Build: The defending Ranger

Back in the blog! My PC had some issues (refusal to work, absenteeism, blue screen of doom) and because of work, I couldn’t find enough time to fix it myself, so I brought it to a friend and finally it works. Even though I really consider to get a new one. Without PC, I couldn’t make all the posts I’d like to do and today I just completed the one, which I was working on the moment, when my PC decided to be a jerk.

 

Since I didn’t got the time back then to make an actual overview after reading the ranger class once more, I decided to make a more unusual build today and named it ‘the defending ranger’.

What makes this build exactly work? Don’t have an idea, but I build from the base, that ranger aren’t especially supposed to be front-line characters, which are actually able hold a line, but more of skirmishing striker characters. But it’s unusual and maybe even fun.

The first question is, which of the few ranger features are the ones who can enhance the defending capabilities of this class.

  1. Armor Proficiency: Here we have primary the shield, but since the feat Medium Armor Master does increase the cap of usable dex-mod. to medium armor additionally with getting rid of the annoying disadvantage on stealth makes it a useful choice here
  2. Fighting Style: The only one who can enhance your defending qualities is the Defense-Style, which gives you more AC and make it harder to hit you.
  3. Spellcasting: The ranger don’t have actual defender spells, but he’s able to heal himself per Cure Wounds and brings some damage boosts with him, which might persuade the DMs who let monsters decide their target per ‘aggro’ to attack the ranger instead of its allies
  4. Extra Attack: Another aggro boost.
  5. Hunter-Subclass: The better subclass for this build is the Hunter, since even though you might be able to protect your animal companion, too, I take the approach in this case, that this ranger won’t have another front-row PC as back-up and it won’t be that good to spread attacks only between you and your companion.
    1. Horde Breaker: As a defending character, you better be able to take care of more enemies
    2. Multiattack Defense: This will definitely help you with staying alive, while at that level, a lot of monsters and humanoids you’re going to face in melee will have more than one attack. Best of all: Only triggers after a hit, so until the enemy hits, he won’t have an excuse to not attack you with the subsequent attacks
    3. Whirlwind Attack: We’re talking about a melee build here.
    4. Evasion: Since the Sentinel Feat is one of the best ways to ensure your defending capabilities, you shouldn’t take anything which robs you from your reaction

The ranger doesn’t have too many great defending capabilities in the first place, so you should be rather looking forward to use feats to fill that hole, instead of maxing out your abilities. Better to see first, which feats are essential and at least practical. Here my ranking:

  1. Sentinel: Without this feat you won’t have any bite in your defending stuff.
  2. War Caster: As long your DM won’t allow you to cast with weapon and shield by quickly put your weapon in your shield hand and take it after the spell again in one turn (by interacting with one object), then this feat will ensure, that you will be able to heal yourself without forfeiting your Sentinel attack of opportunity. And of course you want your concentration spells to not disappear.
  3. Resilient (Constitution): This should help to prevent you concentration spells going downhill.
  4. Medium Armor Master/Heavily Armored: To pick up a better AC will be useful to get less hits. Depending on your main attribute to hit, this might differ.
  5. Tough: If you think that your con-mod. won’t be able to max, this feat might proof even more useful than before.
  6. Shield Master: Your dex-saves are already pretty good, but the shoving might get useful and every bit of bonus will help greatly.
  7. Martial Adept: Some great maneuvers are out there to help you, but I personally wouldn’t bother here.

In my version, I just blindly forfeit all the ability score options and simply plan to make most use of the ability scores from the start. Since I didn’t want to use a human variant (because even a monkey would be able to build everything with this) and a wood elf ranger wouldn’t less likely to use such a ranger build, I took the stout halfling.

With Medium Armor Master as a goal, I have to end up with dexterity 16, wants to have an uneven score at constitution to get more bonus out of Resilient, some wisdom and as much even scores as possible. So I use the point array for: 12, 14, 14, 10, 14, 8. As a stout halfling I end up with 12, 16, 15, 10, 14, 8. The halfling is trained, but not bulky, is a more cunning but intelligent character and socially awkward.

The feats would be: 4th Sentinel, 8th Medium Armor Master (since spellcasting isn’t that impressing at that point), 12th War Caster, 16th Resilient (Constitution) and 19th Tough. The weapons of choice are one-handed melee weapons plus a shield, the ranger capabilities aren’t at the higher, but definitely not the lower end and the character is actually good enough in taking hits and protecting others to actually do its job, even though it lacks the capabilities of a defense specialized barbarian or paladin, it can most likely keep up with most fighters.

