Let’s talk about the the main theme behind each of the D&D classes.
This isn’t a guide on how you ‘should’ play your class, though there will be some fun ideas in here.
Instead let’s go into the fantasy feeling of each class at a surface level. And let’s throw in some pop culture references to drive home my points.
What IS a Class?
Well first, it’s all class to leave a like. So you should do that first.
Now, while it’s easy enough to fall into language that describes your character as a ‘Sorcerer’ how would others know that about you at first look? A Rogue could just as easily come from a noble family as a street gang.
Your background is a better description of what you were before ‘Adventurer’ and the world may see you.
When your party walks into town, could the average person in a D&D setting distinguish between a Barbarian, Fighter and Ranger?
According to D&D Beyond:
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.
The key takeaway is how you think about the world and interact with it.
Your class is more of a representation about the skills you have to problem solve.
Plenty of classes can be a sword-for-hire, but how that plays out on a mechanical level gives you the player a very different experience.
The mechanics encourage a different playstyle, one that’s tied into the core theme of the class.
So we’re going to run through a list of the classes in 5th Edition and describe the feel for each.
But if you’re looking for a breakdown on the mechanics of how these classes each work, I won’t really be getting into that much, I’ve collated and written a bunch of optimisation guides on D&D classes that I’ll link in the box thing below.
This is more a vibe check on each class.
So let’s get started
Barbarians are warriors who put their body on the line when they fight.
According to D&D:
Barbarians, different as they might be, are defined by their rage: unbridled, unquenchable, and unthinking fury. More than a mere emotion, their anger is the ferocity of a cornered predator, the unrelenting assault of a storm, the churning turmoil of the sea.
For some, their rage springs from a communion with fierce animal spirits. Others draw from a roiling reservoir of anger at a world full of pain. For every barbarian, rage is a power that fuels not just a battle frenzy but also uncanny reflexes, resilience, and feats of strength.
This rage can take many forms. At a base level you take half damage from all weapons and do slightly more damage yourself.
Perhaps a wild fighting style of someone overcome with anger and pain.
Or an animalistic instinctual fighter.
Even an analytical fighter who is so focused on their task that the body’s pain is ignored.
They typically don’t wear armor, but they still soak up damage better than anybody else.
They are brutally lethal up close. And can sacrifice their own safety to add more lethality.
The Barbarians ability to take the hits and keep on fighting best represents the theme behind this class.
So you’re encouraged to go into battle, get surrounded by enemies and make it hard for enemies to ignore you.
You’re strong and powerful. Go get em tiger.
Bards use sound to bolster allies and debilitate foes.
According to D&D:
Whether scholar, skald, or scoundrel, a bard weaves magic through words and music to inspire allies, demoralize foes, manipulate minds, create illusions, and even heal wounds.
Bards come in many flavours but at a core level they’re all about Inspiration and skills.
It’s a flexible class that you can go many different ways with. The tie-in to music, while probably the most common seen is somewhat secondary.
With Jack of All Trades and later Expertise you’ll be able to bring a lot to the table during narrative roleplay moments. Being somewhat good at lots of things means you’ll feel like you always at least have a chance on that roll.
The aesthetic and narrative around the class is quite strongly tied into the musical performer.
Though I’d encourage you to look deeper at the ability to be inspiring to your party.
Sometimes that inspiration and magic could come from your trusty Lute and the incredible chords you could play.
Other times it might just be that your ability to give a rousing speech spurs your friends into fighting harder for longer.
Of course we also have to mention that some people like their bard to be the ‘Face’ someone who does all the talking, charms people and maybe even seduces the dragon.
I love playing a bard who’s healing is just telling someone that they should rub some dirt on it and get back up.
So if you want to be kinda good at a lot of things, and be the one who does a lot of talking for the party, a bard might just be for you.
Clerics are the conduits of magic from the gods.
According to D&D:
Clerics are intermediaries between the mortal world and the distant planes of the gods. As varied as the gods they serve, clerics strive to embody the handiwork of their deities. No ordinary priest, a cleric is imbued with divine magic.
The core theme is wielding divinity as holy power, either for offense of defense.
