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5E What class looked bad "on paper" but you found suprisingly good in play?


While theory is good, there is always that time where the rubber hits the road, and sometimes the theory holds up, and sometimes your pleasantly surprised that it exceeded your expectations.

What class did you look at in the book and go "eh....it doesn't look that great". But when you actually saw it in game, it was very good?

For my group, it was the barbarian. On paper it looked "ok", a decent fighter type with good tanking and decent damage, but nothing really special. My players who are often spellcaster heavy kind of scoffed at the "simple class".

But having seen barbarians in play all the way up to 20th level... they are AWESOME!

1) They DO NOT DIE. It was clear that on paper they were a "tank", but there tankiness is just incredible in play. The resistance to weapons can double their hp in certain fights, and its very noticeable against creatures with good to hit rolls. High AC is nice but its swingy, sometimes it does well, and sometimes you become a pancake. But no matter what, the barbarian keeps on swinging. And at higher levels this becomes even more noticeable.

I've seen players that were normally conservative in combat just go to town with a barbarian, running forward and diving into danger. Just last session one of my players who was 400 ft away from the action decided that this would not do, and so rode a ballista bolt into battle!

2) Great Damage. At first you look at the rage bonus and go "that's it?", and you think that barbs don't do a lot of damage. However, the real trick is reckless attack. With advantage on basically all attack rolls, you are hitting more often AND getting more crits. Its very noticeable when you see it used frequently.

3) The power of athletics. This is where the freedom of 5e combat can hold hidden power within a class. The barbarian is almost always going to have a 20 strength and advantage on strength checks....aka a very good athletics check. And once you get that check to a certain level, it opens up a lot of options. I've had barbs grapple and throw people off of cliffs, grab magic items from casters and smash them in front of their faces, rip down key support pillars to have terrain smash down on foes, etc. When you have a godly athletics and your opponent does not, a creative player can really get in their face and abuse it.

4) Immunity to Charm is great. Ok, not a barbarian core power, but my group still remembers the time the Barbarian got "charmed" by a dragon, made his bluff to make the dragon think it was charmed, which let him get right up to the dragon and just beat the crap out of it. Immunities are always useful in the hands of a good DM and creative player, and considering that immunity to charm removes one of the barbs greatest weaknesses (the risk the barb is turned against the party), it went from a "that's nice" ability, to a "omg this is a amazing" one.

So what classes surprised you when you saw them in play?

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Honestly, none of them. If anything I found it to be the opposite, where it looked good on paper, but played terribly (ranger and monk). I will say several sub-classes surprised me, especially the land druid.

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