WARNING: If you do not like Dungeons & Dragons and are turned off by words like ‘system’, ‘hit dice’ and ‘spell slots’… RUN AWAY NOW! And don’t look back.
Okay, to the few who remain, I recently wrote a post about the 5th edition (or 5e as it’s known to the cool kids) Players Handbook, in which I sung its praises. Since then I’ve had the joy of actually playing in a game up to 6th level and wanted to take the time to talk about the classes in a bit more detail. I’ve only seen a few of them in play though I’ve now seen enough of the system to be able to make educated guesses about the good and the bad features of the others.
Ready? Here we go…
Big hit dice and the ability to add your con to your AC, the barbarian seems stronger to me than in 3rd edition. You won’t be able to match the AC of fighter in armour (unless you got really lucky rolling stats) but you won’t be far off. Also bouncing sword blades with only the power of your mighty muscles is just plain cool and allows you to totally go into battle Conan style. Rage abilities are also lots of fun and allow you to berserk your way to victory.
There are two variants as you get to higher levels. The EVEN MORE BERSERK version and the totem animal version. Both get some neat tricks.
Barbarian is also good for players new to the system as they have a fairly small set of options to consider in combat.
In 5e, Bards get a pretty sweet deal. Up to 9th level casting, generous spell slots and better hit points and armour than a wizard, plus bard specials. So we’re talking a full caster that can also fight and gets healing magic. Sounds kind of broken to me. I still don’t want to play one mind you because I don’t like bards very much. But if I did, this would be the edition I’d go for.
You can choose to be a bardy bard, in which case you get to nick spells from other spell lists (sings songs and casts fireball*) or a fighty bard, in which case you get medium armour, an extra attack and the ability to cast and attack in the same turn.
So Bards are looking pretty good in 5e. If you like that sort of thing.
Clerics are pretty much as they’ve always been. Also up to 9th level casting and better armour than a bard, assumedly to compensate for the fact the rest of the party will want healing from time to time (though this is less of an issue in 5e as characters can recover hit dice during rests). So healing and buffing with a bit of zapping as you might expect.
Each cleric chooses a divine domain that gives them bonus spells for their lists, along with specials. There are too many to list here but sample specials include: being able to wear heavy armour, channelling divine knowledge to temporarily use skills, and maxing the damage of an attack spell.
Clerics remain a strong class with good utility both in and out of combat.
I seem to remember a time when Druids were not as good as clerics. That time has passed. Druids still get good casting, d8 hits and medium armour which is pretty good off the bat. But wait. Wait there. We need to talk about Wild Shape. Wild Shape is wonderful. It lets you turn into an animal (which is always cool). At low levels you can’t become a flying animal but you can still be a something small for scouting or something tough for fighting. You get the animals physical stats and attacks and their hit points ADD ON to yours. It’s amazing!
You can be a druidy druid where you get some (yawn) bonus spells and some nice nature style tricks (yawn) OR YOU CAN BE A BADASS SHAPESHIFTER DRUID AND BECOME A DEATHDEALING BEAR AT 2ND LEVEL!!!!!!!!!!!!! But completely your choice, they’ve both got merits.
Fighters are pretty solid (that’s not a pun). As you’d expect they get better hit points than everyone except the Barbarian, and the best armour and weapons choices. They also get more ability upgrades (which is even more potent if your DM is using the FEATS system).
They get some interesting choices to make too. You can be the (relatively dull) Champion which gives you better crits and things. Or you can be the Battle Master which gives you special tactics you can use to change the flow of combat. I’d love to see how one of these plays. Lastly you can be an Eldritch Knight (the title alone sells me) where you get to summon magic weapons and cast spells and teleport! Bad. Ass.
I love the 5e monk. They’ve got a nice feel to them. Good attack rate, not bad AC considering they don’t wear armour and some lovely abilities powered off Ki that allows them to dodge super-fast or leap like they do in the martial arts movies. Also: They can catch arrows!
You can choose to be a martial arts monk, a badass shadow ninja monk or a cool elemental bending monk. It’s a win/win/win.
Paladins rock. They just do, it’s a fact of life. Excellent hit points, AC and loads of cool abilities like protective auras, lay on hands (that’s healing for the newcomers) and a good spell selection that gives really interesting tactical choices. A lot of their spells can be cast as bonus actions too so you don’t even lose an attack to use them. And they get smite. Smite allows you to burn spell slots for lots of extra damage. Rolling lots of damage dice is one of life’s special pleasures. You should try it.
