Overview – Fighter

OK, just let’s get over this. To be fair, I should say beforehand, that fighter might be my least favorite class. It’s neither the basic idea nor the rules themselves, I’m just missing the 4e fighter. While I do know, that the Battle Master gives something like all these cool and controlling powers, these are still a shadow of what the fighter could do back then, even when counting in feats. And of course the warlord-type options are nice, but I wanted a real warlord class, which could at least grant enough temporary hit points to be a healer substitute… but, oh well. I could write more about it, but now is not the time!

This attitude might warp my overview, even though I try to be fair and impartial. Well, let’s just get over this.

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 fighter’s case CH for Champion, BM for Battle Master and EK for Eldritch Knight). And red features means there is a flaw or a minus in said category.

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Multiclass-Strength:

  • Fighting Style is the winner of 1st level, since Second Wind is stuck on the fighter level (and won’t be as good as the level and especially hit points rise)
  • 2nd and 3rd level are huge bonuses, Action Surge and Martial Archetype features are generally great, even though the EK is more about combining spell casters with fighters (to get your spell slots as high as possible). You might get 4th level for ability score improve and if you don’t get it otherwise 5th level for extra attack… and maybe 6th level for another improvement…
  • As long as you aren’t planning on playing a weapon-using spellcaster (like a Warlock/Fighter with a blade or perhaps a bow) you can most likely take a rest at 7th level, but one attack when using cantrips of the EK seems interesting here and then you can get up to 9th level, too
  • If you plan to have more fighter levels, the fighter is a pretty stable choice, 3 attacks at 11th level sounds good
  • afterwards it starts lacking a bit, since you simply get more of what you already have, until you hit 15th level with the Champion
  • Cap stone is nice in terms of damage output, but overall just that
  • Overall it might have even too many great features to multiclass in

Offensive:

  • Weapon Proficiency: Since martial weapons tends to hurt more.
  • Fighting Style (Archery, Dueling, Great Weapon Fighting, Two-Weapon Fighting): Increases the chance to hit, the amount of damage or even both in case of two weapons.
  • Extra Attacks: The only class that gets more than 2 inherit weapon attacks. The third attack will be standard for a while, but the fourth attack will be only important when playing at or above 20th level.
  • Improved Critical (CH): More critical hits means more damage.
  • Superior Critical (CH): Same as above.
  • Combat Superiority (BM): In most maneuvers the Superiority Die adds to the damage. And have sometimes another bonus there (like tripping, which enhances further attacks or damaging a target due Sweeping Attack).
  • Spellcasting (EK): Lot of evocation there.
  • War Magic (EK): Attack while cantriping. Attack cantrip and ranged attack together might be better than only attacking for a while.
  • Eldritch Strike (EK): Enemies getting disadvantage on saves for your damage spells is great, especially you’re not blessed with the great ones.
    • Arcane Charge (EK): When the enemy is far away or behind a minion-screen, what could be better than teleport right next to it and uses two actions to make that poor guy suffer?
    • Improved War Magic (EK): Casting your greatest damage spells and kill someone half-dead afterwards? Nice.

Resource-Management:

  • Second Wind: Self-Heal after every short rest.
  • Action Surge: Less time needed to do the things you want.
  • Indomitable: You need to fail to use it. Means that this feature manages itself.
  • Survivor (CH): Self-Heal that makes post-combat healing more effective, since it do a part of the job.
  • Combat Superiority (BM): Often you can make a maneuver after hitting the target, so you won’t waste Superiority Dice. And you regain those after a short rest, at least.
  • Relentless (BM): Now you can actually use a maneuver at least once per encounter.
  • War Magic (EK): When you’re forced to use a cantrip, you still get an attack out of it.
  • Eldritch Strike (EK): Waste less spell slots when casting a non-damaging spell with save, since often they have no effect when succeeding said save at all.
  • Improved War Magic (EK): Saves the time between buffing and attacking (even though once). You can do now both at once.
  • Combat Superiority (BM): Greatest subclass feature needs short rests, so you might not use it as often as you like.

