Roleplaying

Four More Fun D&D Builds for Power Gaming

Three adventurers in the rain from Guildmasters Guide to Ravnica
Since I wrote my first post about D&D power gaming builds, I’ve had the opportunity to both run and play in multiple 5th Edition (5E) campaigns. This has gotten me thinking about a host of new builds that I consider both powerful and fun to play. In this article I go over four such builds, summarizing their function and abilities before diving into the math and level-by-level decisions. With that out of the way, let’s get started.

1. The Barbearian

Art from the MTG card Savage Punch by Wesley Burt

On its face, the combination of druid and barbarian is not a novel one. The Rage and Wildshaping mechanics mesh together very well, and I’ve seen multiple builds take between 1 and 3 levels of barbarian to give their Moon druid an early boost. These builds gain quite a bit of immediate power, but the way a Moon druid’s power progression works means that any delay in druid levels is a massive opportunity cost.

To solve this problem, I want to flip which class level to split on its head. Rather than dipping into barbarian to power up our druid, let’s dip into druid to strengthen our barbarian by giving them a massive pool of extra hit points in the form of a bear. This neatly sidesteps the Moon druid’s progression issues and takes full advantage of the barbarian’s early game features.

Let’s start with some early druid levels before focusing on the barbarian portion of the build. After that we take a quick dip into cleric before wrapping up the build with some good old-fashioned fighter. Unlike other builds I’ve worked on, this one is focused squarely on levels 2–8. While I wouldn’t call this build bad at later levels, be aware that it lacks the late-game power spikes many other builds get.

Build Summary

Ancestry 

Human – Variant: This build wants feats, and human allows us to get those feats with minimal delay.

Starting Stats

  • Str – 16: (main stat)
  • Dex – 12: Saves are good, and we have the points
  • Con – 16: (secondary stat)
  • Int – 8: Dump stat
  • Wis – 13: Only used for multiclassing, this build doesn’t make use of spells that require a high wisdom
  • Cha – 8: Dump stat

Level Split

  • 2 druid – Circle of the Moon: Combat Wildshape and Circle Forms are the MVPs here.
  • 5 barbarian – Totem Warrior – Bear: Powerful offensive capabilities paired with Resistance to almost every type of damage.
  • 1 cleric – Life Domain: Allows us to restore any health we lose during fights.
  • 12 fighter – Echo Knight: An efficient class to spend our remaining levels on.

ASI

  • Level 1 (ancestry) – Polearm Master: Makes our character an effective level 1 damage dealer and sets up our main source of damage at higher levels.
  • Level 6 – Great Weapon Master: This feat’s -5 hit for +10 damage is incredibly good when paired with the Barbarian’s Reckless Attack feature.
  • Level 12 & Level 14 – Str + 2
  • Level 16 – Sentinel: A tried and true combination with Polearm Master to lock down enemies and frustrate our GM.
  • Level 20 – Tough: This build relies on its hitpoints to survive and doesn’t care about con saves that much, making this feat stronger than a +2 to con.

Magic Items

While not needed for any of my builds, these are a few magical items that I believe help more than most. I am not including any of these items in my damage calculations.

  • +X Weapon: More damage is always good.
  • Staff of the Woodlands: At-will Pass Without Trace is incredibly good and gives this character a host of powerful non-combat abilities.
  • Winged Boots/Broom of Flying: This build’s lack of ranged options means gaining some way to fly is high on our list of priorities. Broom is the better item, but we’ll take whatever we can get.
  • Slippers of Spider Climbing: Not as good as flying, but still nice to have.
  • Gauntlets of Ogre power/Belt of Giant Strength: This build is a bit slow to max out its strength score, so increasing it artificially is very helpful to make sure your heavy hits connect.

Level Breakdown

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
  • Level 1
    • 1 Druid
  •  Features
    • Spellcasting
  • Spells
    • Cantrip
      • Guidance
      • Produce Flame
    • 1st
      • Absorb Elements
      • Healing Word
  • AC
    • Studded Leather: 12
    • Dex 12: +1
    • Shield: +2
    • Total: 15
  • HP
    • Hit Dice d8: +8
    • Con 16: +3
    • Total: 11
  • Saves
    • Str 16: +3
    • Dex 12: +1
    • Con 16: +3
    • Int 8
      • Stat 8: -1
      • Prof: +2
      • Total: +1
    • Wis
      • Stat 13: +1
      • Prof: +2
      • Total: +3
    • Cha 8: -1
  • Attack Bonus
    • Str
      • Proficiency: +2
      • Str 16: +3
      • Total: +5
  •  Damage Sources
    • Polearm Master
      • 1d4
    • Quarterstaff
      • 1d6
    • Str 16: +3
    •  Total
      • 1d6 + 1d4 +6
  •  Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 9.90
      • 15: 6.90
      • 20: 3.90
      • 25: 0.90
  • Level 2
    • 2 Druid
  •  Features
    • WildShape
      • Combat WildShape
      • Circle Forms
  • Spells
    • 1st
      • Goodberry
  • AC
    • Natural Armor: 11
  • HP
    • Previous Level: 11
    • Hit Dice d8: +5
    • Con 16: +3
    • 2x Bear: 34 + 34
    • Total: 19 + 68
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    •  Str
      • Proficiency: +2
    • Str 19: +4
    • Total: +6
  •  Damage Sources
    • Brown Bear
      •  Bite
        • 1d8 + 4
      • Claws
        • 2d6 + 4
    • Total
      • 1d8 + 2d6 + 8
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 17.15
      • 15: 12.28
      • 20: 7.40
      • 25: 2.52

Levels 1 and 2 see this build play just like any other melee druid. We start off making use of Polearm Master and our 16 strength to make 2 attacks with our quarterstaff. Level 2 has us gaining Combat Wildshape, allowing us to access forms such as the brown bear twice per short rest. A brown bear has 34 HP, a better attack bonus than our humanoid form, and 2 impressive attacks. This makes us as powerful as a level 2 character can be.

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
  • Level 3
    • 1 Barbarian
  •  Features
    • Proficiency
      • Shields
      • Simple Weapons
      • Martial Weapons
    • Rage
    • Unarmored Defense
  • AC
    • Unarmored Defense: 13
  • HP
    • Previous Level: 19
    • Hit Dice d12: +7
    • Con 16: +3
    • Rage
    • 2x Bear: 34 + 34
    • Total
      • 29 + 68 with Resistance
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    •  Str
      • Proficiency: +2
    • Str 19: +4
    • Total: +6
  •  Damage Sources
    • Brown Bear
      •  Bite
        • 1d8 + 4
      • Claws
        • 2d6 + 4
    • 2x Rage: +4
    • Total
      • 1d8 + 2d6 + 8 + 4
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 20.55
      • 15: 14.68
      • 20: 8.80
      • 25: 2.92
  • Level 4
    • 2 Barbarian
  •  Features
    • Danger Sense
    • Reckless Attacks
  • AC
    • Reckless Attacks
    • Unarmored Defense: 13
    • Total
      • 13 enemies have advantage
  • HP
    • Previous Level: 29
    • Hit Dice d12: +7
    • Con 16: +3
    • Rage
    • 2x Bear: 34 + 34
    • Total
      • 39 + 68 with Resistance
  • Saves
    • Str 16: +3
    • Dex 12: +1
      • Advantage when you can see the cause of the save
    • Con 16: +3
    • Int 8
      • Stat 8: -1
      • Prof: +2
      • Total: +1
    • Wis
      • Stat 13: +1
      • Prof: +2
      • Total: +3
    • Cha 8: -1
  • Attack Bonus
    • Reckless Attack
    •  Str
      • Proficiency: +2
    • Str 19: +4
    • Total
      • +6 with advantage
  •  Damage Sources
    • Brown Bear
      •  Bite
        • 1d8 + 4
      • Claws
        • 2d6 + 4
    • 2x Rage: +4
    • Total
      • 1d8 + 2d6 + 8 + 4
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 23.68
      • 15: 19.86
      • 20: 13.11
      • 25: 3.41
  • Level 5
    • 3 Barbarian
  •  Features
    • Primal Path
      • Path of the Totem Warrior
        • Totem Spirit: Bear
    •   Proficiency: 3
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous Level: 39
    • Hit Dice d12: +7
    • Con 16: +3
    • Rage
    • 2x Bear: 34 + 34
    • Total
      • 49 + 68 with Resistance
  • Saves
    • Str 16: +3
    • Dex 12: +1
      • Advantage when you can see the cause of the save
    • Con 16: +3
    • Int 8
      • Stat 8: -1
      • Prof: +3
      • Total: +2
    • Wis
      • Stat 13: +1
      • Prof: +3
      • Total: +4
    • Cha 8: -1
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  •  Damage Sources
    • No Change
  • Average DPR vs
    • No Change
  • Level 6
    • 4 Barbarian
  • Features
    • ASI
      • Great Weapon Master
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous Level: 49
    • Hit Dice d12: +7
    • Con 16: +3
    • Rage
    • 2x Bear: 34 + 34
    • Total
      • 59 + 68 with Resistance
  • Saves
    • No Changes
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  •  Damage Sources
    • No Change
  • Average DPR vs
    • No Change
  • Level 7
    • 5 Barbarian
  • Features
    • Extra Attack
    • Fast Movement
  • AC
    • Unarmored Defense
      • Base: 10
      • Dex 12: + 1
      • Con 16: +3
    • Rage
    • Total
      • 14 enemies have advantage
  • HP
    • Previous Level: 59
    • Hit Dice d12: +7
    • Con 16: +3
    • Rage
    • 2x Bear: 34 + 34
    • Total
      • 69 + 68 with Resistance
        • Nice
  • Saves
    • No Changes
  • Attack Bonus
    • Reckless Attack
    •  Str
      • Proficiency: +2
    • Str 19: +4
    • Total
      • +6 with advantage
  •  Damage Sources
    • 2x Glaive
      • 2d10
    • 3x Great Weapon Master: +30
    • Polearm Master: 1d4
    • 3x Rage: +6
    • 3x Str 16: +9
    • Total
      • 2d10 + 1d4 + 9 + 6
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 50.46
      • 15: 35.10
      • 20: 17.78
      • 25: 6.73

Levels 3–7 see the build transitioning into the barbarian class. We pick up powerful features like Rage, Danger Sense, and Reckless Attack. Once we have our extra attack, Wildshape becomes a bank of hitpoints to use in a dangerous fight instead of our main damage source. Against low AC targets,* we make constant use of Great Weapon Master’s -5 hit for +10 damage feature, switching to normal attacks against harder to hit enemies.

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
  • Level 8
    • 1 Cleric
  •  Features
    • Spellcasting
    • Divine Domain
      • Life
        • Domain Spells
        • Bonus Proficiency:
          • Heavy Armor
          • Disciple of Life
  • Spells
    • Cantrip
      • Light
      • Mending
      • Resistance
    • 1st
      • Bless
      • Cure Wounds
      • Detect Magic
      • Detect Poison and Disease
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous Level: 69
    • Hit Dice d12: +7
    • Con 16: +3
    • Rage
    • 2x Bear: 34 + 34
    • Total
      • 79 + 68 with Resistance
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  •  Damage Sources
    • No Change
  • Average DPR vs
    • No Change

Level 8 has us taking a somewhat unusual 1 level dip into the cleric of all classes. This is to provide our build with sustainability between fights. One of the problems barbarians face is that even their large HP pools can be worn down over multiple encounters, compared to AC tanks who avoid damage completely. By combining the Life Domain’s Disciple of Life with the druid spell Goodberry, we can generate 240* hitpoints worth of healing that is doled out in 4 HP increments. This results in a barbarian capable of not only healing themself between fights, but their party as well.

At this point, the build has reached peak effectiveness. We hit hard, have constant advantage, have an effective HP pool of 294, and can serve as a main healer for out-of-combat healing.

