There are many races for players to choose from when making their 5e character. Each race comes with a detailed history, culture, and lore for players to roleplay around, as well as unique abilities and the difficulty of thinking of a good name that doesn’t feel dumb. One of my favorite races is the Tabaxi, and I created this to include everything you need to know about playing as one.
Key Info Up Front
- Book Released In: Volo’s Guide to Monsters
- Classes That Are a Good Fit: Rogue, Bard, Monk
- Ability Score Increases: Dexterity +2, Charisma +1
The Tabaxi are feline humanoids that hail from a strange continent that is distant and secluded in most official Dungeons and Dragons settings. They tend to be secluded people who keep to themselves in small clans traveling across their homeland to gather resources and knowledge. This makes seeing a Tabaxi in the wider world extremely rare.
However, some Tabaxi is not content with that lifestyle and set out to explore the world to see what is there. When those Tabaxi gets old, they return to their people and bring their newly acquired knowledge.
This allows the clans to remain knowledgeable about the outside world and what is happening beyond their home continent without having to all venture out or maintain communication with other regions.
The Tabaxi also have their deity known as the Cat Lord. The Cat Lord is a trickster god that they believe is responsible for their creation. However, they also believe that it is a fickle deity that wanders the wider world and planes just as the Tabaxi do themselves, meaning that it will help them when it is near but will not when it is occupied elsewhere.
The Tabaxi also believe that when each of their kind is born, the Cat Lord instills a particular trait in them, which leads to some wanting to wander the wider world rather than staying at home.
Because of the mercurial nature of the Cat Lord, it is no surprise that Tabaxi tends to be so themselves. They often become hyper-fixated on one item or concept for a short duration before switching to another fixation. This will see Tabaxi jumping from hunting down a particular magic item to doing nothing but reading a book the next day and then learning everything they can about a type of monster the next.
Tabaxi who don’t want to become adventurers tends to become traveling tinkerers and minstrels for a more universally accepted way to satisfy their innate curiosity. These Tabaxi usually travel in small groups led by an elder Tabaxi that takes up to four younger of their kind under their wing. Then, they’ll travel around the land in colored wagons, stopping in settlements to put on shows and sell oddities.
However, rather than doing so for gold, the Tabaxi prefer to be paid with exciting stories, lore, and strange objects instead. The Tabaxi, in general, do not value gold as much as other races. They see knowledge as the most valuable thing in the world and try to barter with stories, facts, and exciting items rather than innately valuable ones.
When playing as a Tabaxi, or using one as an NPC, knowing the lore is helpful, but you also have to know their traits and abilities. Cat-like people have a lifespan comparable to the human race, meaning that they reach maturity around 18 and can live until they are up to 100 in rare cases. They are medium-sized creatures that tend to be a bit taller than humans but more on the slender side. Because of their size, their starting speed is the standard 30 feet.
Playing a Tabaxi also boosts your Dexterity by two and your Charisma by 1. Tabaxi characters also start knowing Common and one other language of your choice. I tend to choose a second language that works well with the other players in my party. That could be taking Elvish to speak with other elves in my group or taking a more obscure language that nobody else has, like a Celestial, just in case it comes up in the campaign.
Tabaxi characters also come with Darkvision like many other races in 5e and some of their unique abilities. The first of these is called Feline Agility. The ability allows you to double your movement speed during a turn.
This is one of my favorites because of the mobility it gives you around the battlefield, allowing you to get into an optimal position or help someone in your party when they need it most. However, once the ability is used, you can’t use it again until you spend a turn not moving at all.
The second Tabaxi trait is called Cat’s Talent, giving the player proficiency in Perception and Stealth. Finally, Tabaxi comes with the Cat’s Claws trait, which has a variety of uses. The first is a climbing speed of 20 feet, thanks to your claws being able to dig into surfaces. This trait also modifies your unarmed strike, making it deal 1d4 of slashing damage in addition to your Strength modifier.
All of these traits combined allow Tabaxi characters to navigate obstacles and battlefields no matter where your Dungeon Master takes you. Especially with the Tabaxi’s boost to Dexterity, I’ve always preferred to use them to get into good vantage points or scout ahead for my party. Then, once combat starts, I use their strong movement to target vulnerable enemies to weaken them and turn things in my party’s favor.
