People like the most boring characters in Dungeons & Dragons

The most popular character race and class combination is the dull human fighter. The old sword and board, hacking away like a lumberjack at a log pile. The next most popular character type is, of course, the elf ranger. Lots of Drizzt and Legolas out there.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Back in May I decided to try an experiment over in the Table Talk section, discussing unusual character concepts. The ideas were received so well that I thought I’d give them their own section. The Fourth major weekly installment, this page will be home to all my unusual character concepts. If you see something you like then please, take it and run with it!


The Farmer Ranger

Most folks don’t think too much of Old Man Prichard. Sure, he raises some of the best vegetable crops in the valley, and his long-tooth hound Brutus is a near-legendary beast among the wee ones who’ve tried to steal from his apple orchard, but he’s just another old-timer. He comes down from his place with his walking staff in hand, and a satchel that always has a few berries nestled next to his pipe, and he has a pint or two at the local inn. He always knows where to find the best tobacco hereabouts, and he’s wood wise enough that other farmers listen when he talks. He takes no guff, either, and his thick-knuckled hands can still shoot arrows straight as he sees.

The Pill-Popping Paladin

Farran had cleaned the blood from his sword, and smoothed the nicks from the blade with a whetstone. He washed the sweat and stink from his body. He polished his armor and shield until they shone, and the dents from the day’s battle were little more than irregularities in the steel skins. He said his prayers. When all was said and done, though, he could not banish the sound of the demon’s roar from his mind. The madness in its gaze, and the hunger as it tore at his shield even as ichor spilled across the temple’s floor, were seared into his mind like a brand. He raised his pipe, lit it, and breathed deep.

Not me. I was always the guy that liked the word stuff: Paladins, bards, monks, dwarves priests, flamingly gay gnome illusionists, etc.

We had some fun discussing this on the Qt3 Slack, and I’ve been talking about my chargen principles a lot with friends here lately, since I’m actually getting to play in more campaigns than I run right now for the first time, quite literally, ever.

My current slate of characters:

One is for “New Guard,” one of the Semi-Organized Play large group campaigns the local RPG outfit runs. It’s basically superhero high school using the Mutants and Masterminds 3rd Ed system, and I’m playing my same character from last year, Bobby “Twilight” Cooper, the son of an AEGIS (read: SHIELD) agent who died in the line of duty when he was Bobby 12. He understandably got super depressed and got into his dad’s old goth-themed movies and albums in the attic to maintain some connection with him. His powerset is basically just Goth Kid on Steroids. He “sold his soul” to a “demon” (made a pact with an ambitious evil Fae noble) for his powers, including his indestructible magic leather jacket, which is totally the jacket Brandon Lee was wearing when he died on the set of The Crow. He got a certificate from the guy on eBay saying so! Other powers include the ability to sprout black angel wings, drain the joy from anyone nearby to make them nearly comatose, and play The Crow soundtrack at will. Occasionally he gets “taken by the Twilight darkness” and demons out fullscale with claws and everything.

Another is Kyroo Dabian, for a Starfinder space-fantasy campaign. Kyroo was a researcher for a popular travelogue multi-vis program when the show’s star fell ill on one of the crazy planets he was traveling to and couldn’t film the episode. The producers noticed that Kyroo seemed reasonably charismatic and well-informed and threw him in front of a greenscreen and told him to spout facts. He wound up being a hit with the viewership and kept on doing just that for a couple of years, becoming the most famous fraud in showbiz, somewhere between The Crocodile Hunter and Gilderoy Lockhart. Recently, a badly injured Starfinder (the setting’s “explorers for the sake of knowledge and the good of all!” organization) crash-landed into his penthouse apartment and begged for his help in finding a dangerous artifact in the nearby jungle. The heroic Starfinder died in the process, and, overwhelmed by guilt and the desire to actually do something with his life, Kyroo’s been talked into joining the Starfinder Society. Of course, they don’t know all his famous travels and explorations were a sham. . . and neither does the party of green Starfinders he’s been assigned to.

Finally, for a long-running home game in a setting my friends and I designed called Abirsta (it’s ultra-gonzo, what-the-fuck style high fantasy with airships, a slumbering dragon god imprisoned beneath the ice, and a race of fashion designer satyrs controlling most of one of the continents), I’m running my character Scratch, a teenaged Tinkaroon (think mechanically adept red pandas living in the lava floodplains of a world-darkening supervolcano) with a chip on his shoulder. He left home on his “Invention Quest” (every Tinkaroon’s gotta find or invent something useful to their tribe to become an adult) three years early due to a misunderstanding with his parents and has grown up on the streets with a nasty attitude as a result. Still, at heart, he’s a kid desperate for acceptance and acknowledgment, and mostly just lacks impulse control rather than a truly dark heart. Oh, and he’s got a giant, electrified spanner that he’s very not afraid of conking you with if you get uppity or call him a Scrap Panda.

I recently told some friends that my two overwhelming goals when first designing a character are to make someone who A) Helps the party out, even in an unconventional way (Kyroo is a fantastic Bard-style battlefield inspirer; Bobby is a wicked debuffer with his sadness aura, and Scratch can build and weaponize anything), and B) makes me laugh and happy to get inside the head of. But I only stick with the characters I can find some real depth in and discover room to grow for. Bobby’s all about that quest to get over the loss of his dad and become is own man. Kyroo’s all about the dangerous of curiosity and idolizing the spirit of exploration. Scratch is all about trying to fit into the world and grow up.

