your best option would be a dexterity-based race, eg. elf, feral tiefling, goblin or halfling. My advice would be to keep in mind what the primary ability of your class is, and choosing a race that will give you a +2 in that ability.

Some classes can also greatly benefit from racial abilities that certain races provide them. A goblin’s “Fury of the small” ability can add that extra punch to a rogue’s sneak attack and the “Tinker” ability of a rock gnome will be very helpful to an artificer. It all fits together quite nicely, don’t you think?

Goblins: being small beans they're just that much closer to your crotch
Dynamite comes in small packages…

Distant Places….

Geography plays a big roll (hehe, I crack me up) on the race that you end up choosing, and can really work to your advantage. It all comes down to evolution. The race you choose could possibly have certain proficiencies based on where they originally hail from. Certain races may be better equipped to deal with rough terrain, cold weather or low-light visibility better than others due to the region the race originates from.

This could mean that your character would potentially handle certain environmental challenges better. It’s good to keep in mind what you wish to do with your character and consider the effects that your environment will have on that, as you don’t want to be rolling at a disadvantage mid-battle because it’s all taking place on rocky terrain or in a dimly lit cave.

Topographic full color map of fictitious D&D world
Depending on the map your DM uses, you should be able to distinguish the topography of certain areas.

I suggest discussing the environmental changes in the world you’ll be playing in, with your DM, in order to make an informed decision. Of course, they will never outright tell you that they will definitely be sending you into an icy tundra and leave your fate to the elements, but they may be able to tell you about the average seasonal climates and land outlay of certain regions your character might be familiar with. Keep in mind your character’s knowledge of the world will only be as extensive as their experiences or education, which will form part of your backstory.

Try new things…

Sometimes it’s a lot of fun to try something you’ve never heard of before. It makes for interesting game-play when you’re still learning the abilities and possibilities an unknown race can offer you. If you’re feeling especially brave, and your DM allows it, why not try having your character be biracial? It will give your backstory some real intrigue and provide some interesting strengths and weaknesses in your character, which will make them more diverse.

How I see races. How my players see races: Home-brew ware-gargoyle with +5 to strength and constitution
How much is too much? Your DM will definitely tell you. Always have a back-up plan.

My first character was a cross-breed between catfolk and a shadow elf. Of course, my DM was open to the possibilities in story telling that would create, but also the difficulties that could potentially cause my character, especially at the lower levels. Cat allergies and not being in complete control of your tail when you just start out, can have some hilarious repercussions. At one point I tripped over my tail while trying to sneak past an enemy and blew the entire party’s cover.

A box of donuts with icing spelling out

Protip: When your party is peeved at you, it’s nothing that a box of donuts or some yummy cookies can’t fix

I recommend checking out the list of available races here, but don’t be afraid to mix it up a bit. The Player’s Handbook and Xanathars’ Guide to Everything are filled with a wealth of information and guidance on different races and I highly recommend getting your hands on them if you haven’t already. The artwork alone could be helpful in assisting you with the look of your character and they’re useful to have around during game-play.

Talk it through with your DM if you have some crazy ideas, they may even have some brilliant suggestions for you or be willing to tailor-make a custom race you could play just for the fun of it. Think creatively but bear in mind it may inspire your DM to put your character through the ringer to see your race’s true potential… you have been warned.

Roll for initiative

Tell us about your first character, what race you decided on, and why, in the comments below. If you’ve customized a race to fit your needs, please tell us about it. We love to hear your stories!

Until next time, Noobies, have fun being creative!


Lize Eloff

The resident goth-geek with a gaming problem. Loves D&D so much, she decided to marry a DM. Avid reader, writer and lover of words.

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