Pathology: The Champion Fighter – Simple. Effective. Brutal.

Hello everyone and welcome to a brand new edition of Pathology, and today I am bringing you what I would personally consider the easiest and most simplistic class and path combination in 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons, the Champion Fighter.  Now, make no mistake, while this class is simple and easy to play mechanically, they are still very VERY good at what they do.

What they do, by the way, is pick a target and murderize it.  They do this very well indeed.

Dragonborn Fighter by Perry Zielonka click the image to view his Artstation Page

The Champion Fighter is possibly the best new player class in the game. They have no spells, no real special abilities to remember outside of what every fighter gets, and are brutally effective in combat with their heavy armor, high hit points, and multiple attacks.  Put simply, if all you want to do is hit a thing till it stops moving in the most simple way possible, then be a Champion Fighter.

Normally I don’t bring up the base line class abilities in these articles, however for the Champion Fighter the base line fighter abilities all play a role in the path’s usage.  Fighters are proficient with all armor and shields, as well as simple and martial weapons.  You can wield a rapier in full plate, or a great sword in leather armor, it’s all the same to the Fighter.  Right at first level you gain a Fighting Style as well as Second Wind, both of which play a big part in how you play your Champion Fighter.

The Fighting Style gives you a bonus based on the sort of weapon you wield, while Second Wind grants you the ability, as a bonus action and once per short/long rest, to regain some hit points during a fight.  Both of these are staple abilities of all fighters, and the Champion is no different.  At level 3 you gain your Champion path as well.

Also at 2nd level you gain Action Surge, an amazingly powerful ability for a Fighter, and the reason many people take 2 levels of fighter as other classes.  This singular ability allows you, the Fighter, to take a single full additional action on your turn once per long or short rest.  At level 17 you can do this TWICE per long/short rest, but not on the same turn.  This is massive. This allows you, at level 20, to attack a full 8 times in a single turn on two different turns, for example.

Also, just as a note, the Fighter class gains a total of 7 Ability Score Increases as they level up.  This is a huge amount of power gain, an effective +14 Ability Points.  Also, by level 20 you will have the ability to make a total of 4 attacks when taking the Attack action, more than any other single class.  You also gain Indomitable which lets you reroll a failed saved once per long rest at level 11.

Now, as far as Champion specific abilities they are all very basic, no flash to em, but every single one of them increases your ability to punish the enemy and crush them under the heel of your boots.  First, you gain Improved Critical at levels 3 and 15.  At first, this increases your critical range to 19-20 (level 3), and then 18-20 (level 15).  Most only have a 5% chance on a D20 roll (a 20) to gain a critical strike, but the Champion eventually has a 15% chance to get a Critical.  This is a huge damage boost, especially over your 4 normal attacks or 8 Action Surged attacks.  You also gain another Fighting Style at level 10 to complement your first one, Remarkable Athlete which lets you add half your proficiency bonus to STR, DEX, and CON checks that you don’t have your Proficiency Bonus added to already (such as Untrained Acrobatics checks, for example).  Your capstone power as a Champion at level 18 is the ability Survivor, which causes you to regain 5 + Con Modifier HP per turn if you are at less than half HP and not at zero HP.  This means that taking a Champion down can be very difficult given they start with a d10 Hit Die.

Reading all that, you can again see the Champion is super simple mechanically.  You gain a bunch of attacks, only a few activated powers, and boosted critical chance.  In essence, as I said, the Champion is all about picking a single target and hitting them till they stop moving.

Now for this article what I am going to do is break down how I would build an Adventure League legal Champion Fighter, and what I would do at each level.  Normally I don’t do full character builds, but I wanted to give an example of how, despite the simplistic nature of the path, you can build something that is still fun to play and powerful feeling.  We will be using the Adventurer League stat array (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8) for this build.  As a note I am not including feats, as they are an optional rule and are up to your GM/DM as to whether or not they are allowed.

I would select either Half Orc, Human, or Dwarf as the race.  Their racial bonuses all work well here and all three races have a tendency to birth great fighters.  Half Orc in particular gives you +2 Strength and +1 Constitution, which fits very well for a offensive oriented fighter like the Champion.

