how to pick your D&D dnd character class

Choosing a class in Dungeons and Dragons may seem like a daunting task for new adventurers. There are a lot of options and information to process, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed at first. That’s why we have put together this comprehensive guide to the current D&D 5E classes and how to choose one that best suits the character you’d like to play.

What is a D&D Class?

A common misconception about classes is that they are professions, however they represent much more than that. Your character’s class is the core of what your character can do and oftentimes will also embody the basis of your character’s motivations. For example, a druid will be dedicated to the magic and love of nature whereas a bard lives to entertain.

Each class has a different set of unique feats and abilities. These are what enable a Fighter to have precise combat techniques, or a Sorcerer to have a well of magic inside them that they can call upon. When you choose a class, you are essentially shaping how you will play the game.

We must remember though that while a class will define the mechanics of a character, it should not limit the role-play opportunities. Although a Barbarian is a classic strength-based character, centred around a power-up called rage, your Barbarian could be soft spoken, violence-averse, or even a Noble. Once you understand the mechanics of a character, like a trunk of a tree, you can start to envision the role-play and backstory elements that could branch off of that.

Class Breakdown

D&D dnd barbarian class

BARBARIAN

Barbarians are fierce warriors that rely on strength and chaos. They often reject civilization and thrive when they are thrust into battle. Vikings are a perfect example of Barbarian characters because they are known as ruthless killers who revel in the fight. These are the characters that will often jump right into a battle without any care or reservation.

The main unique feat for Barbarians is their Rage. When a Barbarian enters Rage, they do more damage and become resistant to most mundane martial damage (slashing, piercing, bludgeoning). This feat is a simple “power-up” concept, making it easy to understand and thus accessible to beginners.

Since Rage is such a straightforward feat to get used to, Barbarians are a great class for someone who is just starting to play D&D. All they have to do is hit things, then Rage to hit things harder! For someone who has never played D&D at all before, this class is about as simple as it gets.

To learn everything you need to know about building and playing a Barbarian, check out our Ultimate Guide to the D&D 5e Barbarian Class.

BARD

Bards are eloquent entertainers that aid their allies and bring woe upon their foes. Like many famous Bards (e.g. Jaskier from The Witcher), characters in this class tend to be the talkers of the group. Need someone to squeeze more money out of a client? Bard. Need someone to lie and trick their way out of a sticky situation? Bard.

The main unique feat for Bards is their Bardic Inspiration. When a Bard chooses to use their Bardic Inspiration, they can give an extra die (what type of die is dependant on their Bard level) to their teammate for a limited amount of time. Then the teammate can use the Inspiration Die to add more to an ability check, saving throw, or attack (not damage).

For anyone who wants to try out a spell-caster, and/or partake in a lot of role-play, Bards are a great class. Bardic Inspiration is a relatively simple concept for beginner players, and new players always get excited when they learn they can aid their friends in battle. The spells available to Bards are fun and do a lot of interesting things beyond just damage, and don’t involve too many complicated spell mechanics.

To learn everything you need to know about building and playing a Bard, check out our Ultimate Guide to the D&D 5e Bard Class.

CLERIC

Clerics are religious-based characters, devoted to their gods and their will. Given their devotion to their gods, they are in turn imbued with divine magic. For clerics, this magic often manifests as healing or support spells for their allies but they are also capable of doing a decent amount of damage.

The main unique feat for Clerics is their Channel Divinity. Technically Paladins also have a Channel Divinity feature but the key difference is in the role-play/flavour. Clerics can channel divine energy directly from their deity, whereas Paladins are granted the ability to channel divinity through their oaths. This divine energy allows Clerics and Paladins to do really cool specific things. For example, at first level a Cleric can use a Channel Divinity called Turn Undead which is a super-effective to defend against undead creatures.

Although figuring out a whole god and religion might be intimidating to some, Clerics are a relatively straightforward and easy class to play. Want to cast spells? You can! Want to hit stuff with martial weapons? You can! Want to do one super cool thing that none of your friends can do? Channel Divinity! There’s a bit of everything in Clerics which makes them very fun to both play and role-play.

To learn everything you need to know about building and playing a Cleric, check out our Ultimate Guide to the D&D 5e Cleric Class.

DRUID

Druids are nature-loving and animal-befriending creatures. Their magical abilities stem from the forces or deities of nature itself. This means that most of their spells are flavoured for nature, such as Thorn Whip or Mould Earth. Playing a Druid means getting in touch with your tree-hugging side, and revering the natural world as much as a Cleric reveres a god.

