Every once in awhile, you get that urge to make that perfect character. But how do you do it? Will you copy fictional works and go for a Conniving Thief? How about a Stupid Bard?Perhaps you will try to do something less overdone than a Drizzt Do'urden clone, or perhaps you will choose a simple meat shield fighter to give your wizard less to complain about. Either way, here is a compiled list of almost all archetypes of classes. Good luck.Note: For the iconic characters based on some of these classes, see Dungeons & Dragons.
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1st through 3rd Edition Core Classes
A sub-class of the thief in 1st Edition, the assassin became a Prestige Class in 3rd Edition.
Boring, but Practical: The 3E Assassin has a very small list of spells they can use, but it contains almost all the spells a stealthy character would want (read: Invisibility), and the ability to cast arcane spells at all opens up huge new options for them.
Lightning Bruiser: In 3.x, the barbarian has the highest base movement speed of any class except for the monk. In addition to that he has uncanny dodge, meaning that he reacts so quickly to danger that he gains a bonus to reflex saves against traps and cannot be flanked or sneak-attacked in combat.
Made of Iron: Traditionally, barbarians have the highest hit points of the core classes, and in most cases, actually take reduced damage from all physical attacks at higher levels (the DR is so small that it only outright prevents Scratch Damage, though).
Unskilled, but Strong: Compared to the Fighter. Barbarians have more health, faster movement and huge stat boosts when raging, but not nearly as many combat feats.
Unstoppable Rage: The barbarian's distinguishing characteristic in 3rd Edition. The original 1E barbarian from White Dwarf also had this ability, but the official one by Gary Gygax did not (it was defined by its extreme resilience).
3rd Edition bards must be nonlawful, under the presumption that the spontaneity required by bards cannot live in a lawful soul.
Magic Music: Third edition made the bard's magical abilities into this; previous editions had them as merely bits of lore that the bard had picked up from his travels.
Master of None: Bards have half-decent fighting abilities, a little bit of arcane (wizard) magic, and some thieving skills, but aren't particularly good at any of them. The best ways to make them good all involve specializing (as they are given plenty of options in source books due to their status as a core class).
One interesting quirk in 3rd Edition was that while the little bit of magic they got was arcane, their spell list included a couple of divine spells — namely, the Cure spells. Of course, Clerics were still better healers.
Prestige Class: The original class in 1st Edition could be considered the Ur Example. A bard had to start as a fighter, work up to at least 5th level, then switch to thief and work up to at least 5th level again, and then and only then could become a true bard. (In 2nd Edition, though, you could start as a bard right out of the gate.)
It may astound those accustomed to the notion of the Spoony Bard, but the insanely high requirements to break into the Bard class in first edition meant that carrying a harp in 1st Edition was a sign that you were a Badass.
Simplified Spellcasting: A bard's spells are simple enough that they can still cast them in light armor without any chance of spell failure.
All Monks Know Kung-Fu: The Cloistered Cleric (no armor or weapon abilities in exchange for knowledge skills and divination) variant in 3.5 finally provides an aversion for the system, as a class for a western book copying monk.
Character Alignment: In a way. While Clerics can be of any alignment, their alignment determines whether they have White Magic (Cure Wounds, Turn Undead) or Black Magic (Inflict Wounds, Rebuke Undead). Clerics of a Neutral alignment have to pick one or the other at the start.
Detect Evil: one of the cleric's spells is the trope namer
Evil Counterpart: Many evil cleric spells are evil counterparts to good cleric spells. In addition, evil clerics' ability to channel negative energy to cast inflict spells or rebuke and command undead is the evil counterpart to good clerics' ability to channel positive energy to cast cure spells or turn and destroy undead.
Technical Pacifist: In the first two editions, clerics cannot cause bloodshed, and thus cannot use slashing or piercing weapons. Apparently, bludgeoning people to death with a big, heavy mace is just fine, though.
Mighty Glacier: Although they do not have to be played this way, Fighters can equip the heavy class of armor, and are the only core class capable of properly wielding a tower shield (at least by default).
Terror Hero: One of the few useful class skills a fighter gets is Intimidate. The Zhentarim Soldier upgrade makes them one of the best at it; take Imperious Command, and you can reduce an opponent to cowering in a single round.
Overshadowed by Awesome: In 3.5, The Tome of Battle pretty much removed any incentive to ever play a fighter. A Warblade, even when denied access to the martial arts system he's the showcase for, has better base stats and fills the fighter's role better than the fighter.
Weak, but Skilled: Compared to the Barbarian, although it's a very relative comparison - they have slightly less health, move slower and can't use Rage, but have more combat feats than anyone else.
Weapon of Choice: Fighters gain an ability called "Weapon Specialization", which gives them bonuses when they use their chosen weapon.
Originally a sub-class distinct from the magic-user class and with its own spell list (though there was overlap). Became "merely" one type of specialist wizard among several others as early as AD&D 2nd edition (though a remnant of the old separation stuck around until 3E — gnome wizards had to be illusionists).
Charles Atlas Superpower: Most of the monk's abilities are not magical in nature, but merely stem from years of training. Including the ability to do lethal damage with their fists, the only Core class that can do so without taking a feat.
Fragile Speedster: Even if you happen to roll 18 for all your ability scores, monks will never get as strong or as tough as the true fighting classes, with their naturally high AC and movement speed bonuses being their main boons.
Lightning Bruiser: In any combat situation where characters have no armour, weapons, magic items, or magic.
Invulnerable Knuckles: Said knuckles count as magic weapons for the purpose of piercing magic defenses. This also has the side-effect of letting a Monk punch ghosts.
Ki Attacks: 3rd Edition describes many Monk abilities as being quasi-spiritual.
Master of None: Have a lot of "flavour" abilities with no value, like the ability to partially slow your fall by using nearby walls (most wizards can completely slow all falls, period, with a level 1 spell). Most of its abilities are contrary, as well: The monk has a lot of mobility-enhancing powers that would lead to hit-and-run attacks... But Flurry of Blows only work when the monk stands still.
