A character in Dungeons & Dragons is defined by their class, which is meant to reflect their profession and how their skills can be used in both combat and social situations. You can have warriors who only feel at home on the battlefield and will sulk silently during state dinners, while the bard, who has to hang back and sing in combat, is winning royal favors from the king with his storytelling ability.
There various editions of Dungeons & Dragons have included classes that exist across an entire spectrum of abilities and motivations, to the point where it is easy for the player to create any kind of character that they want. There are some classes that have been looked down on due to having a silly premise or initially seeming like they aren't suited for combat, but these classes possess a hidden potential for greatness that the average player has overlooked.
There are also classes that might seem awesome on the surface, but they are shackled to an ability or hindrance that will drag both the character and the party down at the worst possible moment.
We are here today to determine which Dungeons & Dragons classes are diamonds in the rough and which ones are ticking time bombs that are waiting to bring the campaign crashing down around their ears.
From the bear with the special senses to the elves who hate a roof above their head, here are the 10 Dungeons & Dragons Classes Stronger Than Fans Thought (And 10 Way Weaker).
20 Stronger: Bear Warrior
Do you want your DM to hate you forever? Then pick a character with the scent ability. The bear warrior prestige class has relatively light prerequisites to fulfill, as you only need a base attack bonus of +7, the Rage or Ki Frenzy ability, and the Power Attack feat. In exchange for taking levels as the bear warrior, you gain the ability to transform into a bear.
The true strength of the bear warrior class comes in the form of the Scent ability, which they get at third level.
Scent means that you will never be surprised again and you will become immune to almost every form of illusion. The DM is going to have to take extra precautions in order to be able to surprise you. It's possible for other classes to temporarily gain the Scent ability using magic, but the bear warrior has it permanently activated.
19 Weaker: Avenger
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons introduced the concept of kits, which were similar to the archetypes that appear in the current edition of Dungeons & Dragons, except that they took effect from level one. The kits in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons tended to be horribly balanced, with some being amazing and others being terrible.
The avenger kit for druids that appeared in The Complete Druid's Handbook offered the player an extra weapon proficiency. In exchange for this meager advantage, they lose the capacity to own more treasure than what they can physically carry. If they can't carry their treasure, then they have to give it away to a worthy cause. You could expect avenger players to beg their DM for a bag of holding, as that's the only way they can overcome their severe disadvantage.
18 Stronger: Anointed Knight
Charisma was considered to be the worst stat in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, due to how rarely it was used. The third edition of Dungeons & Dragons made Charisma a lot more important. One of the prestige classes from Book of Exalted Deeds can be easily exploited by min-maxing around Charisma. The anointed knight class has the ability to anoint themselves with a magic oil as they level up, which gives them some amazing powers.
If you choose a race that has a Charisma modifier without a level adjustment (like the spellscale from Races of the Dragon) then it won't take long before you can use the anointed knight ability to grant yourself extra attacks per turn and adding extra damage dice several times per day. There is also an Anoint Self ability that grants a stat boost to Charisma, Intelligence, and Wisdom, which will hasten the process even further.
17 Weaker: Samurai
The vast majority of Dungeons & Dragons campaigns are set in societies based on medieval Europe. This hasn't stopped the creators of the game from adding in elements from other cultures, including ninjas and samurai.
The samurai class from the Complete Warrior is considered to be a far weaker version of the regular fighter.
The reason for this is that most of their class abilities are set feats, like Improved Initiative and Two-Weapon Fighting. Their only other abilities include adding their Charisma bonus to attack and damage and bonuses to the Intimidate skill. You would be far better off playing a regular fighter and tailoring your feats. The Kiai Smite ability would be amazing if it weren't tied to Charisma and you could use it more times per day. As it stands, a fighter will deal more damage over the course of a battle if they use chose Weapon Specialization as a feat.
16 Stronger: Thrall Of Demogorgon
One of the best abilities available to the fighter class in the current edition of Dungeons & Dragons is the Action Surge, which allows them to take an extra action during their turn. There was a class in the Book of Vile Darkness in one of the older editions of Dungeons & Dragons that had an even better version. All you had to do to get it was to become a servant of Demogorgon.
Those who are willing to sell their souls can take levels in the thrall of Demogorgon class. If they manage to reach level four in this class, then they will gain the Dual Actions ability, which allows them to take two rounds worth of actions in one round and they can do it twice a day. However, the nature of the thrall of Demogorgon class means that you are more likely to be on the receiving end of the Dual Actions ability than to use it.
15 Weaker: Collector
In Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, it was possible for some characters to take on the fighter, mage, and thief classes all at once, giving them an abundance of abilities at the cost of splitting their experience points into three separate pools. There was a kit in The Complete Book Of Elves intended for elves who took on the fighter/mage/thief classes that was meant to reflect a profession that would require such a varied set of skills - the collector.
