Ranger Variant (without spells)

Since it came up in the wizard forum, I made a ranger variant without spells. Even though it will most likely be less powerful, it should do the job.

Additional Tool Proficiency: Traps (for setting up an complicated trap, craft a trap, hiding a trap, etc.)

Use this table instead the normal one for class traits

1st: Fighting Style, Favored Enemy
2nd: Natural Explorer, Hunter’s Action (use a Bonus Action to either disengage or set up a trap)
3rd: Ranger Archetype, Primeval Awareness (WIS-mod per day, at minimum length)
4th: Ability Score Improvement
5th: Extra Attack
6th: Favored Enemy Improvement, Skill Expertise (three skills/tools [traps would be tools, too])
7th: Ranger Archetype Feature
8th: Natural Explorer Improvement, Ability Score Improvement
9th: Land Stride, Expert Trapper (add your prof bonus on DC of traps you’re setting)
10th: Ability Score Improvement, Favored Enemy Improvement
11th: Ranger Archetype Feature
12th: Ability Score Improvement
13th: Hide in Plain Sight, Natural Explorer Improvement
14th: Favored Enemy Improvement, Vanish
15th: Ranger Archetype Feature
16th: Ability Score Improvement
17th: Favored Enemy Improvement, Natural Explorer Improvement
18th: Feral Senses
19th: Ability Score Improvement
20th: Foe Slayer

Differences:

  • Some features changed their level, to keep the power-gain per level in check
  • Hunter’s Action added at 2nd level, a variety of the Cunning Action of the Rogue
  • Primeval Awareness got (since lacking spell slots) a per day use of the ranger’s WIS mod at the minimum length
  • Skill Expertise at 6th level, since this build have some trap synergy (if you don’t have magic, go mechanical!), player gets reminded, that you could possibly say traps are tools in a sense (which got already mentioned in the tool proficiency)
  • Expert Trapper added at 9th level, which makes even mundane traps pretty dangerous
  • an additional Ability Score improvement at 10th level
  • 5 favored enemy and 4 natural explorer overall, to increase the variety of the ranger and keep it ranger-like without too much trouble

This build suffers in the damage department of a damage focused normal ranger and even don’t have that much utility to boast around, if you consider all the possible spells which would be possible. But since spells are harder to grasp in power-level and ranger’s and that good spellcasters, I personally think the use of at-will features which will come handy every time and more specific features which doesn’t use up any resources. Especially increasing favored enemies and natural explorer makes it much more reliable, since you got a broader array of choices and more favored enemies enhances the foe slayer capstone.

Short today, won’t probably get to the warlock overview until Monday, since I got some gamedays before me (even though I try).

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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?

Overview Ranger

Finally, we get to ther ranger’s overview. I already made some posts about that class, so I cut it short in the introduction. I just want to mention, that the one who made the text-routines for Internet Explorer has to be an idiot, because I had to switch to IE temporary and while I wrote all this, the browser did its best to tell me to be replaced as fast as possible.

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 ranger’s case HU for Hunter and BM for Beast Master). And red features means there is a flaw or a minus in said category.

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Multiclass-Strength:

  • If you’re a caster, a ranger will provide half its level to your spell-slots per day
  • The first levels doesn’t provide you that straight benefits, second level brings you a fighting style and already some of the best ranger spells, you can go for archetype (here the HU is the better choice) and a strong offense trait in 3rd level and 4th will bring you an ability score improvement
  • 5th level excels with Extra Attack in case your other class won’t provide it, afterwards ranger will stoß being that useful for multiclassing into, except you want another strong HU defense feature at 7th and the ability improvement a level after
  • If you want ranger as a main-class, you can aim for level 16th or 17th without much trouble, but you can also leave it at 12th to grab another Hunter feature and ability score improvement and leave it at that
  • the capstone is ignorable

Offensive:

  • Weapon Proficiency: Always have the better tools due martial weapons.
  • Fighting Style (Archery, Dueling, Two-Weapon Fighting): More damage is more damage after all.
  • Spellcasting: Most of your damage comes from these spells, which buffs yourself quite good. Hunter’s Quarry is pretty insane for 1st level.
  • Extra Attack: More attacks means more damage.
  • Feral Senses: If you can detect the enemy, you can kill it.
  • Foe Slayer: Not too great of a capstone, but increase accuracy and or damage.
  • Hunter’s Prey (HU): Increase the amount of attacks or damage.
  • Multiattack (HU): In certain circumstances this dishes out more damage than your regular attacks (depending on the number of enemies). Sadly, it’s unfocused, but it can provide the slaying of pre-damaged goons.
  • Superior Hunter’s Defense [Stand against the Tide] (HU): If you’re mobbed and someone misses you, you can redirect the attack with new attack roll to another target. Less defensive than the name would suggest.
  • Ranger’s Companion (BM): The more obvious companions do more damage than you.
  • Bestial Fury(BM): More attacks overall.
  • Foe Slayer: Sadly only for Favored Enemies and since you get your last one(s) at 14th level, you might not get a use of it, when the campaign takes a much different turn at the end.

Resource-Management:

  • Spellcasting: Mostly a heolp to manage your hit points and such better, not that strong in the ranger’s case.
  • Vanish: Hide as a Bonus Action is pretty much the reason why you want to multiclass into rogue for 2 levels. Sadly it comes a bit late at 14th level, but for any Archer and Hit-and-Run style ranger it’s still an effective way to manage their actions better.
  • Foe Slayer: Since you can decide to use it after the role, you can make missed attacks into hits, after having an idea of the AC of the opponent.
  • Exceptional Training (BM): Somehow mitigate the downs of the companion management a bit.
  • Bestial Fury(BM): Transfer one attack of yours into two attacks of the companion.
  • Share Spells (BM): Use one spell and target you and your companion, less actions for more effect.
  • Spellcasting: The most powerful spells are concentration, so rangers might want to stay back, since they lack proficiency in con-saves normally.
  • Primeval Awareness: Uses spell slots.
  • Ranger’s Companion (BM): Uses up your own actions.

Support:

  • Spellcasting: You at least you have some minor support here and much more in the control department, so debuffs are your main-support, since enemies who have to deal with them are much less dangerous.
  • Exceptional Training (BM): Help Action for your Bonus Action and the companions actual action.
  • Share Spells (BM): Helps your companion and it’ll need all help it can get.

Survivability:

  • Hit points: A d10 is above the average d8.
  • Armor Proficiency: Only the shields are to mention here.
  • Natural Explorer: Not much, but when running away in your specialized environment is much more likely. Normal pace and stealth, so if you fight in the long run, you can be pretty annoying.
  • Fighting Style (Defense): One of the few valuable ways to enhance your AC most of the time. Especially since the ranger lacks much protection in general.
  • Spellcasting: You can heal yourself and has some lesser protection spells.
  • Land’s Stride: Natural hazards and terrain are your friends now and you get even advantage to saves when those are magically influenced.
  • Hide in Plain Sight: While having your camouflage you can hide about anywhere with this. So if things goes south, go to the wall and be never seen again…
  • Vanish: Did you really need even more ways to make it hard to track you? – Yes, indeed!
  • Feral Senses: It works as an ambush-detector, so you won’t be less often surprised by those who are confident in their stealthiness.
  • Defensive Tactics (HU): Makes it harder to hit you when provoking opportunity attacks, subsequent attacks of the same enemy or at least gives you advantage to saves of one of the m0st common conditions you’ll run into.
  • Superior Hunter’s Defense [Evasion, Uncanny Dodge] (HU): Gain either half damage for a single weapon attack per round or half to none damage to every saved dexterity saving throw. Pretty useful.
  • Ranger’s Companion (BM): Since you get another when making a short rest, you can sacrifice it when necessarily.

Utility:

  • Skills Proficiency: You get 3, which is more than most classes.
  • Favorite Enemy: Know thy enemies. And their language. And then track them!
  • Natural Explorer: Makes it so much easier to move in nature for you and your party.
  • Spellcasting: A lot of cool and trendy outdoor spells here, hard to choose from this list.
  • Primeval Awareness: Up to you how useful it is. At least you can identify if the threat might be immediate when signs show up (like burning houses, which might suggest the presence of a dragon, fiend or elemental nearby).
  • Land’s Stride: Makes it a bit easier on the scout duty.
  • Hide in Plain Sight: Scouting in the enemy’s camp? Sure, just use a minute, have a decent Dexterity (Stealth) score and you can pretty much move freely.
  • Vanish: All things included, you can scout about anything without leaving reasons to track you. Great for information gathering.
  • Ranger’s Companion (BM): The utility of having a beast companions is great if you bring a bit of imagination into it. Especially since it brings your scouting skills too the max or can even help by standing night watch, while being inactive during the day (like an owl).
  • Favorite Enemy: Since you only have limited number of choices here and no way to change them, you’d better know what the campaign will bring you.
  • Natural Explorer: Pretty much the same, only in this term with terrain-types.

