DnD 5e - The Tabaxi 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.
Mechanically, the Tabaxi is very strong with a set of racial traits well-suited to stealth and infiltration. They tend to excel in classes which already have good skills, so their two racial skill proficiencies can expand those class's already good skills.
With Darkvision and a climb speed, Tabaxi can go a lot of places that other races might have trouble reaching. Be sure to use your unusual movement capabilities to surprise enemies or avoid situations which might be dangerous.
Kenku vs. Tabaxi
The Kenku and the Tabaxi have a lot of overlap. Their ability score increases are similar and they recieves similar skill proficiencies. However, the minor differences between the two leave some room for one to excel over the other depending on the needs of the class or build.
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.
Barbarians could make great use of Feline Agility and a climb speed, but they're too dependent on a racial Strength increase for Tabaxi to be a good option.
The Tabaxi's ability score increases are perfect for a Bard, regardless of your choice of College. The Tabaxi's free skills help to further pad the Bard's already excellent skills. Even the flavor lines up well: Tabaxi are described as curious wanderers, trading in stories and trinkets.
With no Wisdom increase, Cleric is a really hard class for the Tabaxi. You might be able to do something with the Trickery domain, but mechanically the Tabaxi offers little that couldn't be done better by the Kenku.
All the same issues as cleric. Feline Agility appears to work while you use Wild Shape, but that's not enough to make the race/class combination worthwhile.
Dexterity is a perfect basis for a fighter, whether you choose to use a rapier or a ranged weapon. The Tabaxi's free skills can help you fill roles typically filled by a rogue, but you may need to pick up proficiency in Thieves' Tools from your background to round out the skillset.
Dexterity is a good basis for a Monk, and the Monk's speed increase applies to the Tabaxi's climb speed, making you an excellent climber. Numerically, the Kenku and Wood Elf are probably better options due to their Wisdom increases, and the Tabaxi's claws do not allow you to deal slashing damage with the Monk's increased unarmed strike damage.
Dexterity and Charisma work great for a paladin. Grab a rapier and suit of full plate, and you're good to go. Feline Agility will help get you into melee even in heavy armor, and your climb speed will help with obstacles most paladins can't easily overcome without assistance.
Kenku is a better option for the Ranger due to the Kenku's Wisdom increase, but the Tabaxi is still a good option. The Dexterity increase is always welcome, and the Tabaxi's free skill proficiencies will close the skill gap between the Ranger and other class like Bard and Rogue which get more skills while filling a similar role in the party.
Tabaxi's ability score increases work perfectly for the Rogue, and the free skill proficiencies are skills which every Rogue should have anyway. Pick up skills like Deception and Persuasion to capitalize on the Tabaxi's Charisma increase, and you've got a highly-skilled, charming rogue.
A Charisma increase is a good start for the Sorcerer, and Dexterity will help with your AC, but the Tabaxi doesn't offer anything else specifically useful for the Sorcerer. If you want to be a spellcaster, Warlock may be a better option.
Dexterity and Charisma are great for a warlock. Your Dexterity will pad your AC, and Charisma will fuel your spells. The Tabaxi racial skills don't directly cater to the Warlock, but there's nothing stopping you from building a sneaky warlock. Grab a background with proficiency in Thieves' Tools and you can do a convincing impression of an Arcane Trickster Rogue.
None of the Tabaxi's traits work well for the Wizard.