News and such

I’m moving, in April I will get into the new house. So there is still a lot to do, but at least I wanted to share something…

First of all, I share some official stuff from WotC on my side, you can download them there, too, it’s totally free, but since not all of you likes to look regularly there, I just figured, I can simply upload them here, too, and you can get it, if you want.
In this case we get the first 2 instances of Unearthen Arcana, which provides pre-rulings for Eberron and a army-combat system. I guess it might be worked over after some thought there for the hard-cover variant (especially since the Eberron races only have +1 to two abilities, which is uncommon so far).

Now I’m proud to say, that I will begin a Baldur’s Gate campaign with a new party. And that means to transfer the beloved PC-game to the P&P media in 5e! I will try to transfer my campaign notes into a self-made gaming module, which can be DMed by those, who also played and love the game or if I’m a bit skilled even those, who don’t.

Of course I know, that I’m not able to make it like the game, since the companion NPCs and the playstyle does a lot for the mood. But in the end, it’s still a strong plot, a great journey and some quite great story twists, which will make this very enjoyable, especially for those, who don’t know the games or were too weak to play them.

The plan is to make a campaign with a proud numbers of the optional quests, since you can actually take some time in most cases. I’ll try to write game reports, too, but I still have two left for Tyranny of Dragons (and the campaign will go on, too), so I won’t make promises.

This is sadly all this time, with the new campaign I have a lot to do, and moving isn’t good on your time, either. Be patient and I will make the wizard’s overview, even though I will first update my paladin and cleric overview with the options of the DMG.

Homebrew Genasi

This is a home-brew version of the genasi, which I wrote before the Player’s Companion: Temple of Elemental Evil. So if you want to grab the real one, you’d better download the .pdf on the Supplement page.

Since the DMG got released and we got a few peak-views, I’m pretty excited to use those few things I know. Here I tried to use the official excerpt of the DMG to create a well-known but less used race: Genasi. Much like the tiefling, but with a more elemental flair.

I’m going solely mechanical to this, since I think that those who know them, should know their fluff as well and the time I got left is going to be spend to the warlock overview (and it’s less enough).

Earth, Fire, Wind, Water and Heart! Well, less heart, but you know...

Even if the Genasi are further categorized as Fire Genasi, Earth Genasi, etc. they share the same basic idea: The blood of elementals (means Dao, Efreeti, Marid and Djinni for exampel) combined with the blood of mortals. So we choose the same base race (genasi) and add (for now) 5 subraces, windsoul, earthsoul, firesoul, windsoul and stormsoul.

Since there are similarities origin-wise with the tiefing, I use it as a basic. Then I look into my 3e and 4e Forgotten Realms and realize, that it might be a bit difficult. But in the end I realized, that the Genasi are supposed to be a bit like elemental warriors, using magic and physical power, so I think I got a good conses.

Genasi

Ability Score Increase: +1 Intelligence

Age: Genasi matures at the same rate as humans, but live a few years longer

Alignment: Since they have a elemental nature, genasis are more leaned to a neutral alignment.

Size: Genasi are about the same size as humans, even though depending on their element their stature differs. Your size is Medium.

Speed: Your base walking speed is 30ft

Languages: Common and Primordial

Subrace: Choose one of the following subraces.

Earthsoul

Ability Score Increase: +2 Strength

Elemental Resistance: You have resistance to acid damage

Earthen Legacy: You know the blade ward cantrip. Once you reached 3rd level, you can cast the thunderwave spell once per day as a 2nd-level spell. Once you reached the 5th level, you can cast the spike growth spell once per day. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for these spells.

Firesoul

Ability Score Increase: +2 Dexterity

Elemental Resistance: You have resistance to fire damage

Fiery Legacy: You know the produce flame cantrip. Once you reached 3rd level, you can cast the burning hands spell once per day as a 2nd-level spell. Once you reached the 5th level, you can cast the heat metal spell once per day. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for these spells.

Stormsoul

Ability Score Increase: +2 Strength

Elemental Resistance: You have resistance to lightning damage

Stormy Legacy: You know the light cantrip. Once you reached 3rd level, you can cast the witch bolt spell once per day as a 2nd-level spell. Once you reached the 5th level, you can cast the shatter spell once per day as a 3rd-level spell. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for these spells.

Watersoul

Ability Score Increase: +2 Constitution

Elemental Resistance: You have resistance to cold damage

Watery Legacy: You know the resistance cantrip. Once you reached 3rd level, you can cast the create or destroy water spell once per day as a 2nd-level spell. Once you reached the 5th level, you can cast the blur spell once per day. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for these spells.

Windsoul

Ability Score Increase: +2 Dexterity

Elemental Resistance: You have resistance to lightning damage

Earthen Legacy: You know the mage hand cantrip. Once you reached 3rd level, you can cast the featherfall spell once per day. Once you reached the 5th level, you can cast the gust of wind spell once per day. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for these spells.

So let’s talk about some choices: Earthsoul was hard, since there are less earth-themed spells there, but after consulting the 4e power and the 3e fluff (for female earthsouls), I went with a shockwave and growing plants. Produce flame for firesoul was a hard choice, since its damage increases over the time, but since one action is creating that flame and another to throw it, it shouldn’t break anything. Not everytime the spell is cast at a higher level, since here and there I felt like overall it would be too powerful, like seeing the fire genasi, who has a pure damage based legacy (even though I did consider misty step there).

