top of page
  • Writer's picturetroodon135

Neanderthal Player Race for D&D 5th Edition

Several months ago I embarked on an ambitious attempt to create a prehistoric campaign setting for D&D 5e. While I eventually decided I wasn't ready to undertake such a huge undertaking by myself, I was happy with some of the content and will be posting it here. First of these is a new player race: the neanderthals! While 3rd Edition did include a neanderthal race at one point, they were huge brutes that took more from uninformed pop culture than actual science. With my take on this race, I wanted to use the actual discoveries made by researchers as the main inspiration for my design, with some speculation added in for flavor.



Often seen as primitive, barbaric, and brutish, neanderthals are in truth as diverse as any other race and have a deep and rich culture.

Stocky and Sturdy

Neanderthals are a race of short, stocky humanoids who dwell in cold climates. Though their short statures and robust frames make them resemble dwarves, they are in fact more closely related to humans, with some scholars arguing that they are not distinct races at all. It is certainly true that humans and neanderthals interbreed more readily than most other races, but the Neanderthals’ distinct physical features lead many to consider them distinct from true humans.

Neanderthals have thick, sturdy bones which help to shield them from blunt trauma. Their faces are distinguished by large, pronounced brow ridges, protruding jaws, and large noses. Their skin, hair, and eye colors vary nearly as much as those of humans, though dark hair is most common.

Stone Age Survivors

Even in settings that have progressed past the stone age, neanderthal societies rarely change from their roots as simple hunters using stone tools. This is not because they are less intelligent, but due to the fact that neanderthal communities with frequent contact with humans tend to be quickly assimilated into the human population, leaving only those groups who remain isolated from the rest of the world. This isolation, combined with the fact that few neanderthals survive to old age in order to teach the next generations, leads to technological stagnation. Still, neanderthals are surprisingly ingenious, and when they gain access to metal and other such technologies are quick to put it to good use in inventive ways.

Tenacious Hunters

Unlike humans, who have an adaptable diet which allows them to thrive in nearly any environment, Neanderthals are largely carnivorous, and hunting is one of the core elements of their culture. This meat-eating diet is not universal; many forest communities consume large amounts of plants and mushrooms and a few are nearly entirely vegetarian, but the majority of neanderthals get nearly the entirety of their protein from animals. Their favored game are large mammals, but depending on the culture and location they also hunt birds, fish, and shellfish. This food is cooked using a variety of methods, and often seasoned with yarrow or chamomile. Despite what some rumors claim, neanderthals are no more likely to resort to cannibalism as any other race.

Neanderthals tend to hunt with melee weapons, though they occasionally use darts or javelins. Their most iconic weapons are large, heavy spears which they use in ambush attacks, though some neanderthals have modified the spears to act as a sort of harpoon, stabbing into the side of a large animal and holding on for dear life until their prey tires or bleeds out. Their sturdy bones help make this strategy more practical than it would be for other races, but hunters are still frequently injured when applying it.

Though hierarchy in Neanderthal society is fluid, the best hunters tend to be the most respected in the community. Hunters often target the strongest and most dangerous specimens as their quarries in hopes of winning the admiration of their peers.

Living Rough, Dying Young

Neanderthal life is far from easy; around half of all neanderthals experience major, debilitating injuries at some point as a result of their dangerous lifestyles. Though to outsiders this appears rather miserable, to neanderthals being injured on a hunt is a sign of a life well-lived, and most physically disabled neanderthals are respected and taken care of by their communities. Neanderthal medicine is surprisingly advanced, and when combined with their natural hardiness this means that neanderthals often recover from wounds that would kill members of other stone age races. Still, this continual injury and stress leads most neanderthals to die before the age of forty, though theoretically their lifespans are similar to those of humans. This rate is significantly lower in societies which have access to healing magic, but even in the best cases a neanderthal society will rarely see more than half of its population make it to old age.

Neanderthal Traits

Ability Score Increase Your Constitution score is increased by 2

Age Neanderthals mature slightly faster than humans, but otherwise have very similar natural lifespans, though due to their violent lives few make it to the age of forty.

Alignment Neanderthals tend towards neutrality but neanderthals of any alignment are common.

Size Neanderthals stand between 4’5” to 5’5” tall, and weigh between 140 to 170 pounds. Your size is Medium.

Speed Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Cold Adaptation You always succeed on Constitution saving throws against cold weather, and as a reaction you can gain resistance to cold damage for one round. You cannot use this reaction again until you take a short or long rest.

Night Vision Though you cannot see in pitch darkness, you are well-adapted to hunting in dim light. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, however you have difficulty discerning colors.

Sturdy Bones You gain resistance to damage from critical hits that deal bludgeoning damage.

Subrace Three common sub-races of Neanderthals exist, defined by their environments. Choose one of these three:

Coastal Diver

Neanderthals who live along coastlines have to dive beneath the waves in order to search for food and materials, and as such are particularly good swimmers.

Ability Score Increase Your Dexterity score increases by 1.

Underwater Forager You can hold your breath for twice as long and have advantage on Perception checks to find objects underwater.

Steppe Hunter

Steppe-dwelling neanderthals are the most common subrace, and are particularly skilled hunters of big game.

Ability Score Increase Your Strength score increases by 1.

Colossus Killer When you hit a creature larger than you with a melee attack, you can deal an extra 1d6 points of damage. You cannot use this ability again until you take a long or short rest.

Woodland Forager

Forest-dwelling neanderthals have a more varied diet and are tireless in their gathering of food.

Ability Score Increase Your Wisdom score increases by 1.

Tireless You have advantage on saving throws against exhaustion.

126 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Warlock Patron: The Great Wyrm

TBH I don't know why there isn't an official warlock patron that fits this concept, it seems like a no-brainer to me. So here it is, the playtest version of the Great Wyrm patron. The term "great wyrm

Prehistoric Bestiary Part II: Megafauna

Megafauna While the term “megafauna” is used by scholars to describe any animal of Medium size or larger, it is most commonly employed by laypeople to describe gigantic primeval beasts that dwell in a

Prehistoric Bestiary Part I: Dinosaurs Expanded

I always felt that the dinosaur selection in 5e was too limited, so here's a few more to help with that. In addition, I've updated the Brontosaurus to better fit the unique attributes of the apatosaur


Post: Blog2 Post
bottom of page