Last Updated: April 25, 2022
The Firbolg is an interesting race. They were introduced in Volo’s Guide to Monster’s, and while they have existed back to 1st edition DnD, their appearance, lore, and even their height has changed significantly in 5th edition. The Forgotten Realm Wiki goes into more detail, but the single piece of art we have for the Firbolg depicts them as blue with pointy ears, which has no text to back it up and disagrees with every other depiction of firbolgs in DnD’s history. Of course, a 10-foot tall player character would present some challenges. So in terms of lore, the Firbolg is a bit unclear, but they’re consistently depicted as reclusive, gentle, humble, but also extremely insular. If you’re playing a firbolg, your character has almost certainly left home permanently, and may never see another of their kind again.
The original version of the Firbolg is a mechanical challenge. combining an uncommon pair of ability score increases with powerful innate spellcasting. Their flavor text describes them as natural druids, and while that can be a great option it’s also not the only one. Tragically, as much fun as the Firbolg is conceptually, their unusual combination of ability increases severely limits their build options. Speech of Beast and Leaf is more complicated, so I’ve explored it below.
With the introduction of the Custom Origin rules and the updated version of the Firbolg published in Monsters of the Multiverse, the Firbolg’s unusual combination of ability score increases is no longer an issue, and instead they’re left to stand on their other racial traits. The Firbolg’s innate spellcasting is the most obviously useful because spells have explicit, defined effects. Detect Magic is universally useful, and once per short rest is often enough that you likely don’t need it available by other means. Similarly, the Firbolg’s version of Disguise Self is neat, but Disguise Self is only situationally useful and you may go long stretches without using it at all. Hidden Step is good, but likely can’t compete with race options like the Glasya Tiefling or the Pallid Elf, and you’ll still need to invest in Stealth proficiency.
Table of Contents
- Firbolg Versions
- Speech of Beast and Leaf
- Firbolg Classes (Customizable Origins and MMoM)
- Firbolg Classes (Classic Rules)
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.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
- : Good options. Useful often.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.
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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 are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.
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The Firbolg effectively has three versions. The original version of the Firbolg was published in Volo’s Guide to Monsters, and was reprinted without changes in Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount.
The introduction of the custom origin rules in Volo’s Guide to Monsters gave use the second version of the Firbolg. This was a big benefit to the Firbolg because their Str/Wis increases were extremely limiting in terms of build options.
Most recently, Monsters of the Multiverse gave us an updated version of the Firbolg. Their innate spellcasting no longer recharges on a short rest, but Hidden Step now works PB/long rest rather than once per short rest. This allows you to use it repeatedly in short succession when needed.
Speech of Beast and Leaf
The Firbolg’s Speech of Beast and Leaf feature is worded very simply, but the exact applications might be confusing. Speech of Beast and Leaf does not replicate the effects of the Speak With Animals and Speak With Plants spells, and it works differently from the Gnome’s Speak With Small Beasts feature. Speech of Beast and Leaf is more akin to Kronk talking to squirrels, but you can’t understand the animal or plant in return.
The text of the ability also doesn’t specifically state that Speech of Beast and Leaf only applies to creatures, so it’s not explicitly stated how it applies to inanimate plants like a mundane tree or something. But with some critical thinking we can work it out.
Speaking to beasts is the easy part. “Beasts” is a creature type which includes things like animals and giant bugs, ranging from the smallest rat to the largest dinosaur. Since creatures like mundane bugs (house flies, normal spiders, etc.) aren’t given stat blocks it’s not totally clear if you can talk to them, but as a DM I would allow it.
Speaking to plants is more complicated. Without magic, most mundane plants are inanimate and don’t have senses like humanoids do. Your DM might allow mundane plants to respond to extremely simple commands, like asking a venus fly trap to open or shut, but anything beyond the plant’s normal capabilities would require magic no matter how charming you were. But hey, you can tell plants that they’re pretty and they’ll understand you, and that has to count for something.
Plant creatures are another story, having more in common with beasts than with mundane plants (mechanically, at least). You might encounter a shambling mound and convince it not to eat you rather than getting into a fight with what amounts to a compost elemental. Most plant creatures don’t speak a language, so this is a wholly unique option for handling them.
To make best use of Speech of Beast and Leaf, you’ll need to invest in Face skills like Persuasion. Without a natural Charisma increase, that’s an unusual role for the Firbolg. But spending one skill proficiency on Persuasion may be enough to mostly negate plant creatures as threats to your party, which might be worth the investment in some games. If you’re using the custom origin rules, you can easily build your Firbolg as a Face and address threats from plants and animals with ease.
Firbolg Classes (Customizable Origins and MMoM)
This section assumes that you’re using the option “Customizing Your Origin” rules presented in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. If you’re not using those rules, scroll down to the next section.
With the exception of Speech of Beast and Leaf, the Artificer can already do everything that the Firbolg offers, and artificers typically dump Charisma, so speaking to plants and animals is likely not helpful. The innate spellcasting does add additional spells on a class that doesn’t get full spellcasting, but that doesn’t make this a great option.