Became a Useless Useful Spell in 3.5 when it could no longer affect targets of higher Hit Die than the monk. Most mooks at the level you gain it have more Hit Die than player characters, nevermind targets you'd actually feel like expending it on.
It doesn't have to be instant-death, either; the monk is able to simply will the target to die at any time for at least a week after landing the attack (depending on the monk's Wisdom and level), and if the target fails a Fortitude save, they drop dead. Extortion ahoy!
What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: Monks have tons of filler abilities that are easily replicated by cheap, common, magic items (What good is limited access to slow fall over 20 levels if a Ring of Slowfall is dirt cheap and easily afforded by the time you start getting the basics of the ability and does more than it ever will?).
Character Alignment: Probably the most often remembered, the classic Paladin could only be Lawful Good, due to the Paladin's devotion needing to stand as an extreme end of the alignment axis. Later additions to 3E would give Paladin variants for Chaotic Good, Lawful Evil, and Chaotic Evil (Called the 'Paladin of Freedom', 'Paladin of Tyranny', and 'Paladin of Slaughter', while the default had the unofficial name of 'Paladin of Honor'.) Notable because defection from their alignment of preference would mean a loss of powers for the Paladin until they atoned.
Cool Mount: The paladin's warhorse Mount, gained upon reaching level 4. Not only is it tougher than a standard warhorse Mount, it shares an empathetic bond with the paladin and levels up as he/she does. Though a warhorse is the iconic example, all sorts of different mounts have been presented as options.
Detect Evil: One of the paladin's abilities duplicates the effect of the cleric spell of the same name, which is the Trope Namer.
Trap Master: Only rogues are allowed to have any chance of successfully disarming exceptionally difficult traps.
Black Mage: Regardless of alignment, healing is one of the very, very few things they can't do.
Would be more accurate to say they can't do it well. Arcane healing is possible, but it's very inefficient compared to divine spells. Either by a spell that converts other spells into a small amount of healing, or taking damage from someone else and putting it on your self, or transferring it another target. Or the high level stuff like Limited Wish or Wish that can simply replicate almost any spell.
Bullying a Dragon: According to the fluff, many sorcerers are persecuted by Muggles because of their supposed "freakish" or "demonic" nature. Yeah, actively making trouble with a guy who, for all you know, can blow up a city block or whistle up a dragon to fight you. Smart move.
Vancian Magic: Of a different sort than wizards and most other spellcasting classes. Rather than being required to prepare spells in advance, sorcerors can spontaneously cast any spell they know, and are allowed to cast only a given number of spells per day (sorcerors also get to cast more spells per day than wizards). On the other hand, sorcerors are only allowed to know a limited number of spells, period. This gives sorcerors great flexibility to adapt their plans on the fly (in contrast to wizards, who are screwed if they go up against something they didn't prepare for ahead of time), but less flexibility in terms of the total range of situations that they can tackle.
Achilles' Heel: Wizards cannot prepare spells without their spellbooks. Very sadistic GMs wanting to equalize the sorcerer/wizard gap are known to exploit this fact.
Badass Bookworm: Wizards study dusty old tomes for years to gain the ability to blow stuff up with a flick of the hand.
Black Mage: Regardless of alignment, healing is one of the very, very few things they can't do.
Crazy-Prepared: The 2nd and 3rd/3.5 edition wizard was best played with this mindset. Without the cleric's access to all spells each level, wizards must carefully shop for scrolls and prepare the 'right' ones each day.
The Smart Guy: The only core class whose most important stat is Intelligence.
Spell Book: A wizard's spellbook carries notes on the spells that they've studied and learned.
Squishy Wizard: Had d4 hit dice in all editions up to and including 3rd. That's only 1-4 hit points per level!
Add the inability to wear most (in some editions, any) armor or use shields, which makes a wizard who doesn't have a defensive spell up in advance very easy to hit in combat, and especially in earlier editions the potential for any hit scored to ruin any spell the wizard might have been busy casting at the time.
Weapon of Choice: Literally called this on p.14 of 1st Edition Unearthed Arcana. Cavaliers get bonuses to hit, to damage, and to the number of attacks they're allowed in a melee round, if wielding a lance, a broadsword/longsword/scimitar (player's choice), or a horseman's mace/flail/military pick (player's choice).
A thief who gives up picking pockets for the sake of becoming a better catburglar. Walking on tightropes, tumbling, jumping, and pole vaulting are his specialties.
Other 3rd Edition Classes
Introduced in Heroes of Horror.
Awesome, but Impractical: An Archivist can potentially be the most powerful caster in the entire game by scribing scrolls from domain spells, divine variants of arcane classes, and classes that get their spells at earlier levels, but that's dependent on the scrolls you can find or buy. Most DMs will at least give you domain spells and Druid spells, but the stingiest might not let you go past your core Cleric list, basically making you a lamer Cloistered Cleric. As a full caster, the Archivist is basically always going to be powerful, but how powerful can vary heavily between theory and execution.
Awesomeness by Analysis: Dark Knowledge allows an Archivist to make a Knowledge check and instantly divine an advantage against his foe.
Badass Bookworm: Archivists add spells to their prayerbook from divine scrolls, and can learn any divine spell in the game, giving them the most versatile spell list around.
Disc One Nuke: Some casting classes have a slow progression, and learn high-level spells at a lower level than normal... which you can then copy and use several levels early. For instance, the Disciple of Thrym prestige class learns Summon Giants, a 8th-level Cleric spell that does exactly what it sounds like, as a 4th-level spell. If your DM is stupid enough to leave a scroll of it lying around, you can conjure up a trio of fiendish hill giants at a level where the wizard's lucky to get one dire wolf.
Loophole Abuse: A smart Archivist will take heavy advantage of what can be called a divine caster. Paladins learn Lesser Restoration at first level, you say?
The Smart Guy: Like the Wizard, half the power of his spells comes from Intelligence. The other half comes from Wisdom.
Squishy Wizard: A consequence of the above; the only divine class with worse combat stats is the Healer. Of course, since Divine Power is on the Archivist spell list, this usually isn't as big a problem as it could be.
Introduced in Complete Psionic.
Mighty Glacier: They receive heavy armor, they can heal themselves, and their psychic powers often pack a whallop.
