Lacking Capstones

Today I talk about our capstones. A capstone is a feature you gain when you reached the level cap, in D&D more specific the level cap in one class (means 20th level for now). The only D&D edition which made great capstones were 4e, Pathfinder got it right and made at least decent, but often not too great, capstones. In 5e, most are lacking.

Here I categorized them to usefulness:

Great and useful anytime

  • Barbarian’s Primal Champion (+4 STR and CON and the cap get increased to 24 for these two abilities)
  • Paladin’s [Ancient] Elder Champion (regain 10 hit points per turn, 1 action casts can be reduced to bonus action, enemies within 10ft have disadvantage to saving throws vs. your paladin spells and Channel Divinity).
  • Rouge’s Stroke of Luck (turn a miss into a hit or make a failure in a ability check to a natural 20 once per short rest)
  • Wizard’s Signature Spells (have two 3rd level always prepared and cast them once per short rest for free at 3rd spell level)

Useful in most cases

  • Cleric’s Improved Divine Intervention (100% chance that your god will help you once a week)
  • Fighter’s 4th attack (great at combat, otherwise useless)
  • Paladin’s [Devotion] Holy Nimbus (10 radiant damage per round for enemies within 30ft, advantage on saving throws vs. undead and fiend spells)
  • Paladin’s [Vengeance] Avenging Angel (Fly speed 60ft and 30ft fear aura).
  • Warlock’s Eldritch Master (regain once per day after 1min all expended Pact Magic spell slots)

Rather lacking, even though useful sometimes (like builds and cases)

  • Druid’s Archdruid (unlimited Wildshape for moon druids and spellcasting with your mind alone unless the material components cost gold)
  • Ranger’s Foe Slayer (once per turn WIS-mod. to attack or damage vs. favored enemy after seeing the roll but before knowing the result)

Useful when running into a lot of encounters

  • Bard’s Superior Inspiration (get one inspiration back when having none when rolling initiative)
  • Monk’s Perfect Self (get 4 ki points back when having none when rolling initiative)
  • Sorcerer’s Sorcerous Restoration (regain 4 expended sorcery points after a short rest)

Some of them would definitely rank higher, if there were only one to two changed details. Like the warlock’s Eldritch Master, if it’d only cost an action. Pact Magic slots are regained after an hour rest, too, after all, even though a minute is much better in that regard, I wasn’t that whelmed.

So why aim for the capstones after all, if most of them are underwhelming? Maybe high level campaigns in planning have a lot of encounters one after another, so regaining resources with initiative roll will have that much impact. Maybe the 21th+ levels will bring some juicy bonuses when you stay in your class and the ‘not-capstones-anymores’ are just a milestone to real power.

I personally think after gaining so much levels in one class, you can simply go all the way. Why would a character even bother at that point to pursue another path?

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Overview – Druid

Finally we go on to the druid. I got some positive feedback for these overviews, because instead of just talking their stats and possibilities from up to down, my categorization seems to actually help to get a better feeling about what the class does how good, even without pointing out the myriads ways to build your character around it (I might pick it up at some point, but for now simple overviews).

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 druid’s case LA for Circle of the Land and MO for Circle of the Moon). 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.
  • Most DMs would still insist of the fact, that druids won’t wear metal armor, which can be a great down with some classes
  • The best features (like Wild Shape) are druid-level dependent
  • The four three levels are actually kinda decent, there are some good control spells, advanced basic healing+goodberry, there is Wildshape, a semi-useful sublass-feature, but overall it just feels that most  womain-casters are actually a better choice for dipping overall, at least unless you’re after some 1st level spells or cantrips (like Shillelagh).
  • The 6th to 17 levels continues the trend, the land druid gets some semi-useful features, which aren’t too bad, but no reason to multiclass, the moon druid gets better with higher levels, but I’d say the Elemental Wild Shape makes multiclassing viable, but it’s at 10th level. While the spells still punches a pack of damage, control and heal + several nature based utility, it still feels like wizards, clerics or bards just have better spell-lists for multiclassing (since it means to stop your progress in the druid list at some point), 17th level brings you 9th level spell slots, but even then I’d rather go to 18th (at least as a moon druid)
  • 18th gives the ability to cast spells while in Wild Shape, even though it’s kinda late for this. Here you might start to think about taking up another class (if you haven’t already)
  • the capstone is practical, but not too important to really have

Offensive:

  • Weapon Proficiency: At least you have the scimitar for some two-weapon fighting, I guess. But still only a minor plus.
  • Spellcasting: The druid has some good offensive spells, even if he’ll never reach the wizard or sorcerer. But where he lacks the damage, he makes up to some very vast AoEs, multiple spells which can be used more than once (Call Lightning, Sun Beam) and such. Actually pretty reliable.
  • Wild Shape: Every druid will be glad to have it for the first few levels, since it improves your offense without using your few spellslots you have.
  • Circle Forms (MO): Will make Wild Shape forms more competitive in the damage department, as long as you raise your level as a druid.
  • Primal Strike (MO): Wild Shapes stays in the game, even versus opponent’s which wants a magical weapon beating.

