-5 to Hit, +10 to Damage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusions

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

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

Bound to level

Since time issues and the fact, that the warlock is unlike any other class, I’ll postpone the overview for now, I try to make it happen any day, but make it so, that I first write a less time.consuming post and afterwards put some time into drafting the overview piece a piece.

For today like to talk about levels and level-bound traits. These came up when playing and after seeing some postings about it, I thought that it might still be confusing. And sometimes not even that clear.

First, I want to explain, that I will not talk about the traits, which are entirely bound to classes, where the improvements are part of the class table (like Wild Shape, Aura Improvement, Extra Attacks, etc.), but where the character level seems to be the deciding factor or at least could be.

Second, I will take on the ability score improvement trait, which is now bounded to class, instead of character level, simply because I think this is somehow viable to talk about in this post.

Third, every DM is free to make changes to it, so if you don’t feel like this is a good or logical choice, you’re free to disagree. But you should expect that others don’t agree to your disagreement and stay cool about it.

Cantrips: Taken from this site here:

With cantrips, does a MC caster use their character or class level for determining damage? A multiclass character uses character level to determine the damage of a cantrip. -J

Cantrips comes from multiple choices, starting with spellcasting classes, races (like the high elf) or feats (Magic Initiate). Since the offensive cantrips are meant to rival multiple attacks at some point, they become stronger with rising level, but why should it be character level be the basic?

OK, there are multiple ways to get them and even if a high elf isn’t needlessly a wizard, it doesn’t mean that he won’t put some work into it. Same for a ranger/wizard or other combination of caster/non/less-caster class. Even though you might suspect, that it would be illogical if the fighter picks up the wizard class after having a lot of fighter levels and have as lethal cantrips as an non-evocation wizard of the same level.

Multiclassing shouldn’t punish or reward players ideally and dishing out damage per round is somewhat crucial for staying competitive through the levels. Extra attacks are the way for melees and these don’t stack, so why would cantrips do it in any way? Counter-question: How much does it hurt? Since cantrips are still often inferior to weapon choices of weapon-focused class (at the at-will department), you often needs some basic traits of these classes to make them stronger, limiting either your options (like warlock Invocations) or the need to take some levels (like Arcane Tradition of Evocation).

I don’t really see any damage here, especially since most cantrips aren’t that reliable in comparisons to other at-will features.

Warlock Invocations prerequisite: This is a thing, which is asked quite often. Do you need the specific character or warlock level to choose those high-level invocations? RAW it doesn’t become clear, but if you look at those features, it seems kinda unfair to other classes to make this 2 level dip into warlock something which gives you some features you wouldn’t be able to get when multiclassing into another class. Jeremy Crawford answered in his twitter (source):

The intent is that a level prerequisite in a warlock invocation refers to warlock level.

Intend doesn’t needlessly means that it’s meant to be a rule. I would decide on a case to case basic here, a valor bard/blade warlock who seeks to increase the damage a bit with the Lifedrinker-Invocation might get another treatment as a paladin who seeks to do the same. It’s about how much the party might need it (if you run official modules with 3 characters, you might consider that this is within reason or if the player of the tank is leaving the party due personal circumstances and no one could otherwise be that melee-prescience).

But for the most part, I agree.

Ability Score Improvements (or feats): In 3e and 4e these were bounded to character level, now they’re not, which is bad for multiclass characters. At the beginning, a great “Why?!”-wave came around and after all that time, some don’t even tried to understand. There were a lot of change-requests, house rules and the like flowing around (like feats at 1st level, bounding the ASI at character level and such).

Before house-ruling something, I suggest trying it out first. It’s really not that bad. And there are some reasons not to be so fast to expand it:

  • The team are unlikely to be composed of idiots, since they got the job in one of the greatest companies in the gaming business
    • classes aren’t design to have the ASI at character levels, which would lead to dead levels (means no benefit), if the normal ones are taken away
  • Multiclassing brings other features, seems even logical that characters wouldn’t have the resources to improve abilities or learn a new feat in the meanwhile
  • Most feats are terrifying strong and define characters quite strongly. In most cases, you will feel the benefits of a feat much more than the benefit of a ASI, at least that’s what I experienced so far. They can easily match up to class features in terms of benefits and are often even more overwhelming than those at the mid-levels
    • I do think, the human variant is the more D&D-like human (at least 3e upwards) and the standard is the one you only tend to use when feats are not allowed. Since feats are so strong, a lot of (PC-)Adventurers are actually human.

