-5 to Hit, +10 to Damage

Most players and DMs know the following feats: Great Weapon Master and Sharpshooter. Both feats have the ability, to take a -5 penalty on your attack roll to add +10 to the damage roll. Some DMs have a bit of trouble with these feats.

  • Since most ACs of monsters aren’t that high, even with -5 to hit it’s still seems pretty accurate
  • Classes who have reliable means of gaining advantage (like the barbarian) or ways to grant their allies advantage (like a lot of spellcasters with spells like Guiding Bolt, Faery Fire, etc.) or those ways to grant +hit (like the Bless spell or a Battle Master’s Precision Attack maneuver) trades the intended reliability to outright more damage potential
  • Both feats overall (and especially that trait) boosts the overall combat ability of two builds (ranged weapon and two-handed weapon), while other weapon builds seems to have only subpar feats (due the more specific use of Shield Master, the somewhat lacking feeling advantages of Dual Wielder and the seemingly lack of something, which enhances your one weapon, one hand free style [try Tavern Brawler; one of the best ways to be a defender, imo])

OK, I have to admit: These feats are really good. But after seeing both in action, I don’t think, that they’re broken. It only seems that way at first, since at the beginning of a campaign, those +10 damage will kill monsters outright, however, after getting around 5th level, the monsters won’t be taken down that easily and . And remember, bounded accuracy actually makes it so, that the to hit chance decrease by 25%, unless the enemy’s AC is outright horrible.

But the farther you go, the less it means in math. At least for some classes. Of course the statistic will change, with different means to give your damage. Let’s compare the paladin and fighter: While the fighter gets another attack at 11th level, the paladin does more damage with his attacks. So the fighter gets more reliability (which means he can take the -5 while having a buffer attack left), while the paladin begins to want more of his attacks actually hit (especially under Divine Favor or another damage buff). Even though the math is the same (-5 to hit, +10 to damage), the paladin player wants all his attacks to hit, while the fighter will think, that one attack missing won’t negate the +10 damage most of the time. A ranger (hunter) with Colossus Slayer will rather try to get his bonus damage done first and then switch to the more unreliable but powerful attacks afterwards, to make most of this subclass trait.

What really makes those both feats shine early on are the other effects. Like making an attack as a Bonus Action when scoring a critical (say hallo, Champion)/killing one or ambushing enemies by shooting from far, far away. Of course these don’t seem all that powerful, until you see it in action. With the +damage the GWM is able to kill a lot of early enemies and trigger the bonus attack, while the sharpshooter can make more shots by retreating.

So, how can I think, that these feats aren’t broken? Simply, because I learned how to soften them without ruling. A special way to ensure it is: More enemies. More enemies makes more damage less important than reliability, since you need to take some of them out, otherwise the bounded accuracy will kick your ass.

As long as you don’t place them that all of them will be spellslinger-fodder, your weapon users will get a hard time, since even with all the damage and all the extra attacks, there will be more rolls, which makes a combat more statistically stable. And the joke is, that even then the XP won’t be as much, since using more enemies makes a encounter more difficult, so you won’t need as much to make it challenging.

Another reason why I don’t go WTF is because most of the real ‘unbalanced’ stuff comes from resources (Superiority Dice), risk (Reckless Attack) or teamwork. And I think teamwork should be strong, playing a game together is one of the reasons why you play D&D in the first place. Even though you should disrupt it occasionally. in the Forgotten Realms are places, where spells won’t work like the caster might think (weaveless areas and spellplague) or the setting makes it impossible to pull off (like balancing on a 2 foot width bridge).

Conclusions

If you really think, that those two feats are bad, you should simply not allow them. If you think, that the -5/+10 aren’t balances, either allow a -5/+5 variant for all other characters or simply switch it with +1 STR for GWM and +1 DEX for Sharpshooter, so the other effects stays in place.

Or maybe you’re like me as a DM and customize some of your enemies to have those feats as well or increade their accuracy/damage otherwise, so the combats will be quicker without loosing their menace.

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Fantastic Comedy

Since today is still April 1st (in GMT+1) , and I really dislike April’s Fools, I decided to make a serious post about comedy at a D&D-gaming table. Why only D&D? Because there are systems which are meant to be played in a comedic style (like Toons) or those who are so unbelievable in terms of character feats, that you transcend the grasp of realism (like Scion).

A normal D&D-campaign balances around realism and fantasy, in most cases it does so well, even though (in the typical American Fantasy Style) it’s always turning into an epic story with powerful characters which defies the laws of realism in one time while being very vulnerable to realism otherwise. For this, I point to the Tyranny of Dragons Story, which is good imho, but bringing Tiamat t the Forgotten Realms and fighting foes which can shape the realms to their whims, while there are a ton of situations, where you can easily die? It’s very over the top, which is not something all people enjoy.
But like I said, normally D&D balances the realism and the fantastic moments pretty well. So we have a sense of seriousness, coming from the realism, and a sense of freedom, from fantasy, which can turn into humor. Is it bad? Of course not, since everyone having fun is one of the main-goals of playing after all. Can it disturb? Definitely.
Now I simply write about my personal experiences of having comedy in D&D (with some insight in other campaigns).