The main unique feat for Druids is their Wild Shape. This allows a Druid to change into an animal form, known as a Beast. When in Wild Shape, they take on a number of the beast’s physical attributes such as their armor class. More importantly though, the Wild Shaped Druid also gets the beast’s hit points. When the beast’s HP reaches 0, the Druid goes back to the amount of hit points that they had before they Wild Shaped. Because of this, Druids can essentially get temporary hit points each time they Wild Shape.

With their simple spellcasting mechanics, and their cool ability to Wild Shape, Druids are a fun class for novice D&D players. Wild Shape opens up a ton of possibilities for role-play and creative solutions to problems, and it’s not difficult to explain to a new player how they can use it. Most people grasp the concept of “I turn into a cat” pretty quickly.

To learn everything you need to know about building and playing a Druid, check out our Ultimate Guide to the D&D 5e Druid Class.

FIGHTER

Fighters are precisely trained and deadly, well, fighters. They have weapons and they know how to wield them really, really well. Not only are they good with their weapons, but they are fast with them too. At higher levels, Fighters get extra attacks (in addition to their Action Surge), which enables them to do a whole lot of hitting.

The main unique feat for Fighters is their Action Surge. This is basically like catching a second wind. When Fighters activate their Action Surge, they are granted an additional action in that turn. This can come in handy, say, if you want to hit someone but you also want to drink a potion.

For the most part, Fighters are martial characters. This makes them pretty straightforward to play, even at higher levels. When you start out as a Fighter, you hit stuff. At later levels as a Fighter, you hit stuff more often and more effectively. Because of this simplicity, Fighters are a pretty great class to show someone who’s never played D&D before.

To learn everything you need to know about building and playing a Fighter, check out our Ultimate Guide to the D&D 5e Fighter Class.

D&D dnd monk class

MONK

Monks are masters of the martial arts, so disciplined in their skills that they are able to channel exceptional abilities. While they are not traditional spellcasters, Monks are magical in a sense. They have honed their minds so sharply that they can do miraculous things with their Ki.

The main unique feat for Monks is their Ki. Ki is a mystic energy, inherent in all Monks because of their training. Depending on their level, Monks get a number of Ki points that they can spend to do special things like take extra attacks, or stun an opponent.

Even though Monks are a martial class like Fighters or Barbarians, the amount of special abilities you have to remember makes them less appealing for novice players. It’s cool to be able to catch arrows, but most new players won’t be able to remember that they can do that, and fall slower, and move faster, and do all the stuff with their Ki.

To learn everything you need to know about building and playing a Monk, check out our Ultimate Guide to the D&D 5e Monk Class.

PALADIN

Paladins are a lot like Clerics, except they tend to be more fanatical in their quest to root out evil in the world. They are extremely deadly fighters, often seen in the middle of battles, but they are also skilled spellcasters that are granted divine powers from their gods.

The main unique feat for Paladins is their Divine Smite. In addition to the Channel Divinity they are granted (explained in the Clerics section), Paladins are also able to empower their martial attacks with a boost of divine magic. Divine Smites deal a ton of damage, especially against evil creatures like undead or fiends. At later levels, you also unlock different smites like Burning Smite or Staggering Smite, which have their own unique effects.

Playing a Paladin means juggling a lot of stuff on a character sheet. You fight and cast spells, but you also have different Channel Divinities based on your oaths, and auras that protect your friends, and the responsibility of smiting evil all in one go! The sheer amount of options for what you can do is why we don’t recommend this class for beginners but highly encourage more advanced players to try it out.

To learn everything you need to know about building and playing a Paladin, check out our Ultimate Guide to the D&D 5e Paladin Class.

D&D dnd ranger class

RANGER

Rangers are a pretty famous class of D&D, yet one that is often overlooked/scorned for its abilities. A common misconception is that Rangers are archers, but they do much more than that. They are especially effective against specific enemies, or in terrain that they are familiar with. In the right conditions, Rangers can give a party a significant advantage over a foe, while also being able to hold their own in a fight.

The main unique feat for Rangers is their Favored Enemy / Terrain. Upon creating a character, a Ranger will choose a Favored Enemy (a type of monster such as aberrations or elementals, or even humanoids) and a Favored Terrain (e.g. mountains or swamps). Against their Favored Enemies, Rangers get advantage over tracking them down and knowing information about them. In their Favored Terrain, Rangers get a lot of abilities such as not being slowed by difficult terrain or being able to move stealthily at normal pace.

