DnD 5e - The Goliath Handbook
Last Updated: October 8th, 2020
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.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances.
- : Good options.
- : 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 are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.
RPGBOT is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.
Goliaths first appeared as a playable race in the 3.5 supplement Races of Stone. Much like dragonborn are a humanoid dragon, goliaths are a humanoid giant. That's a weird statement to make since giants are basically just tall humanoids, but they're a separate creature type. Still, the appeal of being almost Large size has remained appealing since the goliath's first appearance. Goliaths do have fun and unique background lore, but generally players pick the Goliath because they want to be really big.
Mechanically, the Goliath is a spectacular option for any Strength-based build. Proficiency in Athletics gives you a staple option for many Strength-based characters and Stone's Endurance provides a powerful defensive option which remains useful throughout your character's career. Unfortunately, these capabilities also pigeon-hole the Goliath into Strength-based melee builds.
If you're using the version of the Goliath originally published in the Elemental Evil Player's Companion, not that the Goliath's Mountain Born trait has been updated to add resistance to cold damage. This change was made in Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden, and in errata documents and the Sage Advice Compendium.
Classes (Default Rules)
This section assumes that you're not using the option "Customizing Your Origin" rules presented in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything. If you are using those rules, scroll up to the previous section.
No Intelligence increase.
Strength and Constitution are perfect, and if there's any class that needs Stone's Endurance it's the Barbarian. Negating 1d12+Con damage is huge since the Barbarian often has lower AC than most front-line melee classes, and Reckless Attack compounds that issue.
Strength-based bards are already hard enough, and the Goliath doesn't get a Charisma increase.
A front-line Strength-based cleric can work, especially at low levels before Extra Attack makes other characters outpace you, but lacking a Wisdom increase will hurt for a long time.
Nearly nothing about the Goliath benefits the Druid.
Strength, Constitution, Athletics, and Stone's Endurance. Stone's Endurance is a great defensive option that can make it easier to choose two-handed weapons over using a shield, but honestly the Goliath works on any Strength-based fighter build.
No increases to either Dexterity or Wisdom, and the Monk is too reliant on having high scores in those abilities.
The Goliath works for the Paladin for the same reason that they work for the Fighter. Lacking a Charisma increase isn't a deal breaker, and proficiency in Athletics means that you don't need to choose between Athletics and a Face skill like Persuasion. Stone's Endurance is less appealing for the Paladin than for the Barbarian or the Fighter since the Paladin has more built-in healing options, but it's still fantastic and it'll keep you alive at low levels before those healing options come online.
Strength-based rangers are hard, but one of their biggest challenges is relatively poor AC and needing high scores in several ability scores to fill out medium armor without cutting into other capabilities. Stone's Endurance can help offset the Ranger's relative frailty compared to the Fighter, and Athletics adds and extra skill on top the Ranger's already higher-than-normal number of skill proficiencies. It's still not a spectacular build, but it could work.
Bad ability spread, and none of the Goliath's traits suppor the Rogue.
No Charisma increase.
No Charisma increase.
No Intelligence increase.