How Not To Scare Away a New Player – Class Selection

You have been tapped to DM for your friends in an introductory experience to Dungeons & Dragons. You have time to prepare, but the responsibilities go beyond creating a fun, engaging experience for your friends. They have no idea what D&D is beyond the odd offhand remark they have heard in the past. They are going to need to make a character. Much of character creation is comfortably left in the hands of your friends. Anyone can create a backstory with a little guidance. Perhaps you start them off slow by choosing human as a race with a sailor background. The difficult part is choosing a class that is both engaging and unintimidating. Today we will be arguing the merits of the Fighter

Simplicity 

The mechanics of Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition are daunting for new players. The DM bears the responsibility of being able to tell a player what they can and cannot do. Much of a player’s initial DnD experience is spent learning the differences between an action, a bonus action, and a reaction. A player starting out as a Fighter does not have to worry very much about bonus actions or reactions, but is exposed to them. Let’s briefly break down what a character can do on its turn:

  • Action: A character uses its Action to attack, cast a spell, or interact with the world in some way. Actions are considered to take up the bulk of a character’s turn.
  • Bonus Action: A character does something quickly during their turn, it is often considered a Bonus Action. Bonus Actions take the form of quick spells (often used for escape or defense) and certain abilities that increase a character’s combat prowess.
  • Reaction: Unlike Actions and Bonus Actions, Reactions can be used on any turn, once per round. The most common Reaction is the Opportunity Attack: A special attack made against a target moving out of a character’s range in combat.
  • Movement: This one is pretty straightforward in most circumstances. Movement is the amount of distance a character can move in one turn.

Many classes make ample use of Bonus Actions and Reactions. This use of the 5th Edition mechanics makes for a creative gameplay environment and unique class experiences. Fighter gets to dip its toe into these mechanics without necessarily taking a plunge.

Some examples of classes that routinely make use of Bonus Actions and Reactions:

  • Rangers use their Bonus Action to cast Hunter’s Mark in and out of combat. This ability augments damage and has the flavourful aspect of tracking down fleeing targets.
  • Wizards, all powerful magicians with the hit points of a wet paper bag, make use of the Shield spell as a Reaction to save their magical bacon.
  • Rogues are routinely forced to make hard decisions with their Bonus Action: Dodge, Hide, follow-up attack. 

Fighters only rarely need to make use of their Bonus Actions and Reactions. They can use Second Wind as a Bonus Action for quick healing and can take Opportunity Attacks as a Reaction when applicable.  A fighter’s turn typically boils down to using the attack action. This simplicity makes them a very attractive choice for new players. 

Heroism

Figthers run the gambit of representational fantasy. Want to be Legolas from Lord of the Rings? Make an Elf Fighter with a longbow and proficiency in Acrobatics. Fancy being a Ninja Turtle? Make a Tortle dual-wielding long swords or a quarterstaff.  The Fighter’s proficiencies with all martial weapons allow it to represent most of the hero tropes in pop culture.

Fighters typically rely on Strength or Dexterity to excel in DnD. This shifts the Fighter to either of two skill sets. If they go the Strength route, a Fighter is limited to being truly exceptional at the Athletics skill. Conversely, a Dexterity-based Fighter has access to Acrobatics, Sleight of Hand, and the much beloved Stealth skill. While the Dexterity-based abilities are enticing, Strength results in harder hitting weapons, better grappling, and the ability to muscle through obstacles. 

The skills presented above let a player interact with the game in exciting ways. Whereas a Cleric may be exceptional at reading someone’s behavior or keeping an eye out for trouble, a Fighter enjoys the more engaging skills. Examples:

  • A building collapsed with your friends inside. You make use of your Athletics to heave the rubble off of them, then pull them to safety.
  • A thief has stolen your magical macguffin. You give chase across precarious rooftops in the rain using your Acrobatics.

This mix of easy fantasy fulfillment and exciting skills make for great first time experience. Many other classes, particularly spellcasters, come with a lot of rules baggage that can dissaude a new player from joining a game. Preparing spells, ritual casting, and spell slots are a lot to take in for a new player. Throw a Warlock’s Pact Magic feature at a new player and they will likely give you an expression reminiscent of a deer staring into the headlights of a semi.

Minimal Effort Out of the Gate

As mentioned previously, Fighters dip their toes into the busy waters of DnD mechanics. Unlike spellcasters, Fighters get to choose whether or not they would like to experience some of the more intense features of the game. This is done with subclasses. A fighter choosing its Martial Archetype at 3rd level can opt into utilizing more Bonus Actions, Spellcasting, or even just keep it simple.

After a few sessions of playing a Fighter the player may want more variety in combat. This player could take the Battle Master Archetype, granting themselves powerful combat maneuvers. Perhaps the player has a friend who enjoys Wizards and sees the power they wield. An Eldritch Knight would allow the player to dabble in the arcane without going too deep. Alternatively, choosing the Champion would expand on the basic Fighter options without entering into any new territory.

The Fighter allows the player to focus on the game without worrying too much about their character sheet. This is also less work for a DM in terms of looking up rules and spells. A new player can easily model a character off of existing fantasy tropes and end up with something impactful. Down the road, if a player wants to diversify, Martial Archetypes allow them to try new aspects of the game.

– Ken

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