Resource-Management:

  • Tool Proficiency: Proficiency with Herbalism kit means making your own Potions of Healing and Antidotes. Even though with crafting rules and no help it might need a while…
  • Spellcasting: Since the druids have multiple spells which only needs to cast once and can be re-used in later turns (Flame Blade, Flaming Sphere, Call Lightning, etc.) he can pretty slow down his damage for saving his spellslots. Not always the best solution, but at least good in the resource-department. Goodberry is a great spell after combat and slot-wise, since it’s unlikely that you’ll heal more with a die throw
  • Wild Shape: Regain it every short rest, even though there will be times you’ll make a short rest, so you can regain your Wild Shape for exploration purposes.
  • Archdruid: Unlimited Wild Shape. No need to manage anymore.
  • Natural Recovery (LA): Regain spell slots up to 5th level at a short rest, means you can dish more out without worrying.
  • Spellcasting: Even more than other classes, the druid’s best spells tends to be concentration. This makes it harder to actually manage these spells effectively, since a bad choice of prepared spells might end you up just switching spells instead stacking them (e.g. when you want to use damaging spells while using Faerie Fire, you shouldn’t cast Flaming Sphere).
  • Combat Wild Shape (MO): Bonus action instead of action is improved time-management.
  • Circle Forms (MO): Stronger wild shapes makes more of every use of it.
  • Wild Shape: You lose spellcasting while using Wild Shape until you hit 18th level, which means that you actually is a great restriction

Support:

  • Spellcasting: Druids can give a lot of support by delaying opponents and bringing them down faster, the spells are few, the effect are immense, Faerie Fire is almost criminal, and early and strong spells for conjuring creatures increases the numbers of attacks quite a bit. Then there is healing, a few strong buffs and some control, which makes it that much harder for your opponents to even get to you.
  • Wild Shape: Become a (flying) mount, get into the pocket of your companion, who is supposed to meet an enemy alone, as a mouse, become a swordfish to function as a wea…-wait, that’s going to far. But spitting webs as a wolfspider, tongue-grapping as a Giant Frog, so many possibilities…
  • Elemental Wild Shape (MO): Especially the air elemental’s whirlwind is to be mentioned here, but elemental forms in general provides some supportive traits and actions.

Survivability:

  • Spellcasting: Heal yourself, buff yourself, do as you like.
  • Armor Proficiency: Normally I wouldn’t complain here, but there is the minor flaw of not being able to equip metal armors. Would be not problem, if DEX would be an actual secondary stat, but some builds might not want to spent much to it and you won’t be able to feat yourself to heavy armor. I’m sure there will be cases, when medium and heavy armor aren’t made of metal, but of a mystical material (like Dragon Scales, Demon Bones, etc.), but you shouldn’t count on it.
  • Wild Shape: You practically your Wild Shape hit points to your own. More hit points are generally better, as long your AC don’t drop too much. And you can cast an offensive concentration spell, Wild Shape into a bird and send lightning and fire to your enemies while remaining in the air! Or hide yourself as a rodent. Or be a fish in the water instead drowning.
  • Timeless Body: Was hard to decide on a category here, but you’ll actually live longer! And it’s a defense against magic aging curses and such.
  • Beast Spells: Now cast a lot more of your spells from the air! Better to take your druidic focus into your claws.
  • Archdruid: Same as above, just without druidic focus.
  • Land’s Stride (LA): Advantaged saves for some spells (mostly druidic ones) and if the terrain is helpful, it will enhance your chances here to get somewhere the enemy won’t reach you.
  • Nature’s Ward (LA): Immunity to poison and disease: Bought. Take that, green dragon! Now you’ll have to shred me to death! Immunity to frightened and charmed due elementals and fey creatures… less helpful, but depending on campaign its worth will rise immensely.
  • Nature’s Sanctuary (LA): Might protect you from beasts and plants. Not too sure if these are appropriate enemies for a 14th level druid though. OK, plants might be and war-elephants and dinosaurs.
  • Combat Wild Shape (MO): Heal yourself while taking a Wild Shape. As a bonus action!
  • Circle Forms (MO): Better stats from your wild shapes means more chances to survive all this.
  • Elemental Wild Shape (MO): When facing a pyromancer, maybe being a fire elemental might help you survive this.
  • Thousand Faces (MO): Get some environmental adaption without forfeiting your spellcasting ability until you hit 18th level.

