5E Fivethirtyeight Article About D&D Race and Class Combos
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    Fivethirtyeight Article About D&D Race and Class Combos

    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."
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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%
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    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.
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    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."

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    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.
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    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.

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