Class affinities

January 18, 2009 at 2:44 pm
filed under Roleplaying
Tagged ,

So last time I was wondering about race and class affinity, and I’ve since come up with some data. This contains a lot of discussion of crunch and rules. I can’t really explain why I like this stuff, as this is very much not in character for me, but there you are. Skip this if this topic bores you!

Right off the bat, let me say that there’s a lot that goes into whether a race/class combination is any good. Attributes are one factor. Racial feats, traits, and powers are another. For instance, Dragonborn are viable for most if not all melee classes, whereas dwarves have considerably fewer builds for which they’re viable. Nevertheless, Dwarven Weapon Training and Dwarven Resilience make dwarves an excellent choice for some builds where they might otherwise have been average (e.g. tempest fighter, two-weapon ranger). It’s something to keep in mind.

Despite that, attributes are a decent predictor of whether or not a race/class combo is viable. Ain’t nothing wrong with having a 20 in your primary, and when it comes to classes like the warlock or artful dodger rogue, high Intelligence or Charisma render a lot of good abilities even more powerful.

Background & Terms

First, I’m assuming a few common blocks before racial modifiers, with one special case. 18/14 (with racial mods: 20/16) and 16/16 (18/16 or 18/18) are the best you can get or a primary and secondary. The special case I mentioned is 17/15 when you’re near level 4 or a similar level (17/15 -> 19/17 -> 20/18).

These imply fairly uniform and specialized characters.  There might be crazier stuff you could do with combinations of feats, builds, and powers. I’m ignoring that because it’s simpler.

I’m also following the recommended primary and secondary for the most part. I changed Wisdom to the secondary for paladin and ranger; it seemed more accurate to me since their encounter attacks and utility powers tend to key off of Wisdom.

What I call a top tier combination is where a race’s bonus attributes map directly to a class’ primary and secondary. A halfling artful rogue is one example, which would give you Dex 20, Cha 16 at level 1 (e.g. +9 to hit with daggers, and AC ~21 vs. OAs with leather). 18/18 is an alternative as well. With the special case above, you can get 20/18 (e.g. a level 4 warlord with nice to-hit, granting 6 hp to allies who spend an action point) .

A second tier combo is one where a race has one attribute that maps to a primary or secondary. That’s an 18/16 or (if you don’t care about your secondary) 20/14. With 17/15, you can get 20/16 or 18/18 by level 4. In my opinion, second tier is the minimum required to be viable. Obviously that will change depending on the group’s style of play, and often creating non-viable characters to play against type is the most fun.

When a race has no attributes, or only a tertiary attribute, it’s third tier. This would be a non-optimized build, and this can get hazy. Dexterity is tertiary for fighters, but the aforementioned eladrin fighter is not as poorly off as a tiefling fighter, for example. I’m ignoring this case right now, though it may be that there are similar situations.

I’ve included the preview/playtest classes (bard, barbarian, druid, invoker, and warden), Martial Power,  and the Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide. This does tend to skew results in a couple of ways, as I’ve already hinted. One class-specific note about the resourceful warlord is that Charisma OR Intelligence can be secondary. I created two builds, to represent each, which pads out the number of viable Strength-related classes.

Finally, I wrote this code and input the data by hand, so it’s possible that I’ve got flaws in my data input or extraction. Caveat lector!


For a melee character, Strength is king! If you have Strength, you can swing at least second tier in 9 classes and 30 builds. As you might expect, almost all of those builds are melee. Charisma is the runner-up, meaning that dragonborn happen to have 6 top-tier builds in three classes and viability in 30 builds. Genasi obviously benefit from this, as well, with viability in 28 builds.

There’s no race that’s a clear loser, though I might nominate eladrin. They have the fewest classes and builds (10 and 18). A more comprehensive set of data might include a fighter build that includes light armor. The trouble is that while they can leverage Dexterity or Intelligence for one or another kind of light armor melee build, they can typically only leverage one or the other. They do have at least one top tier build (war wizard with wand).

Half-elves and dwarves have zero top tier classes as of this writing; typically, other races have at least one, but the dwarf and half-elf won’t until the warden, bard, druid, and invoker arrive. That said, taking the dwarf racial features into account along with Martial Power, Adventurer’s Vault, and the PHB2 classes released so far, though, puts them well outside the loser column.

Further Questions & Final Word

So after doing all this I’m thinking about ways I could improve my methodology. For example, many races have weapon-related feats (drow, dwarf, eladrin, elf) which should count for classes that favor specific categories or types of weapons (rogue, melee classes, fighters and warlords, archer ranger).

As well, a more organic notion of builds might help. A fighter who goes for Dexterity as a secondary might be viable enough to consider adding that as a possible build. The staff wizard uses Constitution, which isn’t taken into account here.

However, in the end, it might not be worth it. For instance, drow make artful dodgers not just because of stats, but also because of their darkness power (sneak attack!) and their hand crossbow-related feat. Dwarves can leverage their Constitution to wear heavier armor without sacrificing mobility.

The point is that this is useful to know and look at, but you should consider this only one component of what makes a race/class combination any good.

Thanks for bearing with me as I satisfied my curiosity!

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