Brief Description of 5e Classes and Subclasses (Ideal to Show to your Players)
“New year, new me”, as the phrase says. It’s about time you create a new Player Character, be it for a new campaign, or to archive in case you have a spontaneous chance to play it. However, with the great variety of classes and subclasses that exist, it’s really difficult to choose. What’s more, subclasses can enormously change their perspective on the class, making them more or less interesting for you.
After surfing the web for a while, I could not find any place in which all the classes and subclasses were briefly explained for a quick read. What I want to create is 4 articles you can give to your players as a DM to help them choose or give an idea of the character they want to play. I tried to explain the best I could in the shortest possible format. I hope it is of use to you, as I expect it to be to my players:
- ARTIFICER – CLICK HERE
- BARBARIAN, BARD, CLERIC and DRUID – YOU ARE HERE
- FIGHTER, MONK, PALADIN and RANGER – CLICK HERE
- ROGUE, SORCERER, WARLOCK and WIZARD – CLICK HERE
- BARD and PALADIN from Mythic Odysseys of Theros – CLICK HERE
- Subclasses from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything – CLICK HERE
- PHB: Player’s Handbook
- DMG: Dungeon Master’s Guide (Only evil classes appear here)
- SCAG: Sword Coast’s Adventurers Guide
- XGtE: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything
- GGtR: Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica
Classes and Subclasses
Filled with their destructive rage and primal instincts, the barbarian is the class you choose if you want to be the meat shield in the front line dealing great amounts of damage. Who needs a shield when you can stand your foes’ puny attacks with your hardened skin and/or high evasiveness?
Path of the Ancestral Guardian (XGtE)
The great barbarians from the past in your tribe live on as great spirits that aid those in need. You invoke in your rage these people (you can make them get summoned in battle as spirits if you want some extra flavor) to guide you in your fights and/or your path as a barbarian.
Path of the Battlerager (SCAG) *
*Dwarves only (unless your DM says otherwise)
This barbarians cover themselves with spiked armor ready to destroy whoever dares to attack them, or those attacked by the barbarians themselves. Their rage is so powerful it can restore partly his health during battle.
Path of the Berserker (PHB)
Those who follow the path of the berserker become a meat grinding machine when enraged. This path is for those barbarians that lose the sense of everything but their foes’ suffering during battle.
Path of the Storm Herald (XGtE)
The great storm/weather/nature gods chose you as their warrior, or you learnt how to channel their powers for some strange reason. These barbarians can channel storms around themselves to affect those around them. It can be very versatile as it allows you to change those auras/powers instead of just choosing one and sticking with it.
Path of the Totem Warrior (PHB)
Do you remember Disney’s movie Brother Bear and how the totems affected or symbolized its wearers? Well, these barbarians don’t get turned to animals or anything like that, but channel fauna’s primal power to use in their favor. The barbarian decides which animal he/she wants to attune to and gain abilities depending of their choices.
Path of the Zealot (XGtE)
As a true warrior of its god, the zealot barbarian is a true unkillable machine. Filled with a divine or evil power channeled from those entities, a follower of this path becomes a heavy damage dealing, resistant monster.
A true jack of all trades; a bard can cover great amounts of ground when speaking about what they are able to do. A performer at heart, an inspiration to its allies, but above all a foul-mouthed to its foes. With its great charisma, his/her voice becomes its greatest weapon.
College of Glamour (XGtE)
Through magic given or taught to you by a fey entity, the bard becomes an enchanting master. Your allies feel stronger with you by their side, while you bend your foes’ minds to your will.
College of Lore (PHB)
As a storyteller of the history and lore of the world, a bard from the College of Lore yearns for knowledge and stories. Because of their vast knowledge, they know exactly what can psychically hurt, confuse or distract other creatures, as well as can delve into other classes’ spell lists.
College of Swords (XGtE)
A bard of this college is a master with light sharp blades. This allows them to go straight into melee combat. Its elegance of their weapon mastery can confuse the target and attack their foes when and where they expect the least (dealing more damage). Imagine a swords juggler going into combat to get a general idea.
College of Valor (PHB)
As well as with the College of Swords, these bards go straight into combat, both melee and ranged. What makes this college different to its bards though is it focuses more on the support aspect of combat. These bards focus on making their allies stronger and harder to hit, instead of benefiting mostly themselves in combat.
College of Whispers (XGtE)
These are the bards that search for your dirtiest and best kept secrets to use against you to scare or charm you. Great intel collectors and better threateners, ready to get people out from your way or damage psychologically their foes. Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words leave psychological wounds that will never heal.