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
  • Level 9
    • 1 Fighter
  •  Features
    • Fighting Style
      • Great Weapon Fighting
    • Second Wind
    • Proficiency: 4
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous Level: 79
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Rage
    • 2x Bear: 34 + 34
    • Total
      • 88 + 68 with Resistance
  • Saves
    • Str 16: +3
    • Dex 12: +1
      • Advantage when you can see the cause of the save
    • Con 16: +3
    • Int 8
      • Stat 8: -1
      • Prof: +4
      • Total: +3
    • Wis
      • Stat 13: +1
      • Prof: +4
      • Total: +5
    • Cha 8: -1
  • Attack Bonus
    • Reckless Attack
    •  Str
      • Proficiency: +4
    • Str 16: +3
    • Total
      • +7 with advantage
  •  Damage Sources
    • 2x Glaive
      • 2d10
      • Great Weapon Fighter
    • 3x Great Weapon Master: +30
    • Polearm Master: 1d4
      • Great Weapon Fighter
    • 3x Rage: +6
    • 3x Str 16: +9
    • Total
      • 2d10 + 1d4 + 12 + 6 + 30
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 54.70
      • 15: 40.30
      • 20: 21.10
      • 25: 10.01
  • Level 10
    • 2 Fighter
  •  Features
    • Action Surge
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous Level: 88
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Rage
    • 2x Bear: 34 + 34
    • Total
      • 97 + 68 with Resistance
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  •  Damage Sources
    • No Change
  • Average DPR vs
    • No Change
  • Level 11
    • 3 Fighter
  •  Features
  • Martial Archetype
    • Echo Knight
      • Manifest Echo
      • Unleash Incarnation
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous Level: 97
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Rage
    • 2x Bear: 34 + 34
    • Total
      • 106 + 68 with Resistance
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  •  Damage Sources
    • No Change
  • Average DPR vs
    • No Change
  • Level 12
    • 4 Fighter
  •  Features
    • ASI
      • +2 Strength
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous Level: 106
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Rage
    • 2x Bear: 34 + 34
    • Total
      • 115 + 68 with Resistance
  • Saves
    • Str 18: +4
    • Dex 12: +1
      • Advantage when you can see the cause of the save
    • Con 16: +3
    • Int 8
      • Stat 8: -1
      • Prof: +4
      • Total: +3
    • Wis
      • Stat 13: +1
      • Prof: +4
      • Total: +5
    • Cha 8: -1
  • Attack Bonus
    • Reckless Attack
    •  Str
      • Proficiency: +4
    • Str 18: +4
    • Total
      • +8 with advantage
  •  Damage Sources
    • 2x Glaive
      • 2d10
      • Great Weapon Fighter
    • 3x Great Weapon Master: +30
    • Polearm Master: 1d4
      • Great Weapon Fighter
    • 3x Rage: +6
    • 3x Str 18: +12
    • Total
      • 2d10 + 1d4 + 12 + 6 + 30
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 59.40
      • 15: 45.88
      • 20: 24.96
      • 25: 13.62
  • Level 13
    • 5 Fighter
  •  Features
    • Proficiency: 5
    • Extra Attack
      • Does not stack
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous Level: 115
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Rage
    • 2x Bear: 34 + 34
    • Total
      • 124 + 68 with Resistance
  • Saves
    • Str 18: +4
    • Dex 12: +1
      • Advantage when you can see the cause of the save
    • Con 16: +3
    • Int 8
      • Stat 8: -1
      • Prof: +5
      • Total: +4
    • Wis
      • Stat 13: +1
      • Prof: +5
      • Total: +6
    • Cha 8: -1
  • Attack Bonus
    • Reckless Attack
    •  Str
      • Proficiency: +5
    • Str 18: +4
    • Total
      • +9 with advantage
  •  Damage Sources
    • 2x Glaive
      • 2d10
      • Great Weapon Fighter
    • 3x Great Weapon Master: +30
    • Polearm Master: 1d4
      • Great Weapon Fighter
    • 3x Rage: +6
    • 3x Str 18: +12
    • Total
      • 2d10 + 1d4 + 12 + 6 + 30
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 61.15
      • 15: 49.22
      • 20: 29.35
      • 25: 16.22
  • Level 14
    • 6 Fighter
  •  Features
    • ASI
      • +2 Strength
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous Level: 124
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Rage
    • 2x Bear: 34 + 34
    • Total
      • 133 + 68 with Resistance
  • Saves
    • Str 20: +5
    • Dex 12: +1
      • Advantage when you can see the cause of the save
    • Con 16: +3
    • Int 8
      • Stat 8: -1
      • Prof: +5
      • Total: +4
    • Wis
      • Stat 13: +1
      • Prof: +5
      • Total: +6
    • Cha 8: -1
  • Attack Bonus
    • Reckless Attack
    •  Str
      • Proficiency: +5
    • Str 20: +5
    • Total
      • +10 with advantage
  •  Damage Sources
    • 2x Glaive
      • 2d10
      • Great Weapon Fighter
    • 3x Great Weapon Master: +30
    • Polearm Master: 1d4
      • Great Weapon Fighter
    • 3x Rage: +6
    • 3x Str 20: +15
    • Total
      • 2d10 + 1d4 + 15 + 6 + 30
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 65.46
      • 15: 54.63
      • 20: 35.49
      • 25: 20.19
  • Level 15
    • 7 Fighter
  •  Features
    • Echo Avatar
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous Level: 133
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Rage
    • 2x Bear: 34 + 34
    • Total
      • 142 + 68 with Resistance
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  •  Damage Sources
    • No Change
  • Average DPR vs
    • No Change
  • Level 16
    • 8 Fighter
  •  Features
    • ASI
      • Sentinel
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous Level: 142
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Rage
    • 2x Bear: 34 + 34
    • Total
      • 151 + 68 with Resistance
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  •  Damage Sources
    • No Change
  • Average DPR vs
    • No Change
  • Level 17
    • 9 Fighter
  •  Features
    • Indomitable
    • Proficiency: 6
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous Level: 151
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Rage
    • 2x Bear: 34 + 34
    • Total
      • 160 + 68 with Resistance
  • Saves
    • Str 20: +5
    • Dex 12: +1
      • Advantage when you can see the cause of the save
    • Con 16: +3
    • Int 8
      • Stat 8: -1
      • Prof: +6
      • Total: +5
    • Wis
      • Stat 13: +1
      • Prof: +6
      • Total: +7
    • Cha 8: -1
  • Attack Bonus
    • Reckless Attack
    •  Str
      • Proficiency: +6
    • Str 20: +5
    • Total
      • +11 with advantage
  •  Damage Sources
    • 2x Glaive
      • 2d10
      • Great Weapon Fighter
    • 3x Great Weapon Master: +30
    • Polearm Master: 1d4
      • Great Weapon Fighter
    • 3x Rage: +6
    • 3x Str 20: +15
    • Total
      • 2d10 + 1d4 + 15 + 6 + 30
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 66.62
      • 15: 57.47
      • 20: 39.98
      • 25: 22.66
  • Level 18
    • 10 Fighter
  •  Features
    • Shadow Martyr
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous Level: 160
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Rage
    • 2x Bear: 34 + 34
    • Total
      • 169 + 68 with Resistance
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  •  Damage Sources
    • No Change
  • Average DPR vs
    • No Change
  • Level 19
    • 11 Fighter
  •  Features
    • Extra attack (2)
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous Level: 169
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Rage
    • 2x Bear: 34 + 34
    • Total
      • 178 + 68 with Resistance
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • Reckless Attack
    •  Str
      • Proficiency: +6
    • Str 20: +5
    • Total
      • +11 with advantage
  •  Damage Sources
    • 3x Glaive
      • 3d10
      • Great Weapon Fighter
    • 4x Great Weapon Master: +40
    • Polearm Master: 1d4
      • Great Weapon Fighter
    • 4x Rage: +8
    • 4x Str 20: +20
    • Total
      • 3d10 + 1d4 + 20 + 8 + 40
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 90.01
      • 15: 77.65
      • 20: 54.05
      • 25: 30.95
  • Level 20
    • 12 Fighter
  •  Features
    • ASI
      • Tough
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous Level: 178
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Rage
    • Tough: +40
    • 2x Bear: 34 + 34
    • Total
      • 227 + 68 with Resistance
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  •  Damage Sources
    • No Change
  • Average DPR vs
    • No Change

I chose to fill the remaining 12 levels of this build with the Echo Knight fighter, although any subclass will do.* This subclass gives us more battlefield flexibility and a sizable spike in damage by using the Unleash Incarnation feature to generate a number of extra attacks equal to our Con mod per long rest.

As I said, these last 12 levels are pretty flexible in terms of subclasses and feats. I used Echo Knight, but Battle Master or Champion would also work fine. Sentinel is a great combo with Polearm Master, but something like Lucky would also be quite powerful. I created the Barbearian as an alternative to the many optimized builds* that don’t come online until levels 10-12. I think you’ll find it provides an excellent blend of damage, tanking and healing for all your adventuring needs.

View the math behind these numbers.

2. Hexstaff

Art from the MTG card Paladin of Atonement by Lius Lasahido

This next build makes heavy use of everyone’s favorite do-gooder, the paladin. Easily the strongest martial option in 5E, a mono-classed paladin provides a flexible melee damage dealer with few weaknesses. Using the Oathbreaker paladin as a base, we multiclass into the Hexblade warlock to provide a powerful ranged attack, simplify stat requirements, and massively increase our damage and accuracy.

Though we only take a couple of levels of warlock, we get quite a bit of power from those levels. The Hex Warrior feature lets us dump strength to the minimum 13 multiclass requirement, making charisma this build’s god-stat. For early levels, we can use Hex and Hexblade’s Curse to boost our damage against tougher enemies, and at level 7 we combine Devil Sight and Darkness to make sure we both land our attacks and make sure the enemy doesn’t land theirs.

For those familiar with power gaming builds, this class combination is well known.* However, what makes this build interesting to me is its unusual weapon choice. Instead of using a greatsword or rapier, this build opts for the humble quarterstaff. While on paper this is a weaker weapon than the alternatives, the quarterstaff allows us to take advantage of the errata’d Polearm Mastery feat to gain access to a bonus action attack while still making use of a shield. Once the duelist fighting style is added in, we have a damage curve that is only slightly behind a two-handed build with Great Weapon Master while being significantly harder to hurt.

Build Summary

Ancestry 

Half-Elf – Drow: This ancestry gives us 4 stat bonuses, access to Eleven Accuracy, and an additional cast of Darkness once per day via the Drow Magic Feature. If your campaign ends before level 10, I recommend using the human variant, as it comes online more quickly.

Starting Stats

  • Str –14: Only used at level 1 and to multiclass.
  • Dex –10: Good save that we’d rather not have a negative modifier in.
  • Con – 16: Secondary stat, good for concentration saves and higher health total.
  • Int – 8: Dump stat.
  • Wis – 10: Good save that we’d rather not have a negative modifier in.
  • Cha17: This is our main stat; we raise it to 18 with Elven Accuracy later.

Level Split

  • 1 Paladin: We start with this class to gain access to heavy armor.
  • 1 Warlock – Hexblade: Now we can use charisma to attack and damage enemies, along with Hex, Hexblade’s Curse, and Shield.
  • 4 Paladin – Oathbreaker: Grants us access to the Darkness spell without taking 3 levels in warlock and gives us more damage. Oath of Ancients also works but the level split does change slightly.
  • 1 Warlock: Now we have Devil Sight.
  • 13 Paladin: This gives us a host of powerful abilities and spells like Aura of Protection, Improved Divine Smite, and Find Greater Steed.

ASI

  • Level 5 – Polearm Master: This the point where we swap from using a regular 1d8 weapon like the long sword or rapier to the quarterstaff. The extra attack is a great use of our bonus action and our flat modifiers means even 1d4 is impactful.
  • Level 10 – Elven Accuracy – Charisma: Not only does this feat bump our Charisma to 18, but also means all our advantaged attacks are rolling 3d20 instead of 2, increasing our chances for those sweet critical Smites.
  • Level 14 – Cha + 2
  • Level 18 – Warcaster: Advantage on concentration saves and we no longer have to do the weapon drop dance* to cast somatic spells.

Magic Items

While not needed for any of my builds, these are a few magical items that I believe help more than most. I am not including any of these items in my damage calculations.

  • +X Weapon: More damage is always good.
  • Staff Magi/Power/Striking: These powerful magic quarterstaves are amazing for this build, and our 2 levels of warlock means we can attune to all of them.
  • Gulthias Staff: This is without a doubt the best weapon for this build, if your GM allows you to always take it. Ten times per day, the staff lets you heal HP equal to the damage of your attack. With our flat damage boosts and Smite, this makes us almost unkillable. There isn’t even an action cost! The only downside is a wisdom save you almost can’t fail.

Level Breakdown

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
  • Level 1
    • 1 Paladin
  •  Features
    • Divine Sense
    • Lay on Hands
  • AC
    • Chain: 16
    • Shield: +2
    • Total: 18
  • HP
    • Hit Dice d10: +10
    • Con 16: +3
    • Total: 13
  • Saves
    • Str 14: +2
    • Dex 10: +0
    • Con 16: +3
    • Int 8: -1
    • Wis
      • Stat 10: +0
      • Prof: +2
      • Total: +2
    • Cha
      • Stat 17: +3
      • Prof: +2
      • Total: +5
  • Attack Bonus
    • Str
      • Proficiency: +2
      • Str 14: +2
      • Total: +4
  •  Damage Sources
    • Longsword: 1d8
    • Str 14: +2
    • Total
      • 1d8 + 2
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 5.10
      • 15: 3.48
      • 20: 1.85
      • 25: 0.55

A necessary evil of this build is that we have a weak level 1. We can’t use our charisma for attack and damage roles yet, so we’re just an underpowered paladin. Thankfully, our 18 armor class and Lay on Hands mean we can provide decent tanking and support.

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
  • Level 2
    • 1 Warlock
  •  Features
    • Pact Magic
    • Otherworldly Patron
      • Hexblade
        • Spell List
        • Hexblade’s Curse
        • Hexwarrior
  • Spells
    • Cantrip
      • Booming Blade
      • Eldritch Blast
    • 1st
      • Hex
      • Shield
  • AC
    • Chain: 16
    • Shield: +2
    • Shield Spell: +5
    • Min: 18
    • Max: 23
  • HP
    • Previous Level: 13
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Total: 22
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • Cha
      • Cha 16: +3
      • Proficiency: +2
      • Total: +5
  •  Damage Sources
    • Booming Blade
      • 1d8
    • Cha 16: +3
    • Hex: 1d6
    • Total
      • 1d8 + 1d6 + 2
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 9.20
      • 15: 6.45
      • 20: 3.70
      • 25: 0.95

Level 2 is where this build gets going. We gain the Booming Blade, Hex, and Shield spells, plus we swap out strength for charisma as our offensive stat. We also gain a short rest rechargeable spell slot, which is great for smiting.

Note: Though I have listed Booming Blade as a damage source for levels 2–4, I am not factoring in any additional damage, as it doesn’t gain the guaranteed 1d8 until level 5. The spell is included as a best-practice in a real game, since it costs you nothing and will sometimes deal damage if the enemy tries to move. I am also only adding Smite damage to critical hits, as I believe it is unrealistic to assume a paladin can Smite every attack.

