Creating a D&D Character | Character Class

Creating a D&D Character | Choose a Class

Today, we’re continuing in our character reaction series and talking about character class. I still haven’t thought of a name better than Ezra for our example character, so let’s go ahead and choose a class for him. 

What are Classes in D&D?

As it states in the 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook (PHB), “Class is the primary definition of what your character can do. It’s more than a profession; it’s your character’s calling. Class shapes the way you think about the world and interact with it and your relationship with other people and powers in the multiverse.”

So there are quite a few to choose from. There are even more than what’s listed in the PBH, but let’s start with those to get the ball rolling.

  • Barbarian – A fierce warrior of primitive background who can enter a battle rage
  • Bard – An inspiring magician whose power echoes the music of creation
  • Cleric – A priestly champion who wields divine magic in service of a higher power 
  • Druid – A priest of the Old Faith, wielding the powers of nature – moonlight and plant growth, fire and lightning – and adopting animal forms
  • Fighter – A master of martial combat, skilled with a variety of weapons and armor
  • Monk – A master of martial arts, harnessing the power of the body in pursuit of physical and spiritual perfection 
  • Paladin – A holy warrior bound to a sacred oath
  • Ranger – A warrior who uses martial prowess and nature magic to combat threats on the edges of civilization 
  • Rogue – A scoundrel who uses stealth and trickery to overcome obstacles and enemies 
  • Sorcerer –  A spellcaster who draws on inherent magic from a gift or bloodline 
  • Warlock – A wielder of magic that is derived from a bargain with an extraplanar entity 
  • Wizard – A scholarly magic-user capable of manipulating the structures of reality

That’s quite a list of choices – especially for new players. If we were to dive deeper into the classes, there are several overlapping characteristics about each of them – especially when you examine some of their subclasses.

So to narrow things down, you might ask, “We can at least group these into categories right? That should narrow things down and make it a little easier to pick one right?” 

Well, we could, and it’s been done before. However, that also presents some challenges.

Categorizing the Classes

To have a little bit of context, let’s take a look at how classes were categorized in previous editions of the game.

Original D&D

In original D&D, there were only three main classes, so classification was pretty easy. There was the Cleric, the Fighting Man, and the Magic-User. Thief was added later.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1st Edition)

In 1st edition, the base classes were updated to include Bard, Cleric, Monk, Thief, Fighter, and Magic-User. Druid was a subclass of Cleric, Assassin was a subclass of Thief, Paladin and Ranger were subclasses of Fighter, and the Illusionist was a Magic-User subclass.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (2nd Edition)

Then 2nd edition came along and the classes were grouped a little differently. There was Warrior (which included Fighter, Paladin, and Ranger), Wizard (which included Mage and Specialist Wizard), Priest (which included Cleric, Druid, and Priests of specific mythos), and Rogues (which included Thief and Bard).

3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons

In 3rd edition, the organization of the classes into categories was pretty much abandoned. However, new added class variants and prestige class options were added into the mix.

4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons

Perhaps it was the controversial and often maligned 4th edition that organized the classes into one of the most useful categories. 4e grouped them in two distinct ways: power-source and role.

Grouped by Power Source

  • Primal Power classes: Barbarians and Druids
  • Martial Power classes: Fighters, Rangers, and Rogues
  • Divine Power classes: Clerics and Paladins
  • Arcane Power classes: Sorcerers, Warlocks, and Wizards

Grouped by Adventuring Party Role

  • There were Leaders which included Clerics and Bards. 
  • Strikers included Barbarians, Rangers, Rogues, and Warlocks.
  • Fighters and Paladins were considered defenders.
  • While Druids and Wizards were considered controllers.

5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons

For 5e, we have the benefit of multiple subclasses and options that expand what you can do with a character class. But that blurs the lines even further. There isn’t really an official list of class categories for 5e – or at least one I’ve come across yet.

Using a Decision Tree

So how do we make a choice without spending hours and hours learning about each of the classes?

For a brand new player, I think it may be better to narrow things down in a different way. So, much like the character prologue, I want to leverage a great decision tree resource that helps narrow things down from a narrative perspective.

As with the Character Prologue, credit should be given where credit is due. You may have seen this flowchart making its way around the interwebs, or even on social media.

What 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Class should you play?

I’m a fan of this type of decision tree because it starts from a player’s interests point of view instead of combing through all the class descriptions.

Choosing Ezra’s Character Class

I worked through the decision tree, answering questions for Ezra. Here’s how it turned out…

  • Question 1: How do you react to danger? I deal with it from a safe distance.
  • Question 2: What do you rely on most? Magic
  • Question 3: I want… Flexibility
  • Question 4: Are you the academic type? I’m a bookworm.

My result: Wizard.

This means that after answering four questions about how I’d like to play Ezra, I’ve discovered that the best choice of character class might be a Wizard. I’ll take a closer look at what the Player’s Handbook has to see about Wizards to see if I like the direction. If I’m cool with this choice, awesome. If not, maybe some of the questions sparked interest in another one of the classes. 

But I think I’ll stick with it. Ezra Write will be a Wizard.


Now that we’ve chosen a class for Ezra, our next step will be choosing an appropriate Wizard subclass. We’ll tackle that in our next installment of the series.