That the subrace gives a greater ability improvement is meant to be, since the element should have some physical impact.

I’m sure I like what I’ll see as the official genasi, but sometimes you just get a bit giddy in thinking about what could be. For now it’ll work. 😉

Thoughts on multiclassing

Since I made a mistake there, my long “Let’s rock with roles”-post wasn’t placed at the date I wanted (yesterday), I kinda sorted it out, even though I’m impressed, how unexpected unflexible wordpress can be. I’m still at a 1 day a post-base! 😉

 

For now, let’s keep it simple, by just talking about— shoot, multiclassing. Somehow I get the feeling, that it’ll get complicated.

 

I start with my personal opinion of multiclassing: I like the general idea of being able to follow different paths and some of those combinations are flavorful and nice to see. I really like the wizard/ranger combination myself, but like every rule, it could be exploited. The system in 5e is similar to 3e, where multiclassing were… well, a picture says more than a thousand words.

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 You take two level monk to the rest of levels for druids. Why? Because you gain WIS (the primary ability) to your AC even in Wild Shape, evasion, flurry of blows and some strong saves. How does the monk fit into the druid class? Let’s ask a player of mine: ‘How my character got this? … Erm, well my character lived in a monastery, until… erm… you know and stuff’ I don’t dislike power-gamer generally, I just don’t like the pursuit of pure power while ignoring anything else. One of my favorite players is a power-gamer, but he get his character idea first and then build his power-game around the initial idea.

Let’s say that the restrictions in 3e weren’t restrictive enough and even though I thought that multiclassing in 4e was viable, it wouldn’t be for 5e. Now let’s see how 5e multiclassing is performing.

 

1.) Optional Rule: This is the first big plus: It’s optional and the DM can decide to allow it or restrict it to his means. Later I’ll throw some ideas into it.

2.) Ability requirements: A little plus, at least you can’t multiclass into something you were going to dump for whatever reasons.

3.) Character Level for Level up and Proficiency bonus: In pre3e you had split experience scores, so we should be thankful it didn’t come back. And one of the most important bonuses is based on your character level, which makes it neither better or worst between pure-classed and multiclassed.

4.) Only few Proficiencies: Instead of getting the whole set, your first class will decide which save-proficiency you get, only the bard, ranger and rogue brings skill proficiency and you won’t get access to heavy armor. Normally I’d count it as a plus, but since the only classes which don’t have any important proficiencies which could be nerfed when multiclassing are the wizard and sorcerer, the lowest hit points out there, and no ideal save proficiencies, it’s a minus, too. Nobody would start with one of those both classes, since you get more when choosing any other class. But since I see no way to make it really better, I just accept it. Maybe you could just give no proficiencies when taking another class.

5.) Channel Divinity: More options how to, no more uses per day. Since Channel Divinity is often awesomely strong in a way or other, it’s better that way.

6.) Extra Attack: You get only more than one Extra Attack if you’re reaching a class level which would at least grants you 2 Extra Attacks. And it isn’t compatible with the warlock’s Invocation Thirsting Blade. It’s more they filled a hole, which definitely would give you problems if they didn’t.

7.) Unarmored Defense: If you have this feature, you won’t get it again. Normally, you should ask yourself ‘why, if those are incompatible at the first place’, but it works that way, that you actually have to think before choosing your starting class: Do you really wants to go barbarian first for more hit points, even though you’d have higher AC if starting as a draconic sorcerer instead?

8.) Spellcasting: There is no spell-slinging for those class-combinations with 2 main-casters, since the spells per day are handled by a special value, determined by your spellcasting-classes. Your known spells are depending on your respective classes, a bard 3/cleric5 would have spell-slots like a 8 level bard, but can only know 2nd level bard spells and 3rd level cleric spells. But he could cast those spells with his 4th level slots. This is a buff for caster-combinations which weren’t much more than spell-slingers in 3e, as long you didn’t have a prestige class like arcane theurg.

9.) All other features remains: Since the most defining features and some of the most powerful ones are at the low-levels, you can take some of them quite easily, like the rouge’s cunning action at 2nd level. But thankfully some were moved to later levels compared to 3e, so Evasion is far off. This will lead to a minus.

10.) Ability Score Improvements: Since I don’t like the idea to take only a few levels to min-max a character, the fact that the Ability Score Improvements (or feats) are class features is a huge boon for me. You will definitely think about taking 2 rogue levels for Cunning Action, 3 monk levels for various reasons and afterwards 15 druid levels for everything else, if that means, that you’ll missing 2 chances for Ability Score Improvements. The real good thing about it: It won’t really bother the multiclassers, which will be more balanced about their classes, at least 12/8 provides directly no disadvantage, while 10/10 will leave you with one Improvement less, but gives often some nice other features.

