A Guide to DnD 5e Classes
Published on July 23, 2019, Last modified on May 24th, 2021
Choosing your character’s class is one of the most important decisions you will make when creating your character for a new campaign.
Quick Look at DnD Classes
The following classes are available to play in DnD 5e:
|Class||Type||Short Description||Class Guide||Spells|
|Artificer||Ranged Damage, Utility, Support Caster||A tinkering support caster that can craft items for your party.||Artificer 5e Guide||Artificer Spells|
|Barbarian||Tank, Melee Damage||A primal warrior that relies on their rage to fuel their combat prowess.||Barbarian 5e Guide||N/A|
|Bard||Support Caster, Utility||A silver-tongued minstrel that taps in the magic of music to cast spells||Bard 5e Guide||Bard Spells|
|Cleric||Healer, Support Caster||A devote follower of a deity that harnesses the power of their faith for magic||Cleric 5e Guide||Cleric Spells|
|Druid||Tank, Support Caster, Healer, Utility||A nature-based magic user that can shapeshift into animal forms||Druid 5e Guide||Druid Spells|
|Fighter||Tank, Melee Damage, Ranged Damage||Born and bred in battle, the Fighter is a master of combat.||Fighter 5e Guide||N/A|
|Monk||Evasive, Melee Damage||A skilled martial artist, the Monk can manipulate their Ki to perform extraordinary feats||Monk 5e Guide||N/A|
|Paladin||Tank, Healer, Support Caster, Melee Damage||A warrior whose devotion to their Oath provide magical powers||Paladin 5e Guide||Paladin Spells|
|Ranger||Ranged Damage, Survival||A master of survival who uses their knowledge of the outdoors to track foes and provide advantages in combat||Ranger 5e Guide||Ranger Spells|
|Rogue||Stealth, Evasive, Ranged Damage, Melee Damage||A stealthy lurker of the shadows, specializing in backstabbing and trickery||Rogue 5e Guide||N/A|
|Sorcerer||Spell Damage, Battlefield Control||A magic-user that can use their meta magic abilities to shape spells in unique ways||Sorcerer 5e Guide||Sorcerer Spells|
|Warlock||Spell Damage, Battlefield Control||A wielder of Eldritch powers that focuses on mental manipulation and blasts of arcane power||Warlock 5e Guide||Warlock Spells|
|Wizard||Spell Damage, Utility, Support Caster||Wizards take a scholarly approach to magic and are able to play with the fabric of realty||Wizard 5e Guide||Wizard Spells|
Choosing the right class for yourself AND your character will dictate the rest of your character’s career. Making sure you choose right the first time is imperative, as once you start playing a character, it’s quite a pain to go back and re-roll a new one. Not only will the time you invested into creating your first character be wasted, but the campaign will have to accommodate the new character. This creates work for your DM and interrupts the story as your new character is introduced.
This article goes into depth on each DnD 5e Class and will give you the proper tools to make the right decision for your character.
What is a Class in DnD 5e?
Fun Fact: Dungeons & Dragons was the first formalized game to use the character class mechanic.
A character’s class is the most important thing to consider when creating a character. Your character’s class determines their skills and abilities and, therefore, will dictate how they are played. While not quite as pivotal, your character’s race, spells, and feats (if available) will also define the way the character is played.
Skills are determined by a particular Class’ Class Features, while abilities are measured by Ability Scores. This article is going to be focusing on giving you a general overview of the choices you have for 5e character Classes, if you are looking to take a deep dive into a particular Class’ Class Features, check out our Class Guides linked below.
Did you know?
D&D Beyond can help create your characters by making choices using a step-by-step approach. Full customization and control of your character, none of the flipping through hundreds of pages to reference obscure rules.
How Ability Scores Shape Your Character
There are 6 Ability Scores used in DnD 5e:
- Strength (STR)
- Constitution (CON)
- Dexterity (DEX)
- Intelligence (INT)
- Wisdom (WIS)
- Charisma (CHA)
Classes like Barbarians and Fighters are Strength and Constitution focused, meaning that they specialize in hitting things and getting hit by things.