Utility:

  • Druidic: Having your own secret language that only your ‘real friends’ share is cool, being able to leave signs that only your peers can read, while others have trouble finding it, makes it even cooler. But the utility is very depending…
  • Spellcasting: I’d say the druid’s spelllist is pretty much about utility, even though in another way than the wizard’s: It’s more about variety and focused outdoor activity. Facing a druid outdoor is a pretty dumb idea. And of course Ritual Casting!
  • Wild Shape: Wild Shape is like the king of exploration feature. Since you can transform you (at some point) about freely to your needs, as a land druid mostly for scouting, spying and sneaking, while as a moon druid it’s actual gonna be useful for combat purposes even after the first few levels. And there are other uses, too, depending on your fantasy: Spilling oil on your enemies as a Giant Eagle right before your Sorcerer casts his fireball has to be great thing! And so many beasts have fantastic actions to use.
  • Beast Spells: Combines the plus of Spellcasting with the plus of Wild Shape.
  • Archdruid: Practically cast most spells out of your mind? FRIGGIN’ AWESOME! And nobody should be able to actually notice who does all that stuff, in- and outside combat a great boon, if you’re a bit creative.
  • Bonus Cantrip (LA): Another Cantrip of your choice, more options means normally more utility.
  • Circle Spells (LA): Most spells are utility spells itself, but gaining some mainly wizard spells here and there helps. Especially since some of the greatest spells of their levels are there (like Haste).
  • Circle Forms (MO): Broader variety. Break doors as a mammoth later on!
  • Elemental Wild Shape (MO): When an element is calling, be its elemental to gain some special abilities which might help.
  • Thousand Faces (MO): One spell, multiple applications. Disguise, adaptation to the habitat, gaining claws or other features. Great thing if you know what you want and what to do.
  • Spellcasting: Even though the spell-list of the druid is great utility, the flaw of having a lot of his spells restricted to either outdoor, plant or animal is a bit of a minus here.

Grading:

Multiclass: Bad
Offense: Decent
Resource Management: Good
Support: Decent
Survivability: Decent (LA) to Great (MO)
Utility: Fantastic

Overall: Good

The druid isn’t much of a multiclasser, except maybe the last 2 levels. But on the other hand, after taking 18 levels druid, you might consider to make the set complete and stay single-classed.

One of the real jokes is: The druid is most likely the best caster in terms of variety. He doesn’t only get his own niche (nature, animals, plants, etc.), but has access to above average healing spells, some good support spells, decent to good damage spells, nice exploration and utility spells, etc. This variety is its strength, but for multiclassing you’re more looking for gaining general strong points in other classes instead of depending strong points (like plant&animal spells) and variety, since at least the latter should come by itself with multiclassing.

Even though the druid has very strong features and can possibly out-tough the Tarraske at 20th level, it’s kinda hard to give him more than a good seeing, how dependent and restrictive his features are. Even though the moon druid is much better in the survivability category, when he wild shapes he loses much of his spellcasting potencial, which the land druid excels. But since the moon druid doesn’t need to wild shape, he’s theoretically not that much weaker there…

The druid is a complex class, since you have to consider a lot and must live with a lot of limitations and choices. Variety and adaptability are its trademarks, but if you don’t watch out, he can become pretty ineffective and weak. So be sure to know when to use what and to which degree.

My friends are from the other side!

I have a non-D&D RPG-evening, so I can’t really talk too lengthy about something. So I thought: Just pick a single spell, etc. and talk about it. And since I always talk too much, I ended up with the conjuring spells (Conjure Animals/Celestial/Elemental/Fey/Minor Elementals/Woodland Beings).

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In 3e there was the family of summon monster/nature’s ally from I to IX and a big list for both spell groups, which told you what kind of creature you can summon through the spell levels. In 4e summoning spells/powers came with common rules and special actions, often using yours, etc. but very interesting summoning choices.

In 3e the problem was, that there were definitely good choices and bad choices at each level, so you tend to call always the same. Sometimes a choice is broken, like a lantern archon. In 4e summoning was kinda boring, since you couldn’t change the summoned creature after deciding on your power.

Now in 5e it’s conjuring instead of summoning, the spells are more diverse and open for all creatures of the specific type at a certain power level (measured by its CR). While the more powerful spells only conjure a single being (up to CR 6), the lesser ones calls creatures up to 2 CR (1 CR 2, 2 CR 1, 4 CR 1/2 or 8 CR 1/4), every time the conjured creatures comes into play, they get their own initiative, can do what they might do align- or physical-wise and hear to verbal commands (no action).