So with a Half Orc as our race we are looking at the following for stats at level 1:

  • Str          16 (14 +2 for Race)
  • Con        16 (15 +1 for Race)
  • Dex        13
  • Int          10
  • Wis         12
  • Cha        8

Having a Wisdom bonus is a good idea as many of the spells that can lock a character down are Wisdom based.  Cha and Int are the least useful attributes for this class.  Given that you will be getting a total of 14 Ability Points as we level, you can easily get your Str and Con both to 20 (the maximums) and then still have 6 points left over to play with.

Now before we choose our Class skills I always like to select a background.  This is because our Background will automatically give us training in 2 skills along with some other perks.  For me, and this build, I would choose Soldier.  I like the idea of an ex-soldier turned mercenary who adventures because they are good at fighting, they didn’t like military life, and the money is a whole lot better as a mercenary.  Make them Chaotic Good, so they have some ethics on who they work for and how much they charge them.  As a soldier we get Athletics & Intimidation as trained skills, and then we get two more from the Fighter List.  Let’s take Survival and Perception.  We won’t be the best at these as they are Wisdom based, however it makes sense for an Ex-Soldier turned Merc to know how to spot danger and survival off the land and track.  You also get proficiency in Str and Con saves.

Now at 1st level we get our Second Wind ability and our first Fighting Style.  I see this character as a big bruiser type, using huge weapons, so I would take Great Weapon Fighting as my style here.  Great Weapon allows you to reroll 1’s and 2’s on your damage dice each time you roll damage, taking the new results when using any weapon with 2 hands.  This allows for much higher potential damage on average.

Since I can start my adventure with any Martial Weapon I want (And then either a spare weapon or shield) I can easily start with a Great Sword (Slashing Damage) and a Maul (Bludgeoning Damage) or Warhammer (Lighter, but still Bludgeoning and able to use both one handed AND two handed).  You want to cover damage types so you can deal with things like Skeletons and Zombies early on.  From here on leveling is pretty simple.  Let’s take a look at the levels in detail and how I would build from here.

  • Level 1:                 Great Weapon Fighting and Second Wind
  • Level 2:                 Action Surge
  • Level 3:                 Champion Path, gain Improved Critical (19-20 crit chance with all weapons)
  • Level 4:                 Ability Score Increase (+2 Str, now 18 Str for +4 to Hit / Damage)
  • Level 5:                 +1 Attacks (2) when using the Attack Action
  • Level 6:                 Ability Score Increase (+2 Str, now 20 Str so +5 to Hit / Damage
  • Level 7:                 Remarkable Athlete Champion Ability
  • Level 8:                 Ability Score Increase (+2 Con, now 18 Con, for more HP)
  • Level 9:                 Indomitable (1 use)
  • Level 10:              Second Fighting Style (Defense is good for a global +1 AC in Armor)
  • Level 11:              +1 Attacks (3) when using the Attack Action
  • Level 12:              Ability Score Increase (+2 Con, now 20 Con, for more HP)
  • Level 13:              Indomitable (2 use)
  • Level 14:              Ability Score Increase (+2 Wis, now 14 Wis, better Wis Saves / Skills)
  • Level 15:              Superior Critical from Champion (18-20 crit chance with all weapons)
  • Level 16:              Ability Score Increase (+2 Wis, now 16 Wis, better Wis Saves / Skills)
  • Level 17:              2 uses of Action Surge, 3 of Indomitable now
  • Level 18:              Survivor from Champion Path
  • Level 19:              Ability Score Increase (+2 Wis, now 18 Wis, better Wis Saves / Skills)
  • Level 20:              +1 Attacks (4) when using the Attack Action

So at level 20 you have 20 Strength, 20 Constitution, 18 Wisdom, 4 base attacks per round, 2 uses of Action Surge per short/long rest, and an 18-20 Critical Range, rerolling 1’s and 2’s on damage (once) with your big 2 handed weapons. To put this in math terms, you will have a total of +11 (+6 Prof Bonus +5 Str Mod) Base to hit with your weapons, and on a hit deal 2d6+5 damage (average on 2d6+5 is (7+5) 12 damage) per swing, assuming no critical hits, 4 times in a single round, which is 48 damage (per hit).  And you will most likely hit more often than not, as most enemies don’t have ACs higher than 24 or 25.  The CR 24 Ancient Red Dragon, for example, has a 22 AC.  This means you will hit nearly 50% of the time on each swing without any assistance.