Afterwards pick background, skills, personality traits and such as your liking. Here my personal choices:

  • Background: Folk Hero
    • Artisan’s Tool Proficiency: Woodcarver’s tools
    • Defining Event: I stood alone against a terrible monster.
  • Personality traits: I avoid to speak long sentences, since I stutter. If someone is in trouble, I’m always ready to lend help.
  • Ideal: The peaceful compromise beats a violent solution.
  • Bond: I rather see myself hurt than the innocent.
  • Flaw: I may be too naive when it comes to other humanoids.
  • Ranger Skill Proficiency: Nature, Perception, Stealth

After buying equipment (since the ranger’s equipment choices don’t include shields) we’re ready to go. Here my level 1 version.

This evening (local time) I begin the ranger overview, so it should be ready tomorrow.

The standard party and how to balance around it

Since I’m tighter on time and the cleric has a lot of subclasses (and I even plan to count in the Dead Domain spoilers), today I’m pausing the class-overviews and take a less time-consuming topic: Party balancing.

There are a lot of ways to balance a party, so I just picked the classic way today: The classic 4 player party with a fighter, a cleric, a rogue(thief) and a wizard/Magic-User. Of course with the original rule-set as a basic (even though I won’t get too deep to it). OK, truly, the thief was a supplement class, since the first D&D edition only had Fighting Man, Cleric and Magic-User.

  • Fighter: A classic fighter gets a lot of attacks, heavy armor and more out of its STR, but outside battle and strength tasks he’s pretty useless.
  • Cleric: Another armored dude with less good weapons, but to be able to support the fighter at the front at least. Healing and support magic mostly, but only to 7th level.
  • Thief: Thieves weren’t combat characters at all, light armor, attack bonus like a wizard and the same hit points. But they had something, which made up the early skill systems (when D&D was much more dungeon focused), which allowed them to move silently, find traps, open locks and pick pockets.
  • Magic-User: Magic-User were bad in combat, but were able to use magic and even in 1e afterwards they were the only class, which could use up to 9th level. Can do almost everything with magic, only healing is missing.

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In this constellation, we have the following:

  • One character who does well in melee and one, who can support him there (50% can be at front)
  • Two characters which can cast spells (50%), even though one is a decent melee, while the other is a better caster
  • One character can heal
  • One character who can take care of traps, pick locks, etc.

Of course editions changed, even though the classic party remained. And is still the classic balance, now I’m using my own impressions of the balancing factors in this party and how you can ensure, that your party can stay in said balance.

  1. About 40% of the characters should be able to hold a front. To protect your squishy guys, you really need some meat at the front, who can stay there constantly. A monk or a bard may stay there one or two rounds, but should only to give a front-character a break for healing purposes.
  2. At least one real melee-character: Even though you can make up a front, at the melee must be pressure for your opponent, means above average survivability to tough it out, enough damage to keep being dangerous and simply a presence.
  3. There should be at least 2 spellcasters: Instead going with a percent value here, I think 2 spellcasters are plenty for a 3-5 headed party. Following spell-tasks should be present: Healing, supporting, AoE damage, controlling and some divination. Since only 3 classes don’t have automatically spellcasting abilities (even though 2 can get it and the other can use a pseudo spellcasting build), this shouldn’t be a problem.
  4. Someone who gets around a dungeon: Since dungeoneering will stay a vital part of D&D, someone should be able to pick locks and find and disable traps.
  5. A variety of skills: More like a new feature, but most skills should really be covered by the party. Not all are as essential, but most will come in handy at some point.

If you want to look for simple substitutes, you can use this:

  • Fighter: Barbarian and Paladin
  • Cleric: Valor Bard and Moon Circle Druid
  • Rogue: Lore Bard, Ranger, Warlock
  • Wizard: Land Circle Druid, Sorcerer, Tome Warlock

There are plenty of ways to actually hold up that balance in other ways, but here we’re just talking about the simple way. Maybe I might take that topic up again another time, to introduce other means of maintaining a party balance (like how a barbarian, rogue, bard and sorcerer party of mine in 3.5e had their own quirky balance).

And remember: Just because the iconic group makes often appearance in Starter Sets, etc. there are still plenty of functioning parties out there, which aren’t made by that formula. Some of them are even representing D&D.

IIIIEEEEEEEHHH!

OK, bad example…

Overview – Bard

Before I start, I made a supplement page for things made by myself (or others, if I find it helpful and they shared it openly) which might help you in one way or another. For now there is only a DM-tool which re-calculate the PC-level into a XP-Budget, so if you make an encounter by yourself you only need to know the PC-levels and the amount of monsters you want to send in.

Now to the main-point: Another Overview. The next one in the alphabet is the bard and spellcasters are much more difficult to overview, since that means to get a hang of their spell-lists in their entirely. I won’t go further into special spells, etc. but will use these to estimate the bard’s grading.

