Human Fighters Most Common Race/Class Combo In D&D
  • Human Fighters Most Common Race/Class Combo In D&D


    An article by Gus Wezerek on FiveThirtyEight looks at race and class combination in D&D, using data from D&D Beyond. Wezerek suggests a reason for the popularity of human fighters: "It lets you focus on creating a good story rather than spending time flipping through rulebooks to look up spells."

    Image from Curse via FiveThirtyEight
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Fivethirtyeight Article About D&D Race and Class Combos started by Cognomen's Cassowary View original post
    Comments 175 Comments
    1. lowkey13's Avatar
      lowkey13 -
      Fascinating!

      Observations-

      The Core Four are, unsurprisingly, popular, nailing 4/5 spaces (with Barbarian edging out Cleric).

      Despite all the gnashing and rending of teeth about the Ranger, it is #6.

      The first four races are to be expected (Human, Elf, Half-Elf, Dwarf) ... then Dragonborn ... okay ... Tiefling .... GENASI? Was not expecting that. In fairness there's a huge dropoff between Tiefling and Genasi, and Genasi barely edges out Halfling.

      Druid is the least popular, by a decent margin. Okay ... but Bard, which I don't like but I understand is pretty, pretty good, is third from bottom (there isn't much daylight though, between Monk, Bard, and Sorcerer).

      Finally, 8,840 people too many chose Paladin.


      EDIT- And, of course, the boring, bland Fighter is by far the most popular. Because of course it is. Which just goes to show that the internet is not always representative of actual play.
    1. rczarnec's Avatar
      rczarnec -
      Multiclass characters count for both classes, so I wonder how many of the fighters are actually fighter dips.

      I assume that this might also prop up warlock numbers.
    1. lowkey13's Avatar
      lowkey13 -
      Further thoughts-

      Limitations on the data set:
      I don't know how representative this subset (people who use D&D Beyond) is of the overall playerbase.

      I am unclear how multiclassing might factor into this (those who choose a class for one or a few levels to start with).


      That said-

      General race observations:

      The Gygaxian model (humans primary, and, okay, some elves and dwarves and half-humans) seems to continue to hold. Humans, Elves, Half-elves, and Dwarves are the four most popular, and in aggregate, a commanding majority.

      Counterpoint- despite the grognard dislike of the new races, Dragonborn, Tieflings, and Genasi are all more popular than halflings and half-orcs.


      General optimization observations:

      It would seem that many players specifically plan the race/class combos. Tieflings are Warlocks and Sorcerers. Aarakocra are monks. And so on. But while you see the trends, there's also a healthy smattering of all races in all classes. More math would be needed, but I would eyeball it as something many people do, but less than I had feared. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


      General class design observations:

      There are many threads here about class design. That the Ranger and Fighter are bad designs. That the Paladin, Bard, and Monk are good designs (for what they are trying to accomplish). I think that what I'm seeing is that many people care less than we do about whether or not a class is all it can be (or "properly designed") and just want to play a class because it is what it is.
    1. TwoSix -
      Quote Originally Posted by lowkey13 View Post
      Counterpoint- despite the grognard dislike of the new races, Dragonborn, Tieflings, and Genasi are all more popular than halflings and half-orcs.
      Reminds me of WoW race selection tendencies, people just avoid the races that are ugly and/or short. Even in a tabletop game where you can't see them.
    1. OB1's Avatar
      OB1 -
      Quote Originally Posted by lowkey13 View Post
      There are many threads here about class design. That the Ranger and Fighter are bad designs. That the Paladin, Bard, and Monk are good designs (for what they are trying to accomplish). I think that what I'm seeing is that many people care less than we do about whether or not a class is all it can be (or "properly designed") and just want to play a class because it is what it is.
      Great observations all around, and I quoted the above for truth.

      One other observation I had is that when it comes to class, the more straighforward the class is the more popular it is. Bards, Sorcerers and Druids require a fair degree of work from the player, where fighters and rogues are pretty simple to run and are chosen nearly 25% of the time. The core 4 are chosen 40% of the time as a whole.

      Additionally, I wonder how much the fact that certain choices are free to use and others require a purchase comes into play in the numbers.

      I've listed the results as a percentage of the total below for easy of comparison.

