The four elements of class design in D&D

Fire, water, air and earth. The four primal elements that make up the classical cosmos, the foundation upon which all other forms of matter are built.

It’s no accident that the four classes in the new Basic D&D mirror these essential elements, and everything else (with precious few exceptions) is built upon these rock-solid foundations.

Fire, Water, Air and Earth.

Basic D&D takes the four character classes from the earliest incarnations of Dungeons & Dragons and presents them as the baseline core classes in the game. We have the Fighter, Rogue, Cleric and Wizard classes we all know and love with race options, backgrounds and specializations fleshing them out and enabling you to customize your hero.

Thinking of them in terms of the four elements we get this (your interpretation may differ of course):

Fighter – Earth

Rogue – Air

Cleric – Water

Wizard – Fire


Wind blows… Fire Burns… Water Falls…
— Leeloo, the Fifth Element


Where things get more interesting is when the elements are combined. In D&D terms this could either mean multi-classing or the creation of a whole new class that mixes up the four metaphorical elements to varying degrees. Here’s a few of the more common combinations:

Air and Earth – Ranger

Water and Air – Monk

Earth and Water – Paladin

Air and Fire – Warlock

I still long for a class that combines the Cleric (Water) and Rogue (Air) to make a Godsthief but that’s just me.

These four core classes aren’t just a good combination on which to lay the foundations for everything that follows, they are exactly the right classes. Elementary even.

Personally, I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the game.


6 Comments on “The four elements of class design in D&D”

  1. Liked this idea so much I put a spreadsheet together outlining all the mixes of the elements now to figure what classes go with which. It seemed fairly easy up to mixing 2 elements together.

    1. It’s looking excellent too. With your permission I’ll post up a pdf copy when we’ve filled in all the possible combinations. Thanks for taking the idea and running with it so wonderfully.

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