In its 40 years of history, Dungeons and Dragons has featured a large amount of different classes for people to play as. Each new edition and supplement handbook brought new archetypes for adventurers…though not all classes were home runs as blogger Rob Bricken can attest to. In his article The 24 Most Embarrassing Dungeons & Dragons Character Classes, he went over some more…inspired classes from older editions of D&D such as Beggar, Clown, or Fetishist which really are better left forgotten. While he mostly tears apart these useless classes, he does reaffirm that despite this D&D has far more well-made classes than it does bad.
From the beginning with the 1st edition of D&D, this tabletop RPG’s classes can be grouped into a few main categories: Fighters, Wizards, Clerics, Rogues, and Rangers. According to Wizards of the Coast, the distributor and current owner of D&D, these are the “five key classes to the game” which, despite evolving to suit the times and current player demographic, have stayed pretty much the same since their inception and remain staples of the series. But, did you know that these classes are actually inspired by real-world people and jobs?
Fighters are based off your standard militia man or even tavern brawler in some editions, Wizards of the Coast states. All around balanced units with many versatile fighting skills and proficiency with every weapon and armor type, Fighters embody a heavy-hitting melee combatant. In 5th edition, fighters are now more of a jack-of-all-trades with the Barbarian class taking its place as team powerhouse.
Wizards and Clerics, sometimes lumped together under the common title of Mage, can cast spells with any number of reality-warping effects and generally stay off the front lines due to being unable to wear armor. Wizards, based off witches or alchemists, appeared first in 1971, but Clerics, based off of clergy men or women, did not appear until 1974 in a later edition of the game (Wizards of the Coast). While many other spell-slinging classes have been introduced by 5th edition such as the unpredictable Sorcerer and the devious Warlock (a personal favorite of mine), the Wizard and Cleric still remain the most iconic.
Ever wanted to play a character who was a complete scoundrel or perhaps a notorious thief stalking through the shadows of night? Enter the Rogue class, based off of the assassin and pick-pocket (if you couldn’t already guess). The Rogue was a favorite of D&D’s founder Gary Gygax’s who “liked the concept, creating his own thief for Great Plains Game Players Newsletter #9″ in June of 1974 (Wizards of the Coast). Like Clerics, Rogues oddly enough did not grace the D&D stage until a few years after the initial game was released. While other archetypes like the Mage have been reworked and expanded in newer editions, Rogues are pretty much the same as they’ve always been and remain the best class built for stealth…though the Monk class can come a close second depending on certain choices made by the players.
The last class archetype I’ll be covering is the Ranger. Rangers are based off of Robin Hood, traveling archers at home in the outdoors (in that regard you could say they draw some inspiration from park rangers as well). Like Fighters, Rangers are physical attackers except with an affinity for long-ranged combat. Rangers were introduced the latest at 1975 and remained somewhat unnoticed for many years more, though they are an extremely popular class choice now. This class even drew on concepts from another popular fantasy series: Lord of the Rings. “This primeval ranger was likely influenced by Aragorn from Lord of the Rings (1954-1955), as its 2nd level title was “strider” states Wizards of the Coast. Like Rogues, Rangers haven’t changed too much over time though they have gained some major advantages such as the choice of having a beast companion (who doesn’t want a panther as a pet?)
D&D gives players so many options of what kind of adventurer they wish to be. Every class tells something different about the player. For instance, I play as a Monk, a holy kung-fu fighter, in my current campaign. The widely popular tabletop RPG masters of Youtube, Nerdarchy, said in their web series that playing a Monk often means the player likes to have a more balanced playstyle as the Monk class specializes in speed and versatility while also being a decent melee fighter (which is entirely true for me). They covered every class and I would highly recommend checking them out on Youtube if you want to learn more about pretty much anything D&D related.