So why should you even expand to those without thinking things through and not even trying to use the actual rules at this point? Of course there might be good reasons, like having less PCs than normal, but I run a campaign with 3 PCs and advanced standard rules (means multiclassing allowed [nobody wants to], variant human [one] and feats [at least 2 will take a feat at 4th level instead of ASI]) and even if the start was hard, they managed.

So, that’s it. If I missed something, please feel free to comment and I’ll add it.

Let’s get a Rest!

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One of the most likeable changes in 5e is how they handled the short rest. This mechanism first appeared in 4e, for recovering some of your resources, so you would be able to get back into action with full hit points (using healing surges) and all encounter powers, to seriously kick some asses. An extended rest came, after most healing surges were spent or the situation arose. A short rest were only 5 minutes long.

 

Between the testplay and the actual 5e, the short rest grew from 10min to 1 hour, making it harder to actually rest in most dungeons, after raising the monster’s aggro. When 5min can be a pain, 1 hour is certain death and the effects are even lesser, at the first glance: You can spend hit dice, which is after 4th level less than the average healing surge (worth decreasing over the levels) and regain some resources, but not every character as much.

 

So let’s see, which things are regained during short rest!

  • Dragonborn’s Dragon Breath
  • Barbarian’s Relentless Rage’s (11th level) DC get reset to 10
  • Bard gets Bardic Inspiration back, after hitting 5th level
  • Cleric’s (1st level) and Paladin’s (3rd level) Channel Divinity uses
    • Knowledge Domain’s 17th level feature (Visions of the Past)
  • Druid’s Wild Shape (2nd level)
    • Circle of the Land’s Natural Recovery once a day (2nd level)
  • Fighter’s Second Wind (1st level)
  • Fighter’s Action Surge (1st level)
    • Battle Master’s Superiority Dice (3rd level)
    • Eldritch Knight can perform a weapon bound (3rd level)
  • Monk’s KI-points (2nd level)
  • Rogue’s Stroke of Luck (20th level)
  • Sorcerer’s Sorcerous Restoration (20th level)
  • Warlock’s Pact Magic’s spell slots (1st level)
    • Bounding a weapon due Pact of the Blade (3rd level)
    • Replace the tome of Pact of the Tome (3rd level)
    • Archfey’s Fey Presence (1st level)
    • Archfey’s Misty Escape (6th level)
    • Archfey’s Dark Delirium (14th level)
    • Fiend’s Dark Ones Own Luck (6th level)
    • Fiend’s Fiendish Resilience (10th level)
    • Great One’s Entropic Ward (6th level)
  • Wizard’s Arcane Recovery once a day (1st level)
  • Wizard’s Signature Spell (20th level)
    • Divination’s Third Eye (10th level)
    • Illusion’s Illusory Self (10th level)
    • Transmutation’s Shapechanger (10th level)
  • If you’re able to regain hit points again due the Healer feat
  • Gaining temporary hit points due the Inspiring Leader feat
  • Superiority Die of the Martial Adept feat

 

Fist impression: The Ranger won’t get anything special besides hit points out of a short rest, while the Sorcerer and Rogue just get features after hitting 20th level. Those three classes are very good, if you’re looking for a more fast paced game, while the warlock’s power-curve will definitely rise comparing to most characters, the more short rests he can plan into his resource management.

 

But the real problem lies in the 1 hour. While the DMG will be have alternative rules for short rests (because, as we can see, not all classes gets as much out of it as others, you shouldn’t just decrease the time value), I’ll definitely stick with this hour. Why? Because there are times when resting is logical, sometimes it isn’t. You won’t take a rest, if you’re right before the final boss room, because he might notice you in that time, even though you did everything to remain stealthily (like the Silence spell).

An hour is long enough to consider random encounters (not only combat ones) and all these factors makes the resting more of a logical and tactically decision and my player’s like to play like that most of the times. And if the danger is less present, hey, take a rest. 😉
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Feats of Strength or more like Strength of Feats

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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