Comedy-based campaigns

Maybe some of you experienced a comedy-based campaign already and in most of the times: It won’t last long, since the DM will run out of ideas (s)he wants to master. The problem is to find a balance between serious story-telling to get the characters to where the fun belongs and the jokes which are cracked to be cracked. In movies it works well, since the characters aren’t sentient beings, in P&P it’s problematic, since the players often don’t recognize when to stop.
If you give the players the whatever-bag (in: take out whatever you want), you can be sure, that they pull out a grenade launcher to bomb the villain you’re just introducing. But if you don’t give the whatever-bag, of course in the end they end up in only having the resources they have, without much spark of creativity. It’s basically only what they do in normal campaigns, except they’re more brave, like trying to make a Looney Tunes routine (“Duck-Hunt.” “Rabbit-Hunt.” “Duck-Hunt.” “Rabbit-Hunt.” “Rabbit-Hunt.” “Duck-Hunt!”)
How do you work with that? There are several ways. One of the easiest: Only one side is comedic. If the players like to play the fools, let them form a party which doesn’t take anything serious (like the old TMNT) and match them up with serious plots. Since only goofing around won’t stop the plot, they will somehow or another pull themselves together when needed and make it right through!
Or maybe the heroes are serious, while the villains and plots are somehow strange. Like a wizard, who tries to reshape the weave, so every spell will create cookies. Or another is just a maniac, who wants to break out the 4th wall, trying to convince everyone, that they’re nothing more than notes on a paper.
If only one side goofs around, it’s much easier to control the plot itself and make something like a story. With a real story, a DM is much better able to keep the campaign going, since one scenario will flow into the next and in the end it’s simply a direction to follow. Those who play regularly needs something like that, since simple and connectionless-episodic is very tiring when done repeatedly.
Another got rule in the DMG (p. 269) are: Plot points. This optional rule allows the players to shape the story to their own ideas and of course limiting the access of unbelievableness is another great way to make a comedy without playing randomly.
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Comedy as a supplement

Normally, I don’t play comedy-based campaigns, but I do add often some comedy as supplement. So when you (for example) play Tyranny of Dragons, you might think: Hey, this might work. Why don’t I add a bullywug, which is actually thinking, it’s a transformed princess. The bizarreness of the situation is something that might enhance the story in a funny way without breaking it. Just be sure, that the players can’t possibly think of it as a subquest or story-hook.
Funny things happens in real life and in Fantasy, you can make it more funny with just a bit of work. Like adding a fart-sound to the evil wizard’s Stinking Cloud or just a description, how a critical hit looks like on the enemy: “Your sword cuts deep into the body of your enemy and splashes hits the adjacent one, which complains: “Hey, look where you’re leaking!”

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In the end the most important thing is to determine how much comedy your gaming-group can process. If you’re joking as much out-of-game as playing serious, maybe you should consider to add some more comedy to the game itself as a DM or a player, to keep the rest more focused on the game. So maybe your character has the flaw, that he regularly messes up serious situations. Or maybe you add, as a DM, an additional condition to your lich, like that his phylactery can only be destroyed while he can see it, so you can deliver this line: “Erm, how do you… wait, I meant, what are you holding there? Seems like a very valuable treasure, so it might be better if you keep it somewhere safer than this battlefield. I know, I’m your enemy and trying to kill you, but I really had the urge to give you that piece of advice. Take it, seriously!”
And often the most memorable moments of a campaign are the most funniest. And that’s definitely better than the most annoying ones. -_-

Moral Compass – But where to go?

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Alignment is not as easy as it sounds, since the old days of D&D, it was a very important trait a character had. In some editions (like 3e) there were plenty of rules about what spells subjects you to what degree depending on your alignment, what magic weapon you could use, etc. In 3e especially you were punished for having an alignment other than neutral and double punished for not having any neutral in your alignment. Pathfinder, too.

In 4e alignments were reduced from nine to five, since some alignments are somewhat difficult to actually pull off and so some harder borderlines were combined. So a chaotic good character would be a ‘good’ character, since the anarchy of chaos don’t mash well with the good component. Chaotic neutral is in most cases chaotic evil either way, and so on.

In 5e we’re back to 9, or more precisely 10, since a creature can be unaligned, which means that there is not enough intelligence or self-awareness to actually have a proper understanding of morality. And here we come to the core of alignments, they’re the morality compass! Which means that whenever a character have problems in solving a dilemma of morals, he’d lean towards his alignment. Would he rather give in the demands of the bandits, who keeps hostages or start a bold maneuver in hope to keep them all save? Both would be good-natured but to not risk the hostages is a more lawful way of thinking, while chaotic characters takes more chances.

But sometimes it can be hard to actually choose an alignment and the PHB and Base Rules doesn’t offer much help and some descriptions aren’t good advertisement for their respective alignments, like ‘Lawful Good (LG) creatures can be counted on to do the right thing as expected by society’. Even though it’s completely right, the ‘society’-part is kinda repulsive for most players at first sight. Because they want their characters to be exceptional beings, which are able to sh*t on society, if needed.

So I thought I’ll just explain how I handle it in my campaigns, which are my personal attributes each alignment extreme have.

Good: To be a good character, one thing is not required: To say that all you do is for the good. Most of those who says it are evil anyway. If I need a personality trait which defines a good character, it would be: You’re helping others even if it doesn’t benefit you and might get you in danger! Or in one word: Selflessness.

If you act out of kindness, feels sympathy to the suffering and doesn’t think of rewards when helping people, than you’re definitely a good character.

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Evil: When good characters are selfless, evils are logically selfish. When a character is mostly about having the best comfort, use any shortcut and easy way you find and doesn’t care much about others, than said character is most likely evil. Those who are power-ridden, use any means necessary for their goals (even though they happen to be good) and only truly respects themselves, are about to fall into the evil alignments. Greed is a source for evilness, too.

