The First Tuesday of every month, I like to tackle creating a Character that is interesting, dynamic, or that has a cool archetype or concept. This month I’m looking at my favorite race in the whole of Fantasy Mythologies, the Lizardfolk!
I cannot tell you, in words of this language or another, how cool I find lizardfolk, of any type. They are clearly the most intriguing of all the anthropomorphized animals, save maybe the rhino. I like that they have the alien mindset and strange ways about them, and how they are on the edges of society, living swampy, dismal lives.
That said, I have this very strong aversion to any sort of monster race as a PC, both in my own games and in games I play. I like a fairly tight, grim, gritty setting that often doesn’t have a place for these monstrous beasts. Regardless of all those feelings, though, when I saw the Lizardfolk in Volo’s Guide to Monsters, I was done for!
Character Concept: Tribal Hunter
I know what classes the Lizardfolk tend to evoke, with barbarian coming forefront to the mind, with some form of sorcerer as a likely second. This got me thinking, though, about the place of Lizardfolk in my world. That’ll be for another post and another book, likely, but, I’ll show a bit here in the build.
After contemplating for some time on what type of character would be in the correct vein, but not one that is commonplace and overdone, I felt that a Ranger would be a good call. These folks are in the wilds and the swamps every day, surviving in fetid pools and insect ridden bogs to the best of their ability. I can absolutely imagine them having scouts and rangers that guide the way for others, hunts the prey for the tribe, and generally allow the society to thrive.
When looking at the possible ranger paths, one stuck out to me immediately as very clear – Hunter. Monster Slayer also works, to be honest, and it’s hard to choose between to two, but Hunter is the very heart of the concept, and I feel that it’s the best representation of where I am going with the character.
One of the aspects of the ranger that I’ve always enjoyed is the devotion to the gods of nature and a reverence for the divinity inherent in the wilderness. For a lizardfolk, that seemed dissonant to their worldview. I started to think about what would align with this cold, alien worldview and, in a moment of obviousness, stumbles across it: The Great Old Ones. I love the great old one warlock concept (see Krond), and it simply fits perfectly here. Instead of revering nature, the Lizardfolk call upon their Great Old One patrons, who provide for them. Also, the idea of a Lizardfolk Ranger/Warlock really resonated with me. Warlock had no competition at this point, and it fits neatly within the concept.
Taking Hunter first allows us access to armor and weapons that warlock would otherwise prevent us from using, though we won’t be using any armor in this build, as the scaly hide of the Lizardfolk will be enough. Being able to craft blow darts is an interesting ability of Lizardfolk, and it will be cool to try and utilize both the Blow Dart and poisons in this character.
At first level, you get both Favored Enemy and Natural Explorer. As always, the favored enemy should be determined by your backstory, but beasts, aberrations, and monstrosities are always good choices that reflect the swampy nature of our hero. Natural explorer is absolutely a slam dunk here for Swamp. I can’t imagine a lizardfolk picking anything else.
The Fighting Style, available at 2nd level, is going to play into the archetype and be Archery. As a typical hunter type and not the dual-wielder, Archery works both with the weapon I intend to pick up: Longbow, but also the blowgun, which will be amusing to use from time to time. When you only get one shot from stealth at a wild beast, you should probably make it count.
Rangers also gain spellcasting, as as we will be taking this class all the way up to 14th level, we’re going to have 8 spells known, with slots of 4/3/3/1, accessing all our spell levels except the most powerful 5th level spells, which should be fine. You’ll have access to spells like Zephyr Strike, Cure Wounds, Hail of Thorns, Longstrider, Barkskin, Healing Spirit, Conjure Barrage, Lightning Arrow, Plant Growth, Flame Arrows, Freedom of Movement, and Stoneskin. Each of these enhancing or adding to the characters main abilities: ranged damage, nature manipulation, and stealth.
Primeval Awareness is niche, allowing you to detect most completely unnatural creatures, and I wouldn’t expect it to be useful in every campaign, let alone every adventure. The extra attack is pretty bare-bones and simple. Getting more attacks with that bow seems really reasonable. Lands stride is another outdoor focused ability, granting you a modicum of safe travels through wilderness areas, playing into the hunter abilities.
Hide in Plain Sight and Vanish are both really cool abilities for a wilderness sneak character to have, with Hide in Plain Sight allowing you to prepare a camouflaged position from which to attack. Vanish allows the hide action to be performed as a bonus action, but also needs to follow the rules of no one having Line of Sight to you or being aware of where you are, which is really rough. Not being able to be tracked in mundane ways is also a nice ability of the feature, though it’s one I would expect to come up rarely.
Taking Hunter, and Ranger, to 14th level, gives us three choices as we gain experience, with Hunters Prey, and Defensive Tactics giving three options and Multiattack giving two. For Hunters Prey, I prefer to take Colossus Slayer as it has the least preventable situation. Horde Breaker is great against large packs of creatures, and Giant Killer for taking a single, heavy target, but Colossus slayer wins in my purely biased opinion because it is very, very hard to deny. Defensive Tactics are a little similar, with the narrower abilities being generally more powerful. Escape the Horde is my pick, though, as being able to slide out of an engagement to fire off some more arrows is likely going to come up often. Lastly, the clear choice here is Volley, as we’ll be using a Longbow, and ranged attacks are our bread and butter.
Adding the Great Old One pact on top of all those other abilities adds a lot of cool utility abilities and allows for the character to be devoted to something, as a typical ranger is, but not in a typical way. The Great Old One, is the clear and repeated patron, though Archfey makes sense as well for this character. The Pact Magic of the warlock, up through 6th, gives 7 Spells known, with 2 spell slots a rest and a casting at 3rd level. They also get 3 invocations, allowing for some interesting play along the lines of manipulating the natural world. Warlock allows you access to spells like Infestation, Eldritch Blast, Earthbind, Hex, Expeditious retreat, Hold Person, Invisibility, Misty Step, Spider Climb, Gaseous Form, Fly, and Fear. The Great Old Ones add on to that list with Dissonant Whispers, Tasha’s Hideous Laughter, Detect Thoughts, Phantasmal Force, Clairvoyance and Sending.
For a Pact Boon, the obvious is always Pact of the Blade, but I see it so often I tire of making characters with it, and with the 2 attacks from Ranger, it unlikely to be needed. Pact of the Tome offers some really interesting RP avenues to explore here, as you can suddenly access Druid spells, which plays up the natural hunter part of the lore behind the character. Shillelagh and Thorn Whip are two of my favorites, and I like Primal Savagery as a play on the attacks that the Lizardfolk make with their claws.
The Last two abilities come from the Patron, and both fit in with the alien mind and world that this character comes from. Awakened Mind allows telepathic speech within 30 feet, and Entropic Ward allows the use of my reaction to make an enemy potentially miss, and if they do, gives me advantage.
For invocations, I like Book of Ancient Secrets allowing the use of Ritual spells, Cloak of Flies for awesome swamp theme, and Beast Speech for that ranger tie in. Each of these provides solid utility that also wraps the character tighter around the main concept.
Althraz ends up at 14 Hunter/6 Great Old One Patron, and really gets going about 7th level, like most builds.
Lizardfolk. The whole concept is a lizardfolk. He’s tough and wise, can eat his foes and then make blowgun darts out of their bodies.
Being a Lizardfolk does grant bonuses to Stealth and Survival, as well as swimming speed, an unarmed natural attack, and a really solid natural armor of 13.
Feats and Weapons
This is one of the places that this character has some really unique properties, as I am taking battleaxe, a Longbow, and the Blowgun. The blowgun only does 1 damage, but allowing me to apply hunting poisons to the target is well worth it – provided the DM allows it. With the Longbow as the main weapon, the sharpshooter is a clear choice for a feat selection as soon as you are able to spare stats. Additionally, combined with Skulker, it brings a very hunter-centric flavor to the character, firing arrows from cover.
Althraz, Lizardfolk Ranger
Ranger 14: Hunter
Warlock 6: Great Old One
Race: Lizardfolk that’s the whole point, once again,
and playing up the tropes without being completely obvious.
Highest Stat: Dexterity. This all-around best stat is going to give you solid Armor class and a bonus to hit and damage. It’s good to focus on this above all others.
Second Highest Stat: Charisma. As the save modifier for your Warlock spells, it makes sense to push the Charisma of the Lizardfolk character up pretty high.
Armor: None! We save a bunch here by not needing armor, with Scaly Skin and a solid Dexterity easily reaching AC 16, 18 at best, and 20 with a shield, if you want to go that route.
Weapons: Longbow (main weapon) battleaxe (melee, if needed) and Blowgun (for applying those DM allowed poisons you crafted with your poisoners kit you definitely have proficiency in.
Skills: Animal Handling, Perception, Nature, Survival, Stealth, Athletics, and Acrobatics. Between Backgrounds, Ranger, and Lizardfolk, he is going to be the consummate wilderness survivalist. The only thing I feel I am lacking here is the ability to use poisons with the blowgun, which feels both super thematic and fun, but has so little to back it up I didn’t want to spend a lot of time on going over how to make it work when it’s all vague, to begin with.
Well, that’s my lizardfolk Warlock/Ranger, and I really enjoyed putting this one together. I’ve got about 4 more in my head, and we’ll see how many generate between now and then!