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
  • Level 3
    • 2 Paladin
  •  Features
    • Divine Smite
    • Fighting Style
      • Dueling
    • Spellcasting
  • Spells
    • 1st
      • Bless
      • Cure Wounds
      • Heroism
      • Shield of Faith
      • Faerie Fire
        • once per day
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous Level: 22
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Total: 31
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  •  Damage Sources
    • Booming Blade
      • 1d8
    • Cha 16: +3
    • Dueling: +2
    • Hex: 1d6
    • Smite: 2d8
      • Crit Only
    • Total
      • 1d8 + 1d6 + 5
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 11.70
      • 15: 8.45
      • 20: 5.20
      • 25: 1.95
  • Level 4
    • 3 Paladin
  •  Features
    • Divine Health
    • Sacred Oath
      • Oathbreaker
        • Oathbreaker Spells
        • Channel Divinity
          • Control Undead
          • Dreadful Aspect
  • Spells
    • 1st
      • Hellish Rebuke
      • Inflict wounds
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous Level: 31
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Total: 40
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  •  Damage Sources
    • No Change
  • Average DPR vs
    • No Change
  • Level 5
    • 4 Paladin
  •  Features
    • ASI
      • Polearm Master
    •  Proficiency: 3
  • Spells
    • 1st
      • Command
    • 2nd
      • Darkness
        • once per day
  • AC
    • Plate: 18
    • Shield: +2
    • Shield Spell: +5
    • Min: 20
    • Max: 25
  •  HP
    • Previous Level: 40
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Total: 49
  • Saves
    • Str 14: +2
    • Dex 10: +0
    • Con 16: +3
    • Int 8: -1
    • Wis
      • Stat 10: +0
      • Prof: +3
      • Total: +3
    • Cha
      • Stat 17: +3
      • Prof: +3
      • Total: +6
  • Attack Bonus
    • Cha
      • Cha 16: +3
      • Proficiency: +3
      • Total: +6
  •  Damage Sources
    • 2x Cha 16: +6
    • 2x Dueling: +4
    • 2x Hex: 2d6
    • Polearm Master:
      • 1d4
    • Quarterstaff
      • 1d6
    • Smite: 2d8
      • Crit Only
    • Total
      • 1d6 + 1d4 + 2d6 + 10
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 22.00
      • 15: 16.25
      • 20: 10.50
      • 25: 4.75
  • Level 6
    • 5 Paladin
  •  Features
    • Extra Attack
  • Spells
    • 2nd
      • Find Steed
      • Replace Command with Aid
      • Crown of Madness
      • Darkness
  • AC
    • No Change
  •  HP
    • Previous Level: 49
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Total: 58
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • Cha
      • Cha 16: +3
      • Proficiency: +3
      • Total: +6
    • Warhorse: +6
  •  Damage Sources
    • 3x Cha 16: +9
    • 3x Dueling: +6
    • 3x Hex: 3d6
    • Polearm Master:
      • 1d4
    • 2x Quarterstaff
      • 2d6
    • Smite: 3d8
      • Crit Only
    • Warhorse: 2d6 + 4
    • Total
      • 2d6 + 1d4 + 3d6 + 15 + 2d6 + 4
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 44.50
      • 15: 33.00
      • 20: 21.50
      • 25: 10.00

We continue taking paladin levels 3–6 to get the Extra Attack feature. The normal level 5 power spike that martial classes get is bridged for this build by the Polearm Master extra attack. While it’s not quite as good as a full second attack, it gets the job done well enough until we get our actual Extra Attack.

Level 6 is a huge power spike for this build. We gain not only the Extra Attack feature, but the 2nd level Find Steed spell as well. The way your GM runs mounted combat will determine how much damage our warhorse will add. However, it’s adding a huge amount of mobility no matter what, increasing our 20 feet of movement to 60.

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
  • Level 7
    • 2 Warlock
  •  Features
    • Eldritch Invocation
      • Agonizing Blast
      • Devil Sight
  • Spells
    • 1st
      • Charm Person
  • AC
    • Plate: 18
    • Shield: +2
    • Shield Spell: +5
    • Darkness Spell
      • Enemies have disadvantage
    • Min: 20
    • Max: 25
  •  HP
    • Previous Level: 58
    • Hit Dice d8: +5
    • Con 16: +3
    • Total: 66
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    •  Cha
      • Cha 16: +3
      • Darkness Spell
        • Advantage
      • Proficiency: +3
      • Total
        • +6 with Advantage
    • Warhorse: +6
  • Damage Sources
    • 3x Cha 16: +9
    • 3x Dueling: +6
    • Polearm Master:
      • 1d4
    • 2x Quarterstaff
      • 3d6
    • Smite: 2d8
      • Crit Only
    • Warhorse: 2d6 + 4
    • Total
      • 2d6 + 1d4 + 15 + 2d6 + 4
  • Average DPR vs AC
    • AC 10: 42.47
    • AC 15: 36.35
    • AC: 20: 27.17
    • AC 25: 14.93

At level 7, we grab our second level of warlock. Thanks to Oathbreaker’s subclass spell list and our ancestry, we already have access to 3 casts of Darkness per long rest, and now we can see through it. This means all enemies who can’t see through Darkness attack us at disadvantage, we attack them at advantage, and any spell or ability that requires the caster to see their target can’t target us. Be aware that some players get frustrated when you bring a Darkness build to the table, so consider that when moving around the battlefield. Any martial character can attack an enemy blinded by darkness without disadvantage,* but friendly spell casters can’t target enemies in the darkness, so try and leave some targets outside of it for them to attack. A lesser addition is that of Agonizing Blast, giving us a potent ranged option for when the enemies are outside of bopping distance.

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
  • Level 8
    • 6 Paladin
  •  Features
    • Aura of Protection
  • Spells
    • 2nd
      • Lesser Restoration
  • AC
    • No Change
  •  HP
    • Previous Level: 67
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Total: 75
  • Saves
    • Str
      • Aura: +3
      • Stat 14: +2
      • Total: +5
    • Dex
      • Aura: +3
      • Stat 10: +0
      • Total: +3
    • Con
      • Aura: +3
      • Stat 16: +3
      • Total: +6
    • Int
      • Aura: +3
      • Stat 8: -1
      • Total: +2
    • Wis
      • Aura: +3
      • Prof: +3
      • Stat 10: +0
      • Total: +6
    • Cha
      • Aura: +3
      • Prof: +3
      • Stat 17: +3
      • Total: +9
  • Attack Bonus
    •  No Change
  • Damage Sources
    • No Change
  • Average DPR vs AC
    • Change
  • Level 9
    • 7 Paladin
  •  Features
    • Aura of Hate
    • Proficiency: 4
  • AC
    • No Change
  •  HP
    • Previous Level: 76
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Total: 84
  • Saves
    • Str
      • Aura: +3
      • Stat 14: +2
      • Total: +5
    • Dex
      • Aura: +3
      • Stat 10: +0
      • Total: +3
    • Con
      • Aura: +3
      • Stat 16: +3
      • Total: +6
    • Int
      • Aura: +3
      • Stat 8: -1
      • Total: +2
    • Wis
      • Aura: +3
      • Prof: +4
      • Stat 10: +0
      • Total: +7
    • Cha
      • Aura: +3
      • Prof: +4
      • Stat 17: +3
      • Total: +10
  • Attack Bonus
    •  Cha
      • Cha 16: +3
      • Darkness Spell
        • Advantage
      • Proficiency: +4
      • Total
        • +7 with Advantage
    • Warhorse: +6
  • Damage Sources
    • 3x Aura of Hate
      • +9
    • 3x Cha 16: +9
    • 3x Dueling: +6
    • Polearm Master:
      • 1d4
    • 2x Quarterstaff
      • 2d6
    • Smite: 3d8
      • Crit Only
    • Warhorse: 2d6 + 4
    • Total
      • 2d6 + 1d4 + 24 + 2d6 + 4
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 51.69
      • 15: 45.17
      • 20: 34.46
      • 25: 19.57
  • Level 10
    • 8 Paladin
  •  Features
    • ASI
      • Elven Accuracy
        • Charisma +1
  • AC
    • No Change
  •  HP
    • Previous Level: 85
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Total: 93
  • Saves
    • Str
      • Aura: +4
      • Stat 14: +2
      • Total: +6
    • Dex
      • Aura: +4
      • Stat 10: +0
      • Total: +4
    • Con
      • Aura: +4
      • Stat 16: +3
      • Total: +7
    • Int
      • Aura: +4
      • Stat 8: -1
      • Total: +3
    • Wis
      • Aura: +4
      • Prof: +4
      • Stat 10: +0
      • Total: +8
    • Cha
      • Aura: +4
      • Prof: +4
      • Stat 18: +4
      • Total: +12
  • Attack Bonus
    •  Cha
      • Cha 18: +4
      • Darkness Spell
        • Elven Accuracy
        • Double Advantage
      • Proficiency: +4
      • Total
        • +8 with Double Advantage
    • Warhorse: +6
  • Damage Sources
    • 3x Aura of Hate
      • +12
    • 3x Cha 18: +12
    • 3x Dueling: +6
    • Polearm Master:
      • 1d4
    • 2x Quarterstaff
      • 2d6
    • Smite: 3d8
      • Crit Only
    • Warhorse: 2d6 + 4
  •  Total
    • 2d6 + 1d4 + 30 + 2d6 + 4
  •  Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 62.10
      • 15: 58.29
      • 20: 50.04
      • 25: 33.63

Levels 8–10 consist of power spike after power spike for this build. Aura of Protection at 8 is one of the best class features in the game, granting both us and any friendly creature within 10 feet a bonus to all saves equal to our charisma mod. This is especially good for our paladin/warlock multiclass, as we can raise our charisma without sacrificing damage output.

Aura of Hate at 9 is a bit more offensive in nature, granting us and any undead or fiends within 10 feet of us bonus damage on melee attacks equal to our charisma mod. It’s important to note that this includes enemies as well as friendlies, so be careful when facing down your local vampire lord. Despite this weakness, adding another flat modifier to our already sizable bonus grants us consistently high damage numbers.

Lastly, we gain the Elven Accuracy feat at 10, bumping our charisma to 18 and granting us improved advantage.* Seeing as Darkness means most of our attacks are made with advantage, this is another major boost to damage, especially against high AC targets.

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
  • Level 11
    • 9 Paladin
  • Spells
    • 3rd
      • Replace Magic Weapon with Aura of Vitality
      • Replace Protection from Poison with Revivify
      • Animate Dead
      • Bestow Curse
  • AC
    • No Change
  •  HP
    • Previous Level: 94
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Total: 102
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  • Damage Sources
    • 3x Aura of Hate
      • +12
    • 3x Cha 18: +12
    • 3x Dueling: +6
    • Polearm Master
      • 1d4
    • 2x Quarterstaff
      • 2d6
    • x8 Skeletons
      • Heavy Crossbow
      • 8d10 + 16
    • Smite: 3d8
      • Crit Only
    • Warhorse: 2d6 + 4
  •  Total
    • 2d6 + 1d4 + 30 + 2d6 + 4 + 8d10 + 16
  •  Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 109.30
      • 15: 90.49
      • 20: 67.24
      •  25: 38.83
  • Level 12
    • 10 Paladin
  •  Features
    • Aura of Courage
  • Spells
    • 3rd
      • Dispel Magic
  • AC
    • No Change
  •  HP
    • Previous Level: 103
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Total: 111
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  • Damage Sources
    • No Change
  •  Total
    • No Change
  •  Average DPR vs
    • No Change
  • Level 13
    • 11 Paladin
  •  Features
    • Improved Divine Smite
    • Proficiency: 5
  • AC
    • No Change
  •  HP
    • Previous Level: 112
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Total: 120
  • Saves
    • Str
      • Aura: +4
      • Stat 14: +2
      • Total: +6
    • Dex
      • Aura: +4
      • Stat 10: +0
      • Total: +4
    • Con
      • Aura: +4
      • Stat 16: +3
      • Total: +7
    • Int
      • Aura: +4
      • Stat 8: -1
      • Total: +3
    • Wis
      • Aura: +4
      • Prof: +5
      • Stat 10: +0
      • Total: +9
    • Cha
      • Aura: +4
      • Prof: +5
      • Stat 18: +4
      • Total: +13
  • Attack Bonus
    • Cha
      • Cha 18: +4
      • Darkness Spell
        • Elven Accuracy
        • Double Advantage
      • Proficiency: +4
      • Total
        • +9 with Double Advantage
    • Warhorse: +6
  • Damage Sources
    • 3x Aura of Hate
      • +12
    • 3x Cha 16: +12
    • 3x Dueling: +6
    • 3x Improved Divine Smite
      • 3d8
    • Polearm Master
      • 1d4
    • 2x Quarterstaff
      • 2d6
    • x12 Skeletons
      • Heavy Crossbow
      • 12d10 + 24
    • Smite: 3d8
      • Crit Only
    • Warhorse
      • 2d6 + 4
    • Total
      • 2d6 + 1d4 + 3d8 + 30 + 2d6 + 4 12d10 + 24
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 148.33
      • 15: 122.25
      • 20: 91.21
      • 25: 54.72

Speaking of power spikes, level 11 gives the biggest one of all: Animate Dead. Another offering from the Oathbreaker spell list, Animate Dead lets us convert the normally lackluster 3rd level paladin spell slots into an eventual total of 4 skeletons apiece.* At this point, our Hexstaff has their own entourage of skeletal and equine allies, providing transportation and ranged support as we move into close combat for a good bop. Level 13’s Improved Divine Smite is another decent boost, adding 3d8 per round from our 3 attacks.