Support:

  • Fighting Style (Protection): Protect those near you and better keep your friends close.
  • Combat Superiority (BM): A lot of maneuvers are actually supporting somehow, especially those who does nothing but support.
  • Spellcasting (EK): Abjuration and a few other schools are available.
  • Arcane Charge (EK): Be were you need to be.

Survivability:

  • Hit Die: Since most classes have d8, d10 is an improvement.
  • Armor Proficiency: Every armor and even shields sounds like a good chunk of metal to keep even low-dex fighters alive.
  • Fighting Style (Defense): Get hit 5% less of the time due bounded accuracy, which will even works with monsters with CR 30, as long your AC wasn’t too poor before.
  • Second Wind: At the beginning this will be a good way to heal yourself. At some point it’s only a drop in the bucket, but might negate at least one hit. And bonus action.
  • Indomitable: Improves the chance to save by a great deal. Especially important to save or suck/die elements.
  • Survivor (CH): Conditional Self-Heal, even though if you get it, you’re already somehow troubled.
  • Combat Superiority (BM): There are maneuvers which actually defends you.
  • Know Your Enemy (BM): You learn who not to piss off.
  • Spellcasting (EK): Abjuration mainly.
  • Arcane Charge (EK): When facing crisis, use all attacks and teleport yourself away afterwards. Or teleport and use actions to get yourself in better condition.

Utility:

  • Action Surge: Might be anything you desire, offense, survivability or even support. Depending on usage.
  • Ability Score Improvement: Two more than most classes, depending on attribute or feat you choose, the real category differs.
  • Remarkable Athlete (CH): Half proficiency rounded up instead of no proficiency. The funny thing is, initiative rolls are ability checks as well, so you’ll improve those, too. Developers found out after (due bard’s Jack of all Trades), but didn’t mind, so Remarkable Athlete to initiative is fair as well. And jumping a greater distance might come in handy sometimes.
  • Additional Fighting Style (CH): Depends on Fighting Style and these are already included.
  • Student of War (BM): Any proficiency adds to your utility!
  • Know Your Enemy (BM): Knowledge is power and here you might get a hint of what you have to do.
  • Improved Combat Superiority (BM): Depending on the maneuver, it boosts either damage, defense or support. Mostly damage.
  • Spellcasting (EK): The few spells outside evocation and abjuration (and the few within) helps a bit.
  • Weapon Bond (EK): Opens some uses by being able to act without weapon (because sneaking into a mansion is that much harder with the halberd which is always getting in the way and makes it easier to spot and more difficult to find a hiding spot), while having your weapon ready when you need. Was about to put it as a support feature, since it can be the main financial support a character can get. Sell weapon, call it later, keep the money. EVIL!

Grading:

Multiclass: Fantastic
Offense: Great to Fantastic (CH)
Resource Management: Good
Support: Bad to Decent (BM, EK)
Survivability: Great
Utility: Bad

Overall: Decent (read below)

Don’t misunderstand, the bad doesn’t mean that the fighter is actually a bad class. It’s only decent overall, since it excels in combat so much, while having serious problems to cover everything else. For combat, there is no better class, but when giving an overall grading, it seems just difficult to say: Hey, this class is overall good!

You can actually improve about anything with the additional ability score improvements used as feats, especially covering up some sore spots. But these aren’t strictly speaking fighter class options, so I didn’t count them in. And even though maneuvers do a lot of things, these are (of course) only combat and in terms of supporting, there are just so much better options from other classes. I think I’ll make a post about combat maneuvers someday, because they’re so diverse.

The utility department only got so many entries, because there are so many variety in fighters, but almost no real utility feature, which would get the utility grade (imo) higher. And even though the fighter is supposed to stand at the front and such, there is simple one optional feature which enhances it in the general class and a few more in the subclass, which is simply much less support value than the paladin or the barbarian. A BM might turn things around, but lacks the superiority dice to do so constantly.

So play a fighter, if you want to have a heck of a combat specialist, but the class itself lacks in other departments.

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Be simple and happy!

