Last week I wrote an article about min-maxing and how its not nearly as damning of a playstyle as many make it out to be. A big issue I have with the anti-min-maxing sentiments is that this bleeds over into character optimization in general, which in my opinion is dangerous.
An optimized character is a character that has picked out a role and has been built with this role in mind. Their highest ability score is their most important one, they have taken equipment, spells, and features that help them carry out their role, and they regularly make solid mechanical decisions when performing their role.
Today were going to talk about the first two parts of that definition. For the record, having an optimized character doesnt mean that you cant have an interesting character to role-play.
Role-playing and optimization are two separate facets of the game and having one doesnt mean that you cannot have the other.
What Does an Optimized Character Look Like?
First things first, we need to define what an optimized character is exactly. Simply put, its a character that determines what their role is and ensures that they have the basic ability to fulfill that role.
For example, your rogue is going to be a stealthy, trap-disabler that uses finesse weapons. Your rogues primary ability score is, therefore, going to be Dexterity, and you have made sure to allocate most of your Ability Score Increases (ASI) and initial ability points into Dexterity.
Thats all it is. The bare minimum optimization you could possibly do is to put emphasis on your primary attribute. Everything after that should be considered to be additional optimizations that serve to help you fulfill your role, but in D&D 5e your attributes are the bread-and-butter of your character.
Egregiously Unoptimized Characters Are Problematic
An unoptimized character would be this same rogue, with the same aspirations and role choice, but instead, the player opts to make their Dexterity low on purpose. I have a lot of beef with these types of builds because, in general, theyre only fun for the person playing them.
I say this because think of it this way if your character has a +0 modifier in their main stat theyre clearly not going to be great at the job. If you came to the table and said you want to play X character, but come with some character that doesnt really fulfill X characters role youve basically wasted a slot in the party.
That being said, this is a particularly egregious character build and not just a suboptimal character. This is an example of someone going out of their way to make a bad character build. You can play a suboptimal character and still be an asset to your team and successful in your role.
You could argue that a character with all +2 modifiers in their attributes is a suboptimal character. Instead of being a well-rounded character they couldve had a +4 or +5 in their primary attribute. However, theyre probably still perfectly able to provide value to the party and complete their roles responsibilities.
Character optimization in most RPGs begins at character creation. D&D 5e is no exception to this. A well-optimized character needs to have a solid foundation to stand on. They need a solid spread of attributes that synergize with their role. They need the proper equipment and proficiencies to play into their role as well.
Both of these needs can be met further down the road for your character, but that takes away some of the precious-few ASIs that were awarded. Its possible to make up for an unoptimized character later on, but of course, this comes with other sacrifices that youll have to make.
Set yourself up for success and you can focus on flavor later. Choose flavor now and youll have to be careful with your choices further on in the game. Either way you slice it youll have to make some character optimization decisions.
At character creation, we get a chance to choose how to allocate our ability score points. Youll get more or less control of your ability scores depending on if you roll for stats or use point buy. Regardless of how your group does their character creation, youll still have some decisions to make.
First and foremost, each class has a primary and secondary attribute that they use. For rogues, for example, this is without a doubt Dexterity. If youre creating a rouge, youll want to make sure that you put your best roll into Dexterity, or you come out of point-buy with at least a 15 (or 16 with racial bonuses) in Dexterity.
Some classes have multiple potential secondary attributes. For example, a rogues could be Constitution, or it could be Intelligence if they are playing an Arcane Trickster. Figure out which attributes are important to you and then put your second-highest roll into that attribute. For point buy, youll want to raise it to at least
Voila, you have just partaken in character optimization. You even have 4 more rolls to play with or plenty of points to allocate to add flavor to the character if you so choose.
You can also continue to further optimize your characters by ranking what attributes are most important to you mechanically speaking. Then increase each one proportionally to how much your character will value them. I do this for most of my 5e Character Builds if you want an example of this.
The second most important character optimization that you can do is to choose a race that works well with your class. Thats right, a person who wants to make an optimized character generally selects their class before their race. Their characters race should compliment the role theyre taking.
For the most part, this is an easy concept to grasp. Ideally, you want to pick a race with a +2 bonus to your class primary attribute. For example, a Tiefling Sorcerer is an optimal race/class combination.
While its less optimal, you could choose a race that is more interesting to you but only gives a +1 bonus to your primary attribute. In some cases, the features and traits that come with this race could prove to be more valuable than other races with a +2 as well.
That being said, theres nothing stopping you from making a sound, optimal character without choosing an ideal race/class combination. Youll just have to allocate more ability points and eventually ASIs to raise your primary attribute.
Fair warning though, you will notice that youre a bit weaker in the early game if you dont have an optimal race/class combination compared to a character who does.
Im definitely someone who appreciates a bit of crunch in my RPGs so I love having a lot of mechanical choices. However, Ive talked before about how this emphasis on race/class combo feels unfun for the player.
Ive suggested changing the initial ability score increase to come from the character class instead of their race. This change would mean that the player can choose a race that interests them instead of one that has a +2 bonus to their primary attribute.
