DnD 5e - The Lizardfolk Handbook
Last Updated: January 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.
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 is their ability score increase. Their 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.
One advantage 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 the temporary hit points you gain when you hit.
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.
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.
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 your damage output will lag a bit until you get some Ability Score increases. Wisdom is helpful for ranger spellcasting, and natural armor will allow you to exceed the AC offered by manufactured armor once you reach 20 Dexterity.
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, so emphasizing Dexterity may mean giving up on Hungry Jaws.
The Lizardfolk offers nothing that mechanically supports the Sorcerer.
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.