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DnD Tortle 5e race guide

The Tortle 5e race in Wizards of the Coast’s D&D may have all the visual trappings of a tortoise, but their skills may surprise you

DnD Tortle 5e on blue underwater background (art by Wizards of the Coast)

The DnD Tortle 5e race knows that carrying your home around on your back has many perks. You’re rarely homesick, and you’re more easily able to wander the world in search of adventure. You always have somewhere to hide – and sometimes knowing when to retreat into your shell (yes, even during combat) can make you that little bit stronger.

This is a race filled with strength and wisdom – even if you don’t put your ability points into those particular stats. Like the DnD Tortle 5e race, your character-building options aren’t tied down. Your Tortle can be whoever you wish them to be, and their unique features can make them ready for pretty much anything. They may look like the tortoises of our world, but nothing about the Tortle is slow or dull.

Here’s everything you need to know about the DnD Tortle 5e race:

DnD Tortle 5e illustration from Wizards of the Coast

Tortle 5e names

Tortles are pretty relaxed when it comes to what they’re called. They don’t have gendered names or last names, and they can change their name at any time if they decide their current one no longer suits them. Tortle names also tend to have two syllables or less – because who has time for a tongue-twisting title, really?

Here are some examples of Tortle 5e names:

  • Damu
  • Erdlak
  • Jappa
  • Kru
  • Plot
  • Queg 

DnD Tortle 5e - Monsters of the Multiverse book cover from Wizards of the Coast

Tortle 5e traits

Like most of DnD’s fantastical races, the 5e Tortle has taken on different traits in different D&D books. The Monsters of the Multiverse iteration is currently the most up-to-date version (though no doubt the eventual arrival of One D&D will change things up again).

Here are the MotM Tortle traits:

Ability score increase +2 any one trait, +1 another (or +1 any three)
Size Medium or Small
Speed 30ft
Features Claws, Hold Breath, Natural Armour, Nature’s Intuition, Shell Defence

A Tortle’s claws allow it to make unarmed strikes that deal 1d6 + Strength modifier slashing damage. Tortles can hold their breath for up to one hour, and their Natural Armour provides a base armour class (AC) of 17 thanks to their sturdy shell. A Tortle’s Dexterity modifier doesn’t affect this number, and they can’t wear light, medium, or heavy armour – though they can happily carry a shield.

DnD Tortle 5e - Wizards of the Coast art from Explorer's Guide to Wildemount

Nature’s Intuition gives Tortles proficiency in Animal Handling, Medicine, Nature, Perception, Stealth, or Survival. Additionally, Shell Defence means a Tortle can use an action to withdraw into their shell – giving them +4 AC and advantage on Strength and Constitution saving throws until they emerge. The downside is their speed drops to zero inside the shell. They also can’t take reactions, have disadvantage on Dexterity saving throws, and can only use bonus actions to climb out of the shell.

The Legacy Tortle (which is still found in Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount) had ability score increases of +2 Strength and +1 Wisdom (though these could easily be changed with the Custom Origin rules from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything). Their speed is still 30ft, but their size is always Medium in this version. This version also gave Tortles Shell Defence and a slightly different version of Natural Armour – though they had to take proficiency in the Survival skill, and their claws did 1d4 damage instead. 

DnD Tortle 5e stands in front of a coral reef (art by Wizards of the Coast)

Tortle 5e classes

When it comes to choosing from D&D’s many classes, the most important thing to consider is the Tortle’s Natural Armour. This can buff several classes that are famously lacking in the AC department. Your options here are varied – Tortle Bards, Clerics, and Rogues are all on the table. Each of these can also make use of the handy Nature’s Intuition proficiency options.

Our top personal picks, based on Natural Armour and the suggested proficiencies for the Tortle, would be the Druid and the Ranger. These can also function in Legacy builds, as that extra bit of Wisdom certainly won’t hurt.

The Barbarian is also a viable option for both versions of the Tortle. Sure, they can’t use armour and won’t have much use for many of the offered proficiencies, but the Natural Armour gives them a fairly decent AC, and they’ll get more out of the Legacy Strength boost than other classes.