Sadly no fighter today, no time, no motivation. So I just randomly picked a short topic from my memory and ended up with: The easiest subclasses in the PHB!

Sometimes there will be a player, who either doesn’t have much experience (D&D or P&P generally) or simply just fails in the organization/memorization/etc. department. But there is no need to fear, since the PHB actually got it covered. Some classes are more difficult to play than others (like the druid, who isn’t bad at all, but need some cautiousness), but generally no class just makes you better: Most features are situational and restrictive, so even with the easiest combo (feature-wise) it’s still more complicated than other systems. I’d like to say, that class-feature-wise, the 5e is even the most complex edition of D&D so far.

This is simple a list of the easiest class – subclass combos from the most difficult to the most easiest one. I assume the basic care of the specific class (to read and understand all the spells, decide between several options, etc.) and don’t add the basic playability to this, since the complexity of the fighter-class and the complexity of playing a fighter are different matters (since a fighter as a front-character have a lot to worry about and one or two wrong choices might get your teammates killed).

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12.) Druid – Circle of the Land: This might not be surprising, but the situationality of the spells and the wide variety of spells and wide-shape makes even the more easier druid a quite complex class, as long as you do even care a bit.

11.) Bard – College of Valor: The bard is a monster in terms of utility and variety, so of course he’s more complex. If the druid wouldn’t have wild shape which meant to look into a lot of additional future rulebooks (like the MMs), than the bard would be definitely up high. And it helps that other classes do have some spells so great, that you don’t actually research that much when hitting a Magical Secret.

10.) Paladin – Oath of Devotion: Being a paladin is an ordeal. Not only the vast spell-list, but so many options and choices you have to face every turn and often even outside of combat makes it simply hard to actually play the paladin, while his features are a tad lighter in terms of complexity. Some are kind of forgettable, but might be useful too often to do it with a clear conscious.
9.) Wizard – Evocation: While the wizard class itself is easy, the spell-list is humongous. Reading every spell might take a while and you can even prepare them…

8.) Warlock – The Great Old One: Down to it, the Warlock is almost easy in comparison in terms of complexity, since after choosing your stuff, you’re pretty much stuck with it, while only the selection procedure will take time. But since there are pretty much options here, that aren’t played by the same rules (when to regain, how often to use, etc.) it isn’t as easy as the next one imo.

7.) Cleric – Life: Since this domain only applies to one aspect, it’s much easier as a cleric. But still, the spell variety kicks in.

6.) Sorcerer – Dragon Ancestry: From all the main-casters, the dragon sorcerer makes up with easy to understand features and a not too complicated spell-list. Even though you still need to read a lot of them.

5.) Ranger – Beastmaster: After the initial decision, the Beastmaster is easy to handle, you got your companions hardstats and if it weren’t for the spells, he would even jump right ahead to 1st place.

4.) Rogue – Assassin: Now we’re down to the no-spell class choices. The rogue comes as third, because even though his features are much easier than reading a lot of spells, you’ve them all over the categories. The assassin was picked, because two of his features are so situational, that they might be forgot and/or never used.

3.) Barbarian – Berserker: The Barbarian should be a simple class, but most features remembers to the rogue, some variety and even if you don’t have much choices to make, remembering advantage on DEX-throws,

2.) Monk – Way of the Open Hand: The monk isn’t easy to play, but easy as a class. The only resource you actually have to manage is KI, but somehow the class still has some options to use these points and how which feature interacts with another one.

1.) Fighter – Champion: Some might suspected it already, but the reasons are really easy to understand. A lot of straight features which applies any time, while the rest is almost every time about when things get tight. It just does what it does and is almost every time easy to apply.

Overview – Cleric

Finally after 2 days of delay, we got the cleric’s overview. The cleric is one of the most diverse classes in this edition now, since we got access to 7 domains/subclasses in the PHB and another one in the DMG. And since the old days, developers were always looking for ways to make clerics cool, so they got a lot of features in the newer editions, which makes them often somehow overpowered. But still not enough to ensure that every party have a cleric. Maybe this post of mine helps.