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
  • Level 14
    • 12 Paladin
  • Features
    • ASI
      • +2 Charisma
  • Spells
    • 3rd
      • Remove Curse
  • AC
    • No Change
  •  HP
    • Previous Level: 121
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Total: 129
  • Saves
    • Str
      • Aura: +5
      • Stat 14: +2
      • Total: +7
    • Dex
      • Aura: +5
      • Stat 10: +0
      • Total: +5
    • Con
      • Aura: +5
      • Stat 16: +3
      • Total: +8
    • Int
      • Aura: +5
      • Stat 8: -1
      • Total: +4
    • Wis
      • Aura: +5
      • Prof: +5
      • Stat 10: +0
      • Total: +10
    • Cha
      • Aura: +5
      • Prof: +5
      • Stat 20: +5
      • Total: +15
  • Attack Bonus
    • Cha
      • Cha 20: +5
      • Darkness Spell
        • Elven Accuracy
        • Double Advantage
      • Proficiency: +5
      • Total
        • +10 with Double Advantage
    • Warhorse: +6
  • Damage Sources
    • 3x Aura of Hate
      • +15
    • 3x Cha 20: +15
    • 3x Dueling: +6
    • 3x Improved Divine Smite
      • 3d8
    • Polearm Master
      • 1d4
    • 2x Quarterstaff
      • 2d6
    • x12 Skeletons
      • Heavy Crossbow
      • 12d10 + 24
    • Smite: 3d8
      • Crit Only
    • Warhorse
      • 2d6 + 4
  • Total
    • 2d6 + 1d4 + 3d8 + 36 + 2d6 + 4 + 12d10 + 24
  •  Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 154.33
      • 15: 128.61
      • 20: 98.46
      • 25: 62.85
  • Level 15
    • 13 Paladin
  • Spells
    • 4th
      • Blight
      • Confusion
      • Replace Find Steed with Find Greater Steed
      • Replace Remove Curse with Death Ward
  • AC
    • No Change
  •  HP
    • Previous Level: 129
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Total: 138
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • Cha
      • Cha 20: +5
      • Darkness Spell
        • Elven Accuracy
        • Double Advantage
      • Proficiency: +5
      • Total
        • +10 with Double Advantage
    • Griffon: +6
  • Damage Sources
    • 3x Aura of Hate
      • +15
    • 3x Cha 20: +15
    • 3x Dueling: +6
    • Griffon
      •  Beak: 1d8 + 4
      • Claws: 2d6 +4
      • Total
        • 1d8 + 2d6 + 8
    • 3x Improved Divine Smite
      • 3d8
    • Polearm Master
      • 1d4
    • 2x Quarterstaff
      • 2d6
    • x12 Skeletons
      • Heavy Crossbow
      • 12d10 + 24
    • Smite: 3d8
      • Crit Only
    • Total
      • 2d6 + 1d4 + 3d8 + 36 + 2d6 + 1d8 + 8 + 12d10 + 24
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 161.78
      • 15: 133.94
      • 20: 101.66
      • 25: 63.92
  • Level 16
    • 14 Paladin
    • Features
      • Cleansing Touch
  • Spells
    • 4th
      • Banishment
  • AC
    • No Change
  •  HP
    • Previous Level: 138
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Total: 147
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  • Damage Sources
    • No Change
  • Average DPR vs
    • No Change

Levels 14–16 sees our charisma raised to 20 and the spell Find Greater Steed. Now instead of the reasonably good warhorse we gain the amazing griffon. Permanent flight alongside a chunky 59 HP and decent damage output? Yes please. Since our mount plays such an important role in our build, we are saving our 4th-level slot for that spell instead of more skeletons.

Cleansing Touch is our 16th-level feature, and while not damage oriented like other features I’ve been highlighting, being able to end spell effects without a roll can be very useful.

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
  • Level 17
    • 13 Paladin
  • Features
    • Proficiency: 6
    •  Supernatural Resistance
  • AC
    • No Change
  •  HP
    • Previous Level: 147
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Supernatural Resistance
    • Total: 156
      • Resistance to Non-Magical Bludgeoning, Piercing, and Slashing Damage
  • Saves
    • Str
      • Aura: +5
      • Stat 14: +2
      • Total: +7
    • Dex
      • Aura: +5
      • Stat 10: +0
      • Total: +5
    • Con
      • Aura: +5
      • Stat 16: +3
      • Total: +8
    • Int
      • Aura: +5
      • Stat 8: -1
      • Total: +4
    • Wis
      • Aura: +5
      • Prof: +6
      • Stat 10: +0
      • Total: +11
    • Cha
      • Aura: +5
      • Prof: +6
      • Stat 20: +5
      • Total: +16
  • Attack Bonus
    • Cha
      • Cha 20: +5
      • Darkness Spell
        • Elven Accuracy
        • Double Advantage
      • Proficiency: +6
      • Total
        • +11 with Double Advantage
    • Griffon: +6
  • Damage Sources
    • 3x Aura of Hate
      • +15
    • 3x Cha 20: +15
    • 3x Dueling: +6
    • Griffon
      •  Beak: 1d8 + 4
      • Claws: 2d6 +4
      • Total
        • 1d8 + 2d6 + 8
    • 3x Improved Divine Smite
      • 3d8
    • Polearm Master
      • 1d4
    • 2x Quarterstaff
      • 2d6
    • x18 Skeletons
      • Heavy Crossbow
      • 18d10 + 36
    • Smite: 3d8
      • Crit Only
    • Total
      • 2d6 + 1d4 + 3d8 + 36 + 2d6 + 1d8 + 8 + 18d10 + 36
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 197.18
      • 15: 158.36
      • 20: 116.16
      • 25: 71.86
  • Level 18
    • 16 Paladin
  • Features
    • ASI
      • Warcaster
  • Spells
    • 4th
      • Aura of Life
  • AC
    • No Change
  •  HP
    • Previous Level: 156
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Supernatural Resistance
    • Total: 165
      • Resistance to Non-Magical Bludgeoning, Piercing, and Slashing Damage
  • Saves
    • Str
      • Aura: +5
      • Stat 14: +2
      • Total: +7
    • Dex
      • Aura: +5
      • Stat 10: +0
      • Total: +5
    • Con
      • Aura: +5
      • Stat 16: +3
      • Advantage on concentration saves
      • Total: +8
    • Int
      • Aura: +5
      • Stat 8: -1
      • Total: +4
    • Wis
      • Aura: +5
      • Prof: +6
      • Stat 10: +0
      • Total: +11
    • Cha
      • Aura: +5
      • Prof: +6
      • Stat 20: +5
      • Total: +16
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  • Damage Sources
    • No Change
  • Average DPR vs
    •  No Change
  • Level 19
    • 17 Paladin
  • Spells
    • 5th
      • Replace Aura of Life with Holy Weapon
      • Replace Banishment with Raise Dead
      • Contagion
      • Dominate Person
  • AC
    • No Change
  •  HP
    • Previous Level: 165
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Supernatural Resistance
    • Total: 174
      • Resistance to Non-Magical Bludgeoning, Piercing, and Slashing Damage
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  • Damage Sources
    • 3x Aura of Hate
      • +15
    • 3x Cha 20: +15
    • 3x Dueling: +6
    • Griffon
      •  Beak: 1d8 + 4
      • Claws: 2d6 +4
      • Total
        • 1d8 + 2d6 + 8
    • 3x Improved Divine Smite
      • 3d8
    • Polearm Master
      • 1d4
    • 2x Quarterstaff
      • 2d6
    • x26 Skeletons
      • Heavy Crossbow
      • 26d10 + 52
    • Smite: 3d8
      • Crit Only
    • Total
      • 2d6 + 1d4 + 3d8 + 36 + 2d6 + 1d8 + 8 + 26d10 + 52
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 244.38
      • 15: 190.56
      • 20: 133.36
      • 25: 77.06
  • Level 20
    • 18 Paladin
    • Features
      • Aura Improvements
  • AC
    • No Change
  •  HP
    • Previous Level: 174
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 16: +3
    • Supernatural Resistance
    • Total: 183
      • Resistance to Non-Magical Bludgeoning, Piercing, and Slashing Damage
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  • Damage Sources
    • No Change
  • Average DPR vs
    • No Change

Rounding this out, we have levels 17–20. Though not quite as big as earlier spikes, we do have some significant power increases here. The biggest of these is the level 17 feature Supernatural Resistance, granting us resistance to all non-magical slashing, piercing, and bludgeoning damage. This type of ability is good even at higher levels, as many high CR monsters deal non-magical damage. Alongside this increase in toughness come the Warcaster feat and yet more skeletons, ensuring we keep concentration and have even more crossbows to pepper our enemies with.

Even without summons boosting our damage to absurd levels, this Hexstaff build is a formidable force on the battlefield. The combination of our quarterstaff, Polearm Master, and Duelist Fighting Style gives us the defensive bonuses from sword and board while dealing damage similar to two-handed, dual-wielding, and crossbow builds.

This build is also very hard to hurt. Paladins have unmatched saves, with our weakest being a +4 to intelligence. As for physical attacks, we will almost always be shrouded in darkness, forcing our enemies to attack with disadvantage. If an enemy can see through our Darkness spell, we can simply use our concentration for spells like Hex, Shield of Faith, or Holy Weapon, depending on our level and the situation.

Even at range, this build holds its own, as Eldritch Blast plus the Agonizing Blast Invocation means we have a scaling ranged attack that at level 17 deals 4d10 + 20. While this isn’t as strong as we are in melee, it’s nothing to sneeze at, and it’s the perfect gap-filler attack while we attempt to close with the enemy. Altogether, this is one of my favorite builds and comes the closest of any I’ve made to having no substantial weaknesses. I highly encourage everyone reading to try this one out, if only to see the confusion on your party’s face when your paladin wanders in wielding a stick.

View the math behind these numbers.

3. Wardlock

Art from the MTG card Teyo the Shieldmage, by Magali Villenuve

Getting hit is usually viewed as a bad thing in 5E. You take damage, have to make concentration saves, and often suffer some secondary effects like that annoying paralysis ability ghasts have for some reason.* For this build, I’d like to turn getting hit into a positive for us and a big negative for our opponent. To do this, we take the uncommon multiclass of warlock and wizard.

Most of our levels are taken up by the Abjuration wizard subclass, with a small dip into warlock and the omnipresent Hexblade subclass. Abjuration wizards have a feature called Arcane Ward that lets us generate a ward whenever we cast an abjuration spell, giving us extra HP. Normally this ward is somewhat hard to recharge as it requires the wizard to cast additional abjuration spells to fill its HP pool. That’s where warlock comes in, using the Armor of Shadows Eldritch Invocation to cast the level 1 abjuration spell Mage Armor at will.

Alongside our rechargeable ward, this warlock dip grants us the solid Eldritch Blast/Hex combo and Armor of Agathys, a level 1 warlock spell that has a powerful synergy with the Arcane Ward feature. Armor of Agathys grants us 5 temporary HP per spell slot level that was used to cast it. Any enemy that lands a melee attack on us while we have that temporary HP suffers 5 damage multiplied by the spell slot level used. Normally, the problem with this spell is that it’s hard to maintain this temporary HP for more than 1 or 2 hits, leaving it generally viewed as an inefficient use of high-level spell slots. This problem is solved by Arcane Ward, as its HP pool is targeted before the temporary HP from Armor of Agathys while still triggering the spell’s retaliatory damage. This combination of spells and features is the way we punish any enemy that attacks us in melee, returning up to 45 damage for every hit an enemy lands on us.

Build Summary

Ancestry 

Human – Variant: As with any build interested in feats, this one looks to variant human. For this build, we use our free feat to improve our defenses with Heavily Armored.

Starting Stats

  • Str – 9: Dump stat, only improved by our starting feat.
  • Dex – 8: Dump stat.
  • Con – 16: With our small hit dice, we need all the HP we can get, and improving our concentration saves is useful too.
  • Int – 14: Makes our wizard spells and our Arcane Ward stronger.
  • Wis – 10: All we could afford.
  • Cha16: This is our primary stat, fueling both our Eldritch Blast and any attacks made with our Pact Weapon. If you want to focus more on offensive wizard spells, I recommend flipping this stat score with intelligence.

Level Split

  • 2 Warlock – Hexblade : This 2 level dip grants us our main damage source, the proficiencies we need to have good AC, and two of the three key features/spells this build revolves around.
  • 18 Wizard – Abjuration: Going this far into wizard means we gain access to the entirety of their incredible spell list and start scaling our Arcane Ward as soon as possible.

ASI

  • Level 1 (ancestry) – Heavily Armored: As this character intends to be on the front line, we need to have decent AC. Just because we punish people for hitting us doesn’t mean we want every attack to land. Thankfully, Hexblade grants us medium armor proficiency, meaning we can upgrade that to heavy armor through our human ancestry feat.
  • Level 6 – War Caster: Concentration saves are always important, so making sure we can pass those reliably is very important.
  • Level 10 – Cha + 2
  • Level 14 – Cha + 2
  • Level 18 – Resilient (con): Makes our concentration saves even better.

Magic Items

While not needed for any of my builds, these are a few magical items that I believe help more than most. I am not including any of these items in my damage calculations.

  • +X Weapon/Armor: Improving our AC and damage when we use Booming Blade is always useful.
  • Rod of the Pact Keeper: Makes our Eldritch Blast more likely to hit and grants us an additional warlock spell slot.
  • Staff of Power/Magi/Striking: All very powerful quarterstaves that would be huge boosts to the build’s power if we can acquire them.
  • Headband of Intellect: This build is a wizard with low int. If we can find this item, it’ll make our ward and spells stronger.