Clothes Make the Superman: Artificers cast spells indirectly by enchanting equipment. In other words, they can't fly, but their boots just suddenly sprouted little wings.
Crazy-Prepared: Being only as good as the stuff they carry, experienced artificer players will have whole manifests of stuff they have in their interdemensional storage spaces. And if they don't have the exact right thing, their Infusions (at higher levels) can make a stick into a Holy Orc-bane Stick of Impact.
Difficult but Awesome: Artificers require a massive amount of bookkeeping — keeping track of all of their magical items, how much XP was lost in creating all of them, how many charges each magical weapon has, how many Action Points they have at any given time — but when pulled off, they are awesomely powerful.
Continuity Nod: Some of the Vestiges are based off of characters from events in previous editions of D&D that, due to how they died or were destroyed, have slipped outside of the normal order of existence.
Dark Is Not Evil: Though some of the vestiges were evil in life and the Binder's methods seem a bit unsavory, the class has no alignment requirement whatsoever. Not even to bind Tenebrous, the shadow-powered castoff undead remains of a Demon Prince. Tell it to the Seropaenes, though.
Deal with the Devil: While there are plenty of innocent or neutral vestiges, the whole process is considered unnatural. In the default setting, expect at least three Law-aligned deities demanding your head on a plate at any given time.
The WOTC message boards used to have an epic thread of fan-made vestiges. Many of these were also pop-culture icons, for those players who want to channel Ghost Rider or Homsar.
Discard and Draw: One of the things that makes Binders unique is their ability to do this practically on the fly.
Healing Hands: Buer provides her channelers with the ability to heal a person with a touch.
Hero with Bad Publicity: Mainly among the religious, as mentioned, or the upper classes. A Binder requires very little training, knowledge, or equipment to become a potential threat, which means that even if you don't think Binders are selling their souls, you still aren't interested in seeing them stick around. Common people tend not to see the distinction between them and Druids or Clerics, and simply welcome the ones with Healing Hands and drive off the ones with horns.
Red Right Hand: Shows up when channelling — sometimes it is a literal deformity, other times it is a personality quirk like being unable to lie.
This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: Though Shax does give you some nifty tricks with lightning, she's clearly designed so that the Binder can help out in a water dungeon.
Un Equal Rites: Oh, yes. Most Clerics and Paladins view Binders as unwitting dupes at best and abominations to the natural order at worst. Wizards find their method to be a bumpkin's magic, since binding doesn't take much training.
Introduced in Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords.
Arrogant Kung Fu Paladin: Pretty common; the class is essentially a Paladin 2.0 with the Tome Of Battle rules, and renowned for being so.
Kung-Fu Jesus: They use divinely inspired martial arts to fight. Inspiration is represented by the DM offering them 3 random cards a turn, each card corresponding to a maneuver.
Made of Iron: Damage taken can be delayed up to one round, and the Crusader can heal that damage before it happens (or use the Stone Power feat to negate it outright).
Mighty Glacier: It's the only class in the Book of Nine Swords that is proficient with Heavy Armor. The class also has a strong focus on Hit Points (though not receiving as many as the Warblade), and is very hard to actually kill if played properly.
Obvious Beta: In hindsight, anyway. Wizards of the Coast has confirmed that they were testing gameplay mechanics for fourth edition with this and the other classes in Tome of Battle. It's more obvious here than with earlier classes like the Warlock (see below).
Introduced in Dragon #76, updated for 3.5e in the Dragon Compendium.
Obvious Beta: It's not mentioned on the back of the book (the Erudite is), its fluff makes little sense in context, and its abilities are a fairly clear rip from the Ardent (only made much weaker). Some people are pretty sure it was added in because they were planning to put the Erudite in the first chapter, but its status as a variant put a stop to this.
Recycled AS PSYCHIC: Much like Ardents are essentially psionic clerics, the fluff shows Divine Minds as essentially psionic paladins...though their aura class abilities make them resemble psionic marshalls, instead.
Introduced in Player's Handbook II (3.5e). Class Handbook: GITP version.
Status Buff: The "shaman" part of the class manifests in part through its auras. It works in a way similar to the Marshal, but with a smaller area and more overtly magical.
Introduced in Dragon Magic.
Breath Weapon: While other characters can pick one up through spells, feats, items, and class features down the line, the Dragonfire Adept is the only class that gets a breath weapon at level 1.
Expy: Uses the same casting system as the Warlock.
Full-Contact Magic: Has a higher hit die value than most "full" casters like the Wizard and Sorcerer, although still lacking any armor proficiencies or more than simple weaponry.
Squishy Wizard: Averted, or at least downplayed (Dragonfire Adepts have the same hit die as a Cleric, but unlike Clerics have the same spell-casting penalties as Wizards and Sorcerers when wearing armour).
Expy: Borrows the Warmage's system of casting, but for necromancy spells instead of blasting.
Healing Hands: Can expel negative energy at a touch. Infinite healing for any undead (or rare living being healed by negative energy), including themselves with the right options.
Horrifying Hero/Terror Hero: Only natural, given the book they were introduced in. Alignment restrictions aside, a Dread Necromancer slowly turns into a Lich as they climb up the levels, gaining the immunities and traits of one as they go on, alongside several fear-based abilities. It's common to base entire builds around fear effects.
Our Liches Are Different/Soul Jar: The Dread Necro's level 20 class feature is an automatic transformation into a Lich, complete with the obligatory Phylactery. They even get Craft Wondrous Item as a bonus feat to construct the phylactery, in case they didn't already have it.
The Red Mage: The class utilizes spells taken from both the Wizard and Cleric spell-list, but cast as arcane spells, and spontaneously, like a sorcerer. Since the classes' spell list is fixed and automatically known when a character obtains access to a new spell level, this allows them a measure of versatility within their thematic.
Black Magic: Most spells available to them involve death, destruction, evil, fear, and not much else.
Simplified Spellcasting: Much like a bard, a Dread Necro can cast spells while wearing light armor without fearing a chance of failure. This makes them more resilient and melee-prone than other casters.