I’ll just copy-paste the words I already said before, for the people who didn’t read my barbarian post (I just altered the subclass thing a bit):

This is an overview, so I’ll just categorize each class in certain categories to see how it cuts and give a personal grading. The end-grading won’t count the multiclass-strength in (for obvious reasons) and is more like an overall impression than a mathematical derivation.

Any feature in italic is from a subclass and a abbreviation will say which one (in the bard’s case LO for Lore and VA for Valor). And red features means there is a flaw or a minus in said category.

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Multiclass-Strength:

  • A main-caster, so every level bard is progression in a 1:1 rate spellslot-wise.
  • The first three levels brings some solid choices in the skill department, while Song of Rest and Bardic Inspiration are nice picks. Here I see the Lore Bard superior, since you can make more use of more skills proficiency and Cutting Words than the Valor-stuff; again 4th level for Ability Score Improvement isn’t a bad choice.
  • 5th is only good if you use Bardic Inspiration often, since the spells are not that spectacular (useful, but not a great yelp of joy here). 6th is good at Lore and most likely bad at Valor, 7th have an interesting spell-variety. 8th for improved ability again and 9th doable, but not recommendable, unless you aim for higher or need the basic stuff a healer should offer (Raise Dead, Greater Restoration, Mass Cure Wounds). 10th level might be worth to get some good spells from another class to expand your versatility
  • The levels from here on will make the bard better at what he does and Magical Secrets might provide some spells you want to have, but in the end aren’t really providing anything new.
  • A capstone which is ignorable unless you’re on an encounter to encounter adventure without even a short rest.
  • All said, if you want to multiclass, use the Lore bard

Offensive:

  • Weapon Proficiency: Even without two-handed weapons, you get the best finesse weapon in the game, the rapier or shortswords for two-weapon fighting. This means you can actually be offensive for a bit while boosting DEX fpr defensive purposes.
  • Spellcasting: Not the bard’s forte, but he has some spells which makes damage and give a debuff at the same time (like the Cantrip Vicious Mockery).
  • Bonus Proficiency (VA): If you’re more of a STR-build, you can get the best weapons.
  • Extra Attack (VA): More attacks = More damage.
  • Battle Magic (VA): While supporting others with a spell, you can attack. Or while using that really mean high damage spell of the wizard list, you can dish out some minor damage afterwards. Practical.

Resource-Management:

  • Spellcasting: Especially the debuff spells of the bard are going to manage your resources (like hp) more efficiently, since a enemy who have problems hitting, won’t make damage, etc.
  • Bardic Inspiration: Since it’s not only a bonus action but the target can choose after seeing the result, this makes it easier to manage the resources of yourself and others (like the difference between a hit with a magical attack and a miss/waste).
  • Song of Rest: Saves hit dice, spell-slots for healing and the only thing you have to do is a short rest and using hit dice. Practical.
  • Font of Inspiration: The only reason I will not count the day uses of Bardic Inspiration negatively is this feature, which comes early enough to integrate regular Inspiration uses as a standard tactic and late enough to hurt multiclassers.
  • Superior Inspiration: Even though it’s a capstone, it only comes in handy, if you won’t see a short rest, And Bardic Inspiration isn’t even that much of a vital class feature. Helpful and at the right time great, but not something which would define the bard class this edition.
  • Cutting Words (LO): If you can guess that a nearly hit will get a miss or makes it harder for enemies to break free, etc. Using wisely it’ll help you manage resources quite well.
  • Peerless Skill (LO): Harder to put in a category, but in the end you’ll use it to save a resource, be it time, hp (in cases of trap disarming or something like that) or your live (like a Dexterity (Acrobatics) roll when balancing on a quarterstaff which stands in the water, while bloodthirsty sharks are swimming around).
  • Combat Inspiration (VA): A hit which got avoided, doesn’t need often more valuable resources to get healed.

Support:

  • Spellcasting: The bard’s spell-list is almost everything about support in one way or another. Healing, buffing, debuffing
  • Bardic Inspiration: A bonus to an attack roll, a saving throw or an ability check after seeing the result is a great way to support others.
  • Countercharm: Good if you know something will come. Works reliable for dragons or the tarrasque, since they have a frightful aura. But without knowing, this feature might provide nothing.
  • Combat Inspiration (VA): Even if you’re not as offensive, your allies can be.

Survivability:

  • Spellcasting: You can heal yourself, which can help a great deal in self-sufficiency, but most likely wants to heal your allies, too.
  • Bonus Proficiency (VA): Shields. Saved lives even before the antique. And medium armor is much better, when you can’t afford to raise your DEX to the cap.
  • Armor Proficiency: Light means that you have to take care of your DEX. You can, no question, but it’s kinda restrictive, which makes it a flaw.

