The first of the race specific supplement books from Wizards of the Coast is out, Player’s Handbook Races: Dragonborn, and in a nutshell if you’re playing or thinking about playing a dragonborn character this is a book you will want to check out. More of a booklet, this is a 32-page softcover that is roughly half story and background for the entire race of dragonborn as well as for individual characters. The other half includes one paragon path for each power source (martial, arcane, divine, and primal), a large selection of new feats, a handful of new items, and a race specific epic destiny. This book is a great resource for a player with a dragonborn character or for a DM with particular interests in the race, and it provides a lot of great options for making your character stand out from the crowd and really feel like a dragonborn PC.
The elemental energy that surges within you also courses through your blade.
A dragonborn fighter is one of the toughest adversaries, not only because of the racial boost to strength but also because of the ability to combine combat challenge with a breath weapon to mark multiple creatures at one time. With the Honorable Blade paragon path for martial characters presented PHB Races: Dragonborn you gain even more ways to utilize your breath weapon to maximum effect. The level 11 path feature Dragon Breath Action allows you to use your dragon breath power whenever you spend an action point, even if it has already been expended during the current encounter. In addition, the Draconic Sidestep encounter attack power allows you to use your dragon breath power another time even if it has already been expended, giving you a minimum of three dragon breath attacks per encounter. With the ability to mark any target that you attack, this allows you to change the course of a battle several times. If you also take the Hurl Breath feat you can use your dragon breath up to a range of 10 as an area burst 2, which allows you to mark a large number of targets from a distance.
If you decide that instead you want to be a dragonborn who embraces the primal spirits, making a dragonborn warden and multiclassing into fighter can be a very effective tactic. The new Daunting Breath feat allows you to mark each target hit by your dragon breath power until the end of your next turn, effectively duplicating the ability of a full-fledged fighter. Add in the Surprising Breath feat and every creature hit with your dragon breath is not only marked for a turn, but also grants you combat advantage. At paragon tier you can still take the Honorable Blade paragon path due to MC into fighter, and you also gain access to the Spirit Breath feat for primal classes that allows you to regain the use of your dragon breath power whenever you use a daily primal attack power that has the keyword matching your breath weapon. Thankfully you also get the Draconic Blade path feature at level 11, which allows you to add the damage type of your breath weapon to all damage dealt with your melee weapon. In this way you can use your dragon breath power an average of four times per encounter (if you use a daily power). Each time you do this, you mark every target hit and they grant combat advantage to you.
If you happen to be a dragonborn with an acid breath weapon, you can also take the Corrosive Breath feat in the paragon tier that causes each target hit by your dragon breath to take a -2 penalty to AC for one turn. Empowered breath from the PHB is also a good choice, upping your breath damage to d10′s, and to top things off you can take the Dragonbreath Warrior feat from Martial Power that adds 1W damage to your next attack after using dragon breath. Once you enter the epic tier, you can take the Dissolving Breath feat from PHB Races: Dragonborn that replaces the -2 to AC with a -3 to all defense for one turn after being hit by your dragon breath. Draconic Restoration is another must-have feat that allows you to regain your dragon breath when you use your second wind, particularly brutal when combined with Epic Recovery from MP that lets you use your second wind twice during an encounter. Draconic Triumph is another new epic feat that lets you regain the use of your dragon breath power whenever you reduce a nonminion enemy to 0 hit points, so the more monsters you take out the more you can use your breath weapon. Dragon Warrior is an epic feat from Martial Power that lets you regain your dragon breath power when you are first bloodied in an encounter, which brings your total up to an average of seven dragon breath attacks per encounter plus one for every nonminion you dispatch. Each one of these breath attacks marks, gives a -3 penalty to all defenses for one turn, and grants you a bonus 1W damage on your next attack. Not to mention the fact that you’re laying down a small amount of damage with the breath weapon itself to a large area each time you use it.
