D&D 5th Ed: Base Classes - Origins & References Guide
Discover the origins and inspirations of the 13 base classes of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition in this comprehensive reference guide!Edit Article
“Which class do I play with?!”Deciding your character's class is an important step in knowing what to do at the D&D tables. But it doesn't have to be that difficult. Read on and discover the classes available in the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons: Their origins, inspirations, play styles and other tips, so you'll never be in doubt about what to choose again!
Classes in D&D 5e
What is a class in Dungeons & Dragons?Classes are
archetypes. That is, the combination of characteristics, skills and equipment that define what your character is capable of doing. While other sheet options are static, classes
evolve. As a character gains experience, they become stronger in the class they use, gaining new powers. In this way, even two characters with the same class can follow different paths as they evolve. Classes also serve to
guideplayers. If you want spells, you can choose a Wizard or Cleric, while someone who wants melee combat can be a Warrior or Monk without having to create something from scratch like in other systems.
How many classes are there in D&D 5e?So far, the basic manual has 12 classes and a 13th has been released in more recent manuals, the Artificer. Each class features a
character and playstyle. So even two combative classes like Warrior and Barbarian that seem to have the same base, in game are quite different from each other — and as they evolve they gain access to
special pathsthat make you even more differentiated even among others of the same class. That is, a group with two mages is perfectly possible, one focused on illusions and the other on necromancy. They are still in the same class, but with entirely different focuses. Below you'll find a
complete guideto the origins and inspirations of each of these 13 core classes, so get ready and
Artificers in HistoryArtificer is a portmanteau of
Genius inventor. Alchemists were scholars who united the science of the time with philosophy and mysticism. It was they who gave rise to current Chemistry and legends such as the Philosopher's Stone and the transmutation of metals. Inventive geniuses, in turn, are the fathers of several relevant technological advances, such as Leonardo DaVinci, Nicholas Tesla and Santos Dumont. They still impress today with their thoughts ahead of the time they lived.
Artificers in FantasyIn
Harry Potteralchemy is a Hogwarts school subject and in electronic RPGs it is often used to prepare potions and other items with materials found in the world, as in the
Atelierseries. On the Inventions side we have the student body of inventors in
Boku no Hero Academiaand, in the comics, characters like
Lex Luthor, two geniuses focused on creations of all kinds.
Artificers in D&DPlay Artificer if you want skill lists and cards up your sleeve like magic, potions, special equipment, mechanical allies, and firearms.
Barbarians in HistoryBarbarians have a controversial origin. The term is considered
offensivehistorically, as it served as an inferiority and generalization of any people other than those considered “civilized”. A prejudiced thought, but widely accepted at the time. Thus, civilizations rich in distinct cultures were included in this group. From Vikings to African peoples, all considered “backward” and of lesser relevance. Today, with the awareness of the cultural importance of these peoples, the term is avoided in scientific and historical articles, although in Dungeons & Dragons this dark side of the term is converted into a much more
respectableversion of the reality.
Barbarians in FantasyThe greatest example of Barbarian is precisely
“Conan the Barbarian”by
Robert E. Howard. A figure of visible power, courage and heightened senses who use cunning and strength to get what he wants.
“Red Sonja”, a female character from the same universe, is an interesting counterpart to the class. In other media we have figures like
God of Warseries,
League of Legendsuniverse and as enemies in many medieval fantasy games.
Barbarians in D&DBarbarians can deal and mostly
takea lot of damage even without armor. As well as moving quickly and sensing danger with your instincts. His combat style is raw, especially in
Rage. In this state, the barbarian gains extra stats while attacking, but gets tired when finished. Depending on the specialization he chooses, he will gain extra effects such as summoning lightning bolts or acquiring traits from their animal spirits when enraged. A barbarian can follow paths like the
totemic warrioras they evolve.
Bards in HistoryBards were poets, storytellers and talented artists usually hired by nobles to entertain them and, of course, build works of art in their favor. As artists, bards were knowledgeable in many local legends and folklore, as well as experts in painting, music and oratory, becoming well-known figures, a fundamental part of festive events and, of course, very wise.
