Choosing a Class

Spell slinging wizard or sneaky rogue? Shining paladin or ranger hunting her prey?

Classes in D&D are a collection of related abilities that your character gains. They’re sort of like jobs, if choosing to be a plumber meant you suddenly understood flow rates, welding, and some thermodynamics. That is, they’re jobs, but choosing the job also gives you the abilities to do that job.

Each class has things it’s good at, and things it’s not good at. There are no “bad” classes. They are all useful in your average D&D campaign.

One Liners

Here’s a one line description of each class, which may help you narrow down your decision. More complete descriptions are below.

Core Classes

These are the classes in the Basic Rules, and are the core around which the rest of the classes are built. These are the basic, classic, old school classes that have existed since D&D began.

* indicates classes that are particularly suited to new players.

  • Cleric - priest in armor with holy spells, can heal people
  • *Fighter - hits stuff with sword or bow, has some nifty maneuvers
  • *Rogue - sneaky thief/swashbuckler, lightly armored
  • Wizard - spellcaster with wide variety of spells, especially damaging spells, and no armor

Extended Classes

These classes are only available in the Player’s Handbook.

  • *Barbarian - lightly armored fighter that uses primal rage to deal a lot of damage
  • Bard - sings to cast spells, jack of all trades
  • Druid - nature-loving spellcaster that can shapechange into animals
  • *Monk - unarmored martial artist
  • Paladin - a righteous, more combat-oriented cleric with fewer spells
  • Ranger - a lightly armored, skillful wilderness warrior
  • Sorcerer - like a wizard with less variety of spells, but can manipulate them to cause different effects.
  • Warlock - spellcaster devoted to an otherworldly power with unusual abilities

Every class as different “subclasses” - these are minor variations to the classes to give you ways to make your Wizard mechanically different from someone else’s Wizard, for example. There are more than I can easily stuff into this article, so they will be discussed in a separate article.

In Depth

There’s a few main things to consider when looking at classes

  1. What is the class’ defining feature?
  2. What is their natural combat ability?
  3. If they can cast spells, and the number and type of spells they get.
  4. The kind of armor they can wear and how many hitpoints* they get.
  5. How many skills they have access to.
  6. What ability scores are useful for them.

(*hitpoints are a numerical number describing how much damage a character can take before they die)

Basically all the classes can be compared by looking at these 5 different things.

Core Classes


A cleric is a holy person, a priest or other practitioner of faith. But a cleric is more than that, they literally are given the ability to perform magic by their faith in their god.

This is a cleric’s defining feature - casting holy spells. They tend to get protection and healing spells, though they have a limited number of offensive spells.

Clerics can wear medium armor, and some sublasses can wear heavy armor. They have moderate hitpoints.

Clerics generally do ok in melee… they don’t have a ton of ways to increase their damage, but their hitpoints and armor are decent enough.

Clerics are not very skillful. They may know some history or religous stuff, but they’re not generally going to be scaling walls or picking locks.

Subclasses for clerics are called Domains, and represent different abiltiies for worshippers of different domains.

Their spellcasting is based on Wisdom, so you should usually put your highest score in Wisdom for a cleric.


A fighter’s defing feature is… just that. Combat. Someone who is very good with a bow or sword or axe. Often they’re the protypical soldier or street brawler. They generally don’t throw spells, they’re just really good at hitting things.

Fighters are skilled in fighting - they get a lot of abilities that let them do things in battle that others can’t. They can use any armor, any weapon and have the second largest hitpoints in the game. They are extremely versatile in combat.

Of course, some people want to fight and cast spells, and luckily there’s a subclass of fighter for that, called the Eldritch Knight. They get a limited number of spells, but enough that you feel like you have some pizzazz to go with your sword swinging.

Fighters, like clerics, are not a skillful class. They do best in a fight, and usually aren’t going to win debate club.

Generally strength and consitution are most important for a fighter, but you’d want to prioritize dexterity over strength if you’re using ranged weapons.


Rogues are the thieves, swashbucklers, and ne’er do wells of the D&D world. If there are shadows, chances are you’ll find a rogue skulking in them.

Rogues’ defining features are their breadth of skills (stealth, lock picking, climbing, deception, etc). They also have the ability to get extra proficient at two skills (called Expertise), almost ensuring they’ll be the best at those skills.

In combat, rogues are dangerous opponents that get to deal extra damage to opponents they have advantage over (usually due to surprise), this is called “Sneak Attack”. However, rogues generally don’t wear a lot of armor, so they are more fragile than fighters.

Rogues do not get spells, except for the Arcane Trickster subclasses which gets a small amount.

Rogues nearly always want a high dexterity. High intelligence or charisma can be useful based on the type of skills your rogue wants to be good at.


A Wizard’s defining feature is their spells. They are spellcasters wielding arcane magic they have learned through intense study. They have the most varied selection of spells in the game, including damaging spells like fireball and more utility spells that help outside of combat. The only type of spell they truly lack is healing.

Wizards are not generally intended to fight with weapons. They only know simple weapons and do not know how to use armor. They have the fewest hitpoints in the game, and therefore are always in danger if they get into combat.

Wizards have limited skill access as well, generally just book-knowledge, rather than more practical skills.

