To begin with, I would like to suggest that we go easy on the stereotypes when it comes to putting a personality and class together. For example, just because a character is a Paladin, it doesn’t meant that they devote themselves to converting everyone they meet to their beliefs. Being a Druid doesn’t mean one needs to advocate veganism and set every domestic or captive animal that they encounter free. Neither does being a Rogue with the Thief Archetype mean that a character has to be a kleptomaniac.
One way to look at Classes is to see them as a general term to describe what a character is capable of and their Archetype is what they specialise in. For example, a Rogue with the Thief Archetype would be good at stealing things, of course. But that doesn’t mean that their personality is one which frequently resorts to theft as a solution to every problem. Rather, it would mean that they are either well-suited for or practised in a “career” which involves stealthily acquiring things – theft. This expertise could easily be partnered with a character who feels that stealing is a horrible thing to do, but perhaps unfortunate circumstances have caused them to hone these “Thief” skills. Maybe their country is consumed by war, services have shut down, and they have to other means to take care of themselves and those whom they care about. Or maybe they “owe” a corrupt organisation or individual and do their dirty work otherwise they face consequences which they really do not want. Now both of these ideas for the reasons behind a character’s capabilities and beliefs might be considered cliché, however, being motivated by their environment is a more solid start to creating a character than not having a reason at all.
Speaking of reasons, the reason for all of this is because when playing a campaign, our character is usually paired with a couple of others. So what I’m actually targeting here are the stereotypes that are often difficult to play and play with. These are the ones that one might stumble upon when reading other’s tales of that character that caused a heap of chaos not just in the game, but at the table as well. Now, while some conflict between characters can be very interesting, there is a point where personalities clash so much that it makes holding everyone together quite difficult. This isn’t to say that having characters who have greatly different morals and spiritual beliefs in the same party is a bad thing, though. Nor am I saying that there can’t be situations where the goals of the characters are completely different but all achievable through accomplishing the same mission. Overthrowing a corrupt mayor, for example, might be one such task. One character might be doing it for justice and the sake of the community whilst another might be doing it so that they can take that mayor’s position and gain the power that the mayor once had. What I am saying, however, is that we shouldn’t create a character whose sole purpose is essentially to mess with everyone else’s. After all, the players make up a team using their characters and that team has a goal which they all generally strive towards.
The question of how to not fall into a negative stereotype trap whilst playing still remains. The solution here is simple: when it comes to actions, just wonder, “why is my character doing this and what do they hope to gain from it?” A character will not usually do something that completely goes against their own best interests, even if they are going about achieving their goals in an less than perfectly effective manner. To put this practically, usually a character will be part of a group that is intent on achieving some goal. Maybe that goal is ensuring the safe delivery of some crates of goods from one town to another, uncovering the culprits behind a recent assassination attempt on the member of a noble house, or even stopping a necromancer from raising the dead to work as slave labour in his gold mines. Either way, regardless of what that goal is, it is assumed that working towards the same goal is something that the character would want to do. Otherwise, there’s little reason for the character to be a part of that group in the first place and the whole premise of the campaign being a cooperative adventure starts to fall apart. So to reiterate, just keep wondering why the character does something and what they hope to get out of doing that something. At the very least, the character knows that there will be consequences for their own actions and that the characters they interact with are individuals with their own emotions, beliefs, etc.
The D&D 5e Classes
The following are brief descriptions for the Classes found within the D&D 5e Player’s Handbook, but this is not meant to be a replacement for the book. I have done my best to cover as many of the features that each Class gains as possible whilst using the least words possible to provide an overview of each Class. For really in-depth details beyond this, including the dice rolls used and levels at which the Classs features are gained, I’d recommend referring to the D&D 5e Player’s Handbook.
Aside from the Warlock, the Classes that have “Spellcaster Level:” just after their name are the ones which get spells. The number following (5th, 9th, etc.) is to reflect the maximum level of Spells that they can cast. If an Archetype grants Spellcasting, the maximum level of Spell that they can cast is noted under the Archetype.