Again just copy-paste with minor adjustments:

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 cleric’s case: Death, Knowledge, Life, Light, Nature, Tempest, Trickery, War). 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 cleric-level is progression in a 1:1 rate spellslot-wise; additionally no spells known means much diversity on all accessible spell-levels.
    • most 1st and 2nd level domain features are strong and the most basic heal spell which will accompany you a long time (Cure Wounds) is granted as a 1st level spell. This way it’s possible to get heavy armor proficiency with multiclassing along with other strong features
    • 3rd level alone is not worth picking up, unless you need specific 2nd level spells. 4th is a bit better with Ability Score Improvement, but if possible, 2 level clerics as a dip is enough
    • 6th and 8th level features are somehow nice (depending on domain) but often not worth sticking in that class that long
    • Divine Intervention at 10th level is nice, but only benefits from cleric levels…
    • Strong features at 17th level, so main-cleric might be good, while dipping the last level in another class
    • an above average capstone. Less reliable since only once a week, but when shit hits the fan, you’ll be happy to have it.

Offensive:

  • Spellcasting: The spell-list doesn’t have as much offensive spells as other classes, but most of them are good enough. But still no wizard, druid or sorcerer.
  • Destroy Undead: You might think this will never come into play and maybe you’re right. But since in 5e a hoard of simple skeletons can still be darn dangerous and it’s easy for the DM to enhance the difficulty of an encounter by putting more critters into it, at least the undead ones won’t be a problem.
  • Bonus Proficiency (martial weapons; D, Te, W): Better weapons means better damage.
  • Reaper (D): Since Chill Touch is the only cantrip which actually benefits enough from this feature to be valuable: Hello you two creatures who are gonna chill-touched!
  • Channel Divinity: Touch of the Death (D): You hit with an melee attack, you can add quite some damage only by spending a short rest resource.
  • Inescapable Destruction (D): Bye-bye resistance for the damage type I’m going mostly to deal. Seriously, don’t mess with the Death Cleric!
  • Divine Strike (D, Lf, N, Te, Tr, W): Instead of two attacks, just make one and hit a bit harder.
  • Improved Reaper (D): More targets for your weaker, but well-used spell-levels? Of course!
  • Potent Spellcasting (K, Lg): More damage for cantrips at least.
  • Channel Divinity: Radiance of the Dawn (Lg): AoE damage which doesn’t hurt your allies? Damage might be on the lower side, but it’s still only Channel Divinity.
  • Corona of Light (Lg): Since it only applies to fire and radiant damage, it’s mainly for offense (even though some secondary effects might kick in).
  • Wrath of the Storm (Te): Hurt those fools who dared to hurt you!
  • Channel Divinity: Destructive Wrath (Te): Max damage with thunder and/or lightning means ‘ouch’!
  • Channel Divinity: Invoke Duplicity (Tr): You can actually grant yourself advantage to attack rolls? Means more hits and higher critical hit chance.
  • War Priest (W): More attacks means more damage.
  • Channel Divinity: Guided Strike (W): More accuracy means more hits means more damage.

Resource-Management:

  • Spellcasting: Buffing and control spells will help in bringing down the critters much faster or protect the hp’s by making it harder to deplete them. And of course one of the best healing spells resource-wise: Prayer of Healing!
  • Channel Divinity: Turn undead: If undead stays away, they won’t get your hp’s down. Or those of your allies within 30 feet of you.
  • Channel Divinity: Touch of Death (D): Using Channel Divinity after confirming a hit with no loss unless necrotic immunity (or resistance until 6th level) comes into play!
  • Improved Reaper (D): Two targets instead of one? This makes your 1st to 5th level spells pretty valuable.
  • Disciple of Life (Lf): Gain more hp with every 1st+ level spell. Means less spells for healing.
  • Channel Divinity: Preserve Life (Lf): Sometimes an AoE will hurt the party as hell and brings everyone to low hitpoints. When facing this situation, letting all allies under half hps regain some is a great way to safe not only lives, but resources in actions, spells and time.
  • Blessed Healer (Lf): Heal yourself while healing allies with no further costs.
  • Supreme Healing (Lf): To give your enemy the one finger salute. One healing spell, maxed hps.
  • Dampen Elements (N): Granting resistance for some common magic damage types for one damage? Half damage means less wasted resources, especially if this feature only uses your reaction and nothing else.
  • Improved Duplicity (Tr): More duplicates with only one channel.
  • Channel Divinity: Guided Strike (W): Don’t waste actions with certain misses. Especially after some time, since you get a feeling or guess for your enemy’s AC. And of course it can save your spell slots by not missing with spell attack rolls.
  • Channel Divinity: War God’s Blessing (W): Same for your allies. Especially some of them will have even greater resources they want to burn efficiently.
  • Channel Divinity (general): The fact that the domain grants new ways to use it, makes this a versatile tool. But since it uses up the same pool, the particular ways to use it are more limited. But at least you regain the uses after a short rest.

