Greetings! Karthas here and today I’d like to talk about a question I get asked by every single new player at my table: which class should I choose? Its a valid question and an important one at that. So today I will go through each of the classes and give a quick overview, and list the things the class is good at, and what they are not so good at. Ultimately the most important thing is to pick a class you will enjoy. Don’t worry about being the best, every class has strengths and weaknesses. A well rounded party will ensure everyone’s weakness is covered by another’s strength.
For those who just want a general overview of each original class, check out the list below. Please note that I am only going over the classes from the Player’s Handbook as I believe this gives new players plenty to choose from. If you have any advice or questions, leave a comment below! And if you are looking for some pre-made D&D characters, be sure to subscribe to our site to gain access to our Dropbox folder where we are always adding more characters!
The Barbarian is your hulk class. They charge headlong into danger without a care in the world. They carry big weapons with them to smash their opponents. Thematically the Barbarian is a wildman, or woman, who jumps into the fray without thinking about the repercussions of doing so. In-game the Barbarian focuses on melee attacks and utilizes a feature called Rage. When the Barbarian is Raging they get a bunch of cool benefits that help them destroy their enemies.
The Barbarian has 2 different archetypes to choose from: Path of the Berserker & Path of the Totem Warrior. Go Berserker if you just want to specialize in smashing things to pieces, go Totem Warrior if you want some cool utility abilities while Raging.
Play a Barbarian if you:
- Love smashing things
- Enjoy throwing caution to the wind
- Want to deal a lot of damage or soak up a lot of damage
Don’t play a Barbarian if you:
- Want to use magic
- Are cautious
- Hate carrying big weapons
The Bard is the performer. Bard’s use music as a means of weaving magical spells. Thematically Bards carry instruments, are cunning, charismatic, and great story tellers. They excel at supporting their allies through a feature called Bardic Inspiration as well as their utility spells. In-game Bards are the jack of all trades. They get a lot of points for skills, have a wide array of spells to choose from, and can wade into battle should they choose.
They have 2 archetypes to choose from: College of Lore & College of Valor. The College of Lore focuses on expanding the use of Bardic Inspiration and increasing your magical prowess. Valor Bards get some abilities that allow them to do better in melee combat like attacking twice, as well as using shields.
Play a Bard if you:
- Like being the jack of all trades
- Want a mix of magic & melee (leaning more toward magic)
- Enjoy supporting your teammates
Don’t play a Bard if you:
- Want to focus on melee combat
- Enjoy being the “quiet type”
- Want to specialize in one area
The Cleric is the life of the party (get it!). But seriously, most people assume the Cleric is just a heal bot. In 5e this is not the case. Thematically clerics can be many different things, but the common thread among them is that they draw their power from a divine source. They are the warrior priests who carry out their god’s bidding. In-game clerics are quite versatile. Though they are still some of the best healers, they are able to focus on other things like melee combat, ranged spells, and skills.
Clerics have a feature called Domains that they pick from. The Domains are essentially a theme that grants you most of the traits that will define your class. The Domains they can choose from are Knowledge (skills, utility, & spell-casting), Life (melee & healing), Light (spell-casting), Nature (melee & elements), Tempest (melee, lighting & thunder), Trickery (stealth), and War (melee).
Play a Cleric if you:
- Enjoy being one of the most essential players in the party (can’t let the healer die)
- Like to have the option to use magic or melee weapons
- Want to have some nice support spells
Don’t play a Cleric if you:
- Like being a loner
- Don’t like helping others
- Don’t want to answer to a higher power
The Druid is your typical “one with nature” class. They have a very cool ability called Wildshape which allows them to turn into an animal. At first glance you think “cool I could turn into a bear”, but then you realize”I could turn into a T-Rex!” So yes, Druids are cool. In addition to turning into animals they can cast some pretty powerful spells. Thematically the Druid is, again, your nature guy who is quiet but carries a big stick. They care about the trees, animals, and everything else in between. In-game Druids can fill any role necessary. They can heal, deal damage, or take a lot of hits.
They have 2 archetypes to choose from: Circle of the Land & Circle of the Moon. Circle of the land focuses on expanding your spell casting abilities by giving you access to more spells and making them more potent. Circle of the Moon focuses on your Wildshape by letting you turn into bigger animals.
Play a Druid if you:
- Like being versatile
- Want to turn into animals
- Like being the “one with nature” guy
Don’t play a Druid if you:
- Want to collect and wear cool gear
- Like using metal armor
- Don’t care about nature
The Fighter is probably the simplest concept in D&D, the guy who specializes in fighting. Now this isn’t a bad thing, on the contrary Fighters are pretty solid characters, and their archetypes make them really versatile. Thematically the Fighter is your standard soldier/warrior who excels at fighting guys. Typically they were a soldier or something at one point. In-game, Fighters can fill many roles, they can be a take a lot of punishment, deal good damage (melee & range), and they can even be stealthy.
