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archetypes

Perfect Fantasy Novels for Each Dungeons  Dragons Character Class

by Ed Grabianowski /

January 25, 2018 at 3:30 pm

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If you play a tabletop fantasy role-playing game like Dungeons & Dragons, you probably have a favorite character—perhaps a doughty fighter? A shadowy thief? A wizened wizard or dutiful cleric?

The basic D&D character classes were inspired by classic fantasy literature and mythology, and in turn have themselves inspired countless epic fantasy novels. Each of the novels below both helps to define what we think of when we think of each character class, and breaks the mold a bit, expanding our ideas of what a wizard’s or a rogue’s adventures might look like. (By popular demand, we also consider additional character classes here .)

Fighter

A fighter is an adventuring party’s backbone, a tough warrior who wins battles with a sturdy sword arm and incredible combat skills.

The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian

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The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian , by Robert E. Howard
Robert E. Howard’s most well-known creation, Conan the Barbarian is the quintessential fighter. He bulls his way to success with his rippling thews and sheer force of inexhaustible will, only occasionally relying on subterfuge. The Random House collections of the Conan stories are perfect, giving you all the wild sword and sorcery adventures of the legendary sullen warrior.

The Steel Remains

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The Steel Remains , by Richard Morgan
Protagonist Ringil Eskiath is already a veteran of a long, brutal war against the Scaled Folk by the start of the first book of Richard Morgan’s A Land Fit for Heroes series. Ringil doesn’t come home from the war to any kind of quiet retirement: his family has rejected him because of his sexuality, and he has the restless, directionless life of a soldier who finds that he no longer fits into regular society. Soon enough, he is drawn into a new war, one started by strange demon-like other-dimensional creatures.

Forgotten Realms: The Crystal Shard (Legend of Drizzt #4)

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The Crystal Shard , by R.A. Salvatore
Of course there are going to be a few books based on actual Dungeons & Dragons settings on this list. R.A. Salvatore’s The Crystal Shard is the first of the many, many novels featuring the drow ranger Drizzt Do’Urden. Drizzt is a finesse fighter, a phenom who wields a blade in each hand and fights like a whirlwind. Readers have been praising Salvatore’s detailed battle scenes for decades, so there’s no better place to get your fighter fix.

Wizard

There are hundreds of novels about wizards, even if you arbitrarily narrow the field to traditional, non-contemporary fantasy settings, as we are (and which is why a certain orphaned boy wizard is not on our list). That said, here are three of our favorite spell-slinging magic-mongers.

A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Series #1)

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A Wizard of Earthsea , by Ursula K. Le Guin
Ursula K. Le Guin’s landmark novel feels at once familiar to fans of epic fantasy while breaking free of many of the genre’s cliches. Its protagonist is a boy named Ged who must learn to deal with his own developing power as a wizard, but Ged’s philosophical dilemmas regarding the balance of power in the universe, along with the fact that he’s a person of color, set the novel apart from a lot of mainstream fantasy.

The Colour of Magic (Discworld Series #1)

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The Colour of Magic , by Terry Pratchett
Another way to separate yourself from the average epic fantasy is to do away with dour prophecies and replace them with a cast of neurotic weirdos who are just trying to make sense of their own bizarre, magic-filled world. Case in point, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, which begins with this madcap adventure starring Rincewind the wizard, and feels a bit as if The Lord of the Rings had been filtered through a large stack of Monty Python episodes.

The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles Series #1)

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The Name of the Wind , by Patrick Rothfuss
Kvothe is a young man who finds himself at a wizard school learning to harness his own innate magic abilities in Patrick Rothfuss’s acclaimed series The Kingkiller Chronicle. What’s especially interesting is that Kvothe has clearly also taken a few levels in bard, and I honestly don’t think I’ve encountered a multi-class wizard/bard in all my years of playing D&D.

Rogue

The sneak-thief, the assassin, the acrobat—rogues rarely get the spotlight, often acting as the scoundrelly sidekicks to a more forthright hero. But rogue-centric novels are some of my favorite fantasy tales.

The Lies of Locke Lamora

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The Lies of Locke Lamora , by Scott Lynch
Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastard series depicts a team of thieves and con artists with hearts of slightly tarnished gold. Each book is a blend of imaginative fantasy with epic heists, intrigue, and elaborate scams, and if we don’t get a three-season (at least) HBO series out of it someday, I will be very disappointed.

Luck in the Shadows (Nightrunner Series #1)

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Luck in the Shadows , by Lynn Flewelling
Seregil and Alec are thieves and spies who need all their wits to get through the nefarious plots Flewelling puts them through in the course of her Nightrunner series. This series also stands out for its setting, in which heterosexuality is not the default, and other orientations are accepted equally.

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass Series #1)

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Throne of Glass , by Sarah J. Maas
This popular series of young adult novels starts with a contest to determine who will become the new royal assassin. It doesn’t get any more rogue-ish than that.

Cleric

Characters who are driven by faith, dogma, or the simple reality of living in a world where deities are real beings that interact with their followers regularly are the least common fantasy protagonists. But the moral issues they deal with make for some of the most interesting stories.

Daughter of the Drow (Forgotten Realms: Starlight and Shadows #1)

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Daughter of the Drow , by Elaine Cunningham
For my money, the Starlight and Shadows trilogy is actually a better take on the “drow who rejects their evil heritage” plot than the Drizzt Do’Urden novels. Liriel Baenre is torn between her familial bond to the evil goddess Lolth and her desire to live above ground, where her devotion turns toward the moon goddess Eilistraee.

Pathfinder Tales: Death’s Heretic

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Death’s Heretic , by James L. Sutter
Salim is a servant of the death goddess Pharasma, but he’s also an atheist. His job is to track down souls that go missing in the weird cycles of death and resurrection common to D&D-based fantasy worlds. Can you be an atheist cleric? Sutter’s dimension-hopping thriller makes an interesting case for it.

Throne of the Crescent Moon

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Throne of the Crescent Moon , by Saladin Ahmed
Doctor Adoulla Makhslood is near the end of a long career battling the undead, which is a D&D cleric’s wheelhouse. His protege, Raseed bas Raseed, is drawn from the “holy warrior” side of the cleric family tree. If you’ve grown a bit tired of fantasy based on European mythology, The Crescent Moon Kingdoms series is filled with Dervishes and desert nomads, built on a foundation of Middle-Eastern history and myth.

See more ideal character class/novel pairings here.

Tags: archetypes , D&D , dungeons and dragons

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