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Generally I’d say: Multiclassing is somewhat good in 5e, even though it’s an optional system and in that regard not necessary balanced, if you want to nerf it as a DM, here are some house rules, you could use:

1.) Favored class: You could simply say, that each (sub)race can only multiclass as long one of those classes is their favored class, saying that some races are too predestined to follow a certain path and can only break out if following that path truthfully. If we take the 3e favored class as a basic, it’d be:

Race Favored Class 3.5e My suggestion
Dragonborn Sorcerer Paladin
Dwarf, Hill Fighter Cleric
Dwarf, Mountain Fighter Fighter
Elf, Dark female Cleric, male Wizard Sorcerer*
Elf, High Wizard Wizard
Elf, Wood Ranger Ranger
Gnome, Forest Bard Wizard
Gnome, Rock Bard Bard
Half-Elf Any Starting class
Half-Orc Barbarian Barbarian
Halfling, Lightfoot Rogue Rogue
Halfling, Stout Rogue Ranger
Human Any Starting class
Tiefling Rogue Warlock

*In a Forgotten Realms Setting (which I’ll play for some time now) I’d go with the same as 3,5e

2.) Even class-levels: A player can only have his class levels at a one level difference, so it won’t be possible to get only some levels in a class for features. If you choose this house-rule, you should grant your player an another Ability Score Improvement on level 10/10 or 7/7/6. Just to be sure, that there is not too much punishment.

3.) No further class-levels after taking another class: The character actually stops learning his old class and only can advance on his new class. Would be somewhat restrictive and makes a bit sense, but might not be restrictive enough, depending on your liking.

4.) Multiclass as Downtime Activity: Only between adventures a character can have the focus to actually attain a new class. He needs a teacher (or enough means to learn by himself) and time to get his studies done. I’d go with 1 gp per day and this table:

Class Time Special Requirements Example
Barbarian 150 days All days spent in the wilderness while battling at least four times a week or seeking spiritual contact under the guidance of a mentor
Bard 250 days Getting trained by an experienced bard
Cleric 500 days Learning in a temple, cloister, etc. of your god
Druid 500 days Become a disciple of a great druid
Fighter 250 days Being administered and studying in the military, a fighting school or under a private mentor
Monk 500 days Getting trained by an experienced monk
Paladin 500 days Purifying mind and body each day from all evil thoughts, seeking enlightment by the power of good
Ranger 250 days All days spent in the wilds while studying under a mentor
Rogue 250 days Getting training by a experienced rogue
Sorcerer 150 days Being infused with one source of power fitting the origin (bathing in dragonblood, being in the Elemental Chaos without any protection, etc.)
Warlock 150 days Met Otherwordly Patron already at the campaign one way or another
Wizard 500 days A master to learn from and access to a magical laboratory

You can forfeit any proficiency you’d normally get by multi-classing to reduce the time by 50 days per not taken proficiency. So if you have already some proficiency (especially armor and weapon) you can shorten the time without any penalty. You can learn not taken proficiencies at another downtime, 50 days and gp per proficiency to put the finishing touches to your training.

If you already have the spellcasting feature, you subtract 100 days of time, since you already now the basics.

You need a minimum of 50 days at least.

 

 

The best way is to actually talk to your player beforehand. Sometimes you might be too strict and maybe there might be a good idea behind it. This and of course the power of imagination brings us to the following!

 

Variant: Starting as a 0,5/0,5 Character

For those players who already want to start as mixed characters (to explain how they got to that point), I present a house rule here: Just start as half levels! Here comes how it works, we just take two classes and make those steps:

1.) You get only the Proficiencies of your Background and those in the Multiclasses Proficiency table (p.164)

2.) If you’re a spellcaster at 1st level, you only get half of known/prepared spells, spell slots and cantrips (rounded down)

3.) You get only those features in the following table

Class Feature
Barbarian Rage
Bard Spellcasting (half)
Cleric Spellcasting (half), Divine Domain (without benefits)
Druid Spellcasting (half), Druidic
Fighter Fighting Style
Monk Martial Arts
Paladin Divine Sense
Ranger Natural Explorer or Favored Enemy
Rogue Sneak Attack, Thieve’s Cant
Sorcerer Spellcasting (half), Sorcerous Origin (without any benefits)
Warlock Otherwordly Patron
Wizard Spellcasting (half)

4.) Your starting hit points are the mid point of your both classes starting hit points (so a barbarian/fighter would have [12+10]/2 + CON-mod hit points)

5.) After getting level 2, you’re automatically upgraded to 1/1 and choose one of your classes, and get all the left over proficiencies (saves, weapons and armors, etc.) and adjust your hit points as if you started with your chosen class and then took the second level at the other.

Alternatively you could talk to your DM and get a mix of proficiencies from both classes at the start, but since this opens up some PG-options, I didn’t took them in this section. Better let the DM decide of some of them depending on circumstances, so we don’t get a character with the best save proficiencies possible with those 2 classes, while shaving off some less prominent saves.

 

I added a House Rules section at the upper bar, so you have fast access to possible house rules.

 

To conclude my post: Multiclassing isn’t anything to be afraid of. It can be a really cool thing, but as always: Be afraid of those, who see nothing else as a power station to it. Be prepared to just say no, if you, as a DM, don’t like a specific combination. Druid/monks are still able to use the Unarmored Defense!

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We don’t like humans! Be different and play variant!

Since my weekend is full, I’m just posting small posts for those days, even though I’m writing about a big theme behind the scenes, which analyses the strength and weakness of a certain class compared to another. And a second one, which I accidentally posted, since I missed the Draft button, so sorry for the trouble, my few followers… it’s still not time to conquer the world! We need more!!! 😉

For now, we make it simple and talk about a single little thing: How the normal human is endangered by the human variant!