Squishy Wizard: While only slightly less squishy than normal casters in theory, their infinite healing makes them fairly tankish at times. (For comparison, even the Monk's Healing Factor is limited to twice the Monk's class level per day.)
Turn Undead: They can rebuke undead in the same way an evil Cleric can.
Useless Item: WotC's Customer Service system has infamously claimed one of their class features does absolutely nothing beyond give them a box. This is one of the more frequently cited reasons why no one uses their rulings.
Introduced in Player's Handbook II. The Duskblade competently combines Sword and Sorcery, using a large number of touch based spells, as well as spells that cast as a swift action AND the ability to cast several spells as swift actions so many times per day, thus allowing them to battle with both the sword and the spell as one, and while they never reach the level of power sorcerers and wizards can reach, they do gain several very powerful offensive spells.
Chain Lightning: One of the strongest offensive spells in the their repertoire.
Defense Mechanism Superpower: Several of the spells a Duskblade can learn are purely defensive... and can be cast as an Immediate Action, meaning on the OPPONENT'S turn.
Elemental Punch: a couple of the Duskblade's spells effectively function as this, as they are touch spells that deliver damaging elemental attacks.
Full-Contact Magic: Duskblades are explicitly designed to be capable of this, delivering their spells THROUGH their swords or other weapons.
Glass Cannon: A Duskblade is limited to d8 Hit Dice and can't wear armor lighter than medium. By the time they've learned to channel spells into a full attack, though, they can certifiably murder everything.
Lethal Harmless Powers: The Duskblade also has a few spells that in and of themselves can do a person no harm, yet can still prove deadly used correctly. Dimension Hop, for instance, is a touch spell that a Duskblade can delivery through a Melee strike, that teleports the target up to 5ft per 2 caster levels to an unoccupied space with line of site... including out into the middle of empty space past the edge of a cliff, or into the range of a devastatingly powerful spell or ability...
Life Drain: Vampiric Touch, often considered a Duskblade's bread-and-butter attack.
Simplified Spellcasting: Duskblades can cast while wearing armor with no chance of spell failure. This is an incredibly potent ability as it gives very high AC, something most arcane casters don't have.
Spell Blade: A Duskblade can learn to temporarily enchant his weapons so they deal more damage in combat.
Introduced in Ghostwalk. One of very few base classes with racial requirements (in this case being a ghost). Focuses on becoming better at fighting and ghostly powers.(Needs entries)
Introduced in Ghostwalk. The spellcasting counterpart to the Eidolon.(Needs entries)
Secret Character: The Erudite was hidden away in one of the last pages of Complete Psionic, segregated from the other three classes introduced in that splatbook. Consequently, a fair number of people don't even know it exists.
It was actually a Dragon Magazine-exclusive before it was printed in Complete Psionic. The class was originally slated for the Expanded Psionics Handbook, but was cut for space.
Introduced in the book Dungeonscape.
Badass Bookworm: A Factotum can supplement an attack or damage roll with their Intelligence modifier, but only a limited number of times per encounter. Also, they gain the ability to constantly apply their Intelligence modifier to Strength and Dexterity-based checks.
Not to mention careful (ab)use of the IaiJutsu skill...
Crippling Overspecialisation: The Healer is an incredible healer, but healing (and some slight buffing) is all it can do. Unless your characters are wounded or suffering from something, the healer basically only takes up space.
Expy: The most common first step in fixing the class among fans is to make it one of the Warmage expies (why it isn't one in the first place, when they debut in the same book, is not understood).
Bad Powers, Bad People: Cannot be outright Good, as a consequence of how their powers center on cursing others.
The Beastmaster: The most popular Hexblade builds tend to focus on abusing its familiar. Since a familiar's HP is half that of its master's, a Hexblade's familiar is typically going to be far tougher than a Wizard's. Some go so far as to trade the feature for Dark Companion (itself an arguable example) and then take a feat to regain a familiar. Plenty of them add Improved Familiar for good measure, swapping out their cats and owls for winter wolves.
Magic Knight: In theory, yes. A Hexblade has access to both arcane spells and the full Base Attack and high HD of a warrior class.
Master of None: A consequence of the above. They have almost no melee combat abilities outside of their chassis, and their spellcasting is scarcely better than a Ranger's.
Overshadowed by Awesome: A consequence of both of the above, compared to the Duskblade or a multiclass character. The Hexblade does have some neat tricks, including the Mettle ability and an altogether good spell list (though its casting ability remains limited), but compared to the raw power of a Duskblade or the greater versatility of an Eldritch Knight, the class ends up looking pretty iffy.
Took a Level in Badass: The designers did some work to bring the hexblade up a notch, with its creator releasing an unofficial fix that placed the Hexblade more on the Duskblade's tier. These days, the Duskblade focuses on raw damage, while the Hexblade focuses on debuffs and melee support.
Introduced in Magic of Incarnum.
Character Alignment: Required to have one (and only one) neutral component in their alignment, so all Incarnates are pretty dedicated to either the ideals of Good, Evil, Law, or Chaos.
Incarnates are capable of utilizing defenses that are normally reserved for spellcasters/manifesters, and are numerically capable of covering any of the four standard roles. Whats more, an Incarnate can change his entire build within 9 hours' time.
Guide Dang It: The Incarnate was introduced in a book that wears the title of Most Confusing Splat EVER. Very few people have the know-how to play the class, even on the most popular forums like GiantITP.
Made of Iron: Thanks to having a huge amount of defenses and being focused nigh-exclusively on Constitution, an Incarnate is very durable. Only the Totemist and Crusader (and, to a lesser extent, the Barbarian) are comparable out of the non-casters.
Introduced in Dragon #60, updated for 3.5e in the Dragon Compendium.
Duel Boss: One of the main abilities available for use by expending a daily use of their Knight's Challenge.
Honor Before Reason: Every time the Knight violates their code of conduct, such as making surprise attacks, or striking a defenseless foe, they lose uses of their Knight's Challenge for the day. Violating their code when out of Knight's challenges, applies a morale penalty to them for the rest of the day, and only get's worse from there.