So if your character doesn’t actually feel any compassion and always says “It’s just an orc” and other excuses, while only looking into what his/her reward is, that character is evil.

Lawful: A lawful character is someone who wants to give to and take from society. He has a stable set of rules, tries to minimize risks at all cost and keep thinking about the greater picture. Order is important, since when things are orderly, you can make your decisions with less error rate. You acknowledge laws by themselves, even though you don’t need to agree with them yourself, but at least you have a decent amount of rules, be it by your own society or by yourself. And you stick with your rules!

If you’re playing a character who think things normally through, shows a decent amount of self-discipline and play by certain rules your character acknowledges, he is most likely a lawful character.

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Chaotic: The character has wimps and goes with them at any opportunity he faces problems or sometimes even discomfort. An chaotic character have himself under much less control, so he tends to impulsive and sometimes irrational actions, often fueled by his good/evil awareness. The character will simply infringe laws if needed and think more about his own surrounding and emotions, be they selfless or selfish.

If your character is moody, screw the rules repetitively, is more short-sighted and have a lack of self-control, all points to a chaotic alignment. A more tempered way to say it is: He’s thinking with his heart and disregarding his head at times.

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Neutral: Neutral is always a balance-act, since it means to be neither the one or the other. If someone tries to keep balance between good and evil it means, he/she’s good if he/she can and evil, if he/she must. If the character is neutral on the order/chaos-axis, this means that he will neither go with every wimp nor restrict himself as much as a lawful character would do. A true neutral character would seek balance in every possible aspect, being an extreme by himself/herself.

Of course these are my personal impressions, but if you start to combine those angles, you get imo a somehow accurate picture. It’s not entirely perfect, but after explaining these, I can even get my players to grasp the difference between chaotic evil and chaotic neutral (which is a difference even a lot of experienced players have trouble in seeing).

But if that’s not sufficient, take nederbird’s alignment chart. It’s also decent, even though I’d personally disagree here and there. 😉

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Primary Dump?!

Like I said before (and made a little post about it), the balance of the 5e has shifted. Today I’ll analyze the possibility of dumping your primary ability score and which class fare how well with that.

Weapon-Focused Builds: These are the classes and builds, which shines by using their weapons, especially in combat. These would be the barbarian, the valor bard, some cleric builds, fighter, paladin, ranger and rogue. I’ll just count the monk in those, too, since his whole body is a weapon.

The math is simple, since you only have either STR or DEX as abilities and we’re mainly talking about attack and damage rolls. I searched throw my materials (DM-Base Rules, Hoard of the Dragon Queen + Supplement) and the highest AC I got were 20 (Helmed Horror (Challenge 4) and Roper (Challenge 5)). Even the Adult Dragons made it only to 19 and even though 19 is there several times, it’s still the minority.

As long as your character have proficiency, he has a 10% chance of hitting the highest AC for monsters for now. And even without any ability modifier, you can hit a lot of common monsters, which aren’t suppose to be heavily armored. In fact, humanoids are more of a problem here.

In the end you should have some ability modifier, but I personally think, that it won’t hurt as much as some might think, to actually use only 16 or 18 as a target stat. Even though DEX-Builds are far better off with 20, since a high DEX has several benefits, like AC in light armor, initiative, more skills and checks and a common saving throw. Here it just sums up to multiple areas, where DEX is benefiting you. At least until you get a -5 attack and +10 damage feat, because then you’d better have the best accuracy you can effort. 😉

The higher the level gets, the more you’ll feel the difference in damage, but since it mostly takes just 1-3 more hits to kill, you might consider it to be doable.

Skill-Focused Builds: I’m not only talking about some class, but the true wish to be a skill monkey. If you want to be up on your skills, be a jack-of-all trades, it’s just better to stick with your primary ability at a decent level (14 or 16 depending on other factors) and spreading the rest out. You’ll be good enough in what you do, to don’t be a burden in combat, but are better prepared than most when facing unknown challenges.

Control-Depending Builds: Not only spellcasters falls into these, but every build which have features depending on DC. Every point helps, sure. As long the features might trigger lesser effects when saved you might consider to stop at 18, but if you mainly use those, who have no effect on save, do yourself a favor and push the DC by aiming for max. The highest monster saving throw (for now) is +13 by the way. So even maxing out makes it only a bit harder.

Damage Casters: Those who uses spells to make the most damage, its a mix of the logic of Control-Depending and Weapon-Focused builds. But spells with attack rolls of 1st level and higher are more valuable than a weapon attack, while most damage spells which demands an saving throw deal at least half damage in case of a successful one. So aim for the higher if attack rolls are made often, while you might consider to stop at a at least +3 bonus when you have the option of relying for saves (since they are much less reliable without proficiency).

Support Casters: You can mainly dump your primary ability score, as long as your class don’t use features which relies on that. Playing a Wis 10 druid might be strange, but if you go for Moon Circle and only wants all those buff spells and out of combat magic and a little bit of healing (even though having a modifier would make a small difference here and a big one at the amateur and beginner tier), you might think it’ll be worthwhile to have decent DEX and CON for cases, you don’t have Wild Shape anymore or are beaten out of it.

My conclusion is, that having a high stat is a boon, but most can actually aim for 16 and never really needs to raise it further to be effective. Of course it makes them more effective, but in the end you might consider to rather raise another score or use feats instead of pumping your ability score to the max without thinking. Some benefits aren’t as easily calculated as an attack roll or save DC and the probability to hit or save.