Your characters background is something that could be optimized as well. Backgrounds give your character proficiencies (skills, tools, languages, etc.) and unique features that they can utilize in niche situations.
Generally, when we consider background optimizations were going to focus more on the proficiencies than any other element. Theyre more quantifiable since they have a more regular value than most backgrounds features. Features are typically viewed as a cool, flavorful perk that may come up once in a blue moon, but they wont be anything game-breaking.
For example, a rogue may opt to take the Urchin background. It gives proficiency to the Stealth and Sleight of Hand which are both rogue skills. Since their background gives them proficiency in these skills anyways, the rogue is free to choose two other rogue skills.
On the other hand, backgrounds also give characters access to skills they wouldnt otherwise be able to get proficiency in. You may opt for this option depending on what youre trying to optimize for your character.
Using your characters background to further optimize your character is a viable strategy. Mechanically speaking, youll take a look at what backgrounds offer proficiencies that will work well with your characters role. Thats all there is to it.
Honestly, while you can optimize your character through their background, Id recommend choosing a background that is interesting to you. Backgrounds are one of the easiest parts of the game to homebrew too so working with your DM to make something mechanically and thematically fitting for your character.
Youll get a number of ASIs depending on what class(es) youre leveling as. You can use these to increase your ability scores, or you can purchase a feat, some of which also give you +1 to an attribute.
There are a few ways to further optimize your character. For starters, you could use your ASIs to improve your ability to fulfill your role or further carve-out a niche within your role.
Another option is to improve your flaws. Low Wisdom or Constitution can be detrimental flaws for a character to have. Improving some of your more lacking attributes could prove to be more beneficial than further increasing your primary attribute.
Outside of ASIs, your character has the option of multiclassing each time they level-up. Sometimes a small dip into a class can prove to be both a great mechanical and flavorful decision.
As Ive mentioned a few times in this post, your primary attribute should be one of, if not the highest attribute your character has. This is their baseline, their bread-and-butter, and is constantly used. It should at least be a solid 15 or 16 after character creation.
An optimized character can have a 16 in their main ability for quite some time and be perfectly fine depending on what other optimization choices you make. This is assuming, of course, that other, less-necessary abilities arent higher than your primary ability.
In my opinion, though, you should have at least a +4 modifier in your main ability after your second ability score increase. Depending on the class this is around level 8. Using one of your two ASIs to raise your main ability to 18 (+4) isnt that much to ask.
That being said, one of the most optimal things you can do for your characters success is to cap-out their primary attribute at However, this doesnt mean that you need to rush to get a +5 modifier either.
You can have a character without any maxed stats and still be a well-optimized character. The key to creating a great well-optimized character is to just ensure that one of your highest attributes is the one central to your role.
Optimization isnt just getting a 20 (+5) primary attribute. Its more than that. Its about having a goal for a character and improving your stat sheet to help you reach your goal.
It all depends on what your goals are. If you are regularly able to complete the duties of your role, you may opt to improve on some of your weaker attributes, or potentially take a feat to help carve out a niche for yourself. You could also improve your secondary attributes that are important for your class archetype.
Feats are an optional mechanic, but I find that most groups use them. Most of the time feats tend to be a suboptimal choice compared to adding +2 to your primary attribute. What they provide instead are ways to carve a specific niche out for your character. Its a different form of optimization.
For example, if you want to be a long-range sniper you may opt to take the Sharpshooter feat instead of adding +2 to Dexterity. This feat gives you the ability to shoot from much farther away while ignoring cover. It carves out a sniper niche for the back-line character role.
Of course, for high-risk, high-reward type feats like Sharpshooter and Great Weapon Master, youll want to have a high Dexterity or Strength modifier to offset the -5 to hit. You need to be able to reliably hit regular attacks before you take anything that lessens your accuracy in favor of additional damage.
Combat isnt the only part of D&D 5e that can be optimized through feats. Feats like Actor can help a face character with their role-playing opportunities and social interactions. Alert could help a scouting character look-out for potential ambushes.
Use feats as a way to specialize in an aspect of your role. Think of it as a micro-optimization. Increasing your attributes ensures you get an additional, stable bonus to certain parts of the game. A feat instead further increases your ability to perform in certain situations. Theyre an opportunity cost, and a fun one at that.
A lot of min-maxers and optimization junkies love to do what we call a dip into an additional class. One or two levels into a second class can be more powerful than simply staying the course and having a mono-class character.
The reason for this is that when you level 1 level into a new class your character can potentially gain quite a few new proficiencies. Case in point, youll get simple and martial weapon, light and medium armor, and shield proficiencies for taking a single level in fighter.
Speaking of taking a dip into fighter, a 2 level dip in fighter is an amazing dip for front-line or martial characters. Youll get the previously mentioned proficiencies, a fighting style, Second Wind, and Action Surge for a very small investment.
Hexblade Warlock is another common class that a lot of min-maxers and optimization fiends like to take for how much value you get out of that class initially.