These spells are amazingly strong. Especially if you summon a bunch of low CR critters, since more attacks are almost always more useful than anything else and the AC of the enemies isn’t sky-reaching. But some of the more powerful ones brings cool abilities. Tough choice.
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The critter tactic is especially good for a conjuration wizard at 10th and 14th level. 14th for 30 temporary hit point per conjured creature, 10th to counter a sad but balance-wise good flaw of the conjure-spells: Concentration.

You can easily see why it’s good balance-wise (and make it easier for PCs to actually get out of a tough situation): If you can disrupt the caster’s concentration, you’ll get rid of his servant(s). And of course it lessens the amount of other tactically strong spells, since you only can maintain one concentration spell.

But if you like the versatility, pick a druid. This class gets most conjure-spells (even the strongest and weakest ones, means earlier access and most end-power) and pick up the Warcaster feat early to get these concentration checks done. And at best, conjure your new friends, use wild shape to take form of a mole and dig yourself in. Flying could be a bad choice here and there…

If I were a druid, I surely summon a bunch of Giant Frogs at 5th level and use all the grappling mechanism and such to enhance my allies combat power while restricting the foes at the same time. Full-power control, hell yeah!

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After I finished the document for my druid in the coming D&D-party, I’ll share it with you. It’ll content the stats of possible creatures to conjure, sorted by type and CR.

Let’s Rock with Roles!

Finally I got this written, now see, what I was writing about the last few days: Roles!!!

In D&D 4e a lot of players were repulsed by the introduction of the class-roles, even though the books said, that they existed long ago and the classes were more built around those roles. Personally, I didn’t care about it, it just made party building that much easier. But since being classified as a role makes it much harder to actually visualize a different build, I thought: Let’s group any class into a group!

Here I will make a difference between combat-roles and outside-combat-roles, since every character should be able to participate in battle, while Social Interaction is often made by a single character. And I’ll dip into the archetypes a bit, without in-depth explanation, there are some builds out there, which makes it much clearer, if you prepare for a specific campaign.

Here the combat-roles:

Defenders are the typical front-liners, which can take punishment, are able to hold a line, protecting the backrow, and of course brings some punishment to the foes. In 4e he’s a very tactical role, in most previous editions, he is just swinging a weapon around hoping that his damage and presence is enough to fulfill that role.

Strikers are able to bring a humongeous amount of damage fast to the enemies. His main-role is to defeat the biggest threats as fast as possible or kill those off, which got some amount of damage from the Controller to lessen the numbers of enemies.

Leaders brings buffs for the party, leading how the battle will go on. AC-buffs for grindy battles, damage buffs for fast ones, the right buff at the same time is one of the most powerful thing. And of course he’s healing the party, ensuring their lifes while deciding effectively, who can participate how long in the thicks.

Controllers got are effects and strong debuffs. They often have damiging powers, which are able to get a lot of enemies in one sweep, they can change the battlefield to the party’s liking and make powerful foes to helpless ones (like stunning the same opponent consequently for 5 rounds).

No class is a pure build on these 4 basic roles and I chose the 4e terms, since Pen and Papers aren’t MMORPGs and therefore these roles have different ways and things to offer, than the correspondentive MMO-Role (Tank, Damage Per Second [DPS], Healer, Crowd Control)

Outside of Combat, these roles are more defining (not counting all possible, but those who I personally think are important):

Knowledge is power, and the Bookworm have all kind of knowledge skills paired with above average Intelligence (this is why they’re most often wizards), if the party needs more explanation, z

With a Brawn, you don’t have to worry about any physical challenge: Climbing a mountain path? No problem. Carrying the petrified Rogue out of the dungeon, while a cockatrice is at your heels? Piece of cake! Breaking a door? D’oh, rolled a 1!

Everyone who is a main-magic user is able to fulfill the Caster-role, when mundane tools ad tactics won’t work, just use a spell! There is treasure at the bottom of the lake and monsters which guard it? Water Breathing! We have to storm a fortress, overtaking the walls, fighting the guards and traps and get weakened to the final fight? Divination to find the treasure room, Dimension Door to shortcut! Some problems aren’t even remotely as easy to solve without a caster, like traveling to the City of Brass in the fire plane. To look for a portal which travels to it, getting to said portal while fighting off anything which is in the way or might think, that it’d be unwise to open a gate to the elemental fire? Annoying!

Without a Face, a person looks funny, a party looks poor. This is the guy who takes all the Charisma-based skills, to be able to smoothtalk, bluff or even force himself and his party members out of the most dangerous situation. A silvery tongue to a slippery guy. Or girl.

The Sneak(y Guy) is someone, is able to sneak ahead of the party for scouting, preparing ambushes or finding a way into a building (like climbing up the walls of a castle, take out the guard post and drop a rope for the rest). Sneaks and Spotters are natural enemies, even though a lot of Rangers fulfill both spots so well, that he should be his own archenemy.

