DnD 5e - The Grung Handbook
Last Updated: August 7th, 2020
This guide 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.
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 races 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 unusually 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 obstables, 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 or long rest, and to increase its damage by 2d4 at 5th, 11th, and 17th levels to match cantrip damage increases. 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.
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.
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.
You might be able to manage a lightly-armored build, but without a Wisdom increase the Cleric is a very difficult choice.
Circle of Spores synergizes nicely with the Grung's natural poison, but the ability scores don't work especially well 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 Master 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.
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.