Support:

  • Spellcasting: The cleric has a lot of support spells, beginning with buffs, excelling in healing and some vital control spells, which makes it easier for your allies to survive an encounter.
  • Channel Divinity: Turn Undead: Protects allies from undead, as long as the undead failed the save and your allies are near you.
  • Improved Reaper (D): Necromancy do have quite some debuff spells, and targeting two enemies instead of one with a bestow curse or a contagion can be pretty nasty and very supportive.
  • Channel Divinity: Radiance of the Dawn (Lg): Magical Darkness is a cheap way to make your party suffer greatly.
  • Improved Flare (Lg): Helps your ally by debuffing the enemy when needed.
  • Dampen Elements (N): Works on allies in 30ft.
  • Blessing of the Trickster (Tr): To be sure that your scout won’t be detect.
  • Channel Divinity: War God’s Blessing (W): Who doesn’t like a grant bonus to hit after seeing the die result (even though before knowing if it hit)?

Survivability:

  • Armor Proficiency: Shields keeps you alive and medium armor helps with a decent DEX score.
  • Spellcasting: If you’re normally the best healer in the party, that means that you have the best heal spells at your hands. Use them, since no one is helped if the healer is down. And protection spells are your forte, too!
  • Channel Divinity: Turn undead: Stay away from me!
  • Bonus Proficiency (heavy armor; Lf, N, Te, W): Thicker armor means more protection, especially if DEX can’t keep up.
  • Blessed Healer (Lf): Makes it a lot easier to stay in the game. Especially important for healers, since if they fall, the party most likely will, too.
  • Warding Flare (Lg): Nice one, even though it costs the reaction.
  • Dampen Elements (N): You are a creature in 30ft range.
  • Channel Divinity: Charm Animals and Plants (N): Helps only with 2 enemy types, but everything is fair at that point.
  • Master of Nature (N): See above, just better because you can use them for further protection.
  • Wrath of the Storm (Te): They dared once, but will they strike again, if you can hurt them at the same time?
  • Stormborn (Te): Better to be out of range if you want to be. In the sky!
  • Channel Divinity: Invoke Duplicity (Tr): As long your enemy doesn’t know which one is real, this might take at least one attack away from you. Better get stealth proficiency to hide away, while your fake will catch the attention.
  • Channel Divinity: Cloak of Shadows (Tr): If you run into trouble, make yourself invisible and walk away. Walk further next turn and heal yourself. Great thing!
  • Improved Duplicity (Tr): When you begin combat with that many duplicates, it means that there are higher chances that they might miss you the first few times.
  • Avatar of Battle (W): Nonmagical weapons only, but since many creatures don’t have those, it should come in handy often.

