Lizardfolk are one of my favorite races for a variety of reasons. Mechanically, they have a fun mix of offensive and defensive abilities, and an interesting set of ability score increases. In terms of flavor, lizardfolk are sufficiently alien that they truly feel like a unique race rather than a human with scales and a tail.
Perhaps the biggest challenge of building a lizardfolk using the original version of the Lizardfolk is their ability score increases. Constitution is fine, but an ability increase in Wisdom doesn’t support many class options. Because they need Dexterity to complement their Natural Armor, it’s frequently better to build lizardfolk to emphasize Dexterity over Strength. Unfortunately that means that Hungry Jaws will be less useful because the attack is Strength-based. This means that the race itself is MAD, which is uniquely frustrating.
One advantage of the original version of Hungry Jaws which is easy to overlook: it’s expended on a hit, but not a miss. This means that you can attempt to use it repeatedly until you hit, so attacking repeatedly against high-AC opponents is fine and you never risk giving up access to the temporary hit points you gain when you hit.
Both the custom origin rules and the updated version of the Lizardfolk published in Monsters of the Multiverse remove the Lizardolk’s frustrating ability score increases, but amazing they’re no lass MAD because they still need Strength for Hungry Jaws and Dexterity for their Natural Armor.
Table of Contents
- Lizardfolk Versions
- Natural Armor and Other Sources of AC
- Lizardfolk Classes (Customizable Origins and MMoM)
- Lizardfolk 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 the article will be updated accordingly as time allows.
The Lizardfolk effectively has three versions. The original version of the Lizardfolk was published in Volo’s Guide to Monsters.
The introduction of the custom origin rules in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything gave use the second version of the Lizardfolk. This was a big benefit to the Lizardfolk because their ability scores no longer locked them into Wisdom-based caster builds, and also the Lizardfolk’s skills were no longer restricted to a fixed list.
Most recently, Monsters of the Multiverse gave us an updated version of the Lizardfolk which made some changes to their traits. The Lizardfolk’s skill proficiencies are once again selected from a list, and while the list heavily Wisdom-based, there are enough options that basically any character can find something meaningful. Hungry Jaws was updated to work PB/long rest rather than once per short rest, you no longer retain the attempt if you miss, and the amount of temporary hp is now your Proficiency Bonus rather than your Constitution modifier.
Cunning Artisan was removed entirely, and while mechanically it’s no great loss, it does feel like we lost something special and unique. Finally, the damage type of the Lizardfolk’s bite was changed from piercing to slashing, but it’s not clear why.
Natural Armor and Other Sources of AC
When considering races with natural armor, it’s important to understand how natural armor interacts with other sources of Armor Class, including manufactured armor and the Unarmored Defense ability. Each such ability provides a new armor class calculation, and each of these calculations is mutually exclusive. Many of these calculations specify that they only work while unarmored, but generally you use whichever calculation gives you the highest AC.
To be absolutely explicit: None of these AC calculations are bonuses. Because they are not bonuses, there is no stacking to consider.
For example: Lizardfolk’s natural armor states that while unarmored, a lizardfolk’s AC is 13 + Dex. If the lizardolk has 14 Dexterity and 14 Constitution and takes a level of Barbarian, they gain the Unarmored Defense ability. Unarmored Defense states that while unarmored, the barbarian’s AC is 10 + Dex + Con. That means that the lizardfolk’s AC is 15 via natural armor or 14 via Unarmored Defense, so the lizardfolk uses their natural armor. If a wizard were to come along and cast Mage Armor on the lizardfolk, this adds a third AC calculation method, setting the lizardfolk’s AC to 13 + Dex, which matches the lizardfolk’s natural armor.
Lizardfolk 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.
The Artificer doesn’t care about the Lizardfolk’s natural armor, and artificers nearly always dump Strength, so Hungry Jaws is basically unusable.
Hungry Jaws is great on a barbarian (bonus action attack which applies your Rage damage bonus), but the Lizardfolk’s Natural Armor isn’t any better than Unarmored Defense. If you can get 16 Constitution at first level, Unarmored Defense matches Natural Armor and will improve as you increase your Constitution. The two extra skills overlap heavily with the Barbarian’s class skill list, but two more skills means that you have more options outside of combat where barbarians frequently struggle to be useful.
13+Dex AC is better than most bards can hope for, but building to make Hungry Jaws useful is a struggle so you may just need to ignore it. At that point, you’re basically here for +1 AC, two skills, and a temporary hit points when you use Hungry Jaws on your bag of rats.
Clerics should not be built with enough Strength for Hungry Jaws to be meaningful in combat, but you can always dip into your bag of rats for some easy temporary hit points. The two skills are nice, and if you’re using the Monsters of the Multiverse option you get several Wisdom-based options. Natural Armor isn’t helpful.
Druids should not be built with enough Strength for Hungry Jaws to be meaningful in combat, but you can always dip into your bag of rats for some easy temporary hit points, and if you have a bite attack I think you can use it during Wild Shape. The two skills are nice, and if you’re using the Monsters of the Multiverse option you get several Wisdom-based options. Natural Armor is among the Druid’s best AC options, which is great since poor AC is one of the Druid’s biggest weaknesses compared to the Cleric.