Spotters are the ones who pumped everything in their Perception scores to be able to spot and search for everything. No enemy unseen, no treasure unfound, no DM slightly to really annoyed. There are reasons, why there is so many stealth options around.

Trappers are most often the Sneaky Guys as well and are responsible for traps and often locks as well. Since the Rogue (and later some rougish base classes) in 3e was the only one, who could find and disable magical traps, he was normally the trapper, in 4e and 5e everyone with an ability score to find traps (WIS or in 5e WIS or INT) and the right skill training/proficiencies can be a trapper now. Or leave the finding to the Spotter, even though it wouldn’t hurt to have him concentrate more on enemies.

Now that we know our roles, let’s see how our classes in 5e are to be categorized.

Barbarian

Combat-Role: The classic Barbarian is a more offensive, less defensive version of a Fighter and is therefore a Striker. Right? Actually, I think he shifted to be a Defender with a Striker secondary role. While Raging he can take a humongous deal of punishment to weapons, due his resistance to slashing, bludgeoning and piercing damage, as a Totem Warrior with the Totem Spirit of the Bear it extend to all damage except psychic and Danger Senses protects him even further. His Reckless Attack makes him a better target, provoking enemies to attack him rather his allies, Feral Instincts let him get a higher initiative, so he can better choose where to build up the front line. Most of his features makes him harder to kill or influence, better at being where he needs to be to protect others or helping out his allies or hindering his enemies, in both paths. On the Striker side he only get 2-3 attacks, a single reliable attack with advantage, a smallish bonus damage for Rages and a stronger Critical Hit, which only have a higher chance when using Reckless Attack. Enough Damage to be a threat to enemies, not enough to be an actual Striker, comparing with other classes.

Outside-Combat-Role: When there are no heads to smash, a Barbarian makes a wonderful Brawn, using his Rage feature to get Advantage on Strength rolls himself for a turn and much later Indomitable Might to always get high rolls. There is no special synergy with other roles, even though it’s common to let the strong guy make the intimidation with his muscle and charismatic Barbarians are always kinda neat and works well with the Berserker’s Intimidating Presence.

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Bard

Combat-Role: As a class with good support, Bard’s were always the Leaders, even so their healing abilities came first at 3e pretty weak, in 4e stable and in 5e they’ve become main-casters with any vital healing and revive spell in their spell-list. The Bard’s features allows him to support his party in many ways, buffing them, removing mind-affecting affects and some other stuff. Due his Bard College and Magical Secret’s feature, he can easily fill some parts in other roles.

Outside-Combat-Role: Of course the Bard is your archetypical face, but he can get into other skill-depending roles due his skill-monkey features, so if you’re asking yourself, which ability to boost second after Charisma, you should consider which role outside of combat is still unfilled. Bard’s in the past were known for their aptitude in being the Bookworm, now there are less features for it, but the spell-list do have the vital divination spells. And as a main-caster he can fulfill the Caster role pretty well, having many diverse spells even outside combat and using spells from other classes as well.

So the Bard could fulfill any role quite easily.

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Cleric

Combat-Role: If the Cleric wouldn’t be a Leader, no one would. He have the most healing and removing condition spells and a bunch of buffs. Depending on domain he could take any secondary role, even though it’s easiest to him to become a secondary Controller.

Outside-Combat-Role: Clerics are obviously Casters, even though they’re lacking the flexibility of a Wizard, they have other great spells, which makes a combination with a Wizard that much powerful. Since 5e doesn’t require the Cleric to have a high Charisma score, his Face value dropped as well, even though they’re still good as Bookworms, if INT wasn’t dumped. Since WIS is their main ability, clerics makes good Spotters, even though they can’t get proficiency with Perception on their own, so you have to get it otherwise. For most other roles they’re mediocre or just bad, depending on their armor.

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Druid

Combat-Role: In one way or another the Druid was always stuck between being a Leader or a Controller, even though I’d put him in as a Controller, since his healing was lacking compared to a Cleric and his spells to control the battlefield and deal with multiple enemies are so great.

Outside-Combat-Role: Wild Shape makes the Druid the perfect Spotter and even as a Sneak, he can use this feature. No guard post will take any notice of a squirrel in a tree, as long they don’t have reasons to fear a Druid and even then it might be a ‘friend’ of said person and killing it would only summon the Druid’s wrath, right?

Druid’s get enough knowledge skills to stand in as a Bookworm and outside in nature he’s most likely the best Caster in the game. And Wild Shape can make him a decent Brawn at some point, in Circle of the Moon even a great one (a Rhinoceros certainly helps you with breaking doors).