A Barbarian is a vicious combatant who draws upon their inner beast-like qualities and savage Rage. To reflect this in their Class, they gain a bonus to their Armour Class from their Constitution Modifier when they aren’t wearing armour, a Danger Sense which helps them Dodge, faster movement, an extra attack, bonuses to critical damage and initiative rolls. Additionally, they can enter a Rage state, giving them Strength related Advantages, as well as resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage. They also don’t lose a turn to surprise if they use their Rage and if their total for a Strength check is less than their Strength score, they can use that score in place of the total.
The Path of the Berserker Archetype makes particular use of this Rage, having boosts such as extra attacks from Frenzy and in Retaliation to successful attacks directed towards them, resistance against Charm and Fright effects, and the ability to Frighten foes during Rage.
Meanwhile, the Path of the Totem Warrior Archetype gains abilities based off of their chosen animal. For example, the Path of the Eagle offers heavily improved vision and eventually the ability to fly short distances. The Path of the Wolf grants nearby allies Advantages on attack rolls and eventually give the Barbarian a bonus action to use a melee attack to knock a Large or smaller creature prone during Rage. Finally, the Path of the Bear allows the Barbarian to gain further resistance to all damage types (except psychic) and cause enemies to get Disadvantage on attacks against nearby characters which don’t follow the Path of the Bear.
Conditions alter what a creature is capable of doing in a variety of ways and can arise as a result of a spell, Class feature, attack, or other effect. Most conditions are impairments, but a few, such as Invisible, can be advantageous, and they last either until they are countered or for the duration specified by the effect that imposed the condition ends.
If multiple effects impose the same condition on a creature, each instance of the condition has its own duration, but the condition’s effects don’t get worse.
The following definitions specify what happens to a creature while it is subjected to a condition:
- They automatically fail Ability checks that require sight, attack rolls against them have Advantage, and attack rolls they make have Disadvantage.
- They cannot attack or target the charmer with harmful abilities or magical effects, and the charmer has Advantage on Ability checks to interacted socially with them.
- They automatically fails Ability checks that require hearing.
- While the source of fear is within sight, they have Disadvantage on Ability checks and attack rolls, and cannot willingly move closer to the source.
- Their speed becomes 0, but Grappled ends if they become unconscious or if an effect removes them from the reach of the grappler or grappling effect.
- They cannot take actions or reactions.
- They are impossible to see without the aid of magic or a special sense, but noise made and tracks left can cause detection. Attacks against them have Disadvantage and attacks they make have Advantage.
- They are Incapacitated, cannot move or speak, and automatically fail Strength and Dexterity saves. Also, attack rolls against them have Advantage, and attackers within 5 feet of them get automatic critical hits if their attacks hit.
- They are Incapacitated, cannot move or speak, and are unaware of their surroundings. They also cease ageing, are immune to poison and disease, automatically fail Strength and Dexterity saves, have resistance to all damage, and their weight increases by a factor of ten.
- They have Disadvantage on attack rolls and Ability checks.
- They can only crawl or stand up, have Disadvantage on attack rolls, attackers within 5 feet of them get Advantage, and attackers further than 5 feet get Disadvantage.
- Their speed becomes 0, attack rolls against them have Advantage, and attack rolls they make have Disadvantage, and they have Disadvantage on Dexterity saves.
- They are Incapacitated, cannot move, can only speak falteringly, automatically fail Strength and Dexterity saves, and attack rolls against them have Advantage.
- They are Incapacitated, cannot move or speak, and are unaware of their surroundings. They drop whatever they are holding and fall Prone, automatically fail Strength and Dexterity saves, attack rolls against them have Advantage, and attackers within 5 feet of them get automatic critical hits if their attacks hit.
When a character gets a critical hit, they roll all of the attack’s damage dice twice and add them together, then add any relevant modifiers. For example, if a character gets a critical hit with a dagger, they roll 2d4 for the damage instead of 1d4, and then add their relevant Ability modifiers. If the attack involves other damage dice, such as from the rogue’s Sneak Attack, they roll those dice twice as well.
Spellcaster Level: 9th
The Bard is a master of song, speech, and the magic they contain with Spells leaning toward charms and illusions rather than wanton destruction. The greatest strength of Bards is that they are the Jack of all trades Class – they have bonuses on Ability checks in which they have no Proficiency and up to four Skills in which they do have Proficiency. They can also heal others during short Rests, add up to four spells from other Classes’ Spell lists to their already existing Spell List, and bolster the capabilities of those around them through Bardic Inspiration which grants another an extra d6 that they can use to add to a roll.