Utility:

  • Spellcasting: Ritual Caster and some of the most useful exploration and enchantment spells to help you outside of combat. Especially Divination proofs super-useful when facing a wall of having-no-clue-what-to-do.
  • Domain Spells: Having two additional spells prepared for 1st to 5th spell level and some of them from different spell-lists can help you out in many ways.
  • Divine Intervention: It could be anything, but even though it’s kinda unreliable until 20th level and you ask your deity to assist you in pretty anything, it’s foremost an utility-tool.
  • Blessing of Knowledge (K): More skills are more ways to shine outside combat. Or in knowledge skills even inside combat…
  • Channel Divinity: Knowledge of the Ages (K): Granting yourself a skill or tool proficiency when needed? Kinda unfair.
  • Channel Divinity: Read Thoughts (K): Even though it can be used in combat, it’s real power lies outside of it.
  • Visions of the Past (K): Sure you aren’t a psion? Reading thoughts first and now psychometry? At least investigation shouldn’t be much problem at this point.
  • Bonus Cantrip (Lg): Light itself isn’t much of a problem most of the time, but don’t hurt to have this one.
  • Acolyte of Nature (N): One of three skills which are no class skill, one cantrip of the druid lists opens up some potential you normally won’t have.
  • Channel Divinity: Charm Animals and Plants (N): Definitely nice, even though quite limited. At least until you’re fighting against a mad druid, something even scarier than a mad wizard. Mad wizard will send golems, demons and other creatures out, that are definitely enemy. A mad druid will use beasts and plants… but they are everywhere and you won’t be able to distinguish – until it’s too late!
  • Master of Nature (N): Hah! Now they’re yours!
  • Thunderbolt Strike (Te): A feature with different usages, defensively after using Wrath of the Storm, preventing by delaying a slow enemy by pushing it back, offensive by pushing the enemy over an edge or supporting by pushing the enemy to your front-characters. But in the end an utility tool and too less of everything else to list it there.
  • Stormborn (Te): Flying speed outdoors. Says everything.
  • Blessing of the Trickster (Tr): Allows to be stealthy even without any talent.
  • Channel Divinity: Invoke Duplicity (Tr): Use your illusionary self to do bunch of trickery. Ambush those who thinks they can get you alone, distract someone while sneaking past him or behind him to knock him out. And adds to the range of spells, since the origin of the spell can be the duplicate. Means touch range, too, by the way.
  • Channel Divinity: Cloak of Shadows (Tr): Turn invisible for a round. Limited use, great ways to work with your imagination.
  • Improved Duplicity (Tr): More duplicates means a bit more utility.

Grading:

Multiclass: Great as dip, bad as more
Offense: Decent to good (D, Lg, Te, W)
Resource Management: Decent to great (Lf)
Support: good
Survivability: good
Utility: great to fantastic (K)

Overall: good

Even though my overall is good, it’s more for the cleric class itself, because the possibilities are often quite strong and cool, but if I had to tell a player how good the cleric class is, I would say with one word ‘good’ and two words ‘it depends’. No choice is actually bad, but having this many subclasses makes it hard to narrow it down. When a cleric domain provides something, it’s like out of scale, but only for said domain and its aspects.

This makes the cleric much harder to analyze, since a Tempest Cleric can be a powerful offense caster, but for now only few high level lightning/thunder spells and the lack of control an evoker would have. The Trickery Cleric provides some trickery, but the field is narrow and the domain spells impresses me more. The Life Cleric is a healing monster, but nothing more. And a Death Cleric is a powerhouse, who can dish out quite an amount of damage when needed.

But he has always a more than stable base, the domain will either specialize him in one category or build up on multiple categories to be more versatile. The field the cleric is really awesome (outside healing) is his utility, most domains gives great out of combat features and some for creative use, while the spell-list completes the build perfectly.

The support features are mostly his spells, but since the cleric has such a broad base, he can pretty much support by filling in everywhere someone needs him.

But in the end the true strength of the cleric lies in his player and its ability to make use of the features the cleric has. Only the fact that his base is so broad with great healing, while his peaks are solely domain dependent kept him away from ‘great’. In overviews I tend to see the whole class and some domains are harder to pull of efficiently (like Nature and Trickery) than others. But if you’re up to the challenge, try it. It’s by no means weaker, but you have to be more aware of the strengths of the domain.

Next days might getting tight again, so I might get to the druid not until next week.