I think a Human Fighter can do all that as much as anything. . . but then again, I strongly prefer roleplay-heavy tables compared to those where all that matters about your character is how high their saves and to-hit are :)

Those are not D&D races.

5E: Elemental Evil Player’s Companion and Volo’s Guide to Monsters

Sir I do protest. Those have been extant as playable options in the fantasy adventure roleplaying game “Dungeons and Dragons” since Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition, in Planescape and The Complete Book of Humanoids respectively.

I do personally try to avoid tropey archetypes in my character creation. I’m in a game at work where I’m playing a half-orc druid commie. My interactions with nobility tend to be interesting.

Aasimar are fairly new. They’re also mostly interesting.

Aarakocra are… kind of mechanically broken. Sure, your first level dude can fucking fly. Oh and it’s faster flight than most things. At first level. What do they give up for the most powerful ability any race as ever had ever?

Literally nothing. They get stats on par with everything else, no weaknesses. Just wear no or light armor and enjoy breaking the low-level experience for everyone else. Hell, get a longbow and make any outdoor encounter not exist. “I fly 450 feet above them and kill them all.” If you’re dungeon crawling they’re fine, but that’s pretty lame on every level. “Sure your a cool bird dude, but I’m never going to let you fly or anything. Enjoy your birdness.”

Fortunately they’re bird and who the hell wants to play some bird?

On the actual subject, I rarely play either of the most popular things. Almost never if I can help it and if I do it’s always some strange concept. The last time I quasi-played a Fighter I realized that my concept was far better with Monk and regretted it. That said Fighters can be not-boring in 5e for once, though there is the option for a boring version where you just crit more or whatever.

My old D&D group never set foot in another brothel after I, as the DM, introduced them to a guild of gay illusionists.

In the predecessor game to the Abirsta campaign I mentioned above (this group of people is just fuckin’ weird, man, but I love 'em to bits), we were investigating a series of cult-related murders, including a high-end, extraordinarily well-endowed Elven prostitute at a sort of alt-lifestyle sort of bar/brothel who had, um, a lot of piercings. Solid gold piercings. For reasons beyond fathoming, the ranger painstakingly removed these, including a substantial Prince Albert, for resale.

Out of either guilt or murderhobo malice, we wound up animating the corpse as a zombie that worked for us for the rest of the campaign. The GM particularly enjoyed calculating the value of the Elf’s rather significant, ah, “slam” attack.

You haven’t lived until you’ve tricked a harpy into flying headlong into a tree with a phantasmal force of boys frolicking in a pond.

I would challenge the headline. Yes, human fighter is the most commonly used combination, accounting for 4.9% of the 100,000 combinations tallied. On the other hand, that means over 95% of race class combinations aren’t a human fighter. Is it really a failure of imagination that there are only 143 half orc wizards? Or, do some people like returning to the classics when they don’t wan to be embarrassed by mispronouncing Aarakocra.

I have an Elven Ranger, mainly because the racials go well together.

I also have a Golath Barbarian.

Sometimes you just have to play beige.

They do make the distinction that the human bonuses to traits may be affecting this.

Are there still class minimums? I would tend to play a paladin, but that 17 charisma requirement always made it tough to roll one who could also be a good fighter /tank.

I’d say this comes from the hope that the world would be unfamiliar, fantastic, surprising. Then it makes sense that you want to be just a simple strong guy working on a force of will and doing earthly stuff. I bet that in games that are set in some sort of urban fantasy setting (i.e. our world but there are secret mages and vampires) people go all the way into the weird stuff because they are not afraid to be overloaded with weirdness, there are always familiar modern city things around.

Plus, of course, there are mechanics. Once you open list of spells available to even level 1 mage you become overwhelmed. And I suspect rules do not tell you that you should really take Magic Missile and Sleep (or you had to in 3E).

Anyone who’s ever DM’d knows why the “most popular” character combos are human fighter and elf ranger. It’s because those are the combos you give to both new players and fringe players. Never played D&D before? Fine, you’re a fighter, here’s your character sheet. You like hitting things, go with it! Want to create your own character but don’t know where to start? Well, what was your favorite character from the Lord of the Rings movies? (Mmmm, not Gandalf, wizards are too complicated. How about Legolas? Everyone likes Legolas!)

Those human fighters and elf rangers aren’t the rabid, deeply engaged, life-long players. They’re the DM’s roommate, or your college buddy’s S.O. or the guy from work who saw Stranger Things and wants to give D&D a try. And good for them: new players are how the hobby keeps on going after more than 40 years.

Also, I feel that backgrounds add a lot of texture to even the most vanilla human fighter. Backgrounds aren’t new to RPGs or D&D, and they don’t necessarily have too much of an effect on higher level characters, but they can really differentiate a new character. Two human fighters might be in the same party, but the fighter that was a soldier, noble, or folk hero will look and behave differently than the fighter that was a charlatan, sage, or sailor/pirate. There are enough benefits baked into the background rule set so that players (my players, anyway) take advantage of the background instead of only giving it a moment’s thought during character creation, then forgetting it.

One player in my group has a human barbarian, but as he’s an entertainer, he holds his own on tavern stages with the gnome bard. The “snooty white male” that plays our dragonborn paladin took the outlander background, so he has some slight utility as party tracker without actually multiclassing as ranger. He also has a penchant for sticking branches and monster trophies in his armor.

While I thought the article was interesting, it only tells two-thirds of the story.

Pyperkub, while there are recommendations for attributes in classes, there are no hard minimums.

I hate Legolas.