Grading:

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

Overall: Good

OK, this class is complicated. Especially the Beast Master brings some easy mechanism into play, which are pretty complicated if you want to use them at best. But the ranger beats the monk and the fighter class in being good at fighting (even not as great as them) and being uber-useful out of combat, especially in a natural environment. The spells brings some diversity and can bring stable and dangerous boosts to the combat if needed while having access to some neat controlling mechanism, which provides some special tools if you need them. But sadly not enough and too single enemy focused to make a good support.

Worrisome are the resource management and the fact, that this class get problems when built up melee focused, since it seems to lack some answers a melee would normally need, especially in terms of survivability, so I’d rather compare the meleeness of the class more to a rogue, while the ranged abilities does rival a ranged focused fighter pretty well. Well, it’s a ranger.

I do think, that some level rangers for multiclassing purposes are good, but the class peaks at staying single-classed.

Overall the ranger is a class which does what it does pretty well, but seems to cover more fields of expertise adequate than it really does. The danger lies here to think, that you can do too much too well. Stay in safety when possible, use your features to get as much advantage beforehand as possible and do it sneaky and fast, whenever the situation arises. If you do so, you shouldn’t run into more problems than any other class and possibly even a lot less.

My nemesis is my species enemy and became my favored enemy, do you understand?

The internet is a trap! After regaining connection for one day, I already wasted my whole evening and did nothing for the blog… Since I’m going to a Pathfinder session soon, I have too less time to make my overview, but I just took a topic which I wanted to talk about: The ranger’s favored enemy and how it changed in the editions.

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1st Edition: The ranger didn’t have the choice of an enemy, but gained a flat +1/level damage to giants and certain humanoids like orcs. Flat but useful like most choices of the 1e.

2nd Edition: Here we got the species enemy feature, where a player chose a specific type of creatures which had to be accepted by the DM and should be tied to the ranger’s back-story. And got rewarded with a +4 to hit, while having a penalty of -4 to reaction. But in the end, those +4 were really useful and even if the choices were more open, it’d kicked asses.

3rd edition: The species enemy got renamed to favorite enemy and it’s the first time, the feature get a bonus outside combat (even though these were often disregarded). The +hit and +damage of the feature made it especially sexy to choose a favored enemy which will be either confronted often over several tiers of play or are tough to crack, like humanoids (human), undead, aberrations or constructs. And a big difference: You can select multiple favored enemies over the course. But since the 3e mechanic wouldn’t make the most iconic enemies like orcs a thread at high levels anymore, many possible choices weren’t that good.

4th edition: No favored or species enemy here, the ranger got additional damage to a target he declared (and is nearest to him at that time) and gets extra damage once a round.

5th edition: This is my favorite. The reason is simple, unless you hit 20th level, you get no benefits for combat purposes. This means that you choose your favored enemy more for the out of combat purposes, like advantage to recall lore and tracking and the possible additional language. So now having orcs as favored enemy will have much more of an impact than before, while constructs, undeads, fiends, etc. won’t suffer much that way. And since you get multiple favored enemies and when choosing humanoids you get two instead one subtypes, you can actually get a decent amount of knowledge about your foes without breaking out the bounded accuracy due to too many bonuses. And in this edition, even a 20th level ranger will be careful when facing a hundred orcs alone.

 

Why do I think, that the combat bonuses aren’t that important? Because I think this distracts you from the core of being a ranger. In my opinion a ranger fights enemies well is because he knows and understands them much better than a non-ranger could do, the advantage mechanism is a pretty neat way to ensure reliability with a certain error margin. And since the ranger’s spells are a huge benefit for his damage output and attack rolls have this sweet bounded accuracy, I don’t think the ranger especially need it.

Even though the 20th level Foe Slayer does grant combat bonuses, they’re ignorable. I think it comes a bit too late, too or shouldn’t be restricted to favored enemies. Or at least another effect.