Mighty Glacier: The class's main purpose is to call out enemies in single combat to keep them away from your allies. As a result, the Knight has very high Hit Points (but for some reason, a poor Fortitude save). Notable for being actually being semi-effective at it, as they have abilities to prevent enemies from just targeting others.
Idea suggested in Dragon #65, introduced in the Dragon Compendium.
Back Stab: Of a sort. A Mountebank's Deceptive Attack deals bonus damage against opponents whom they successfully feint against OR whom they have beguiled or otherwise lulled into a false sense of security.
Deal with the Devil: The literal, sell-thy-soul-for-power kind. Not even a minion either, but a bonafide demon prince or a Duke of Hell.
Introduced in Oriental Adventures (3.0), revised and reintroduced in Complete Warrior (3.5).
Ancestral Weapon: The Oriental Adventures version had this as a feature. It allowed the Samurai to start off with a Masterwork weapon (typically a katana or bastard sword), and enchant it by offering monetary sacrifices and meditating and praying to their ancestors
Dual Wielding: Part of the Complete Warrior version, they receive Two Weapon Fighting as a bonus feat, but it only applies when using a daisho (wakizashi/shortsword and katana/bastard sword
Iaijutsu Practitioner: Both versions. the Oriental Adventures version could invest in a skill called Iaijutsu Focus, which allowed them to do bonus damage on a surprise round if they could draw their weapon and attack in the same round. The Complete Warrior version however, is a toned down version, and only provides the Quick Draw feat for their daisho
I See Dead People: Shamans gain the ability to see ethereal creatures, such as ghosts that are not currently manifesting in the Material Plane (a manifested ghost would be visible to everyone). To a Shaman, ethereal creatures are visible, but appear translucent and somewhat indistinct.
Holy Warrior: What the class is billed as. Like the Paladin and its Unearthed Arcana variants, required to be at one of the four corners of the alignment chart (no neutral components).
Magic Knight: Except with incarnum. Without it, they're just Fighters with Smiting but without most of the bonus feats.
Awesome, but Impractical: There are three phases of learning about the Soulknife. Phase 1 is "Sweet, lightsabers!" Phase 2 is "What, average BAB? No heavy armor? Crappy skills? Mind Blade kinda sucks as a weapon? What a gyp."
Laser Blade: The Soulknife's signature weapon is his Mind Blade, a glowing sword formed from psychic energy.
Difficult but Awesome: About as good as you'd expect a Spontaneous Druid to be, minus the Wildshape and Animal Companion. Still relatively good, and is the only Spontaneous Caster capable of completely rewriting its own spell list every 24 hours.
Plays like a Monk, but with AWESOME mixed in for good measure.
Casting a Shadow: The Shadow Hand discipline is chock-full of shadow and darkness-based attacks.
Charles Atlas Superpower: These guys can teleport 60 feet without using a spell or any sort of supernatural ability. And if they are using supernatural abilities, hoo boy...
Flaming Sword: The Desert Wind school is full of techniques that do this.
Flash Step: The above-mentioned non-supernatural teleports from the Shadow Hand school.
Fragile Speedster: High armor class despite light armor (thanks to dodging), very high initiative, techniques to improve their base speed... pretty low HP for a frontliner.
Playing with Fire: Their blades aren't the only thing Desert Wind swordsages light on fire...
Spoony Bard: A Swordsage actually has some trouble finding a role in a small party. They're too fragile to fit the Fighter's shoes, can't heal like a Cleric, lack many of a Rogue's crucial skills such as trapfinding, and although they can debuff and
Weak, but Skilled: The most fragile, least accurate, least armored Tome of Battle class; also the ones with the most skill points, most maneuvers, and the most evasive.
Introduced in Magic of Incarnum.
Badass: The only class in the game capable of keeping up with Polymorph in terms of sheer power, but is balanced by comparison. Seriously, name a class capable of grappling a Great Wyrm Gold Dragon without using spells.
Difficult but Awesome: As with everything Incarnum-related, this class takes a lot of effort to learn. Thankfully, the payout is worth-while.
Gaia's Vengeance: Basically a Druid that focuses on Magical Beasts and can't cast spells.
Noble Savage: The class description requires this of you, regardless of race.
Made of Iron: Almost better than the Incarnate thanks to a Soulmeld or two.
X Meets Y: Basically a Druid's Wildshape mixed with the Incarnate's Meldshaping.
Introduced in Tome of Magic.
Game-Breaking Bug: Due to the way Truenaming checks scale compared to levels (the DC of the checks scales twice as fast as a character can acquire ranks in the skill), the Truenamer gets worse as it levels up, until it hits around level 19 and can Gate in Solars, which can Gate in Solars, which can Gate in Solars.... It also has key information missing for an entire set of class features in initial printings.
Introduced in Dragon #317, reintroduced in the Dragon Compendium.(Needs entries)
Introduced in Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords.
Badass Normal: Lack any real supernatural abilities by default, but fairly useful despite this.
Blood Knight: According to fluff text, warblades really love fighting.
Calling Your Attacks: Not technically part of the mechanics, but almost inevitable when playing with the Tome of Battle maneuver system.
Charles Atlas Superpower: Though Swordsages share several disciplines with them and Barbarians are more adept at raw damage, Warblades are capable of some really outrageous moves, like deal dozens of attacks in a single round, boost the abilities of other allies in melee and shake off negative effects with sheer willpower.
Finishing Move: An actual manuever by the same name can be learned by them. As the trope implies, it deals much more damage if the enemy is at half his health or less; at any other state of health it only deals unremarkable damage.
Genius Bruiser: Most of their class features apply their Intelligence score to different combat tactics.
Made of Iron: Despite not being as focused on defense or Constitution as a Crusader, Warblades actually get a larger amount of base hit points, comparable to a Barbarian's.
Simple Yet Awesome: The Warblade-exclusive Iron Heart discipline bases itself on this. It's not flashy or cool like more supernatural martial disciplines. It's not good for utility, and it carries no Death or Glory Attacks like others, either. What it gives is things like being able to redo an attack after missing or getting extra attacks when fighting multiple foes, which are still pretty practical, if not amazing. This culminates in the level 9 manuever of the discipline, which adds 100 damage to a single attack - nothing extraordinary at the level you can obtain it, but not something to be ignored, either.