Hungry Jaws is great on Strength-based builds and Natural Armor is great on Dexterity-based builds. Two additional skills help you be useful outside of combat. Unfortunately there isn’t a good way to make both Hungry Jaws and Natural Armor useful in combat at the same time, but Dexterity-based builds can still use Hungry Jaws on a bag of rats to get temporary hp between encounters.
Hungry Jaws will be useless in combat, but it’s still a few temporary hit points if you have a bag of rats. Two skills helps close the skill gap between the Monk and the Rogue.
If you want to dump Wisdom (possible with some subclasses as long as you’re okay ignoring Stunning Strike), the Lizardfolk’s Natural Armor makes it easy to maintain your AC. Somehow, taking a race which is MAD and class which is MAD gives you a race that’s SAD. Weird.
Hungry Jaws is great on Strength-based builds and Natural Armor is great on Dexterity-based builds. Two additional skills help you expand beyond Face skills. Unfortunately there isn’t a good way to make both Hungry Jaws and Natural Armor useful at the same time.
Strength-based rangers built to make Hungry Jaws meaningful in combat will still want to be in medium armor, so Natural Armor isn’t helpful. More likely, you’ll go for a Dexterity-based build to capitalize on the extra AC compared to light armor. Regardless of Strength or Dexterity, you may find it hard to use Hungry Jaws in combat because rangers lean on their Bonus Action so heavily. It’s more likely that you’ll use Hungry Jaws outside of combat to get temporary hit points.
Two additional skills help close the skill gap with the Rogue, and if you’re using the Monsters of the Multiverse option you get several Wisdom-based options.
Natural Armor adds an effective +1 to your AC, and two skills expand your already impressive skill options. Hungry Jaws is only useful to get temporary hit points outside of combat.
Natural Armor and the temporary hit points from Hungry Jaws are a great improvement to your durability, and two skills will help you expand beyond Face skills.
For non-Hexblades, Natural Armor and the temporary hit points from Hungry Jaws are a great improvement to your durability, and two skills will help you expand beyond Face skills. Fiendish Vigor will be more effective than Hungry Jaws, but Hungry Jaws will save you an invocation.
Natural Armor and the temporary hit points from Hungry Jaws are a great improvement to your durability. Of course, Mage Armor which match the Lizardfolk’s Natural Armor and beyond low levels it’s not a huge commitment of resources to prepare Mage Armor. The two skills are nice, but wizards don’t have a lot of good skill options.
Lizardfolk 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.
Bad ability spread.
Natural Armor and Unarmored Defense are mutually exclusive, but Barbarian can still be a great choice for the Lizardfolk. Thanks to the Lizardfolk’s bite attack you can fight entirely naked and unarmed. Unfortunately the lack of a Strength increase means that you’ll lag offensively until you pick up some ability score increases.
The Lizardfolk offers nothing that mechanically supports the Bard.
Constitution and Wisdom are great on clerics, and with a long list of domains to choose from you have plenty of room for customization. I recommend going for something that works in melee so that you can break out Hungry Jaws when you need a snack.
It’s hard to think of a better druid option than the Lizardfolk. The ability scores line up perfectly, lizardfolk get extra skills which line up with the Druid skill list, and natural armor provides a good source of AC when you’re not using wild shape.
Perhaps surprisingly, the lizardfolk makes an excellent Dexterity-based fighter. With 20 Dexterity you can match full plate AC without wearing armor, and the lizardfolk’s other traits offer great options to keep you alive. However, Hungry Jaws is always dependent on Strength, so emphasizing Dexterity may mean giving up on Hungry Jaws.
Despite the lack of a Dexterity increase, lizardfolk could make very functional Monks. Natural armor allows you to defer increasing your Wisdom score while you focus on your Dexterity, and the Constitution increase and Hungry Jaws will make you abnormally durable. Bite also has the added benefit of making your unarmed strikes deal abnormally high damage at very low levels, though it won’t match the damage dealt by a spear or a quarterstaff used two-handed.
The ability increase don’t help the paladin much, and the other racial traits are largely redundant with paladin class features.
Extremely durable, though the lack of a Strength or Dexterity increase means that you’ll likely want to use Druidic Warrior. Natural Armor will allow you to exceed the AC offered by manufactured armor once you reach 20 Dexterity, but if you go for a Druidic Warrior build you might prefer to stick to medium armor and 14 Dexterity so that you can focus on your Constitution and Wisdom. Hungry Jaws is always dependent on Strength to attack, so it’s only useful for getting temporary hit point outside of combat.
Natural Armor will provide more AC than manufactured armor can, and two free skills are a nice complement to the Rogue’s already expansive skillset. Lizardfolk do great when built to emphasize Dexterity, but Hungry Jaws is always dependent on Strength to attack, so it’s only useful for getting temporary hit point outside of combat.
The Lizardfolk offers nothing that mechanically supports the Sorcerer except Natural Armor which can be replaced by Mage Armor.
The Lizardfolk’s natural durability could be appealing for Hexblade warlocks, but their lack of a Charisma increase means that both your spellcasting and your weapon usage will lag until you’ve picked up some ability score increases.
The Lizardfolk offers nothing that mechanically supports the Wizard except Natural Armor which can be replaced by Mage Armor.