In fact an Ancient Red Dragon has, on average, 546 HP.  If the Champion hits all 4 times in a single round with no critical hits they are doing on average 192 damage alone.  That’s with no help whatsoever.  That Dragon will not be having a good day after a few rounds with the Champion, never mind a full party behind them adding their own damage and support to the fight.

Found on Pintrest

Additionally, taking average HP Every level, you will have 224 HP at level 20 with an AC of around 19 without a shield wearing plate mail.  If you use a 1 hander and shield you are looking at a 21 AC, which is nothing to sneeze at defensively (if you take Defense Style as I would)

Equipment wise you will want is Plate Mail and a Great Sword / Great Axe / Maul and then a 1 handed weapon of some sort with a shield.  Magical if you can get them because that just makes everything better.  Make sure that you try to get a short rest in anytime you use your Action Surge as well, as that will make sure you can fully utilize your big move every fight possible.  Also you will want thrown weapons for ranged attacks, or a good bow.

Oh and if you are a Cleric (or Anyone with access to the spell Bless) and have a fighter of ANY type in your party?  Consider using Bless more often.  It adds 1d4 to EVERY Attack Roll and Save the targets make…including all 4 of the Fighters basic attacks.  This is quite the boost to a fighters accuracy and honestly might be better than Haste in most cases unless the Fighter needs the boost to movement speed (i.e. a Dwarf and their 20ft movement a round vs most everyone else’s 30ft)

Simple.  Effective.  Brutal.

And honestly, possibly the character I use in future one shots and even maybe the next Campaign I get to play in.  Already got a name for them too: Gunther, the Half Orc Soldier turned Merc with a heart of gold, and always willing to lend a hand, assuming the price is right.  Price is of course dictated by social standing.  Can’t charge peasants the same as a lord after all.  We have a sliding scale around here.

Let me know in the comments if you ever played a Champion Fighter!  If so, what was the build / setup and backstory?  Why did you choose the Champion, and would you ever play one again?

For more Pathology Articles and Class Breakdowns, just Check out this Tag!
As always thanks for reading everyone and Stay Nerdy!  Make sure to follow me on TwitchYoutubeTwitter, and join my Steam Group and Steam Curator pages!  Pledge to my Patreon!  Spread the word on social media & help me get out there so I can bring even more content to the masses.  You do want more content yes?

Pathology: The Moon Druid – Bark at the Moon!

Note: All Images are Copyright their original creators, and I am linking to their creators if I can find em.

Welcome one and all to another breakdown of a path, and this time we have something a little more feral in nature.  I am of course speaking on the Moon Druid path in the Player’s Handbook. So what is the Moon Druid? How do they function in combat? How does Wild Shape really work? I hope to answer all these questions and more, and this promises to be a bit of a long post so I hope you stick around.

First, and foremost, the Moon Druid is the path for the Druid who wants to focus on being a Shapeshifter.  All of your unique powers and abilities are within this theme, either giving you the ability to assume more powerful beast forms, heal yourself in beast form, and eventually alter your body at will.  Now, my intent for this guide is to provide the following information

First, we are going to talk about what the Moon Druid’s role in a party is.  Then we will break down the Moon Druid specific abilities. Next we will discuss Wild Shape and how it works.  After that, we will move onto Druid Spells you might want to consider. Then it’s on to my personal suggested Wild Shape Forms for each CR level, and finally some house rules that I personally intend to use when I run games for those who want to play a Moon Druid.  So let’s dive right in!

The Moon Druid can best be described as a soak tank for the party.  Given the ability to shift into a variety of beast forms and how Wild Shape effectively gives you a huge pool of Temporary Hit Points to work with, a Moon Druid should try to take up as much space as possible in a fight, and get the enemy to focus on them.  If the enemy is hitting you, its not hitting a party member, and with the ability to heal yourself as a bonus action, it is very hard to take down a Moon Druid.