You can be a traditional heroic paladin (awesome), a nature paladin (not so awesome), or a vengeance paladin (awesome and has great emo potential).
I’ve always felt that Rangers have lacked something. In 5e they get a good range of flavourful abilities, medium armour, d10 hit points. If you’re in their favoured terrain they seem awesome. If you’re not… well they don’t seem as good. Still, they can heal (but then so can a paladin) and they have some cool buffs (almost as good as a paladin’s). So, if you want to be a dynamic fighter type and don’t fancy playing a fighter or a paladin then Ranger is for you. Alternatively if you want to play a quick agile fighter and don’t like Rouges or Monks it’s also a good choice. For some though it’s about the flavour. And if you really want a character who is at home in the wild places and you don’t like Druids, then I heartily recommend Ranger.
You can choose to be a tough fighty ranger that gets some neat tricks or you can have an animal companion which fights at your side (but only at the cost of your actions). Or you could choose another class. Just sayin.
Ah, I remember when the Rogue could only sneak attack humanoids that had organs in the regular places. If you up came against undead, demons, hell, most of the monster manual, the rogue was about as much use as the wizard when they’d run out of spells. No longer! Now rogues can sneak attack everything.
But I digress. The Rogue is your stealthy scout with strong skills, light armour, d8 hits and of course, sneak attack. They work pretty well and have several tricks to stop you getting mashed by the first fireball or giant with an axe that you encounter.
You can choose to be a Roguey Rogue, and get bonuses to climbing and sneaking. Or you can be an Assassin where you get to kill things really effectively (I doubt many folk will go for that one!) or the Arcane Trickster where you get some nice spells and a special version of Mage Hand or as I like to call it, the hand of infinite sneak attacks.
Depending on the specialty you go for, rogue’s are another good bet for new players.
I never touched 4th Edition D&D but I can tell you that Sorcerer’s are waaaay better in 5e than they were in 3rd or 3.5. D6 hit points, no armour (but this isn’t new), and of course 9th level casting. Sorcerer’s have smaller spell lists than the other classes but can always cast what they need when they need it and, thanks to a really nice metamagic system, can either trade sorcery points to get extra spell slots or use points to enhance spells to make them more subtle, last longer, be more damaging etc. It’s a simple system that gives them a lot of flexibility. Also, cantrips (your lowest level spells) can be cast infinitely now so you never run out of spells and attack cantrips scale as you level so they never become obsolete. Woo hoo!
You can choose to be a Draconic sorcerer and get natural armour, wings and elemental bonuses or you can choose the other one**. Don’t choose the other one.
Oh god I love the Warlock concept. You’re a spellcaster that gets your powers through a deal with a supernatural entity. Warlocks get a mix of spells, invocations (special abilities granted by the patron) and other specials depending on which road you take. All ablilites are not created equal and I think Warlocks work best with people who have a good understanding of the system. D8 HP and light armour are just good enough to make you think you can fight but unless you get the right abilities behind you, things will end quickly and badly. At first glance the spell slots may seem punishingly low but unlike other casters, warlocks regain spells after any short rest, which makes it much less painful.
You can choose to be a fighty warlock (which is full of style but hard to pull off effectively), a magicy warlock (which has the potential to be very strong) or get a powerful familiar (also very strong).
As I said, Warlocks are full of flavour but need careful planning.
Wizards rock. Like Sorcerers and Warlocks they benefit from infinite cantrips. They have a much broader number of spells than their counterparts but have to prepare them in advance. They also get ritual casting (and I should add, so do Bards and Clerics), which allows them to infinitely cast any ritual spell, though such castings take 10x as long as normal. All the classic spells are in (you can fly, teleport, shoot fire, change shape, use illusions, raise the dead, etc).
There are lots of different spell schools you can choose to specialise in and they all have some really nice tricks, even divination. Especially divination.
So there you go. All the classes have things going for them and deserve playing. Go play them! Seriously, if you like D&D, there has never been a better time.
*A bard with fireball? WTAF! This breaks my world on a fundamental level.
**Where your spells have the chance to have random effects, like turn you into a mushroom. No. Just no.