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Fighter

Combat-Role: As the archetypical Defender, the Fighter is supposed to have all the stuff you want a Defender to have. In pre-3e being at the front and hitting stuff was enough, in 3e he got Bonus Feats which could grant him special attacks without risk (like Disarming, Trip, etc. But hey, most spent them in Two-Weapon Fighting and ways to increase the damage) in 4e he got straight up powers to do his job. In 5e he get… the option to be a Defender. Unlike the Barbarian, who is a Defender at default, the Fighter do have the basics to be a Defender, but can easily be a Striker as well. For Defender take the Protection Fighting Style and the Battle Master archetype, for Striker the Champion archetype and any other Fighting Style (even though Defense won’t make you a better Striker). And the Eldritch Knight is a Striker with the ability to become a tertiary Controller. Pretty much Striker focused…

Outside-Combat-Role: Since old times a Fighter was always a Brawn, even though DEX-Fighters became popular in 3e and 5e makes it easier for them to survive without down-classing STR-Fighters too much. But after that, the Fighter do not have any special aptitude of being anything useful outside of combat, which means you have to choose your ability scores and background wisely, to be not a burden, when violence won’t help.

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Monk

Combat-Role: Some might ask themselves, why Monks are in the first PHB, when this is so western heavy fantasy, but this goes some way back and the class is popular. I think because they’re deadly Strikers, which can deal a lot of attacks per turn, allowing them to hit the enemy almost every turn and when hitting is no concern, dealing a massive damage over time. Their features allows them to shake of effects which would hinder them, avoid damage if needed and to actually outrun foes, when they’re low on hit points. Since there is so much protection, he could stand in as a Defender as well, the Way of the Open Hand supports this, while Way of the Shadow makes him a more sneaky version of the Striker and Way of the Elements could bring him into either Defender or apprentice Controller direction.

Outside-Combat-Role: Monks are normally good Sneaks and Spotters, since their DEX and WIS is generally high and they have both proficiencies available. The Way of the Shadow brings a lot of Sneak options, which is great. In previous editions, they could be Brawns, too, but that will be now more the exception than the rule, since STR isn’t as necessary as before. The other roles don’t lie on the way of being a Monk.

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Paladin

Combat-Role: Since old times, Paladins were the defenders of good, justice and the weak, so you should suggest, that they’re Defenders as a combat-role. Actually they’re more of Leaders, if we just take the Paladin’s features into account, Lay on Hands, a lot of supportive auras, etc. The real defending comes from the spells, especially those with Smite in their names, which can inflict several conditions depending on spell, which hinders the opponents to act as they want. And there is a lot of Striker potential, seeing how many ways the Paladin has to increase his damage, he’s able to real burn out a lot of resources to deal a humongous amount of damage, if he rolls critical, he could one-hit even a deadly foe. So it depends how you play if the Paladin will be more of a Striker, Leader or Defender. So I guess there will be a lot of Striker Paladins out there…

Outside-Combat-Role: If the Paladin is not a Face, nobody should. He use Charisma for his Paladin features, so it’d be higher than average, he got useful skills and from a role-play point of view, everybody with a pure heart should be friendly to a real Paladin. Most Rogues and other less morally inclined characters might have some problems here and there. As a secondary role, being a Brawn fits the classic Paladin, who wields a sword or a hammer as the main weapon, while wearing a shield.

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Ranger

Combat-Role: Rangers were like highly specialized strikers in pre4e, since the Favored Enemy feature granted extra damage from the get-go, while in 4e they were definitely Strikers. Normally a Ranger was more like a warrior-type skill-monkey, a bit squishier than their Paladin and Fighter comrades, so they often stacked to ranged combat, which is a Striker part. And even in 5e, most combat-oriented features are more Striker focused, like a Striker oriented Fighting Style of choice, Foe Slayer or the subclasses, especially the hunter. The spells are some self-support to be more strikerly, a lot of utility and some group support. It’d be safe to say, that the Ranger is a Striker.

Outside-Combat-Role: The Ranger truly shines outside of combat as the most likely best single-classed Sneak, using three features which strengthens stealth (being stealthy while traveling at normal pace in your favored terrain, being able to get a +10 when lying in ambush and being able to hide as a bonus action), combining Ranger and Rogue might be a powerful option. Even as a Spotter he get some features, like Primeval Awareness and Feral Senses and as a Beat Master, he can have a great Spotter as a companion, so he don’t need to do it by his own. And he open up the tracking department, which isn’t an as important role, since most adventure’s will get you were you want, but open up new options. As a Bookworm, he’s more of a specialist for his Favored Enemies, using that feature to get advantage to the rolls.

Finally, since his spell-list is much about utility, he is a decent Caster in the wilds.