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…

Moral Compass – But where to go?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Weapons of Massive Destruction

I talked about weapon-focused builds, but never took my time to talk about actual weapons. Weapons are the most used tools in D&D, using to kill about everything that might stand in the way of the heroes’ quest. In different editions, different takes were used to express the beauty of smashing, slashing and stabbing in numbers.

In 5e it was imo mostly well done, even though I still dislike the idea of 2dx weapons when there is a 1d2x weapon with about the same properties out there. And especially with the Great Weapon Fighting Style option, since it boosts the average damage much more.

The list is about a page, instead of of two pages, some weapons were kicked out, like the whole exotic/superior table. But generally not having exotic/superior weapons is a relief, even though I really think they’ll return. Like in Eberron, where the halflings of the Talenta Plains wield more unique weapons and I think those weapons will be either included as a subrace (which I don’t hope) or a background instead of a tool proficiency/language (which I rather believe). There could be a remotely chance that they’ll

I think the term ‘superior weapon’ nailed it down pretty well: Most of these weapons were simply superior and nobody cared about the others. And since it cost a bit of resource (depending on edition [or Pathfinder] it varied in value), some options weren’t as good after all, considering other ones.

If the developers are smart, they’ll just makes the tangat, sharrash and such based of an existing weapon in the table and maybe just swap the damage type. But here and there that alone won’t be sufficient, since for example the sharrash is the halfing version of a reach weapon. So it’d better have reach and not the heavy keyword.

But back to the basic topic: Even in the 5e list, it seems that there are simply options which aren’t as good as others. Here these two reasons work, first: Realism, if a club were such a great weapon, we’ve never invented the sword. Of course an actual weapon like the light hammer trumps it by the possibility to throw it. The designers went for weapons and armors not only for PC-use alone, but for NPCs in all their variety (caveman, bandit, soldier, etc.), too.

The second reasons (which includes the first one) is the following: “In many cases, an improvised weapon is similar to an actual weapon and can be treated as such. For example, a table leg is akin to a club. At the DM’s option, a character proficient with a weapon can use a similar object as if it were that weapon and use his or her proficiency bonus.” (Base Rules p. 47; PHB pg. 147) So the most mundane things (like table legs as clubs, broken bottles as daggers, etc.) had to be be included.

Except some cases, most weapons are more or less defined by their category (simple, martial) and their properties. So if you know how, you can actually simply modify some weapons to fit your needs, especially if you’re missing some like the spiked chain (for whatever reason) and maybe are even able to make up rules for the (not) missed double weapons. And this is how I’ll do it.

First pick a weapon which seems to resemble the one you wants to rebuild. For this example, we make a spiked chain, since I saw some people demanding it. Since the spiked chain was a finesse weapon with reach, we take the only weapon which have these properties, the whip.

Then you add properties. Every property that makes it harder to use, should improve the damage die by one step, every property which makes it easier to use should decrease the damage die by one step. Since the spiked chain have to be wielded in two hands, it gets the two-handed property. Since using both hands makes it harder to use, we simply increase the damage die to d6. You can argue, that a small character would have this problems, but there are various reasons to not add the heavy property and one of them is, that a chain more than 10ft long isn’t as wieldy for medium characters, too.

Finally you can consider changing the damage type, since it’s a spiked chain, swap the bludgeoning with the piercing damage type. And the spiked chain is ready to go.

Some properties shouldn’t mix, like two-handed and light, heavy and finesse and heavy and light. Most of those combinations makes sense, especially when considering numbers and synergy with feats and other features. But to be honest: If a heavy weapon is too bulky for a small character to use it, how could a medium-sized character use it dexterous?

Here would be one properties I’d like to add:

Small: Medium sized characters have disadvantage on all attack rolls with this weapon. A small weapon’s size and handhold is too compact for a medium sized character to use it effectively.

This should cover the sharrash and tangat. 😉

Maybe I’ll make a list of some weapons that seems to be missing in 5e and make a House Rule Page for it. But let’s see, if I’ll find the time to do it. -_-‘

But which would be the best weapon for a PC? Actually I think it’ll b the Longsword. The reason: Because there are plenty of magical swords out there, so the odds to find one is higher. 😀

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.