      HUMAN 23.1%
      ELF 15.1%
      HALF-ELF 9.6%
      DWARF 8.7%
      DRAGONBORN 7.5%
      TIEFLING 7.0%
      GENASI 5.5%
      HALFLING 5.4%
      HALF-ORC 4.6%
      GNOME 4.2%
      GOLIATH 4.1%
      AARAKOCRA 3.5%
      AASIMAR 1.6%

      FIGHTER 12.7%
      ROGUE 10.4%
      WIZARD 9.0%
      BARBARIAN 8.3%
      CLERIC 8.3%
      RANGER 8.1%
      PALADIN 8.1%
      WARLOCK 8.0%
      MONK 7.2%
      BARD 7.1%
      SORCERER 6.9%
      DRUID 5.8%
    1. Tony Vargas -
      Quote Originally Posted by Cognomen's Cassowary View Post
      Wezerek suggests a slightly silly reason for the popularity of human fighters: human because they get +1 to everything, and fighters because they let you focus on storytelling over mechanics. He doesn't even broach the subject of the variant human and its potentially game-breaking fighter synergy in combat.
      Heh. "Focus on storytelling over mechanics?" Wow.

      Fighter - well, two PH sub-classes of fighter - is about the only class option to represent the lion's share of heroes from the broader fantasy genre, be it fiction, myth or legend, book, film or TV.
      Of course a lot of people play it.

      Quote Originally Posted by lowkey13 View Post
      And, of course, the boring, bland Fighter is by far the most popular. Because of course it is. Which just goes to show that the internet is not always representative of actual play.
      It is precisely because the fighter covers so many common, familiar, popular, and relatable fantasy archetypes that it's mechanical shortcomings are such a big issue - and why they remain un-solved for so long ("it can't be that bad, people keep playing it!").

      Likewise, human is, necessarily, the most familiar, relatable race. All players being reasonably human - no matter what mundanes may say about us nerds being from other planets.
    1. lowkey13's Avatar
      lowkey13 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post

      It is precisely because the fighter covers so many common, familiar, popular, and relatable fantasy archetypes that it's mechanical shortcomings are such a big issue - and why they remain un-solved for so long ("it can't be that bad, people keep playing it!").
      So, I'm going to throw this out there.

      Just, maybe, try this on.

      Perhaps the things about the fighter that appeal to so many ("people keep playing it") just aren't appealing to you, and that's ... okay?

      Maybe if they changed the fighter in ways that appeal to you, then so many people wouldn't play it?

      This isn't an argument from popularity; there are popular things that (IMO) aren't good, and unpopular things that are (IMO) good. But, given that there are numerous options, including other official classes, UA, 3PP, and homebrew ... perhaps there comes a time when you think to yourself, "Hey, I think that New Coke tastes better, but maybe they have a good reason for sticking with the formula."
    1. flametitan's Avatar
      flametitan -
      That said, We don't know how many of these characters are actually characters intended to be played or just for messing around with in D&D Beyond.
    1. Blue's Avatar
      Blue -
      They don't differentiate between "characters getting played" and "character builds I'm playing around with". I'll often build out sample characters at a few levels to see if they work mechanically - something successful, sometimes not, sometimes too successful for my normal table. But that's a big difference between what I'm playing because I find it interesting.

      This is likely not inherent in the data in any way, but if they track XP over time they can probably see it. Any that the XP/level never changes, or ones where the XP is only at a few set points, often jumping more than one level, are most likely theoretical builds.
    1. lowkey13's Avatar
      lowkey13 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Blue View Post
      They don't differentiate between "characters getting played" and "character builds I'm playing around with". I'll often build out sample characters at a few levels to see if they work mechanically - something successful, sometimes not, sometimes too successful for my normal table. But that's a big difference between what I'm playing because I find it interesting.

      This is likely not inherent in the data in any way, but if they track XP over time they can probably see it. Any that the XP/level never changes, or ones where the XP is only at a few set points, often jumping more than one level, are most likely theoretical builds.
      These are valid points. There are certainly limitations with the data set, and further information is always helpful.

      I would point out, however, that this closely matches the information that WoTC released regarding their surveys in 2016. Almost frighteningly so-

      http://dnd.wizards.com/articles/feat...esults-summary

      Highlights-

      The released information perfectly matches the races, with the same top 5 races in the same order, Aarakocra bringing up the rear (in this, now joined by the more recent Aasimar), and Tiefling following Dragonborn closely.

      The classes ... eh, not quite as much, although it also identified the Core Four doing well (although Cleric was 2, instead of 5), and Druid as the least popular.

      The only real surprise from this data, IMO, is the over-representation of the Barbarian, and, perhaps, the Cleric falling to 5.
    1. Tony Vargas -
      Quote Originally Posted by Blue View Post
      This is likely not inherent in the data in any way, but if they track XP over time they can probably see it. Any that the XP/level never changes, or ones where the XP is only at a few set points, often jumping more than one level, are most likely theoretical builds.
      My intuition is that those experimental 'builds' would probably not be single-class fighters (there's not a lot to experiment with).

