Part 1: Class and Race ExplanationRaces and Classes
Before you even start talking about classes in the Gold Box games, it's probably more important to talk about race. You see, the older versions of D&D were pretty damn racist. Or speciest. Whatever. Point being, some classes are just not open to all races. Even if your race allows you into a class, some races have strict limits as to how far you can go into a class. This isn't really an issue with Champions, but later on it'll become significant. Non-humans are classified as demi-humans, and make one significant trade in exchange for their restrictions.
In exchange for level limits and class restrictions, demi-humans have the ability to advance in more than one class at a time. This is slower than advancing in single classes since experience is split between each class, but the benefit is that you get all class abilities at once. A mage/cleric gets both spell types according to their level, for example. Unfortunately, level limits still apply and the experience is still split based on how many classes you start with. A dwarven fighter/cleric can never go past 10th level as a cleric, but his experience will always be split in half no matter how high his fighter level gets. With that said, we'll talk about the races:
You're probably pretty familiar with these guys, since I assume most of you are humans. No stat adjustments, and have no limits on levels in any class. Humans are the only race that can reach the maximum strength stat in the game. Cannot multi-class at all. Humans are one of only two races who can be Knights, which are necessary for finishing a number of quests. As a result of their sheer numbers and geographical expansiveness humans are the dominant species on Krynn despite being only loosely organized and relatively isolated.
Come in two varieties. The common traits both share are long lifespans, resistance to sleep and charm spells, a bonus to finding hidden doors, a bonus to sword and bow attacks, and the fact that they can't be raised from the dead. Following the Cataclysm both sub-groups of elves withdrew from society and fortified their respective domains. Stat adjustments are -1 con and +1 dex.
These are your high elf civilized types, and are usually portrayed as correspondingly arrogant. Available classes are Fighter (max level 10), Paladin in later games (max level 12), Cleric, Ranger, and Mage (No limits). Can multi-class any combination of cleric, fighter, and mage.
Essentially wood elves, meaning that they're isolationist and arrogant as opposed to just aloof and arrogant. Available classes are Fighter (max level 14), Cleric, Ranger, Mage, and Thief (no Limits.) Can multi-class combinations of Fighter, Cleric, Mage, and Thief.
Fusing the first two racial groups, we get
Get some of the benefits of both humans and elves. They resist sleep and charm spells (although not as well as a full elf) and have a bonus to find hidden doors. They don't get stat adjustments, but can't be quite as strong as a human. Available classes are Fighter (max level 9), Ranger (max level 11), Knight (max level 10), Mage (max level 10), Cleric, and Thief (no limits). Can multi-class in combinations of fighter, mage, cleric, and thief.
Also come in two varieties. All dwarves get a bonus to saving throws against magic and poison as well as bonuses against goblin and giant type enemies. Stat adjustments are +1 con/-1 charisma. Differences between the varieties are pretty much a matter of class options.
Storywise, these guys have just ended several centuries of isolation from the rest of the world and decided to take an active part in global affairs. Following the Cataclysm the Mountain Dwarves basically shut their gates and pretended the world outside didn't exist. Mountain Dwarves are supposed to be more refined and civilized, but it's not really a deal. Class options are Cleric (max level 10), Paladin (max level 8), Thief (max level 8) and Fighter (no limit.) Can multi-class, but with all the restrictions in level it's really not worth it.
More cosmopolitan dwarves who mix into human society readily, Hill Dwarves have just as few class options as Mountain Dwarves, just in different areas. Available classes are Cleric (max level 10), Ranger (max level 8), Thief (max level 10), and Fighter (no limit). Can multi-class, but again, so not worth it.
The vermin equivalent race, Kender are annoying little bastards who have very little concept of personal property and tend to pocket small items without even thinking about it. Nearly every other race regards them as nuisances at best or something to be exterminated at worst. Kender are immune to fear, resistant to magic and poison, can taunt intelligent opponents, and get attack bonuses with their race-specific staff-slings. Stat adjustments are -2 strength/+2 dex, and available classes are Cleric (max level 12), Fighter (max level 5), Ranger (max level 5) and Thief (no limit). Kender can multi-class, but aren't very good at it.