On the other hand, Wizards and Druids are Intelligence and Wisdom base. This means they are going to be very resourceful when stuck in a tricky situation, but won’t be as useful if caught in a tavern brawl.
Dexterity-based characters like Rogues and Rangers are going to be your sneaky, ranged based players. These characters like to use bows or other dexterity based weapons to seek advantages and catch their enemies by surprise.
Finally, Charisma-based characters (which is a bit of a weird one) are Bards, Warlocks, and Sorcerers. These classes cast spells with their Charisma (see, I told you it was a weird one) and are usually the ones in your party to talk their way out of (or in to) situations.
Each Class comes with its own strengths and weaknesses. For example, your roided out Barbarian may be great at cracking skulls but isn’t going to be the one to win over a diplomat in a civil discussion. Before choosing your character’s class, you want to make sure you consider all of your options and the strengths, weaknesses, and playstyles that come along with each of the classes.
The Artificer is the first full-fledged class to be added outside of the Player’s Handbook. They were introduced in the sourcebook Eberron: Rising from the Last War, which was released in 2019. The Artificer is an extremely unique class because it is the only class to have a large focus on items.
The Artificer’s class features revolve around Magical Tinkering and Infuse Items, both of which are focused on giving mundane items extra abilities or effects. Even their subclasses are primarily focused on items, whether it is crafting potions, turning a suit of armor into a walking mech suit, turning your wand into a firearm, or crafting yourself a friend to defend you in combat.
The Artificer is a support/utility class through and through. Being able to craft items and have a wide variety of utility spells allows Artificers to usually have a way to gain a leg up in combat and adventuring situations. The biggest advantage they can offer their party is definitely the Artificer Infusions. These Infusions can create pretty powerful magical items that, in a system like 5e, provide a huge advantage to your party that can boost their power level beyond their current level.
The Artificer’s uniqueness, unfortunately, gets in the way of its actual effectiveness. One of the main issues with the Artificer is how little spell slots they are given. For a class that has INT as its primary stat, they don’t get a whole lot of use out of it until 7th level when they get Flash of Genius.
Artificers are also quite underwhelming in combat. For the subclasses that are primarily spellcasting, they have very few actual damage, buff, or control spells due to the fact that their spells are mainly utility. For the subclasses that will be wading into combat, they will quickly find their d8 hit dice can let them down. The Artificer’s main strength comes from outside of combat, where they are able to tinker with items and provide lasting buffs to their party members.
If you take a look at the Barbarian’s Class Features, it’s pretty obvious how Barbarians are meant to be played. Due to the Barbarian’s propensity to be involved in combat, you are usually going to put all of your Ability points into STR and CON, while dumping the other stats. This will give you the fantasy equivalent of the Hulk (complete with the uncontrollable rage!), which may leave you with a bit of a meathead but at least he’s your meathead.
Barbarians are the kings (or queens) of melee damage in DnD 5e. They have the ability to go into a Rage to get a bonus to any check made using STR and a nice boost to damage. You also gain the ability to attack recklessly, which makes it easier to hit opponents, with the caveat that they get to hit you more easily.
Barbarians have the unique ability to absorb tons of damage. They have the highest hit dice in the game which, combined with a maxed out CON skill, will give them a ridiculous amount of HP. As a bonus, when they Rage they take half damage on all physical attacks. Talk about tanky.
The barbarians weaknesses are what you might expect from the beefiest character class in 5e. Barbarians aren’t going to offer a whole lot in the way of utility, they’re more of a “go here and hit that” type of character.
In a situation in which they can’t punch, kick or bite their way out, Barbarians aren’t going to be a lot of help to the party.
Most people who have seen a Bard played correctly will agree that Bards are the most powerful 5e class, but they are also one of the most difficult to play. The Bard’s spell list demands that you think outside the box, and their high CHA modifier pushes you to interact with people constantly. The Bard class wants you to be gregarious, and it was designed that way. If you want to be silly, clever, and powerful, the Bard might be the class for you.
The 5e Bard is a bit of a Jack of All Trades. Depending on how you want to play your Bard he can flaunt the combat prowess of the Fighter or a dexterous skill set of the Rogue. One thing that is for sure is that the Bard is the best Support Spell Caster in 5e.