The College of Lore Archetype grants bonus Skill Proficiencies, the ability to inhibit foes’ actions, get extra Spells from other Classes, and further improve Ability checks.
Meanwhile, the College of Valour Archetype offers extra armour and weapon Proficiencies, improved Bardic Inspiration, an extra attack, and the ability to attack with a weapon and a spell on the same turn.
Spellcaster Level: 9th
Divine magic is the power of the gods and, for Clerics, harnessing this power doesn’t rely on study or training – it is granted to them by their gods. They can use this magic to not only heal and inspire their allies, but also harm and hinder foes. Furthermore, they are able to Channel Divinity which has a number of uses, most of which are dependent on the Cleric’s chosen Domain. There is also the default Channel Divinity effect of Turn Undead, causing it to take damage and try to get as far away as possible from the Cleric. Beyond this, they get Destroy Undead which makes Turn Undead’s effect instantly destroy the undead creature if their CR is below a certain threshold.
Clerics get the following Domains as Archetypes: Death (from the Dungeon Master’s Guide), Knowledge, Life, Light, Nature, Tempest, Trickery, and War. The variety of Domains gives the Cleric more versatility, especially through the additional methods of using Channel Divinity. For example, the Life Domain’s Preseve Life is a wave of healing divided amongst any chosen creatures within 30 feet of the Cleric for a value of five times the Cleric’s level. Meanwhile, there is the Nature Domain’s Charm Animals and Plants which, as the name suggests, can Charm an animal or plant that can see the Cleric and is within 30 feet of them for one minute or until that creature takes damage.
Furthermore, each Domain grants extra bonuses such as the Knowledge Domain giving extra learnt languages, Skill Proficiencies, and the ability to add the Cleric’s Wisdom modifier to the damage they deal with Cantrips. Another example is the War Domain granting Proficiency with martial weapons and heavy armour, the ability to make an extra weapon attack as a bonus action, increase weapon damage once per turn, and resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from non-magical weapons.
Challenge Rating (CR)
A monster’s challenge rating indicates how great a threat the monster is. An appropriately equipped and well-rested party of four adventurers should be able to defeat a monster that has a challenge rating equal to their level without suffering any deaths.
Spellcaster Level: 9th
Druids venerate nature, so naturally their Spells and other magical powers are orientated towards nature and animals. They also gain the ability to take on the form of a great variety of different animals through their Wild Shape ability, and get their own secret language, Druidic.
The Circle of the Land Archetype focuses mainly on Spells. A Circle of the Land Druid gets a bonus Cantrip, the ability to recover Spell Slots of a combined level equal to half their level with a short Rest, and Circle Spells – Spells granted at certain levels based on the type of land where the character became a Druid, chosen from arctic, coast, desert, forest, grassland, mountain, swamp, and Underdark. They also become adept at moving through difficult terrain without any penalties, immune to Charm and Fright used by elementals and fey creatures and immune to poison and disease. Finally, they eventually get Nature’s Sanctuary which makes beasts and plants hesitant to attack them.
Meanwhile, the Circle of the Moon Archetype focuses on shape-shifting and fighting in animal forms. Their Wild Shape ability gets shortened from a normal action to a bonus action and gives them a bonus action whilst transformed to expend a Spell Slot to regain some hit points. Additionally, they can transform into more dangerous animals or even elementals, their attacks whilst transformed may counts as magical in order to overcome resistance or immunity to non-magical attacks and damage, and eventually they become able to cast the alter self Spell at will.
Various class features, spells, and other abilities let a character take an additional action on their turn called a bonus action. They can take only one bonus action on their turn, but they can choose when to take a bonus action during their turn, unless the bonus action’s timing is specified.
Fighters are trained combatants who specialise in a particular Fighting Style from Archery, Defence, Duelling, Great Weapon Fighting, Protection, and Two-Weapon Fighting. For a limited number of times per Rest that they can re-roll failed saving throws, heal themselves by using a bonus action, and gain extra attacks through an Action Surge. Meanwhile, their normal attacks per turn increase as they level up, from one attack to two, then to three, and eventually to four attacks per turn.