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Rogue

Combat-Role: Striker. Sneak Attack, a lot of features to get out of trouble while providing no special support to other, no questions.

Outside-Combat-Role: Like Bards, Rogues have a lot of skill support, so he could be any role, except the Caster. If we pick the Roles he fulfills with the least effort, it’d be Trapper and Sneak, getting the first at the start and some supporting features like the Cunning action or the Thief subclass, even though an Arcane Trickster is even more potent, using magic to support this build while being able to even cast the Mage Hand spell stealthily.

Sorcerer

Combat-Role: This is a tricky one, in 3e the Sorcerer could be a real mean Controller, while the Striker role is also possible in 3e and the main focus in 4e. In 5e I’d stick to the Striker with the option to widens the area of effect to multiple enemies, taking care of some of the Controller’s tasks. Mainly because of the options of Metamagic, Twin Spells is a real mean thing, making it possible to leash at two opponents with strong spells, but the features also enhances his damage capabilities with some self-buff methods.

Outside-Combat-Role: Having a high Charisma score and at least some viable skill proficiencies, a Sorcerer is making a good Face, especially with some spells like Friends, Enchant Person and Disguise Self. His lack of spell-variety is making it hard to see him as a great Caster, especially since his spell-list is less about out of combat utility. The other roles aren’t fitting without some work.

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Warlock

Combat-Role: The Warlock is trapped between being a Striker and Controller, because he can up his damage a bit by taking the Agonizing Blast Invocation and other Eldritch Blast enhancers, but most of his effects are more about debuffs and some battlefield control. So I’d personally see him as a mainly single-target Controller with Striker tendencies, since he has a lot of features, which are more Striker-like.

Outside-Combat-Role: The warlock can be a powerful Caster, using Rituals as main-focus and Invocations for some real utility outside combat and resetting spell slots due Pact Magic. Most of the Warlock’s features, Invocations and falls into the Caster department. After that, Face for high Charisma.

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Wizard

Combat-Role: As you thought, having access to 7 subclasses and the broadest spell-list, the Wizard is pretty good at shifting his focus to be what the player want, but in the end, his spell-list is clearly that of a Controller, while having access to all kind of damaging spells, which enriches the Striker aspect. But that’d mean to leave out some of the best tactical advantages, a party can get at any time. And most Arcane Traditions are more about being a Controller.

Outside-Combat-Role: As an INT-based class, the Wizard is the archetypical Bookworm, who also can use his magic, to be even more knowledgeable. And nobody can be a better Caster than a Wizard, even though he lacks some stuff, the Cleric and Druid can do, but the Wizard has magical answers to almost every problem.

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(OK, nowadays 1d6… they got too healthy!)

After reading this, you’ll see that most classes are what they’re promising, while some have potential or even main-builds which might be surprising. But

I won’t play a cleric!

Many DMs heard that line and it will never stop. The fact, that it’s often very hard to get a cleric in your party. If you have someone who plays a cleric with pleasure, be sure to keep that player, because otherwise it’ll be hard to convince someone. But why is the cleric so important and why is there so much resistance of the players side to take a cleric-character? We’ll see…

Cleric’s Importance

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In 3e and before, clerics had the only spell-list, which contented not only the best healing of hit points for the respective levels, but the spells to cure conditions, revive the dead, most spells which are able to undo stuff, which better never happened. Even though the druid got healing, he was way outclassed by a cleric, so parties felt much better having an actual cleric in the party (even though the Favored Soul had the same spell-list and was a favored choice, too).

But it could function with alternatives, like a druid who know how to keep some spells for healing, a smart party, which avoids hits before and during combat by strategizing smartly or magic items, I had a bard who could fulfill the healer and tank part by knowing how to use his resources well. But if someone dies, this means that the revive had to wait until they’re in town or to cast it per scroll, but that was a limited option without resupplying.

Why players don’t like to play clerics

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These are just a few reasons, why players might think that being a cleric sucks. It’d be impossible to list them all, but I guess I got the main-reasons:

  1. As a cleric, I’ve to play religiously: Religion is a vital part of life, even if you don’t believe in (a) god, you still have to deal with religion. Even made-up gods from a game might get under someones nerves, either because he doesn’t want to betray his ‘real’ religion or doesn’t believe in religion anyway and don’t want to participate in any fake one.
  2. I can only heal and buff: If you compare the cleric with other classes, you’ll feel subpar in most aspects of combat: You don’t hit as hard as a fighter, your combat spells feel weaker than the wizard’s and his spell-list is more flexible in most cases, while you can’t really seem to shine outside combat like the rogue. Your only way to be a vital part is being able to heal and buff your buddies… and some players are more thinking about their own characters, sadly.
  3. Too much responsibility: Being a healer means, that your party is depending on you with their life. If a character got killed, it seems to mean that you failed and will be blamed for it. It seems to be much less responsible to play a fighter (which results that the enemies get through and kill the casters) or a rogue (which get mobbed by monsters, being a burden for the rest of the party, because he thought an initial strike would be the best choice).
  4. Almost no sexiness: Some class seems to be sexier than others, especially those who are more lightly armored and can dish out a lot of damage, while having a lot of skills. Archetypical being a cleric means heavy armor, mace and a dislike for undead, while chanting religious curses. It seems like less room to customize, less options to individualize and of course less aloofness. Especially, because you might think, that your party wants to play you the healing expert (because the healing part is the reason, why they forced you to play a cleric)