Bards in Fantasy
Tom Bombadilfrom the
Lord of the Rings
universe was able to create magic through music, andJaskier
from theThe Witcher* series presents all the “classic” part of an always musical and artistic bard. It is common to find bards as non-player and secondary characters in medieval fantasy media such as
Fantasy Age, Elder Scrollsor even
Bards in D&DBards are
multi-talentedcharacters, capable of knowing and doing a bit of everything, with a special focus on manipulation with magic or skills. If you're looking for a character capable of influencing, deceiving, and enchanting his targets while controlling combat with their songs and incantations, the bard is for you. As they evolve, the Bard can enter Schools such as
Swords, mixing their art with combat techniques!
youwere one of them. Warlocks become arcane spellcasters from pacts which give them beyond spells unique and useful capabilities both offensively and for support.
Warlocks in HistoryPacts with magical entities are a recurring theme in many cultures. Regardless of the veracity of these facts, most religions have, in one way or another, passages related to such themes. Usually, the concept of a "pact" is related to demons, evil spirits, and other negative archetypes, which doesn't necessarily occur in Dungeons & Dragons, although it is possible.
Warlocks in FantasyCharacters who gain power from pacts are common figures in pop culture and historical fantasy in general. From
Faustfrom German legends to villains in swashbuckling novels to the magical girls in the anime
“Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica”, they all have a connection to great power through contracts.
Warlocks in D&DWizards have their own
listof unique magical abilities and even extra effects according to their pacts, allowing for very different builds, but which require analysis and care to be efficient. They can focus on damage with ranged beams, magic weapons, control spells or even the use of
multiclass, being one of the best for this. As they evolve, the warlock deepens their connection to the patrons that give them power like
Geniuses, Celestialsand even
Clerics in HistoryClerics are religious figures that still exist in various religions today. But none really met all the Cleric criteria in Dungeons & Dragons. We can say that this class was a
mechanical necessityof early editions in an age of deadlier games than today. Of course, this doesn't make the Cleric any less interesting, as being a D&D origin, he connects directly with scenarios and rules of the work!
Clerics in FantasyThe first clerics created in what would become Dungeons & Dragons were made with
Van Hellsingin mind from the Book
Bram Stocker's Dracula, but even though their origins were, the connection of the themes was lost over time. Today, more directly we have the
White Magesfrom the
Final Fantasyseries as a caster of healing, protection and damage spells against undead and the
Priestessfrom the game
Shining Soul IIwith similiar support abilities. We also have many clerics as playable classes in RPGs based on D&D itself, especially in online games like
World of Warcraft, Guild Warsor the nostalgic
D&D ClericsClerics in Dungeons & Dragons are linked directly with a
divine entityof enormous power, following its tenets and obtaining magic and special powers from its
domains. Choose Cleric if you want to help your team, face creatures that are against your beliefs and follow the tenets and traditions of your religion, whatever it may be. As it evolves, Clerics increase their uses of powers and miracles according to the type of
entitythey believe in and follow.
nature, able to control it or become part of it like animals, monsters and various plants. Druids mix the versatility of those who control nature, but also the
penaltiesof those who do not accept the evolution brought by society that affects and often destroys the origin of their powers.
Druids in HistoryDruid was a political and religious position of the ancient
Celticpeoples. Little is known about their rites and daily tasks, as writing was not used by the druids, so we only have legends and external reports, usually from Greeks and Romans that emerged later in the region. However, what is known is that Druids were mysterious and relevant figures for the people, leaders who mixed knowledge of nature, history and Celtic laws, treated with importance by all thanks to the enormous knowledge acquired from their ancestors.
Druids in FantasyDue to the lack of historical data, the term druid has become a generic concept for mages focused on nature. Thus, we have figures like
Radagastfrom the trilogy
“The Hobbit”that even being considered a mage clearly has all the characteristics of a Druid. In games, we have the Druid of the series
Diablo, Knights of Pen and Paper,
Guild Wars, Fire Emblemand many others.