Keep your eyes open for new possibilities and try something you want instead fear to need.

How to deal with beginners

Everyone starts as a beginner. And in my own gaming group (we start Tyranny of Dragons this Saturday with 1st level characters and me as the DM… poor players) I got an interested fellow, still shapeable to my desires. But when thinking back when I was a beginner (when dinosaurs still owned that planet), I actually have to ask myself: Can I still deal with those soon-to-be-nerds, which don’t have the slightest idea what they’re getting into?

After some thought: Pretty much. But since not everyone is as arrogant as me, I might provide some hints to how to deal with beginners.

 

1.) If possible, share the rules beforehand: In D&D 5e you can actually just give the link to the Basic Rules and see if this works out. Even though the PHB will be much more interesting, but as long you’re not going to lent it or the new player decides to buy it without even trying the game, it’s only a glance at the actual player options. Which is intentional, since PHBs should sell. BUY IT! Erm… Back to topic: Some peoples can get a rulebook and figure out most by themselves, since games and systems in games aren’t as uncommon as they were ten years ago. If someone can build up a Diablo, WoW or Skyrim character, D&D 5e shouldn’t be much of a problem.

 

2.) If the beginner already knows what he wants, just assist: Some people just know what they want. Like ‘I want to play a knight, how do I do it?’ Just assist, give some hints and options, but hold yourself back to over-analyze or -talking it. Keep it simple and as direct as possible and don’t confuse with too much information. Ask some questions to decide, which option suits the best, leave every ‘If’s out of it.

 

3.) If the beginner don’t know what to play, take your time to talk to him/her: Gain a idea of the personality, some favorite movie characters, etc. If someone doesn’t know, talking hours about classes, races, etc. isn’t going to cut it, just go shallowly over the section and see, if something will stick. Maybe the idea of playing a Dragonborn seems intriguing, then talk about Dragonborns and see, if the player wants to play a more traditional one or a individual case. Or if someone wants to be a Legolas, ask what parts of Legolas are warranted and go for it.

 

4.) Assist character creation: 5e is much quicker than previous editions in making a character, but it doesn’t explain character creation by itself. Just take your time to go step-by-step and asks questions if needed, but don’t elaborate. Keep it as simple as possible.

 

5.) Don’t take over character creation and don’t let someone else do it: The first character is something special, help is needed, but just to present a finished character or worse, let someone else who isn’t as reserved as he/she should be bombard a beginner. First it takes forever, second the personal touch to the character is missing, third this might horrify your beginner.

 

6.) Explain only the absolutely core rules at the beginning: Like how ability modifiers work, that a d20 will be rolled at about every opportunity, go over the character sheet, explain what hit points are if needed, more to give a overview. Since today’s gaming culture is more advanced, you should be ready after 5 minutes.

 

7.) Explain most rules during play: It’s more effective to explain rules and stats when using them in actual play, especially combat or other more complex systems. It’s just that abstract sometimes, if you’re not used to it.

 

8.) You don’t need to actually explain role-play: It’s just quicker to start things as a DM and most beginners will catch on quickly. Doing is better than talking.

 

9.) Stay interested: After the first session, take your time to talk to your player, getting the first impressions and how to deal with problems or fears. Beginners often tends to think, that they’re holding back the more experienced ones, but actually they’re just feeling awkward doing that kind of activity for the first time, so just let the beginner think positively about the game day. And don’t be afraid of your other players, most are holding back their worst behavior when playing with a beginner.

 

10.) Keep supporting: Instead of overload your beginner after a session with further details and rules and whatever, just be prepared for questions, answer them, don’t build up pressure. The hobby is addictive enough by itself, if you keep asking ‘How was it?’ ‘When do you have time?’ and provide help like ‘Do you need a compendium for wizards?’ or ‘I found something, I’d like to show you’, etc. it just makes you unlikeable. Or would you like to be the target of someone like that?

 

Sadly it always backfires if you try to mold a beginner to your liking. If a great acting role-player, a smart tactical one or the biggest power-gamer is born is not up to the DM. Every player brings her/his own personality and instead of trying to force your own wishes on it, just try to bring it out to the game table.
And don’t forget, that beginners will most likely get a culture shock. Since a gaming table is a kinda strange place.
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Why PG can be annoying and how to deal with it

Like I said already some times: I don’t particularly hate power-gamers or power-gaming (PG) in general. But sometimes they can be a very strenuous experience. Every time I read the forums, I see some hate/annoyance/arguing between ‘PGers’ and ‘PG-haters’, threads about how to optimize and posts about how power-gaming is fucking everything up.

I try to remain neutral, but honestly: If something makes me start hating PG it’d be that PG-hate. Because I actually understand both standpoints, since I’m pretty good at PGing, too, if I were to cut loose. So maybe I should just talk about it.

 

Why PG is so fun: PG is a special kind of amusement, which can’t be understood by everyone. It’s a time-consuming activity, which only kinda enhance a game, which you might play only 1-2 times a month. But PG can be pretty mood-dependent, even a down-to-earth person might just pick up a new rulebook, seeing those rules and ask herself/himself, how these rules would work together.