Utility:

  • Skills Proficiency: Getting 3 skills of your choice? Great!
  • Spellcasting: Some out of combat uses and Ritual Casting, which makes it even better.
  • Jack of All Trades: Be the star of ability checks (which includes skills), which makes you an all-rounder without even much work.
  • Expertise: Bring the utility of having great skills to the next level!
  • Magical Secrets: This can be everything: Offense, Support, Survivability, just choose what you want!
  • Bonus Proficiencies (LO): More skills!
  • Additional Magic Secrets (LO): Even more spells from other classes.
  • Known Spells: More like restrictive, but with 22 (plus 2 more on LO) you’re better of than others. But still not as good as most clerics, druids and wizards.

Grading:

Multiclass: Decent
Offense: bad (LO) to decent (VA)
Resource Management: great
Support: good (VA) to great (LO)
Survivability: bad (LO) to decent (VA)
Utility: great (VA) to fantastic (LO)

Overall: great

Every stat can be heighten by using the right spells due Magical Secrets, this is why the bard seems to be kinda lackluster in some categories but gets some bonus points in the overall. Having access to any spell he likes and transforming them into bard spells is that strong and makes so much of that class’ utility.

A bard might stand in in melee for a round or two, but without shield and some other precautions he’ll be in great danger afterwards, unless he uses high resources for healing himself. Unless he got high DEX, which is entirely possible, but here I don’t take non-primary attributes into account. The Valor Bard could stand in as a standard-cleric-replacement (means not counting domains in), but even though his innate offense potential is more like meh. Feats are needed. Or stick to ranged support, since you’re at least decent and use the Battle Magic feature with more ease.

For multiclassing you should take the Lore bard, since the Valor bard only functions as he should as a pure-class build. His improved fighting abilities aren’t cut to be mixed with other classes, since they can do either better or focus the bard on its magic or utility side.

The bard just got to be a great class in 5e. Making him a main-caster was most likely a way to ensure his supportive and resourceful nature without throwing too much features in, which would be harder to overview and most likely brings some rule-holes within. So using the known basics, spells up to 9th level and some quirks made this class most likely even more powerful than intended. Especially considering that a bard player had to be great to be useful in combat outside throwing buffs. In 4e you saw the new trend and in 5e it’s still here: Bard’s aren’t the best class to kick ass, but they’ll become fast core-members of any party.

Overview – Barbarian

Now I had some time to read the PHB, process my impressions and after making an Index-page, I saw that this blog became kinda unbalanced. Even though I don’t care much about it, I thought maybe it’s time to talk about some game aspects in a more specific way. And I will cover the classes first (even tough I won’t be able to do it only if I find the time and make some other stuff when I have less time).

Alphabetically the barbarian comes first. This is an overview, so I’ll just categorize each class in certain categories to see how it cuts and give a personal grading. The end-grading won’t count the multiclass-strength in (for obvious reasons) and is more like an overall impression than a mathematical derivation.

Any feature in italic is from a subclass and a abbreviation will say which one (in barbarian’s case BR for Berserker and TW for Totem Warrior). And red features means there is a flaw or a minus in said category.

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Multiclass-Strength:

  • The first three levels gives a lot of powerful features, so you can take them with any melee based build and may aim for 4th and 5th level for Ability Score Improvement and Extra Attack
  • The levels 6-9 aren’t as powerful in the curve considering that you’re a multiclass character, but somehow doable, when you want to be more barbaric
  • When aiming for a main-barbarian, you might plan for 16th level for an Ability Score Improvement Level, even though 15th level is enough feature-wise
  • A great capstone, so when aiming for a long-term campaign, a pure-class barbarian is a good choice

 

Offensive:

  • Weapon Proficiency: Martial Weapons included to always have the better option available.
  • Rage: Plus to damage. To every hit.
  • Reckless Attack: Rises your accuracy and even more interesting: The chance to get a critical hit.
  • Extra Attack: Two attacks are better than one.
  • Brutal Critical: When you hit hard, hit harder than the rest. Great Axe is the weapon of choice, since you only roll an additional die, not dice.
  • Primal Champion: More STR = more accuracy and damage bonus = more damage total
  • Frenzy (BR): More attacks are always better!
  • Retaliation (BR): More attacks leads to more damage.
  • Totemic Attunement [Eagle] (TW): More angles to start an offense.
  • Totemic Attunement [Wolf] (TW): When the first one hits, you can make the second one against a prone target. Bonus actions doesn’t have a specific timing, so they can be used at every moment, as long the premises are met. Even between attacks.

