It’s been awhile, but I have an ongoing series in this blog where I dig deeper into the non-human races of D&D and give them tables of traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws, as additional or replacement options for the personality features of their Backgrounds. We come now to the dragonborn, a race with a sort of complicated history in D&D; it’s probably most accurate to say they got their start as the draconians of Dragonlance, though they certainly weren’t a playable PC race there in the early going. (I don’t know when or if that changed; my Dragonlance lore is limited to Chronicles, Legends, Second Generation, and Dragons of Summer Flame.)
Edit: Please note that this post has been re-edited and released in Through Their Own Eyes, now available on DriveThruRPG.
I quite liked the dragonborn of 4e’s default setting, Nerath. The conflict between Arkhosian dragonborn and Turathi tieflings was interesting, and I liked that it was a still-relevant story of a time when humans weren’t the dominant kindred of the world. (Yes, I know the Turathi were more-nearly-human at the time. I’m talking about the dragonborn here.) I felt like Nerath made that lore more immediately relevant than many of the (often unspecified) wars between elves and everyone else. I… have no idea what the dragonborn lore of Forgotten Realms is these days, though I understand that they come from Abeir during the conjunction of the two worlds. That struck me at the time as a waste, since saurians are a long-established part of FR lore.
The 5e PH sets dragonborn up to be Noble-ish Doubleplus-Proud Warrior Race Guys, as contrasted with the half-orcs’ Grimy Angry Warrior Race Guys. PWRGs can be some of the most insufferable people at the table, but then I’ve had to say the same about every race in this series – no one is so famed for being insufferable jerkwads as elves, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Choose personality features that will get you into trouble, but talk to the other players about them when you choose them, and don’t choose five different ways to aggravate people. One, maybe two, should be more than enough.
|1||I look for every opportunity to demonstrate excellence in my trade.|
|2||I speak fondly of long-dead dragons, as humans would of aunts and uncles.|
|3||I acknowledge the gods, but invoke their aid only grudgingly and as a last resort.|
|4||I frequently make plans that extend beyond my own expected lifespan.|
|5||I keep my finances with precise care, and know the value of my hoard to the last copper.|
|6||The blow-by-blow details of long-ago battles between dragons seem current and exciting to me.|
|7||Religious schisms and conflicts are largely lost on me, and I treat every faith with similar tolerance.|
|8||I hoard words like coins. I never say two words when a gesture could suffice.|
|1||Power: I believe I should be in charge, and often challenge those in positions of authority over me. (Chaotic)|
|2||Greed: I think of myself as a completionist. (Evil)|
|3||Clannish: The security and comfort of my clan or adventuring band is all-important. (Neutral)|
|4||Destiny: The dragons, in their wisdom, have a higher purpose for my life. (Any)|
|5||Mercy: There is more to life than a tooth for a tooth. (Good)|
|6||Honor: My honor is my clan’s honor; a stain to either is a stain to both. (Lawful)|
|1||I will never break faith with the dragon that I serve.|
|2||For king and country! It matters not that they are not of my own kind.|
|3||I desperately seek a cause worth dying for – and I dread that I might die without finding it.|
|4||I once served a mighty dragon. Now I hunt down her killers.|
|5||I was falsely accused of bringing shame to my clan. I will clear my name or die trying.|
|6||I will become the greatest practitioner of a particular skill that the world has ever known.|
|1||My greed for gold and gemstones has a nearly religious fervor.|
|2||Failure, or the expectation of it, sends me into a spiral of recriminations.|
|3||Pride in my self-sufficiency (or that of my adventuring band) often leads me into peril.|
|4||My unfettered ambition is considered unacceptable by other races, for some reason.|
|5||I still carry the grudges of my distant draconic forebears.|
|6||I’ve never settled on a trade to master – acceptable for a child, potentially embarrassing for an adult.|
A lot of my approach here is influenced by reading Marsupialmancer‘s fan update of Council of Wyrms. That setting doesn’t have dragonborn because it was a 2e setting, but it doesn’t require any great stretch to embrace the PH’s text on dragonborn and backfill them into the setting. I thought it would be interesting to have someone who didn’t literally think he was a full dragon, but treated them like family.
I found myself unconsciously steering more toward chromatic personalities than metallic. I don’t know that that’s a great thing in this case; the metallic personalities make much better heroes. I do think you can piece together a metallic personality with careful selection and interpretation here.
This isn’t really intended to replace all five of your personality features from your Background, as I mentioned above. You could play it that way, but I’ve assumed your Background has some influence on your nature. Most DMs won’t object if you have more traits, ideals, bonds, or flaws than the norm, as long as you can manage them all consistently. (Obviously, an action that satisfies two personality features at the same time doesn’t pay two points of Inspiration, because you can’t have two points of Inspiration.)
One of the few PCs I got to play in 4e was a dragonborn fighter who had joined the Doomguard in Sigil. I wish that campaign had continued – the DM was dropping some really interesting hints about the character’s ancestors. Anyway, I love dragonborn in principle, even if they’re not right for every setting, and I hope these personality features offer an interesting perspective on them as individuals.