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Most players will choose the variant, since +1 on all ability scores are less impressive than +1 to two abilities, an additional skill proficiency and a feat (which could get you another +1 bonus to an ability). And they’re mostly right to do so, since most classes needs only some ability points, it reminds more of the human in 3e and 4e, the fact that, since humans are considered as the standard, other races seems to be under the line more dumb/weak/ugly than normal, etc.

 

The normal human is the result of wanting to have the option of a simple game for those who wants and especially for starters. Most of the new 5e players are already used to at least one edition of the game, more complicity doesn’t matter.
But it doesn’t have to mean, that the normal human is less good. In D&D 5e more acceptable abilities have more weight, since you won’t be hopelessly outclassed by another character in these regards and anything could become a save and then you want to use every modifier you have.
Sadly the modifier is the most important thing about a score, so to get more bonuses, so we need as much odd values as possible, so we either roll or point-buy to make a normal human strong. Since rolling is too variant, let’s go point-buy, in this case I’d use this basic: 15, 13, 13, 12, 11, 9. The reason: Every class should be good at one ability and a 13 can be more useful than an 11 (if you upgrade the 9 to 10). So you have one good ability score, 2 secondary, two acceptable and one moderate.

As a fighter it could be: 16, 14, 14, 13, 10, 12 and that statline could be a 1st level Roy Greenhilt of Order of the Stick, a not all brute fighter, who knows a bit of tactics, but tends to do some rash decisions, when things becomes chaotic and sometimes not for the better.
Serious good artwork!

Will this be better as the variant? It’s about point of view, because it won’t make you better at your class at all. To be a better fighter (or wizard or anything else), specialization always beats generalization. But these aren’t the only things important, because maybe you want to have your fighter be the leader of the party or have a more believable hero/person, etc.
And of course you’re less depended on other characters outside combat and have above average chances in most saves, since proficiency often goes to saves which are you main and secondary abilities.

Would I play a normal human myself? Fighter: Definitely, 7 ability score improvements means that I can actually get more than enough feats during the game and that’d be a knight, so I’ll need some more ability scores in everything! Other classes? As long they benefit with multiple abilities, like the Ranger or the Monk.

The normal human is less customizable and the strength of feats is the real deal, so it shouldn’t be that strange that most gaming-groups will dismiss the normal human. But remember, that sometimes an unusual choice will bring unlikely happiness.

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How to make a character back-story

For now no pictures, since I’m on the clock, but won’t be back until late in my timezone, maybe I’ll edit some later.

Sometimes you have a DM, who actually wants a character back-story and often only one player in the gaming group will be delighted. You might think, that you only write some lines out of cheesy, classic stuff and your DM will be delighted, but then you notice that he reads it, frowned and just says: ‘It’s OK.’

Since I’m about to start my first 5e campaign and I’m one of the DMs which want a back-story, I’ll tell the world how to do it. Here a some simple advices toward that goal:

1.) Start with the back-story, not the personality

In most cases, human’s personality is derived from their background, even if it works the other way around, too, the personality can change while the back-story can’t. It’s easier to focus on the actual back-story instead of bringing an well-shaped personality in the game, which will warp a natural storyline into a unnatural one. A cynic character wasn’t necessarily cynic as a child, most likely he was even naive.

2.) Choose your background from your back-story, not otherwise

If possible, don’t let your back-story be bounded and especially the background-rule will do it greatly. In most cases, reading backgrounds will grand you inspiration, but maybe the journey on writing a back-story will take you to another background before you realize.

3.) Start with some cornerstones

Typically your back-story should have an answer to following questions, if you can answer them, you’re already half done, if any one of these is answered in 1-4 sentences:

  1. Where and how grew your character up?
  2. How did he learn to be his class?
  3. Was he happy with his life?
  4. When and how did he decided to be an adventurer/mercenary/whatever your campaign says?
  5. What is he looking for in that occupation?
  6. If he gets a lot of money, how will he spend it?
  7. When do he actually plan to retire?

In Question 4 you lay the most important aspect, which is why it got italic. This is a great turning point and you shouldn’t stop at 2 sentences, just throw in any twist you like and this is the part, were you can easily shape your final personality, just using all those things, you learned from the media.

These cornerstones will explain the how and ensure that the character is not finished, a character with no goals, bonds and other things that have great influence on his future, is pretty boring after all. Because he’s just lacking something which drives him.

Here I just write an example, how it could look for a half-elven wild magic sorcerer:

Theron was always an outsider, he and his human mother lived about at the village’s edge, his father was an adventurer, but Theron couldn’t care less about it, since he had his own problems. For the other kids he always seemed otherworldly from appearance, but every time he got emotional, he let cows fly and burned trees, his mother always told him, that it was his magical blood. He tried to suppress it, but after a village boy got hurt by a wave of thunder, the villagers went into a frenzy and burned his house down, banning him and his mother.
To survive long enough to reach the next form of civilization, Theron had to use his magic, so he and his mother wouldn’t be eaten by ankhegs or murdered by orcs. After a long journey, he and his mother got to Baldur’s Gate and to survive there, his mother had to get into debts, while working at a tavern for a living. Theron looked for work himself, but since his magic wasn’t still stable, he would do more harm than good. But he was scouted as an adventurer, an occupation where his talents are useful.
The one who scouted him is also an half-elf, a fighter called Benning. Benning was like a big brother for Theron and taught him everything from the start. But after Theron’s mother found out about Theron’s adventurer’s life (he lied to her, that he found work as a laborer), she made him an ultimatum to either stop that dangerous career or to be on his own for now. He decided for the latter, partly because his friendship with Benning, partly because of his further goals.
He dreams about getting enough treasures in one adventure to pay the debts back and ensure his mother a lifetime worth of money. And maybe for himself, too, but being an adventurer is the only time he felt accepted, so maybe he might spend some more time in that occupation than planned.