Bards get a feature called Bardic Inspiration which allows them to give any party member an extra dice to roll on attack rolls or skill checks. While this ability by itself is amazing, Bards are also a full caster (meaning they get spells up to level 9) and get access to the second-largest list of spells. This will allow them to (mostly) always be prepared for those sticky situations.
This is an interesting one as it is quite a common opinion that Bard’s are the most powerful 5e Class. A weakness for Bards, that would be a strength for some people, is the amount of Roleplaying that is necessary for the character.
When DMs are asked about players that don’t like to RP or be the face of the party, most will reply with, “that’s okay, no one needs to play an extroverted character”. While this is true for most classes, the Bards strengths are really only maximized when that player is interacting with other party members and NPCs.
If you do not feel comfortable being the face of your party, choosing a Bard may be a tough go.
When most people think about the Cleric class, they think of the quiet party member who heals when needed and throws some ranged attacks around when no one’s hurt. While 5e’s Cleric can be like that, they can also be heavy armour wearing, mace wielding, summoning-lighting-bolts-with-one-hand-while-mass-party-healing-with-the-other…ers. Like Druids and Bards, Clerics are a spellcaster that has a ton of versatility and a long list of roles it can fill.
The Cleric’s spellcasting has a certain focus on healing and buffing your party members. This will allow you to heal downed party members or give your party members a boost when they need it.
After Spellcasting, Domains are the Cleric’s biggest Class Feature. A Cleric’s Domain tends to be a very defining aspect of your character as they represent what your Cleric worships. Each Domain gives you bonus Domain Spells, unique abilities, and a bonus to damage with either spells or weapons.
Having a solid healer/buffer in your party is indispensable, although some might call it the “boring” job.
In my opinion, the Cleric’s spell list is one of the most interesting out there as you have to make sure you are using your spell slots wisely and always keep an eye on what spells to use.
In DnD 5e, there is a mechanic called Concentration. This mechanic forces spellcasters to remain focused on a spell for the duration of its effect. In my experience, Clerics have a lot of spells that require concentration so making sure you know your spell list and which spells do and do not require Concentration is going to be a big part of playing a successful Cleric.
What do you get when you cross a Cleric with a hippie?
Druids are a really cool support class with tons of versatility. Want to sneak like a rogue? Turn into a Giant Spider. Want to tank and deal damage like a Barbarian? Turn into a Brown Bear. Want to heal and buff the party? You’ve got spells for that.
Druids can wear many hats in an adventuring party but have limited resources to do them all. Ensuring you’re keeping an eye on your spells slots and Wild Shapes will be key to playing a successful Druid.
A Druid’s main class feature is they can shapeshift (or “Wild Shape”) into beasts that they have seen before. This ability gives the Druid a ton of utility, both in and out of combat, as they are able to transform into an animal like a bear for tanking damage or a spider for climbing to hard to reach places and stealthing.
Beyond their Wild Shape feature, Druids are a great spellcasting class as they have access to spells all the way up to 9th level. This, combined with their Wild Shape abilities, allows them to be versatile with healing, tanking in combat, and utility outside of combat.
To help balance the pure awesomeness that is Wild Shape, most of the beasts you can transform into have a low Armour Class, meaning they are easy to hit and kill in combat.
Their spell list is also a bit weaker than Sorcerers/Wizards as they don’t have access to the big damage spells like Fireball. This also includes their Cantrips, so early levels can feel like a bit of a slog if you find yourself running out of Wild Shapes.
Fighters are meant to be among the best damage dealers and soakers in DnD. This means that your bread and butter is going to be when Initiative gets rolled. Outside of combat, Fighters can definitely still participate in RP but they won’t be able to be a whole lot of help in tricky situations where punching your way out isn’t going to help.
Funnily enough, Fighters are good at fighting. By second level they are given skills to heal themselves and get an extra round of attacks in combat. In addition starting proficiencies allow them to use all weapons and armor.
These class features plus their extra attacks at levels 5, 11, and 20 ensure that the Fighter class is the epitome of a damage dealer.