Take a look at what benefits a few levels in a different class can give you. It may be worthwhile to delay growth in your primary class for a short detour. There are many features and benefits that you can only receive through multiclassing. The trade-off is that it will take you relatively longer to gain the more lucrative features of your primary class.
Multiclassing can also be used solely to add more flavor to your character. Its not just a tool for character optimization. In fact, Id urge you to find a way to use the flavor and role-playing opportunities that multiclassing provides. Youre creating a unique character by multiclassing, play it up a bit!
There are plenty of different ways to make an optimized character in D&D 5e. There are just as many ways to further optimize a character after character creation as well.
Optimization isnt the be-all, end-all of D&D 5e. There are plenty of other factors that come into play as to how useful a character is. The equipment you use, magical items you have, and most importantly, the decisions you make can impact the game much more than the numbers on your character sheet.
That being said, theres a lot of value to be had in creating a character with some bare-minimum optimizations. Focus on your primary attribute and get at least a +4 modifier in it by level 8. Decide on a role for your character and select feats, classes, and ability scores to aid in that role.
But my Half-Orc Rogue with 8 Dexterity is really funny, he thinks hes sneaky but he just isnt! Its funny for about 5 minutes, or until the rest of the party realizes they now have to pick up your slack because youre not doing the job you said you would. Consider the impact your character has on the rest of the group.
Optimization and role-playing are two separate parts of the game. You should strive to create characters that are both decently optimized and fun to play as!
If you enjoyed what you read be sure to check out my ongoing review for all of the official D&D 5e books!
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13 Successful Character Builds In D&D For Advanced Players
Long-time players of Dungeons & Dragons can sometimes find themselves playing the same character types over and over, or maybe there are some players reading this that have been playing Dungeons & Dragons long enough to want a more complex character build to try. This list will help both of these types of players.
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Here are ten character builds for players that want characters that are not only powerful in battle but great for role-playing. Some entries give specific archetypes for a class, others simply give the base class. The Archetype is up to the player with the later entries. Players might want to consult their Dungeon Master to see if some of these builds will be off-limits.
Updated by Kristy Ambrose on February 11th, The Dungeons & Dragons games continue to grow in popularity, and the wide variety of supplemental materials available gives players even more to work with when it comes to character builds, adventure modules, and complex storylines. The downside of this is that with so much to create and experience, the choices can feel overwhelming. In light of this, we've added a few more options to our list of character builds specifically intended to challenge more experienced players.
13 Half-Elf Battlemaster/Sorcerer
This can be one of the most potent combinations of classes if the right feats and skills are selected. The first and most obvious benefit is the character will have the martial skills of the fighter class coupled with the arcane spellcasting ability of the sorcerer class.
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If the Quickened Spell meta-magic option is taken then the character can get their full attacks and still cast a spell with a casting time of 1 action, as long as the character has sorcery points to spend. It is recommended the character starts as a Fighter to get the bonus armor and weapon proficiencies.
12 Tabaxi Monk/Rogue
The combined abilities of the Tabaxi race and the Monk class are almost game-breaking, and when the abilities granted by the thief class are added it is just plain unfair for the DM. For this build, it is best if the Monk learns the Way of the Shadow tradition.
At 2nd level, this character will have a small assortment of spells, like Silence and Pass Without Trace, that are great for rogue-ish activities. At 6th level this allows this character to move from one shadow to another within 60’. The Tabaxi and Monk combination will allow for unrivaled speed during combat.
11 Hexblade Warlock
Best as a Tiefling or Half-elf because of the Charisma boost, which is an essential stat for your spellcasting ability, this is one of the more popular advanced builds. This versatile build can be simple or complex, so it's also ideal for newer players who are looking for a challenge.
Essentially, this is a Warlock that overlaps into melee combat, and the extent of that is really up to the player. Your Hexblade can lean more into melee damage or keep the distance of a spellcaster with abilities like Eldritch Blast.
10 Lizardfolk Swarmkeeper/Druid
The Lizardfolk people are natural divine casters thanks to the +1 they get to wisdom, and the +2 to Constitution they get is always nice for the extra hit points. The character should start as a Ranger for the bonus armor and weapon proficiencies. The armor restrictions of the Druid are negated (for the most part) by the natural armor bonus of Lizardfolk.
RELATED: 10 Worst Subclasses In Dungeons & Dragons
The bite attack of Lizardfolk will complement the fighting abilities of the ranger class should the character use melee weapons. The swarm of insects/spirits the Swarmkeeper gains is a decent multi-purpose tool in battles, and the bonus spells granted by the Swarmkeeper class are also helpful in a fight.
9 Elf Fighter With The Sharpshooter And Crossbow Expert Feats
For this build the Elf race isn’t too important, any race that gets a dexterity bonus will do. This build also relies on the use of a hand crossbow. Larger crossbows do not work with this build. With the Fighter class, the player will, of course, choose archery for their fighting style, giving a +2 to attack rolls with the crossbow.