Alright, now that we've got races out of the way it's time to talk classes.
Clerics are pretty much the representatives of the Gods, and are pretty much a recent thing. They have access to all spells of a level that they can cast, and are tied to a particular deity for their spells. Clerics can only use crushing weapons, but can wear just about any armor. In addition, they can turn undead and either force undead to run away or destroy them outright. Alignment is important to a Cleric, and they have to choose a deity. Good clerics start out with more HP and gain spells a bit more slowly, while neutral clerics have less HP, gain spells more quickly, and require just a bit less experience. Deities and their effects are as follows:
Paladine - bonus spell protection from evil 10' radius.
Majere - turn undead as if you were two levels higher, bonus spell silence 15' radius.
Kiri-Jolith - +1 THAC0, bonus spell detect magic.
Mishakal - +1 per die on all healing spells, bonus spells charm person, remove curse, bless.
Sirrion - bonus spell burning hands
Reorx - +1 THAC0, dwarves only.
Shinare - bonus spell charm person.
All weapons, all armor, no spells. Pretty much self-explanatory. Fighters (and Paladins, Rangers, and Knights) can attack more than once per round at higher levels, and can have higher strength and constitution bonuses than other classes. Nothing more to see here.
The champions of the Gods, Paladins aren't available until the second and third games in the series. They are basically fighters, but get additional resistance to spells and poison, can turn undead as if they were a cleric two levels below their current level, learn some low level cleric spells beginning at level 9, and are constantly surrounded by a protection from evil 10' spell (+2 to AC and hit rolls against evil targets). They can also cure a limited number of HP per day and cure disease beginning at 5th level.
Another kind of fighter with a bonus against giants, and the ability to cast some very low level druid and magic user spells at higher levels. Rangers get additional attacks slightly slower than other fighters, but have higher hit points early on. This evens out in the end.
A unique class in the Krynn games, Knights are either human or half-elf and have strict alignment and behavior restrictions. They get bonus experience points for doing knightly things, start out with twice as many hit dice as standard fighters, and have their own class specific plate mail with better AC than the standard. Knights are divided into three orders, and have to continue to advance through the orders in order to progress past certain levels. Knights of the Sword and Rose start picking up clerical spells at level 6 and have access to all 7 levels of clerical magic.
Mages in the Krynn setting are tied to the three moons that orbit the planet, with each moon giving it's power to mages of a particular alignment. Mages get bonus spells and bonuses to their effective spell level and saving throws. More to the point, mages of different alignments get access to different spells. Red (Neutral) Mages get exclusive access to Strength, Knock, Mirror Image, Blink, Haste, Invisibility 10' Radius, Slow, Dimension Door, Fear, Fire Touch, Iron Skin, Disintegrate, Flesh to Stone/Stone to Flesh, and Mass Invisibility. White Mages get exclusive access to Ray of Enfeeblement, Dispel Magic, Hold Person, Protection from Evil 10' Radius, Protection from Normal Missiles, Bestow/Remove Curse, Confusion, Fumble, Minor (and not-so Minor) Globe of Invulnerability, Feeblemind, Hold Monster, Mass Charm, Mind Blank, and Otto's Irresistible Dance. A lot of the more useful spells are available to all alignments, and there's an opportunity to cross level spells in the 3rd game. Also, Red Mages get more lower level spells at high level while White Mages get more higher level spells. Mages can't use most armor or weapons, but can be the most devastating members of a party.
About what you'd expect. Unfortunately, you can't really do any stealing in these games. Thieves are primarily useful for detecting and disarming traps, and also have the ability to backstab enemies. Most locks that can be picked can also be bashed, so they're not that great for that. Thieves can use swords and leather armor, greatly limiting them in combat. High level thieves (10+) can read magical scrolls, but it's usually easier to have a mage do that.