DDEP00-01 “The Red War” is coming and some characters, more than others, will excel in this brutal battlefield environment. It’s going to be a tough slog, and you’ll need grit, tenacity, as well as solid top tier DPS if you want to live.
Unsure about which character to bring? Here are our five top picks, and our suggestions for how to build them at each Tier of play.
1. The Paladin
Whether you’re in Tier 1 or Tier 4, the Paladin brings numerous benefits to the table.
They’re capable of casting helpful buffs such as Bless, healing and removing negative conditions with Lay on Hands, and dishing out the hurt with Divine Smite. Their Channel Divinity abilities grant some utility, and at higher levels, they’re capable of protecting the party with different aura effects.
Naturally, how good a paladin will be depends entirely on their ability to effectively position themselves in relation to other party members, their threat assessment skills, and how well they know their class kit.
What Oath they swear matters as well – a Devotion or Vengeance Paladin could do decent damage, a Redemption Paladin makes a great utility caster, and Ancients and Conquest are decent tanks (though Ancients is by far the superior choice).
- Go at least 2 levels in Paladin for Divine Smite, 3 for an Oath, 6 for the Aura of Protection (or 7 if Ancients so you get that lovely aura boost).
- Multiclass into Bard or Sorcerer for additional spell slots and to widen your repertoire. Use these new options to fix glaring weaknesses like the lack of movement skills and ways to deal with enemy casters.
- Dipping 2 levels in Fighter grants Action Surge, which can be incredibly beneficial for a damage dealer.
Tier 1 Quick Build:
Jeanne, a glaive wielding warrior of justice who leads from the front.
- Variant Human Paladin 4 (Oath of Devotion) with a glaive, the Polearm Master and Sentinel feats.
- Polearm Master allows her to strike an additional time using her Bonus Action and potentially stop enemies with your Reaction before they close to melee range.
- She’s a Great Weapon Master (thanks to the Paladin Fighting Style feature acquired at Level 2), and the Channel Divinity ability Sacred Weapon lets your glaive strike true even against those who are normally immune to non-magical attacks.
2. The Archer
The draw of the martial Archer is the sheer amount of physical damage it can put out in any given round.
If you can get the jump on your enemies, you can probably snipe them with tactical precision using Sharpshooter before they can even close with the party, and nothing beats the joy of putting 9 to 10 arrows in the air in your first round of combat alone.
As an archer, you’re reliant on the Archery Fighting Style (+2 to attack rolls with a Ranged weapon), and Sharpshooter for the bulk of your damage. You’ll want ways increase your accuracy with the weapon, so you can Sharpshooter with regularity.
Learn to take out high value targets as an Archer, focusing on enemies in the back line. You’re also expected to help focus fire and take down priority enemies in combat.
For an in-depth look at Archers and how to build an #ALLegal one, be sure to check out our handy [Archer Guide].
- Go at least 2 levels in Fighter for Action Surge. Action Surge is mandatory in a nova round.
- At higher tiers, the more attacks you have means more chances to deal static Sharpshooter damage. You’ll want to be at least 5 levels in a martial class (e.g. Fighter/Ranger) so you’ll have at least 2 attacks, more if you focus on Fighter.
- Multiclass for additional attacks or Bonus Action fillers. Gloomstalker (extra attack per use of the Attack Action in the first round of combat) and War Cleric (extra attack as a bonus action) are great for such things.
Tier 1 Quick Build:
- Human Ranger 3 (Gloomstalker)/War Cleric 1 with a longbow and the Sharpshooter feat.
- Gloomstalker allows her to fire an additional time in the first round of combat. Using her Bonus Action, she can activate her War Priest ability from War Cleric to fire a third time.
- She also gains access to Hunter’s Mark, and Divine Favor, both spells that increase her damage dealing ability.
- Toggle Sharpshooter at your own discretion, using it on foes that appear less heavily armored, or on foes you have Advantage against.
3. The Utility/Control Wizard
No party is complete without a utility caster, and the best class to fill this role is without a doubt the Wizard.
With their access to published spells limited only by the depth of their purse and the application of these spells by their imagination, Wizards are an incredibly versatile addition to any adventuring party.
Assuming the player is reasonably experienced and/or genre savvy, it’s entirely possible for a party to circumvent many challenges or nullify potential threats before they can pose a danger with just a single casting.
A Wizard’s Arcane Tradition can also grant some powerful abilities, though some of these abilities (such as Portent) prove to be more useful by far.
Being an effective wizard is entirely dependent on the skill of the player, and is most definitely not for the faint of heart. A skilled wizard is capable of near perfect threat assessment, and will always pick the most efficient method to end an encounter while expending the least number of resources.
- The spells you prepare matter. Always have at least one offensive Cantrip learned (Ray of Frost is great for this), and have a variety of offensive, defensive, movement and utility options at your fingertips.
- Understand which spell to cast, when to cast it, and what spell slot to utilize. This comes with practice, and requires encyclopedic knowledge of the spells you’ve learned. So read, read, and re-read your spells if you want to play a Wizard.
- Don’t scrimp on consumables, items with charges, and ways to acquire extra magic. Scrolls can tide you through situations where you need a specific spell to overcome a major obstacle, attuning to the right Staff for the day can grant you extra spells you might need to use in a pinch, and a Ring of Spell Storing is always a worthwhile investment.