Additionally, with the way Wild Shape works, you will want to have your Ability Scores focused first on Wisdom, second on Constitution, and then Int and Charisma.  This is because Wild Shape will replace your Physical Stats (STR, CON, DEX) and leave your Mental Stats alone. Wisdom will boost your ability to cast spells when in Non Beast form, and the reason you want Con is to have a large buffer of HP in case you get knocked out of Wild Shape, as any damage that exceeds your Wild Shape HP will carry over to your normal form.  More HP equals a larger chance to survive big hits. And you WILL be taking large hits as your AC in most beast forms wont exceed 15.

Moon Druids get access by default to Spellcasting like all Druids, as well as Ritual Casting.  However they must prepare any rituals they want to use. You cannot, however, cast spells in Wild Shape until you reach level 18 and get Beast Spells, so keep that in mind.  At level 20 you get Unlimited Wild Shapes per day, but as far as Baseline druid abilities these are the only ones that really matter.

However, the unique Moon Druid powers are what we need here, and upon taking Moon Druid at level two you get the following: Combat Wild Shape, which allows you to shift into a Beast as a bonus action.  Additionally, while in Beast Form, you can spend a spell slot to heal 1d8 per spell level as a bonus action. Burn off a 2nd level spell, and get 2d8 HP as a bonus action. This lets you sustain your form quite easily, and since you can’t cast spells while in Beast Form until level 18, gives you a use of your spells beyond Concentration spells (Which we will discuss in a bit).  Also at level 2 you get Circle Forms. This lets you shift into a CR 1 beast or lower right at level 2, and then starting at level 6 you can shift into a Beast whose CR is ⅓ your level (so CR 2 at 6, CR 3 at 9, CR 4 at 12, CR 5 at 15, and CR 6 at 18). This is where the power of the Moon Druid comes from.

At level 6 Moon Druids attacks while in Wild Shape count as Magical.  This is how you deal with damage reduction of many enemies while being an angry brown bear.  At level 10, you can spend both your Wild Shapes to turn into an Air, Earth, Fire, or Water elemental.  These forms are very very powerful (they are CR 5, which would normally be a level 15 shift as a Beast) and are insanely potent.  Also, since these elementals have mouths and can speak, so can you as a the Druid. Finally, at level 14 you get what I consider the weakest power of the Moon Druid, casting Alter Self at will.  This lets you grow claws and other such things, and technically lets you shift your appearance if your DM allows it.

Now it’s time to discuss Wild Shape, one of the most confusing things about Druids.  You get 2 uses of Wild Shape per short rest. So you will be using the hell out of the short rest mechanic as a Moon Druid to maintain your power.  The easiest part about it is this: Wild Shape allows you to shift into a Beast of a specific Challenge Rating. Normally, the best you will get as a Druid is a CR 1 beast at level 8th, but the Moon Druid breaks that rule with Circle Forms so we ignore that.  However, at level 2 you can only shift into forms with NO FLYING OR SWIM SPEED! At level 4, you unlock swim speed but still cannot take flying forms. At level 8, you can now shift into forms with a Flying Speed. Wild Shape also lasts a number of hours equal to ½ your druid level.  Important tip: Once your Wild Shape lasts longer than an hour you can SHORT REST (since that’s only an hour) while in Wild Shape! Spend those Hit Dice your Wild Shape technically has to heal it! Get your Wild Shape’s back! Especially once you have Elemental Forms.

When you shift, it takes a Bonus Action for a Moon Druid to do so.  Your Physical Stats (Str, Dex, and Con) are replaced with the beasts.  Your Mental Stats (Wis, Int, Cha) stay as yours. You gain the HP and Hit Dice of the beast as well (So if you shift into a Bear which has 50 HP, your HP becomes 50).  I usually treat this as Temp HP since your Druid HP stays the same when you shift. Basically, when you Wild Shape your Beast HP is separate from your Druid HP, and any damage you take in excess of your beast form will apply to your Druid HP.  Also, if you drop to Zero HP in Beast Form you instantly go back to Druid Form. Example: You have 7 HP left in Beast Form and take a hit for 10 points. You lose the 7 HP, drop back into Druid Form, and the remaining 3 damage goes to your Druid form.