Some people may complain that they don’t want to play a character that is a one-dimensional “hack and slasher”, but that’s not that the case with Fighters. With a fighter, you can definitely go for the straight-up damage dealer, but you could also go for an Eldritch Knight who uses magic to supplement his melee capabilities or a Battle Master that allows you to influence the battlefield in a strategic manner. No matter what type of Fighter you go for, you can be sure that in combat they can put down more pain than just about any class.
While Fighters are amazing at Fighting, some complain that they lack versatility outside of combat. Because of their need to output and soak damage in combat, they usually have to put all of their eggs into the STR and CON basket. This means having low CHA for social interactions or WIS/INT for problem solving and spellcasting.
Monks are a very unique and fun class to play. While some say they are underpowered, you’d have to be crazy to think playing a ninja won’t be awesome.
Monks are great support characters as they have the ability to move through combat with relative ease, going where the fighting is thickest or getting out of difficult situations. They also have some really cool out-of-combat features that makes them great candidates to be the stealthy infiltrator of the party.
Overall, a Monk isn’t going to be the class you choose if you are planning on being the strongest character in the party. They do, however, offer a very unique playstyle and can be an indispensable asset to the party if played correctly.
Monks are dexterity based class which makes it easy to ensure your Monk is good at what he is supposed to be good at. By dumping all of your ability scores into DEX you can ensure your character:
- Is hard to hit
- Does a fair amount of damage
- Can sneak around like a ninja
Not many other classes can say the same as they typically have to stack at least 2 Ability Scores.
Monks are a melee fighter class that doesn’t have a lot of HP. This makes them susceptible to getting knocked out when in close quarters combat (which is where they will likely be). They also deal an underwhelming amount of damage compared to other melee characters like Fighters, Barbarians, and Paladins.
Monks have Feats that really come in handy at ranged distance as they can catch projectiles and avoid anything requiring a DEX save quite easily. But in order to be effective in combat, most monks need to get up close.
There are Monk archetypes that allow the class to become more deadly at range, but they still won’t be as effective as a Ranger or Rogue with projectiles.
The Paladin is a class known for its heavy armor, damage output, and high RP demands.
Righteous warriors on the path of the Paladin must dedicate themselves completely to an Oath devoted to certain ideals. These are:
- The Oath of Devotion for the classic Paladin feel. Frequently lawful or the follower of some deity.
- The Oath of the Ancients if you want to ease up on the straight lawful good RP. Protectors of sacred groves as well as innocents, the Paladins of the Oath of the Ancients devote themselves to protecting the Light from the darkness of the world, which is a pretty vague mission and gives some room for flexibility.
- The Oath of Vengeance is for people who want to go for a more Marvel’s Punisher vibe. This Oath is dedicated to the single-minded pursuit of the guilty at the cost of all else. Extremely mobile and terrifyingly efficient, Paladins of this Oath will never stop pursuing their prey.
Paladins are another great option for a tanky damage dealer. They are a semi-spellcaster, meaning they only learn up to 5th level spells and have a limited pool of spells to draw from.
They are proficient in all weapons and armor so they have their pick of the litter when it comes to how they want to outfit themselves for combat. This, on top of their Divine Smites, which do extra damage on melee attacks, make them one of the highest damage dealers available.
Paladins have a unique ability to be a sort of “battlefield medic”. They can be in the thick of the fray without getting killed, but they also have a pool of healing to draw from in case one of their party members goes down. The limited spell slots they have also has a certain focus on healing/revival spells which allows awesome support if the party doesn’t have another healer.
Similar to Bard’s, Paladins are known as one of the stronger DnD classes due to their damage output and versatility. Again, similar to Bards, Paladins require a strong RP to play an effective character. A Paladin’s Oath is what gives the class their holy whoopass powers and sticking to this oath is important to maintaining these powers.
The common motif around the Ranger in DnD 5e is a skilled hunter, tracker, and woodsman, most at home on the fringes of civilization and the first line of defense against threats from the wilds.
Most Rangers are played as loners in social settings and will be more than happy to scout out ahead for the party. While their semi-caster status gives them some versatility, they typically are nerfed quite hard when traveling in environments that are not preferred or fighting enemies that are not their favored type.
