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.

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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

Role-play for Dummies

It’s easy to say, that a lot of players don’t care about the RP of the RPG or are just a bunch of power-gaming lemmings, etc., but for some people, role-play is hard. Here 10 things you can ensure to take a first step toward the goal to become a better role-player and it might help a lot of DMs, too, when creating and/or playing NPCs.

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1.) Get a personality: Just 2-3 adjectives are more than enough to start, don’t take too similar ones like “cool, sassy and awesome”, better to take some words, which doesn’t really click together, like “skilled, careful, unconfident”, because you have to actually think how these adjectives would work together.

2.) Don’t be too original: An easy archetype (like the dumb fighter or the kind halfling) are much better than a complicated monstrosity of originality (like a half-elven, half-tiefling [stats half-elf] warlock, which got first trained to be a swordman, but…) because they’re easier to remember and easier to play.

3.) Get some quotes:  If you get a few good one-liners or otherwise powerful quotes, which can be used more often than once, you can get about half an personality. Like a cleric, which screams “UNDEAD!” whenever he sees or hear about undeads.

4.) Talk, don’t talk about: To quicken things up or to play over their insecurity, players and DMs tend to say “My character says” or “The village boy explains”, but as long as you don’t waste hours, just try it in character. This is one of the best chances to actual role-play, don’t waste it.

5.) A bit of back-story: Having the most basic form of biography is still better than none, because if you now what the character went through, it’s easier to see how he/she will react to certain things.

6.) Do not always do the best choice: This is one of the most important things: A lot of players are more about ‘What would be the most effective?’ instead of ‘What would my character do?’ Consider his/her feelings, the personal goals or just the personality. Would a barbarian with the berserker path really participate in a ambush plan, which needs too much details? Even if it might get your teammates pissed of sometimes, it’s much better than too much meta-gaming.

7.) Do the obvious: If you should not act too planned, what should you do instead? Obviously the obvious. If you were your character, what would you say, when seeing and adult dragon in front of you, breathing in just to discharge its Dragon’s Breath? Obviously something along the line of ‘Shit!’. If you’d search a dungeon, would you really jump into the lake of black water, not knowing its dangers and for no other reasons but possible but unlikely treasures? Obviously not! As long you keep the character’s personality in mind with his back-story and the experience you get from the game, you should get to the obvious quite easily.

8.) Actually try to remember things: If you can’t, take notes at the game. Try to remember names of NPCs (or make NPC-names memorable), the meta-plot, some details which are important to your character. If you do that, the game’s flow will not only improve, but you get better into your character which means, that you’ll do better to role-play him/her.

9.) Everyone make mistakes: Don’t be disheartened if something went wrong, try again. Players who laughs repeatedly at your tries are jerks, even though some results (like misspelling, situational humor or putting your foot in something) are hilarious, so just try to laugh when that time comes. If you watch closely enough, everyone will at times make some blunders.

10.) Have fun: If you role-play, you just have to see the fun in it. After getting over the first starting problems, just relax and be proud, how your game have improved.

 

Role-play is not about stats, but about effort. Even though some stats which makes some character traits more believable certainly help.

The three parts of D&D

This topic came up while writing about the shifted balance in 5e.

The three parts of D&D were always exploration, social interaction and combat. Depending on the rule-set, some parts are more underlined than others, like 4e got so much into combat, that exploration got kinda short, something which was tried to fix later and social interactions was worse. The reasons were obvious: The fact that you had limited powers and that you run out of powers fast in the early game, which warped the perception of the player, that he should better not get any powers, which were useless in combat. In 3e on the other hands you got so many spell resources, that actual exploration became kinda boring at some point, because you could fly over most stuff (who needs to storm the gates of a fortress, if you can fly above the walls), Passwalls to avoid dangerous rooms, whatsoever (some would call it clever, I call it too cheap). But even in this edition, a lot of players used a lot of resources (like feats, skill points, etc) to actually make their characters better in combat.