Any equipment you wear or hold will either have to be dropped or merged with your new form.  You do not gain the benefits of these items. If the item can be worn by your new form you can keep wearing it however.  You cannot cast spells while in Wild Shape form but you CAN Maintain Concentration spells that you cast prior to entering Wild Shape.  You can also use actions from spells while in Wild Shape, like Call Lightning (dropping those lightning bolts!). You lose all your special senses such as Darkvision unless the new form has it, however you keep all benefits from your race, class, ect if your new form can use them.  For example, my Yuan Ti Pureblood Moon Druid will always be immune to poison, but I lose Darkvision when I shift into forms without it. Also if your beast form has Lair or Legendary actions you don’t get access to them.

Now the confusing bit.  When you shift, you keep all your skill proficiencies and your saving throw proficiencies.  You ALSO gain those of your beast form! If you and the new form share a proficiency, such as say Athletics, you get the higher score no matter what.  But here is where things get interesting. Any skill that you have that is linked to a Mental Stat (Wis, Int, Cha) will always have the same bonus, as your stats there do not change (unless your beast form has a higher bonus and also has proficiency listed).  However, if you have proficiency in something that your beast form doesn’t, like say Stealth, your Stealth Check will change based on your Beast forms stats!  This is also the same as your Elemental Forms.

This is best described as an example.  Lets say in Druid form you have +2 to Dex, and are proficient in Stealth.  At level 2 that means your Stealth rolls will have +4 to them. +2 from your proficiency bonus and +2 from your Dex.  If you shifted into a form however that has +4 to Dex, your Stealth check will NOW be +6! Conversely, if your Dex is +5 when in Druid Form (+7 total bonus at level 2), but you shift into a beast form with a +3 to Dex, your Stealth will go back down to +5 based on your new modifier.  This is the most confusing aspect of the class to be honest.

Now let’s talk Spells.  Here is the big thing with Moon Druids and spells: You can’t cast any spells in Wild Shape form until level 18.  Simple as that. Because of this, you are looking at Rituals, Concentration Spells, and that’s about it. Until level 18 your spell slots are life you can use in battle with Combat Wild Shape Healing.  Because of this, here are the spells I suggest, as well as Cantrips, that you want to consider in my opinion. Mind you, as all preparation based casters you can change your spells each day.

  • Cantrips: Guidance, Produce Flame, Druidcraft
  • 1st Level: Cure Wounds OR Holy Word (just for emergency), Goodberry, Detect Magic, Entangle
  • 2nd Level: Flaming Sphere, Barkskin, Lesser Restoration, Moonbeam
  • 3rd Level: Call Lightning, Water Breathing, Sleet Storm
  • 4th Level: Ice Storm, Wall of Fire, Stoneskin, Conjure Minor Elementals, Polymorph
  • 5th Level: Mass Cure Wounds, Conjure Elemental, Wall of Stone
  • 6th Level: Heal, Sunbeam, Conjure Fey
  • 7th Level: Fire Storm, Regenerate, Reverse Gravity
  • 8th Level: Control Weather, Tsunami, Earthquake
  • 9th Level: Storm of Vengeance, True Resurrection

Now, a quick little tip.  The reason you want Concentration based spells is because once you shift, you can maintain concentration on the spell.  If you have, say Flaming Sphere active, you can still use your bonus action to move the sphere. If you have Call Lightning active, you can still call down strikes.  And here is something to keep in mind: Any Con Saves you have to make while concentrating on a spell in Beast Form will be made with the Beasts Con Bonus!

Also, as a suggestion, use Barkskin.  Since most forms have an AC lower than 16, casting Barkskin and then going into Wild Shape will make your AC a 16 minimum at all times.  This is a huge deal for many of the forms I am about to discuss, making your survivability much higher then it would be normally.

