Dungeons and Dragons

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Dungeons and Dragons (D&D, and original Dungeons & Dragons is informally "OD&D") is a pencil & paper roleplaying game and is considered to be one of the first, if not "the" first, roleplaying game ever published. The original Rogue is considered to be essentially a dungeon crawl game of the style that was (and still is) commonplace in RPGs. There are many editions of D&D (see also Wikipedia's Editions of Dungeons & Dragons).

Statistics Overview

Characters in Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) possess six primary attributes:

Strength (STR)
How strong the character is; how much they can carry, and a bonus to attack and damage.
Dexterity (DEX)
How agile the character is; how good they are at dodging attacks, bonuses to attack with ranged weapons.
Constitution (CON)
How healthy the character is, bonuses to hit points.
Wisdom (WIS)
How wise the character is, affects perception.
Intelligence (INT)
How intelligent the character is, how much they can understand, and how much they know already.
Charisma (CHA)
Ostensibly the character's appearance, but also the character's leadership abilities and force of personality, creativity, and strength of spirit, etc. It has been said that the players aren't the only ones using CHA as a dump stat...

Characters generally begin with stats between 3 and 18; as rolling three six-sided dice was the recommended method of determining attributes in earlier editions, later editions prefer point-buy.

Additional statistics include:

  • Hit Points (HP)
  • Armor Class (AC)
  • Movement Rate (MV)
  • Attack Bonus (AB)

Classes Overview

All characters in the current version of D&D are required to take levels in classes, each class defines numerous intrinsics of a characters, such as attacks, hit point gain, spell-casting ability (or lack thereof), etc. In older versions, a character simply had a class (or was dual-classed, or non-humans were multi-classed) and advanced in levels with characters very rarely changing their class.

D&D from 3rd edition on (actually 6th distinct edition excluding AD&D, but 3rd named edition, and successor to Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, AD&D, 2nd ed., AD&D2) itself sorts classes into two groups: 'base' classes and 'prestige' Classes (PrC).
The following categories are intended more for the sake of study than having anything to do with how D&D choses to refer to them.

The Core Four

All of D&D's base classes can be considered to represent one of these four in some sense. The classes in this category are also the basis of the D&D 'standard party', four members, representing each of the four archetypes (at least in AD&D and on, but in regular/classic D&D, races were classes, until separated in AD&D).

They were called "Fighting-man" in the original D&D set, then the more neutral terms "Fighter" in later classic, and "Warrior" in AD&D2 and perhaps on. Soldiers, fighters, and back-alley brawlers. They do one thing and they do it well.
Specifically intended to represent thieves (as in the classic then AD&D 1st ed., AD&D1 term, then "Rogue" in AD&D2), and more generally survivalists, and jack-of-all-trades.
Divine spell-caster.
Clerics ("Priests" from AD&D2 and perhaps on) have the ability to cast a respectable selection of spells, with notably more defensive effects. They can Turn Undead and are one of the few classes to have access to healing magic possessing "Spontaneous Healing," the ability to turn any prepared spell into a healing spell of the same level. (Some argue that since the Cleric has one of the best hit dice, quite respectable weapon proficiencies and the ability to use heavy armor, that they don't really count as a pure spell-caster, and thus, D&D doesn't really have a pure divine caster.)
Arcane spell-caster.
Magic-users (Wizards/Mages from AD&D2 and perhaps on) are the archetypal spell-casters we have all come to know and love. They are intelligent and knowledgeable, sometimes wizened scholars, sometimes crazed lunatics, but always powerful.
In addition to the obvious ability to cast spells, Mages also have one of the widest selections of skills (mostly knowledge skills), and are commonly multilingual. In some editions they gain a "familiar": an animal-like creature that agrees to help and protect the mage.

Variant Classes

These classes can be considered to be variations of the above four types.

Variant Thief
An assassin has weaker rogue skills but has assassination and greater backstab skills. This was removed in AD&D2 but was still compatible (as were earlier editions in general, with minor changes) if you had 1st ed. books.
Variant Fighter
The barbarian is a version of a fighter, as if plucked from some wandering tribe. The barbarian is the only class with better hit dice than fighters (d12 vs. d10), but they are restricted to medium armor or less. They also gain the ability to "Rage", which temporarily increases their combat ability.
Variant Fighter
A cavalier is a version of a fighter described in the original Unearthed Arcana.
The barbarian is a version of a fighter, as if plucked from some wandering tribe. The barbarian is the only class with better hit dice than fighters (d12 vs. d10), but they are restricted to medium armor or less. They
Variant Cleric
Essentially a cleric, The does not have "Spontaneous Healing" (something in later editions, though healing spells remain part of their spell selection) and the ability to Turn Undead, but gain Animal Empathy (the ability to speak with and befriend animals), an animal companion, and a number of nature-oriented bonuses. Some of the more divine-themed spells are replaced with more nature and elemental spells.
Variant Fighter
In classic D&D and AD&D1, these were monks, and in 1980s regular D&D (unnumbered 5th ed. on, "BECMI") these were a somewhat different class, Mystics. Based on the notion of martial artists and Asian "warrior monks," the monk is a skilled fighter with spiritual overtones, generally fighting unarmed and unarmored.
Variant Thief
Ninja is an AD&D1 & 2 editions class that appeared in Oriental Adventures then the AD&D2 The Complete Ninja's Handbook as an optional class.
Variant Magic-user/Wizard (later editions)
Sorcerers are a 3rd edition class that have the ability to spontaneously cast spells (they are freed of the requirement of preparing spells, though they still "use" slots to cast spells) and have more spell slots than a mage, but pay for this in a vastly reduced spell selection; they have both a shorter list of spells they could possibly learn, and are restricted to knowing only a few spells of each level.