Level Breakdown

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
  • Level 1
    • 1 Warlock
  •  Features
    • Pact Magic
    • Otherworldly Patron
      • Hexblade
        • Expanded Spell List
        • Hexblade’s Curse
        • Hex Warrior
    • Spells
      • Cantrip
        • Booming Blade
        • Eldritch Blast
      • 1st
        • Hex
        • Shield
  • AC
    • Chain: 16
    • Shield: +2
    • Shield Spell: + 5
    • Total
      • Min: 18
      • Max: 23
  • HP
    • Hit Dice d8: +8
    • Con 16: +3
    • Total: 11
  • Saves
    • Str 9: -1
    • Dex 8: -1
    • Con 16: +3
    • Int
      • Stat 14: +2
      • Prof +2
      • Total: +4
    • Wis
      • Stat 10: +0
      • Prof +2
      • Total: +2
    • Cha 16: +3
  • Attack Bonus
    • Cha
      • Proficiency: 2
      • Cha 16: +3
      • Total: +5
  •  Damage Sources
    • Booming Blade
    • Cha 16: +3
    • Longsword: 1d8
    • Hex: 1d6
    • Total
      • 1d8 + 1d6 + 3
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 9.20
      • 15: 6.45
      • 20: 3.70
      • 25: 0.95
  • Level 2
    • 2 Warlock
  • Features
    • Eldritch Invocation
      • Agonizing Blast
      • Armor of Shadows
  • Spells
    •  1st
      • Armor of Agathys
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous level: 11
    • Hit Dice d8: +5
    • Con 16: +3
    • Total: 19
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  • Damage Sources
    • Eldritch Blast
      • Agonizing Blast
      • 1d10 + 3
    • Hex: 1d6
    • Total
      • 1d10 + 1d6 + 3
  • Average DPR vs
    • AC
      • 10: 10.05
      • 15: 7.05
      • 20: 4.05
      • 25: 1.05

These first 2 levels are where we lay the groundwork for the build going forward. We get all the proficiencies we need, our standard attack options in Eldritch Blast and Booming Blade, and the Armor of Agathys spell.

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
  • Level 3
    • 1 Wizard
  • Features
    • Arcane Recovery
    • Spellcasting
  • Spells
    • Cantrip:
      • Light
      • Mage Hand
      • Mending
    • 1st
      • Absorb Elements
      • Comprehend Languages
      • Detect Magic
      • Find Familiar
      • Identify
      • Magic Missile
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous level: 19
    • Hit Dice d6: 4
    • Con 16: +3
    • Total: 26
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • Cha
      • Proficiency: 2
      • Cha 16: +3
      • Total: +5
    • Find Familiar
      • Help Action
  • Damage Sources
    • Eldritch Blast
      • Agonizing Blast
      • 1d10 + 3
    • Hex: 1d6
    • Total
      • 1d10 + 1d6 + 3
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 12.40
      • 15: 10.45
      • 20: 7.00
      • 25: 2.05
  • Level 4
    • 2 Wizard
  • Features
    • Arcane Tradition
      • School of Abjuration
        • Abjuration Savant
        • Arcane Ward
  • Spells
    • 1st
      • Tenser’s Floating Disk
      • Unseen Servant
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous level: 26
    • Hit Dice d6: 4
    • Con 16: +3
    • Arcane Ward: 6
    • Armor of Agathys: 5
    • Total: 33 + 11
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  • Damage Sources
    • Armor of Agathys
      • 1st: 5
    • Eldritch Blast
      • Agonizing Blast
      • 1d10 + 3
    • Hex: 1d6
    • Total
      • 1d10 + 1d6 + 3 + 5
  • Average DPR vs
    • AC
      • 10: 17.40
      • 15: 15.45
      • 20: 12.00
      • 25: 7.05

Now that we’ve picked up Arcane Ward, we can start reliably triggering Armor of Agathys multiple times per cast. For the purpose of damage calculations, I am assuming the retaliation damage will trigger once per round. A nice side effect of stacking Arcane Ward with Armor of Agathys is that our wizard/warlock now has more HP than a barbarian of the same level, making us an excellent tank. Our damage also receives a small boost, as our familiar can use the help action to grant us advantage on one of our attack rolls per round.

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
  • Level 5
    • 3 Wizard
  • Features
    • Proficiency: 3
  • Spells
    • 2nd
      • Mirror Image
      • Misty Step
  • AC
    • Plate: 18
    • Shield: +2
    • Shield Spell: + 5
    • Total
      • Min: 20
      • Max: 25
  • HP
    • Previous level: 33
    • Hit Dice d6: 4
    • Con 16: +3
    • Arcane Ward: 8
    • Armor of Agathys: 10
    • Total: 40 + 18
  • Saves
    • Str 9: -1
    • Dex 8: -1
    • Con 16: +3
    • Int
      • Stat 14: +2
      • Prof +3
      • Total: +5
    • Wis
      • Stat 10: +0
      • Prof +3
      • Total: +3
    • Cha 16: +3
  • Attack Bonus
    • Cha
      • Proficiency
        • +3
      • Cha 16: +3
      • Total: +6
    • Find Familiar
      • Help Action
  • Damage Sources
    • Armor of Agathys
      • 2nd: 10
    • Eldritch Blast x2
      • Agonizing Blast
      • 2d10 + 6
    • Hex: 2d6
    • Total
      • 2d10 + 2d6 + 6 + 10
  • Average DPR vs
    • AC
      • 10: 33.2
      • 15: 28.61
      • 20: 22.46
      • 25: 14.81
  • Level 6
    • 4 Wizard
  • Features
    •  ASI
      • Warcaster
  • Spells
    • 2nd
      • Dragon’s Breath
      • See Invisibility
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous level: 40
    • Hit Dice d6: 4
    • Con 16: +3
    • Arcane Ward: 10
    • Armor of Agathys: 10
    • Total: 47 + 20
  • Saves
    • Str 9: -1
    • Dex 8: -1
    • Con 16: +3
      • Advantage on Concentration
    • Int
      • Stat 14: +2
      • Prof +3
      • Total: +5
    • Wis
      • Stat 10: +0
      • Prof +3
      • Total: +3
    • Cha 16: +3
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  • Damage Sources
    • No Change
  • Average DPR vs
    • No Change
  • Level 7
    • 5 Wizard
  • Spells
    • 3rd
      • Counter Spell
      • Haste
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous level: 47
    • Hit Dice d6: 4
    • Con 16: +3
    • Arcane Ward: 12
    • Armor of Agathys: 15
    • Total: 54 + 27
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  • Damage Sources
    • Armor of Agathys
      • 3rd: 15
    • Eldritch Blast x2
      • Agonizing Blast
      • 2d10 + 6
    • Hex: 2d6
    • Total
      • 2d10 + 2d6 + 6 + 15
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 38.26
      • 15: 33.61
      • 20: 27.46
      • 25: 19.81
  • Level 8
    • 6 Wizard
  • Features
    •  Projected Ward
  • Spells
    • 3rd
      • Fireball
      • Leomund’s Tiny Hut
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous level: 54
    • Hit Dice d6: 4
    • Con 16: +3
    • Arcane Ward: 14
    • Armor of Agathys: 15
    • Total: 61 + 29
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  • Damage Sources
    • No Change
  • Average DPR vs
    •  No Change
  • Level 9
    • 7 Wizard
  • Features
    • Proficiency: 4
  • Spells
    • 3rd
      • Phantom Steed
    •  4th
      • Polymorph
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous level: 61
    • Hit Dice d6: 4
    • Con 16: +3
    • Arcane Ward: 16
    • Armor of Agathys: 20
    • Total: 68 + 36
  • Saves
    • Str 9: -1
    • Dex 8: -1
    • Con 16: +3
      • Advantage on Concentration
    • Int
      • Stat 14: +2
      • Prof +4
      • Total: +6
    • Wis
      • Stat 10: +0
      • Prof +4
      • Total: +4
    • Cha 16: +3
  • Attack Bonus
    • Cha
      • Proficiency
        • +4
      • Cha 16: +3
      • Total: +7
    • Find Familiar
      • Help Action
  • Damage Sources
    • Armor of Agathys
      • 4th: 20
    • Eldritch Blast x2
      • Agonizing Blast
      • 2d10 + 6
    • Hex: 2d6
    • Total
      • 2d10 + 2d6 + 6 + 20
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 44.01
      • 15: 39.66
      • 20: 33.81
      • 25: 26.46
  • Level 10
    • 8 Wizard
  • Features
    • ASI
      • +2 Cha
  • Spells
    • 3rd
      • Dispel Magic
      • Remove Curse
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous level: 68
    • Hit Dice d6: 4
    • Con 16: +3
    • Arcane Ward: 18
    • Armor of Agathys: 20
    • Total: 75 + 38
  • Saves
    • Str 9: -1
    • Dex 8: -1
    • Con 16: +3
      • Advantage on Concentration
    • Int
      • Stat 14: +2
      • Prof +4
      • Total: +6
    • Wis
      • Stat 10: +0
      • Prof +4
      • Total: +4
    • Cha 18: +4
  • Attack Bonus
    • Cha
      • Proficiency
        • +3
      • Cha 18: +4
      • Total: +7
    • Find Familiar
      • Help Action
  • Damage Sources
    • Armor of Agathys
      • 4th: 20
    • Eldritch Blast x2
      • Agonizing Blast
      • 2d10 + 8
    • Hex: 2d6
    • Total
      • 2d10 + 2d6 + 8 + 20
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 46.65
      • 15: 42.26
      • 20: 36.24
      • 25: 28.61
  • Level 11
    • 9 Wizard
  • Spells
    •  5th
      • Animate Objects
      • Rary’s Telepathic Bond
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous level: 75
    • Hit Dice d6: 4
    • Con 16: +3
    • Arcane Ward: 20
    • Armor of Agathys: 25
    • Total: 82 + 45
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    •  Cha
      • Proficiency
        • +3
      • Cha 18: +4
      • Total: +7
    • Find Familiar
      • Help Action
  • Damage Sources
    • Animate Object
      • x10 Tiny
      • 10d4 + 40
    • Armor of Agathys
      • 5th: 25
    • Eldritch Blast x3
      • Agonizing Blast
      • 3d10 + 12
    • Total
      • 3d10 + 10d4 + 12 + 40 + 25
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 116.61
      • 15: 94.78
      • 20: 71.76
      • 25: 47.56

Levels 5–11 see us steadily adding to our Arcane Ward and Armor of Agathys HP. Spells like Fireball, Haste, Polymorph, and Animate Objects make excellent additions to our spell list, with the concentration spells acting as alternatives to Hex in harder fights.

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
  • Level 12
    • 10 Wizard
  • Features
    • Improved Abjuration
  • Spells
    • 1st
      • Shield
    • 5th
      • Wall of Force
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous level: 82
    • Hit Dice d6: 4
    • Con 16: +3
    • Arcane Ward: 22
    • Armor of Agathys: 25
    • Total: 89 + 47
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  • Damage Sources
    • No Change
  • Average DPR vs
    • No Change
  • Level 13
    • 11 Wizard
  • Features
    • Proficiency: 5
  • Spells
    • 6th
      • Contingency
      • Tenser’s Transformation
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous level: 89
    • Hit Dice d6: 4
    • Con 16: +3
    • Arcane Ward: 24
    • Armor of Agathys: 30
    • Total: 96 + 54
  • Saves
    • Str 9: -1
    • Dex 8: -1
    • Con 16: +3
      • Advantage on Concentration
    • Int
      • Stat 14: +2
      • Prof +5
      • Total: +7
    • Wis
      • Stat 10: +0
      • Prof +5
      • Total: +5
    • Cha 18: +4
  • Attack Bonus
    •  Cha
      • Proficiency
        • +5
      • Cha 18: +4
      • Total: +9
    • Find Familiar
      • Help Action
  • Damage Sources
    • Animate Object
      • x10 Tiny
      • 10d4 + 40
    • Armor of Agathys
      • 6th: 30
    • Eldritch Blast x3
      • Agonizing Blast
      • 3d10 + 12
    • Total
      • 3d10 + 10d4 + 12 + 40 + 30
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 132.45
      • 5: 110.22
      • 20: 85.03
      • 25: 58.21
  • Level 14
    • 12 Wizard
  • Features
    • ASI
      • +2 Cha
  • Spells
    • 6th
      • Globe of Invulnerability
      • True Seeing
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous level: 96
    • Hit Dice d6: 4
    • Con 16: +3
    • Arcane Ward: 26
    • Armor of Agathys: 30
    • Total: 103 + 56
  • Saves
    • Str 9: -1
    • Dex 8: -1
    • Con 16: +3
      • Advantage on Concentration
    • Int
      • Stat 14: +2
      • Prof +5
      • Total: +7
    • Wis
      • Stat 10: +0
      • Prof +5
      • Total: +5
    • Cha 20: +5
  • Attack Bonus
    •  Cha
      • Proficiency
        • +5
      • Cha 18: +5
      • Total: +10
    • Find Familiar
      • Help Action
  • Damage Sources
    • Animate Object
      • x10 Tiny
      • 10d4 + 40
    • Armor of Agathys
      • 6th: 30
    • Eldritch Blast x3
      • Agonizing Blast
      • 3d10 + 15
    • Total
      • 3d10 + 10d4 + 15 + 40 + 30
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 135.34
      • 15: 114.37
      • 20: 88.84
      • 25: 61.57

Levels 12–14 have us maxing out our charisma and gaining the Tenser’s Transformation spell. While not a spell we’ll always want to use, the extra attack, on hit damage, and temporary HP can be quite useful if we need some extra bulk for our character. If you do use this spell, remember that temporary HP cannot stack, and Armor of Agathys’ damage only triggers when the temporary HP it generates is active, so either use Tenser’s when Armor of Agathys is down or be ready to choose which amount of temporary HP you want to use.