Here are some of the fun parts of PG:

  • Some people just enjoy to organize, strategize and see things through, those might become DMs (like me) or if the imagination is missing, becomes bookkeepers and PGers. If you don’t like those things, it’ll be hard to understand what kind of enjoyment it is, to see all the things working or to adapting them until they work
  • You feel like you’re smarter than the game-developers every time, you see a rule-hole or something like that. After trying to create a game-system by yourself, you’ll see how hard it is, to get the rule-holes down to it
  • You feel like you’re smarter than the DM, whose tendency of torturing your whole party is getting on your nerves at some point
  • You feel more prepared for said of torture
  • You either get the feeling of power compared to your party-members or are glad, that you’re more of a help for those. Or both, depending on personality
  • Since the DM will definitely challenge your build at some point, you might proof that your result is almost perfect

There are some more reasons, but these should cover the major ones. If you’re prone to the first one, it’s actually hard to really build a character without taking the ‘power’ into consideration, even I will never forfeit easily obtained power for any of my characters, as long I see it worth. Taking a feat, no prob. Multiclass… only if I really think, that it’s doable for my character concept.
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Why PG offsets the other players: In D&D you’re normally in a party with some other players. Some of them might be offset after realizing, that a PGer is in the party and even though some people may ask ‘Why?’, they’ve actually good reasons to be. Here are the main ones.

  • P&P is a hobby for most people. And when enjoying your hobby, you want to have your part of the cake, have the times to shine and get some screen-time. PGers are actually stealing a lot of spot-light, depending on the build, since the easiest and for most people most fun is a combat orientated PG, that player will definitely get his show stolen, especially if the PGer kinda compete with said character (like paladin and fighter as melee combatants) or even worse: If the PGer shouldn’t be able to compete (like a sorcerer, dishing out more melee damage than the fighter)
  • Most often combat-orientated PGers are pretty useless outside of combat. Especially if they don’t get spell-slots or only use them to enhance themselves or damaging enemies, which means that for all the planning and sometimes really annoying and slow stuff, more work falls to the non-PGers
  • Even non-combatant orientated PG will make a character falls behind in some serious basic issues and even though there are some things like ‘each character should be a specialist in what he do’, most challenges address more than one field of expertise and if a character is too focused or unwilling to carry on with its weaknesses, it’s another burden for the others
  • To be able to compete with PGers, some feel the need to PG themselves and not many like it, if they didn’t do so in the first place. And often aren’t that good at that

You should never think about these non-PG players less and especially less able to play P&P. Because a role-play isn’t about the system generally, the ability to abuse a system is no requirement or measure in how good you can role-play.
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Why PG annoys the DM: Argh, after thinking about some cases, I actually grumbled in bitter rage, grinding my teeth, while writing these points. PG is a curse for most DMs, because it makes simple issues much harder than needed and are always hot spots of conflicts.

  • Ever had a player with a perception score of +40 in the mid-levels? Even though it wasn’t 5e, those players deem to noticing every tiny detail, which would make an ambush obvious, a secret compartment detectable and those little things which should either surprise your players or should actually require a bit of care
  • Or a +40 Stealth character at the end-beginner levels? I think you can see that point, even if the character remains hidden
  • In combat department it can be even more annoying, like having a Rogue in 4e, who seems just unhittable with anything but Fort-attacks (using really any power, item and combination to reach that goal); when adding more accurate monsters, the other characters suffers, if using special means the player will get pissed. Or a build with a myriads of attacks, which can kill a supposedly powerful foe in one turn, before said foe could even blink. And many, many more.
  • PGer get pissed, when the DM is using the easy way out to decrease their power, while the other players aren’t thinking highly, that you use extra resources to downgrade that specific character
  • Often, PG characters are shallow and don’t provide anything useful when creating or adapting an adventure. If the PGer is lacking imagination, the character is just a bunch of stats
  • Some PG options are ridiculous if you’re looking at them from a more pedestrian point of view. It’s understandable, that someone wants to be the ultimate skill-monkey, but at the first glance, the combination of Rogue(start), Ranger, Cleric with Knowledge Domain and Bard seems to use some explanation. Or monk/druids. Or paladin/rogues. To just call a few. OK, paladin/rogues with the Oath of Vengeance would be the Avengers in 4e, I guess.
  • If the other players aren’t as satisfied as the PGer, it’ll definitely make your whole game days suffer

*grumble, grinding, grumble*
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How to deal with PG as the PGer: On the other players side, there is not too much to say. The other players aren’t able to deal with a PGer other than by talking and trying to understand it. I believe there are some ways, to actually deal with some issues as the PGer himself/herself, here I’ll address the PGers directly:

  • Don’t leave out of combat capabilities unaddressed. In 5e it’s much easier to do so without losing power, since the Backgrounds in the PHB won’t actually enhance the combat prowess. So pick up some things outside your primary field
  • Choose a character-concept which fits your playstyle: If you’re trying to maximize your sword-skill, play a character who wants to be the best swordman and begin challenging other swordmen to duels. If there is some character-depth to your stats, it’s much easier to accept the PG in that
  • Don’t enter a player competition if not called. If you meet a fellow PGer, compete if you want, but if you don’t, take simply a part nobody else fulfill. Much easier that way, because it’ll become less offensive
  • Remember, that PG isn’t always about the highest stats possible. A fighter as a Defender/Tank with an AC too high and no ways to force the enemies to direct their intention to him/her, won’t fulfill the role, because even monsters get annoyed when trying to hit an unhittable target. If you can’t hold them on you, you’re simply not doing your job!
  • Be a team-player. If you’re actually helps other characters to shine or are able to not address everything in a way, that your build will come in handy, people actually will mind much less. If you want to shine every time yourself without rubbing your fellow players the wrong way, you can still play a Leader-role character, since they seem to PG as much as they want, since it’s a benefit for the party-members instead the character itself, they most likely even really notice all that PG. Or the other way around, make a character build which can only shine when being supported by others (even if PGers are avoiding those builds usually)
  • Talk to your DM beforehand. After playing a bit, your DM will definitely see your tendencies in that department. See a compromise, like deciding in which departments you can PG without calling up his wrath (like with undetectable, all-seeing builds) and if you come up with some strange combinations, have a good character-story at hand and tell it before talking about your build

The most important thing is, to redirect your desires in a way, that won’t offense the other players as much or even make them think, that it’s OK that way. Being a melee-PG-character is much more acceptable, if there are no other main-melees in your party, since there is less competition and if you’re the only one, you’d better be good.