Why is that so? There are some reasons, why combat seems more vital at the first glance.

  1. Combat is the time every player has her/his turn, at the other times there are always players which aren’t either interested, or thinking to be in the way, or decided not to participate
  2. In combat most players get the feeling, that a single mistake will end their characters life
  3. A bunch of dice rolling for different things and using a lot more of stats makes players believe, that a system is more about combat than anything else
  4. In every rulebook in most systems you’ll find a whole combat chapter
  5. Combats are the things, the DM is most likely best prepared for
  6. The fact, that even small encounters will use up a decent amount of time

In contrast, exploration is more like incrementalism, making one careful decision after another to finally get into combat and social interaction is pretty often about how to go to the dungeon and from there to the combat or happens inside a dungeon by a foe you’re about to kill.

Even if any rule is felt as too powerful it’s more likely to be about combat but anything else (like having +40 for Bluff while the standard DC is 22 couldn’t possibly a problem).

 

So the question stays, how can you, as a DM, makes the other parts more interesting, so players won’t be too focused on combat and might come with strange ideas like creating a real character background & personality, using words instead of swords for conflicts or just staying awake during the game outside combat.

Here are some hints, that might come in handy:

 

Combat:

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  • Use more simple combat encounters more often. If they want to sneak around the forest to kill the bandits, let them find the guard post instead the whole camp. If combat only needs 2-3 rounds to be solved, it will be less impressive and serves for more focus on other parts.
  • Let Exploration and Social Interaction change the final combat situation. I know, if you are a DM, you don’t want to give your players surprise rounds, when they’re storming an important place. But if they did only minor mistakes in exploration, then let the party be on the surprising side. Don’t use small mistakes to let the enemy muster full strength, if the PCs succeed there, they’ll see that the hard work paid off and the exploration got a tad more important. Or in Social Interaction, if the PCs got new enemies, they might consider an alliance with the PCs other enemies or just hire someone to make their life miserable. If you enter a dungeon and after some exploration sees that the entrance caved in intentionally, you might consider if some outsider might pull a trick.
  • Reward avoiding combat: Give the players full XP reward, if they actually avoided the combat in a way that makes sense. Items and other treasures are much harder to dismiss for most player’s, so you could give them a special item, which wouldn’t be findable, when slaying those people. Like because they now a rumor (information) or because they’re thankful enough to pay them back later.

 

Exploration:

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  • Don’t be a dick and put a death trap in every room. This will only create paranoia in the long run and most player’s want to solve puzzles every room. Every second room has to be sufficient.
  • Tell a story! Most dungeons have a theme, but not a story. How comes that they’re abandoned, who lived there, who are the undead which are going to eat the PCs’ brains? If you shouldn’t use too many puzzles in death traps, you could use them more often in your dungeons. Let the players find piece a piece and let it be a useful information, opening new possibilities (like talking to the Wraith when called by his name as a person, which would change the combat encounter to a social one) or helping to find clues for weaknesses or treasures. Diaries, ‘crime scenes’, gibberish words of monsters, all of that can make an exploration experience more intense. This works outside of dungeons, too, but needs more care, depending on the environment.
  • Take some time to narrate the place. In most commercial adventure’s and campaigns, there is a small description to every room. Those are the conclusion of some decades of gaming, that players wants to hear some information, but not too much. Copy it and let vital information flow, while only list some minor details.
  • Be creative or at least know sources of creativity. Unusual rooms are more interesting than a lot of well-known clichés. You don’t need to be creative on your own, just read or watch stuff your player’s don’t and adapt it to your means. ‘Why is there a room with crystal pillars which are only about one meter tall?’ Oh, the crystals are for bending the light for a laser-themed death trap… It’s the second room, guys!
  • Give players some minor achievements during the exploration outside loot. Seeing a mid-boss character of a previous encounter being caught in a situation and needing help from the PCs or getting a magic item which they may see, but not reach without solving a puzzle are minor to medium achievements, which doesn’t hurt the storyline. If the players feel some refreshing triumph after all the painstaking and grinding exploration, they’re more willing to endure some more.