Build: The defending Ranger

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Animal Companions which aren’t combat-focused

Time issues again, but that doesn’t mean, I can’t post anything. Just an overview is too much, especially now we got to the paladin, which is a very diverse class, bringing defending, striking, healing and even more to the table. For now we talk about a thing, which had my attention for a while: The ranger subclass Beast Master.

While this subclass is fairly easy to understand, it’s difficult to play it. All features but the very basic one (and partially Share Spells) are all about enhancing the combat abilities of the companion of yours. But let’s concentrate on the basic one for now: To have an animal companion at all! What are the benefits between an animal companion and a trained animal?

  • Animal Companions got better stats
  • Animal Companions aren’t running that free, your bound gives you an amount of control
    • Said Control means, you have to use (Bonus) Actions or an attack
    • Animal Companions won’t do actions unless you command one
  • Animal Companions are able to join in stealth-mode as fast as yourself in your favorite terrain
  • 8 hours beats training for weeks for combat readiness
  • sadly only up to medium size, so the medium-sized ranger wouldn’t get a steed. But gnomes and halflings flying on Pteranodons are A-OK!

Even though the survivability of the beast is better than that of other beasts of its kind, it will be always kinda squishy and even though you can muster a great offensive potential, it won’t survive many of the stronger attacks and spells.

But I’m kinda tight on time, so I’ll not dig too deeply into it. For me, the Animal Companion is all about having a companion and a special bound to it, to have it trained and a trusted and useful friend and not a class feature, which I can regain after 8 hours bonding (I rather stick to the same companion) and if you see it that way, too, you might consider to take an animal companion, which aren’t as combat-focused. For combat-focused ones, I’d like to introduce this guide. These picks are some special ones, which either carries a lot of fluff or ultimate out-of-combat usefulness!

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These are those in the Appendix D of the PHB. There are some good choices in the DM-Base Rules and the MM (which I don’t possess at the moment, since it sucks to live in Europe when it comes to attaining rule books for U.S.-games). But time issues.

The Scouts: These animals are pretty good at scouting, either due their size, their senses and sometimes even both.

  • Bat: Best blindsense so far, can fly, can almost take over your whole job in the darkness
  • Cat: Climb, good senses and stealth
  • Hawk: Good senses and such, but inferior to the owl stat-wise in every way. At least if the DM allows the owl to be awake during the whole day.
  • Owl: Most likely best scout companion in existence. Might be night-active, depending on your DM. In my campaigns they will be.
  • Rat: Can squeeze into tiny holes and have advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks for smelling. Not much, but at least a bit.

The Spies: Other than scouts, these animals are mostly about fitting into urban environment, since the ranger simply lacks in that one.

  • Cat: Use its scout abilities in the urban area! There are tons of cats in any human settlement.
  • Mastiff: Or any other dog, less obvious than wolfs. And sometimes simply more fluffy.
  • Rat: The reason why there are so many cats. Because there are much more rats!

The Surprises: These animal companions are either great psychological threats, secret weapons and guardians or have other forms of surprising hapless NPCs and monsters.

  • Frog: More meant to be a familiar, but seriously: I would be surprise to see a ranger to actually and totally waste all these attack enhancers for his companion by picking one which can’t attack!
  • Mule: If you have a beast of burden for your loot, you should be fair and make it a full member of the party, right? And it’s like a secret weapon, because who would think that actually a mule is a ranger’s beast friend?!
  • Poisonous Snake: A little blindsight (not enough to spy), a swim speed and poison, which is better used out of combat instead of in-combat.
  • Rat: Most people are disgust by rats. Maybe because they carries plagues.
  • Raven: Mimicry! Wonderful utility ability, especially on a bird.

My personal pick: The Rat! Why? Because rats are everywhere, so it can blend in totally fine. It can fit into most holes, means that it can even scout ahead to look into houses, etc. And the most important one: To use Sleight of Hand to get my rat under the clothes of my enemy, let’s see if the enemy is desperate enough to hit basically himself with spells or weapons, to get an annoyance out of the way. Even though strictly speaking there is no damage roll involved in its bite, so the proficiency bonus as an animal companion wouldn’t kick in… at least if your DM sees it like that. I’d definitely allow this.

You can carry it in your pocket, use it as an interrogation help and smuggle it into about everywhere. Even if the stats aren’t too promising, the utility you can get out of it is pretty good.

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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