Medusa Playable Race | New Player Option for Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition

I always like a challenge when it comes to creating playable races. Recently, I created weretigers and vampires and I think I did a pretty good job of keeping within the theme (if I say so myself). Now, I have a request for a medusa playable race. How does one create a medusa playable race, keep it true to the lore, and make it balanced with the other races?

Let’s find out!

Playtest Content

The material here is presented for playtesting and to spark your imagination. These game mechanics are in draft form, usable in your campaign but not refined by final game design and editing. They aren’t officially part of the game.

Constructive feedback is welcome and appreciated in either comments or social media. If you can give me a valid reason with examples why something is off, 9/10 I’m likely to make changes to the content and credit you for doing so. Otherwise, feedback without anything to back it up gets ignored (or at most a smile emoji like this 🙂 ) Thanks!

Design Notes

Here are my notes for this build.

Before the Build

One of the best things about the medusa that’s in the Monster Manual is that under its Petrifying Gaze trait it states the following:

When a creature that can see the medusa’s eyes starts its turn within 30 feet of the medusa, the medusa can force it to make a DC 14 Constitution saving throw if the medusa isn’t incapacitated and can see the creature.

What’s important to note about this is that it says “can force it” which is technical language for that this power is optional. That makes the rest of the build pretty damn easy since that was the only real lump.

After the Build

This race was pretty simple to come up with thanks to nice and neat stats in the Monster Manual. I had to nerf the petrification gaze a little, sadly, but otherwise, it would have been too powerful. With the use of an action, the ability to avoid the gaze, and the temporary nature of its effect, it should be fine. At 17th, you get the full bucket of petrifying gaze (still gotta use an action though, tough to avoid that).

Another regret was having to leave out the poison of the snake hair, but that would have been too powerful. I might add that in as a racial trait later on.

To round it out a little, I gave the race Wisdom (Insight) and it gets darkvision. Oh, and natural armor.

Nothing it can do is any better than the Lizardfolk race from Volo’s, so it should be nice and balanced.

Medusa Traits

Your medusa character has certain traits in common with all other medusas.

Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2, and your Charisma score increases by 1.

Age. Medusas are rare, usually created when a mortal sacrifices part of its soul to gain eternal beauty. For that reason, it matures at the same rate as most humanoids. However, a medusa can live a very long time often hundreds of years.

Alignment. Being vain creatures, medusas are often petty and selfish. They tend toward evil. However, they are also grand manipulators, fully capable of using systems and structures to their advantage so they often side with law.

Size. Medusas are about the same size and build as humans. Your size is Medium.

Speed. You base walking speed is 30 ft.

Darkvision. Not all of the medusa’s curse offers up disadvantages. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.

Natural Armor. You have tough, scaly skin. When you aren’t wearing armor, your AC is 13 + your Dexterity modifier. You can use your natural armor to determine your AC if the armor you wear would leave you with a lower AC. A shield’s benefits apply as normal while you use your natural armor.

Petrifying Gaze. Your look can turn other creatures to stone. As an action, you can target one creature that can see you within 30 feet of you with your gaze. At the start of that creature’s next turn, as long as you aren’t incapacitated and it can still see you, it must make a Constitution saving throw with a DC equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Constitution modifier. On a failed saving throw, the creature begins to turn to stone and is restrained. The restrained creature must repeat the saving throw at the end of its next turn, becoming petrified on a failure or ending the effect on success. The petrification lasts for 1 minute, or until the creature is freed by the greater restoration spell or other magic. When you reach the 17th level, the petrification is permanent unless removed by magic, and if a creature fails its initial saving throw by 5 or more the creature instantly turns to stone.

Unless surprised, a creature can avert its eyes to avoid the saving throw at the start of its turn. If the creature does so, it can’t see you until the start of its next turn, when it can avert its eyes again. If the creature looks at you in the meantime, it must immediately make the save.

Once you use this feature you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest.

Snake Hair. Your scalp is teeming with living snakes. You can use your hair to make melee weapon attacks with. If you hit with it, you deal piercing damage equal to 1d4 + your Dexterity modifier.

Quick Read. You gain proficiency with Wisdom (Insight).

Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Infernal.


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Art by Wizards of the Coast.




5 thoughts on “Medusa Playable Race | New Player Option for Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition

  1. For what it’s worth, Medusa is a single character from Greek mythology, not a race. She was a Gorgon, one of three similar sisters. She was just the most notable because she was famously slain by Perseus.

    1. Yeah, I know. 🙂

      However, Fifth calls them “medusas” instead of Gorgons. Gorgons in Fifth are giant, steel bulls that can turn you to stone with their breath.

      1. Fair enough. I hadn’t seen their entries before this post. I learned something today!

        Love the build!

      2. Yeah, I think the idea dates back to Gary Gygax times. He split up “gorgon” and “medusa” and made them into two different monsters. 🙂

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