You can channel this magic into healing allies, true. But you can also get access to some great magic themed to your deity.
Plus it’s a great avenue for Dungeon Masters to tie in story elements to your character. Perhaps your God has a rival you need to cleanse with holy fire.
While most people probably think of clerics as healers, they’re a lot more than that of course.
Yes clerics are great healers and if you want to be lean into that you can be an incredible aid on the battlefield.
Speak with your party about the kind of Cleric you want to play as, so other table friends don’t come crying to you when you take all lightning spells.
Sidenote: A cleric of life in one of my campaigns was a Personal Trainer, and all his healing and buffing actually just consisted of telling people to do, ‘One more rep’ or, ‘You’ve got this mate, rub some dirt on it”.
Druids get their magic from nature, and they can control plants and animals.
Whether calling on the elemental forces of nature or emulating the creatures of the animal world, druids are an embodiment of nature’s resilience, cunning, and fury. They claim no mastery over nature. Instead, they see themselves as extensions of nature’s indomitable will.
The big unique thing about druids is their ability to wild shape.
Druids big theme is the stewardship of the environment or nature itself.
So you’ll pick a circle and get some spells. Though the big through-line is certainly nature and shapeshifting.
You’ll likely feel more at home and useful out in the wilds where there’s plenty of animals to interact with, and whose forms you can take.
Leaning into your wisdom score can also make you the sage-like member of the party with a lack of social graces.
But if Balders gate has taught us anything, you can still be a handsome charming Druid with a penchant for turning into a bear.
Everyone in the party contributes to the fight, but what makes the Fighter stand out?
First, let’s ask the players handbook.
Questing knights, conquering overlords, royal champions, elite foot soldiers, hardened mercenaries, and bandit kings—as fighters, they all share an unparalleled mastery with weapons and armor, and a thorough knowledge of the skills of combat. And they are well acquainted with death, both meting it out and staring it defiantly in the face.
Fighters are great with weapons and have a lot of hitpoints. They can use Second Wind to keep fighting even longer.
They’re very flexible from a thematic point of view. Combine a martial weapon and fighting style and you’ve got a new flavour of fighter.
When it comes to the core fantasy, being the best on a battlefield is where you’ll feel most comfortable.
Perhaps you’re on a mission to become the world’s greatest swordsman.
None of your class features are going to be super helpful in roleplay, but that’s ok.
You’re the shield that protects their allies, or the whir of blades cutting through goblins.
Maybe you’re the tactical master delivering tactics while you fight.
Or you’re weaving spells in between swings of your weapon.
You have the best attacks, you have the best hit points, and you have the best ability to fight of any character in the game.
Monks provide shelter, teach others to read, brew beer and have silly haircuts. Wait… that’s not right.
Monks in D&D are master martial artists, with a touch of magic… or spirit… or ki.
Whatever their discipline, monks are united in their ability to magically harness the energy that flows in their bodies. Whether channeled as a striking display of combat prowess or a subtler focus of defensive ability and speed, this energy infuses all that a monk does.
They’re known for being mobile, and making many quick strikes.
The core theme here is martial artist.
Monks fulfil the fantasy of speed when they’re on the battlefield.
From moving faster, to jumping further they’re constantly in motion.
Spending Ki points to improve your abilities so that they hit harder or interrupt the battlefield also just feels great. And who doesn’t want to be able to catch a projectile and throw it back at that hobgoblin archer.
This isn’t the video to really drill down into the sub-classes but there’s a lot of great variety in there.
This was definitely something the designers got right.
Paladins are fighters with a touch of divine magic. Akin to holy knights
Whatever their origin and their mission, paladins are united by their oaths to stand against the forces of evil. Whether sworn before a god’s altar and the witness of a priest, in a sacred glade before nature spirits and fey beings, or in a moment of desperation and grief with the dead as the only witness, a paladin’s oath is a powerful bond. It is a source of power that turns a devout warrior into a blessed champion.
From a mechanical point of view you’re great at dealing with unholy beings such as undead and fiends.
With the ability to dish out Radiant damage on each swing you’ll carve through the types of creatures that shy away from holy radiance.
While some like to point to Paladin’s are all about Gods, I’m more of the opinion that it’s more about the Oath.
