Last Updated: January 21, 2022
One Grung Above (affiliate link) was published in 2017 as part of Wizards of the Coasts annual fundraising drive for Extra Life. It’s a 4-page PDF devoted almost entirely to stat blocks for characters used in a streamed game session, and finishes with a half-page entry with traits for the Grung as a playable race.
Thematically, grung are halfling-sized humanoid frog people with a rigid caste system based on the color of their skin. Grung can change their skin color by being subjected to a ritual, but they need to perform “great deeds” to be invited to do so. Grung also enjoy taking sentient creatures as slaves and keeping those slaves in a perpetual poisoned state. So between a caste system based on skin color, slavery, and war crimes grung are generally just awful people. But sometimes playing an exception to a race’s published culture can be fun, and sometimes you want to play villains.
Mechanically, the Grung is a mess. Many traits are copied entirely from the monster entries for the Grung, and those traits were absolutely not written for use as a playable race. While they work fine for a self-contained one-shot game, they have some issues in a long-form campaign. In general, the race is exceptionally powerful.
Dex/Con is a great combo for any martial class except the Barbarian. Perception is the most important skill in the game and you get proficiency for free. You get a climb speed which can trivialize many obstacles, especially when combined with the Grung’s ability to long jump 25 feet, allowing you to bypass obstacles like pits or difficult terrain with no effort. Poison Immunity protects from a very common damage type which is a problem at all levels. Poisonous Skin offers a small damage boost, and while the DC is fixed at 12 and it’s only 2d4 damage, the target is Poisoned for 1 minute (though they do get additional saves), severely deblitating them. Even though the DC is low, even high-level creatures can still fail the save (even if it’s only on a natural 1), and as players gain additional attacks the chances of foes being poisoned multiply.
The Grung would need a lot of work to be considered balanced enough to make it to publication. As some quick fixes, I recommend reworking Poisonous Skin to use a DC equal to 8 + Proficiency Bonus + Constitution Modifier, to work once per short, once per or long rest, or potentially PB/long rest like many racial features as of Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes being released. Adjust the damage to increase by 2d4 at 5th, 11th, and 17th levels to match cantrip damage increases in order to keep the damage relevant rather than relying entirely on the Poisoned condition. That makes it an occasional tactical option similar to the Dragonborn’s breath weapon rather than a persistent mechanical annoyance. You might also weaken Standing Leap to some degree, possibly by duplicating the Satyr’s Mirthful Leaps trait or the Harengon’s Rabbit Hop trait.
Table of Contents
- Are Grung an Official Playable Race?
- Classes (Customizable Origins)
- Classes (Default 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.
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.
Are Grung an Official Playable Race?
No. The DMsGuild page for One Grung Above clarifies:
Disclaimer: Outside of a certain surrogate character, this document in no way makes grung a legal, playable race in the D&D Adventurers League, or any other campaign where the Dungeon Master hates amphibians with an excess of apostrophes in their names… and yes if you’re not immune to poison and you must touch the grung to heal it… you get to make a saving throw.
Between this and the mechanical issues discussed above, I do not cover the Grung in my other character optimization content.
Classes (Customizable Origins)
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.
Fine for melee builds, but ranged artificers generally use spells rather than weapons, so the Grung’s poison isn’t useful for them.
Poison added to your attacks and Standing Leap makes difficult terrain mostly a non-issue.
With the exception of College of Valor, bards don’t get enough attacks to make the Grung’s poison worthwhile, and while Standing Leap and an extra skill are both nice, they’re not enough to carry a build.
Clerics don’t get enough attacks to make the Grung’s poison worthwhile, and while Standing Leap and an extra skill are both nice, they’re not enough to carry a build.
A circle of spores druid built around Polearm Master to capitalize on Symbiotic Entity’s damage boosts could be a good fit both mechanically and thematically for the Grung, but the Grung doesn’t solve any of the Druid’s durability issues.
More attacks than anyone except the Monk, and unlike the Monk they can all be piercing damage without jumping through hoops. Go for two-weapon fighting and stab things as often and as quickly as you can manage. The extra skill helps you be useful outside of combat, and Standing Leap trivializes difficult terrain.
More attacks than any other character for the majority of the level range. Remember that unarmed strikes involves enemies touching your skin, which applies your poison just as well as poking them with a spear,
Not quite as good at abusing the Grung’s poison as the Fighter, but the Fighter doesn’t pull ahead until 11th level, so until then the Paladin is a fine choice for the Grung. The additional skill helps you expand beyond Face skills, and Standing Leap adds some welcome mobility.
Not quite as good at abusing the Grung’s poison as the Fighter, but the Fighter doesn’t pull ahead until 11th level, so until then the Ranger is a fine choice for the Grung. The additional skill helps close the skill gap with the Rogue, and Standing Leap adds some welcome mobility.
As much as rogues seem like they should like poison, the Grung’s poison rewards numerous attacks to try to make the low DC work, so the Rogue’s single attack (two with TWF) doesn’t help us. The extra skill and Standing Leap are nice, but that’s just not enough.
Ability score increases and one skill are really the only things that the Grung brings to the Sorcerer, and you can get that from numerous other races. Aside from the novelty of being a frog person, there’s nother here worth having.
Grung hexblades work for the same reason that most martial classes work for the Grung, but the Hexblade can’t match the Fighter’s base number of attacks, they’re not good at two-weapon fighting, and they don’t have something like Reckless Attack to make their attacks consistently accurate. It’s workable, but it’s not a great build.
Ability score increases and one skill are really the only things that the Grung brings to the Wizard, and you can get that from numerous other races. Aside from the novelty of being a frog person, there’s nother here worth having.
Classes (Default 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.
No Strength increase and you’re small.
Nothing especially useful for the Bard, but if you don’t focus on offensive spellcasting you can still be very effective.
No Wisdom increase.
Circle of Spores synergizes nicely with the Grung’s natural poison, but the ability scores don’t work and the other racial traits aren’t very useful compared to the Druid’s existing capabilities.
A great option because the Fighter can make more attacks than any other class. Go for a two-weapon fighting or Crossbow Expert build for the extra attacks and attack as much as you can to try to poison enemies.
The Grung makes a great monk for the same reason that they make a great fighter: good ability score increases, and multiple attacks to apply poison. Unfortunately, your Bonus Action attacks are almost always unarmed strikes which will deal bludgoening damage and therefore can’t apply the Grung’s poison.
The Paladin doesn’t get quite as many attacks as the Fighter, so they can’t capitalize on the Grung’s poison as well. Otherwise, the Paladin is a fine option.
Perfect ability score increases, a bonus skill, helpful movement options, and the Grung’s poison encourages the same strategies that support Hunter’s Mark.
The Grung’s ability score increases and most other traits work fine for the Rogue, but since rogues generally rely on one attack (sometimes two) per turn, there’s less opportunity to capitalize on the Grung’s poison than the Ranger gets.
No Charisma increase.
No Charisma increase.
No Intelligence increase.