A friend asked me, “Of all the classes to do a detailed dive into why’d you choose to start with warlock yesterday?”
The answer was simple.
While I loved and love playing them, warlocks remain a “go to” class for me when introducing someone to the game. They have a minimum number of abilities, nearly zero resource management issues, and yet feel magical and formidable. Perfect for a starter character in my opinion. Not too many choices and plenty of room to adjust to the new concepts of role-playing while not having to wrestle with as much mechanical reality. I find that complex character classes tend to result in high levels of intervention and often a second party is really designing and running the character and new player just sort of pushes it around.
I am looking at possibly introducing a few new players to the game soon and I thought I would work up a list of similar options for a few classes for them to pick from. Yes I could use a beginner box, but I don’t want to deny them the reality of what they are going to experience at a third party friendly, reverse compatible, and highly permissive table (and I don’t want to bore the hell out of any experienced people). If you are new to the game or know someone who is new consider the following:
The “Starting” Team
Fighter – No-brainer here. High attacks, straight forward attack priorities. It is the classic melee damage, mitigator combo. Feats really are the only issue but fortunately melee feats tend to come in chains so chances are choosing the first few will determine them for a good long while. Swords and armor are easy references.
Barbarian – Slightly more complex abilities than fighter but really just has rage and rage powers, uncanny dodge, a few resistance/mitigation bonuses replacing about half the fighters feats. Hit point flux from rage is really my only worry explaining to a newbie but it is a flavorful class without too much under the hood especially if rage powers stay in the Core Handbook.
Rogue – Again, nothing is more classic than the classic here. Rogue talents are diverse but pretty contained and sneak attack is straight forward. Evasion is also a real eye opener to defensive design strategy and I always get a kick out of that first time I nuke the group and the new guy with the rogue is standing unscathed.
Shadow Assassin – A short fun 3rd party class from Rogue Genius, the shadow assassin still has fun leveling options with a good mystic feel that doesn’t require a ton of cross reference. Its focus abilities are less intense in terms of die pools and someone who seems intimidated by the physical realities (maps, dices, sheets) of the game probably would be a great match.
Not Cleric – A robust class with a lot of spells at it disposal, two domains, channeling…. yikes. A bit much. Oracle might be a better options for a newbie. Few spell selections, a tighter and singular mystery concept, a curse is a little more manageable.
Vitalist might be a good option for someone willing to tackle a bit more math in their learning curve but managing a point pool like psionics can be rough on a newer gamer. However, its collective ability means less time tracking location for healing and a limited power list is easier to learn psionics through. Best of all if the new player understands it, the complexity available to them is amazing once they are ready.
Warlock (Various) – More narrow than any other arcane option, any of the variants from yesterday would probably work aside from maybe ethermancer. Blast, move, blast is about as easy as it could get for a starting character while. At the same time, more interesting powers unlock in high levels and result in a really fun variation.
Not Wizard – Another robust class with a lot of spells at it disposal, school abilities, bonus feats, components…. nope. Too much. Sorcerer might be a better options for the new guy. Few spell selections and a bloodline, fast and easy if we have to go full spells.
Malefactor (Total Party Kill Games) – The Malefactor is a classic example of the de-buff centered 5th wheel. Its selections are robust and contained (mostly all in a single 23 page pdf) with straighfoward rules and options. A perfect black cat for a new player who mostly wants to absorb the game experience and influence the fight from a more passive (yet effective) position.
Fallen (Kyoudai Games) – This class is a tight, variable class with unique path selections tied to a dark flaw in the character call their stigma. Each stigma provides a tightly grouped theme of abilities to support the classes core debuff and mitigation abilities. High flavor, small page count, variation–a great start for a new player who wants an introductory character that is a non-typical role in fantasy.
If you are a new player, or are inviting a new player I highly encourage a simple class. Don’t be afraid to seek it outside the core rules, you may find something more or less self-contained and simple to run while allowing you and your friends to focus on the best first time story and role-playing experience possible.
If you, like I would have (I am a bit contrary), read this and now feel a desire to “prove” you don’t need a basic class, GREAT! My only follow up is that if you are going to play something more complicated–put the time into learning it. Your character is the lens you learn your game and see your game-world through, a foggy understanding will make you less engaged, less aware, and less likely to have fun.