Because Rangers tend to play very well in very specific environments against certain enemies, they aren’t the easiest class for a brand-new player to pick up in just any game. Rangers excel in campaigns where they have been built to suit the environment and enemies that will pop up. So unless you are sure that your DM is going to throw goblins and deserts at you, you may want to choose a more versatile class.

To learn everything you need to know about building and playing a Ranger, check out our Ultimate Guide to the D&D 5e Ranger Class.

ROGUE

Rogues are really fun characters to play, both in role-play and mechanical possibilities. They have a lot of skill proficiencies and expertise, and they often have interesting backstories about why they’re so, well, roguish. Oftentimes the party will look to the rogue to pick locks, scout ahead, or steal the things that need to be stolen.

The main unique feat for Rogues is their Sneak Attack. This feat gives Rogues a bunch of extra damage dice (how many is dependent on their level) on top of their normal damage. While the rules around Sneak Attack sound complicated, it’s actually pretty easy. If you have advantage on the attack roll, for whatever reason, then you can use Sneak Attack. If you don’t have advantage, but you have an ally within 5 ft of the target, then you can usually still use Sneak Attack.

For beginners, Rogues are a good class to start off with. They are straightforward with their martial attacks, have that special “power-up” ability which is easy to explain, and they are a well-known archetype which makes them easy to role-play.

To learn everything you need to know about building and playing a Rogue, check out our Ultimate Guide to the D&D 5e Rogue Class.

D&D dnd sorcerer class

SORCERER

Sorcerers are spellcasters that draw upon their magical powers from their bloodlines. Magic isn’t something that they learn, like Wizards, or something that they are given, like Warlocks. Sorcerers are born with powers and their magic is as much a part of them as their flesh and blood.

The main unique feat for Sorcerers is their Sorcery Points. When a Sorcerer uses their Sorcery Points, they are tapping into their inner well and adding more magic into their spell. There’s a number of abilities that Sorcery Points can be used for such as making a spell more powerful, increasing the range of a spell, or reducing a target’s saving throws against a spell.

Because there are so many options that can be unlocked with Sorcery Points, not to mention having to juggle spellcasting itself, Sorcerers aren’t ideal for someone who just started playing D&D. They are a moderate to intermediate spellcasting class but once you have a few sessions under your belt with an easier spellcaster like Clerics or Druids, Sorcerers are a great option for trying out something new.

To learn everything you need to know about building and playing a Sorcerer, check out our Ultimate Guide to the D&D 5e Sorcerer Class.

D&D dnd warlock class

WARLOCK

We are all inclined to want power, but Warlocks are the characters that actually have the audacity to go out and get it. Warlocks receive their magical abilities through a pact with otherworldly forces. Whether it’s a demon, fiend, fey noble, ghost, etc, Warlocks forge a bond with them in order to get more power for themselves.

The main unique feat for Warlocks is their Eldritch Invocations. When Warlocks forge their pacts, they also unlock forbidden knowledge that grants them additional magical abilities. As you level up as a Warlock, you gain access to more Eldritch Invocations. One example of an Eldritch Invocation is Armor of Shadows, which allows the Warlock to cast Mage Armor on themselves without using a spell slot. There are a lot of Eldritch Invocations that can be learned, each of them boosting or empowering another Warlock spell.

When choosing Eldritch Invocations, it’s important to have a base understanding of Warlock spells. Without that understanding, you might choose invocations that aren’t necessarily beneficial or practical for your character. Because of this, Warlocks are generally saved for a more intermediate or advanced D&D player, rather than a novice.

WIZARD

Wizards are probably the easiest spellcaster to recognize because they’ve been a part of mainstream culture for so long. Like Harry Potter, Wizards in D&D receive their magical abilities through intense study and intelligence.

The main unique feat for Wizards is their Spellbooks. Unlike the other spellcasters, Wizards use a spellbook in order to cast their magic. While other spellcasters only learn new spells at higher levels, Wizards have the unique ability to pick up spells in books or scrolls, then add it to their own books to use later. This process takes time and money for the Wizards, but it allows them a wider range of spells they can use.

There are a lot of nuances to playing a Wizard to their full extent. Maintaining your spellbook, but also choosing an Arcane Tradition and knowing all the subtleties that go with those also. Because of this, Wizards tend to be a more advanced spellcaster suitable for people in long-term campaigns.