 

Social Interaction:

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  • Use less ability checks, unless your PC(s) are especially socially awkward. Some PCs aren’t just able to make a proper ingame conversation, but don’t let those who are get away by a bonus on a skill. If someone says: “I’ll tell him, that he should go to the south gate, to see if someone opened it.” you should answer: “Then say it.” It’s most likely even shorter, like “Check the south gate! Maybe it’s open.”
  • If a roll is really needed, grant Advantage for good ingame role-play. Try to avoid Disadvantage if a weaker role-player tried to talk ingame but did some major blunders. Only if said player did something which is so dumb, that normally no roll could save it, use Disadvantage. Don’t discourage your players if they want to talk ingame, this improves the confidence and fun of Social Interaction.
  • Don’t use Social Interactions only as exposition devices. Like a famous admiral said: It’s a trap!!! If you look back into Social Interaction, how much was about explaining what’s going on, why are the PCs here, how they get to the next plot-point, etc. It’s kinda natural to use Social Interaction for this, but don’t forget that there’s more to RPG than quests, plots and evil wizards which are conquering the world. Let some normal or even known people come by, throwing useless side quests around (‘If you go to the city, I’m looking for a imp’s tooth, they shall ward evil and I could pay you some gold for it’), player’s tends to actually care more about the side quest, instead the main one. Use a tavern as a chance to let some rumors reach the PCs ears, to prepare them a bit beforehand or tell them information, they could never get another way, like the name of the bandit’s leader and how he was as a kid, while telling them how to flirt with the other or even the same gender. Unlike ‘The Last Airbender’, ‘The Dark Knight Saga’ or ‘Man of Steel’ tried to teach us, friends and strangers don’t only tell important stuff.
  • Let your villains have a threatening advantage. If people do bad stuff, PCs will crush their heads with their weapons and spells. If said evil (or their middlemen) people comes into town, having enough back-up to kill the adventurers if needed or targeting something the PCs are actually caring about (normally I’d say the citizens, but somehow only the magic stuff shop comes into mind) than it’s time to talk. Even villains often don’t want useless bloodshed, let the lawful evil ones first try to talk it out, while having all power in hand. The chaotic evil might want to humiliate them first and afterwards break his promise and kill the people/burn down the magic shop anyway. If your PCs can kill the villain too swiftly, let a middleman do the talking, because they’ll try to persuade you, that the henchmen won’t do any bad stuff without the boss.
  • Let Social Interaction be corner-points. No part but Social Interaction can be more defining, how a adventure can unfold. Combats are more like yes/no-options and exploration is too random to actually tie the plot with a clear conscience to it. Social Interactions on the other way are not random and handles the biggest conflicts possible with about unlimited solutions: Dealing with people. If your goal is to let the PCs arrive at DungeonX, they’ll first start the preparation to get there and might come to the idea, that they could take a caravan for part of the way, while getting some money at the same time. If they handle the conversation poorly, don’t just dismiss the attempt: Make it, that the caravan leader gets interest what the adventurers are really after and how it benefits the merchants, it may end in a horde of mercenaries waiting in ambush for the tired party, which just finished and left DungeonX. Or if the prince of a kingdom is needed to fulfill a prophecy, maybe the way they treated the prince may be the key if he’ll really fulfills this prophecy (be it good or bad). Players love the feeling that their decisions makes a difference and if you tie it to Social Interaction, they’ll begin to care more about it.

 

There are way more ways, but this might actually help you for the time being. The most important thing is: Let have Exploration and Social Interactions don’t just be necessaries, but important aspects which defines either combat or the whole campaign. Even though plot twists may arrive, when the party do combat, like creating their own archenemy by killing his family (be it human or goblin… or pet), seeking more and more power driven by revenge, which is normally a heroes origin story.

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