The Champion Archetype makes getting critical hits easier, improves Strength-, Dexterity-, and Constitution-based Skills which they Fighter is not already proficient in, increases the distance they can jump, grants them a second Fighting Style, and eventually grants the ability to restore hit points during battle at the start of each of their turns.
The Battle Master Archetype grants the ability to learn from a whole set of manoeuvres which the Fighter can use in combat, Proficiency with one type of artisan’s tools, and the capacity to study and learn some information about another creature (such as its Armour Class, hit points, etc.).
The Eldritch Knight Archetype gives Spellcasting using Wizard Spells (up to 4th level Spells) and the Fighter’s Intelligence Score and a Weapon Bond which prevents the bonded weapon from being disarmed and allows the Fighter to summon it to their person. Additionally, they get the ability to cast a Spell and attack on the same turn, teleport up to 30 feet when Action Surge is used, and give a creature hit with their weapon attack Disadvantage against their next Spell.
Monks make careful study of a magical energy that most monastic traditions call Ki – the element that flows through living bodies. This grants them a number of Ki Features that they can use by spending Ki Points which are refreshed when the Monk finishes any kind of Rest. Also, while not wearing armour or using a shield and only using unarmed strikes or Monk weapons, they gain an AC bonus, move faster, can use Dexterity instead of Strength for attack and damage rolls, and get extra damage and attacks. They can also deflect or catch missiles, reduce fall damage, stun others with Ki, avoid taking any damage on successful Dexterity saves, remove Charm or Fright from themselves, become immune to poison and disease, and understand all spoken languages. Furthermore, they can count their unarmed strikes as magical for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity to non-magical attacks and damage, eventually become proficient in all saving throws, don’t suffer the effects of ageing nor require food and water, and can become invisible for short amounts of time.
The Way of the Open Palm Monastic Tradition (Archetype) improves the Flurry of Blows Ki Feature, gives the ability for the Monk to heal themselves, grants use of the sanctuary spell through meditation, and a devastating Quivering Palm ability.
The Way of Shadow Monastic Tradition (Archetype) allows the Monk to cast darkness, darkvision, pass without trace, silence, and minor illusion. They also can teleport up to 60 feet between places of dim light or darkness and become invisible in such areas. Finally, whenever a creature within 5 feet of the Monk is hit by an attack made by another creature, they can make a melee attack against that creature.
The Way of the Four Elements Monastic Tradition (Archetype) grants the Elemental Attunement discipline – the ability to briefly control elemental forces nearby – and up to four other disciplines of choice from a list of Elemental Disciplines.
Spellcaster Level: 5th
A paladin swears to uphold righteousness, their power coming from a commitment to justice as much as it does from a god. They get a Divine Sense, making them aware of nearby celestials, fiends, undead, and consecrated or desecrated places and objects, as well as a melee attack they can channel radiant damage, dealing extra damage (and even more damage against undead and fiends). They can also heal, cure poison and disease, and remove Spells from others, become immune to disease themselves, choose a Fighting Style from Defence, Duelling, Great Weapon Fighting, and Protection, and get an extra attack. Furthermore, they can give those nearby a bonus to their saving throws and make them immune to Fright, and their Archetypes all grant different Spells and Channel Divinity options.
The Oath of Devotion Archetype grants the permanent effects of the protection from evil and good Spell, the ability to make those nearby immune to Charm, and an aura of sunlight that damages nearby enemies and gives the Paladin Advantage on saving throws against Spells cast by undead and fiends.
The Oath of the Ancients Archetype grants resistance to damage from Spells to the Paladin and nearby friendlies, and the ability to transform into an Elder Champion with hit point regeneration, quicker Spellcasting, and an aura that gives Disadvantage on saving throws against the Paladin’s Spells and Channel Divinity options. It also allows the Paladin to not suffer the effects of ageing, prevents them from being aged magically, and lets them survive being dropped to 0 hit points by allowing them to drop to 0 hit points instead.
The Oath of Vengeance Archetype grants extra movement after opportunity attacks, an extra reaction attack, and the ability to take the form of an Avenging Angel with flight and an aura which causes Fright.