The Crossbow Expert feat allows the player to ignore the loading time for crossbows, avoid being at a disadvantage when in melee, and most importantly allows the character to use their bonus action to fire their hand crossbow. At 5th level, this build allows for three attacks per round, the only limitation being that the player needs bolts for the crossbow.
8 Moon Druid with Grapple
Druids are one of the most versatile and complex characters available to players, and there's a myriad of choices available for more advanced players that have experience with the class. Druids who are part of the Circle of the Moon, or Moon Druids, have the ability to turn into a Wild Shape as early as level 2. That can be a benign, helpful animal like a draft horse or a giant insect.
The key to this build is the Grapple ability, which is great for defense, offense, and crowd control. Combine the Moon Druid with the Grappler ability at level 8, and the Druid can turn into a giant scorpion that can use the Grapple action with their pincers, making their attack that much deadlier.
7 Warforged Fighter/Artificer
The Warforged race was definitely a class best left to those who are very familiar with the rules, but in 5th edition, they have been better balanced. Combining the Warforged race with the fighter class makes for a great tank character, and by adding Artificer, the character can now heal party members, cast support spells, and empower items with infusions.
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The infusions and replicated magic items an artificer can provide are incredibly useful. The Many-handed Pouch is great for holding healing potions. Since a Warforged does not require sleep this character can make healing potions while the party rests.
6 Aarakocra Hunter/Zeal Cleric
The Aarakocra’s ability to fly works well with a Ranger that is specialized in distance weapons. The Sharpshooter/Crossbow Expert combination works well with this character build as well. By combining an Aarakocra hunter with a Zeal Cleric the character now has the ability to get to wounded party members on the battlefield quickly and heal them.
The Zeal Cleric class will also boost (for a few rounds) the number of attacks and provide devastating area-of-effect spells that can now be cast from above. At 5th level Zeal Clerics get a fireball bonus spell, and at 2nd level, they can elect to deal maximum damage with fire or lightning damage with their Channel Divinity ability.
5 Half-Elf Paladin/Warlock
The Half-elf Paladin Warlock seems like an odd pairing, and it is, but this multiclass combination can be extremely deadly in a fight. The Paladin class should be taken first to benefit from the bonus armor and weapon proficiencies.
At 2nd level, the warlock gains access to the eldritch invocation devil’s sight which allows the warlock to see in normal and magical darkness. At 3rd level, the warlock gets the ability to cast darkness. These two abilities, when used together by a Paladin in melee, are scary. The Oath of Ascetic works well with this build for the bonus hit points, armor class, and for the bonus immunities at 15th level.
4 Dragonborn Barbarian
Are you a D&D player who likes Skyrim? Here's a possible build for your Dovahkiin character. These humanoid dragons are intimidating already, with their tapered dragon noses and six-foot stature, so let's take that to the next level and combine it with a class that has a range of abilities to make them even more terrifying, the Barbarian.
An ideal character for an advanced player who wants something fairly complex, but not a spellcaster, just a warrior that breathes fire. Benefits like Path of the Berserker and Fast Movement make an already large and dangerous character even more savage.
3 Yuan-ti Bard/Trickery Cleric
This build is an excellent support character and is also great for immersive role-playing purposes. The Trickery Cleric domain and the Bard class are very complimentary – the Bard isn’t a class built for close combat and the trickery bonus spells help with this deficiency.
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The Illusionary Duplicate gained via the Trickery domain can be used to cast spells, which now includes selections like Cloud of Daggers and Psionic Blast. Since Bards are proficient with hand crossbows this would be another class that could benefit from the Sharpshooter/ Crossbow expert combination. If heavier armor is desired then the Cleric class is anothr option.
2 Goliath Rune Knight With Polearm Master and Sentinel Feats
First off, Goliaths probably descended from giants at some point in their race’s history, so playing a Goliath Rune Knight just seems appropriate. They can speak the language of the giants at 1st level after all. With the polearm master feat, the character gets an opportunity attack if a creature moves within weapon range.
With the Sentinel feat, any enemy hit by an opportunity attack has its speed reduced to zero for the rest of the turn. With this tactic and the goliath’s size, which can be made bigger with rune magic, this character build is great for standing at a choke-point and keeping opponents away from the arcane spellcasters.
1 Half-Elf Sorcerer/Warlock
Also called the “Sorlock”, this multiclass combination is absolutely devastating in a battle. For this build, the Warlock should take the Pact of the Tome for the unlimited use of three cantrips – one of which should be Eldritch Blast.
The Warlock has many invocations that improve this cantrip. The sorcerer gains the ability to quicken spellcasting by expending sorcery points at 3rd level. Any spell with a casting time of 1 action can now be cast as a bonus spell. Eldritch Blast is a great spell to use for this quickened bonus spell since this build will have an infinite supply of them – and they can be improved using invocations.
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Players expected Raiden and Beidou's abilities to work together after seeing what Raiden could do in the beta.
