(More) D(ata) of D& D*

*Yes, I’m very aware that I’m a nerd.

Cheyli’s most recent blog post referenced an article that I’ve read recently: “Is Your D&D Character Rare?” When I read this, I realized just how common all the characters the people in my group are playing.

Common Combinations of Race/Class

The most common combination of race and class to play, as Cheyli mentioned, is a human fighter. Your “race” is essentially the species you’re playing such as human or gnome and your “class” is the type of job you have such as wizard or fighter. Of elves, the most common is ranger, with the second most common being wizard and third, rogue. Of dragonborns, the most common class is paladin. Of tieflings, the most common is warlock. In our group, there is a human fighter, an elf wizard, an elf rogue, a dragonborn paladin, and a tiefling warlock.
I found this particularly odd because none of the players in my campaign, including myself, think that our characters are especially common. Ever since I read this article two-ish weeks ago, I was confused as to why these seemingly unique characters would actually be the least unique or most common. Is it because, like Cheyli said, “people are more naturally drawn to things [they know] because they are easy to understand”? Is it because the less creative the person the less likely they are to make a creative character? Or is it because of something else? I’ve been hard-pressed to think that a character such as a dragonborn paladin is easy to relate to and therefore, unfamiliar and that a less creative person is going to be drawn to this type of character. While I completely agree with Cheyli that human fighters require less creativity, I don’t think that the other characters are common because of a lack of creativity. Perhaps, this frequency is more related to the nature of the game or race/class synergy than a player’s creativity. 

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Examples of Race/Class Synergy

To look at this theory, I decided to look at each of the players in my campaign’s characters:
Elves get a boost to both dexterity and intelligence (depending on the elf you choose) and while dexterity is helpful for wizards, intelligence is required for them. Specifically, in the Player’s Handbook (PHB), elves get a +2 to dexterity and, depending on how you do it, a +1 to intelligence. The +2 means that anytime this player rolls for a dexterity based activity, they’ll receive a bonus in their favor for this activity. Similarly, the +1 means that anytime this player rolls for an intelligence-based activity, they’ll receive a bonus for in their favor. For wizards, spells are an intelligence-based activity, so the higher a wizard’s intelligence, the better they are at spell casting. Ultimately, elves are inherently more dexterous and intelligent, so they make better wizards. This helps to explain why so many players create this race and class combination.
Rogues are incredibly dexterous, but there’s not a ton of requirement for intelligence so it’s understandable why they would then be the third most common class for the race of elves. While this pairing isn’t the most helpful, it makes sense why players would pair them together.
Dragonborns get a boost to both strength and charisma, and paladins are strength and charisma based. Specifically, in the PHB, dragonborns immediately get a +2 to strength and a +1 to charisma. This means that dragonborns are going to be inherently stronger and more socially capable when they are paladins.
Tieflings get a boost to both charisma and intelligence and warlocks are charisma based. While there are other reasons as to why this race and class are paired, it helps when their characteristics are paired together.
While I only looked at four race/class combinations, I feel like it gives a pretty good sense that the frequency at which people play as certain characters is more related to the nature of the game than creativity alone.

Limitations of the Data and How I Interpreted it

I looked at the data as “of race x, the most common class is y.” However, the data can be looked at as “of class y, the most common race is x.” If you were to look at it this way, it would then be: Of fighters, the most common race is human; of rogue, the most common race is again human; of wizard, the most common race is elf; of paladins, the most common race is human; of warlocks, the most common race is tiefling.
I also slightly altered what data I looked at to fit what characters the players in my campaign play as. Specifically with elves, the most common race is ranger, but instead, I looked at both wizards and rogues.
The researchers collected 109,188 race and class combinations between August 15th and September 15th, 2017 on the website D&D Beyond. This website is for players who don’t necessarily have access to an in-person campaign, meaning that this data completely excludes tabletop players (or the nerds who, let’s say, gather in a basement every Saturday).
The data included the most frequent used races and classes, but not all of them. It allows for a general idea of the most common combinations, but fails to show the most detailed picture that it could. It did not include sub-races or sub-classes.
It’s also important to look at how the data is visualized. While the colors help show the modal occurrences and help emphasize the more popular race/class choices, the data is shown only in raw scores. The frequencies are not relative to each other, so it is difficult to only look at this and have a good idea for the actual percentage occurrences.
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