Spellcaster Level: 5th
As warriors of the wilderness, Rangers get a favoured terrain – arctic, coast, desert, forest, grassland, mountain, swamp, or Underdark – in which they get a number of bonuses, including the ability to move stealthily at normal speed and remain alert to danger. They focus their combat training on a Fighting Style from Archery, Defense, Duelling, and Two-Weapon Fighting to use against their Favoured Enemy – aberrations, beasts, celestials, constructs, dragons, elementals, fey, fiends, giants, monstrosities, oozes, plants, undead, or two races of humanoid (such as gnolls and orcs) – against which they also get a number of bonuses, including tracking and recalling information about them more easily. Rangers can also sense some other creatures within a huge area around them, get an extra attack, move through non-magical difficult terrain and plants with no penalty, get Advantage on saving throws against movement restricting, magically created plants, camouflage themselves, Hide as a bonus action, and be aware of and attack Invisible creatures without penalty.
The Hunter Archetype gains specialised techniques for fighting the monsters of the wilderness, choosing one feature from each of those listed under Hunter’s Prey, Defensive Tactics, Multiattack, and Superior Hunter’s Defence.
The Beast Master Archetype grants a Ranger’s Companion, a Beast with maximum size of Medium and of CR 1/4, which gets the Ranger’s Proficiency Bonus instead of its own and requires an action to be commanded to Attack, Dash, Disengage, Dodge, or Help. At 7th level, it can be commanded as a bonus action to do anything but attack, and at 11th level it gets an extra attack. Eventually, it is able to also benefit from Spells which the Ranger targets themselves with.
Rogues devote as much effort to mastering the use of a variety of skills as they do to perfecting their combat abilities, giving them Expertise which improves selected Skill Proficiencies, a Sneak Attack which does extra damage against those they have Advantage against (or those with an enemy other than the Rogue next to them), and a secret language known as Thieves’ Cant. They also get some bonus actions through Cunning Action, Proficiency in Wisdom saves, the ability to use their reaction to take half damage from an attack, take no damage on successful Dexterity saves, and be aware of nearby hidden or Invisible creatures. Additionally, when they make an Ability check that gets a Proficiency bonus, they can treat all rolls of 9 lower as 10, and, once per short or long Rest, they can treat one missed attack or failed Ability check as a hit or roll of 20.
The Thief Archetype allows extra actions with Cunning Action, makes climbing not cost extra movement, increases running distance, grants Advantage on Stealth checks when half movement is used, the ability to ignore all Class, Race, and level requirements on the use of magic items, and take an extra turn during the first round of combat.
The Assassin Archetype grants Proficiency with the disguise kit and the poisoner’s kit, Advantage against those who have yet to take a turn in combat, automatic critical hits and double damage on Surprised foes, the ability to create unfailing false identities, and unerringly mimic another.
The Arcane Trickster Archetype gives Spellcasting using Wizard Spells (up to 4th level Spells), improved mage hand, Disadvantage to the target of a Spell whilst the Rogue is hidden, and the ability to temporarily cast Spells that have been used against them.
Spellcaster Level: 9th
Magic is a part of every Sorcerer – they have no use for the spellbooks that Wizards rely on, nor do they rely on a patron as Warlocks do. They get a source of Sorcery Points which they can spend to gain additional Spell Slots or gain by sacrificing Spell Slots, and access to a set of Metamagic options.
The Draconic Bloodline Origin (Archetype) gives the Sorcerer the Draconic language, a Dragon Ancestry connected to a specific Damage Type, makes it easier to interact with dragons, and eventually gives dragon wings allowing flight. The Dragon Ancestries are: Black and Copper Acid; Blue and Bronze for Lightning; Brass, Gold, and Red for Fire; Green for Poison; and Silver and White for Cold. It also grants extra hit points, a bonus to AC while not wearing armour, and extra damage to Spells of the same type. Additionally, they can spend Sorcery Points to temporarily gain resistance to their type or create an aura which Charms or Frightens enemies.