Rangers are typically ranged based characters, so having high DEX is important. They are also known to be awesome scouts and wilderness survivors so making sure you spend points on WIS is important.
Rangers are also the best of the martial classes against multiple enemies and hordes. Many of a Ranger’s combat abilities are devoted toward attacking multiple foes in a turn, and to bolster that role, Rangers also have Area of Effect (AoE) spells that can damage multiple foes.
Rangers have two other very unique abilities granted at Level 1: Preferred Terrain and Favored Enemy. The Favored Enemy ability grants the Ranger particular advantages on attacking and tracking their favored enemy. Preferred Terrain helps the Ranger and their party survive, travel, and navigate certain environments.
Many of their abilities, including their signature Favored Enemies and Favored Terrains and their stealthy features, are highly situational and don’t always mesh well with a party setting, especially a combat-heavy setting where opportunities to advance scout are at a minimum.
When Rangers are NOT in their Favored Terrains or dealing with their Favored Enemies, their combat effectiveness and exploration ability is sharply lessened, so those abilities are situational at best.
Rogues are definitely for the player that likes to lie, cheat, steal, and backstab their way to victory. The tendency of Rogues to be the scout of the party, combined with the unique nature of a Rogue’s combat abilities, means Rogues are very technical to play.
Rogues are the stealthy thieves and assassins of the DnD world. They are mainly a DEX based class to ensure maximum sneakiness and potential damage. WIS and CON are still important Ability Scores for them to take because of Perception checks and health being big aspects of their characters. This brings Rogue players to make some tough choices early on as to whether they want to buff out-of-combat skills as opposed to combat skills.
Rogues are proficient in more skills than any other class except for Bards, which allows them to take point on a lot of skill check. Things like scouting ahead, picking locks, and taking out enemy patrols are the common items on a Rogue’s laundry list.
Rogues in 5e get an ability called Sneak Attack which allows them to get extra damage on unaware or flanked enemies. This ability goes hand in hand with the Rogue’s tendency to be the party’s scout and also dictates their more “hit and run” style in combat.
Rogues also get extra movement options in the Cunning Movement talent which allows them to disengage from combat even after they have taken a standard action to make an attack.
Rogues are not front line warriors; they have neither the HP nor the AC for prolonged exchanges. If your party gets caught out in the open without the element of surprise and little to no cover Rogues can go down pretty easily.
Also, due to their high number of proficient skills, Rogues are usually scouting out ahead for dangerous situations. One bad roll could mean your Rogue has been discovered by a group of Goblins that you have no chance of taking alone or failed to notice a trap that drops you into a spike pit.
Sorcerers are different from Wizards because, instead of studying the arcane arts, their magic comes from innate magical talent through their bloodline.
Sorcerers have a restricted spell list, fewer number of spells they can learn, and fewer spell slots when compared to Wizards. This is made up for by their versatility when it comes to casting their spells using the Metamagic ability. This ability allows Sorcerers to duplicate spells, weave spells around friendlies, or recover used spell slots.
If you can look at the Sorcerer spell list, find 15 spells that you are happy casting all day, every day, and aren’t going to constantly regret not having a dozen other spells available, then the Sorcerer will work just fine for you, and can actually be quite amazing.
Sorcerers are full casters, much like Wizards. The way they differ is a somewhat restricted spell list and Sorcery Points. Sorcery Points are a mechanic that allows the Sorcerer to manipulate his spell slot levels to some extent, as well as do nifty things like copying a spell or weaving it around friendlies.
As mentioned above, Sorcerers have a restricted spell list compared to Wizards. Much like Druids, they learn spells as they level up and cannot learn any more until the next level up. This means that Sorcerers won’t have the utility that some other casters do, but the decrease in utility is certainly made up for in the buff to sheer damage and utility Sorcerer Points can put out.
As with other full casters, Sorcerers are susceptible to melee combat as they have low AC, HP, and damage output.
As with all caster Classes, Spell Slots are a hot commodity. If your party is having a particularly bad day with no time for a Long Rest, Sorcerers can run out of spell slots (meaning they will have to rely on weaker, non-limited spells called Cantrips) quite easily.