Whether you choose to go the warden/fighter or the straight fighter route, these feats all allow you to clearly differentiate your character from a defender of any other race. Furthermore, you have the ability to change the flow of battle by marking numerous targets from a distance and laying down large penalties on them at the same time. If you do choose to make a fighter in this way, I also suggest the Marked Scourge feat from Martial Power that requires the Combat Challenge class feature and adds your wisdom modifier to damage against a marked creature once per round.
The elemental power of the dragons flows in your blood more potent than any before you.
If you’re looking to play an arcane dragonborn character, then one of the most thematic choices would be a dragon magic sorcerer. The dragonborn’s natural bonuses to strength and charisma boosts both of the main stats for a dragon magic sorcerer. The Draconic Spellcaster feat from Arcane Power is a must have, as it grants you a +1 to hit with any arcane power that shares a keyword with your breath weapon. Similar to the martial build above, if you take the Ninefold Master paragon path from PHB Races: Dragonborn for arcane characters, your breath weapon becomes a very useful asset. Breath Expertise is a level 11 path feature that makes your dragon breath attack count as an arcane power belonging to all of your arcane classes, which means your bonus to hit with Draconic Spellcaster applies to it as well, but even better you can add your implement’s enhancement bonus to the damage rolls for your breath.
This path also shares the same Dragon Breath Action feat as the martial path, allowing you to use your dragon breath more times per encounter. Ancient Soul is a new feat in this book for dragon magic sorcerers (it also makes your dragon breath count as an arcane attack power) that lets you regain the use of your dragon breath whenever you take damage of the type that it deals. If you structure the rest of the build around taking powers of the same type as your breath weapon, or with feats such as Adaptable Breath that allow you to change the type of damage your dragon breath does, then you should be maximizing the bonuses you get. Using some of the same feats detailed in the martial build, you should be able to use your breath weapon an average of 3-4 times per encounter and blasting enemies with arcane powers the rest of the time.
Divine retribution delivered by cold, draconic hands.
Last but not least you can make a truly terrifying dragonborn paladin with a very similar build to the martial one detailed above. The new Io’s Challenge feat for paladins adds your constitution modifier to the damage taken by a creature from your divine challenge if you are bloodied. In addition you should take the Draconic Challenge feat from Divine Power, which places your divine sanction on a target hit with your dragon breath, and combine it with a cold breath weapon and the new Frost Breath feat at paragon and Freezing Breath feat at epic and every target you hit with your breath weapon will be immobilized until the end of your next turn and most likely take damage from your sanction as a result.
If you’d like a different choice, the Platinum Templar paragon path in PHB Races: Dragonborn is a nice compliment to this build (and finally a Bahamut specific divine paragon path) gives you the Polar Breath feature at level 16 that has your cold breath weapon slowing enemies that they must save against to end. It also has a great level 20 daily power, Misty Breath, that turns enemies to a fine mist as a really cool effect for your dragonborn character to have as a breath attack.
The most powerful of dragons, and gods, returns.
This new epic destiny is a great compliment to any of the above mentioned concepts, granting the Breath Mastery feature at level 21 that lets your dragon breath power ignore any resistances or immunities of targets and allowing you to choose the type of damage it deals each time you use the power (between acid, cold, fire, lightning, or poison). After using your dragon breath, you also gain a +2 to attack and damage rolls with powers that deal the same type of damage as your breath weapon. Draconic Incarnation is another level 21 feature that simply and gloriously increases your strength and charisma attributes by 2.
As an avatar of the deceased god Io, you also gain elemental wings that grant you a constant fly speed and the ability to hover. Best of all, you gain the ability to discorporate like divine beings do. Once per day when you die, you retreat the astral sea until you succeed on a saving throw, at which point you return to life and can immediately spend a healing surge. Assuming all of that isn’t enough for you, the overall quest for an epic level character that becomes an Avatar of Io is to find a way to return the god to life – in some cases possibly becoming the extremely powerful god yourself!