Theron has to have a lack of confidence, a strong feeling of responsibility and the feeling to be an outsider everywhere he goes. Benning would be a great friend, villain or even drive, depending how to use him. Maybe Benning could be a PC-party-member himself, then you’d actually had to adapt a thing or two, but this works out as well.

4.) Get friends and enemies

Most people have friends, so your character should at least have one person he can trust, even though it don’t need to be fully. Enemies, rivals or siblings (a bit of both) are great assesses for a DM.

In Theron’s case, he trusts his mother and Benning most and have a whole village against him. Maybe the word spread and some mage hunters will come after him or maybe the boy he hurt will get a career outside the village, even may want to learn the way of the magic himself, since he felt too overpowered. Or the debt collectors might collect his mother at some point, trying to squeeze more money from her now adventuring son. Or maybe Benning will turn out to be a real bad deal, since he needed Theron for some schemes. These little details may be made up by you or your DM, as long as (s)he understand his work.

5.) Consider family bonds

Often further details of the family are obscured in shadows, but they’re a vital part of the character, since they’re still family.

6.) Don’t be afraid to play an archetype

First of all: A lot of psychologists believed that the human brain is incapable of creating new stuff and can only adapt, combine and carry on memories, perceptions and other things it already knows. That’s one of the reasons, why many scientifically theories are only approaches, not actually the real deal. So you aren’t able to create a whole new story.

Being the sole survivor of a village, being chosen by prophecy, needing money for the sick sister, which can only be cured by greater magic, all of it are pretty common back-stories in the media and pretty popular. An archetype is easier to play, since everyone knows what to expect, you won’t need 3 game sessions to realize what a brawny, stupid barbarian would do, you just need the courage to actually do it. The same with back-stories, since they’re well known, everyone knows what to expect.

But don’t copy blindly stuff everyone already knows. Copying a mainstream media in your gaming-group will most often provokes a snarl or a snicker, just adapt some major parts or combine it with another, so it becomes a bit more original.

7.) Leave room, embrace the conflict

A DM will hate you, if your back-story is long, too detailed and with no room to wriggle, Don’t expect, that your flawless back-story won’t get flawed, you have to be prepared that your whole character story might be like the hangman’s rope around your neck and just enjoy it.

And don’t write too much, it’s pretty annoying to read ten pages, when you as an DM awaits only one.

8.) Ask your DM

Since a DM will know more or less what’s going to happen, you can simply ask him, if he have something useful. If he says: Actually I’ve an ongoing antagonist, ask him if your character might be bonded by that antagonist already. Then you can work around that and the story will be even greater.

After those pointers, maybe you’ll have less trouble in making a back-story. If you’re still not sure, maybe it helps when I’m telling you, what I as a DM am looking for:

  • Something in the past which follows a character
  • Something he actually has his hands ful
  • A goal he tries to achieve

And if this all don’t work: Play Theron, he already got plenty of those. 😉

The best wizard race

Since I started the blog because of one special statement, that brought my eyes rolling, I think it’s fair to make one concrete post about it. The statement was: “The mountain dwarf is the best race for a wizard”. The main-reason is the fact, that mountain dwarfs gets proficiency with light and medium armor and dwarfs generally are good with +2 CON and the Dwarven Resilience (Advantages on Poison saves, Resistance to poison damage).

My first thought: How retarded. My second thought: Who would actually think that. Then I saw the ones, who actually took it seriously and I started to think about it. So now we get to look into, which race makes the best wizards!

First of all: We go with the standard ability scores with 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8 since it’s hard to cover up all possibilities of rolled ability scores or those bought by point-buy. Even though I don’t really address this, this is the fundamental idea to which I’ll draw conclusions.

Then we go for a more classy type of wizard, who mainly uses his spells and tries to stay alive. No multiclassing, no consideration for feats outside this build, etc.

Dwarf: Dwarves aren’t the archetypical choice for arcane magic, if you look into the literature. But if we use the game-mechanics they do have some benefits, one of the many reasons why dwarf wizards were a common choice in 3e. But let’s look into the dwarves in 5e:

I'm a wizard in a chain mail!