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
  • Level 15
    • 13 Wizard
  • Spells
    • 7th
      • Force Cage
      • Simulacrum
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous level: 103
    • Hit Dice d6: 4
    • Con 16: +3
    • Arcane Ward: 28
    • Armor of Agathys: 35
    • Total: 110 + 63
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  • Damage Sources
    • Animate Object
      • x10 Tiny
      • 10d4 + 40
    • Armor of Agathys
      • 7th: 35
    • Eldritch Blast x3
      • Agonizing Blast
      • 3d10 + 15
    • Simulacrum
      • Double Damage
    • Total
      • 6d10 + 20d4 + 30 + 80 + 70
    •  Average DPR vs
      •  AC
        • 10: 280.68
        • 15: 238.73
        • 20: 187.68
        • 25: 133.14
  • Level 16
    • 14 Wizard
  • Features
    • Spell Resistance
  • Spells
    • 7th
      • Etherealness
      • Teleport
  • AC
    • Plate: 18
    • Shield: +2
    • Shield Spell: + 5
    • Spell Resistance
      • Resistance to spell damage
    • Total
      • Min: 20
      • Max: 25
  • HP
    • Previous level: 110
    • Hit Dice d6: 4
    • Con 16: +3
    • Arcane Ward: 30
    • Armor of Agathys: 35
    • Total: 117 + 65
  • Saves
    • Saves
      • Str 9: -1
      • Dex 8: -1
      • Con 16: +3
      • Int 14: +2
      • Wis 10: +0
      • Cha 18: +4
      • Spell Resistance
        • Advantage on spell saves
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  • Damage Sources
    • No Change
  • Average DPR vs
    • No Change
  • Level 17
    • 15 Wizard
  • Features
    • Proficiency + 1
  • Spells
    • 8th
      • Mind Blank
      • Teleport
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous level: 117
    • Hit Dice d6: 4
    • Con 16: +3
    • Arcane Ward: 32
    • Armor of Agathys: 40
    • Total: 124 + 72
  • Saves
    • Str 9: -1
    • Dex 8: -1
    • Con 16: +3
      • Advantage on Concentration
    • Int
      • Stat 14: +2
      • Prof +6
      • Total: +8
    • Wis
      • Stat 10: +0
      • Prof +6
      • Total: +6
    • Cha 20: +5
    • Spell Resistance
      • Advantage on spell saves
  • Attack Bonus
    •  Cha
      • Proficiency
        • +6
      • Cha 18: +5
      • Total: +11
    • Find Familiar
      • Help Action
  • Damage Sources
    • Eldritch Blast x4
      • Agonizing Blast
      • 4d10 + 20
    • Animate Object
      • x10 Tiny
      • 10d4+40
    • Armor of Agathys
      • 8th: 40
    • Simulacrum
      • Double Damage
    • Total
      • 8d10 + 20d4 + 40 + 80 + 80
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 318.19
      • 15: 276.73
      • 20: 219.37
      • 25: 158.52
  • Level 18
    • 16 Wizard
  • Features
    • ASI
      • Resilient
        • Con
  • Spells
    • 8th
      • Antipathy Sympathy
      • Power Word Stun

 

  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous level: 124
    • Hit Dice d6: 4
    • Con 16: +3
    • Arcane Ward: 34
    • Armor of Agathys: 40
    • Total: 131 + 74
  • Saves
    • Str 9: -1
    • Dex 8: -1
    • Con
      • Stat 16: +3
      • Prof: +6
      • Total: +9
      • Advantage on Concentration
    • Int
      • Stat 14: +2
      • Prof +6
      • Total: +8
    • Wis
      • Stat 10: +0
      • Prof +6
      • Total: +6
    • Cha 20: +5
    • Spell Resistance
      • Advantage on spell saves
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  • Damage Sources
    • No Change
  • Average DPR vs
    • No Change
  • Level 19
    • 17 Wizard
  • Spells
    • 9th
      • Foresight
      • Wish
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous level: 131
    • Hit Dice d6: 4
    • Con 16: +3
    • Arcane Ward: 36
    • Armor of Agathys: 45
    • Total: 138 + 81
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    •  Cha
      • Proficiency
        • +6
      • Cha 18: +5
      • Total: +11
    • Find Familiar
      • Help Action
  • Damage Sources
    • Eldritch Blast x4
      • Agonizing Blast
      • 4d10 + 20
    • Animate Object
      • x10 Tiny
      • 10d4+40
    • Armor of Agathys
      • 9th: 45
    • Simulacrum
      • Double Damage
    • Total
      • 8d10 + 20d4 + 40 + 80 + 90
  •  Average DPR vs
    • AC
      • 10: 328.19
      • 15: 286.73
      • 20: 229.7
      • 25: 168.52
  • Level 20
    • 18 Wizard
  • Features
    • Spell Mastery
      • Shield
      • Mirror Image
  • Spells
    • 9th
      • Meteor Swarm
      • Shape-change
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous level: 138
    • Hit Dice d6: 4
    • Con 16: +3
    • Arcane Ward: 38
    • Armor of Agathys: 45
    • Total: 145 + 83
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  • Damage Sources
    • No Change
  • Average DPR vs
    • No Change

From level 15 onward, we are now doubling our damage output by introducing a perfect copy of ourselves through Simulacrum. This is a major damage boost and we should always have a copy active if we can. Alongside Simulacrum, we gain little things like Mind Blank, Meteor Swarm, Shapechange, Foresight, and Wish. We’ve also unlocked the Abjuration capstone of Spell Resistance, granting us advantage on spell saving throws and resistance to spell damage. All told, this build leaves us with a highly capable spell caster who returns high amounts of damage against any enemy who manages to land a hit on us in melee.

View the math behind these numbers.

4. Master Summoner

Art from the MTG card Liliana, Dreadlord General by Chris Rallis

Action economy is incredibly important in 5E. The side of a fight that has more actions per round has a major advantage, even if its combatants are individually weaker. To see this in practice, let’s examine two encounters. The first is a single high-powered boss enemy, capable of downing a character in a single round. The second is a group of 5-7 medium powered enemies, their only advantage being that they outnumber the players by 1 or 2 bodies. On paper, these encounters might look similar. The boss has many times the hit points that the smaller enemies have and does more damage than all of them put together. However, in action, the boss fight is almost always easier, as the players simply overwhelm the boss with weight of actions, taking 5 or 6 for every 1 full action* the boss takes. For the other encounter, the opposite is true, and such fights can prove incredibly deadly even for high-powered PCs.

What does this have to do with character builds, you ask? Well, what better way to swing the action economy in your favor than to bring a literal army of friends with you to swamp your opponents with sheer numbers? That’s right, it’s time to make a summoner build. The entire point of this character is to create a huge number of summoned allies while providing assistance to the party, remaining somewhat survivable, and being a reasonable threat in their own right.

This has to be the wildest combination of classes I have put to paper; by the time we reach level 20, we’ve taken levels in wizard, warlock, cleric, and last but somehow not least, ranger. While this might sound ridiculous,* I believe this might be the highest damaging character build I have written about on Mythcreants.

Now, before we get into the nitty-gritty, we need a couple of ground rules. The core spell of this build is Animate Dead, allowing us to raise skeletons that must be maintained with further castings of the spell or else they go feral.* I am limiting us to a number of allies that can be summoned and maintained. I am also assuming that our character can only benefit from 1 long rest and 2 short rests per day. As for our skeleton friends, I am assuming they are equipped with heavy crossbows instead of the short bows listed in their stat blocks. Your damage will vary depending on what your GM rules. Finally, I am not making use of Eberron or Ravnica content that would grant us key spells through ancestry or background, since many GMs would not allow their use. With that said, let’s dive into the Master Summoner in all its glory.

Build Summary

Ancestry 

Yuan-Ti Pureblood: This build doesn’t need Elven Accuracy or any other feats. As such, we’re unlocked from the half-elf/human box most good builds find themselves in. If you don’t care about feats, Yuan-Ti Pureblood is one of the best ancestries out there, most notably for its innate magic resistance. A smaller bonus is the charisma-based poison spray cantrip giving us a way to attack with our charisma prior to taking levels of warlock.

Starting Stats

  • Str -8: Dump stat.
  • Dex –14: A good save, increases our initiative, and is required for one of our multiclasses.
  • Con – 12: The highest value we could get while still fulfilling multiclass requirements.
  • Int – 13: Only used for multiclassing.
  • Wis – 13: Only used for multiclassing and saves.
  • Cha16: Primary stat, eventually raised to 20.

Level Split

  • 6 Wizard – Necromancer : This grants us the Animate Dead spell and Undead Thrall damage boost as fast as possible.
  • 2 Warlock – Archfey: This 2 level dip grants us the respectable Eldritch Blast/Agonizing Blast package which is a powerful ranged attack option all the way through level 20. We take the normally weak Archfey for its subclass spell list that includes the Faerie Fire spell. This spell gives us a way to grant advantage to our massive skeleton army against multiple enemies while targeting a save many monsters are pretty bad at.
  • 2 Ranger: I promise you didn’t actually click on a “4 joke builds” article. Ranger grants us the Defense Fighting Style and access to the Goodberry spell without giving up metal armor like a druid level would force us to.
  • 1 Cleric – Life: Combines with our ranger’s Goodberry to provide the party with powerful out-of-combat healing.
  • 9 Warlock – Archfey/Chain: Another first for my builds, taking warlock past level 5. Pact of the Chain grants us the slightly improved pixie familiar, and more importantly, the Gift of the Ever Living Ones invocation, maximizing any dice rolled to heal us. We also eventually get three 5th level spell slots for maximum skeletons.

ASI

  • Level 4 – Cha + 2
  • Level 15 – Cha + 2
  • Level 19 – Alert: This slot can also be filled by pretty much any generically good feat such as Lucky of Observant.

Magic Items

While not needed for any of my builds, these are a few magical items that I believe help more than most. I am not including any of these items in my damage calculations.

  • +X Weapon: This build will take as many magical ranged weapons as it can get its hands on to give out to skeletons, as each summon is capable of using and attuning to the same number of items as a player character.
  • Rod of the Pact Keeper: Makes our Eldritch Blast more likely to hit and more importantly grants us an additional warlock spell slot to spend on skeletons.
  • Battle Standard of Infernal Power: A little-known item added by the Descent Into Avernus adventure, this item grants all allies within 300 feet of you magical attacks for the purposes of overcoming damage resistance and immunity. Normally this is a pretty useless power for players, as by the time they need magical weapons, they almost always have them. However, the power becomes a lot better when you have a horde of skeletons that could really use magical damage to hurt that darn werewolf. Picking up this single item is a lot cheaper than attempting to outfit your entire army with +1 heavy crossbows.
  • Night Caller: We love skeletons and this grants us 2 more.
  • Bag(s) of Holding: Did you know that the average human skeleton weighs 19.04 pounds? Combining bone weight* with a heavy crossbow’s 18 pounds, we get 37 pounds as the weight of one fully equipped skeleton archer. A bag of holding has a maximum carrying capacity of 500 pounds, meaning it can hold up to 13 of our minions without trouble. Normally, putting a creature in a bag of holding has the problem of suffocating said creature, but our undead friends don’t have to deal with this issue. The end result of all this is that we can now transport up to 13 skeletons per bag of holding wherever we want without suspicion. Entering a town that doesn’t allow undead? Going to a noble’s party to prevent an assassination? Going to the same party to attempt an assassination? Our bags of skeletons will allow us to never be without bony companions.