Druids in D&DDruids mix
divine magicwith the ability to
shapeshiftto different types of animals and control the surrounding nature, making it a very complete and even physically offensive spellcasting class. On the other hand, they
cannotuse most modern equipment such as weapons and metal armor, making up for the great versatility of their powers. As it evolves, the Druid enters circles that specialize its great abilities like the
Dreamsand even the
powersemerged. You are now a sorcerer. Sorcerers have
arcane bloodlinesin their family coming from distant ancestors of enormous power, this remnant of magic awakened precisely in you gives abilities and changes your supposedly ordinary life forever.
Sorcerers in HistoryFor obvious reasons, there are no real cases of sorcerers in real life. However, many
folktalestell of people cursed by past relationships in their families that would give them superhuman abilities or even turn them into monsters occasionally, but nothing directly related to sorcerers like Dungeons & Dragons did.
Sorcerers in Fantasy
Harry Potterin his first book has an awakening similar to that of a sorcerer, with magic coming from a genetic inheritance and not from study as he would when arriving at Hogwarts. In anime like
Fairy Tailthe characters acquire powers naturally and train them in different ways in a society where not everyone can acquire magic. In games many scenarios present arcane power as something specific of a family or race, such as
Final Fantasy VI.
Sorcerers in D&DSorcerers are the easiest way to enter the fully spellcasting classes in D&D, as they don't need to prepare their spells and still receive additional powers according to the chosen lineage. On the other hand, they have fewer learned spells per level, which makes it easier to control, but reduces long-term diversity, which is balanced by the extra powers that a regular caster would not have. As they evolve, the Sorcerer delves deeper into their bloodlines that can turn from various sources such as
Dragons, Shadowsand even
Rangers in HistoryThere is no
directcorrelation between Rangers in D&D and actual historical figures. This combination of skills and magic was made from inspirations in the literature of the time. But we can connect, in a way, Rangers to hunters and members of people who live in environments considered wild, who have learned to mix with nature and take advantage of the environment in their favor.
Rangers in FantasyThe Rangers' biggest inspiration in Dungeons & Dragons was
Lord of the Ringsseries. As the editions evolved, the Ranger gained new clothes and designs of its own transferred to other works such as the so-called Rangers from the
"Ranger: Order of the Archers" book seriesto the
Song of Fire and Ice*, which can be treated as rangers specializing in a single terrain and enemy.
Rangers in D&D
versatile and lethal.A ranger can focus on anything they want, from an environment to a specific creature type, as well as close-range and long-range combat styles and even the use of smaller-scale spells and animal companions. It's up to the player to be good at a bit of everything or great at one of those paths. As it evolves, the Ranger can decide an archetype that specializes in one of the multiple possible paths for the class, as the
Warriors in HistoryPeople who dedicate their lives to combat have existed since the dawn of humanity, with combat and war being one of the foundations of all human civilizations. We have examples like the Roman
Samuraiand even the armies of current countries with their firearms would be considered warriors in D&D in an urbanized scenario.
Warriors in FantasyMost action heroes in fantasy movies are classic Warriors like
Xenafrom the series of the same name.
Final Fantasy VII,
Chrono Triggerand all combat related classes in
MMORPGsare examples in games.
Warriors in D&DWarriors are the main combatants in Dungeons & Dragons. With little focus on magic, they can make the most of diverse weapons and equipment. They can focus on short or long distance, deal or take damage, and even between specific maneuvers or weapons for the most different purposes and desires of the player. This versatility combined with simple rules makes the fighter one of the most balanced classes in the game, being used by novices and veterans alike. As it evolves, a fighter can specialize in certain styles like the
Arcane Archer, which mixes arrows with different spells.
Wizards in HistoryMagic supposedly doesn't exist, but it's been eagerly followed by cultures around the world since the emergence of first civilizations and even though today it is seen with skepticism, it was once a real fear and desire in society.
Wizards in FantasyWizard, along with warrior and rogue is part of the triad of base classes of any medieval fantasy, and we have several examples of them here.
Rincewindand all the mages in the
Discworldseries are perfect examples of D&D mages, including the fact that they need to memorize their spells daily, the so-called "Vancian Magic" used in Dungeons & Dragons. Works like
Harry Potteralso show a wizard's path of study, and most fantasy
RPGsfeature arcane magic-using classes similar to Dungeons & Dragons.