There is no overlap between the Firbolg’s traits and the Barbarian’s capabilities. Their innate spellcasting is mostly useless for the Barbarian (Hidden Step works, but it’s not especially helpful), and Speech of Beast and leaf is nearly unusable on a class that dumps Charisma.
The Firbolg’s innate spellcasting complements the Bard’s spellcasting nicely, and the ability to cast Disguise Self means that you don’t need to spend a spell known to learn it. The Bard’s high Charisma and access to Expertise work very well with Speech of Beast and Leaf, allowing you to easily solve many problems by talking to stuff.
The Firbolg’s innate spellcasting is Wisdom-based, so a Wisdom-based spellcaster is a natural fit. But the more interesting part of the combination is access to Detect Magic, Disguise Self, and invisibility (the effect, not the spell). Only trickery clerics get access to Disguise Self and Invisibility, so the extra spells allow other clerics to be a little bit sneaky.
Perhaps the most obvious class choice, though not an especially powerful one. The Firbolg’s access to Disguise Self and short-term invisibility add capabilities which the Druid can’t provide on their own, and Hidden Step likely works while using Wild Shape.
Any amount of innate spellcasting is nice, but the Firbolg’s spell options do little to complement the capabilities of a typical fighter. Perhaps the best combination is a Dexterity-based fighter with similar skills to a rogue (the Criminal background should suffice), and the innate spellcasting can make you feel a bit like an arcane trickster. Of course, at that point just play an arcane trickster.
Monks can’t replicate the effects of Detect Magic or Disguise Self, and the Monk’s dependence on Wisdom works well with Wisdom-based spellcasting (though your save DC doesn’t matter much for the Firbolg’s spells). Hidden Step is especially appealing for a class which is frequently good at stealth but can’t turn invisible, though it does compete for the Monk’s already over-burdened Bonus Action.
Similar to the Fighter, the Firbolg’s innate spellcasting offers some capabilities normally not available to the Paladin, though not frequently useful. Speech of Beast and Leaf may be effective due to the Paladin’s need for Charisma.
Access to Disguise Self and invisiiblity via Hidden Step are tempting for a class which often replaces a rogue. Speech of Beast and Leaf may not be useful since most rangers need to dump Charisma.
Likely the Firbolg’s best martial option, the Firbolg’s innate spellcasting offers capabilities which generally only the Arcane Trickster can provide. Even arcane tricksters benefit, getting access to spells which they might not want to learn with their limited number of spells known. Speech of Beast and Leaf is helpful, and even if you dumped Charisma you can put Expertise into Persuasion and you should do fine.
The Sorcerer desperately needs to know more spells, so innate spellcasting is always welcome. Speech of Beast and Leaf is useful, too, thanks to the Sorcerer’s dependence on Charisma.
Innate spellcasting is always welcome on the Warlock due to their extremely limited number of spell slots. Speech of Beast and Leaf is useful, too, thanks to the Warlock’s dependence on Charisma.
The Wizard can already replicate all of the Firbolg’s innate spellcasting, and Speech of Beast and Leaf isn’t appealing on a class that typically dumps Charisma.
Firbolg Classes (Classic Rules)
This section assumes that you’re not using the option “Customizing Your Origin” rules presented in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything or the updated version of the race published in Mordenkainen’s Monsters of the Multiverse. If you are using those rules, scroll up to the previous section.
No Intelligence increase.
A Strength increase is just barely enough, but nothing else about the Firbolg supports the Barbarian.
The Bard needs a Dexterity increase, a Charisma increase, or both. The Firbolg gets neither.
Despite their flavor text, the Firbolg makes a better cleric than a druid. Druids can rely on Wisdom for melee attacks thanks to Shillelagh, but Clerics are stuck using Strength or Dexterity. A Strength increase makes that much easier, allowing for a wide range of melee cleric builds. If you still want a druidic feel, Nature is a great option.
Wisdom is the only thing that the Druid strictly needs, so the Firbolg is a natural choice both mechanically and thematically. A Strength increase might tempt you into melee, but if you’re going that route Shillelagh and Wild Shape are better options than trying to rely on Strength.
A Strength increase is just barely enough, but nothing else about the Firbolg supports the Fighter.
Wisdom is great, but the Monk’s primary role is as a Striker so they can’t afford to lag defensively by not getting a Dexterity increase.
A Strength increase is just barely enough, but nothing else about the Firbolg supports the Paladin.
Dexterity is typically the Ranger’s primary ability score, but in medium armor the Ranger can work with Strength. The Firbolg’s innate spellcasting offers some useful magical and stealth options which the Ranger normally can’t provide, offering new stealth options to help compensate for your relatively poor Dexterity.
The Firbolg’s innate spellcasting is neat for a rogue, but it’s simply not enough to make the Rogue a good option since you don’t get a Dexterity increase.
No Charisma increase.
No Charisma increase.
No Intelligence increase.