  • Abilities: +2 Constitution means more hit points and more chances of survival and helps to maintain concentration spells.
  • Speed: Actually a minus is the lesser speed. Even though dwarves don’t suffer a speed penalty by wearing heavy armor without the needed STR, being below average in speed can make the typical ‘stay as far back as possible’ much harder.
  • Darkvision: If you can see your target, you can spell it.
  • Dwarfen Resilience: Since the wizard don’t get Constitution Saves as proficiency, Advantages vs. Poison is pretty helpful and any Resistance is always welcome, even though Poison shouldn’t come as often at places, were the wizard should be, as other damage types.
  • Dwarfen Combat Training: A wizard shouldn’t ever get the need to use one of those weapons.
  • Tool Proficiency: Grants nothing for a wizard.
  • Stonecunning: In fact, the wizard benefits this trait, since its main ability is Intelligence. Doesn’t work the other way around.
  • Hill Dwarf Subrace: +1 to Wisdom to raise your already good Wisdom Saves and one hit point per level, to make you even tougher.
  • Mountain Dwarf Subrace: +2 Strength for nothing alone and the proficiency with light and medium armor and since you can cast spells while wearing any armor which you’re proficient with, it’s adding up.

The dwarf makes a tough wizard, especially the Mountain Dwarf, since higher AC means less hits. It trumps Mage Armor and as long you’re not neglecting DEX your AC is among the highest of the wizards. You’re one feat away from heavy armor and won’t get a speed penalty even with STR 10 (even though the optional encumbrance rule might still kick in).

But the conclusion is: The dwarf don’t make someone a better wizard, but is able to soften its weak spots, like the toughness of tofu, the ability to be always hit without magical defensive mechanism and to cover up . It needs 3 ability improvements to hit max INT (or 2 improvements and a viable feat) and even though it’s not that much, the difference when you hit the max might be a consideration worth.

Elf: Elves are often the iconic wizards in D&D and normally you should think, that the Elven wizard should be able to hold itself quite good. But since Elves weren’t a popular choice in 3e or 4e (where Eladrin, a more fairy kind of the high elf, got the magical background):

Searching for elven wizard pictures is easy, getting one which isn't not meant to show off a sexy female elf is hard.

  • Abilities: +2 Dexterity, more AC and better DEX-Saves, which are pretty common. And higher initiative, wizards love to act first, before the enemy had a chance to spread out to not get fireballed.
  • Darkvision: On brightest day, in blackest night; no evil shall escape my might!
  • Keen Senses: Getting proficiency in Perception doesn’t necessarily sounds like a direct addition to the wizard’s career. But since this might make the difference between surprised and ready to act, we should add it. Especially as the squishy back-row character.
  • Fey Ancestry: Falls into the pros of being a wizard, since most charm saves rely on Wisdom, which a wizard is proficient with.
  • Trance: Just 4 hours to be ready again? As the class, which relies on flexibility and using the right spell at the right time, which makes it necessarily to rest as often as possible? Sold!
  • High Elf Subrace: +1 Intelligence does make you a better wizard, weapon training with a longbow can come in handy, if you want to act more stealthy and at farther range (even though others do better), Extra Language is ignorable for the game mechanic, but an additional cantrip is great. Since you can’t change your cantrips and those can strengthen your versatility, one of the wizard’s main traits, it makes a nice addition, if you choose your cantrips wisely.
  • Wood Elf Subrace: +1 Wisdom is useable for other traits depending on it, more speed is great, since it means you’ll cover up more and be quicker than the usual humanoid, if you’re using the battle grit, you’ll see the difference clearly. Mask of the Wild is very dependent on the campaign and DM: How much weather will fall into account, how often you’re outdoors, etc. This means this trait can be a real boon, since not being seen is one of the best ways to survive, or a useless pile of words. Weapon Training same as High Elf.
  • Dark Elf Subrace: +1 Charisma can be practical for an Enchanter, but won’t fall into it otherwise. Superior Darkvision and Sunlight Sensitivity makes you more useful in dungeons and night, while broad daylight will make you choose spells without attacking roll. The weapon training will not be as useful, since the hand crossbow lacks the range, but Drow Magic are like additional spells per day. If you use those 3 spells in the right way, they’re valuable as hell!

The Elf won’t address the wizards weaknesses greatly, but adds to his strengths and goals. A bit of better initiative here, a bit of good Perception there, less chances to be put to sleep or be charmed, less hours to be fully rested, those little niches are pretty stable.

If we go for an archetypical High Elf, we get some solid traits like better INT (means INT 20 at 8th level), more quickly higher chances of successes for spells, and an additional cantrip of choice. The other subraces aren’t really behind, Drow Magic might even make a better wizard due more spells, but since the spells are partly situational, it’s not as dependable.

Halfling: Halflings were never meant to be great wizards, but since they’re all roguish and stuff, but suffered in some points here and there in different editions to be a more effective rogues than other races. Like carrying capacity, since to be a Rogue you should better know how to carry your loot!!!

Being small is not a disadvantage, as long you don't try to reach up high places.

  • Abilities: +2 Dexterity, again: More AC, better DEX-save, more initiative.
  • Small: Less height doesn’t mean less arcane power, just more places to hide behind.
  • Speed: Only 25ft means you’ll have trouble to outrun the common humanoid. I really liked the fact, that halflings had 30ft in 4e.
  • Lucky: The fact that you can reroll any natural 1 once is great. It means that about every 20th spell with an attack roll will have another chance to hit and that might mean that you won’t waste a spell slot. In 3e it would be so much stronger, with touch attacks and stupid bonuses you could stack until you only miss at a natural 1 in the first place, but we’re through this!
  • Brave: Anything that can save you from not being able to cast a spell is good, but frightened condition isn’t as common as other conditions.
  • Halfling Nimbleness: This means that if you’re cornered, you can leave this predicament with as less attacks or opportunity and Speed as possible, but won’t necessary save you, since it’ll be hard to outrun the enemies.
  • Lightfoot Subrace: +1 Charisma for a single Enchanter trait won’t really fall into it, being able to hide behind your medium sized friends will be your best friend at the start of a battle, since that means you don’t need an actual hiding spot for it. And of course if you’ve to worry about a flurry of arrows, maybe it is not a bad idea to hide behind someone else instead casting a spell.
  • Stout Subrace: +1 Con and Stout Resilience which is basically Dwarven Resilience will lean your build a bit toward a minimum more tough wizard, but they’re not as useful as playing a dwarf in the first place.

