What are humanoids?
Humanoids in D&D are creatures of similar physical and intellectual capabilities as humans. This means they’re generally bipedal creatures, capable of intelligent speech and with a similar arrangement of limbs to a Human.
In the fantasy planes of D&D, this means there’s a huge variety in the types of creatures that fit within the humanoid umbrella. It covers smaller creatures like Dwarves, Halflings and Gnomes as well as larger creatures like Goliaths and Firbolgs. It includes aquatic races like Tritons and Merfolk as well as flying creatures like Aarakocra and Owlin. It even includes some creatures that might be considered monsters but many, like Orcs and Gnolls.
This does mean that there’s a huge amount of choice when using humanoids in your games, and this is fortunate as you’ll need a lot of them!
Humanoids are not only the most common creatures you’ll find in civilisation, they also tend to be quest givers, antagonists and victims. More so than any other creature type, humanoids have the propensity to be extremely weak or extremely powerful, and this is represented in the Monster Manual and Monsters of the Multiverse where there are many different varieties of humanoids for the different roles they fulfil, from bandits and assassins, to druids and archmagi.
Types of Humanoids
Below we’ve detailed all the different types of humanoids in D&D 5e. This can become a little complicated as sometimes, they are classified as different things depending on whether it’s a playable character or an NPC. In addition, sometimes their classification changes or isn’t in the most logical place. For example, Centaurs seem as humanoid as an Aarakocra for example, but the Monster Manual classifies them as monstrosities (hence their exclusion below). As a playable race though, Centaurs are considered humanoid.
The opposite is true for Thri-Kreen for example, who are considered humanoids in the Monster Manual, but their playable race profile lists them as monstrosities. In other instances, playable races are classified as humanoid, when they could just as easily be classified as another creature type. Eladrin are very much fey creatures while Firbolgs are giant-kin and Aasimar are part celestial.
To get around this, we’ve classified them as whatever they are classified as in Monster Manuals unless there’s no Monster entry, in which case, we’ve used their playable race profile.
Knowing what type of creature something is can be important though as some spells will only work on certain creature types (such as hold person/monster).
All humanoids in DnD 5e
Winged humanoids, native to the elemental plane of air. They have many bird-like features, including the ability to fly.
Celestial humanoids that are often partially descended from celestial beings and humans.
Primitive, bipedal, frog-like humanoids that inhabit swamps and marshes.
Short, proud and tough humanoids that often have beards.
Subraces: Duergar, Hill Dwarves and Mountain Dwarves
Humanoids with dragon features such as scaly skin and magical breath.
Subraces: Chromatic Dragonborn, Gem Dragonborn and Metallic Dragonborn
Tall, pointy eared, fey-touched humanoids with a strong affinity with magic and nature.
Subraces: Astral Elves, Drow, Eladrin, Half Elves, High Elves’, Sea Elves, Shadar-Kai, Wood Elves
Reclusive and peaceful giant-kin that stand nearly twice as tall as most humans.
Plane-touched humans that developed powers and features relating to the elements such as fire, earth, air or water.
Subraces: Air Genasi, Earth Genasi, Fire Genasi, Water Genasi
Militaristic, space-faring creatures with the features of hippos and a propensity for firearms.
Humanoids that were enslaved by mind flayers for many generations and have developed many psionic abilities as a consequence.
Subraces: Githyanki and Githzerai
Jackal-headed creatures and savage worshipers of the Demon Lord Yeenoghu.
Gnomes are short and highly inquisitive folk with a penchant for magic and stealth.
Subraces: Autognomes, Forest Gnomes, Rock Gnomes
Cunning creatures that are worshippers of Maglubiyak and fight on his behalf.
Subraces: Bugbear, Goblin and Hobgoblin
Nomadic humanoids that live in snowy mountains and stand much taller than the average humanoid.
Degenerate descendants of humans that wander the underdark.
Humanoid poisonous frogs that dwell in trees and swamps, enslaving those that venture into their territory.
Short, human-like beings that have a naturally mirthful temperament.
Subraces: Ghostwise Halfling, Lightfoot Halfling, Stout Halfling
Rabbit-like humanoids that are often involved in banditry. They are native to the feywilds.
A diverse species that’s widespread throughout Toril and the other planes of existence.
Bird-like humanoids that have lost the ability of flight and often engage in mimicry and burglary.
Distant relatives of dragons that are much smaller and weaker than their distant cousins.
Mentally unstable, fish-like humanoids that inhabit the Underdark.
Reptilian humanoids with inscrutable minds and a differing set of principles to many other humanoids.
Proud fish-folk that have endured slavery and maltreatment by other aquatic races.
Creatures that have been affected by lycanthropy, a curse that causes humanoids to transform into savage were-creatures.
Subraces: Jackalwere, Werebear, Wererat, Weretiger, Werewolf
Part fish and part humanoid beings that live under the sea.
Bloodthirsty humanoids with piggish facial features, sharp teeth and tusks.
Subraces: Half-Orc and Orog
A bear-like humanoid that inhabits the underdark.
Monstrous, fish-like humanoids that live in underground lakes and underwater caves.
Part feline and part humanoid creatures that tend to dwell in jungles.
A race of insect-like humanoids that appear alien compared to most of the creatures of the planes.
Plane-touched humans that are descended from fiends such as demons and devils.
Turtle-like humanoids that are bipedal and have a shell on their back.
Human looking beings that hail from the elemental plane of water and that live primarily in the sea.
Barbaric, cave-dwelling reptiles with humanoid features.
Descended from goblins, verdan have been transformed by the shadow of That-Which-Endures.
Intelligent, self-aware mechanical constructs from Eberron that were once build to fight a war and must now find their own way in life.
Part snake humans that were once magically transformed from pure humans into their snake-like form.
Using humanoids in DnD 5e
Humanoids work best in D&D when handling NPCs with complex motivations. If you simply need some great combat, monstrosities and many other creatures work well, but their motivations are often more straightforward and it’s difficult to negotiate with them. Humanoids have a complex range of motivations.
When using antagonists that are humanoids, give them back stories. Help the party to empathise with them and why they might be an antagonist. What’s even better with humanoids is that when you face a demon or a celestial or many other creatures, their persuasions are often relatively clear. Humanoids, however, fulfil the entire spectrum of alignments and motivations. This means knowing who is the enemy can be challenging. Imagine the party hunting down a cult, but not knowing who is a member of that cult, or a mysterious background figure pulling the strings of some great plot, only to discover it’s an important politician.
With these types of encounters, it’s easier to create meaningful social interactions with a party too. Talking your way into or out of a situation can be more tense than combat at times. Perhaps the party wants to infiltrate a cult or find which politician is corrupt.