The collector has a few nifty powers when it comes to identifying magical items, but it's held back by the fact that they can't use any magic item that has charges, for fear of diminishing its value. This means that they cannot use magical staves or wands, which is a huge detriment for a magic-using class. The collector also has a hard time destroying magic items, even if they can potentially destroy the world.
14 Stronger: Dervish
It's tempting when playing a melee character to wrap them up in the heaviest armor available, strap a shield to their arm, and send them into battle. The Dexterity stat is so good that it's equally as viable to play a lightly armored warrior who relies on agility, with the dervish being the ultimate example of what you can accomplish using only speed.
The dervish is one of the few classes that allows you to make multiple attacks while moving.
This ability can also be used once per encounter, which is a rare benefit for a third edition class. The ultimate perk of the dervish class is their ten length ability A Thousand Cuts, which allows them to double their number of melee attacks per turn. This can allow a high-level dervish to perform anything from six to ten attacks in a single round, depending on if they are using haste or not.
13 Weaker: Champion
When introducing a new player to Dungeons & Dragons, it's best for them to use a character with a simple class, as presenting them with too many complex options from the start may turn them off from the game. This seems like the reason why the champion archetype was created for the fighter in the current edition of Dungeons & Dragons.
When a fighter reaches third level, they choose their archetype, with the Player's Handbook offering three - the battle master, the champion, and the eldritch knight. The champion is totally outclassed by the other archetypes available and the battle master is given access to all kinds of combat maneuvers that they can perform in battle, while the eldritch knight can cast spells and can summon their weapon to their hand using magic. The champion only gains a single increase to their critical threat range (19-20), which doesn't improve again until they reach level fifteen.
12 Stronger: Riddlemaster
There is nothing more frustrating for a DM than watching the players struggle to solve a puzzle. You will be sitting there, staring at their dumbfounded faces while they ignore all of the painfully obvious clues that you have laid out for them.
There was a kit in The Complete Bard's Handbook for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons that offered succor to those who needed help solving puzzles - the riddlemaster. The riddlemaster was a bard kit that always received double the amount of time to solve a puzzle and were given twice the number of opportunities to solve it, regardless of how little sense their extra chances & time made. Riddlemaster's also received bonuses to pretty much every roll. The riddlemaster had no special hindrances at all, so there was no reason not to play one over the regular bard.
11 Weaker: Militant Wizard
The rules concerning the weapon selection of wizards used to be a lot stricter, with mages and specialists being limited to using only a dagger, darts, sling, or quarterstaff. The point of the mage class was to cast spells in battle and not actually get close enough to the enemy to engage in fisticuffs.
The militant wizard kit from The Complete Wizard's Handbook tried to offer a more physically skilled spellcaster, but it received one of the worst ability trade-offs in the history of Dungeons & Dragons.
In exchange for a wider weapon selection and a free weapon proficiency slot, the militant wizard has one of three restrictions which was determined by the DM - they can either never learn spells above 7th level, they learn spells as if their Intelligence is two points lower than it is, or they can only ever learn schools from five of the eight different schools of magic.
10 Stronger: Weapon Master
The third edition of Dungeons & Dragons totally overhauled the game and removed a lot of the issues from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. The third edition would later receive its own update, which became known as "3.5" and resulted in a slew of new books that featured revised versions of the prestige classes.
One of the third edition classes that never received an official update to 3.5 was the weapon master, which was due to how broken it was in terms of power. It was incredibly easy to increase your critical threat range in third edition to outrageously low numbers,. The weapon master could increase their critical multiplier range using their Increased Multiplier ability, which could send your damage potential into the stratosphere. The weapon master also had an ability called Ki Damage, which worked like the Maximize Spell feat for melee attacks, allowing you to deal your highest possible damage for free several times a day.
9 Weaker: Battlerager
Barbarians were a playable class in the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons but they were absent for a long time in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. One of the attempts to make a similar barbarian class appeared in The Complete Book of Dwarves in the form of the battlerager. The battlerager received some awesome benefits, such as a bunch of ability and stat boosts when they entered their rage and an immunity to a wide variety of spells.
The downside to playing a battlerager was that healing spells stopped working on them when they entered their rage, which was an incredibly risky prospect on its own, but the player also stops receiving notifications from the DM for how much damage they take. This meant that entering combat while raging was a huge gamble.
8 Stronger: Wu Jen
The equivalent to wizards in most Dungeons & Dragons campaigns based on eastern societies are wu jen, who are closely tied to the spirits from the afterlife and to the elements of the natural world.
Wu jen have appeared in various different forms across the various editions of Dungeons & Dragons, but the most powerful version of the class appeared in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.
The wu jen in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons had to take on a taboo that they couldn't willingly break, such as never eating meat or not being able to wear clothes of a specific color, but these were mostly harmless in terms of game mechanics. The advantage of playing a wu jen was their level four ability, which allowed them to deal maximum damage with a spell once per day, which had the benefit of a Maximize Spell feat a whole edition before it officially appeared.
