Now that we’ve established what Dungeons and Dragons is and how you should act and play, it’s time to get to the nitty gritty. When making your first character, the amount of options can lead to information overload, and it can be tough to know where to start. We’ll be discussing the classes on a fundamental level, avoiding diving deep into the mechanics in favor of explaining the flavor of them better so you can then learn the mechanics of whatever class speaks to you. Do note, we’re going to be discussing the classes as they’re set up to be played. You can always change the way you play your character to contrast your class, such as a callous and mean bard, or a calculating and tactical barbarian, and I encourage you to think about your character just as much as the class they have. Also, please note I’ll only be discussing the classes available and as they appear in the ‘Player’s Handbook’ for 5th edition so newcomers will know what they’re getting with each entry.
Barbarians are power and fury incarnate. None can match the pure strength of a barbarian, and in combat they can enter a special trance known as a rage that grants them bonuses to damage and makes them incredibly difficult to kill. Forgoing the use of armor and fancy tactics in place of using brute force to overcome their foes, they are a brutal force to be reckoned with. If you enjoy being a juggernaut in combat that charges into the frontlines with little concern for themselves, seeking only to destroy your opponents as quickly and brutally as possible with mindless rage, picking the Barbarian is a no-brainer.
Bards are quite a different story. Unmatched in charisma and frivolity, they use music and magic to inspire their allies, impede their foes, and inspire the masses. Living embodiments of the phrase, “Jack of all trades, master of none, is oftentimes better than a master of one.” Capable of wading into combat with weapons or slinging spells, they are good at everything and can easily fill a niche the party lacks without heavy investment, and are capable of supporting their allies with unparalleled skill. Due to their high charm, they make great negotiators and diplomats, and are exceptional at talking their way out of danger. Dungeons and Dragons is a game with great variance in the challenges presented, and Bards are never out of their element in any situation. For players who enjoy versatility and who like to be the ‘support’ of the group that can still unleash when needed, and who ensures the party is never unequipped to deal with the dangers ahead, if these abilities sing to you then you’ve found your class.
Clerics are mediums for awesome divine powers bestowed by the gods. Capable of battering foes with divine powers, restoring the vitality of allies battered by battle and wickedness, buffing themselves and their allies before joining melee combat, and even bringing back the dead, Clerics are forces to be reckoned with. Deeply religious and fueled by faith, they get access to the highest levels of spells, whilst still being capable on the front lines and wearing armor, making them versatile combatants. Those seeking to wield devastating power bestowed by your faith, and to help banish the wicked whilst healing and protect the downtrodden, this class is the remedy for that which ails.
Druids are masters of the wilderness. They have a deep connection to the natural world, and are more at home sleeping beside a tree surrounded by the sounds of nature than in a soft bed in the midst of a bustling city. Knowledgeable of the intricacies of the natural order, capable of befriending wildlife with ease, users of primal magic fueled by the powers of nature, and able to shapeshift into a wide variety of beasts and animals, the druid embodies the power, resilience and adaptability of nature. Their spells also go up to the highest levels of power, but focus more on debilitations and entrapments than raw damage and power, and the forms they transform into are capable of standing on the frontlines with their warrior companions or scouting ahead unnoticed by even the most paranoid and careful defenses, Druids ensure the party can survive in the wilds just as easily as the cities. If you seek kinship with wildlife, the ability to survive in the harshest of climates with ease, and powerful spellcasting, then Druids are a natural pick.
Rather than rely on magic or brute force, Fighters are combatants with unparalleled skill with weapons. Open to a variety of fighting styles that use any weapon style you can think of, fighters are undisputed masters of weapons. Gaining access to stat increases and feats more often than any other class, they are extremely easy to build the exact way and role you want and have them become a powerhouse. Capable of fighting all day without needing to rest, they are almost always at full capacity, and are resilient warriors capable of shaking off damage and failed saves with ease. Whether you want to tank with heavy armor and a sword and shield, focus on ranged combat, use polearms and spears, you can fill a variety of roles in combat. Appealing to players that enjoy being damage dealers and tanks, those who enjoy an easy yet customizable class, and those who value skill in battle above all else, it’s not a fair fight between the other classes and Fighters.
Monks seek mastery over mind and body, their discipline leads them to a deeper understanding of the energies that fuel their movements, and use a resource known as Ki to display dizzying acts of speed and defense and graceful flourishes of combat prowess. Unmatched in unarmed combat, monks wade in and out of combat with grace and fluidity, clobbering foes with a flurry of blows that can harm even the toughest of hides, they move and flow like a crashing tide. In their pursuit of mastery of self, they gain the ability to deflect ranged projectiles, shake off mental magics with ease, immunity to poisons and disease, and the ability to speak with all sentient life.
In combat, monks can function as a damage dealer, disabler, and defensive tank, avoiding blows from a wide of plethora of foes whilst battering them.For those wish to clobber terrifying foes with their bare hands, graceful martial arts skills , an air of mysticism and self discovery, and unique special abilities to compliment their strikers, you’d be a kung-fool not to pick Monk.