Bullying a Dragon: Due to the source and nature of their powers, warlocks get this a lot. Arguably, this is even dumber than persecuting a sorcerer. An inexperienced sorcerer will swiftly run out of spells to hit you with. A warlock will not. (And one of their "spells" is an energy blast with a 60-foot range that can bypass armor and shields.)
Dark Is Not Evil: A warlock does not have to be evil (they can be chaotic instead), despite often getting their powers from fiendish sources.
Deal with the Devil: The ultimate source of a warlock's power, although it may not have been the warlock himself who struck the deal.
Poor, Predictable Rock: An arcane caster with only damaging spells, lacking in debuffs, buffs, and utilities. Unless you have large hordes of easily disposable cannon fodder Zerg Rush you, the Warmage's utility is fairly limited.
(See the Assassin entry in the "1st through 3rd Edition Core Classes" folder)
The Beastmaster: Obviously. Even moreso than the druid. They're the only class that gets more than one animal companion, and there first animal companion is always 3 levels ahead of a druids (of the same level).
A prestige class from the Dungeon Master's Guide. Blackguards are evil divine warriors much in the way that Paladins are good ones.
Fallen Hero: Paladins who have forsaken their mindset gain special bonuses upon becoming blackguards. Especially high-level fallen paladins can immediately become max-level blackguards by trading in 10 levels of paladin.
A prestige class from the Dungeon Master's Guide. Dragon disciples draw out their innate dragon lineage to gain the powers of a dragon.
A Wizard Did It: Levelling up by, essentially, altering your genetic code to emphasize specific traits is pretty cool, but very hard to roleplay while making any sense.
Beast Man: Increasingly so, the more levels they get.
Lawful Good: invoked Class requirement. Violating the code of conduct costs them their powers, but doing so in service to the faith negates the experience requirement of an atonement spell, until they reach their 10th level in gray guard.
The Paladin: The vast majority of entries are paladins (it requires class features that, among the Player's Handbook classes, only paladins have).
A prestige class from the Dungeon Master's Guide. Mystic Theurges are adept in both the arcane and the divine.
A prestige class from the Dungeon Master's Guide. Shadowdancers are experts in hiding and using the shadows.
Awesome, but Impractical: Shadowdancers are the most easily accessible for rogues and rangers, the two core classes that are best at stealth. However, the class has medium BAB and no sneak attack, gimping the main appeal of both the classes that would normally have use for its abilities.
Casting a Shadow: The main focus of their abilities. At higher levels, they can send their own shadow on the offensive.
Flash Step: As long as they enter and exit via a shadowed area.
Stone Wall/Ninja Tank: Gets a lot of defensive abilities, such as evasion, slippery mind and defensive roll, and a fairly good d8 hit dice. Gets no offensive abilities whatsoever.
A prestige class from Lost Empires of Faerūn. Sunmasters claim the 3E sun god Lathander is really the ancient Netherese sun god Amaunator. 4E reveals they were right. They have great powers over light.
Blinded by the Light: Defied: the 2nd level ability grants an immunity to being blinded or dazed by light effects.
Glowing Eyes of Doom: Starting at second level, their eyes glow orange, and they can shoot beams of light from them.
Law Versus Chaos: Strongly on the law side. Amaunator was viewed as a deity who brings order to the world.
We are not kidding when we say it's a higher tier than the Samurai.
Eberron Campaign Setting boosts them so they can add one Cleric domain of spells to their spell list which can boost their versatility significantly or allow them some spells otherwise restricted to a once a day on a cleric.
Magikarp Power: Intended to be the only class capable of classifying for the Hexer prestige class, which progresses your spellcasting at the same rate as an adept while also giving them full melee ability and powerful curses. In practice, other classes can also qualify through backdoor methods.
An NPC class integral to the setting of Eberron. They specialise in repeatedly casting the cheap, non-combat utility spells driving the Magitek of the setting.
Fridge Logic: invoked Magewrights were born from the question of who is manufacturing all these cheap magic items. See, there are these weak, common arcane spellcasters with only passive spells...
They may be called the Palace Guard, the City Guard, or the patrol. Whatever the name, their purpose is identical: To exist in any encounter with non-unique non-boss enemies, attack the heroes one at a time, and be slaughtered. No one ever asks them if they wanted to.
Mooks/Redshirt Army: This is the generic class given to untrained humanoid enemies like orcs and goblins (as well as common guards and foot soldiers), which allows them to handle a sword without actually giving them any distinguishing features. Good for a Zerg Rush and not much else.
4th Edition Classes
The ardent is a Psionic Leader from the Player's Handbook 3. The ardent's psionic powers revolve predominantly around the themes of empathy and telepathy, allowing them to manipulate the emotions and minds of their enemies and their allies in battle.
The Empath: The predominant motif of the ardent is manipulating emotions. Enemies are hindered by plaguing them with guilt, fear, doubt and rage; allies are bolstered with courage, confidence, hope and joy.
More Than Mind Control: Ardents have some telepathic skills as well, but predominantly they use emotional manipulation to attack their foes.
Your Mind Makes It Real: Half of an ardent's attacks are rooted in the target's own mind. The other half is typically rooted in the great big weapon the ardent is hitting them with.
The artificer is an Arcane Leader from the Eberron Player's Guide. These mages specialise in "imbuing" temporary enchantments into physical objects or other people. Even spells that don't directly enhance armor or weapons still use a physical object as the source for a spell to, for example, create a burst of electrical energy.
The assassin is a Shadow Striker from Dragon Magazine. They are similar to the Assassins of 3.5 in that they are differentiated from regular Rogues by having access to magical powers; 4e Assassins use shadow magic to enhance their stealth and to attack their foes.
Casting a Shadow: The reason why they are a "Shadow" class is because they can literally control darkness to attack their enemies or aid themselves.
Master Poisoner: The Assassin gets some powers based on using poison; the Executioner "sub-class" for Essentials relies upon using different kinds of poison for its attacks.