Roleplaying a Tabaxi
Roleplaying a Tabaxi character can be fun as long as you fully embrace their quirks. Doing so can sometimes be a lot to handle or can end up pushing your character and party to focus on things that aren’t always the best idea, but that is where a lot of the fun comes from.
Naming your Tabaxi
Picking a name is always one of the most complex parts of character creation. Luckily, Tabaxi has some pretty simple naming conventions that make finding the right name for them easier.
First, you have to decide on the name of the clan you come from, which is usually based on a landmark they live or travel near. Volo’s Guide to Monsters lists examples such as Snoring Mountain, Bright Cliffs, and Rumbling Rain.
Then, you have to pick the name for your character, which for Tabaxi, tends to be descriptive and is based on a complex and subjective process not described in the book. However, Volo’s does provide a healthy list of examples, such as Jade Shoe, Seven Thundercloud, and Skirt of Snakes. Those names are a bit long to use in everyday conversation, though, so Tabaxi adopt nicknames instead.
For example, one of my favorite Tabaxi characters that I ever played was named Eyes of Seas but went by Seas to people that knew her for brevity’s sake.
However, the most significant part of roleplaying a Tabaxi character is incorporating their curiosity and excitable nature. Since they are so curious, your character should always be on the lookout for new adventures to go on, stories to hear, and topics to study. They should care more about finding random objects that catch their fancy rather than making money or hoarding things for themselves.
To do so, I usually develop some characteristics that tend to catch my character’s eye when finding items that they like. This could be bright colors, shiny metals, unique functions, or anything with mechanical elements.
However, you also should incorporate Tabaxi’s proclivity for finding new obsessions quickly and fixating on the current one. There are two ways to go about roleplaying this part of their personality. The first is by doing so yourself and selecting people, objects, or concepts to become obsessed with whenever you feel like it fits into the campaign.
The second method is to use the table with eight options on page 114 in Volo’s. This table allows you to roll a d8 every couple of in-game days to see what kind of thing your character is currently fixated on, whether a magic item, a particular location, or a story that your character heard and wants to learn the truth of.
That same page also has a handy quirks table that can help you give your character some more personality to roleplay. That table has ten options and includes personality quirks like hating getting wet, speaking so quickly that you can’t be understood when talking about something that excites you, or even complaining about how cold it is even during summer seasons.
Best Tabaxi Classes
Once you have the basics of your Tabaxi character figured out, you’ll need to settle on one of 5e’s many classes for your character. 5e is built in a way that any race can play any class adequately, but there are certain ones that each race tends to favor a bit more. These are the classes, and optimal subclasses, for the Tabaxi.
The rogue is undoubtedly the strongest class for a Tabaxi. Focused on sneaking around and dealing incredible amounts of damage to their opponents through sneak attacks, Rogues can take advantage of a Tabaxi’s bonus to sneak and their high Dexterity.
I tend to play rogues with most of my Tabaxi characters because of how perfect a fit they are for one another. The rogue class is also a strong choice for Tabaxi because their extra sneak attack damage helps make the Tabaxi’s unarmed strikes even more lethal if they are ever put in a situation where they don’t have their usual gear with them. I had to break out of prison without my daggers, and the combination of greater damage die for my fists and sneak attack dice was pivotal in my party making it out alive.
Rogue Subclasses for Tabaxi
Like all 5e classes, the rogue has numerous subclasses for players to pick from. Here is a list of each one and how well they mesh with a Tabaxi character’s natural strengths and weaknesses.
- Arcane Trickster: This subclass introduces some magic and spellcasting to the rogue, which can be a potent combination. However, the Tabaxi does not have any bonuses to the subclass’ spellcasting ability, so you’ll need some strong starting stats to make good use of this one.
- Assassin: The Assassin subclass is an excellent option for Tabaxi characters. It focuses on increasing your ability to sneak into places unseen and deal massive amounts of damage before you’re even noticed. This playstyle naturally blends with the skillset of a Tabaxi and is the subclass that I lean toward when playing a Tabaxi rogue. I can’t recommend this combination enough if you like rolling a lot of dice and putting down enemies quickly.
- Inquisitive (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything): Tabaxi can fill this subclass very well, as it is focused on utilizing Perception and other skills to gather information. The Tabaxi’s natural Perception proficiency can help a lot here, while their boost to Charisma can also help them get information from other people with ease. However, I’ve had a hard time finding much use for this subclass outside very investigation-heavy campaigns, as it doesn’t bring much utility outside of searching areas and gathering clues.