D&D WizardsWizards have a
hugecatalog of spells available that they need to learn and, most importantly, memorize for individual uses. This mix of quantity with restrictions makes the mage a
complexbut definitely powerful choice, especially when overcoming the lower, fragile levels of the class. As they evolve, the Wizard can specialize in schools of magic, increasing their potential for certain paths like
Monks in HistoryThe class is heavily inspired by the Fighting Monks, a segment of real Buddhist monks who dedicate their lives to training in unified martial arts and meditation, which exist to this day in isolated temples. There are no reports of fighting monks in Medieval Europe where the D&D aesthetic is inspired, so many says this is a class that doesn't make sense as a base, but it undoubtedly takes a niche for unarmed fighters that others wouldn't normally be able to fill.
Monks in Fantasy
“Avatar: The Last Airbender”is literally a fighting monk, albeit also an Airbender, similar to one of the possible paths for the class.
Shang-Chi, both from
Marvel, present a whole Chi-based culture and martial arts in their comics and movies.
Monks in D&DMonks
don't usecommon weapons or armor, trading this limitation for several different effects with Chi and their combat techniques. In this way, the monk is always prepared for combat, as the damage comes from his own fists and innate powers. Regardless of what situation you are in, you will be a potential risk to any opponent. As he evolves, the Monk enters a specific monastic tradition that extends his knowledge and techniques such as the
Drunk Styleor even the
Four Elements, giving him supernatural abilities with Chi.
strong oath, Paladins can be the perfect example of a
heroor a terrible
slayerwherever they go, but regardless of the form, they will always be remembered by those who witness their powers.
Paladins in HistoryPaladin is a term coined from royal cavalry such as Augustus'
Palatinate Guard, a Vatican military unit that would protect the pope himself, and others such as the
Paladins of Rolandfrom Emperor Charlemagne. In this way, the Paladin is perhaps the class with the greatest connection to real history and brings the divine powers of their religious connection in addition to the military one.
Paladins in FantasyPaladins appear as units in historical strategy games like
Age of empiresand
Civilization, usually expansions of other cavalry units. It also appears with the same name in the game
Final Fantasyas a playable class and with different titles, but identical concept of "Divine Knight against Darkness" in other works, each with its own characteristics in-universe, but centered around the Paladin archetype created by Dungeons & Dragons.
Paladins in D&DPaladins mix the advantages of an armored combatant with good defenses and attack ability with the benefits of a divine spellcaster, as well as other additional abilities coming from the class itself. However, this potential comes with the restrictions of your
honor code, the vow you must follow which, if broken, earns you penance and even the temporary loss of abilities. As it evolves, the Paladin can make swear oaths that give you extra powers and restrictions such as
What is the strongest class in D&D?
rankingthe Dungeons & Dragons classes, and this can be an interesting search to learn more about the system! However, since Dungeons & Dragons is a game focused on
creativityand with stories created by a narrator for a specific group, it is acceptable to imagine that regardless of the efficiency of another class or the way it will be used, the table will "balance" naturally. So don't worry so much about combos and power levels, this should be
fun, not a blind pursuit of efficiency.
Which class to choose?
exactanswer, as each class occupies a different niche and mechanic. Generally speaking, after reading this list, you probably got excited about some class or reference and are considering using it. But maybe you're afraid she won't fit in with the choices of the rest of the group. And that's a valid thought, but not an
obligation.If you can and want to choose a class that fits well with the rest of the table, your challenges will definitely be milder. But a table of all spellcasters or without any access to spells can create a
funenvironment! Try to keep your balance, but remember that in the end, it's your
funthat will speak the loudest.
And you, what's your favorite class?
favorite classin Dungeons & Dragons? Let us know and comment what kind of character you like to play the most at the D&D tables, your opinion matters! Who knows, maybe we'll make a special post about them in the future? Happy gaming and good dices to you all!
Game creator/writer and fascinated by RPG since childhood. Living life one test at a time trying not to take critical flaws.