The Fighter has 3 archetypes to choose from: Champion, Battle Master, & Eldritch Knight. Champion has a lot of passive abilities that just make you better at swinging your weapon, very simple. The Battle Master gives you maneuvers which allow you to perform special moves when you attack like moving an enemy or giving an ally advantage. The Eldritch Knight allows you to wield magic, albeit at a very slow rate. But these spells give you some utility and allow you to wield a spell in one hand, and a weapon in the other.
Play a Fighter if you:
- Enjoy using weapons
- Want to be versatile
- Like being the soldier/warrior character
Don’t play a Fighter if you:
- Want cast powerful spells. Eldritch Knights can use magic, but it is very limited
- Like healing people
- Are a pacifist
The Monk is exactly what you picture. They move quick, and punch things. They are a fun class with some really cool abilities. Thematically the Monk is a spiritual character who has devoted their life to achieving discipline and focus. They are often wise and disciplined in their pursuits. In-game the monk can fill the role of scout, damage dealer, and even an assassin at times. They utilize a feature called Ki points to gain special abilities. These abilities allow them to do some cool things like attack multiple times, or dash out of combat.
The Monk has 3 Archetypes to choose from: Way of the Open Hand, Way of Shadow, and Way of the Four Elements. Way of the Open Hand enhances your Ki abilities making you really good at punching things. Way of the Shadow allows you to basically become a Ninja and move through the shadows (you can even teleport!). The Way of the Four Elements allows you to become the Avatar and enhance your abilities with the four elements.
Play a Monk if you:
- Like to be a quick dexterous fighter
- Enjoy the idea of punching bad guys
- Love to role play the disciplined character
Don’t play a Monk if you:
- Want to wear heavy armor
- Like to cast spells
- Want to be able to take a lot of damage
The Paladin is the righteous crusader. They can wield magic, fight on the front lines, and can buff and heal their allies. They can do a lot, but this means they won’t be the best at either. The Paladin is an interesting class to play as they have something called an Oath. The Oath is a set of guidelines that they must follow, if they break their Oath, they can lose their powers. This makes them a lot of fun to role-play. Additionally they have their iconic smites, which allows them to imbue their weapon with magic, dealing damage on a hit.
Thematically the Paladin seeks out evil and protects those who cannot protect themselves. They are bound by their Oath and are always on the move. In-game Paladins do great in melee range as they can wear heavy armor and they have an awesome ability called auras which buff allies by simply standing next to the Paladin. And they can do some healing!
Paladins have 3 archetypes to choose from: Oath of Devotion, Oath of the Ancients, Oath of Vengeance. Oath of Devotion is your standard White Knight valuing honor, justice, and integrity. They get some abilities that increase their smiting abilities. Oath of the Ancients is the Green Knight. They seek to kindle and protect light in dark places. They get one of the cooler buffs to their aura and a pretty cool ability at level 20. Oath of Vengeance is your Dark Knight. They do the dirty work that nobody else wants to do. They get really cool abilities that allow them to hone in on a single enemy and become a nuisance to them.
Play a Paladin if you:
- Love being up close and personal with the enemy
- Want to bring some support to your party
- Love a good class to role-play
Don’t play a Paladin if you:
- Don’t want a set of rules to follow
- Are a loner (except for maybe Vengeance Paladins)
- Want to be a full spellcaster
The Ranger is the guy to stalks the wilds hunting down monsters and keeping those in the cities safe. They have a small pool of nature spells to pull from but mainly focus on weapon attacks. The most popular weapon choices for a Ranger are the bow & dual wielding. Thematically the Ranger is quiet and keeps to himself. They are loners, save for their animal companions. They live in the wilds protecting civilization from evils that don’t even know they exist. No matter where your campaign takes place, chances are the Ranger will be able to help out the party with some of their abilities. In-game the Ranger can fill a few roles. They can be a damage machine, be the scout, and depending on if they get an animal companion, can provide some extra muscle for the party.
The Ranger has 2 archetypes to choose from: Hunter or Beast Master. The Hunter pretty much just gets better at killing things. The Beast Master gets an animal companion that can eventually attack in tandem with the Ranger, giving yourself some nice options in combat. Not to mention the utility of having an animal to help out with things.
Play a Ranger if you:
- Want to be like Aragorn
- Like to be a loner
- Want to have an animal companion
Don’t play a Ranger if you:
- Want to be a spellcaster
- Don’t want to focus on damage
- Hate the idea of scouting
The Rogue is your standard sneaky guy who uses daggers, but they are very important. The Rogue can dish out some damage if you play them right and they make great scouts and thieves. Thematically the Rogue is your thief/assassin. They move through the shadows unseen striking their enemies. They can be loners or not, but they can be difficult to trust at times. In-game the Rogue does great whenever they can sneak up on an enemy. They can also get out of sticky situations well. Rogues are also really good at a lot of non-combat related things. Like picking locks, disarming traps, and spotting danger and they get a lot of points for skills.