 

Resource-Management:

  • Persistent Rage: Never get out of Rage!
  • Rage Duration: But before getting Persistent Rage, you have trouble in keeping in Rage.
  • Rages per Day: Means you need to consider twice before using a rage. But if you’re confident in keeping the rage alive, you might be able to use it for every larger encounter.
  • Frenzy (BR): Being exhausted afterwards doesn’t help.

 

Support:

  • Rage: Don’t forget advantage to all Strength checks.
  • Fast Movement: Someone needs help? Even 10ft more can determine if you can go to the place you belong to. And when playing the decoy, the ability to get ahead after luring the enemies to follow you is golden.
  • Feral Instinct: Being able to get at least one of your allies safe in time, before the surprise bombardment begins.
  • Indomitable Might: Strength checks (and therefore Athletic, too) with some level of reliability? Makes you a better grappler and helps in some cases, nice feature (even though not worth the waiting).
  • Intimidating Presence (BR): Creates a somewhat save buffer zone for the frightened enemies.
  • Totem Spirit [Eagle] (TW): Get where you are needed with less attacks and greater area.
  • Totem Spirit [Wolf] (TW): Gives advantage to every ally who makes melee attacks on enemies next to you… focused damage classes yell in joy.
  • Aspect of the Beast [Bear] (TW): Carrying more and all-time advantage to strength ability checks to break or move objects make it much easier to make those things fast. Sometimes it can even come in handy for combat.
  • Totemic Attunement [Bear] (TW): Helps you in binding opponents.
  • Totemic Attunement [Eagle] (TW): Harder to get cut off from your friends.
  • Totemic Attunement [Wolf] (TW): It’s prone! And now all together!!!
  • Retaliation (BR): Costs your reaction, makes it harder to actually bind enemies to you.

 

Survivability:

  • d12 hit dice: Highest base hit points of the game.
  • Armor Proficiency: Medium Armor might be not enough to get the AC really high, since DEX might not even get to +2, since STR and CON wants some attention. But wearing a shield can definitely help.
  • Rage: Resistance to slashing, piercing and bludgeoning damage will make it much harder to come by with normal weapon or natural attacks. And don’t forget the advantage to saving throws.
  • Unarmored Defense: While armor may rise your stats higher, you’ll always have a buffer in case you don’t have your armor or should proceed without it (like in stealth-situations, infiltrating, etc.) and if you rolled your ability scores and had a lot of luck, you may even exceed non-magical armor with this feature.
  • Danger Sense: Advantage in Dex Saving Throws makes you a long time more happy than a proficiency. Even though you have to see and hear it and isn’t always applicable therefore.
  • Feral Instinct: Surprise the surprisers, as long you enter Rage first and your turn is earlier… while having always advantage to initiative.
  • Relentless Rage: Be unstoppable… at least for a while and be sure to have your healer near you.
  • Primal Champion: More CON = more hit points and possible higher AC. And CON-saves.
  • Mindless Rage (BR): Less conditions to worry about.
  • Intimidating Presence (BR): More frightened enemies means less attacks.
  • Totem Spirit [Bear] (TW): Resist more kind of damage.
  • Totem Spirit [Eagle] (TW): Less hits due opportunity attacks.
  • Reckless Attack: An actual minus to your survivability is the use of Reckless Attack. How much depends on attack quantity and accuracy.

 

Utility:

  • Unarmored Defense: Be able to act decently protected with or without armor.
  • Spirit Seeker (TW): More options for the fauna-filled parts of the world.
  • Aspect of the Beast [Eagle] (TW): Barbarian can go scouting. Without problems.
  • Aspect of the Beast [Wolf] (TW): The ability to track someone by its smell. No ranger required.
  • Spirit Walker (TW): Be able to gain information in nature. Sweet.
  • Totemic Attunement [Eagle] (TW): Almost flying, but opening new options.

 

 

Grading:

Multiclass: Decent
Offense: good (TW) to great (BR)
Resource Management: Bad
Support: good (BR) to great (TW)
Survivability: fantastic
Utility: bad (BR) to decent (TW)

Overall: good

 

Like I said in a previous post, the barbarian makes a great defender and only fulfills the striker as a secondary role. His survivability and the support he has to offer is the core of his build, while he only dishes enough damage out to be dangerous for the enemies, after other classes get away due sheer number of attacks or other great damage in one attack.

He is certainly more useful than the fighter outside combat, but in the end he won’t ever reach a ranger or a druid for the forte the barbarian can cover (more outside environment than cities or dungeons). But having a barbarian at your side means to have it easier at STR-focused tasks, while his combat strengths will take the aggro away from you.

His resource management makes him more befitting for fast-paced campaign, where short rests aren’t that numerous, while he really needs a healer, since even though he can survive a lot, he simply doesn’t have the abilities to replenish his hit points or other resources himself.

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 wild is Wild Magic?