Read NextAbout The Author
Graduate of Sam Houston State University -- Class of B.A. in History, minored in Political Science I have lived in the Houston TX area my whole life; love the wintershate the summers. I have conducted scholarly research on, and written about, the use of ballooning for reconnaissance purposes during the U.S. Civil War, tort reform, voter initiatives and referendums, the formation of civilization, Ancient Rome, Mesopotamia, and the major religions. I am also an avid gamer and have researched the history of electronic entertainment extensively.
Collection of DD 5e Player Build Guides
There are a lot of character building guides and handbooks out there. They are very detailed and have a lot of great information in them. There are a lot of them that can be found on the Wizards community boards, and there are also some that are on Giant in the Playground. Since the Wizards of the Coasts community boards are all going away very soon, I have started creating my own optimization character builds. I started with the Barbarian, and using the standard color coding for choices that can be made.
Gold is mandatory. Its a rare rating that denotes something that is so good that you must take it, or you cant call yourself optimized.
Sky Blue is a fantastic choice. An option you should strongly consider above most others.
Blue is a good choice. It definitely helps your character in the majority of cases.
Black is average. Youre not hurting your character by taking this, and it might even help in some situations, but there are better choices.
Purple is a substandard choice. It might be useful in corner-case situations, but overall its not worth the investment.
Red is outclassed. Another option exists that is in all ways at least as good or better. Red choices aren’t necessarily valueless, however, and are fine to take if you really like them.
And then going through a standard format:
- Class Features
- Ability Scores
Since Ive started with the Barbarian, it has turned into a very large posting that should be useful for a very long time. Here is the list of guides that I found on another website (http://zenithgames.blogspot.com//08/5e-guide-to-guides.html), that I am reading through right now. It is a great listing of what is currently out there. I am sure there are more, and many of these have already moved to Google Docs or other forums.
Ill Never Die! A Guide to the 5E Barbarian[Giantitp]
The Gentlemans Guide to Proper Barbarism [Wizards]
Graceful Destruction: A Guide to the Dex Based Barbarian [Wizards]
Bardic Lore: A Basic College of Lore Bard Guide[Enworld]
A Party Without Music is Lame: A Bard [Wizards]
The Devout and the Dead: A Guide to Clerics[Giantitp]
For God and Party: A Clerics Guide [Wizards]
Dictum Mortuums The Cleric Handbook [Wizards]
Celestial Link Evoking Radiance into Creation [Wizards]
5th Edition D&D Druids Handbook[Giantitp]
Thy Fear Symmetry: A Circle of the Moon Handbook [Wizards]
Lunar Wilds: A Moon Druid Animal Guide [Wizards]
By Your Powers Combined: A Land Guide Handbook [Wizards]
Know Your Enemy: A Fighters Handbook[Giantitp]
Bow Bond: An Eldritch Knights Guide to Archery [Wizards]
The Art of War: A Fighters Guide [Wizards]
Eldritch Knight Tactical [Wizards]
Optimized Polearm Master Fighter Template [Wizards]
Meditation, Meditation, Devastation: A Monks Guide [Wizards]
Avatar: The 4-Element Monk Mini-Guide [Wizards]
Good is Not Nice: A Paladins Guide[Giantitp]
Oathbound: The Paladin Guide [Wizards]
Animal Buddy: A Guide to the Rangers Beast Companion[Wizards]
The Outdoorsmans Guide to Natural Ranging [Wizards]
Into the Woods We Go: The Ranger Guide [Wizards]
Person_Mans 5E Rogue Guide[Giantitp]
A Knife in the Dark: The Rogues Handbook [Wizards]
Dealing Death: Handbook of the True Assassin [Wizards]
Power Overwhelming: A Sorcerer Guide [Wizards]
Guide for the Optimized Sorcerer [Wizards]
Sorcery Guide Part II [Wizards]
Pact-Making A Guide to the 5th Edition Warlock[Giantitp]
If Only You Knew the Power: A Warlock Guide[GoogleDocs] [Discussion] [Wizards]
Blade, Book, and Chain: A Warlock Guide [Wizards]
The Master of the Arcane: A Guide to the Wizard[Giantitp]
Arrive on Time: A General Guide to Wizardry[GoogleDocs]
Treantmonks Guide to the Wizard [Wizards]
If you know of some more optimization character builds for DnD 5th edition, please send a link by email, [email protected]ibality.com, or make a comment. I cant believe all of this is going to be lost at the end of the month. So you might want to get a copy if you see one you like before its too late.
Keep in mind, I probably wrote this really late and I now want to change everything unless you like it. Then I wouldn't change a thing. ;)
When I drafted my list of supreme character builds for Dungeons & Dragons, I originally included a section that asked, “You can play this, but should you?” The answer became this post, but why even ask?
In a comment, designer Teos “Alphastream” Abadia identified the supreme builds as enjoyable concepts, but “generally horrible at the table.” Although any character can fit the right game, some optimized builds reduce the fun at most tables. Teos writes, “For me, the biggest social contract item for players is to contain whatever optimization they cook up to reasonable and fun levels.”