The Wild Magic Origin (Archetype) grants the possibility of an extra random magical effect, known as a Wild Magic Surge. When the Sorcerer uses Spells of 1st level or higher, they roll a d20 and, on a 1, then roll on a table to find the effect. Later on, they can roll on the table twice and choose one of the two results. They also can gain an Advantage on an attack roll once per Rest or per Wild Magic Surge, and give a penalty to another creature trying to make an attack roll, Ability check, or saving throw by spending Sorcery Points. Furthermore, if they roll the highest number possible when determining Spell damage, they can roll that dice again and add it to their damage total.
A Warlock is defined by a pact with an otherworldly being, learning and growing in power at the cost of occasional services performed on the Patron’s behalf. They are granted Eldritch Invocations which range from bonus Spells to extra Proficiencies, and a choice of Pact Boon – Pact of the Chain grants a familiar, Pact of the Blade creates a bonded melee weapon, and Pact of the Tome grants a grimoire called a Book of Shadows. They also get some Arcanum Spells which can be cast without expending a Spell Slot, and the ability to regain Spell Slots once a day by “entreating” their Patron. Each Archetype grants a selection of Spells in addition to the following.
The Archfey Patron (Archetype) grants the ability to Charm or Frighten those around the Sorcerer, turn invisible and teleport when damage is taken, become immune to Charm and redirect Charm attempts back at the user, and send another creature into an illusory realm.
The Fiend Patron (Archetype) grants hit points when the Sorcerer reduces another to 0 hit points, the ability to add a d10 to an Ability check or saving throw, gain resistance to one damage type, and temporarily transport an attacked creature to the lower planes.
The Great Old One Patron (Archetype) grants the ability to communicate telepathically with those nearby, give an attacker Disadvantage on their attack roll (and if they miss, the Sorcerer gains Advantage on their next attack against them), and prevent their thoughts from being read unless desired. They also gain resistance to psychic damage, can reflect psychic damage back against their attacker, and Create Thrall – the ability to touch an incapacitated creature to Charm them and allow telepathic communication with them as long as they’re anywhere on the same plane.
The Great Old One
The Player’s Handbook states that entities of The Great Old One type include Ghaunadar, called That Which Lurks; Tharizdun, the Chained God; Dendar, the Night Serpent; Zargon, the Returner; and Great Cthulhu. Now, although the presence of Lovecraftian horrors isn’t anything new, it’s a good excuse to read more about the creator of Great Cthulhu. Have a look at The H.P. Lovecraft Archive where you can find Electronic Texts of H.P. Lovecraft’s Works to read online. If any extra incentive is required, Lovecraft’s works are listed under inspirational reading in the D&D 5e Player’s Handbook. It is a daunting list, however, so here are some suggestions for where to start:
- At the Mountains of Madness
- Call of Cthulhu, The
- Colour out of Space, The
- From Beyond
- Lurking Fear, The
- Shadow over Innsmouth, The
- Whisperer in Darkness, The
Also, when it comes to movies, In the Mouth of Madness (1994) starring Sam Neill is awesome.
Spellcaster Level: 9th
Wizards live and die by their Spells, learning new ones as they experiment and grow in experience, as well as from other wizards, ancient tomes or inscriptions, and ancient creatures that are steeped in magic. They can recover some of their Spells with a short Rest, the ability to cast some Spells at will, and have some Signature Spells always prepared.
Wizards get the following Arcane Traditions, known as Schools, as Archetypes: Abjuration, Conjuration, Divination, Enchantment, Evocation, Illusion, Necromancy, and Transmutation. These Schools allow the Wizard to copy Spells of their School at half the gold and time cost in addition to their other features. For example, the School of Evocation lets the Wizard create pockets of safety within the affected area of their Evocation Spells, giving the creatures within those pockets automatic successes on their saving throws and preventing them from taking damage if they were meant to on a save. The School of Evocation also improves the Wizards damaging Cantrips so that they cause damage even on a save, lets them add their Intelligence modifier to the damage of Evocation Spells, and eventually, lets them automatically deal maximum damage with damaging Spells of 5th level or lower. As another example, the School of Illusion, grants the minor illusion Cantrip, the ability to change the nature of an illusion already cast, create an illusory duplicate of the Wizard as a reaction to make an incoming attack miss, and temporarily cause a part of an illusion become real.