- Phantom (Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything): The Phantom is a perfect subclass to play as a Tabaxi if you care a lot about roleplay. The class is focused on gathering trinkets from the dead to fuel undead powers, and this blends so well with the Tabaxi’s knack for collecting things that it is like they were made for one another. I’ve also found the Phantom to have a lot of fun unique abilities, so even if you aren’t into roleplaying as much, it is still a great fit and fun subclass to paly.
- Mastermind (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything/Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide): The Mastermind is built almost entirely around social interactions that happen outside of combat. A Tabaxi can fill this role admirably thanks to their innate Charisma, but like the Inquisitive, it can feel not very useful in certain types of campaigns.
- Scout (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything): Scout rogues are adept at navigation, sneaking, and ranged attacks. This subclass is an excellent alternative to playing a ranger and fits in well with the Tabaxi’s sneak abilities and decent climbing speed for a fun way to prepare your party for upcoming encounters.
- Soulknife (Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything): The soulknife is a great option for Tabaxi rogues that want a bit more options to take advantage of in combat. Because the subclass relies so heavily on Dexterity, Tabaxi fits in well. At the same time, the class’ generous Psionic dice allow you to stretch out modest resources for a much more extended period than other classes.
- Swashbuckler (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything/Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide): Playing a cat-person is cool, but playing a pirate cat-person is much cooler. That is where the swashbuckler comes into play and is a really interesting fit for a Tabaxi. The Swashbuckler isn’t the rogue’s most powerful subclass, but its vagabond lifestyle and drive to collect interesting treasures open up a door of exciting roleplay opportunities for a Tabaxi player. It also focuses on moving around the battlefield to control enemies, making it even easier with the Tabaxi’s Feline Agility trait.
- Thief: This subclass is the most iconic for rogues. It is all about sneaking in and taking what you want while being able to slip away if anybody notices something too soon. The thief subclass isn’t the most exciting option for rogues, but it fits in well with a Tabaxi and is an especially excellent starting point for newcomers to 5e to get their feet wet.
How to Play a Tabaxi Rogue
Playing a Tabaxi rogue is all about sneaking in the shadows, dealing big damage, and gathering unique items regardless of what subclass you land on. Outside of combat, you should use your abilities to gather as much information for your party as possible. This can come in the form of gathering information from your surroundings, questioning nearby NPCs, or scouting ahead to see what dangers await you.
When I play a rogue as a Tabaxi, I tend to also still willingly share information and stories with my party members and just about anyone who will listen. Still, I balance that by not sharing much about my character’s past or history. This makes sure you stay true to the love that Tabaxi has for sharing information while still maintaining the air of secrecy that rogues are known for.
Playing a rogue will also obviously have a massive impact on how you handle combat. Rogues tend to be striker characters that focus on dealing high amounts of damage through sneak attacks to take down important targets.
While some subclasses can fit into other roles, all of them are proficient at doing this, and you should use your Feline Agility trait to get around the battlefield as quickly as possible to put a blade in the powerful wizard in the back or steal a powerful artifact while the enemies are all distracted.
The Monk class is focused on fighting without a traditional weapon, being mobile on and off the battlefield, and using ancient arts to augment their natural abilities. The Tabaxi’s natural increase in their unarmed damage is quickly outdone by the monk’s improvements, but there are plenty of otheterr benefits to playing a monk as a Tabaxi.
First is the monk’s reliance on Dexterity for their damage output, making the Tabaxi easily become a strong fighter in the class. Second is the class’ focus on mobility and seizing opportunities in combat.
With a Tabaxi’s movement and ability to climb well, they are much more able to get into optimal positions to strike when the party needs it most. The different abilities that come with a monk’s subclass are also a great way to get some more options as a Tabaxi since they don’t fare well in most magic-focused classes.
Monk Subclasses for Tabaxi
Exactly how your Tabaxi will function as a monk largely depends on which subclass you decide to give them. So, here are all of the Monk subclasses in 5e and how well the Tabaxi fits in them.
- Way of Mercy (Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything): This subclass is supposed to be themed around a plague doctor and allows the monk to use their Ki Points to heal allies and harm opponents. The Way of Mercy subclass fits well with Tabaxi, especially for players who want to roleplay bringing distant knowledge to a new land or who want to play more of a support role alongside dishing out solid damage.