D&D’s design aims to create a game where all a party’s characters get to contribute to the group’s success. When a single member of the group starts battles by one-shotting the monster with a huge burst of damage, or one character learns every skill to meet all challenges, then that character idles or overshadows the rest and makes the other players wonder why they showed up.
DM’s guild designer Andrew Bishkinskyisingles out one optimization to skip. “The most skilled character is made to do everything, and exists by design to exclude others from play, which I don’t want.”
Early editions of D&D embraced this kind of specialization. Thieves started as the only class with any capabilities resembling skills, but rated as nearly useless in a fight. Nowadays, D&D’s class designs aim give every class ways to contribute through all the game’s three pillars of exploration, combat, and roleplaying interaction.
Combat makes a big part of most D&D games, so characters optimized for extreme damage tend to prove troublesome. I’ve run public tables where newer players dealing single-digit damage would follow turns where optimized characters routinely dealt some points. I saw the new folks trade discouraged looks as they realized their contributions hardly mattered. DM Thomas Christy has hosted as many online D&D games for strangers as anyone. He says, “I have actually had players complain in game and out about how it seemed like they did not need to be there.” In a Todd Talks episode, Jen Kretchmer tells about asking a player to rebuild a combat-optimized character. “The character was a nightmare of doing way more damage off the top, and no one else could get a hit in.” See Sharpshooters Are the Worst Thing in D&D.
D&D’s strongest high-damage builds make ranged attacks from a distance. Such builds can leave the rest of the party to bear the monsters’ attacks. Teos Abadia writes, “Even if we don’t have character deaths or a TPK, a ranged character can create a frustrating situation for the other characters, who find themselves relentlessly beaten up, constantly targeted by saving throws, and harried by environmental and terrain damage. Over the course of a campaign, this can be tough for the party. Players may not even realize the cause. They simply find play frustrating and feel picked on. If the ranged player keeps saying, ‘hey, I didn’t even take any damage—again!’ the rest of the party might start to realize why.”
If you, like everyone, enjoy dealing maximum damage, I recommend a character powered by the Great Weapon Master and Polearm Master feats. See How to Build a D&D Polearm Master That Might Be Better Than a Sharpshooter. If you favor a ranged attacker, the strongest builds combine Sharpshooter, Crossbow Expert, and an Extra Attack feature. In a typical game, pick two.
Biggest damage novas
A few D&D players welcome characters capable of starting a fight with a huge burst of damage for an unexpected reason: These gamers find D&D’s combat pillar tiresome. By bringing a fight to an immediate end, a nova just brings the session back to their fun. Perhaps these games need a better approach to combat, or even a switch to a different game.
In groups more interested in roleplaying and exploration, players might not mind letting an optimized character showboat during the battles. Or perhaps others in the group feel content in roles other than damage dealing. Perhaps the bard and wizard both enjoy their versatility, the druid likes turning into a bat and scouting, and nobody minds letting you finish encounters at the top of round 1.
But most gamers enjoy a mix of the D&D’s three pillars. For these players, characters designed to start fights with maximum damage prove problematic because when they work, no one else participates. “The issue is that even if those characters don’t completely trivialize an encounter, they can reduce the fun of other players by taking a disproportionate amount of the spotlight,” writes @UncannyPally.
You can’t blame the players aiming for these builds. The occasional nova can create memorable moments.
“It’s only fun the first few times a character charges in and essentially one-shots the boss before you get to do anything,” writes @pocketfell. “And of course, upping the hp of the monsters just means that when the mega-damage PC doesn’t get lucky, it’s a slog through four times the usual number of hp.”
I suspect that D&D class features that power damage spikes steer the game in the wrong direction. However, I respect D&D’s designers and they seem to welcome such features. For example, paladins can smite multiple times per turn. In more recent designs, rangers with the Gloom Stalker archetype begin fights with an extra attack plus extra damage. The grave domain cleric’s Path to the Grave feature sets up one shots by making creatures vulnerable to the next attack.
Surely, the designers defending such features would cite 2 points:
- Players relish the occasional nova. They can feel like an exploit that breaks the game, delivering a quick win.
- Some spells shut down an encounter as well as massive weapon damage. Fair’s fair.
I argue that encounter-breaking spells rate as problematic too, but D&D traditionally limits such spells to a few spellcasting classes, often at higher levels and only once per day.
I accept that as a DM controlling the monsters, I will almost always lose. A defeat for my team evil counts as a win for the table, so I welcome the loss. But I must confess something: For my fun, I like the monsters to get some licks in. Is that so wrong? Under suggestion and zone of truth, I suspect other DMs would echo the same admission. Some gamers even float the courageous suggestion that DMs deserve fun like the players.
A character with an untouchable AC doesn’t rob the spotlight from other players, but for DMs, such characters become tiresome. If you back up a maximum AC with, say, a class able to cast shield and block those rare hits, then your DM might not show disappointment when you miss game night.
