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."
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Image from Curse via FiveThirtyEight​


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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.


Unserious gamer
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. :)


Jedi Master
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%
DWARF 8.7%
GNOME 4.2%

ROGUE 10.4%
MONK 7.2%
BARD 7.1%
DRUID 5.8%

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.

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. ;)


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.


Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
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.

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).

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
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Unserious gamer
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,


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.
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Unserious gamer
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.


First Post
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!")


Jedi Master
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.

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.

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