Paladins are born of a powerful Oath, one which they must uphold at all costs. Whether it be made to the gods, to the spirits of nature, or in desperation to get vengeance at those who wronged them, their devotion to their Oath grants them divine powers. Where Clerics are devoted servants of gods, Paladins devotions can vary greatly. Their oath grants them lesser magic, divine protections for themselves and allies, immunity to diseases, the ability to heal themselves and allies, but perhaps most importantly, the ability to smite the wicked with powerful weapons imbued with explosive radiant power. Leaning heavily into wielding weapons empowered by divine energy, they forgo the advanced spellcasting of Cleric for much greater skill with weapons and armors and greater resiliency. Those who wish to be unyielding frontline warriors that can pack a massive punch with divine smites, who wish to be champions of good that hunt down the wicked wherever they lurk, who wish to inspire and empower their allies with blessings of their oath, and who wish to be a bastion of hope for their friends and a terrifying symbol of justice for their foes, then consider your oath the Paladin class accepted.
Rangers are a beautiful blending of fighters and Druids. With access to magic, the ability to survive in wilderness, favored terrains that make them even better when they’re in, and great martial skill, Rangers are at home in the wilderness, and they often serve as protectors to the encroaching of greedy humanoids that seek to take advantage of and/or destroy nature. Great huntsman, trackers and guides, you will never be lost in the wilds with a Ranger at your side. In combat, they focus on dealing as much damage as possible with either blade or bow, and often use magic to mark their prey as they go for the kill, and can also heal their friends in a pinch. If the idea of being the ultimate wilderness survivor appeals to you, you wish to mix the prowess of fighters with the natural proclivities of druids, enjoy dealing consistent damage with magic primal magic to bail you out of tough situations, you’ll feel at home on the Range(r).
Rogues are masters of stealth and trickery, capable of taking advantage of any miniscule gap in a foe’s plans or defenses and striking like a hurricane. Experts at a massive array of skills, they can often wriggle their way out of any situation, and have a solution to nearly any problem. Excellent ambushers, scouts and even capable of diplomacy, rogues allow the player to pick their favorite facet of the game and become experts at them. Not above cheap shots and ambushes, the Rogue’s sneak attack is among the hardest hitting blows in the entire game, and their agility and scrappiness in battle makes them hard to pin down. Often referred to as ‘skill monkeys’, Rogues bring a wide array of resources that make them cornerstones of consistency and allow parties to overcome difficult situations with ease. For those seeking high damage, alot of utility and mastery over stealth and infiltration, as well as a versatile skill set that can help in a multitude of situations, the Rogue is a steal of a deal.
Sorcerers wield powerful magic imbued into the core of their being by otherworldly influences and powerful magic. Their blood and essence are tainted by a powerful presence, like the power of dragons, otherworldly entities, or the pure essence of chaos. Whether their ancestors were the ones who came in contact with this influence or they were exposed to it during their lifespan, this magic manifests itself through their force of will, and the source of their change grants them strange and potent supernatural powers. Capable of empowering their spells with powerful metamagic that alters the way magic functions and shatters many limits upon spells, they are capable of unleashing pure destruction and mayhem on their foes. Using Charisma to fuel their magic, they end up garnering the attention of others with their strange and otherworldly charm. For those seeking powerful boons from your lineage and raw unfiltered magic that is as natural to wield as breathing, those seeking amazing damage and utility through magic or, for those who simply wish to have awesome magic with no strings attached and no hoops to hop through, your connection to Sorcerers will be thicker than blood.
Warlocks seek knowledge of the universe and the fabrics of reality hidden in the weave of the universe. In their pursuit, they make pacts with powerful and otherworldly beings that grant them powerful supernatural and magical abilities, ranging from subtle manipulations to spectacular displays of power. Their gifts invariably come at some cost, such as their soul when they die or help advancing their patrons goals, but the terrible power they wield more than makes up for it. Learning invocations that alter their bodies in ways even magic can’t compete with, they’re able to empower themselves and their magical blasts. They learn powerful magic but have a more limited supply, relying on magical blasts when their spells are drained. Similar to Sorcerers, Charisma fuels their powers, and with access to invocations, they can make spectacular diplomats. Compared to other spellcasters, they are also able to restore their magic much easier, possibly fulling recharging multiple times in a day. If the idea of striking a bargain with otherworldly beings, invocations that grant you access to a massive array of supernatural abilities, high damage spammable magical blasts and uncovering the secrets of reality appeal to you, then the pact is sealed.
Where others gained magic powers through devotion, pacts or their blood, there are those who instead gained their prowess through careful study and understanding. Wizards are unrivaled Intellectuals, smarter than any of the other classes, and who used their intelligence to study and learn magic through understanding and hard work, taking no short-cuts like many others did. Their study grants them access to the widest and most versatile set of spells, capable of controlling the pace of battle, obliterating enemies with powerful blasts of energy, ensnaring foes whilst empowering their allies and breaking the fabric of reality. Capable of creating barriers, illusions, wards and objects with ease, they use meticulous planning to prepare for the dangers of the world. Capable of supporting, dealing high damage, great utility, and shaping the battlefield, the decision to play a Wizard for players seeking unrivaled skill with spells is elementary my dear.
And… that’s a wrap! I hope this brief dive into the identities of each of the classes Dungeons and Dragons helps you better figure out where to start! In general, spellcasting focused classes tend to be more complex, so if you’re worried about messing up rules, or just want a simpler first experience, I’d avoid those for your first character unless one of them really speaks to you.
Join me next time where I discuss the other side of the coin, developing a backstory for your character, figuring out how to get into character and roleplay them, discussing some classic archetypes, and several common pitfalls for characters and how to avoid them. Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed it, and until next time, stay healthy!