And how about those beast forms am I right?  Sadly, the Monster Manual does not have a lot of choices for Beast Forms, so you gotta make do with a few here and there.  Now, technically, Swarms count as Beasts (they are swarms of tiny beasts) but your GM may veto this. Here are my go to Beast Forms from CR 1 to 6.  Also, please be aware that most GMs are going to require your Druid to have studied the Beast before you can shift into it, or have some knowledge of the beast.  Also be aware at level 4 you can do Swim speed creatures, and level 8 you get Flight.

  • Druid Level 2 / CR 1: Dire Wolf, Giant Spider, Giant Eagle (at Druid Level 8)
  • Druid Level 6 / CR 2: Giant Constrictor Snake, Polar Bear
  • Druid Level 9 / CR 3: Giant Scorpion, Killer Whale
  • Druid Level 12 / CR 4: Elephant
  • Druid Level 15 / CR 5: Giant Crocodile
  • Druid Level 18 / CR 6: Mammoth.  That’s it. That’s your option.  There is nothing else at CR 6.

Each of these forms offers unique abilities.  For example, the Dire Wolf is a little faster then many things, and has Pack Tactics, where you gain Advantage if an ally is within 5 feet of your target, and can knock things prone if they fail a STR Save.  Or my favorite, Giant Constrictor Snake, which lets you Restrain a single target, forcing it to either suffer disadvantage on all attacks, let allies get advantage on melee attacks against it, or use its action to try an Acrobatics or Athletics check, DC16, to get out.

Also, just a suggestion when going into combat.  Start the fight by using your standard action to cast either Barkskin on yourself, Flaming Sphere, or Call Lightning, and then using your bonus action to Shift, and then move.  This gives you an active Concentration spell up to use, and frees you up to do all sorts of things during the fight.

Finally, the last thing we need to discuss, are some house rules that I feel help improve the Moon Druid a bit and bring it up to balance with everyone else.  First and foremost, is improving your attack roles with your Beast Forms based on your Proficiency bonus. In most cases, the CR of a beast is equal to a character level, which makes figuring out the effective Proficiency bonus for its attacks fairly simple.  Based on that, you can recalculate the attack bonus using your druids proficiency bonus plus the relevant stat for the attack. If your new bonus is higher, use that. This lets you use older forms (like say the Dire Wolf) for a lot longer as they will continue to have a scaling attack bonus.  I have been using this for my Moon Druid in my bi weekly Planescape game with my GMs Permission and it feels fine so far. Damage on the attacks doesn’t change, just the chance to hit, and only if it makes sense.

Next, another house rule is that I would allow Moon Druids, or really Druids in general, to assume Plant forms.  It makes sense that a class built around nature would be able to turn into Plane creatures. They would still follow the same CR Rules, just a few more forms added.

There you have it folks, the Moon Druid.  Hopefully you have learned a bit about this unique and interesting class.  Now, I have a confession to make here: I never wanted to play a Druid. You see, what prompted this entire article is the fact that in my friend / GM Saevrick’s Planescape game (we livestream it on his channel every other Saturday) I play a Yuan Ti Pureblood Moon Druid named Scarlett.  And this was not by choice. We rolled our character’s entirely at random, stats, skills, race, class, the works. And I ended up with the Moon Druid. Since I am the kind of guy who will power game / min max within the theme he is given, I decided to learn just how to make the best of this.

This article is the fruit of that research and learning, and I wanted to share it with you all because I realize just how insanely powerful these sort of Druids can become!  If you want to see me play Scarlett, simply follow my friend Saevrick’s twitch channel and join us one Saturday, or check out this Playlist that houses all the Youtube Archives and watch our group roll our characters and adventure in the world of Planescape.

If you want to see more Pathology stuff, click here.

As always thanks for reading everyone and Stay Nerdy!  Make sure to follow me on TwitchYoutubeTwitter, and join my Steam Group and Steam Curator pages!  Pledge to my Patreon!  Spread the word on social media & help me get out there so I can bring even more content to the masses.  You do want more content yes?

Oh and the title is a reference to this song!

Pathology: The Gunslinger Fighter – Do you feel lucky? Punk?