Even though it’s nice to have some of these abilities, you won’t play a halfling wizard because of those, since it’s simply less power than other races could give you. But it might be good to play a haflfing for fluff reasons, but not for its prowess.

Of course as an Arcane Trickster, you can still uses those niche-traits for wizards, while being an actual Rogue, which can use more of some traits.

Humans: Humans are the most archetypical wizards, since studying obscure arts for more power and personal ambitions is pretty human. Since humans are meant to be versatile, they should be able to get at least decent at any class, so let’s see if it’s true for the wizard:

Elminster, old, powerful, nuts.

  • Abilities: +1 on everything, this might get you a lot or nothing. At least you get the INT-boost and even DEX and CON might profit from it.
  • Variant: If you’re able to choose the variant, you can get +1 to 2 ability scores, another skill proficiency of your choice and a feat. Neat!

While the common human won’t make bad wizards (or anything else in that regard), the variant will make great wizards, reasons: Take +1 on INT, +1 on DEX/CON, proficiency on something you’d either suck or where good becomes great and finally one of the many feats that will either grant you another ability score +bonus (like Resilient for DEX, you get +1 on one ability score and proficiency on the chosen ability’s save; or maybe Lightly Armored for +1 STR/DEX  and light armor proficiency to at least go a bit in the armored wizard direction) or go to one of the magic enhancement feats, like Elemental Adept or Spell Sniper.

The human variant is more powerful in terms of customizing, since it grants the benefit of one feat, which means that you can actually weight in in about any class and the wizard is no exception. The normal human isn’t too bad either, but won’t bring any other benefits but the ability scores, which would come in handy, if you’re rolling or point buying your abilities.

Dragonborn: Dragonborn were never meant to be wizards, never got anything which would help a wizard career and it’s probable, that it stayed that way.

Am I looking smart to you?!

  • Abilities: +2 Strength, +1 Charisma, only one Enchanter Trait can benefit from it and no other ability will really make use of more Strength
  • Breath Weapon: If you wouldn’t play a wizard, it’d be more awesome. Even though it’s like a weaker attack spell which you can sling once after every short rest, your real non-cantrip spells outweigh the Breath Weapon most of the times.
  • Damage Resistance: Having Resistance vs. your favorite element is a nice thing to have fluff-wise.

Dragonborns were simply never meant to be wizards. You won’t neither get more wizardly power nor defusing your weaknesses with a Dragonborn.

Gnome: Where Dragonborns were never good wizards, gnomes were always somehow promoted as skilled Illusionists. Means that we should expect some real synergy with the wizard class.

What time is it?

  • Abilities: +2 Intelligence… Head-start!
  • Small: Sometimes in dungeons are spots, where a medium character won’t fit, a small character can. Best places to cast spells from! Except against anything as small as you.
  • Speed: 25ft, so another ‘have problems to get away’-type.
  • Darkvision: If you’re in the dark, you’ll see enough to brightens things up with a Wall of Fire.
  • Gnome Cunning: About every spell that can take your actions away, you get an Advantage on the saving throw. Since magic is the most common way to influence PCs and monsters, this trait is simply great.
  • Forest Gnome Subrace: +1 DEX, the benefits were already told, Minor Illusion as a cantrip isn’t a bad thing, while Speak with Beasts won’t generally hurt, even though it doesn’t make you a better wizard.
  • Rock Gnome Subrace: +1 CON, again an already told benefit, Artificer’s Lore helps you in terms of being the all-knowing wizard about magical items, alchemy and mechanic and tinker is a slightly costly way to not learn some basic cantrips, like ghost sound.

As expected, gnomes make great wizards. Not only the +2 INT, since that advantage is only a head-start and won’t last that long, if other races uses their ability score increase for Intelligence and +1 INT is almost as good in the long run, but you get one of the most common secondary attributes for wizards (‘don’t hit me’ and ‘I can take it’) is pretty decent, too. Gnome Cunning will be a great way to getting out of those spells, which will hinder your ability to cast spells (especially since the wizard has a lot of counter for them), even though you’ll have to fear CON-saves and all the effects bounded to them, like petrification.

Both subraces are good choices in their own way, even though I’d go with the forest gnome out of personal preferences.

Half-Elf: Half-Elves startet as a slightly more elven human, versatile in its own way, especially with multiclassing options, even though they couldn’t choose all classes before 3e. In 3,5e they got a bunch of more social traits and in 4e they were a whole race in its own, now in 5e they hold the trend:

In 2e we were actually common...

