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Class Consideration

What to consider when choosing your character class.

The eleven base character classes made available in the Player's Handbook cover just about everything you could wish your character to be.  However, some players look at the standard classes and wish to take a different direction.  Choosing your class is just as important as choosing your race.  Indeed, many players will not make the decisions independently but instead will make a group decision based upon makeup and need.. Inherently, some races are more adept at certain classes than others.  These factors must weigh into a player's decision making process when deciding which is the best starting class for their character.

It is often best to draw a general idea of the functions you wish your character to perform as your first step to choosing a starting class.  Players who wish to be brute force and front line force should probably choose Barbarian, Cleric, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, or Ranger.  Those wanting to lend support via spells have Cleric, Druid, Sorcerer, and Wizard to choose from.  Players wishing to fill other rolls in the party have versatile classes such as Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Ranger, Rogue, and Sorcerer to choose from.  Many classes such as Cleric and Fighter can fill many different roles depending upon the player's choices for the character.

Choices for class progression.

Even the most straightforward class can be tailored by the player to fit in other niches within the party.  A fighter who chooses his skills and feats wisely can fill in or assist the party's rogue or even stand in the rear with the spell casters raining a barrage of arrows down upon the enemy from a safe distance.  The choice of domains for a Cleric is so varied that Clerics are capable of filling any roll within the party.  Although traditionally ignored, Bards can be fantastic fighting machines as well as wondrous arcane powerhouses depending on spell and feat selections.  Although a character class traditionally fills a certain roll within a campaign, nothing stops the player from directing the progression of their character along different lines.

Feats are diverse enough that through wise selection a player may overcome a class weakness or even branch into new areas for the character's influence.  Characters can gain proficiency in any weapon by gaining a single feat, easily overcoming a limited weapon selection.  Other feats grant bonuses to skills; clever applications of these feats can grant a character abilities normally attributed to other classes.  When selecting feats for your character, read through all of the available feats and see if some of the benefits granted are to your liking.

Skill selection is extremely important as well.  The skill list for each class gives you the "standard" skills for your character, but judicious application of skill points can grant abilities to your character that are normally only considered available for multi-class characters.  Consider that a non class skill is still available for growth and skills like Heal, Hide, Move Silently, Listen, Search, Spot, and Survival are useful for all character classes.  Even Craft skills have uses that clever players can exploit for a more "real" feeling character.

Should I Multi-Class?

Although the powers granted to characters who have multiple classes are formidable, characters who have focused upon a single class often overpower these characters at higher levels.  Levels spent to gain other class benefits also may prevent a character from gaining some of the more powerful abilities of their primary class.  Through Feat and Skill selection, a player can often emulate the benefits gained by taking another class while still gaining power within their primary discipline.   

The main benefit of multi-classing is in gaining skill bonus, saving throw boosts, and access to class specific abilities.  Some players find the thought of their character having "infinite possibilities" intoxicating and will multi-class to as many as three and four classes attempting to gain an edge over other gamers.  Although a Rogue gaining a level or more in a spell casting class is vastly more formidable than average rogues of the same level, rogues who have taken careful selection of their skills, feats, and abilities are still forces to be reckoned with.  Before choosing to take another class level, first look to see if you can accomplish your goal by gaining a certain feat or building up other skills.

Magic wielding classes have another reason to think carefully before taking a different class level.  While taking a level of fighter would grant a wizard greater hit points and better weapon selection, the wizard is taking that class level at the expense of more spells and a higher caster power.  Feats can grant proficiency in a desired weapon as well as extra hit points without the sacrifice of spell potency and selection.  

Did I choose a bum class?

No.  Thankfully now there is near equality in the power and usefulness of the basic classes.  Even if you are finding that your character has skills and abilities that are not proving useful to your party, realize that situations change and what seems useless one moment may be lifesaving the next.  If you find that you are not having fun due to the fact that your abilities are not being utilized, look first to make sure that you have not specialized along a certain path to the exclusion of other abilities.  If this is not the case, then talk with your DM and make him aware of your character's unused abilities and talents.  Even if you find that you have made bad feat or skill selection along the way, look for ways to build upon them to make those choices useful.

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