D&D dnd artificer class

ARTIFICER

Have you ever wanted to play a spellcaster that didn’t really have innate magical abilities, but was able to bring out the magical abilities in objects? Then Artificers are the class for you! Creative, intelligent, and maybe a little quirky, Artificers specialize in inventing and infusing magical items. Instead of an arcane focus, Artificers use mundane tools to bring forth their extraordinary powers.

The main unique feat for Artificers is their Infuse Item. This enables Artificers to take otherwise-mundane objects (like a glove or a pair of goggles) and infuse them with arcane energies, turning them into a magic items. The different types of infusions, and how many you know, are dependent on the Artificer level. An example of this would be adding the Enhanced Defense infusion to a suit of armor or shield, which gives the creature a +1 bonus to armor class while they’re wearing the infused item.

Because Artificers are the newest published class, and have a lot of subtle never-before-seen nuances to them, they will be more difficult for a novice player to learn. For one thing, most people at the table probably won’t be familiar with this class and won’t be able to answer questions about it. For another thing, anyone playing an Artificer will need very specific role-play descriptions of how they use their tools to cast spells, which can be difficult for advanced players, let alone someone who is new to the game.

D&D dnd blood hunter class

BLOOD HUNTER

A fierce class born from the brilliant Matt Mercer of Critical Role, Blood Hunters are deadly fighters that use blood rituals to charge their weapons with their own vitality. This class isn’t for the faint of heart as it traverses deep into the realms of magic morality.

The main unique feat of Blood Hunters is their Crimson Rite. When Crimson Rite is activated, your character deals damage to themselves and reduces their max hit points until the Rite fades. This “energy” that your character has sacrificed now imbues their weapon with extra elemental damage.

Like Artificers, Blood Hunters are a new class that you won’t find at most tables. This is why it’s not a great option for someone who has just started playing D&D. There’s a lot less information available about them, and smaller chances of finding other DM’s or players who are familiar enough with the class to teach it. With the number of different features and mechanics that Blood Hunters have, it would be difficult to grasp as a beginner.

Class Difficulties

In the previous overviews, we gave a breakdown of how easy different classes would be for beginners to play. Here we summarize a little further by looking at class difficulty for Beginner, Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced D&D players.

When a Beginner player comes to the table, they can easily be overwhelmed with everything that’s going on. This is why basic martial characters at level 1 like Barbarians, Fighters, and Rogues are ideal. All they do is go in, hit, maybe power-up, then get out.

For Novice players, we can start to add more mechanics. Here we have identified four classes that have more interesting features that can be used. Having a spellcaster character opens up a huge amount of options for how your character is built, and the things your character can do. Similarly, a Monk has access to tons of different abilities using their Ki points. Playing characters like this will help a Novice gain better understanding of strategy and roleplay, without having to read about or remember too much.

The Intermediate classes start to build off of the core fundamentals in the Beginner and Novice classes, then add more depth. For example the sorcery point system for Sorcerers is similar to the Monk’s Ki points. However metamagics are more complicated because of the different ways they shape spells. It is easier to use metamagics when a player is familiar with the finer rules of spellcasting.

Advanced classes are ones that focus heavily on mechanics. Paladins have spells, martial attacks, channel divinity, an aura of protection, and more with subclasses. Fittingly, people who play Paladins have a lot of rules to learn in order to properly utilize the number of features they have. Wizards also have a lot of intricate details about them since they have access to a vast array of spells.

Subclass / Multiclass

The classes and features discussed here are merely the beginning. There is much more customization that can be done with your character when you start getting into subclasses and multiclassing.

Subclasses are the specialized branches of each class. For example, you can be a Champion Fighter who crits more often and harder, or an Eldritch Knight Fighter that can cast some spells like a wizard. Each class has their own special subclasses that you choose at a certain level (usually 3). From there, your subclass will give you extra abilities and feats as you continue to level up.

Multiclassing is another option to consider. When you gain a level, you can choose to take a level in your current class, or add a new class in addition to the one you currently have. Imagine you wanted to build a singing thief – that would be a Bard/Rogue. When you multiclass, you’re able to access abilities, features, and spells (if applicable) for all of the classes you choose so it can be a fun way to try out new things. It also opens up cool character development opportunities, like explaining how your forest-dwelling Druid has some training in being a Monk.

Conclusion

Choosing a class is arguably the most essential part of character creation. It’s important to keep mechanics in mind so that you are making the right moves and functioning in a way that suits the character you envision. Once you have that foundation in place, it becomes easier to layer on their backstory, personality, and everything else that makes them more alive.

For more information about D&D classes, how to create a character and the rules of D&D, pickup a copy of the official Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook.

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