How to Choose a Race and Class in Dungeons and Dragons

When creating a Dungeons & Dragons character, race and class are usually the first decisions that need to be made by the player. Those two decisions alone greatly define the role your character plays in an adventuring group and determines a lot of basic information about her. In fact, if you are the new player sitting down at a table of players the introductions will probably be a lot like this: “This is Dave, he’s playing an elf rogue. This is Mike, he’s a halfling cleric. This is Tom, he’s a human paladin.”

So what do you want to play?

First, let’s start with race. Race is the species that your character belongs to. Even a brand new player will probably be somewhat familiar with the basic core races thanks to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Humans, dwarves, elves, halflings (little people like hobbits), gnomes (little people like hobbits but with more of a tendency towards magic), half-elves (what Aragorn and Arwen’s kids would be), and half-orcs (a human and an orc what?!). The race of a character determines certain areas that they are naturally good at. Dwarves are sturdy, elves are agile, half-orcs are strong, and gnomes are… annoying.

Second, a character’s class is her profession or vocation. There are 11 core classes in Dungeons & Dragons each with their own special abilities: barbarian, bard, cleric, druid, fighter, monk, paladin, ranger, rogue, sorcerer, and wizard. While the race of a character determines the natural gifts that they are born with, class determines the training and focus that they devote their life to (nature and nurture if you will).

So, how do you pick the race and class combo that is right for you?

You should always begin with a concept in mind. If you’re a beginner, then the easiest thing to do is pick a character from a fantasy movie or novel that you like and let the experienced players help you out (you want to play someone like Aragorn? Human ranger). Even a concept from a non-fantasy setting could work (someone like Jet Li? Elf monk). Or something even more vague than that (you want to play a mean guy who hits people a lot? Half-orc barbarian).

Another factor that could be considered is: “Is the group missing any particular role?” In the sample group of players above, Tom, Dave, and Mike have no arcane spell casters. So they might be interested in having a wizard or sorcerer join the party. They also have no one in the group with the ability to naturally see in darkness, so they might like to see a dwarf or half-orc join their ranks.

Certain race-class combinations are considered more “optimal.” Elves are naturally graceful but not as sturdy as a human, so they would be better suited to a “skirmisher” class like a rogue or ranger as opposed to a “front line” class such as fighter, barbarian, or paladin. But, then again, sometimes it’s just fun to go against convention and make a character that is less race-class optimized. For example, sometimes it’s fun to be a half-orc bard, simply because half-orcs make terrible bards. Or perhaps you could be a tiny little gnome barbarian (which is the correct answer to the “I want to play someone like Scrappy Doo,” player).

Ultimately, the choice is yours, with no right or wrong decisions. You should just pick a race and class combination that sounds fun and/or challenging to play.