The Sorcerer’s Wild Magic is a very funny an interesting way to play a Sorcerer. While in the 4e, Wild Magic was presented, it kinda lacked the possibility to blow up right in your face, making it more tame than wild. And now in 5e, it came back, presenting us with real and nice options to not only making you a death machine of doom, but also to be a real danger for yourself and allies.

 

But if you look at the Wild Magic Table, I found only 10 out of 50 results generally negative, while 22 were generally positive and 18 were more of the neutral side, because they were either more cosmetic and without real penalty, conditional due the fact how the allies and foes stand, randomly choosing the target or simply positive and negative at the same time.

Since every option has a 2% chance of occurrence when rolling the table, you’re not as bad off 80% or 70% of the time you don’t have to worry at all.

 

But not only this makes Wild Magic more safe, it’s about the times when rolling on the table. Generally the DM has to decide after every 1st slot and above spell, if you have to roll the d20 and only at a 1 you’re rolling on the table, means that the chance of backfiring is only about 1%, if the DM lets you roll every time you cast a non-cantrip spell.

 

While Tides of Chaos increase that chance, since you’re simply forced to roll at the table at some point, Controlled Chaos decrease the chance to blow up greatly and increase the chance to get something good decisively. In the end the odds of burning yourself with an unplanned fireball at the first level is slim. But at least definitely there.
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At the same time, incredible effects are waiting for you, starting getting spell slots back, cast a random spell, which might improve your chances or even get effects which gives you the edge, like a maximized spell or another action. But normally I’d advise a player to not challenge his/her luck, by using Tides of Chaos for every opportunity: Only if needed you should temper with fate… or if you have enough hit points to survive at least 29 fire damage (so you won’t die instantly after an average damage roll; or take Empower Spell and Save Spell, to re-roll the highest dice and save your own spell without fail).

 

How would I deal with WIld Magic Surge as a DM? Sadly, I only get a Draconic Sorcerer in my party, so I’m not too sure, but I’d definitely do the following:

  1. Laughing after the player rolled a 1 for the Wild Magic Surge feature
  2. Laughing when I declare to let the player roll because of Tides of Chaos
  3. Using a personal Wild Magic Surge table, starting with the standard one and after one result got rolled, I replace it with another one. Magic can be that unpredictable and after a while the players have to fear the unknown. But being sure that the chances to make a character look miserable stays decent

 

This is a system I’d like to try out, when I get a chance. After a long rest, the DM rolls a d12 (and keep the result secret), these are the numbers of spell-levels the sorcerer can cast without triggering Wild Magic Surge. While a 1st level spell will only spend one spell-level, a 5th level spell would spend 5 spell-levels (logically), when more levels are cast than the die roll resulted in, let the player roll his d20.

Afterwards roll a d10, do the same. And after that roll a d8, d6 and d4 respectively, after the d4 procedure every further spell will trigger the Wild Magic Surge roll.

So the more often a Sorcerer casts spells, the more likely it is to trigger the roll. Only after a long rest (and maybe a Wild Magic Surge table roll) the roll reset to d12, so there won’t be as many accidents at first, but after raising the level and more access to high level spells, the magic becomes more randomly.

The idea behind it is, that every spell of the Wild Magic Sorcerer is stressing the Weave and the more stress is build up, the more likely it is to happen to lose control of it, when you opening yourself up to it.

 

If you want to be wild, be a wild mage. Make it as randomly as possible and have fun with it. At least as a player, since being a wild mage could be actually suck as a sorcerer, like: “I’m a ticking time-bomb!” But maybe it makes you insane instead: “You can’t kill me, since one day my magic will definitely do it!”
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Is the Sorcerer weak?!

Some players pointed out, that the Sorcerer seems kinda lacking, if you compare it with other arcane main-casters like the Wizard and the Bard, while even the Warlock seems kinda stronger in comparison, even though this is a totally different class right down to the base.
Especially the Sorcerer vs. Wizard aspect is argued and since even the dumbest person can write and talk about it, an idiot like me is as good as anyone else. And to do it, we need some basics for it.

 

Why are the Wizard and Sorcerer competing? This comes mostly because of the fact, that it didn’t make a real difference if you played Sorcerer or a Wizard until 4e: Same spell lists, a little difference in mechanics, different fluff-texts. Technically the Sorcerer did knew less spells, but could spam them more easily without preparing any of them, while the Wizard got a ton of spells before, but had less spells per day and had to be more careful, which spells he had to learn.
Since most builds survive on just a few spells and spells outside them were only prepared by carefully considering what would be probable useful that day, the Sorcerer win out most of the time. Better spell slinger, supporter with all the utility needed, even though sometimes you’d want a special spell that no Sorcerer would have as a known spell. Something like Animate Rope would be like wasted capacity for most players.
Sharing the same spell list, it was unavoidable for those two classes to compete. So now the 3e-players are just comparing the class outright, while in 4e those both classes had a very different take, where the Sorcerer as a Striker was more damage focused while the Wizard as a Controller had the better battlefield control.