Thematically it feels great to have a sense of conviction. The fantasy of having tenants to stick to.
You can play into the God aspect, but you can just as easily roleplay a paladin whose power comes from their convictions.
When you’re coming up with your character idea, I think it’s good to read through the Oaths and their TENETS to see which one jumps out at you.
For example I was recently playing an Oath of Conquest Paladin that was all about courage and thought fear was weakness.
From there, looking into the kinds of Gods that would venerate that idea is nice, though not necessary. Maybe your paladin is just wants glory.
Speak with your Dungeon Master either way, because Gods are a great hook for a DM just like in our Cleric discussion. But DMs also love to make a Paladin have to question if their rigid view on the world is the correct one.
Oh yeah, you’ll get some spells and stuff, but that’s not what you’re going to known for.
Expect to stomp into the battlefield in the strongest armour doing incredible damage with each swing.
Then, if there’s time maybe some light healing afterwards.
The ranger’s home is the wilderness.
They’re better at surviving and leading through the frontiers than anyone else.
Far from the bustle of cities and towns, past the hedges that shelter the most distant farms from the terrors of the wild, amid the dense-packed trees of trackless forests and across wide and empty plains, rangers keep their unending watch.
No matter what you want to do, if you aspire to excel in the woods, becoming a ranger is the best path to achieve that.
There’s also the mechanic of your favoured enemy, which can really add to the theme of your ranger.
You’ll get some extra damage and things to do when hunting and taking down your favoured enemy.
Rangers cop a lot of flak because they can be very narrowly focused.
And depending on your choice of favoured terrain and favoured enemy, you could be without real use of your core fantasy for many sessions at a time.
Especially when exploring the wilderness and overland travel may not be a core aspect of the game your DM intends to run.
Overall the shooting arrows and tracking prey flavour is strong with many of the ranger subclasses and one is even about having a beast bestie.
But the core theme supported by the mechanics is that of a wilderness expert. You’ll be at a significant story disadvantage inside dungeons or city environs.
Rogues are known for their skills and their sneak attacks.
Rogues rely on skill, stealth, and their foes’ vulnerabilities to get the upper hand in any situation. They have a knack for finding the solution to just about any problem, demonstrating a resourcefulness and versatility that is the cornerstone of any successful adventuring party.
The core concept of a rogue is quite strong in fantasy games. Outwit your enemies, circumvent defenses and make profits.
In DND, Rogues bring a lot to the table both within combat and without. They can specialise in some skills, typically the stealthy ones.
In fact I’m just now re-reading that Expertise is 2 skills OR 1 skill and Thieves Tools. I’ve been letting the Rogue in our campaign make sleight of hand checks for Thieves Tools… maybe he’s gotten a freebie there.
I’ve been swindled by a rogue! How thematically appropriate.
A Rogue is great and disarming traps and unlocking doors. With the right expertise you can also talk your way into a building, or out of being caught with your hand in the Tim Tam jar.
In combat they not a blunt force of power like the Fighter or Barbarian. Rogues need to plan where in the fight they are best suited. Usually against an unwitting enemy from the shadows.
Play around getting advantage from hiding or enemies and striking for big damage to soft targets.
Sorcerers have magic powers and don’t use any other source of power, like a god.
Sorcerers carry a magical birthright conferred upon them by an exotic bloodline, some otherworldly influence, or exposure to unknown cosmic forces. One can’t study sorcery as one learns a language, any more than one can learn to live a legendary life. No one chooses sorcery; the power chooses the sorcerer.
Round for round, the DND sorcerer can be one of the most powerful spellcasting classes in the game.
The core theme here is spellcaster, and more specifically one that hasn’t had to spend years reading books, they’re naturally gifted.
The class features of the sorcerer do a really poor job of fulfilling this special bloodline fantasy.
Sorcerers’ subclasses do a lot of heavy lifting in this department.
The fact they can alter their spells using sorcery points or regain spell slots doesn’t really mesh with the feeling the sorcerer is trying to portray.
They’re locked into the spells they choose a lot firmer than something like a Wizard or Cleric, so while they’re great at twisting those spells, they don’t have the same versatility.