  • Abilities: +2 Charisma, +1 to two ability scores of your choice. While Charisma is kinda ignorable for a wizard (save the Enchanter option), the 2 +1s are a solid start for any class.
  • Darkvision: As always, if you can see your target in the dark, you can turn it into stone. Like an elf.
  • Fey Ancestry: Advantageous saves for some minor but really disturbing effects, just like an elf.
  • Skill Versatility: More skills are never bad, but still more like a nice foundation for a wizard, not an actual necessity.

The actual problem here is the fact, that you can get almost everything wizard-related as an actual elf plus more. The elf simply outshines the half-elf as a wizard in terms of traits.

Half-Orc: Another Race which shouldn’t make great wizards in theory, but while the Dragonborn responded to those prejudices, the Dwarf didn’t. Maybe the Half-Orc is a surprisingly good wizard as well?

Forget the mace, I got lightning!

  • Abilities: +2 Strength, +1 Constitution. CON makes you tougher and being tougher can help.
  • Darkvision: I can see you!
  • Menacing: Since Intimidation can avoid conflicts, it’s not bad. But most time it won’t do any wizard related stuff.
  • Relentless Endurance: This is interesting. Once between long rests you get a good chance to stay at 1 hit point, instead of being downed. You can actually get a chance to make a retreat, if you have messed up the timing or got surprised. Neat.
  • Savage Attacks: Since it only works with melee weapon attacks, it’s a wasted trait for wizards.

Under the line, Half-Orcs are only slightly better than Dragonborns, even the Relentless Endurance can’t save it.

Tiefling: Tieflings were always an unusual wizard choice fluff-wise, but a stable one rule-wise, since in most incarnations they get an Intelligence bonus and have some traits, which were useful enough for a wizard career. But fluff-wise they were always more rogues or later warlocks, dipping into the dark arts.

Arkteus, I miss you...

  • Abilities: +2 Charisma (almost ignorable again), +1 Intelligence which actually helps.
  • Darkvision: And again. And again. And again!
  • Hellish Resistance: If you’re worrying about damage spells, fire is one of the most common damage types, so resistance won’t hurt.
  • Infernal Legeacy: Some ‘spells’ again, Thaumaturgy as a replacement or addition to Prestidigitation, Hellish Rebuke will come in handy to actually use your reaction outside the Shield spell and Darkness can stir things up. Not the worst choice.

Tieflings are again a stable, but far from a best choice. They’re simply not as good as other races in terms of pure wizardly power, but can hold themselves with a bit of additional magic. In 4e I played a tiefling wizard and I wouldn’t mind to play one again in 5e.

But now back to the question, which one is the best? First of all: Anything is relative, many things comes from the party build (like if there are enough melees to ensure a back-row), the DM style (how often he attacks the wizard and especially before (s)he cast a spell; intelligent humanoids might think that he’s a merchant, politician or other stuff which wouldn’t wear armor, as long he doesn’t look the part) or the amount of dungeon dwelling in the campaign. So I narrowed it down to how I handle games as a DM and for a more typical choice and the fundamental question, which makes the best wizard, not the best optimized character, which happens to be a wizard. And of course my personal preferences.

1st would be the Gnome, either subrace. When playing a wizard nothing annoys me more than not being able to cast spells and under the line more INT, another practical cantrip(ish trait) and a bonus to one of the physical secondary abilities are just a big boost. 2nd would be High Elves, since they get a lot of bonuses like a gnome, strengthening the wizard’s sweet spots. 3rd would be the human variant, which can be individualizes the best.

Now some might think: Why could you ignore the (Mountain) Dwarf, even though you promoted his prowess? Because it’s just like I said: A strong character which happens to be a wizard. Survivability is great, but every character can make use of it. Wearing medium armor from the start and getting access to heavy at 4th level is sweet, too, not spending a spell slot for Mage Armor, but as long you’re smart enough to minimize enemies attacks and your DM is not targeting you especially, you should be able to survive most things and those which will kill you, won’t stop at AC. And Bracers of Defense are still out there. So the 1-2 points of additional AC might come not as handy as some additional wizard prowess, like getting your Spell DC fast as high as possible.

I won’t stop anyone to play dwarven wizards, because in some campaigns and settings the toughness will pay off. But D&D 5e isn’t such a shallow system as 3e and 4e made us believe they are. Even those systems weren’t shallow, but they invited a lot of players into power gaming, spending hours to figure out how to squeeze the tiniest bit of additional bonuses out of the system and as a DM you had to take a hard course too steer that boat right or just give up.

Since the basics of 5e are more restrictive in some places (like stacking bonuses, spells per day, benefits of multiclassing) and less restrictive in others (like combat rules), the whole balance got shifted. Since it became so hard to get your AC over 20, AC is less of a concern than hit points and being able to avoid attacks or combats entirely. Since the saves became more spread out (even though most remained at CON, DEX and WIS), any dumped ability will start to hurt at some point. If the fighter got Plane Shifted outside the battlefield, he might think that dumping Charisma wasn’t that great of an idea.

I think I’ll write another post about the shifted balance and how the restrictions will changes the way of playing soon, but for now, I’ll conclude this one with a quote, I got from a forum for another game, which is an actual tabletop strategy game:

Nothing in this game is essential, unless you are a power-gaming & unimaginative lemming who follows everyone else, without having any form of creativity or original thought rolling around your brainpain…

Well said!