And a important no-go: Don’t suggest or help other players to PG unasked. Some will simply hate that idea by itself, others will actually try it and might lose sight on the parts of P&P, which said player actually enjoyed. If a player asks by himself/herself, be sure to take it slowly, before overwhelming your padawan. 😉
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How to deal with PG as DM: It’s much harder to actually deal with PG as a DM, especially after getting duped multiple times. Remain calm, it’s not the end and you shouldn’t seek revenge, since it’s just a game and at least one player were happy that day. But there are some ways to deal with it.

  • House-rule rule holes. If you get the feeling, that a specific combination doesn’t seem to be intentional, talk to your players about it. Be honest, provide some suggestion how to deal with it, don’t just decide it by yourself, if possible. If you just close anything up (especially after being fooled) you’ll seem upset and petty.
  • If you know that a PGer is in your gaming group, be sure to explain the no-gos, like ‘no over-optimized perception and/or stealth’ or ‘no single levels when multiclassing’ beforehand
  • Remember the players, that most characters which are only build around being the best in a single thing which isn’t that useful in real-life are much less believable. A PG fighter might be a guard for a merchant, but without a moderate INT, WIS and CHA it’s most likely, that he’s buffooned at every opportunity without even realizing it
  • Don’t ignore the PGers forte, that will only invite problems. Address them regularly and sometimes for important stuff, if you’re ready to ‘lose’ some times, you’ll keep the player satisfied enough so he won’t complain as much. Just let be strengths be strengths sometimes. Makes it much funnier, when using a shenanigan to undermine it
  • Don’t take PG as a challenge, trust me: If you do, the PGer won’t suffer, the other players will instead
  • More variation: As long you don’t get a skill-monkey, just open up the game, make more variant adventures like beginning in Sharn (Eberron) with a murder case, which will require investigation, than coming up with a bit of combat, which will lead the party to a specific noble house, which will have a party in a few days, so the players have to prepare and get an invitation (planning and socializing) and being at the party themselves is yet another challenge, investigating further, opening some traps and summoned beasts, finally getting the boss, who will only… I guess you already got the gist
  • If you got a skill-monkey or skill-specialist, don’t roll for some scenes, just let play it by words. If the ability (skill) checks are too good to fail, be fair most of the time, not all the time
  • If nothing work, talk to the PGer after seeing how it worked out. Somehow there is always a compromise
  • If common sense is not heard by the PGer, be as strict as necessary. In the end the player most likely still wants to play with you, but is pretty disappointed, that his build is attacked/ignored/undermined by you. Try to be fair, but honest and if you can’t deal with it anymore, you don’t have to. If you’ve no fun being a DM, than your personal goal is not met and that would be pretty counter-productive

There are many more, but mainly these are standard forms of interacting with other people and less about being a DM than being a person who can confront conflicts cleverly.
null Now that I was able to talk about it, I’m kinda relieved. Personally I’m more of a story-made-by-players-driven DM, the reason why I want to have back-stories and characters which makes sense, instead of those, who only have their stats as personality. As long that holds, I can deal with PG myself most of the times, but I do have players which can’t do it as good. And there is a limit to everything and sometimes even I get pretty pissed off at specific players. Like getting collywobbles if the first thing I hear about something is ‘If I can combine it with this and that, then…’ or actually downgrading options, just because their lack of measurable ‘power.

Feats of Strength or more like Strength of Feats

First, I got this warlock-guide posted by Mephl1234 in the WotC-Forum. It’s interesting, even though I might disagree with some points, but I won’t pondering about that… for now. And since I got my time stolen, sadly no pictures… for now.

 

After the multiclassing section I thought: Let’s get over the second optional rule in the PHB: Feats.

 

Feats were a very strong aspect in 3e and 4e, getting feats several times at certain points of character advancement additionally to your class features and bonus feats due different sources. What changed?

  • You can choose a feat as a class feature, called Ability Score Improvement (if feats are allowed in the campaign), your character level don’t matter; but there are less feats overall
  • Instead of a single effect, most feats gives out several effects or more powerful ones, making them much stronger in general than 3e/4e-feats
  • feats might increase one ability score
  • less hard-stat bonuses

It’s pretty amazing to see how players are reacting to them. Some are glad (like me), some are enraged, a lot are whining around. They see: Ability improvements and feats now cancel each other out and some are sure, that it’s important to get your primary ability at 20 as fast as possible, so there will be even less feats left.

 

But I don’t think that way. A 20 is good, but if you talk about feats, it becomes a very deep and insightful topic, so let’s just stop complaining and see what feats we got here, I divided them up in several categories.

 

1.) The combat-helpers: Those feats are designed for getting your hard-stats and combat prowess as high as possible. These feats are the main-interest for many power-focused players, since no power is easier to oversee than the one you can calculate!