As well as with bards, clerics cover a wide amount of possibilities depending on the god you choose to follow. They are high spirited servants of their deities and follow their domains to choose a way of life. Both a warrior and spellcaster, they are able to cover practically any role in a party. Depending on their subclass, their Channel Divinity ability acts in different ways, granting direct powers from their gods.
Arcana Domain (SCAG)
Clerics of this domain look for aid from the gods who know the most about magic. By doing this, they increase their level of magic and spellcasting understanding. This allows them to focus on the support side of spells, as well as learn how to turn more creatures than the already established ones by being a cleric.
Death Domain (DMG)
Normally not used as a playable class by the players because of their focus in evil alignment, the clerics from this domain look forward to have its own undead army fighting by their side. They focus on the necrotic spells and ways to do heavy damage.
Forge Domain (XGtE)
Those clerics who view weapon and armor blacksmithing as a marveling chore, tend to follow this domain. They create fascinating weapons, imbue others with their divine magic as an aid for combat and serve as a great companion in it.
Grave Domain (XGtE)
Walking the path between life and death, these clerics look amongst all things for a balance between them. Death isn’t a fear for them. Were someone to disturb the equilibrium between both, these clerics will show them their mighty wrath.
Knowledge Domain (PHB)
For those clerics who value knowledge above all else, and whose curiosity is always looking for something new to learn. Either for mere understanding, or for the ecstasy generated by gaining new knowledge, these clerics can delve into peoples’ minds or learn to work with things they didn’t know about.
Life Domain (PHB)
Just in case you were wondering where the healer cleric everyone associates the class to is, I present you the master of healing. Clerics who venerate deities of Life can gain access to more healing spells, while also recovering more hit points than any other class would had they access to this magic.
Light Domain (PHB)
Light Domain clerics fight a war against darkness, both in life as in people’s hearts. Their super powerful spells can destroy anything that dares to confront them. By summoning light’s power, they focus above all else on dealing heavy damage with their magic.
Nature Domain (PHB)
A mixture between druids and clerics. These servants of the gods of nature can focus both on its support aspect or its damage dealing one (or why not both?). With critters and plants by their side they can summon forth the powers of the nature.
Order Domain (GGtR)
Clerics from this domain find order and law to be the most vital things to follow. No matter how injust might the law be, it must be abided to maintain an order in society. Things were stablished that way for a reason, and these clerics will make sure they are followed with the power of the gods.
Tempest Domain (PHB)
Clerics of the tempest domain serve the gods of storms and weather. They can channel forth the destructive forces of storms. With a focus on lightning damage they are ready to obliterate whatever tries to obstruct their path.
Trickery Domain (PHB)
Ready to bother some people, create illusions or confuse them? This domain can make you a shadow amongst the crowds, creating numerous illusions to trick your foes before sticking a handaxe to their skulls. A great spy, assassin, infiltrator or someone who just wants to trick/bother people with their godly powers.
War Domain (PHB)
Follower of the gods of war, these clerics are ready to channel those divine powers to turn the battle to their sides. These deities grant them powerful abilities for their weapons in order to be masters at war and fights.
Preservers of balance and nature’s warriors, the druids aid their party members by using great support spells, as well as heavy damage dealing ones. They speak the language of the flora and fauna, as well as they can shapeshift into a wide amount of beasts for combat or situational purposes.
Circle of Dreams (XGtE)
These druids have a link with the Feywild. They were either trained there or gained access to their powers for some reason. Their powers are mostly associated with rests, conformity and well-being, while also used to travelling through dreams or conjurating fey magic.
Circle of the Land (PHB)
Druids of this circle associate themselves to the land they were trained in, these being the arctic, desert, coast, forest, etc. By attuning to these regions, they can learn different spells, as well as benefits associated with the chosen place.
Circle of the Moon (PHB)
Masters of the wildshaping ability, these druids fully understood how to use the best aspects of the beast they transform into. Circle of the moon druids can wildshape into even more powerful beasts than the normally available opening to them a great world of possibilities.
Circle of the Shepherd (XGtE)
Want to wreak havoc like Snow White or Aquaman do in their movies with the help of their animal companions? Circle of the Shepherd druids commune with the spirits of nature in a similar way the totem barbarian does. They get to choose an animal they are associated with as well as control or summon beasts to fight by their side.
Circle of Spores (GGtR)
Fungi and spores are vital for nature, and these druids find fascination within them. Life and death are nothing but cycles that everything must go through. This is why druids from this circle have a conflicting view in comparison to the others regarding undeath. They believe it is just another step in the cycle, that as long as it does not provoke a danger to it all, it should keep on “living”.
Are you looking to have all these descriptions in one single place without the constant need for an internet connection? I created a product just for that! It is called Candlekeep’s Guide to Adventuring for Novices.
In it, you will find them all constantly updated and organized in easy to read print-friendly format, with images to help out new players: