While the countenance of dragonborn leaves no question about at least one major part of their ancestry, there is no denying that even a fearsome dragonborn is a long way removed from the fierce winged ancestors who remain either awe-inspiring or truly terrifying forces in certain parts of the world whenever they appear.
Dragon Fear is a strong flavor-based 5E racial feat from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything only available to dragonborn that allows dragonborn to tap into their primal nature for a +1 stat to Strength, Constitution, or Charisma, and the ability to switch out the damage of a breath weapon attack for a dragonish war that creates a fear AOE attack.
This is a racial feat that took the flavor of the dragonborn race very seriously and really lives up to the stated purpose of racial feats from Xanathar’s, which was to give a character bonuses for further connecting with their ancestral roots, a deeper understanding of their people. The Dragon Fear feat in 5E certainly does that but is it worth grabbing with your limited feat opportunities?
Read on for the bull breakdown of the Dragon Fear feat!
Breaking Down the Dragon Fear Racial Feat
First things first, let’s get the exact wording of what the Dragon Fear racial feat does straight from the base book:
Directly from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything:
When angered, you can radiate menace. You gain the following benefits:
- Increase you Strength, Constitution, or Charisma score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
- Instead of exhaling destructive energy, you can expend a use of your Breath Weapon trait to roar, forcing each creature of your choice within 30 feet of you to make a Wisdom save throw (DC 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier). A target automatically succeeds on the save if it can’t hear or see you. On a failed save, a target becomes frightened of you for 1 minute. If the frightened target takes any damage, it can repeat the saving throw, ending the effect on itself on a success.
Let’s breakdown these racial feat benefits in more depth.
Benefit #1: Increase your Strength, Constitution, or Charisma by +1 to the maximum of 20.
While I’m generally not big on “half feats” as they are often referred to in 5E, a +1 to an ability check does minimize the cost of foregoing a +2 or +1/+1 ability score leveling up by getting you some of that lost potential back. I do like the the fact that this is a versatile option, offering +1 to three very different ability scores not often seen together and giving players and player characters a lot more classes where this boost becomes useful.
Benefit #2: Your breath weapon becomes a Fear AOE attack where every creature you choose within 30 meet must make a wisdom saving throw or become frightened for one minute.
As far as actual fear weapons go, this is the best fear attack in the game. It’s an AOE you have control over, it’s set up to be a fairly decent save low level and a very high save in high levels, and while it’s questionable how often you’d want to use it versus a regular breath attack, it gives some serious options if your DM likes to swarm to overwhelm your party…because a horde of goblins is not going to save very well against this.
This depends a lot on how useful you think the frightened state is, though it can have its usefulness in some situations.
What Does the Frightened Condition Do?
Creatures who are frightened have disadvantage on all ability checks and attack rolls while the source of their fear is within line of sight (visible). Once line of sight is broken these disadvantages are no longer in play, but the person is still frightened until they can make a save.
In addition to this, the creature can’t willingly move closer to the source of its fear.
How Good Is Dragon Fear?
Dragon Fear is very niche. I’m not a huge fan of it as I don’t think there are a lot of places where a fear attack is going to be useful, though to the credit of the feat creators, this is the best fear attack a player can get in 5th edition. This can be very useful in some circumstances as long as you’re not dealing with high wisdom enemies or spellcasters, but it’s best for group control.
This is a feat that has a little bit of a gray area problem in that high level enemies will be able to overcome it in many situations, but it can be a great overpowering feat for small groups or added with a paladin, a bard (or both), for an absolute stunning amount of battlefield control in an area.
Especially when they are combined with the other buffs and tricks that these two classes have for creating battlefield control and the combination can be pretty devastating. But those impressive moments of strength and battlefield dominance also highlight the weakness of this feat: that it’s not powerful on its own but in the right combination of factors and party setup.
As far as flavor text, from that perspective this is a great addition to a dragonborn that really fits into setting them apart, highlighting what makes them great, and doing so in a way that makes perfect sense within the high-fantasy world where Dungeons & Dragons takes place.
- Best fear attack in the entire game
- Good feat for low-level and potential mid-level crowd control
- Can offer devastating battlefield control when stacked with Bard or Paladin battlefield control
- The +1 ability score is a versatile array with good choices
- 30 foot range means ranged enemies might start out of its range
- Most spellcasters can work around it
- If not a charisma-based class, the DC save isn’t going to be that hard for decent enemies to make
- Can only be used once per short or long rest
Who Should Take Dragon Fear?
- Dragonborn Bards
- Dragonborn Paladins
There aren’t many classes or combos where Dragon Fear is necessarily a must-take, but this feat is a bit more intriguing in the hands of the two classes that are both renown for battlefield control whether buffing a party or mocking enemies into submission. Adding the ability to make the breath attack that comes with their race a sort of AOE fear attack gives both the bard and the paladin another tool in their respective tool boxes to control a battle and make good things happen for their party – and bad for the enemy.
I also wouldn’t blame any players who skipped this feat, exchanging it for a better one (say one off the best feats for bards list?) or just taking a boost to an additional ability score, but if it was going to show up one of those classes seems to make the most sense.
Dragon Fear Feat FAQ
What is Dragon Fear?
Dragon fear is a racial feat from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything that is only available to Dragonborn characters in 5th Edition.
Is Dragon Fear a good feat?
While it has its uses, Dragon Fear really is a middle of the road feat with some clear positives and clear negatives that situationally can be very powerful but overall may be a bit “meh” because of limited uses and niche practical usefulness in campaign.
What class is best for a Dragon Fear racial feat?
There are two that stick out: Bard and Paladin. These are classes that are both Charisma based, which plays in well with the fear-attack version of the breath weapon, and they are both built around battlefield control. This makes the feat work well both mechanically and practically with each of these classes, not to mention the roaring Paladin and the performing Bard are completely believable as characters who would discover this inner connection to their ancestry.
Final Thoughts for 5E Dragon Fear Feat
The Dragon Fear feat isn’t one I would go out of my way to get as the benefits it offers just don’t really come into effect that often. While it might be useful corralling large groups of low-level enemies from overwhelming you, it doesn’t really affect ranged units or spellcasters nearly as much (or at all depending on what the spellcaster is doing), and frightened is a condition that just doesn’t come up all that often.
In most campaigns it’s just not that all that useful. Flavor-wise, it’s a great feat, but it kind of feels like something that should have been part of the Dragonborn race as opposed to a racial feat. I’d pass, but I appreciate any huge dragonborn fan who wants to feel that extra primal connection to their dragon ancestor.
Other DnD Articles You Might Enjoy
- Elven Accuracy 5E
- Bountiful Feat 5E
- List of Racial Feats 5E
- 5E Giant Spiders
- 5E Net Guide
- 5E War Caster Feat
Proud to embrace the locally created moniker of “Corrupt Overlord” from one of the all time great Lords of Waterdeep runs, Shane is one member of the Assorted Meeples crew and will be hard at work creating awesome content for the website. He is a long-time player of board games, one time semi-professional poker player, and tends to run to the quirky or RPG side of things when it comes to playing video games. He loves tabletop roleplaying systems like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Werewolf, Fate, and others, and not only has been a player but has run games as DM for years. You can find his other work in publications like Level Skip or Hobby Lark.