7 Weaker: Gladiator
There are many Dungeons & Dragons campaigns that feature societies dominated by warrior culture, which means that it's common to see arenas and gladiatorial combat in major cities. The Complete Warrior's Handbook included stats for a gladiator kit, which allowed players to create a character who grew up in the fighting pits and earned their freedom through their combat skill.
The gladiator kit receives a free weapon specialization slot, which is nothing to complain about, but they also have one of the most peculiar hindrances of any class in the game. Any player who chooses to play a gladiator has to deal with their manager and a group of promoters who want to put them in dangerous situations for profit. This might be a fun thing to role-play, but it also means that the party is going to be hounded by a series of WWE-style managers who want to interfere in their adventures.
6 Stronger: Beguiler
It's possible to multiclass in most editions of Dungeons & Dragons, but the viability of switching your focus between several different disciplines can vary. The third edition of Dungeons & Dragons introduced a class in the Player's Handbook II that was the perfect blend of arcane magic and stealth, to the point where there was no point ever multiclassing as a rogue and a wizard.
The beguiler class combined the stealth & trap finding aspects of the rogue with a full spellcasting class, which has access to most of the enchantment and illusion spells in the game. The beguiler may not be a powerhouse in terms of offensive magic, but their mixture of skills & spells are blended so perfectly that they don't need to be.
5 Weaker: Healer
It's a lot easier to play a medic in the current edition of Dungeons & Dragons, due to the existence of the healing word spell, which allows you to heal from a distance. In the older editions of Dungeons & Dragons, almost every healing spell could only be used via touch, which meant that it was a dangerous prospect for clerics and druids to rush into combat to heal their downed allies.
The healer kit from The Complete Book of Gnomes and Halflings was exclusive to halfling clerics and it gave them an extra point of healing for every dice rolled as part of a healing spell.
The downside of the healer kit was that they refused to wear armor, which meant that it was incredibly risky for them to enter combat and use their healing spells when they were most needed.
4 Stronger: Archivist
Have you ever wanted to play a Bloodborne character in a Dungeons & Dragons campaign? The archivist class from Heroes of Horror is a unique variant of the cleric that needs to learn spells from scrolls in the same manner as wizards. These are priests who seek out knowledge of evil beings and must learn the secrets of the creatures of the night, in order to fight them.
Archivists have the ability to make Knowledge checks in battle in order to learn the weaknesses of their enemy. A successful check means that the archivist can grant all kinds of benefits to the party in the form of combat bonuses, which can be stacked with regular buffing spells. An archivist who mix-maxes their Knowledge skill can be one of the best support classes in the game.
3 Weaker: Diabolist
Demons and devils are real in most Dungeons & Dragons campaigns, which means that it's possible to sell your immortal soul in exchange for power during your mortal life. The diabolist class from the Book of Vile Darkness is a prestige class based around the concept of selling your soul for power, as one of the requirements for taking on the class is offering your soul to the forces of hell.
If you sell your soul, then your dark master can claim possession of it before your allies can raise you. So, what do you get for selling your soul? You can add 1d6 points of damage to one spell per day, which doesn't increase to 2d6 until level five. It seems that souls aren't worth as much as they were in the days of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons when people believed that the game was actually satanic.
2 Stronger: Buffoon
Dungeons & Dragons isn't a visual medium like movies or video games, which means that players will often choose their equipment for their practicality rather than their appearance. The buffoon kit from The Complete Book of Gnomes and Halflings may be the perfect example of function over style.
The benefit of playing a buffoon is that they can perform counterspells in the form of jokes and puns.
If a buffoon has a high initiative in combat, they can choose to try and disrupt the magic of an enemy spellcaster, forcing them to make a Wisdom check. If the check fails, then the spell is wasted. So, what are the hindrances to playing a buffoon? The book says that "He or she has to walk around looking ridiculous," which is something that most players won't care about.
1 Weaker: Wilderness Runner
There are a lot of dungeons in Dungeons & Dragons, which you may have guessed from the name. This means that players will spend a lot of time in enclosed places or underground, as that is where the best treasure is hidden and where the most powerful monsters hang out. The Complete Book of Elves introduced a kit for elves in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons that would be unplayable in most campaigns.
The wilderness runner kit is based on elves who live outdoors all of the time, which results in some nifty bonuses to tracking and being immune to most forms of extreme temperature. The problem with the wilderness runner is that they can't stay inside of a city for longer than a day and they have to make Wisdom checks whenever they spend a night inside of a dungeon that wasn't formed naturally, which means that you have a party member who will struggle to actually stay inside of a dungeon in Dungeons & Dragons.
Are there any other Dungeons & Dragons classes that are stronger or weaker than fans thought? Let us know in the comments!