The executioner is a Martial and Shadow Striker sub-class of the assassin from Dragon magazine and Heroes of Shadow. It differs from the standard assassin by not having attack powers (except for certain weapons), instead using only basic attacks modified by powers and poisons.
The avenger is a Divine Striker from the Player's Handbook 2. Avengers are described as being practicioners of strange, cult-like variants of mainstream religions, giving them access to divine powers that regular Clerics don't possess. They often serve as assassins, executioners or special agents for their faith — and not always with the blessing of their patron god's mainstream church.
BFS: As strikers, avengers prefer to wield double-handed weapons for maximum damage. Swords are favored, but hammers, axes and various big hurty things also get their look in, depending on an avenger's personal faith.
The barbarian is a Primal Striker from the Player's Handbook 2. Savage, brutal warriors from the wilderness, barbarians eschew armor in favor of endurance and agility, calling upon the primal spirits of their tribe to possess their bodies and imbue them with supernatural powers in the form of "rages".
Animal Battle Aura: A common effect, as their big powers revolve around letting spirits, including animal totems, possess them.
The bard is an Arcane Leader from the Player's Handbook 2. Bards use the inherent magic of stories, songs, music and dance to achieve a wide variety of effects. They specialise in demoralising their foes and bolstering their allies.
The skald is an Arcane and Martial Leader sub-class of the bard from Heroes of the Feywild.
The battlemind is a Psionic Defender from the Player's Handbook 3. These psionic characters channel raw psychic energy through their bodies, weapons and armor to achieve spectacular feats of martial skill; the flashiest psionic powers allow them to transform their very bodies.
Fan Nickname: Parts of the community not too impressed with the class's heavy focus on physical melee combat and nonindicative name were quick to coin the term "fightbrain".
Flash Step: The signature technique of the Harrier path for battleminds, and they have a number of generalist powers that allow this to be pulled off.
Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It's noted in the Psionic Power splat that many battleminds actually don't realise their powers are magical in nature until and unless someone more knowledgeable points it out, instead chalking their spectacular feats up to "luck" and "skill".
The cleric is a Divine Leader from the Player's Handbook. Ceremonially invested with a connection to the Astral Sea, clerics draw upon divine powers to aid their allies and impair their enemies.
Combat Medic: The best class in the game at healing, but also heavily armored and quite adept at cracking skulls in his own right.
Frickin' Laser Beams: A cleric who chooses mostly ranged, radiant damage prayers is known as a "laser cleric", because he or she basically runs around throwing beams of energy to hurt his enemies.
Light Is Not Good: Even evil-aligned clerics tend to focus on radiant damage. One recommended houserule for evil clerics in the dungeon master's guide lets them use necrotic damage in place of radiant.
The warpriest is a Divine Leader sub-class of the cleric from Heroes of the Fallen Lands. It differs from the standard cleric by having specific domains as class features (and not having Turn Undead).
The druid is a Primal Controller from the Player's Handbook 2. Druids communicate with the primal spirits of plants and animals, and have a deep personal connection to a greater spirit known as the Primal Beast, which allows them to assume all manner of bestial or monstrous forms. Some druids even master the art of assuming the forms of swarms of creatures.
Summon Magic: Some druids can summon animal spirits to fight at their sides.
Voluntary Shapeshifting: The class feature of the druid, with one path (the "Swarm Druid") differentiated because of his ability to become a swarm of creatures.
The sentinel is a Primal Leader sub-class of the druid from Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms. It differs from the standard druid by being a melee weapon-user, and having an animal companion based on a season chosen as a class feature.
Weapon of Choice: To the extent that fighter powers, feats and paths/builds are differentiated based on what kind of weapon they prefer.
The knight is a Martial Defender sub-class of the fighter from Heroes of the Fallen Lands. It differs from the standard fighter by not having attack powers, instead using only basic attacks modified by stances and powers.
The knight is a Martial Striker sub-class of the fighter from Heroes of the Fallen Lands. It differs from the standard fighter by not having attack powers, instead using only basic attacks modified by stances and powers (and being primarily a Striker instead of a Defender).
Bow and Sword in Accord: Due to the slayer's use of basic attacks and high Dexterity, they can do this better than other fighters.
The invoker is a Divine Controller from the Player's Handbook 2. Possessing a direct connection to astral power and the gods by nature instead of by investiture, with example reasons including being chosen by a god or having divine lineage, invokers are often at odds with the other Divine classes and especially established churchs, who view them as dangerous outsiders and potential heretics as often as they view them as messiahs and chosen ones.
The Heretic: May be viewed as one for eschewing the church for a more direct connection to the deity.
Mission from God: And not the church, which is what separates Invokers from Clerics and Avengers.
Summon Magic: The only Divine class which has access to these powers.
The monk is a Psionic Striker from the Player's Handbook 3. Monks channel their psychic powers through their bodies through combat training, learning to turn their bodies into psychically imbued weapons and perform superhuman feats. As they gain in skill, they also learn to expel that energy for more explicitly supernatural powers, such as hurling blasts of energy.
Warrior Monk: While the monk is not necessarily religious, Religion is a monk class skill, and training in it is a prerequisite for the Radiant Fist paragon path, which is particularly Divine.
What Could Have Been: The monk was originally supposed to be a "Ki power source" class, but the developers were unable to justify it as anything other than "Psionics with an Asian name", so they simply folded it into the Psionics power source.
The paladin is a Divine Defender from the Player's Handbook. Divorced from their traditional restraints of Character Alignment must always be Lawful Good, 4e Paladins are the armored defenders of the faiths... All faiths. Meaning that paladins of gods like Melora, Asmodeus and Gruumsh are all perfectly valid in 4th edition.
The blackguard is a Divine (with some Shadow) Striker sub-class of the paladin from Heroes of Shadow. It is more similar to the cavalier, but chooses a vice instead of a virtue.
Dark Is Not Evil: It is actually possible to play a Good or Lawful Good Blackguard. Not very easily because your vice will often put you at odds with your alignment, but possible. Probably play up the zealousness aspect.
Actually, the way the rules are written, you can't.
The cavalier is a Divine Defender sub-class of the paladin from Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms. It differs from the standard paladin by having specific virtues as class features.