Hybrid Classes

These classes combine features of classes considered above.

Fighter/Thief/Druid or (in later editions) Rogue/Sorcerer
In AD&D, a Bard starts out as a fighter and rogue, and later gains druid abilities. In some later version of D&D, a bard is as follows. A bard does not have many of the skills that make the rogue great, and has a watered down form of sorcery. A bard also gains access some healing magic and can "sing" to boost not only their own abilities, but the abilities of all allies in the immediate area. With skill, the bard can also demoralize the enemy (which reduces their abilities).
Fighter/Magic-user/Druid, with a dash of Rogue
Rangers are not as skilled in combat as straight fighters, nor as good at spell-casting as druids, but they have respectable synergies, and no fighter can say "no" to the ability to cast healing and nature spells. Rangers are no slouches at stealth either.
Paladins combine the fighter's hit points and skilled attack with the ability to Turn Undead and innate healing ability, but only limited cleric-like spell-casting. In later editions of D&D that use feats, they have fewer combat feats than straight fighters.
A Thief-Acrobat is a "split-class" character in the original Unearthed Arcana using the prime requisites of both rogue and fighter.

Oriental Adventures Classes

The original AD&D Oriental Adventures had 10 classes: Oriental Barbarian (fighter-type?), Bushi (fighter-type), Kensai (sword specialist fighter-type), Monk, Ninja, Samurai (fighter-type), Shukenja (cleric-type), Sohei (fighter-/cleric-type?), Wu Jen (magician-type), Yakuza (fighter-/rogue-type?). Most were versions, variants, or hybrids of the classic or advanced classes, and some may be completely unique.

Classic Optional Core & Race, Variant, Hybrid, Kit, Other Classes

OD&D through AD&D2 had other core, hybrid, variant, and other classes (also on Wikipedia List of alternative Dungeons & Dragons classes ), described in obscure books, books set in worlds, and official and quasi-official magazine articles. Before AD&D2, OD&D introduced, in extra books, Thieves, Paladins, Assassins, Monks, Druids, Rangers, Illusionists, Bards, Dervishes, Dwarf-Clerics, Halfling Masters, tens of monsters/humanoids sometimes with core class abilities, Shamans, Foresters, Rakes, Wiccas, and, for characters that got to the highest level and completed quest for immortality, the Immortal class (AD&D1 had "divine ascension" but then you stopped playing the character.) AD&D2 may have had 100+ optional classes, some of which were their own classes, and others which were "kit classes" of an altered core class. AD&D 1st or 2nd ed. Legends & Lore core rulebook introduced the Ascetic and Pious Knight. AD&D2 core classes include Chronomancers, tens of sages & specialists, other skill-based & magician classes, Barbarian Fighters, specialist Druids, Psionicists, various world-based (historical Earth, and fantasy) classes, and hundreds of "kit classes". Abundance of classes became the norm for officially numbered D&D 3rd ed. and later.

Magic in Dungeons & Dragons

Whereas most games systems opt to use mana-based spell-casting systems where one selects spells at the time of casting, paying for the spell-casting with points of "mana", D&D originally used a slot-based system, but has specialist classes in AD&D (which arguably later edition magicians would be grouped under) and spell points in AD&D2 later optional core rule books.

Essentially, the character is granted a number of "slots," each slot can be used to cast a spell of only a specific level. As a character gains experience they are granted additional slots but also access to higher level slots (and thus, higher level spells). In addition, most classes must prepare spells into these slots before they can be cast, ostensibly just after waking up.

Thus a beginning spell-caster might have a single, 1st level slot, whereas a slightly more experienced mage might have 3 1st level slots, 2 2nd level slots, and one 3rd level slot.

Arcane and Divine magic

Magic in D&D is divided into two groups: arcane and divine. Arcane magic is what one generally thinks of when thinking of wizards, magic that is the result of the caster's skill and knowledge. Arcanists enjoy the freedom to use their magic as they see fit, but can only cast spells they have scribed into their spellbook (perhaps until later editions). They also tend to be hampered by armor, since it restricts their movement.

Divine magic is essentially D&D's prayer system, and covers magic channeled from another force (generally, but not always, deities). Divine "spells" are considered to be divinely inspired during meditation or prayer (as appropriate). Divinists enjoy the ability to prepare any spell in their god's sphere, and the ability to use armor without impediment, but must abide by the tenets of their belief or be stripped of some or all of their power.