Last week I posted spoilers for the Player's Handbook feats and talked a bit about their design. This week, let's look at character classes and the options available to those classes.
In most cases, a character class includes a big choice at some point, defining the specific flavor of that class as it applies to your character. Wizards and clerics provide obvious examples. A wizard picks a school of magic to specialize in, while a cleric picks a domain that reflects his or her deity. This decision not only provides a clear picture of what your character does, it also touches on that character's place in the world.
Some classes have a few choice points, usually allowing you to customize other traits or aspects of a character. Generally speaking, these choices follow the design trend of fifth edition. They make you good at your specialty without hurting your ability to branch out into other areas through multiclassing or feats.
Once more, in the interest of showing you a meaty preview and saving myself some time, I'm going to crack open the Player's Handbook and let you see what's inside. Keep in mind that these examples aren't the only choices you make within a class. Some classes feature other important options, such as a warlock's pact boon.
Barbarian: A barbarian picks a primal path that reflects the nature of the character's rage. The two options in the Player's Handbook are the Path of the Berserker and the Path of the Totem Warrior. The berserker fights with an implacable fury, while the totem warrior channels the magic of beasts to augment his or her rage.
Bard: Each bard is inspired by a college—a loose affiliation of like-minded bards who share lore, stories, and performances. The Player's Handbook presents the College of Lore, which focuses on knowledge and performance, and the College of Valor, which focuses on inspiring bravery on the battlefield.
Cleric: Cleric domains reflect the nature of the gods and shape the magic a character wields. The domains in the Player's Handbook are Knowledge, Life, Light, Nature, Tempest, Trickery, and War.
Druid: A druid joins a circle—one of a number of loose alliances of like-minded druids who share similar outlooks on nature, balance, and the way of druidic magic. The Circle of the Land allows a druid to select a type of terrain from which he or she draws magic. The Circle of the Moon augments a druid's ability to transform into various beasts.
Fighter: All fighters select a martial archetype that reflects a specific approach to combat. The Champion is a mighty warrior who scores deadly critical hits in combat. The Battle Master is a flexible, cunning tactician. The Eldritch Knight masters magic that allows him or her to protect allies and devastate foes.
Monk: A monk commits to a monastic tradition, defined by a specific form of martial arts that helps channel and shape the use of ki energy. The Way of the Open Hand augments a monk's unarmed strikes and allows mastery of the deadly quivering palm technique. The Way of Shadow turns a monk into a stealthy warrior who manipulates darkness to confuse and confound enemies. The Way of the Four Elements allows a monk to channel ki into spells and blasts of elemental energy.
Paladin: All paladins take an oath—a pledge to a code of conduct that guides their lives and shapes their abilities. The Oath of Devotion binds a paladin to the ideal of justice, virtue, and order. The Oath of the Ancients pledges a paladin to protect the natural world and preserve hope across the land. The Oath of Vengeance turns a paladin into a deadly avenger who seeks out and punishes wrongdoers.
Ranger: A ranger selects an archetype that reflects his or her ideals and relationship to nature. The Hunter stands guard in the wilderness, stopping threats before they can menace civilization. The Beast Master cultivates a powerful bond to creatures, fighting alongside them to bring down enemies.
Rogue: A rogue selects a roguish archetype that reflects his or her approach to crime and chicanery. The Thief is an evasive, sneaky trickster. The Assassin is a focused and quiet killer. The Arcane Trickster uses enchantment and illusion magic to enact his or her schemes.
Sorcerer: A sorcerer's magic arises from a sorcerous origin—the event, ancestry, or quirk of fate that gifted the character with power. The Draconic Bloodline reflects a sorcerer's distant dragon ancestry, and grants powers that reflect a dragon's nature. Wild Magic imbues a sorcerer with the energy of raw chaos, producing unpredictable results from his or her magic.
Warlock: A warlock's patron shapes this class's power. The Archfey grants beguiling magic useful for trickery and quick escapes. The Fiend imparts the power of destructive fire and diabolic resistance. The mysterious Great Old One grants telepathic abilities and chilling glimpses into the nature of the multiverse.
Wizard: A wizard selects an arcane tradition—the specific approach to the study of magic that shapes his or her outlook and talents. Though many traditions exist, the Player's Handbook focuses on the established schools of D&D magic—Abjuration, Conjuration, Divination, Enchantment, Evocation, Illusion, Necromancy, and Transmutation.