- Way of Shadow: The Way of Shadow subclass is focused on giving the player some flashy moves to help them sneak around and catch unaware enemies off guard. However, it doesn’t have much to capitalize on those positions, so if you’re playing a Tabaxi and want to sneak, you’re better off just playing a rogue. I’ve always found this subclass to be comparatively lackluster, so I would recommend steering away from it unless you love its flavor more than anything.
- Way of the Ascendant Dragon (Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons): This monk subclass is all about learning the ways of dragons and incorporating them into one’s fight style. This gives them some great tools for crowd control and positioning, but its flavor doesn’t fit in very well with a Tabaxi. For this reason, I would recommend avoiding this one unless your group doesn’t care much about roleplay and just wants to have fun combat encounters.
- Way of the Astral Self (Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything): This subclass is another one that I would recommend avoiding as a Tabaxi. While it does have some unique mechanics for the monk’s Ki, it places a heavy emphasis on your Wisdom, which can be a bit harder to come by as a Tabaxi.
- Way of the Drunken Master (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything): This subclass has been my absolute favorite to play as a Tabaxi monk. The class is all about putting enemies off guard by acting drunk while you’re sober. It is a simple class that focuses on hitting an enemy and running away, but it can be extremely fun to roleplay, especially as a Tabaxi that just wants to snoop on people and take all of their pretty things.
- Way of the Four Elements: This basic subclass for the monk has a lot of options for players to customize it to their liking, but it can be difficult to get it to work well while playing as any race. These issues are also present for a Tabaxi character, but its elemental focus does combine well with the Tabaxi’s more tribalistic origins.
- Way of the Kensei (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything): The Way of the Kensei monk has largely been overshadowed by some of the optional class features found in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. However, if you don’t have that book, this subclass is a fun way to give your monk the ability to use martial weapons. This can be a lot of fun to use as a Tabaxi because it gives you a lot more options than just scratching people with your claws. It also offers a good way to boost your AC, which can make your Tabaxi even harder for foes to hit than your high Dexterity already does.
- Way of the Long Death (Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide): This subclass turns the monk into a tank, which is a fun way to mix up your gameplay, even though it doesn’t fit very cleanly in with the Tabaxi’s background and culture. Still, it can be a fun way to spin the Tabaxi and make them a fierce protector of their minstrel troupe or party.
- Way of the Open Hand: The Way of the Open Hand is sort of the “default” monk subclass. It doesn’t bring anything too special to the table, but it does a solid job of accentuating the class’ core abilities. This makes it a great fit for a Tabaxi monk since those are the parts of a monk that the Tabaxi usually excels at. It also makes it a great choice for newcomers to the system or monks.
- Way of the Sun Soul (Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide): This subclass tries to add some ranged viability to the monk since they tend to be strictly melee-focused. However, a lot of its mechanics don’t work very well or are so weak that you’ll find yourself burning through Ki Points to have any effect on the battlefield. But, if you aren’t focused on combat or have a Dungeon Master willing to rework the subclass a bit for you, this is a really fun way to play a Tabaxi that is well-rounded and capable regardless of the situation.
How to Play a Tabaxi Monk
When I’ve played a Tabaxi monk before, I’ve tried to emphasize the monk’s natural mysticism and strict nature. However, since Tabaxi naturally gravitates towards chaotic alignments, this can create a fun dichotomy where your character bounces back and forth between their obsessive urges and the more strict doctrines of their order. At the same time, their stalwart belief in the mystic through their culture’s respect for astrology and other arts can add some fun flavor to their personality.
The monk class also serves the Tabaxi’s Dexterity well during combat and gives them the ability to race around the battlefield in a way that few other classes can. This means that during combat, you should never stay still for too long. I’ve always found it best to target exposed enemies before running to safety the best way to play a monk, and the Tabaxi is the perfect race for doing so.
Question: What 5e book has Tabaxi in it?
Answer: The Tabaxi are found as a new playable race option in Volo’s Guide to Monsters book.
Question: Is Tabaxi a good race in DnD?
Answer: Yes, the Tabaxi race is very capable, has some fun mechanics to take advantage of, and is a blast to play.
Question: How old do Tabaxi get?
Answer: Tabaxi have a lifespan very comparable to humans, so they tend to live anywhere from 70-100 years.