Welcome back nerds and adventurers! To the third installment of “How in the world does one play Dungeons and Dragons?”
At this point we’ve talked about what the game is, and hopefully have helped you on your way to making your very own Playable Character, by choosing the race you want your character to be. Now we answer the age old question of “what you want to be when you grow up?” as we move on to your character’s class.
In a lot of ways, class is a lot like your character’s career, because it will dictate your role within the party, or the group of friends you choose to play with. If you choose to be a rogue, expect everyone to turn to you every time the Dungeon Master says “You find the door locked” or any time there’s a remote need to be a sneaky sneak. Rogues are busted, in a good way, and in my humble opinion every party needs one, though they could make due with a bard or maybe a ranger.
…. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s talk about CLASS!
Before we get into the ins and outs of each of the classes, I will have to break some of your hearts. For all of us reading this who are wanting to play D&D for the first time. Who want to magic people into other dimensions, and be the ultimate arcane goddess I have to tell you now- It’s not that great of an idea.
Now that doesn’t mean you can’t play a strictly magic user right out of the gate. I am not here to limit you. It’s just important to know before you commit that magic involves a ton of paperwork literally and figuratively. Keeping track of your spells, available spells, spell slots (used and unused and how many you’ve used at each level), prepared spells, spell materials, sorcery points, you name it, can turn you from a magical titan to a frustrated paper shuffler.
Take this for example- I (foolishly) played a sorceress for my first campaign and I scoffed at everyone who told me that magic was too complicated to handle first time around. Then, half-way through the campaign I realized I had inadvertently made myself a lot less powerful by not taking advantage of the sorcery points that are my given right because of my class. Then, two sessions later I realized I had nerfed myself again by not choosing my metamagic at third level.
Then very recently, after the campaign had ended, I realized that the reason why most of my spells aren’t hitting anything or doing any damage was because I wasn’t aware that I was supposed to add my spell casting modifier to attack rolls. Now, we are all new here so I’ll give you all a brief description of what this means so you can feel my pain as deeply as you need to.
When you go to attack someone in game, you roll a D20 die to see if you hit. You then add your proficiency modifier to the attack, which at lower levels are generally a two or at most a three. Then, classes like fighters and the like, add around +6 because they are hitting with a weapon they are proficient in.
What I did not know, in my fresh newbie state, was that spellcasters ALSO get a +whatever for the spellcasting modifier. And, guys, I was not adding it. So session after session I would try and cast these amazing spells, miss and wind up being repeatedly useless, because I was not giving myself the boost I deserved. I just didn’t know because, to make a long story short, classes that use magic are confusing and overwhelming for first-timers.
A whole campaign later, and I am still not over it. But I digress.
So anywho, let’s start by talking about some of the classes that don’t rely heavily on arcana to be amazing components of an adventuring party. The first being the mother of anger herself-
Barbarians are fighter’s best known for their ability to tap into rage during battles. If you are a barbarian you are going to be very strong first and foremost. And, with your class’s health points based off of a d12 +your constitution modifier you are hearty to boot. This is the most amount of health points you can get based on a class.
If you want your character to be up in the enemy’s business, and do some serious physical damage, then barbarian is the class for you.
So what is a “rage”? A rage is pure bloodlust and fury. In game, you get rages based on your character level (two rages per day at first level, three at fourth and so on.) Rages last a minute, which doesn’t sound like much, but in combat turns are taken in six second increments so you will be in a rage for ten rounds of combat. Trust me, as someone who is currently playing a barbarian, you can do incredible amounts of damage in the span of ten rounds.
When you are raging, you get automatic resistance to slashing, bludgeoning, and piercing damage. And you take half damage while your raging. That’s right readers, half damage. Which can turn critical hits into nothing but a flesh wound when you and your party need it the most.
During rages, barbarians get advantages on strength checks, which means you get to roll twice for a check and take the highest number.
You also get to add damage to your attacks while raging. Until level Nine its a +2 to whatever damage you rolled. Barbarians are also proficient in simple weapons and martial weapons which means you have a ton of choices here! Want a great axe? Sure. A ancient glaive given to you by your tribe of fighters in order to protect their shaman’s from danger? No problem!
At second level barbarians also get reckless attack, which is where you get advantage on you attack rolls on other creatures for this turn, however the next turn they get advantage on attacks against you, but with that damage sliced in half while raging, you almost always can afford to take the hit to give the hit.
At second level you also get danger sense, which allows you advantage on dexterity saving throws on traps and spells you can see. (So you can roll twice and take the higher number again, this is very helpful.)
Barbarians do not need to rely on heavy armor like other fighting classes, in fact it’s preferable to stick with light or medium armor, which barbarians are automatically proficient in, because heavy armor will hinder your rages. Even without this bulky armor, you still are protected more than most classes, because of that hearty constitution we were talking about earlier. Take my barbarian Orna for example, she wears light leather armor but her armor class (or AC- which is the a number your roll must beat in order to hit her ) is a 14 at fourth level. Which at this stage of the game is pretty great.
Barbarians start out with an AC of at least 12 +whatever your constitution modifier is, which seeing as its one half of your most important attributes will probably be high to begin with, unless you roll pitifully low for your stats.
Barbarians are not all slashing and smashing, this is Dungeons and Dragons here, barbarians can be whatever you come up with and your DM approves. While creating a barbarian you also get to choose two skills from- animal handling, athletics, intimidation, perception, nature, and survival.
While the true area where Barbarians shine is in combat, there is no need for your character to play into old tropes about the unintelligent, slow speaking giant. You absolutely can be intelligent and be filled with rage, these things are not mutually exclusive. However because you are dedicating your highest stats to strength and constitution, there will be other areas (dexterity, wisdom, intelligence, charisma) that your going to have to allocate your lower stats to. Which means you will probably lack in one area or another, and this will be the case no matter what class you end up calling your own.
Call back to Orna again, she is pretty wise but her charisma is very low. The girl prefers to choke the truth out of a person instead of asking. So she doesn’t do the party much good trying to sweet talk them in and out of places. But that is okay! That’s why there’s a party in the first place, her job in those situations is to stay silent and intimidating in the background.
My personal opinion is that barbarians are great class for first timers, with some of the most simple, yet satisfying, game mechanics around. You don’t have to keep track of anything except how many rages you have left, and how many rounds you have gone while raging.
For brevity’s sake I’ll wrap up here, maybe next time I’ll be able to get a couple more classes out. Like the paladin- or fighters for the most holy, or the truest tree huggers there are- druids.