To be fair, players who sell out for maximum defense wind up with few other strengths. These players enjoy their chance to shine at the end of every fight when they crow about not taking damage—again! I’ve learned to accept their source of bliss and welcome their characters. They may soak attacks, turning claw, claw, bite into useless flailing, but I can always add more attacks to go around.
In theory, tough characters should trigger the same annoyance as untouchable characters, but the barbarians and Circle of the Moon druids actually suffer hits, so their durability feels different.
In tactically-minded parties, tough characters and characters with high AC fill a role by preventing monsters from reaching more fragile characters. If your group favors that play style, your DM surely dials up the opposition past very strong and also pairs smart foes with clever strategies. Optimized characters of all sorts often fit that style of play.
Nobody minds a fast character. I love playing monks who speed around the battlefield stunning everything in their path. However, those stun attacks certainly bring less acclaim. See How to Build a D&D Monk So Good That DMs Want to Cheat.
If you play the healer and miss game night, everyone feels disappointed. ’Nuff said.
• If D&D Play Styles Could Talk, the One I Hate Would Say, “I Won D&D for You. You’re Welcome.”
• 10 Ways to Build a Character That Will Earn the Love of Your Party
5e optimization dnd character
DnD 5e – Character Optimization
Last Updated: September 24,
Character optimization, at its simplest, is the act of looking at two choices when building a character and choosing the option which will make your character more mechanically effective. The practice is a bit more nuanced, if only because the abundance of options makes weighing those choices challenging. The collection of articles below includes detailed guidance on building your ideal character from top to bottom.
State of the Character Optimization Meta
A discussion of the current state of the character optimization meta, including changes introduced in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.
This article will be periodically updated as new source books are released and rules changes are introduced.
General guides to building and playing your class.
Sometimes you want to play a specific race. Knowing which options are available for that race can make playing that race more viable.
There’s a lot at stake when creating D&D character builds. They’ve got to be enjoyable to roleplay, adept at combat, compatible with a party, appropriate to your DM’s campaign, and, above all, internally consistent. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by choice during character creation, and end up with something that looks mightily powerful, but turns out to be confused and directionless when taken for a spin.
To save you the hassle of disappointment, we’ve constructed some ready-made D&D character builds that can provide the template to your next, or first, 5E character. Rather than focussing on specific roleplaying or martial builds, we’ve opted for a more important factor in these builds: fun. They all have a central focus, and will ensure you’re character is consistently effective as they level up. You won’t drop off the party radar, or become obsolete.
But we aren’t the tabletop roleplaying police, and there’s no need to stick entirely within our guidelines. Pick a build that takes your fancy, and mess around with it, if it pleases you. Keep its central focus in mind, though, and you’ll be rewarded with a character that’s well-adjusted to a party dynamic, and can hold their own throughout a campaign.
So, crack out that character sheet and let’s get building.
Half-Elf Lore Bard
This is a solid build with no surprises. It’s not going to win any awards for creativity, and won’t have you pushing the boundaries of D&D 5E norms. But if you want to play a character that’s equally adept in roleplay and combat, you can’t go far wrong with a classic Half-Elf Bard, trained in the College of Lore.
You’re set up to be a true jack of all trades
Half-Elves’ +2 Cha feeds nicely into Bardic spellcasting, and their other two +1 ability score improvements should be spent on Str and Con. Pick a mix of damage-dealing and immobilising cantrips and spells, such as Vicious Mockery and Hideous Laughter, and throw Detect Magic into your spell list if no one else in the party bothers. At level three, the College of Lore allows you to use Bardic Inspiration on yourself, letting you redo an attack roll, ability check, or damage roll that didn’t go your way – especially useful for this low-AC, low-HP class.
But Bards really excel for their expansive applicability. You’ll gain proficiency in a whopping five skills of your choice at first level, so think hard about your role in the party. Opt for skills such as Acrobatics, Perception, and Insight if you’ll be more actively adventuring; or Persuasion, Intimidation, Deception, and Performance, if the roleplaying side of the character is a better fit. Add to that three more skill proficiencies through the College of Lore, and you’re set up to be a true jack of all trades.
Beyond this, look to increase your Cha, or pick some flavoursome feats, if the campaign is increasingly descending into creative roleplay. Actor, letting you imitate the voice of others, opens up masses of possibilities, while Magic Initiate, granting you two cantrips from another class, is useful for grabbing staple spells. There’s lots on offer here, which provides new players many opportunities for experimentation.
Human polearm Fighter
For a build that specialises in straightforward, melee damage, get yourself a Human Fighter with a whole bunch of feats. You’ll be able to crush any enemy you encounter; slapping them about from a distance, and dealing plenty of damage in a single turn.
Heavy weapons will be your best friend, so make sure Str is plenty high, and your Con closely follows (melee fighters have a habit of taking as much damage as they deal, after all). Pick any weapon with Reach to go alongside that, such as a halberd, and get yourself some heavy armour for extra protection.