Level Breakdown

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
  • Level 1
    • 1 Wizard
  • Features
    • Arcane Recovery
    •  Spellcasting
  • Spells
    • Cantrip
      • Mage Hand
      • Mending
      • Message
    • 1st
      • Absorb Elements
      • Comprehend Languages
      • Detect Magic
      • Find Familiar
      • Magic Missile
      • Shield
  • AC
    • Base: 10
    • Dex 14: +2
    • Shield Spell: + 5
    • Total
      • Min: 12
      • Max: 17
  • HP
    • Hit Dice d6: +6
    • Con 12: +1
    • Total: 7
  • Saves
    • Str 8: -1
    • Dex 14: +2
    • Con 12: +1
    • Int
      • Stat 13: +1
      • Prof +2
      • Total: +3
    • Wis
      • Stat 13: +1
      • Prof +2
      • Total: +3
    • Cha 16: +3
  • Attack Bonus
    • Cha
      • Proficiency: 2
      • Cha 16: +3
      • Total: +5
    • Spell Save (Cha)
      • Base: 8
      • Proficiency: +2
      • Cha 16: +3
      • Total: 13
  • Damage Sources
    • Acid Spray: 1d12
    • Total: 1d12
  • Average DPR vs
    • Dex Save
      • -1: 4.23
      • +0:  3.90
      • +1: 3.57
      • +2: 3.25
  • Level 2
    • 2 Wizard
  • Features
    • School of Necromancy
      • Necromancy Savant
      • Grim Harvest
  • Spells
    • 1st
      • Identify
      • Unseen Servant
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous level: 7
    • Hit Dice d6: +4
    • Con 12: +1
    • Total: 12
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  • Damage Sources
    • No Change
  • Average DPR vs
    • No Change
  • Level 3
    • 3 Wizard
  • Spells
    • 2nd
      • Dragon Breath
      • Misty Step
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous level: 12
    • Hit Dice d6: +4
    • Con 12: +1
    • Total: 17
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • Cha
      • No Change
    • Spell Save (Cha)
      • No Change
    • Spell Save (Int)
      • Base: 8
      • Proficiency: +2
      • Int 13: +1
      • Total: 11
  • Damage Sources
    • Acid Spray: 1d12
    • Dragon’s Breath: 3d6
      • On Familiar
    • Total: 1d12 + 3d6
  • Average DPR vs
    • Dex Save
      • -1: 10.00
      • +0: 9.15
      • +1: 8.30
      • +2: 7.45
  • Level 4
    • 4 Wizard
  • Features
    • ASI
      • +2 Charisma
  • Spells
    •  1st
      • Tenser’s Floating Disk
      • 2nd
        • Rope Trick
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous level: 17
    • Hit Dice d6: +4
    • Con 12: +1
    • Total: 22
  • Saves
    • Str 8: -1
    • Dex 14: +2
    • Con 12: +1
    • Int
      • Stat 13: +1
      • Prof +2
      • Total: +3
    • Wis
      • Stat 13: +1
      • Prof +2
      • Total: +3
    • Cha 18: +4
  • Attack Bonus
    • Cha
      • Proficiency: 2
      • Cha 18: +4
      • Total: +6
    • Spell Save (Cha)
      • Base: 8
      • Proficiency: +2
      • Cha 18: +4
      • Total: 14
    • Spell Save (Int)
      • No Change
  • Damage Sources
    • Acid Spray: 1d12
    • Dragon’s Breath: 3d6
      • On Familiar
    • Total: 1d12 + 3d6
  • Average DPR vs
    • Dex Save
      • -1: 10.33
      • +0: 9.48
      • +1: 8.63
      • +2: 7.78

Levels 1–4 for this build are, admittedly, not great. We’re a wizard with 13 intelligence, so outside of Magic Missile, our combat spells are far below the curve. Thankfully, our ancestry grants us the Acid Spray cantrip* with saves based on our charisma, so we have something we can do with our 16 stat. Since our damage spells are mostly garbage, we use these levels to take every ritual and defensive option we can. The only other offensive spell we take is Dragon’s Breath, which we hand out to our owl familiar. Our save might be pretty low, but any damage helps at this point.

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
  • Level 5
    • 5 Wizard
  • Features
    • Proficiency: 3
  • Spells
    • 3rd
      • Animate Dead
      • Catnap
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous level: 22
    • Hit Dice d6: +4
    • Con 12: +1
    • Total: 27
  • Saves
    • Str 8: -1
    • Dex 14: +2
    • Con 12: +1
    • Int
      • Stat 13: +1
      • Prof +3
      • Total: +4
    • Wis
      • Stat 13: +1
      • Prof +3
      • Total: +4
    • Cha 18: +4
  • Attack Bonus
    • Cha
      • Proficiency: 3
      • Cha 18: +4
      • Total: +7
    • Skeleton: +4
    • Spell Save (Cha)
      • Base: 8
      • Proficiency: +3
      • Cha 16: +4
      • Total: 15
    •  Spell Save (Int)
      • Base: 8
      • Proficiency: +3
      • Int 13: +1
      • Total: 12
  •  Damage Sources
    • Acid Spray: 1d12
    • Dragon’s Breath: 3d6
      • On Familiar
    • Skeletons x12
      • Heavy Crossbow
      • 12d10 + 24
    • Total
      • 1d12 + 3d6 + 12d10 + 24
  •  Average DPR vs
    • AC/Dex Save
      • 10/-1: 81.45
      • 15/+0: 58.10
      • 20/+1: 34.75
      • 25/+2: 15.90
  • Level 6
    • 6 Wizard
  • Features
    • Undead Thralls
  • Spells
    • 3rd
    • Leomund’s Tiny Hut
    • Phantom Steed
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous level: 27
    • Hit Dice d6: +4
    • Con 12: +1
    • Total: 32
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  •  Damage Sources
    • Acid Spray: 1d12
    • Dragon’s Breath: 3d6
      • On Familiar
    • Skeletons x16
      • Heavy Crossbow
      • Undead Thralls
      • 16d10 + 80
    • Total
      • 1d12 + 3d6 + 16d10 + 80
  •  Average DPR vs
    • AC/Dex Save
      • 10/-1: 141.05
      • 15/+0: 98.20
      • 20/+1: 55.35
      • 25/+2: 20.90

Levels 5–6 see us finally getting to the summoning part of this summoner build. Each level 3 spell slot converts to a total of 4 maintainable skeletons, and thanks to arcane recovery we have access to 3 of these slots. A reminder that for these calculations I am assuming my skeletons are equipped with heavy crossbows instead of the short bows listed in their stat blocks, so your damage will vary depending on what your GM rules.

At level 6, we get the feature we took wizard levels for in the first place: Undead Thralls. The main selling point of this ability is we can now add our proficiency modifier to each of our skeleton’s damage rolls. This is a huge boost and gives the build damage scaling even when we’re not actively generating more skeletons.

As for other spell picks, we continue to grab rituals as all of our 3+ spell slots are used for beefing up the bone squad. Catnap is one exception, as later we can combine it with our warlock slots for even more skele-friends!

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
  • Level 7
    • 1 Warlock
  • Features
    • Pact Magic
    • Otherworldly Patron
      • Archfey
        • Expanded Spell List
        • Fey Presence
    • Proficiency
      • Light Armor
      • Simple Weapons
  • Spells
    • Cantrip
      • Blade Ward
      • Eldritch Blast
    •  1st
      • Faerie Fire
      • Hex
  • AC
    • Studded Leather
      • 12
    • Dex 14: +2
    • Shield Spell: + 5
    • Total
      • Min: 14
      • Max: 19
  • HP
    • Previous level: 32
    • Hit Dice d8: +5
    • Con 12: +1
    • Total: 38
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • Cha
      • Proficiency: 3
      • Cha 18: +4
      • Total: +7
    • Faerie Fire
      • 60% Attacks have Advantage
    •  Familiar
      • Help Action
    • Skeleton: +4
    • Spell Save (Cha)
      • Base: 8
      • Proficiency: +3
      • Cha 16: +4
      • Total: 15
  •  Damage Sources
    • Eldritch Blast x2
      • 2d10
    • Skeletons x16
      • Heavy Crossbow
      • Undead Thralls
      • 16d10 + 80
    • Total
      • 2d10 + 16d10 + 80
  •  Average DPR vs
    • AC
      • 10: 161.68
      • 15: 123.59
      • 20: 73.00
      • 25: 22.80
  • Level 8
    • 2 Warlock
  • Features
    • Eldritch Invocation
      • Agonizing Blast
      • Repelling Blast
  • Spells
    •  1st
      • Protection from Evil and Good
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous level: 38
    • Hit Dice d8: +5
    • Con 12: +1
    • Total: 44
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  •  Damage Sources
    • Eldritch Blast x2
      • Agonizing Blast
      • 2d10 + 8
    • Skeletons x16
      • Heavy Crossbow
      • Undead Thralls
      • 16d10 + 80
    • Total
      • 2d10 + 8 + 16d10 + 80
  •  Average DPR vs
    • AC
      • 10: 176.37
      • 15: 135.56
      • 20: 81.32
      • 25: 26.53

Now that we have our most important spell and feature, we can spend levels 7 and 8 improving our character’s offense and utility. A weakness I commonly see with summoners is that they personally do almost nothing, relying completely on their summons to protect them and kill their enemies. By taking 2 levels of warlock, we gain the Eldritch Blast/Hex combo and an easy way to grant mass advantage to our summoned army with Faerie Fire. For the purposes of damage calculations, I match our current spell save DC against the average dex save bonus of all 5E monsters* and give a percentage of skeletons’ advantage* equal to their failure chance.

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
  • Level 9
    • 1 Cleric
  • Features
    • Spellcasting
    • Divine Domain
      • Life
        • Domain Spells
        • Bonus Proficiency
          • Heavy Armor
        •  Disciple of Life
      • Proficiency: 4
        • Light Armor
        • Medium Armor
        • Shields 
  • Spells
    • Cantrip
      • Guidance
      • Resistance
      • Spare the Dying
    •  1st
      • 1st: Bless
      • Cure Wounds
      • Healing Word
      • Shield of Faith
  • AC
    • Plate: 18
    • Shield: +2
    • Shield Spell: + 5
    • Total
      • Min: 20
      • Max: 25
  • HP
    • Previous level: 44
    • Hit Dice d8: +5
    • Con 12: +1
    • Total: 50
  • Saves
    • Str 8: -1
    • Dex 14: +2
    • Con 12: +1
    • Int
      • Stat 13: +1
      • Prof: +4
      • Total: +5
    • Wis
      • Stat 13: +1
      • Prof: +4
      • Total: +5
    • Cha 18: +4
  • Attack Bonus
    • Cha
      • Proficiency: 4
      • Cha 18: +4
      • Total: +8
    • Faerie Fire
      • 65% Attacks have Advantage
    •  Familiar
      • Help Action
    • Skeleton: +4
    •  Spell Save (Cha)
      • Base: 8
      • Proficiency: +4
      • Cha 16: +4
      • Total: 16
  •  Damage Sources
    • Eldritch Blast x2
      • Agonizing Blast
      • 2d10 + 8
    • Skeletons x24
      • Heavy Crossbow
      • Undead Thralls
      • 24d10 + 144
    • Total
      • 2d10 + 8 + 24d10 + 144
  •  Average DPR vs
    • AC
      • 10: 269.17
      • 15: 207.75
      • 20: 123.57
      • 25: 38.64
  • Level 10
    • 1 Ranger
  • Features
    • Favored Enemy
    • Natural Explore
    • Proficiency
      • Light Armor
      • Medium Armor
      • Shields
      • Simple Weapons
      • Martial Weapons
      • One Skill from the Class’s Skill List
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous level: 50
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 12: +1
    • Total: 57
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  •  Damage Sources
    • No Change
  •  Average DPR vs
    • No Change
  • Level 11
    • 2 Ranger
  • Features
    • Fighting Style
      • Defense
    •  Spellcasting
  • Spells
    • 1st
      • Goodberry
      • Longstrider
  • AC
    • Defense Fighting Style: +1
    • Plate: 18
    • Shield: +2
    • Shield Spell: + 5
    • Total
      • Min: 21
      • Max: 26
  • HP
    • Previous level: 57
    • Hit Dice d10: +6
    • Con 12: +1
    • Total: 64
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  •  Damage Sources
    • Eldritch Blast x3
      • Agonizing Blast
      • 3d10 + 12
    • Skeletons x32
      • Heavy Crossbow
      • Undead Thralls
      • 32d10 + 192
    • Total
      • 3d10  + 12 + 32d10 + 192
  •  Average DPR vs
    • AC
      • 10: 362.47
      • 15: 280.81
      • 20: 168.02
      • 25: 53.44

Time to explain that ranger comment I tantalized you with in the build intro. Now I am on record that the ranger is one of the worst classes in 5E,* but with this build, I have finally found a place for the class. The whole point of these levels is the Disciple of Life/Goodberry combo, providing tons of healing for our character and the rest of the party. This is normally achieved with 1 cleric/1 druid. Unfortunately, taking a druid stops us from wearing metal armor.*

Given the target often painted on a summoner’s back, I’d like for this build to be as defensive as possible, which got me thinking about other ways to acquire Goodberry. Enter the 2 level ranger dip, granting us the Goodberry spell, plus 1 AC from the Defense fighting style, and still advancing our combined spell slots by 1 level. The cleric level is the other half of the combo, giving us heavy armor and Disciple of Life for 40 HP worth of healing per Goodberry cast.

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
  • Level 12
    • 3 Warlock
  • Features
    • Pact Boon
      • Pact of the Chain
    • Eldritch Invocation
      • Replace Repelling Blast with Gift of the Ever Living Ones
  • Spells
    • 2nd
      • Darkness
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous level: 64
    • Hit Dice d8: +5
    • Con 12: +1
    • Total: 70
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  •  Damage Sources
    • No Change
  •  Average DPR vs
    • No Change
  • Level 13
    • 4 Warlock
  • Features
    • ASI: +2 Cha
    • Proficiency: 5
  • Spells
    • Cantrip
      • Minor Illusion
    • 2nd
      • Mirror Image
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous Level: 70
    • Hit Dice d8: +5
    • Con 12: +1
    • Total: 76
  • Saves
    • Str 8: -1
    • Dex 14: +2
    • Con 12: +1
    • Int
      • Stat 13: +1
      • Prof: +5
      • Total: +6
    • Wis
      • Stat 13: +1
      • Prof: +5
      • Total: +6
    • Cha 20: +5
  • Attack Bonus
    • Cha
      • Proficiency: 5
      • Cha 20: +5
      • Total: +10
    • Faerie Fire
      • 75% Attacks have Advantage
    •  Familiar
      • Help Action
    • Skeleton: +4
    •  Spell Save (Cha)
      • Base: 8
      • Proficiency: +5
      • Cha 16: +5
      • Total: 18
  •  Damage Sources
    • Eldritch Blast x3
      • Agonizing Blast
      • 3d10 + 15
    • Skeletons x32
      • Heavy Crossbow
      • Undead Thralls
      • 32d10 + 192
    • Total
      • 3d10 + 15 + 32d10 + 224
  •  Average DPR vs
    • AC
      • 10: 403.59
      • 15: 319.98
      • 20: 195.19
      • 25: 64.53

Levels 12–13 are another relative weak point for this build. Warlock levels don’t progress our multiclass spell slots and our Pact Magic slots haven’t reached 3rd level yet. However, that doesn’t mean these levels are useless. Our 3rd level of warlock grants us Pact of the Chain and its stronger familiar: a pixie, in our case.