Wizards can be some of the most powerful characters in the game, but must always be wary due to their relative fragility in combat.

A wizard’s spellcasting depends on intelligence, so that should be your highest stat.

Extended Classes


A barbarian is a melee fighter from a less civilized area that uses his primal rage to increase his combat abilities. This rage is the class’ defining feature and the key to a lot of their abilities.

A Barbarian’s rage gives them greater damage and resistance to weapon damage. They have access to medium armor, but also are harder to hit than usual even when unarmored (to allow for the barechested axe swinger trope). They have the most hitpoints in the game, and thus are great front line fighters.

Barbarians do not get spells, and may not cast spells while using their rage. They are also not known for their skills, though they do have some facility with outdoor skills.

Many of the barbarian’s abilities are dependent on their constitution, and of course their strength is the key to combat ability, so generally these two abilities should be your highest stats.


A bard is a charismatic sweet talker that dabbles in a little bit of everything, especially magic and social skills.

Bards have moderate hitpoints and access to light armor, making them less of a front-line fighter, though they can do ok picking off stragglers.

Bards get a very wide variety of spells, second only to a wizard, though with fewer flashy damaging spells.

Bards can learn literally any skill, and gain access to expertise at later levels to make them second only to rogues in their skills.

A bard’s spellcasting and many of their skills are based on Charisma, so it should be your highest stat, the next highest usually should be Dexterity, for skills, defense, and offense.


A druid is basically a nature-loving cleric with some very unique special abilities. Their defining feature is wildshape, which lets them turn into a best such as a bear or tiger.

Druids are excellent spellscasters, getting a wide variety of magic, though it tends toward more utilitarian and less healing that a traditional cleric.

Druids may wear medium armor and have a moderate hitpoints, so much like a cleric, they’re ok front line fighters, though with wildshape they can be formidable.

Druids get some nature skills, but will not be on par with a ranger, bard or rogue.

A druid’s spellcasting is based on wisdom, so it should be your highest stat.


Monks are fast moving unarmored martial artists, often using punches and kicks instead of weapons. Monks have mystical abilities beyond the powers of normal people, but do not cast spells.

Monks are primarily melee combatants, despite their lack of armor. They may apply their wisdom modifier to AC, which helps keep them from being hit. Their hitpoints are moderate, so they should try to avoid the front line, but are very effective mobile combatants.

Monks get no spells, but have some mystical spell-like abilities that give them added interest over a straight sword-swinger.

Monks get limited skills, but can often keep up with the stealthy classes where needed.

Most of a monk’s abilities are based on Wisdom, and this should be their highest stat, dexterity is by far the next most important stat and should also be high.


Paladins are holy warriors, similar to clerics, but more focused on melee combat than spells.

Paladins are primarily melee combatants, with access to heavy armor, good hitpoints, and martial weapons. Paladins have a good balance of offensive abilities to attack enemies, and protective abilities to help their enemies.

Paladins have access to a limited spell list, mainly healing and protective with a few damaging spells.

Paladins are not very skillful, and are usually the butt of clanking buckets of armor jokes from the stealthier members of the party, though they can be very effective in social situations due to their high Charisma.

Most of a paladin’s abilities key off of Charisma, so that should be their highest stat, followed by strength for combat.


Rangers are wilderness warriors - stealthy, deadly in combat, and skillful navigators of the wild. Their defining abilities are favored enemy and natural explorer, which make them the best at exploring the wilderness.

Rangers are powerful combatants, either in melee or at range. They get medium armor and moderate hitpoints, as well as several abilities that increase their damage.

Rangers get a moderate amount of spells that are nearly all utilitarian in nature, or at most help with their own combat damage.

Rangers get a good selection of skills, making them able to keep up with the rogue in stealth, if not in social situations.

Rangers generally favor weapons that use Dexterity to hit, so that should likely be your highest stat.


A sorcerer is an arcane spellcaster much like the Wizard, though one that casts through an innate ability, rather than through study. The sorcerer’s defining ability is metamagic - the ability to tweak spells as they are cast to fit the current situation better.

Just like a wizard, a sorcerer is a poor physical combatant, getting the lowest hitpoints in the game and no access to armor.

A sorcerer’s spells are nearly the same as a Wizard’s, focusing a bit more on damaging spells and less on utility, though a sorcerer casts using Charisma instead of intelligence.

Sorcerers have few skills, though their high Charisma will often make them useful in social situations.

Since a sorcerer’s spells are based on Charisma, it should be their highest stat.


A warlock is an unusual spellcaster that gains their spells from a pact with otherworldly being. They have unique abilities in addition to spells, called Invocations, which can make them the most varied class in the game.

Warlocks get moderate hitpoints and light armor, making them not a front line fighter, however they can gain abilities that increase their combat prowess that can make them decent second line fighters.

Warlocks get spells, but cast unlike any other class. They get a very small number of spells, but they regain them more quickly than other classes, and their cantrips (spells they can cast repeatedly) are especially effective in combat.

Warlocks get few skills, but their high charisma can help with certain social situations.

A warlock’s spells are cast using Charisma, so it should generally be their highest stat, though Dexterity is a close second, perhaps even first for a Warlock that specializes in combat.