The Rogue can choose from 3 archetypes: Thief, Assassin, & Arcane Trickster. The Thief is great at getting into the fight and hopping out before they get hurt. They get some cool abilities that make them great…thieves. The Assassin is great at killing people silently. They also get some cool abilities that make them great at disguising themselves. The Arcane Trickster is basically a thief who is able to use magic to make them a better thief. They can do some really cool things with Mage Hand, like pick pocketing people with it!
Play a Rogue if you:
- Like sneaking
- Enjoy being self reliant
- Like to steal stuff
Don’t play a Rogue if you:
- Want to be able to take a lot of damage
- Like to use big weapons
- Want to use magic
It can be difficult to understand the difference between these last 3 classes, so let me make it easy for you. A Sorcerer gains their arcane power from within, a Warlock gains their arcane power from an outside being, a Wizard gains their arcane power through study. As I go through these three know that in-game they will all fill the spell-caster role. But they all have some things that set them apart from each other.
The Sorcerer is the character who was born with an innate affinity for magic. Thematically the Sorcerer is the driven magi who still struggles to understand the depth of their powers. At times these powers can be difficult to control or even understand for the Sorcerer. In-game the Sorcerer is an interesting spell caster because they have a special ability called Meta Magic. Meta Magic allows a Sorcerer to alter their spells using Sorcerer points to give them additional effects. For example they can duplicate a spell so that it hits 2 enemies, or they can quicken a spell so that it only costs a bonus action to cast it.
The Sorcerer has 2 archetypes: Draconic Bloodline & Wild Magic. Draconic Bloodline gives the Sorcerer some more health and gives them some cool features like growing wings and resistance to a certain element. Wild Magic plays up the “unstable” magic aspect. You get some abilities like being able to alter a die roll or even give yourself advantage, but you can also cause unwanted side effects from your spells.
Play a Sorcerer if you:
- Like molding your spells
- Want to be a caster that can take more damage
- Like random outcomes
Don’t play a Sorcerer if you:
- Want to be in full control of your magic
- Don’t want to manage Sorcerer points
- Want a bit more freedom in changing out spells
The Warlock is someone who has pledged them self to a great being. Thematically the Warlock is your Dark Wizard. They carry out the requests of their Patrons who in turn grant them other worldly powers. Warlocks can be difficult to trust as their motives are not always their own, because power comes with a price. In-game the Warlock is an interesting caster. They can pick something called a pact which gives them some interesting abilities. The Pact of the Blade allows the Warlock to summon a magical weapon to their hand, Pact of the Chain allows them to summon a familiar and even attack with it, while the Pact of the Tome enhances the Warlocks spells. Like the Sorcerer though, the Warlock does not get as many spells as the Wizard.
The Warlock has 3 archetypes to choose from in the form of a Patron. Each Patron grants the Warlock access to an expanded list of spells: The Archfey, The Fiend, or the Great Old One. The Archfey deals with illusion and mystical spells. They get Misty Escape as a class ability, and can attempt to charm any creature at higher levels. The Fiend gives the Warlock fiery and damaging spells. The Fiend is great if you want to have a melee Warlock as they gain health on a kill. And they get a really cool ability called Hurl Through Hell! The Great Old One gives the Warlock psychic spells. Additionally you get some abilities that allow you to gain telepathy and eventually even charm any incapacitated creature!
Play a Warlock if you:
- Like to play the Dark Wizard
- Want a fun class to role-play
- Want a caster that can be good at melee combat
Don’t play a Warlock if you:
- Don’t want to answer to a higher power
- Want to be a goody two-shoes
- Accept the price for your power
The iconic wizard class is your standard magic guy. Thematically the Wizard is someone who has spent many years studying arcane mysteries. They are scholars who seek knowledge and understanding. In-game Wizards are the most versatile arcane spell caster. They have a Spellbook which they actually write their spells down in. If you happen to come across a scroll or something that would typically be able to only cast once, a Wizard can actually write it down in their Spellbook! It allows the player to take spells that they think will help them in upcoming session.
The Wizard gets to choose from multiple different schools, similar to the Cleric’s Domains. These Schools give them some special effects for certain spell types. The schools are: Abjuration (shielding things), Conjuration (summoning things), Divination (discernment things), Enchantment (enhancing things), Evocation (elemental things), Illusion (tricky things), Necromancy (dead things), and Transmutation (altering things).
Play a Wizard if:
- You like managing spells and have the right spell for the right situation
- Don’t plan on being in melee combat
- Want to specialize in a particular magic type
Don’t play a Wizard if:
- You don’t want to manage spells
- Want to be able to take some damage
- Want to use Weapons
Well that wraps it up on the classes. If you didn’t find a class that worked for you, check out the Unearthed Arcana that Wizards of the Coast releases. Sometimes they include a new class, but keep in mind these classes aren’t official so you’ll need to talk to your DM to see if they allow it. Or you can check out the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide which has some new official classes and archetypes for some classes.
Thanks for stopping by, hopefully this guide has been helpful! Be sure to subscribe if you haven’t!
What is your favorite class? Tell me in the comments below!