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And how does the Bard fit in? Another 3e aspect was, that the bard became a so-called spontaneous caster like the Sorcerer, but wasn’t a main-caster yet (someone who get spells up to 9th level), even though he had a own spell-list, which was very similar to the 5e spell-list in variety, his capacity was lower and so the Sorcerer was simply the better caster. Now the Bard upgraded and made a MA of Magic and has the same spell-slots per day as a Sorcerer, but more known spells, which would make him theoretically (in a way) the better caster now.

Now we know what kind of background these discussions have, but are those prejudices derived from earlier editions right in the first place? First of all, we need to remember, what are the basic differences between a Sorcerer and a Wizard.

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Wizard: A Wizard is a man who got 30 years old while still being a virgin… wait, false one. The Wizard who can actually cast spells is someone, who studied years of hard mental and sometimes physical labor to be able to tap into the power of the universe, controlling the elements by using graphs, signs, words and discipline. Somehow like a mathematician.
So a wizard should be able to be a great caster, who is able to cast most spells (depending on his studies, the spell-list could vary) and from all the classes would be the one, who has the most flexibility and skill in using arcane magic.

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Sorcerer: A Sorcerers are people who already have magic in their blood, who never needed much studying and learned most of their skills in practice. They don’t know, what they’re actually doing, they just can and as long it’s effective, it’s not that important. So logically their spell-list should have some more primal form of magic, the simple but powerful spells which pretty much acts more on thought instead per planning. But since they’ve that special connection to magic, that Wizards will never know, they should be able to cast spells more powerfully than those.

Pathfinder

OK, so far so good. Now we take a look at the Sorcerer and how this class fulfilled my expectations, while comparing his abilities with the wizard’s.

Spellcasting: At start the Sorcerer have 2 known spells, 4 cantrips, he have always as much spell-slots as a wizard of the same level. The Wizard has 6 spells in his spellbook, 1+INT he prepares and 3 cantrips. Over the course to level 20 the Sorcerer have always one more cantrip, while he stops at 15 known spells (the bard will have 22), while the Wizard have at least 44 in his spellbook and most likely (depending on INT) 25 spells prepared.
Even though the Sorcerer have a single more cantrip, the Wizards wins out due availableness of spells. And since the Sorcerer lacks Ritual Casting while the Wizard have a superior version of it, the Wizard is the better Wizard… kinda obvious.

Spell-list: Sorcerer’s spell-list isn’t as flexible as the Wizard’s, like already guessed. The Sorcerer is firstly lacking every spell, which have the name of a Wizard in it (like Mordenkainen, Melf, etc.). And most spells are more simply natured, less finesse, more like the raw power of the schools. And the only spells the Wizard don’t get are druidic, I’m a little disappointed to not see some Sorcerer-only spells, like Dragon Breath or Chaos Sphere, but maybe Origin-Only spells might appear in the future.

Font of Magic: This trait gives the Sorcerer the use Sorcery Points (SP) and one of their main uses is the option to regain spell-slots as a Bonus Action or to use spell-slots to regain SP. It reminds of Arcane Recovery of the Wizard and after having a delayed start and strength, it grows much better in terms of time (Bonus Action vs. Short Rest) but the number of spell-slots is lower at some point and of course it means, that you’ll have no SPs for other traits. But again it’s a plus, that you can translate spells into SP, if you don’t need spell-slots (especially the high ones) you can just make them into SP and afterwards use these SPs to create more lower level spell-slots. I do think, that’s much more flexible than the Wizard, especially since even short rests aren’t as short anymore. And as a bonus: You could actually create more spell-slots than you could can hold using this feature, even though I don’t see how a bonus action could be so valuable to do it before your spells runs low. Since you use SP for other features, too, I’d hold on them.

Metamagic: Here lies the true strength of the Sorcerer and the reason, why the Wizard compares so hard. Metamagic let you enhance a spell you’re casting in specific ways. Normally, you’d get 4 of them, but I won’t be surprised, if there is a new feat incoming, which would grants you the ability to pick a Metamagic and use it once per day or something like that (and of course more Metamagic to choose from in general). And Metamagic works with multiclassing, so you can metamagic Cure Wounds or other spells that way. But now to the specifics.