We also get the Gift of the Ever Living Ones invocation, maximizing any dice rolled to heal us. This is a very powerful effect and makes any healing directed at us significantly more efficient.

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
  • Level 14
    • 5 Warlock
  • Features
    • Eldritch Invocation
      • Repelling Blasts
  • Spells
    • 3rd
      • Hypnotic Pattern
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous level: 70
    • Hit Dice d8: +5
    • Con 12: +1
    • Total: 76
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  •  Damage Sources
    • Eldritch Blast x3
      • Agonizing Blast
      • 3d10 + 15
    • Skeletons x60
      • Heavy Crossbow
      • Undead Thralls
      • 60d10 + 420
    • Total
      • 3d10 + 15 + 60d10 + 420
  •  Average DPR vs
    • AC
      • 10: 728.50
      • 15: 573.79
      • 20: 345.10
      • 25: 107.68

Level 14 sees another massive power spike for our summoner as our Pact Magic slots upgrade from 2nd level to 3rd. These slots refresh on short rests, meaning we can use them three times per long rest instead of the one time our normal slots can be used. The Catnap spell also nets us one additional 3rd level slot. All told, these new slots increase the number of skeletons we can field from 32 to 60.

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
  • Level 15
    • 6 Warlock
  • Features
    • Misty Escape
  • Spells
    • 3rd
      • Remove Curse
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous level: 76
    • Hit Dice d8: +5
    • Con 12: +1
    • Total: 82
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  •  Damage Sources
    • No Change
  •  Average DPR vs
    • No Change
  • Level 16
    • 7 Warlock
  • Features
    • Eldritch Invocation
      • Tomb of Levistus
  • Spells
    • 4th
      • Dimension Door
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous level: 82
    • Hit Dice 1d8: +5
    • Con 12: +1
    • Total: 88
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  •  Damage Sources
    • Eldritch Blast x3
      • Agonizing Blast
      • 3d10 + 15
    • Skeletons x76
      • Heavy Crossbow
      • Undead Thralls
      • 76d10 + 532
    • Total
      • 3d10 + 15 + 76d10 + 532
  •  Average DPR vs
    • AC
      • 10: 914.16
      • 15: 718.82
      • 20: 430.76
      • 25: 132.34
  • Level 17
    • 8 Warlock
  • Features
    • ASI
      • Alert
    • Proficiency: 6
  • Spells
    • 4th
      • Banishment
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous Level: 88
    • Hit Dice d8: +5
    • Con 12: +1
    • Total: 94
  • Saves
    • Str 8: -1
    • Dex 14: +2
    • Con 12: +1
    • Int
      • Stat 13: +1
      • Prof: +6
      • Total: +7
    • Wis
      • Stat 13: +1
      • Prof: +6
      • Total: +7
    • Cha 20: +5
  • Attack Bonus
    • Cha
      • Prof: +6
      • Cha 20: +5
      • Total: +11
    • Faerie Fire
      • Advantage 80% of Attacks
    • Familiar
      • Help Action
    • Skeleton: +4
    •  Spell Save (Cha)
      • Base: 8
      • Prof: +6
      • Cha 16: +5
      • Total: 19
  •  Damage Sources
    • Eldritch Blast x4
      • Agonizing Blast
      • 4d10 + 20
    • Skeletons x76
      • Heavy Crossbow
      • Undead Thralls
      • 76d10 + 532
    • Total
      • 4d10 + 20 + 76d10 + 532
  •  Average DPR vs
    • AC
      • 10: 1001.23
      • 15: 793.68
      • 20: 479.59
      • 25: 150.10
  • Level 18
    • 9 Warlock
  • Features
    • Eldritch Invocation
      • Ascendant Step
  • Spells
    • Cantrip
      • Friends
    •  5th
      • Synaptic Static
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous Level: 94
    • Hit Dice d8: +5
    • Con 12: +1
    • Total: 100
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  •  Damage Sources
    • Eldritch Blast x4
      • Agonizing Blast
      • 4d10 + 20
    • Skeletons x92
      • Heavy Crossbow
      • Undead Thralls
      • 92d10 + 736
    • Total
      • 4d10 + 20 + 92d10 + 736
  •  Average DPR vs
    • AC
      • 10:1218.93
      • 15: 967.78
      • 20: 586.42
      • 25: 185.52
  • Level 19
    • 10 Warlock
  • Features
    • Beguiling Defenses
  • Spells
    • 5th
      • Contact Other Plane
    • 6th
      • Soul Cage
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous Level: 100
    • Hit Dice d8: +5
    • Con 12: +1
    • Total: 106
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  •  Damage Sources
    • No Change
  •  Average DPR vs
    • No Change
  • Level 20
    • 11 Warlock
  • Features
    • Mystic Arcanum
      • Soul Cage
  • Spells
    • 5th
      • Contact Other Plane
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP
    • Previous Level: 106
    • Hit Dice d8: +5
    • Con 12: +1
    • Total: 112
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    • No Change
  •  Damage Sources
    • Eldritch Blast x4
      • Agonizing Blast
      • 4d10 + 20
    • Skeletons x124
      • Heavy Crossbow
      • Undead Thralls
      • 124d10 + 992
    • Total
      • 4d10 + 20 + 124d10 + 992
  •  Average DPR vs
    • AC
      • 10:1624.34
      • 15: 1287.13
      • 20: 775.82
      • 25: 239.38

The last 6 levels of this build have us increasing our warlock levels for larger pact spell slots, with a third slot coming in as our level 20 capstone. A nice bonus of all these extra warlock slots is the ability to take some of the lesser-used Eldritch Invocations. Repelling Blast and Tomb of Levistus aren’t necessarily bad picks, but are usually overshadowed by best-in-slot options like Sculptor of Flesh. This build is spending all its warlock slots on Animate Dead so any invocations that want to use those slots are worthless. As for our Mystic Arcanum, I picked Soul Cage mostly for its thematic value, although Conjure Fey bringing in a mammoth is probably worth more in a fight.

At final counting, we have 124 skeletons unleashing a torrent of crossbow bolts every round, their accuracy bolstered by our Faerie Fire. The damage output of this build is absurd and can down almost any monster in 5E in one round*. Its greatest weakness are monsters with AC 23 and up, but even against those, the damage per round is over 200.

Even without our summons, this build is fine. We have the always reliable Eldritch Blast/Hex combo, we can wear plate and a shield, and our ancestry ensures we have good saves against any spell or magical effects. The greatest weakness of this build is logistics and GM patience. Summon spamming can quickly bog down and break 5E combat encounters. If you do plan to bring this build to a real game, be very open with your GM about what it does and have a plan in place to make sure your turns aren’t taking 10-20 minutes at higher levels. A couple suggestions would be to pre-roll your skeleton attacks during other player’s turns, build a spreadsheet to record these rolls, and organize them by what ACs those attacks hit against, minimizing the time required to identify how many hits were made, and group skeletons into 12-creature units that move together on the battle map. I had a blast coming up with this, and I hope you all had fun reading it.

View the math behind these numbers.

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Comments

  1. Slayd

    These are all amazing, I think I might try the Wardlock at some point

    • Ari Ashkenazi

      Glad you like them =). The Wardlock is the one I’m mostly likely to try next as well.

  2. Prince Infidel

    Hey Ari. Good to see you back.

    I have a question about the Wardlock build. You propose using the Armor of Shadows invocation to re-up the Arcane Ward feature (which is brilliant by the way), but you also propose using the Hexblade patron for access to medium armor. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t Mage Armor (which Armor of Shadows casts) require the target to not be wearing armor?

    • Ari Ashkenazi

      You are correct, you would either need to take off your armor first or find a someone not wearing armor. The wording of the spell also lets you cast it on a pet or familiar if you want to.

      • Prince Infidel

        This is true of normal castings of Mage Armor, but Armor of Shadows says that you can only cast it on yourself (had to double check my PHB).

        • Ari Ashkenazi

          Jokes on me for only reading the Mage Armor spell. Given that restriction RAW would have you take off your armor to recharge the ward.

          • Oren Ashkenazi

            That’s probably not a big problem though, since you’re not gonna be doing this in combat, right? Feels like there would be more efficient uses of your action.

          • Ari Ashkenazi

            Yeah most of the time spending a couple of minutes to recharge your ward shouldn’t be an issue. You already aren’t going to be using the spell in combat and even with donning/doffing time taken into account the process takes less than casting a single ritual spell.

  3. PASchaefer

    You can multiclass Warlock/Warlock?

    • Ari Ashkenazi

      Some of the builds break up when they take levels in the same class, but it could also be a typo =P. Which entry are you looking at?

      • PASchaefer

        No idea what I was thinking about now. Don’t see it anywhere in the text. *shrug*

        • Ari Ashkenazi

          There’s a lot of text so I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if I messed up somewhere haha

  4. Gwen

    I have played a Wardlock, except I used the Dragonmark dwarf in Eberron to get armor of Agythys, skipping the two levels of Warlock and thus getting a better arcane Ward. I’m not sure if your spell list made the best use for replenishing Arcane ward, as you had relatively few Abjuration spells.

    But I played my Wizard a bit differently, more of a tank than damage dealer, being the only melee character among the ranged guys, I find a chokepoint and hold the line between them and me. Focusing on Cantrips and abjuration spells, as well as spells that require no concentration but last like Mordenkainen’s Hound allow me to hold a place really well, so my allies can do the blasting.

    Also the ability to take a hit meant for them came in handy to protect them, although it did not set of AoA. It’s a great Tank character, and due to actually having spells when not throwing AoA around, a very versatile one as well. I was so happy, always a fan of Abjuration magic, this was the first edition that made it feel viable.

    • Ari Ashkenazi

      Sounds like a good substitution. I’ve been restricting my own use of Eberron and Magic the Gathering DnD content because it’s often not allowed by GMs, but if it’s available to you it can be a great way to avoid class dips. At some point I might do a build article that allows for their use, gaining spells like Spirit Guardians from a background sounds especially powerful.

      As for spell usage, I never envisioned this build trying to recharge its ward in combat, hence the lack of abjuration spells. Which ones did you find useful? I’ve never had a chance to play test this build so I’m definitely interested to hear what folks who have done so have used.

      • Gwen

        It was an eberron campaign so that certainly helped, lol. I thought myself very clever until I saw this and realized I didn’t invent the wheel. Always loved abjuration magic and was just so excited to see a good build was possible with one.

        I concentrated on tanking, so absorb elements as a reaction that could half damage and return it to sender next turn came in useful, of course counterspell and dispel magic, circle of warding, not for in combat but a nice way to set up an extra spell for the next day or to seal off a route.

        As a tank the important thing was to protect my ranged guys while forcing them to hit me so, a little bit of prep time and a reversed magic circle fixed most of that. Now that may have came in more use than it should have due to the type limiter but usually by the time you get to a boss you know his type, it didn’t always work (usually because the dm got wise and had us unable to prepare for a fight) but about 70% of boss fights were a slaughter.

        Banishment is an underutilized spell, allowing you to ruin the enemy’s action economy, combine with being a dwarf with a great Con and battle caster makes concentration spell viable it’s not a bad spell to splurge on.

        I only got to the point of 5th level spells, it also helped the other full spell caster could put up various barriers that allowed me to hold a choke point. Mordenkainen’s hound helped with this because his lack of movement is a boon if the enemy is prevented from going forward. Ranged was always my enemy, but counterspell got rid of the worst, and martial ranged characters usually ended up volleying with my guys anyway.

        It sometimes felt like we were being too gimmicky but it made every fight a little more tactical so it was fun.

        The worst thing about AoA is later, more enemies are immune to cold. You can still use it for the extra HP but it hurts to lose the damage.

        • Ari Ashkenazi

          Sounds like a fun and powerful character, makes me excited to try my version out next time I get the chance.

          Yeah I was a little worried about the AoA cold damage getting resisted or ignored, just gonna hope I don’t fight many monsters that do that =P

  5. Ghost_x

    Nice! I’m waiting for more post like this.

  6. Bob

    So what about that skeleton closet?

    • Ari Ashkenazi

      So the animate dead spell only lasts for a day, but that duration is only your control over the skeleton, the creature itself is permanent. That means you could create any number of skeletons you wish, put them in a closet, then quickly close and lock the door before the feral ones you already put in there attack you. One day I will have a necromancer villain spend however long the players take to find them filling up a single room in their dungeon with skeletons because it makes me giggle.

      • Bob

        Alright, yes, that is pretty hilarious.
        Though it also speaks to the logistical nightmare of skeleton maintenance while on adventure. 24 hours after you cast your spell, the horde goes feral. So if anything happens that interrupts or delays your long rest at the end of the day, you’re gonna have a problem.
        …granted, easily dealt with by having the skeletons bring their own manacles and ordering them to lock themselves up at night, but yunno. It’s gonna happen at least once.

        • Ari Ashkenazi

          I’ve noticed most GMs just kinda hand wave it as long as the wizard assigns enough unspent spell slots to re-control all of the bone squad. However, RAW you are correct, maybe get an instant fortress to lock all you skeletons in while you sleep =P.

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