Raw strength: Read our comprehensive D&D 5E Fighter guide
But it’s your pick of race that makes all the difference. Opt for a Variant Human, and put +1 into Str and Con, while choosing Polearm Master as your free feat. Its 1d4 bludgeoning damage will propel you into the top tier of your party from the outset. Plus, it grants an attack of opportunity whenever a creature enters your extended reach, so you’ll be dishing out hits pretty frequently. Combine this with the Sentinel feat at level four, which stops all creatures in their tracks when you successfully land an attack of opportunity, and your fighter can simultaneously cleave through enemies and immobilise them. A powerful combo.
As for Fighting Style, choose Great Weapon Fighting if pumping up damage at every opportunity is the call of the day, or opt for Defence if you suspect your DM has some particularly pernicious enemies up their sleeve. Any subclass will pair well with this build, but the best are those that don’t require too much tactical movement, and let you sit comfortably 10 feet away from the enemy and exploit your feats, such as Cavalier or Champion.
Clerics not only fulfil the role of party healer, but also function as fantastic tanks. If you fancy soaking up any stray hit that comes your way, and living to tell the tale, you could do little better than building yourself a literal robot. Warforged are the sentient robotic race of D&D, built for fighting in the dark, pulpy world of Eberron.
You’ll be one of the toughest bipedal hunks of metal around
Although a uniquely versatile race, they pair incredibly well with Clerics for their toughness. Their +2 Con will prepare you for taking the hits, and an optional +1 to Wisdom will pump up Clerical spellcasting. Add to that +1 AC, since you’re made out of magical metal, heavy armour, and a shield, and you’ve already got an unrivalled AC for a level one character.
But we can go higher. Pick Forge Domain as your subclass, and you’ll be able to craft magical armour with +1 AC at level one. Combine that with elemental resistances as you level up, and you’ll be one of the toughest bipedal hunks of metal around.
If your campaign is in the Forgotten Realms, Warforged shouldn’t technically make an appearance. But this is a tabletop roleplaying game, so we’re sure you can use your imagination to think of some convincing backstory as to why they’re showing up.
Aasimar Redeemer Paladin
Paladins can hold their own in a fight, but their potential as party support shouldn’t be overlooked. Rather than relying on simple restorative spells or buffs, the Oath of Redemption subclass plays out a little more innovatively, as you avoid fights and heap damage onto yourself to save squishy teammates. It’s an effective choice, especially if a Cleric is already serving as the party’s medic.
Aside from picking the Redemption subclass at level three, choose Aasimar as your race. Their natural +2 Charisma will bolster your spellcasting, and their innate Healing Hands ability lets you restore HP equal to your level (so you can get at least a little restorative ability in). You’ll want heavy armour and a shield for their AC bonuses, and would be smart to take the Tough feat at level four, increasing your maximum HP by twice your current level.
Devout and deadly: Check out our guide to D&D 5E’s Paladin
Outside of this, keep pumping Con and AC when you can. The Oath of Redemption revolves around redirecting enemy attacks to yourself, so you’ll need a lot of HP when the blows eventually break through your armour.
But you won’t only be acting as a tank. Oath spells, such as Rebuke the Violent, let you mirror attacks, and Emissary of Peace grants +5 Persuasion, combining well with your already-high Cha to help you talk your way out of the stickiest situations.
If you’re keen on multiclassing, but are new to the world of chimeric creations, the Sorlock (i.e. Sorcerer/Warlock) is likely your best bet. Beloved by many, it combines the high damage-dealing of Warlocks, with the innate spellcasting buffs of Sorcerers for immense damage output. Cha’s the spellcasting ability of both classes, so you can leverage their magical abilities simultaneously, and play them against one another for even greater effect.
Eldritch Blast becomes a rapid fire, incendiary machine gun
The basic idea is to combine the Warlock’s hex spell, which adds 1d6 necrotic damage to a creature when it’s attacked, with their Eldritch Blast cantrip, dealing 1d10 force damage. Alongside that, use the Sorcerer’s Quicken Metamagic ability, letting you cast a spell for one bonus action. Eldritch Blast becomes a rapid fire, incendiary machine gun, as you deal consistently high damage, turn after turn. Even the Barbarians around will be jealous.
Similarly, each class makes up for the other’s deficiencies. Warlocks have very limited spell slots, while Sorcerers have plenty; Sorcerers are usually left wanting after a short rest, but Warlocks recover all spell slots.
When building a Sorlock, your starting class doesn’t matter hugely, but Sorcerer makes the most sense for its proficiency in Constitution saving throws. Cha should be your primary ability score for maximum damage, followed by Con. Choice of subclasses has little effect on the build’s multiclass focus, but Hexblade Warlocks provide much versatility that can be exploited by the Sorcerer’s side of things. As usual, Half-Elf or Tiefling are obvious race options for their natural ability score bonuses.
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Honestly, this is the first time I've come across this myself, - said the commander, softening his tone, - I think that someone helped. Her to get a job here. Not otherwise, the command is making another experiment, like the last time with the pilot. Do you remember.