Why should you play a healer

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Some players might not realized, that being a healer could be their real calling. They struggle with all kind of combinations but never got a real good character out of it, something was either missing or it was just bland without any individuality. If any of those players see these reasons, maybe they’ll consider playing a healer class.

    • In 5e it doesn’t have to be a cleric: In 4e every leader could somehow substitute a cleric (even though some were more challenging than others, like the artificer at low levels) and in 5e we have 3 classes, which got the right spell-list, to do the job: bard, cleric and druid. Everyone have enough healing, condition curing and reviving spells to get a party through the dangerous life of adventuring. As long you keep in mind to keep some spell-slots for emergencies.
    • No rolling d20 for your main-feature: Some players just sucks at throwing a d20. Really, really hard. Most of them still wants to play a d20-rolling class, thinking that it have to get better, some others get to damage casts, choosing those who don’t need a attack roll. For healing and buffing, you don’t need the d20 either and even though you can use spells like Guiding Bolt to, if you’re really keen about it…
    • Play simple: For those who simply can’t get a feeling for the battle map, the right spell to the right situation and lacks the overview of the combat situation, they can play a simple healer which does only needs to look out, how much damage each character have taken and heals them back, while supporting anywhere needed if no healing is required. As long you do your vital role well, the other players should praise you.
    • Be in charge: This is interesting for those, who don’t want to play simple: Some players don’t even realize, how much influence a healer and buffer has in combat, if he invest into it. Who to heal, which buff to use, it does make a great difference how you tribute all your spells, since characters who get buffed will take a more vital role in the battle strategy. And since you’re the lifeline, nobody should complain! Those who wants to optimize tactics and resources are far better of as supporting combat characters.
    • Backgrounds can make you otherwise useful: Since most out-of-combat parts or the game can be covered by somewhat smart ability arrangement and backgrounds, you can be a healer in combat and a… maybe trap-finder and -disarmer in dungeons. It’s possible!
    • Multiclassing: In 5e you get more and higher spell-slots even with multiclassing as long your secondary (or tertiary, etc.) class got the spell-casting feature, too. The only downside is, you can’t cast higher level spells, just use the lower spells with a higher spell-slot. Especially multiclassing into sorcerer might come handy, since this means that means full advancement in spell-slots and access to metamagic with healer spells. Or warlock, no further spell-slots, but pact magic usable with your other class’ spells, which means that you’re able to use them more often over the time. Since the most vital spells are at the lower spell levels, you can consider this option, if healing hit points and lesser conditions is your only concern.

Why should you play a cleric

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Now let’s take a look at the cleric, since I mentioned some points earlier, that might be defused.

  • Easy plot-hooks: As long you’re not playing a cleric of a almost non-existent deity, there are always a lot of ways, how the church or the god can give you epic quests, which will decide the future from a hamlet to the whole existence itself, while the DM have much less trouble to come up with viable background and twists for the story by just reading a bit of the deities which would be involved.
  • Good role-play options: Like I said, religion is a vital part of everyone’s life. It won’t hurt anyone, if you role-play a religion made-up for a game, because it’s just for fun, having put your belief in the center of your character’s life, it becomes very interesting, especially if your background is somewhat strange comparing your actual deity. A criminal cleric of Tyr? How could that happen? And even if you’re not a great role-player, the cleric can give you enough material to actually survive all levels by using 2-3 signature quotes, like: “UNDEAD!!!” or “You foul, little…” … OK, last one isn’t that clericish, more like: “By Moradin’s iron underpants!”
  • Domains: Domains are great in 5e, since they’re a great way to customize your character. Do you want to kick asses with a sword? War! Do you want to heal with the least effort, so you have more resources to attack? Life! You want to be a better caster? Light! You want to be more roguish or druidish? Trickery or Nature! You want to mix some aspects altogether? Take another! Variety is given, just choose from 7 domains, another one in the DMG (Death) and much more in further rulebooks, I bet.
  • Prayer of Healing: Just this spell.

Playing a cleric? Might be worth it!