  • Alert: A +5 for initiative is a great boon for defenders and controllers, those who actually wants to decide where to put up a front or hitting the enemy with an area effect before they could scatter. No surprise, not granting Advantage to hidden attackers… a great feat for especially sorcerer and wizards, to help with their puniness and area control.
  • Charger: Dash and get an attack/shove as a bonus action with more power. In most cases it’ll be ignored, since the enemies aren’t usually that mobile and/or far away to get benefits out of it, even though classes with single strong attacks (like the Rogue or Paladin) its an actual cool thing, since you won’t lose less than the others
  • Crossbow Expert: This feat makes crossbows better than longbows with one exception: The longbow still got the longer range. Good for a range focused character, since you don’t need to switch weapons anymore, but actually the effects aren’t that great.
  • Defensive Duelist: A live-safer for everyone, who don’t get Uncanny Dodge. You need to be proficient with a finesse weapon to wield, but an elven wizard might get astounding results when seeing a single attacker incoming. Generally a solid choice for any finesse wielding melee build, which don’t need attack of opportunity as often, since it needs your reaction.
  • Dual Wielder: Nice one, not as powerful in general, but it’ll make Two-Weapon Fighting a bit more worth.
  • Elemental Adept: Most casters wants it, because it means you have at least one strong element, where Resistance won’t matter (Immunity do). A good choice would be fire, since there are so many fire spells, but sadly there are some more monsters with Fire Immunity than Acid Immunity (like all kind of devils).
  • Great Weapon Master: This feat makes up most reasons to not wield a shield, but a heavy weapon: The option to make more damage against easy to hit foes and to get another attack after a Critical as a bonus action. A great feat for those, who wants to maximize their damage and a barbarian with Reckless Attack can deliver it much more reliable even at harder to hit opponents.
  • Heavily Armored: +1 Strength and heavy armor, good for clerics without DEX and a domain which would grant heavy armor anyway, good for mountain dwarf wizards and STR-based rangers, which won’t care about DEX in particular.
  • Heavy Armor Master: Another +1 and some bookkeeping! Reduce each damage of non-magical weapons by 3!
  • Lightly Armored: I get the feeling the feat got only added to make the set full. Or because there might be a great light armor for casters which won’t have the power of granting proficiency with that armor (unlike the Elven Chainshirt), since even the masterwork items (like mithril chainshirt) weren’t better than Mage Armor.
  • Mage Slayer: Since spellcasters are more frequent, especially in the mid-levels, being able to deny some spellcasting is valuable. Generally a good feat for those, who tends to get the back-row more easily, like a monk and of course everyone who actually wants to play a Mage Slayer.
  • Martial Adept: This grants some combat maneuvers and can be a great addition, if you want to act more tactically, but will be only a second-rate feat in terms of pure power.
  • Medium Armor Master: For some this feat is great, something like a +1 to AC and STR/DEX, while getting rid of Stealth Disadvantage. But for that you’d need a DEX 16.
  • Mobile: A great combination with Charger, but still a good choice for everyone, who wants to engage in melee, but not staying there. More speed, no difficult terrain penalty in Dash Action, if you attack someone (it or miss), you can get away without provoking an opportunity attack.
  • Moderately Armored: +1 STR/DEX, medium armor proficiency. Some classes might get some benefit, but multiclass is still a more than viable alternative, if you really want it.
  • Mounted Combatant: If you want to kill the cavalry, kill its horses. Now it becomes much harder, granting the mount pseudo-evasion, the rider becomes can forced to be targeted instead of his/her mount and an all-inclusive Advantage to attack rolls against any non-mounted target smaller than your mount. If mounts weren’t that impracticable inside dungeons, it’d be a great choice just for the latter effect.
  • Polearm Master: Another attack as bonus action, but since it’s not Two-Weapon Fighting, you get your ability-mod to this attack and an opportunity attack, when someone is coming into reach. This is a great feat for everyone, who don’t need the bonus action as often and wants to have more attacks.
  • Resilient: +1 one ability, proficiency with its save. Most likely it will be either DEX, CON or WIS, since these are the most used saving throws.
  • Savage Attacker: A little damage boost, good for single attacks (like paladin and rouge, which can dish out massive damage if needed), less for those who uses a lot of attacks to make their damage.
  • Sentinel: This is like the combat challenge combined with combat superiority of the fighter in 4e, just less restrictive and often. Take that feat and you’ll be a great defender, so any melee can potentially go into the defender role. But if all of them should…
  • Sharpshooter: More accuracy in terms of cover and long range, less accuracy for more damage, means that the ranged weapon enhance everything they want to in one feat. As a ranged focused character: Take it early, abuse it!
  • Shield Master: This feat will make good use for shield wielders, especially after taking Resilient to get proficiency with DEX-saves, makes it more unlikely for you to get damage for a lot of effects outside AC. Either a bonus for targeted effects with DEX-saves or a reaction for no damage for a DEX-save, which would let you take half damage when succeeding. Helps survivability a great deal.
  • Spell Sniper: No cover penalty for ranged spells with attack roll, double range for them and an additional cantrip with attack roll from any list. If you wouldn’t use that class’ ability score, you could combine them quite interesting, but at least the druid and cleric as well as the bard, warlock and sorcerer can look at each others spell-list without worrying. The cantrip alone is a good choice, the rest makes it insanely good, you can stand farther away and have less problems hitting targets!
  • Tavern Brawler: An unique choice, but since you won’t have or want to use weapons at every opportunity, this feat is interesting, getting proficiency with unarmed attack and improvised weapons and more importantly: A bonus action grapple attempt after hitting with any of those. And nobody would dislike +1 STR/CON additionally. But for me more like a choice made for fluff.
  • Tough: +2 hit points per level, for hit points alone its like +4 CON and especially those d8 hit die classes which wants to go into melee might want to get some additional insurance. Hit points are more important at 5e than in 3e or 4e, but somehow I’ll already see it untaken.
  • War Caster: The strength of this feat is depending on how restrictive your DM sees somatic components. If the DM is strict, this feat is a must for any caster who’s not wielding only a one-handed weapon without shield.
  • Weapon Master: A +1 for STR/DEX and four weapon proficiencies… Not really good, since most classes gets all the proficiencies they want and some features grants additional, making this feat kinda useless until exotic weapons or something like that comes out.

