dungeons & dragons for absolute beginners
Part 2: Class
Now we know what you are. Next we need to know who you are.
Race is easy- now you have to decide what kind of person you want to play. What will your career (called class in D&D) be? What kind of personality will your character have? What sort of background and backstory does your character come from? What skills has your character picked up along the way? What are they good at? What are they bad at? This is what you get to choose now. We’ll continue next with what your character’s basic type is: the character class.
Like the races, the original character classes were based on Tolkien’s writings. New ones have been added since, but you will definitely recognise many of the classes if you have read the books or seen the movies. The character class is kind of the character’s job: what they have trained to become & what they are good at. In theory. You will continue to get better at it as you level up over time.
Barbarians live for combat, and the closer to the front line the better. The key to their success is their anger, which drives them. They go into frenzied rages, where they ignore pain and do extremely high amounts of damage. They would have been based on Viking berserkers, I assume. These characters will always be in the thick of any fight. They know no fear.
Bards use music and magic to charm their way through the world. While they are able to hold their own in a fight, they rarely want to be in the front lines as others are better suited for that sort of thing. They are superb at helping their party members to be better at what they do. Their songs provide support and buoy up the efforts of others, as well as doing some of the heavy lifting themselves through the spells which they cast as they are sung.
This isn’t your mother’s cleric. In the worlds of Dungeons & Dragons, gods and goddesses are real. Which deities are present is up to your dungeon master, but typically there is an entire pantheon of deities. And what are deities without worshippers? Some of those worshippers are professional worshippers, and some of those professional worshippers are clerics, who go out and get things done for their god/goddess. What that means depends upon the particular deity the cleric worships. Whatever the needs of the deity, clerics are well suited for dealing with it. They are decent fighters, as well as having spells granted by their deity each day. While many classes can have some magical healing abilities, clerics are known for their excellent healing abilities. Good parties will usually make sure that their cleric is well protected as a result.
Little is known about the historical druids, but the druids in D&D are kind of like clerics who worship nature. Their powers come from nature and they can cast spells based on nature, as well as having the ability to change shape into animals. The ability to change shape is the reason most people probably choose the class, to be honest, and it is pretty cool. One of the characters which I am currently playing is a druid and I have no regrets.
Many of the classes in Dungeons and Dragons fight, but the fighter class has focused on fighting, training to become highly skilled as a fighter. As fighters level up, they get better and better at it and can either specialise as a particular type of fighter (like an archer) or can become really well rounded in all fighting styles. No fancy rages here, but there are other advantages to being a fighter which make up for that. Legolas in the Lord of the Rings would be a fighter who has specialised in archery.
Monks use the balance of their minds mixed with their acrobatic skills to fight without high-powered weapons and armor. They use martial arts to take down enemies. Have you seen Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? Those are the kinds of monk you find in D&D. They move so fast that they are hard to hit and they attack more times than anyone else.
Remember the clerics, when I said there are different types of professional worshippers for deities? Paladins are another flavour of professional worshipper. Paladins are more focused on fighting than clerics are and are less focused on magic. They originate in mythology with the paladins of the court of Charlemagne, led by Roland. Think about knights in shining armor, going forth to do the will of their deity. OK, so that didn’t end up being that cool of a thing in real life, but you can do better than they did when you are playing a paladin in Dungeons and Dragons.
Rangers are people who roam the wild areas, hunting monsters and baddies in the wilderness. They are expert trackers, move smoothly through the wild areas of the world, can find food for your party in the wilderness, and are specialists in fighting certain types of baddies. Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings was a ranger, and he will be who this class was created for. If you want to play Aragorn, choose ranger as your class.
Rogues are a generic term for thieves, assassins, and scoundrels of all sorts. Rogues use stealth, cunning, and sleight of hand to get things done. They are excellent at sneaking around, picking locks, and stabbing people in the back for extreme amounts of damage. They get loads of extra skills and are far better at them than normal people. They are not great at being front-line damage dealers because they’re not built to take large amounts of damage, but are brilliant at sneaking around and striking from an unseen position. Bilbo from the Hobbit was a rogue.
Sorcerers are one of the magic using classes. They are physically weak but their magic is so strong that it makes up for that. They have magic suffusing their bodies naturally, coming from some supernatural source (from a dragon, or from the delightful chaos of wild magic), and they do not need to study magic to cast spells- it just flows naturally from them.
Warlocks get their magic as part of a pact with a supernatural entity (a demon, a devil, or a great old one- think Cthulhu) which grants them their powers. Their patron will want some things in return for their patronage, but their patronage provides powerful benefits in the form of pact boons and eldritch invocations. They only know a handful of spells, but the extra powers which they have make them particularly effective.
The final class in the Player’s Handbook, wizards are the most flexible of the spellcasters. They do not have innate magic, but must instead study to learn their spells. On the other hand, they have the ability to learn massive numbers of spells, unlike the sorcerers and warlocks. When they learn a spell they scribe it into their spellbook, and can then use it in future. Their minds can only hold so many spells at once, but each morning they can change which spells they know for the day. Gandalf is a wizard.
That is the last of the classes found in the Player’s Handbook. If you end up getting into the game, one more new class can be found in other books, as well as many subclasses which can be found in the other books. In the meantime, here are some short videos made for beginners to help explain some basics about those classes, in case you feel the need to get a bit more into what they are about.