  • Careful Spell: Let people up to the CHA-mod automatically success a save in spell area. Evoker’s Sculpt Spells do almost the same, but even let your allies take no damage at all, but works only on evocations. For most iconic spells it won’t matter, since a lot of area effects are evocations, but there are a lot, which aren’t too, like Circle of Death. But I guess your allies will still hate the half damage. So stick to control-spells, like Fear.
  • Distant Spell: Doubles the Range of every spell. Spells which already have a range, have that ranged doubled, touch spells gains 30 feet range. Stacking with Spell Sniper, so you can bring a lot of mayhem out of save distance. The Wizard can’t copy it at this point. Enhanced range may make spells more useful, like Witch Bolt, which effect text only states ‘target stays within range’, so more range = less chance to escape your spell.
  • Empowered Spell: An easy way to bring up your damage, only 1 SP, if you get a really bad damage roll and re-roll as many dice as CHA-mod. Evoker’s Empowered Evocation and Overchannel are enhancing your damage, too, while both Origins brings one option as well, the Draconic early, the Wild late.
  • Extended Spell: This bit of Metamagic is a spell-saver, if you expect some combats with almost to time in-between (like dungeoneering a fortress), doubles simply the time of duration. But most likely it comes most handy during exploration, since spells like Enhance Ability are more meant for them. And of course the clerics and druids will getting all giddy, since they got some spells worth getting extended. No Wizard gimmick here.
  • Heightened Spell: Disadvantage to a high-level spell, which shouldn’t be saved? Sold! And no Wizard here either.
  • Quickened Spell: Cast a 1 action spell as a bonus action spell? Great for spell-slinging and again the Wizard lacks the possibility to copy it. One of my favorites is here Sunbeam, since you can cast it as a bonus action and use the action to throw a second beam (which is not spellcasting and therefore won’t be affacted by the ‘bonus action spell’-rule).
  • Subtle Spell: Seems at the least powerful at first glance, but might be the most powerful. As long there are only verbal and somatic components, you can actually stealth a spell, makes it more easy to stay hidden and have some out-of-combat use. Like charming the person you’re talking to without its companions even noticing it (and it makes it hard to Counterspell it, since the spell happens without anyone noticing it). Wizards could need it, but won’t get it.
  • Twinned Spell: Even though an enchanter have access to targeting two creatures with 1st level and above with a normally single-target enchantment, the Sorcerer makes it much better: Any single-target spell can be twinned by spending level as SPs (1 for cantrips). Haste, Disintegrate, Finger of Death, so many spells to choose from…

Since every Sorcerer have access to those, it makes a Sorcerer more versatile with the few spells he knows. Using right, it can compete with a Wizard in regards of Spell-Slinging and damage easily. But the evoker is still easier to pull off imo.

Sorcerous Restoration: Regain 4 SPs each short rest at 20th level. Actually a neat feature, but less powerful than other 20th level features. In the end it makes short rests actually making sense outside regaining hit points and might come in handy, but won’t really outweight the Wizard’s signature Spell Mastery or Signature Spell, which allows him to simply cast more worth of SPs in spells.

Sorcerous Origins: There are only 2 subclasses for now, so it lacks simply the variety of the Wizard (Three, since the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide came out).

Draconic Bloodline: More elemental damage, survivability and two nice features (wings and fear aura), which will make your Sorcerer better at standing in the front. As long the DEX is right, he’s as tough as most clerics. A good standard choice, shaping the Sorcerer in a more combat oriented class.

Wild Magic: I love this feature, but it’s too dependent on DM and uses to actually measure its power. But it brings ways to increase your odds, much later your damage and when rolling on the Wild Magic table (which depends on your DM), anything can happen. You might regain all SPs or end up as a potted plant until the start of your next turn. But hey, it’s not ‘tamed magic’, after all.

Conclusion: Of course the Wizard could do solme of the stuff the Sorcerer can, since there are 7 Arcane Traditions, which are mastery of a limited area of magic, while only 2 Sorcerous Origins are out. More options means more overlapping in most cases and that the Wizard with all Arcane Traditions seems to be stronger is just natural.
And Wizard’s Class featured are more about the tradition than anything else, while the Sorcerer works well on his own, while the Origin adds up to that basic. While an evoker could be a better spell-slinger, his special features only works for that.

In the end you have to say goodbye to the idea, that a Sorcerer and Wizard are still practically the same class. As long the Sorcerer remains that restrictive in the spell-list, he’ll definitely won’t replace a Wizard, but might be more fun, since there seems to be more room to adapt to the situation.
And like always: It’s more of the fun factor. If you want to be a strong, destructive spellcaster, choose the Sorcerer or the evoker, both are pretty stable choices. If you prefer to use magic for more, take the Wizard. If you want to use the features the Wizard won’t get and get more fun of the spells you know: Take the Sorcerer.

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But I can say the following: The Sorcerer is not weaker than the Wizard! Only if you use only theorymachine without using real situations (in a fictional game-world).