In reflection, the core theme of the sorcerer is that of a gifted child. You were very good at magic growing up but failed to learn HOW to learn. So now you’re kinda stuck with those few skills you’re good at.
I can now see why not many people want to play a sorcerer, they’re looking for escapism, not a reminder that they peaked as a teenager.
Don’t mind me… maybe we can do a subclasses video to dive deeper on this one, because that’s where the real meaty flavour is.
Warlocks get their powers from making a pact with a powerful being.
The most important part is the pact and the being that they made it with.
Warlocks are seekers of the knowledge that lies hidden in the fabric of the multiverse. Through pacts made with mysterious beings of supernatural power, warlocks unlock magical effects both subtle and spectacular. Drawing on the ancient knowledge of beings such as fey nobles, demons, devils, hags, and alien entities of the Far Realm, warlocks piece together arcane secrets to bolster their own power.
The Warlock comes packaged with incredible amounts of roleplaying potential built right into the class.
You can make a pact with a demon, an angel, a fey, or even some other being that you created with the DM.
Talk with your DM about the terms of this pact and the kind of being the pact is made with. Being on the hook for the power you wield adds tension to all kinds of choices.
In our campaign we had a Warlock whose patron was the Great Old One ‘The Sandman’.
You also get to recover spells faster than anyone else, while your pool isn’t deep it refills quickly.
So while you have great consistent power, the real flavour comes from how you interact with the source of your power. Is it adversarial, are you in some kind of Fiending pyramid scheme? Or were you able to charm a fey into falling in love with you and sending you gifts.
If you need a Warlock, you can click the link below to go to my Patreon and become my Warlock patron.
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Wizards are the best at magic and have the most choice of spells at any given moment.
Wizards are supreme magic-users, defined and united as a class by the spells they cast. Drawing on the subtle weave of magic that permeates the cosmos, wizards cast spells of explosive fire, arcing lightning, subtle deception, and brute-force mind control. Their magic conjures monsters from other planes of existence, glimpses the future, or turns slain foes into zombies. Their mightiest spells change one substance into another, call meteors down from the sky, or open portals to other worlds.
There are a lot of other roles that a wizard can fulfill, but that’s the most important part.
As a mistress of magic, Wizards are flexible and versatile as long as they’ve got time to prepare.
This flexibility comes at the cost of simplicity. Wizards can be hard to play.
Like Hermione you’ll be inclined to tell your party to hit the library and scroll shops before doing the fun things like running headfirst into danger.
You can wield great arcane powers like Fireball to deal big damage. Though the real strengths of this vast cosmic power is in battlefield control.
If you like being able to do all sorts of different things and adapt to a lot of different situations, then the wizard is a great class for you.
That’s the core fantasy for this class.
Blood Hunters are monster hunters who are ok with losing some of their humanity to be a more effective hunter.
Blood hunters are clever warriors driven by an unending determination to destroy evils old and new. Armed with rites of secretive blood magic and a willingness to sacrifice their own vitality and humanity for their cause, they protect the realms from the shadows—even as they remain ever vigilant against being drawn to the darkness that consumes the monsters they hunt.
Blood Hunters are just dripping with theme and it’s no surprise why.
They can sacrifice their health and humanity to unleash more more power on their foes.
Thematically they’re monster hunters much like The Witcher Geralt of Rivia. Thankfully their mechanics don’t limit them to just Monsters as the extra damage and abilities aren’t limited.
While the core of monster hunter is strong, the sub-classes also do a lot of heavy lifting here. Are you a ghost slayer or do you drink a potion to transform into a wild beast.
Either way, the feel of the Blood Hunter is that of an outsider, perhaps shunned from polite society but a required element to deal with the aberrations and fiends of the DND world.
Remember, the satisfaction you get from playing a particular class can depend on your playstyle, the campaign, and your role-playing preferences.
As always, speak with your DM about what the core theme you’re looking to get out of your next character. Make sure to communicate what kind of fantasy you’re looking to play in.
You’re at the table to have fun and play out these stories with the cool characters you’ve created. So let me know what your next character is in the comments below, and if this video was helpful, consider leaving a like so I know you’re still here.