D&D: The Numbers Are In – Thanks to FiveThirtyEight
Or: Is your character rare? See how your race/class choices compare.
Statistical Analysis website FiveThirtyEight which translates hard numbers and other data into compelling stories about politics, sports, science, economics, and culture has taken a look at the popularity of various race/class combinations in D&D. Essentially giving us a look at what the most popular characters are, which combinations are truly unique, and a pretty good look at the changing shape of D&D’s playerbase as a whole. This is some pretty fascinating stuff–take a look and see how your choices stack up.
Now a couple of things to bear in mind. This sample looks at over 100,000 players on D&D Beyond, but it only takes into account the races/classes available there. So things like the Aasimar only show up in their DMG Variant form, so you don’t get the full treatment that they have in Volo’s Guide. Same goes for newer races like the Firbolg, Tabaxi, Kenku, Lizardfolk, or Triton. Similarly, characters who multi-class count as one instance of each class, which is probably the best way to do it, but that doesn’t take into account the weight of a class. Fighter, for instance is an incredibly popular “double-dip” that characters will take.
I’m actually a wizard.
After all, that two-level dip nets you proficiency with all weapons and armor, 10+1d10 hit points, Second Wind, and of course the big reason that most people take it–the single ability that makes delaying all your other class features by 2 levels worth it–Action Surge. Two levels of fighter is like the “mix flour, butter, sugar, and water” of multiclassing. So even if you’re a Fighter 2/Paladin 8, you’re still a Fighter–though I’d say the character was more Paladin than fighter.
But with all that in mind, this is still a crazy amount of data. I think it’s telling that in a month 100,000 characters were created on D&D Beyond, and it gives us a pretty good look at the overall shape of the game. That sample size casts a very wide net–and I’d be willing to bet fighter mains are still the most common class. You can spot some interesting trends in the mix–I love the fact that Dragonborn characters are, a) as popular as they are, and b) securing a very solid lead in nonhuman Paladins. It fits–and the stat boosts are what you’d want, but I love that the Dragonborn are honing in on a traditionally human class. The concept makes sense.
Left to right the grid shows the most popular classes, with Fighters in a solid lead–more than double the least popular class, the Druid. It’s not surprising to see Fighter, Rogue, and Wizard–the trio of Fantasy archetypes from time immemorial–as the most popular three. Surprising to see Barbarians beating out Clerics. I for one welcome our raging new overlords. Here are the most popular and least popular classes for each race.
Unsurprisingly, Humans are the most popular race. Human Fighters are, of course, the most populous of humans. But you also get a fair number of Rogues, Wizards, and Clerics in as well. Unsurprising as that’s the standard adventuring party of four. They also are the sort of de-facto most popular version of many classes, leading the way in terms Rogues, Clerics, Paladins, Monks, and Sorcerers–and generally they are a close second place for the other classes (although Barbarians are the domain of Golaiths and Half Orcs).
Elves are the second most popular race and I’m shocked, shocked to find that out. Rangers are the most common Elves, but Elves are the most common Wizards and Druids. Curiously, Elven Ranger is the second most popular race/class combo overall, which is interesting given how often someone crops up talking about the Ranger needing to be fixed. But perhaps that’s why–there’s just a ton of legless Lego Legolases out there running around.
Also Legless Lego Legolas’ Lego Lass…
Half Elves are a perennial favorite of mine, and I’m glad to find out I’m not so alone. They are most commonly bards, which is a tradition goes back to the old 2nd Edition days when Half-Elves could advance to whatever level they wanted as Bards. But also the Half-Elf racial abilities go extraordinarily well with both Bard and Warlock, which is where they shine. There are more Rogues than Sorcerers, which is counter to what I’d have expected, but they are the most dashing of all races, so they’re just swashbuckling it up.
Dwarven Clerics are the winners here. Which makes sense given their native wisdom and constitution boosts. And it fits with their lore as well. Dwarven fighters are also pretty popular–same with Barbarians. They are one of the least popular races to play Rogues, which just goes to show that Varric is a beautiful flower and a diamond in the rough.