 

2.) The next feats are the Explorer Feats, those feats which will be a great help by exploring dungeons and similar stuff:

  • Athlete: Better climbing, better jumps, standing up for 5 feet, a lot of these bonuses get handy in combat, too, but won’t necessarily. In exploration it will things only easier and faster, not really better.
  • Dungeon Delver: The typical rouge thing, you might think. Actually, give it the armor guy, since traps are kinda problematic for them. Or better: Your Trapper and Spotter, it lessens the time needed to get a dungeon done, since you see all kind of things faster, since you detect secret doors more easily and walks at normal pace instead slow.
  • Keen Mind: INT-bonus, perfect timing, an inner compass and a perfect memory for the last month aren’t so bad, but won’t really matter for every player who doesn’t want to play a detective. But nice try.
  • Linguist: Even though it helps with social interactions as well, the cipher part helps you in exploration in a social environment (like a city campaign) and the fact that unknown languages are a common way to learn more about a particularly dungeon is and what might await you. With the +1 INT it’s not a bad choice, especially for those who wants to know more languages. But it’s not great, either.
  • Observant: Here the bonus to passive perception is the greatest boon, but lip reading is very handy in an urban area, full of intrigues. And a INT/WIS bonus, not too bad here!
  • Ritual Caster: A way to kinda get the Caster role, just take the wizard and you’re pretty good in the exploration department, having access to a lot of spells needed to be as thoroughly as wished. If you don’t have already a ritual caster, consider this feat hard!
  • Skulker: A feat between exploration and combat, but since it helps you to actually avoid combat, I put it here. Making a sneaky character more sneaky sounds worse than it is: It actually doesn’t just add a bonus, but gives you a very light version of darkvision, reduced the amount of obscuration needed for hiding and lets you stay hidden, if you missed with an attack out of hiding. Great choice for stealthy rogues, especially lightfoot halflings.

 

3.) Now we get the Resource Management, feats which makes your characters more effective in organizing their resources and this way pacing up the adventures, because less time is wasted at long rests. If all three are present at your party, you could technically get around a healer quite well, if the tactic is right. But probably it won’t.

  • Durable: +1 CON and when rolling hit dice for short rest, you always get at least twice your CON-mod back. Means more effective use of hit dice and therefore more chances for short rests, since you can use the healing more often. At least if you have at least CON 14 for some kind of decent effect.
  • Healer: Instant wake up call for the dying and a small healing as an action without wasting much money (5sp per healing). Reusable after a short rest, reducing the amount of needed spell-slots, potions and other resources bit by bit. It’s much more useful than a first reading suggests.
  • Inspiring Leader: For 10 minutes time level + CHA-mod temporary hit points, and re-usable after a short rest. This doesn’t seem too great, but if you’re using between 2-3 short rests each day adventuring, it will amass and every hit soften by temporary hit points is like healing beforehand. Great combination with healer.

 

4.) And finally the rest, those who are special or standing alone in their particularly fields.

  • Actor: This feat is right between exploration and social interaction, but which more focus on social interactions, since the doubled proficiency bonus only apply when tricking others with your stolen identity. The voice trick is nice, a good pick for those, who wants to enhance their repertoire in a social environment or just wants to use an imitated voice.
  • Lucky: 3 re-rolls per day for you, that’s sweet and you can take a chance to have an enemy hits you, you always choose the result you want. Great feat, especially if you’re in either a tight spot and have to save or need to hit/succeed in a specific round of combat.
  • Magic Initiate: Two cantrips, a 1st level spell per day, depending on your choice, it might be a great addition or a huge waste of a feat.
  • Skilled: I think you can be anything you want, as long you’re smart enough to work it out with class and background. But there are some players, which wants to be skill-monkeys and wants as much skills as possible and three new skill proficiencies are pretty sweet toward that goal. But not especially needed for a more mundane character.

 

As you can see, the feats are still more about combat than anything else, but I was already expecting it. It’s much easier to make combat rules than anything else.

 

With that many interesting feats, I suggest you should look if you find anything remotely interesting, before deciding that a higher ability score is needed. To be somehow effective, a +2 mod in your primary ability is enough, even though I would stick with +3 at 4th level.

There may be a lot of reasons why to say, that you need absolutely a +2 in your primary, but let me say this: More battles were won by having a controller be first in combat, using spells like web or entangle, but by having a +1 on the spell DC, making Alert more valuable at that thought.

 

My advise would be: Take a feat early, maybe a second and afterwards care about ability scores. Feats are more fun to me and even in power-terms more valuable imo. And feats which enriches the fluff (like Dungeon Delver) are always a great addition to the game.

Just think about what is defining about the character and worth to be expressed by a feat, like Great Weapon Master for your great sword fighter or Keen Mind for a ingenious wizard.