      Quote Originally Posted by lowkey13 View Post
      This isn't an argument from popularity
      What, the argument that lost of people play fighters, so it can't possibly be overly generic or mechanically inferior or 'boring' or any of the various other things it's been accused of?

      Sounds like a fair example of an appeal to popularity.

      there are popular things that aren't good, and unpopular things that are good.
      That's right, illustrating that popular necessarily implies good is a fallacy.

      ... perhaps there comes a time when you think to yourself, "Hey, I think that New Coke tastes better, but maybe they have a good reason for sticking with the formula."
      Then you remind yourself, oh yeah, ad populum is a fallacy, popularity doesn't affect how things actually taste, so keep drinking what you like.

      (Personally, I don't much care for any formulation of Coke - without plenty of rum...)

      For another example, millions of people really enjoy smoking, but, it actually does contribute to emphysema (I think they call it COPD, these days, actually) and lung cancer. Even tobacco companies don't try to spin that as "perhaps people like smoking because it helps free them from the burden of retirement planning..."


      And, frankly, it's a good thing unpopularity doesn't mean something bad, because D&D, would be provably terrible if that were the case. ;P
    1. TwoSix -
      Quote Originally Posted by lowkey13 View Post
      Perhaps the things about the fighter that appeal to so many ("people keep playing it") just aren't appealing to you, and that's ... okay?

      Maybe if they changed the fighter in ways that appeal to you, then so many people wouldn't play it?
      I don't think that's necessarily true. I'm pretty sure surveys showed that the 4e fighter was also the most popular class during 4e's run, and the 4e fighter was probably the polar opposite of the 5e fighter in complexity and design goals. I think the fighter's enduring popularity is simply a case of generic beating specific; vanilla is the most popular ice cream flavor because it's good on its own AND because it can mix and match with almost everything else. Fighter is what you use when you want race, or background, or a roleplaying hook you like to be at the forefront, and you want a strong but basic framework in the background.

      And that's isn't a knock on the fighter! A generic framework is good! Complexity can be added on via other mechanisms; a simple mechanical core for a class is best,
    1. Mephista's Avatar
      Mephista -
      I'm surprised elf beat out half-elf. I see so many people taking half-elf for the power of it over other options. That said, elf is the quinsential wizard / druid / ranger / arcane trickster / eldritch knight option, so its not too big a surprise there. I'm honestly surprised on dwarf, however. That got a much larger return than I expected.

      tiefling warlocks are a big thing, no surprise - the phb version is pretty much warlock built only. Dragonborn paladin, with a minor in sorcerer and fighter, likewise no surprise; despite the writer showing surprise, it was actually one of the big dragon things since 3e. Halfling is primarily rogue (no surprise) with a touch of bard, but still surprised that elf beat out halflings at their own game.

      Gensasi, are definitely a dark horse here. Most especially for the very wide spread - now, I know there's four sub-races, but still! That's a nice spread.

      Gnomes... we got some rogues (presumably arcane tricksters), wizards, and bards as main, but far less than elves in all three categories. Gnome paladin gets very few hits. ^^ Perhaps in the future, there will be more gnome artificers, but now? It seems that gnomes aren't as popular as other races, even in their forte.

      The only less popular races are Aasimar (because of DMG spot? clearly doesn't have Volo races atm) and non-genasi EE races. Genasi, given its popularity in other games, likely gets a bump, but the rest are ignored in favor of core races.


      Honestly, I think the writer of the article shows some ignorance over the why human fighters are popular - while they are simple, its also a case that many people think of free feat + fighter is one of the most powerful melee options in the game, and people like their warriors. A very simple and powerful option. Spellcasters don't benefit from feats nearly as much.
    1. TwoSix -
      Quote Originally Posted by lowkey13 View Post
      The only real surprise from this data, IMO, is the over-representation of the Barbarian, and, perhaps, the Cleric falling to 5.
      Barbarian might be overpopulated simply because it's alphabetically first. I made one test character in Beyond, and it was a Barbarian simply because it was the option on top.
    1. ro's Avatar
      ro -
      It's worth noting that Human is the most straightforward race and Fighter sounds like the simplest class to pick up for new players or people jumping into a game. I would guess that the complexity of spellcasting moves people toward the martial-focused classes. Those classes may be weaker in the long run, but they are easier to start with.

      The big exception is Wizards, which are so central as an archetype that they are frequently attempted, unlike the other full casters. (Clerics get attention, but my guess it is a simple, "I can fight and heal people!")
    1. lowkey13's Avatar
      lowkey13 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
      My intuition is that those experimental 'builds' would probably not be single-class fighters (there's not a lot to experiment with).

      What, the argument that lost of people play fighters, so it can't possibly be overly generic or mechanically inferior or 'boring' or any of the various other things it's been accused of?

