skip to main content
RPGOT Logo

DnD 5e - The Custom Lineage Handbook

Last Updated: November 18th, 2020

TEMPORARY NOTE: RPGBOT is undergoing a massive update for DnD 5e content to accomodate rules changes and new content introduced by Tasha's Cauldron of Everything. Please be patient while these changes are made. I maintain this site as a hobby, and I got access to the book on the same day as everyone else and I am rushing to catch up as quickly as I can. Please check "Last Updated" date below the title of each page. If it was updated before November 17th, it has not been updated to include the new content. To watch for ongoing updates, please follow me on Twitter.

Disclaimer

RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances.
  • Green: Good options.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.

I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can't assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won't cover Unearthed Arcana content because it's not finalized, and I can't guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials or released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.

Introduction

Introduced in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, the "Custom Lineage" is a sort of non-option for choosing your race. If your idea for your character's racial heritage doesn't neatly fall into one of the published races, it's a great option for expressing your character. For example, if your character is part orc, part elf, and part human, none of the published racial traits quite make sense. Enter the Custom Lineage. You can also use the Custom Lineage rule while still calling yourself an elf or a dwarf or whatever else, so even if you want your character to be a normal non-hybrid race, the Custom Lineage can still help your mechanics line up with your mental image of your character.

Mechanically, the Custom Lineage strongly resembles the Variant Human. Custom Lineage trades +1 to two abilities for +2 to one ability, and you gain the option to take Darkvision instead of a skill proficiency. They're roughly equivalent, but the ability to split your increases makes the variant human more viable in classes where you need more than one good ability score. Of course, once you hit level 4 your first Ability Score Increase can level any differences between the two except for Darkvision, but by then you can also cast Darkvision as a 2nd-level spell.

The Custom Lineage has one very unique advantage: by taking the right feat, you can start with 18 in one ability score. This was previously doable with the Changeling, but errata removed that capability so the Custom Lineage stands alone.

Please note that the Custom Lineage is considered an "optional rule". Talk to your DM before you decide to use it.

Classes

Because the Custom Lineage is already very flexible, it isn't impacted by the "Customizing Your Origin" optional rules. The advice below applies equally whether or not you're using those rules.

Artificer

Intelligence is the only ability score that the Artificer absolutely needs, so a +2 to Intelligence is great, and the Artificer is a great choice if you want to start with 18 Intelligence by picking a feat which offers an Intelligence increase.

Barbarian

Given the choice between the two, the Variant Human makes a better barbarian because you can start with 16 in both Strength and Constitution. Still, +2 to Strength and a feat is enough to make a fantastic barbarian, and Darkvision is tempting for a class with no way to provide it on their own.

Bard

Charisma is the only ability score that the Bard absolutely needs, so a +2 to Charisma is great, and the Bard is a great choice if you want to start with 18 Charisma by picking a feat which offers an Charisma increase. If you go that route, stick to non-martial subclasses like College of Eloquence and College of Lore. If you want to explore weapons, putting your feat into something to suppor that capability makes more sense, and you might consider the Variant Human so that you can split your increases between Charisma and Dexterity.

Cleric

For casting-focused clerics, a +2 to Wisdom is all that you need and a feat can offer a lot of very interesting options, including Heavy Armor proficiency which most caster-focused domains normally don't offer.

Druid

With some exceptions, Wisdom is the only thing that the Druid really needs so a +2 is great, and starting at 18 with the right feat is often a good idea. If you want to go for Circle of Spores, I recommend Variant Human instead.

Fighter

Much like the Barbarian, the Fighter benefits more from splitting your increases between Strength/Dexterity and Constitution at first level. However, +2 to one ability score is still enough to create a viable character and Darkvision is tempting for a class which usually can't cast spells.

Monk

Monks are famously MAD, so +2 to a single abiltity score is a hard prospect. You can mitigate this by putting your feat into a feat which gets you +1 to either Dexterity or Wisdom, but that's extremely limiting so the Variant Human is a much easier choice.

Paladin

Like the Monk, paladins are famously MAD so +2 to a single ability score is a hard choice compared to the Variant Human's increases. You could build an all-Charisma paladin using Fighting Style (Blessed Warrior), but exactly one appealing build does not make the Paladin an easy choice.

Ranger

The third MAD class in a row, the Ranger is less MAD than the Monk or the Paladin, but they still need three ability scores to some degree. Still, you can do really well with high Dexterity and only 14 Constitution and Wisdom, so the Custom Lineage works great.

Rogue

Dexterity and Darkvision are probably the best combination of racial traits that a rogue can hope for.

Sorcerer

Charisma is the only ability score that the Sorcerer absolutely needs, so a +2 to Charisma is great, and the Sorcerer is a great choice if you want to start with 18 Charisma by picking a feat which offers an Charisma increase.

Warlock

Warlocks can do just fine with nothing but Charisma, much like the Sorcerer. However, if you want to play a melee Hexblade I recommend the Variant Human instead because you'll also want to increase your Constitution to compensate for d8 hit dice.

Wizard

Intelligence is the only ability score that the Wizard absolutely needs, so a +2 to Intelligence is great, and the Wizard is a great choice if you want to start with 18 Intelligence by picking a feat which offers an Intelligence increase.