- You don’t have to multiclass, but Sorcerer or Fighter are popular dips. 3 levels in Sorcerer grants access to Metamagic, and 2 levels in Fighter grant Action Surge, which lets you cast two 1 Action spells in the same round.
Tier 1 Quick Build:
Medea, a powerful oracle from the isle of Colchis.
- Variant Human Wizard (Diviner) 4 with the Alert feat and an increase to Intelligence at Level 4.
- For a Wizard, being able to act in the first round of combat and possibly going first is incredibly important, while a boost to Intelligence makes it more difficult for enemies to resist your magic.
- If you can cast a spell that disables all your foes in the first round of combat, the rest of the encounter is a guaranteed cakewalk.
- Pick spells that affect multiple enemies. Grease and Sleep can be helpful, and Hold Person can end encounters quickly if you get it to stick. Don’t be shy about preparing spells that deal damage either. Scorching Ray and Dragon’s Breath are excellent damage spells.
- Always have a Familiar active for added utility.
- Finally, a Diviner has Portents, which can replace any roll made at the table. Give a low Portent to the enemy to impact their Initiative or their Save against a powerful spell. Likewise give a high Portent to an ally to improve their Initiative, help them land an attack in a nova round, or help them succeed on a Save that matters.
4. Full Progression Casters
Parties with multiple magic users are great. More magic instantly makes adventuring life easier, and Bards, Clerics, Druids and Sorcerers are all equally welcome.
Each full progression caster (a caster that can cast up to 9th level magic) brings their own list of spells and class abilities to the table.
Just remember that communication is important. Make sure you talk to your teammates at the start of the session. That way you know what spells to prepare and can help cover for each other’s deficits.
And just like playing a Wizard, an effective caster player should know their class abilities intimately and have a good grasp of their spells.
- If you prepare spells, make sure you have a versatile repertoire that can cover all your bases. Clerics and Druids have less offensive and mobility options, but some of their defensive options are the best.
- If you are a spontaneous caster with a limited pool of spells available (such as a Bard, Sorcerer or Warlock), make sure you always have utility options and control options that can impact multiple targets. That way you can get the most bang for your buck.
- Many spells rely on Concentration, and you can only Concentrate on one spell per round. Make sure it’s the one with the most impact on the board state.
- Even if you have access to healing and are tempted to prepare a healing spell, don’t. In combat healing is inefficient unless you’re capable of affecting the entire board state (such as through the use of Mass Heal). Otherwise, a spot heal (like Healing Word) is often enough to keep people in the fight.
- Dispel Magic and Counterspell are great, if you can access them.
Tier 1 Quick Build:
Shakespeare, a playwright with a silver wit and a rapier tongue.
- Variant Human Bard (College of Lore) 4 with the Inspiring Leader feat and an increase to Charisma at Level 4.
- Inspiring Leader grants your allies temporary hit points, which are a great buffer against damage at low levels, while the boost to Charisma makes your spells harder to resist.
- Cutting Words is excellent for disrupting the tempo of your enemy. Use Cutting Words when your DM rolls initiative for monsters to make it less likely for them to go first, and cut Attacks to make them less likely to hit. Any damage prevented is strictly superior to damage you may otherwise heal with spells.
- Vicious Mockery is an excellent filler on turns where you have nothing better to do. Granting disadvantage on an enemy’s attack at low levels (where you face primarily brute monsters) makes combat significantly easier.
- Spells like Faerie Fire and Hold Person grant significant boons to your party and should be used liberally, while Heat Metal can give you consistent damage and a Bonus Action filler option.
5. The Bruiser
Everyone can be declared soft cover and it doesn’t matter what class they are, right?
But just because you’re a meat bag whose only job is to soak up the hits and lay on some hurt in return doesn’t mean you should be stupid about it (though your Intelligence is probably 8).
Effective positioning, sensible threat assessment and how you use your class features will help make you a more valuable asset at the table.
If you have class abilities that help you deal additional damage (such as Sneak Attack, Monk Martial Arts and Ki Powers etc), be sure to use them often.
- You’re there to get in the way of your enemies, so go run up to them and hit them in the face. Be as sticky as possible, and force them to use their attacks and resources on you instead of the casters behind you.
- Read the chapter on Combat in the Player’s Handbook if you haven’t. Even if you have, read it again to familiarize yourself with the rules and how they interact.
- If you have multiple attacks, feel free to use one of them to Shove or Grapple if it’s appropriate to the situation.
Tier 1 Quick Build:
Heracles, a berserk Barbarian warrior who can take a lot of punishment.
- Variant Human Barbarian (Totem, Bear) 4 with the Toughness feat and an increase to Constitution at Level 4.
- Toughness makes you just that much harder to kill by increasing your pool of available hit points, and the Bear Totem ability grants you resistance to everything other than Psychic damage.
- Rage liberally, and hit people with a big stick.
Of course, there are many different ways to build for the Red War and it’s fine so long as you’re contributing to the overall success of the table in your own way.
If you haven’t yet signed up for the Epic, you can do so [here]. There are limited slots available, and places are filling fast! Do note that convention ticketing applies.
If you’ve already signed up, remember to update your registration with the Class and Level of the character you’re bringing to the table.
We’ll see you at the show!