Now we’re getting to the good stuff. As we pointed out earlier, Dragonborn Paladins are an astoundingly popular combo. They lead the pack for Dragonborn characters, following up with Fighters and Sorcerers. A surprising number of Warlocks though–most likely these are Bladelocks–but it warms the cockles of the heart to picture some Great Old One Dragonborn out there, just looking up at the stars and thinking, “yeah I bet I could rule that too.”
Speaking of Warlocks, Tieflings and Warlocks go together like that one song from the movie Grease and the mute button. They are pretty much living up to the stereotype of the Tiefling Warlock–with the largest percentage of them, by far, as that class. Sorcerer is a distant second place, with under half of the numbers that Warlocks have. Bard and Rogue follow it–which makes them like a dark mirror of the Half-Elf.
The Genasi are the most popular non-PHB race, winning out over Halflings, Gnomes, and Half-Orcs. They are most commonly Monks or Sorcerers–but not by a huge margin–and other than that, they appear equally as likely to be either of the other classes. That highlights the flexibility of the various subraces they have. Depending on your elemental affinity, you can suit yourself to whatever you like.
Speaking of stereotypes though. Halflings are Rogues. Possibly they are Bards. Maaaybe they are Monks. Anything else is almost unheard of, though.
Even more stereotypically–Half-Orcs are Barbarians. Or maybe Fighters. After that, it’s anyone’s guess, but they are in the minority, though Sorcerers win the prize of being the career choice Half-Orcs choose the least. But you’re still more likely to see a Half-Orc sorcerer than a Goliath sorcerer.
Gnomes are more popular than Goliaths, but only just. And I feel like Goliaths are probably on the rise–most Gnomes are Wizards. And that Gnomish Illusionist idea has an enduring place in the collective memory of the gaming populace. And there’s a surprising number of Gnome rogues as well. I’d be willing to bet money that many of them are Arcane Tricksters. I’d love to know what the breakdown is of Subclasses (though that might be harder, because that’s all level dependent).
Everyone’s favorite race of bald bolder boys, the Goliaths have a time honored tradition of being Barbarians. The Goliath Barbarian is basically iconic, which is good, because that’s what most of them do–so it’d be weird for them if they weren’t. In fact, they are the most popular choice for players picking up Barbarians. Not many other races beat out Humans for popularity in a class, so that’s saying something. They also are pretty solidly fighters as well.
If you can spell this race right on the first time, odds are good you’re one of the few people playing them. And odds are also good you’re a monk–I find that one interesting. I think it’s great to see a few options out there that lend themselves to Monk besides Human–I kinda want to see a party of Aarakocra and Genasi monks now. You’re just about as likely to see an Aarakocra Ranger, which is also a pretty cool mental image. Sadly, there are very few bird wizards, which is a shame, because Bird Wizard may be one of the best pairings of words I’ve ever typed.
Another commonly misspelled race, and for different reasons. I feel like these ones might see a little surge in popularity the more Volo’s Guide to Monsters circulates out there–I definitely like that version more than the one presented on D&D Beyond. They are the least popular choice, and are most likely to be a Paladin. If you spot an Aasimar Ranger, you’ve glimpsed a double-rainbow. Out of all 100,000+ players surveyed only 60 Aasimar rangers are known to exist, making them the least popular race/class combo in this sample.
I’m sure there are more conclusions to be drawn from this data. But for now, we’ve got a look at how these classes are doing. With Xanathar’s Guide around the corner, I’m sure all you fighters out there will be glad to see the Cavalier, the Arcane Archer, and the Samurai as choices–it’ll probably make you that much more popular–although I don’t know if anyone will ever beat out the utility of Improved Critical from the Champion.
Where do you fit in, compared to the general populace? What’s the rarest/weirdest race/class combo you’ve ever played?