Warlocks get their powers by dedicating themselves to an Eldritch Being. These Beings tend to be rather on the dark side, so your character might have a tough time getting along with a party’s lawful good Paladin or religious Cleric. This devotion to an Eltrich Being comes with it’s fair share of dedication, so you may find yourself in tough situations where your party is wanting to do one thing but your Eltrich Patron wants another.
Warlocks are not AoE blasters like the evoker Wizard or Sorcerer. Instead, they have a few major defining aspects – Eldritch Blasts, Curses, and Mind Control.
The Warlock is another full caster class but, like Sorcerers, they have a few quirks that make them vastly different from the original full caster, Wizards.
First of all, Warlocks are CHA based casters. Secondly, they have a very reduced number of spell slots because they can only ever cast spells at their highest level. This means that all of your spells are going to pack one hell of a punch with the caveat that you will run out of spells slots quite easily.
One good thing to note about this is that Warlocks regain all of their Spells Slots with a Short Rest, so with as little as 1 hour of downtime Warlocks can be back at full offensive strength.
Warlocks also have a number of passive abilities called Invocations. The best Invocation, Agonizing Blast, allows Warlocks to add the CHA modifier to their best Cantrip, Eldritch Blast. This allows Warlocks to always put out a fair amount of damage, even if they run out of their meager spell slots.
A Warlock’s Spell Slots are its biggest weakness. Up until 10th level they only have 2 spell slots per Short Rest which can get used up very quickly.
This, combined with the fact that they don’t have awesome combat-focused abilities, means that a Warlock’s resources can get used up pretty quick and they become a very Cantripy character.
Wizards are spellcasters that have studied their art and have gained the fundamental knowledge of magic itself in order to weave it to their will.
They are a class that relies on their Intelligence to outsmart opponents and get them out of tricky situations. This reliance on Intelligence will likely become apparent to players as they realize that they have to use their own noggin to manage a massive spell list and be the party member everyone relies on to always have a plan (thanks Gandalf for setting unrealistic expectation).
The Wizard class is your typical full caster. They have an unparalleled spell list that they can prepare from every day to ensure they are always ready for whatever situations may arise.
The Wizard’s strengths really lie in the class’s versatility. Falling from a building? Got a spell for that. Need to kill a clumped together group of bad guys? Got a spell for that. Need to infiltrate a tightly patrolled encampment? Got a spell for that.
A Wizard’s weaknesses are about what you would expect. They have very low AC and HP and are pretty useless when it comes to a fistfight.
They also have a tendency to run out of Spell Slots if they need to flex their spells too much between Long Rests. Once they run out of Spell Slots, their power and utility drops dramatically.
The last thing is that Wizards rely heavily on their INT ability score to cast spells. It’s widely known that the INT stat is one of the most useless in the game due to the lack of Saving Throws and skills that overlap.
FAQs About 5e Classes
Q: Which Classes Can You Play in D&D 5e?
A: The following classes are available for play in D&D 5e: Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard. The new Eberron: Rising from the Last War setting is the first sourcebook to introduce a new class, the Artificer.
Q: What is the best class in D&D 5e?
A: The great thing about D&D 5e is that all classes are viable and you can play whatever class you think will be the most fun. Some hard and fast rules would be: Bards are the most versatile spellcaster. Paladins are the best against a single enemy, and Wizards are the strongest at higher levels.
Q: Which D&D 5e Sourcebook has classes?
A: The Player’s Handbook (PHB) contains all playable classes. It provides the class features and some subclass options for every available class. Different source books such as Xanthar’s Guide to Everything and Sword Coast Adventurers Guide contain different subclass options if you would like to expand your choice.
WotC has done an awesome job on making every 5e Character Class unique and viable. While some characters are objectively stronger than others, this is a roleplaying game. Making sure you choose the Class that most reflects the character you want to play is more important than min/maxing your Pact of the Blade Paladin/Warlock multiclass.
You will also find that knowing your character’s abilities, paying attention to the DM, and being creative can make any Character Class the strongest character in the party.
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