The psion is a Psionic Controller from the Player's Handbook 3. The "purest" psyker, psions use telepathic and telekinetic powers to attack multiple foes at once. Some psions are actually capable of manifesting their thoughts as reality, becoming what are called "Shaper" build psions.
The ranger is a Martial Striker from the Player's Handbook. A lightly armored warrior, the ranger focuses on offense and manueverability to defeat its foes. Some go to battle alongside a bestial battle companion, some are master archers, some favor melee and ranged combat equally, others wield two weapons.
The hunter is a Martial and Primal Controller sub-class of the ranger from Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms. It differs from the standard ranger by not having attack powers, instead using only basic attacks modified by powers.
The scout is a Martial and Primal Striker sub-class of the ranger from Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms. It differs from the standard ranger by not having attack powers, instead using only basic attacks modified by powers.
The rogue is also a Martial Striker from the Player's Handbook. They rely on surprise attacks and agility to avoid damage while dishing it out, and excel at crippling their foes to impair their ability to fight on.
Disc One Nuke: Base weapon damage is ~1d6+6 (assuming Dex of 18 and short sword). Ambush/Tactical trick grants combat advantage in most situations allowing sneak attack (3d6+6). If you take Surprising Charge feat, +1d6. This alone bloodies a single target making it easy for cleanup - or on a critical hit, either does a One-Hit Kill or brings down to a sliver of health. You may even throw in backstab for a better chance to hit and additional damage. While highly damaging in normal play, experienced GMs can counter this tactic by using minions.
The thief is a Martial Striker sub-class of the rogue from Heroes of the Fallen Lands. It differs from the standard rogue by not having attack powers, instead using only basic attacks modified by tricks and powers.
The runepriest is a Divine Leader from the Player's Handbook 3. They use ancient runic sigil patterns, remants from the creation of the world, to call upon the powers of the gods and manifest spectacular effects.
Drop the Hammer: "Wrathful Hammer" runepriests gain proficiency in military hammers and maces.
The seeker is a Primal Controller from the Player's Handbook 3. Empowered by the primal spirits to seek out and slay the enemies of the world, the seeker's weapons are conduits to the spirit world, making them a shout-out to the spellcasting abilities of Rangers in editions past.
Trick Arrow: Any projectile or throwing weapon used by a seeker can channel a spirit in it, allowing it to perform all manner of strange effects. These include turning blood into acidic slime, making barbed vines sprout from the victim's body, and dissolving in mid-flight into a ravenous swarm of flesh-eating locusts that start gnawing their way into the target.
The shaman is a Primal Leader from the Player's Handbook 2. Blessed with the truest connection to the spirit world, shamans are intermediaries between mortals and the spirits. Accompanied by a powerful totem spirit ally, shamans call upon the spirits to empower their allies.
Bond Creature: The "spirit companion" class feature is the center of a shaman's offensive skills and many spells.
The sorcerer is an Arcane Striker from the Player's Handbook 2. Possessing an innate affinity for raw, wild magic, sorcerers unleash devastating surges of arcane power. Sorcerers are defined by the type of magic that resonates with their soul; dragons, chaos, storms and cosmic energy.
The swordmage is an Arcane Defender from the Forgotten Realms Player's Guide. Lightly armored, if at all, swordmages combine martial training with any sort of light blade or heavy blade weapon with arcane magic, channelling spells through their swords to create a wide variety of offensive techniques.
Fire, Ice, Lightning: They have other powers as well, but these are their main go-to elements for damaging opponents.
Genius Bruiser: They require a high Intelligence stat to function, like most Arcane characters, but their combat role is based on mixing it up in the melee.
Magic Knight: Perhaps one of the purest examples of a "Gish" class to be made for D&D.
Squishy Wizard: Averted, at least in theory. They may be weaker than other Defenders, but they have the highest armor and health of the Arcane classes and their "Aegis" literally shields them from harm by boosting their Armor Class.
Teleport Spam: Not quite so adept at it as the Battlemind, but Swordmages get a lot of teleporting moves.
Though, because their class is keyed off of using "Light Blade" class weapons and "Heavy Blade" class weapons, it's just as viable for a swordmage to be wielding a scythe, glaive or khopesh as it is for them to carry a dagger or sword.
The warden is a Primal Defender from the Player's Handbook 2. Charged with defending the natural world from all who would despoil it, wardens allow primal spirits to use their bodies as a conduits to the physical world, allowing them to command nature around themselves or to shapeshift into inhuman, spirit-bestowed forms to do battle with.
The warlock is an Arcane Striker from the Player's Handbook. Forging bonds, voluntarily or otherwise, with all manner of strange and eerie entities, warlocks wield Black Magic as the most offense-orientated of the Arcane classes.
The hexblade is an Arcane Striker sub-class of the warlock from Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms. It differs from the standard warlock by having a melee weapon granted by its eldritch pact, making it similar to Elric of Melniboné.
The Binder is an Arcane and Shadow Controller Warlock subclass from Heroes of Shadow. It differs from normal Warlocks by being geared towards controlling the battle rather than dealing massive amounts of damage.
Boring Yet Practical: A Warlord is a sub-par fighter and a sub-par healer, but grants immense tactical advantages to the rest of the party - bonuses to initiative, extra moves, extra attacks. Great for the strongly teamwork-oriented player, but a poor choice for those who yearn to be The Hero. The saying is: "A barbarian hits you with his axe; a warlord hits you with his barbarian."
Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Somehow, without any knowledge of spells, a warlord can make his teammates move faster, attack more often, hit harder, and otherwise act exactly as if certain powerful magical enhancements had been applied to them.
The witch is an Arcane Controller sub-class of the wizard from Heroes of the Feywild.
Vampires. Obviously. A Shadow Striker class from Heroes Of Shadow.
Bare-Fisted Monk: Vampires are geared towards melee combat, and have literally no need to use weapons, as one at-will power (which doubles as a basic attack) does 1d10 damage at first level; this puts their basic damage on par with a fighter using a greatsword.
Blood Magic: The powers that cost them healing surges are flavoured as such.