Written by: Eileen Sholomicky
Welcome back, adventurers!
In my last blog post, I recommended books based on the martial classes of Dungeons & Dragons. Today, we’ll be taking a look at a different set of classes.
Every game of Dungeons & Dragons is referred to as a “campaign”; this campaign is the overarching story that the players partake in. Together, the players’ characters make up the campaign’s adventuring party. Two important aspects of these parties are cohesion and balance, especially in campaigns that are more combat-heavy. Sure, you could have a party of all wizards, but since wizards tend to have low hit point maximums, meaning that they are easy to kill, combat may end up a nightmare scenario with what is known as a “total party kill,” in which every player character dies. That’s why it’s important to have a variety of characters with diverse skill sets working together for an effective party. One way to balance your party out is to include the classes that have skills both martial and magical, making for versatile fighters sure to keep your party in shape.
First up are the Artificers. I have a personal bias toward Artificers. I like characters who are crafty and inventive, and I’ve got a soft spot for classes whose primary ability is their intelligence (or INT) score. Artificers were first introduced in the steampunky world of Eberron, an official campaign setting with a pre-written narrative for players to use from D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast. Artificers’ Magical Tinkering ability allows them to infuse magic into the mundane. If you’re a reader who finds this class compelling, once you shift from the gaming table to the bookshelf, you’re likely to enjoy Crier’s War by Nina Varela, set in a world in which automatons (called Automae) rule, and Automae princess Crier sets to uncover the secrets behind her father’s kingdom and her own creation. She just didn’t count on falling for Ayla, the human assassin out for revenge against the royal family for killing her parents. Ayla becomes a maid for Crier, intent on killing her—that is, until she gets to know Crier’s gentle soul. Together, the two of them become caught in a political web more complex than either of them realized.
Paladins, meanwhile, are protectors bound to a sacred oath—paragon knight types, if you will. Though this oath is often religious or supernatural in nature, it doesn’t have to be. All that matters is their devotion to their cause, usually aligned on the side of good and justice. Moreover, their Aura of Protection feature allows them to not only protect themselves in combat, but protect their friends and allies. If Paladin characters appeal to you, you’re likely to be entranced by Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cory McCarthy, a sci-fi retelling of the Arthurian legend in which Arthur is a teenage girl named Ari, and Merlin can’t seem to stop aging backwards. The two join forces with other reimagined characters from the legend to stand up to the tyrannical Mercer Corporation and break the curse that causes Arthur to keep reincarnating.
Rangers, like Paladins, are protective types, but in a far different sense. More like hunters, Rangers linger at the edges of the world, scouting their favored terrains and defending it against outside terrors. Their Natural Explorer feature gives them a special familiarity with certain environments that they navigate with expertise, and their Favored Enemy ability grants extra protection against a certain type of creature. If your favored class is the Ranger, then you’ll adore the necromancers in Sarah Glenn Marsh’s novel, Reign of the Fallen. When a noble dies, necromancers like Odessa travel to the Deadlands to bring the soul back into their bodies, which must stay covered, lest they turn into a zombie-like creature called a Shade. When it comes to light that someone is going around intentionally creating Shades, Odessa and her band of necromancers must hunt them down and put an end to the terror.
Finally, Warlocks receive their powers not through knowledge or a supernatural sense of justice, but through a pact with an otherworldly being. Their Eldritch Invocation ability gives them forbidden knowledge derived from a study of occult lore. Players who favor Warlocks would immensely enjoy a book like Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone, which focuses on a girl named Karou who unearths seemingly-occult knowledge of a parallel world after having been raised by three demon-like creatures called chimaera. Her thirst for knowledge becomes unquenchable after she sneaks into this forbidden world and then runs into a strangely-familiar seraph named Akiva. The longer she gets to know Akiva, the more she questions the chimaera who raised her, and the more she begins to suspect that there is something deeper between herself and Akiva than she thinks.
Of these four classes, Artificers and Paladins have my heart, but my favorite classes are yet to come. We’ll be seeing them next time in the final installment of this miniseries when we tackle our final set of classes: Bards, Clerics, Druids, and Wizards, the pure spellcaster classes. Until next time, happy reading!