      Sounds like a fair example of an appeal to popularity.
      No, I appreciate your position, so it would be pleasant if you could understand the positions of other people.

      Everyone who participates in these forums knows that you desire more complex martial options, up to and including the class that shall not be named. That's fine! That is a perfectly reasonable desire!

      What you fail to understand is that there are a large number of people who 100% do not want this. They want a generic "boring" fighter. How do I know this? Because in addition to the multiple surveys, in addition to the many people who have told you this, I play with these people.

      They want to hit stuff. I have DM'd multiple Champions and a few Barbarians. I have yet to have a player pick a Battlemaster, because they don't want to do that. That doesn't mean that I'm going to go around and say that the Battlemaster (and, by extension, and martially complex character) is useless, because I understand that different people have different preferences.

      It would be a pleasure if you would recognize the preferences of other people as well. Given the multiple strands of evidence that we have, including people telling you this, my own anecdotal evidence, surveys from WoTC, and statistics of gameplay, it would be nice if you weren't dismissive of other people's preferences if you want the same respect accorded to yours. Jus' sayin'.

      Even if you think we are all simplistic morons that have a hankerin' for boring game play, that's what some of us want. I hope you get what you want out of this as well!
    1. OB1's Avatar
      OB1 -
      Quote Originally Posted by lowkey13 View Post
      The only real surprise from this data, IMO, is the over-representation of the Barbarian, and, perhaps, the Cleric falling to 5.
      I think we may be seeing two trends happening here both related to the core audience of 5e being a more casual gamer.

      One is in regards to the difficulty in playing full casters, where 3 out of 5 take up the bottom positions. Wizard may be buoyed as the default option for the more dedicated player in a group and also benefits iconic representation in popular culture (including Harry Potter) and has a power set well suited to overcome many challenges. Whereas the Cleric has less representation and the need for it's skill set (particularly healing) isn't as prominent in 5e.

      As for the rise of the Barbarian, it is perhaps the ultimate class for the casual player, even more so than the Fighter given it's robustness in battle and the ease of understanding it's mechanics. It's made for new players.
    1. Tony Vargas -
      Quote Originally Posted by lowkey13 View Post
      No, I appreciate your position, so it would be pleasant if you could understand the positions of other people.
      I /do/ understand the position of "it's popular so it's good," I just also understand that it's fallacious.

      Everyone who participates in these forums knows that you desire more complex martial options, up to and including the class that shall not be named. That's fine! That is a perfectly reasonable desire!
      It's funny that you can, in the same breath, say it's OK, but not actually bring yourself to type 'Warlord.' Obviously, it's very, very not-OK.

      What you fail to understand is that
      Wrong again.
      there are a large number of people who 100% do not want this. They want a generic "boring" fighter.
      Which is an odd point, because wanting the one need in no way deny the other.
    1. Mistwell's Avatar
      Mistwell -
      This data lines up pretty close with data from a year and a half ago on race and class popularity as well.
    1. lowkey13's Avatar
      lowkey13 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
      I /do/ understand the position of "it's popular so it's good," I just also understand that it's fallacious.
      Okay, you went there.

      Let's go back again, shall we? This is what I wrote-

      "Perhaps the things about the fighter that appeal to so many ("people keep playing it") just aren't appealing to you, and that's ... okay?

      Maybe if they changed the fighter in ways that appeal to you, then so many people wouldn't play it?"


      Now, you are being dismissive, again, because of the tired trope of improperly appropriating internet argument memes that aren't correct, even when I expressly stated I wasn't using it (and even though there is a difference between formal and informal logic, but whatever, man). But let's unpack this for you-

      A. The fighter is good because so many people like it.

      B. A lot of people like the fighter, so it has something appealing about it, even if that doesn't appeal to you.

      Do you understand the difference? Just maybe? There are all sorts of reasons that something can be "bad" and popular, or "good" and popular (your proper argument, had you been so inclined, would be path dependency; see @TwoSix ); this was just a simple statement that for all of your complaints, people still seem to like the class. I wasn't making a dispositive argument as to whether complex or simple was objectively better, I was just pointing out that maybe your preferences aren't the majority.

      But sure, toss in ad hominem and straw man and anything else you vaguely remember.

      It's funny that you can, in the same breath, say it's OK, but not actually bring yourself to type 'Warlord.' Obviously, it's very, very not-OK.
      I would think that you, of all people, would remember that I started doing that as a joke when they removed the Warlord threads to a sub-forum. Sorry, was that a strawman? Humor, man, it's hard.

      Wrong again. Which is an odd point, because wanting the one need in no way deny the other.
      It's always pleasant when someone makes a post asking another person to consider that other people might have different preferences, they get a response of, "Wrong again."
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