Welcome to Pathology, the series where I take a look at a specific Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition Class and Path, and break down its abilities to hopefully help you understand how to make it work for you.  I am taking a break from my project (I am actually ahead of where I wanted to be right now) to bring you a breakdown of Matthew Mercer’s Gunslinger path for Fighters, which is available for Pay what you Want on DMs Guild.  Did you want to be John Wayne?  Because this is how you become John Wayne.  And yes, this is a homebrew option, but it’s also a fairly unique one.  I do what I want it’s my blog ok! This writeup is based on version 1.3 from the guild.

Now, unlike my Drunken Master breakdown, we really do not need to discuss the basic Fighter options here.  Those options do not have a direct mechanical impact on the Gunslingers abilities beyond the way they would interact with any Fighter, really.  Action Surge, the multiple attacks, Second Wind, ect all work the same regardless of which path you take as a Fighter, really.

One thing we do need to address, obviously, is the use of Firearms in D&D.  Personally, if a player wanted to play a Gunslinger in one of my games I would do my best to make it work.  By default, guns are a rarity if not unique. Thankfully the PDF you can pick up has rules for guns including things like crafting them, costs, special abilities and the like.  I especially like the Misfire mechanic that Mercer came up with and think that the guns overall seem fairly well balanced.

Now, onto the actual mechanics of the Gunslinger!

At level 3, upon taking the path, you gain Firearm Proficiency and Gunsmith.  The first gives you proficiency with Firearms and guns, which lets you gain your proficiency bonus to attacks made using them.  The second is what lets you use Tinker Tools to craft new guns, repair broken ones, and craft ammunition. I like that crafting is a big thing here as much of 5th Edition does not touch the idea of players creating their own equipment.  Both of these features are also borderline necessary because without them the rest of the class really doesn’t work. Personally, if a player wanted to be a Gunslinger from level one, I might consider giving them Firearm Proficiency at level one as well so they could at least use the guns effectively before taking the path.  But that’s a personal choice here for the GM and using firearms prior to level 3 just means you would normally not get any proficiency bonus.

Additionally at level 3 you also gain access to your first two Trick Shots with the ability Adept Marksman.  This is the bread and butter of the class, and gives you quite a bit of customization.  I will discuss the actual Trick Shots in more detail later but this is where you get to pick and choose the sorts of special tricks you gain do, much like a Battlemasters Maneuvers.  You start with 2 Trick Shots at level 3, and will end up with a total of 6 by level 18. You can also switch them at any time you gain a new one. To fuel these abilities you use Grit, which is based on your Wisdom modifier.  I like that this Path makes use of Wisdom, which is often ignored by Fighters (and really it should not be, Fighters are NOT proficient is Wisdom saves people!  Want to take a Fighter out? Hit em with Wisdom based attacks). You can regain all spent Grit after a short or long rest as per usual with such a resource, or when you roll a 20 on a Firearm attack roll, or when you get a killing blow with a firearm on a “fearsome foe” which really is a DMs Discretion.  My personal suggestion is to get at least a +2 bonus in your Wisdom so you start with 2 Grit points.  You will always have at least one, but more is obviously better especially since you cannot gain more unless your Wis modifier goes up.

Starting at level 7 a Gunslinger gains Quickdraw, which will make you really feel like an old western Gunslinger.  This ability gives you your proficiency bonus to Initiative rolls as well as lets you switch from one firearm to another as a single object interaction.  The big part here is switching weapons as a single action.

Rapid Repair is gained at level 10 which lets you take a bonus action to attempt to fix a misfired, but not broken, firearm on your turn.  Let’s talk about Misfire here real quick. The guns presented with the PDF all have fairly standard abilities. Reload speed, how many shots they can fire, things like that.  The unique one is Misfire. When you roll equal to or less then the guns Misfire rating, it jams and cannot be used until you attempt to repair it. Normally this takes your full action but Rapid Repair changes that.  Now if you fail to repair your firearm, you can’t use it till you fix it outside of combat and spend money to do so. However the base DC for a repair is fairly low normally so it’s not a major concern in my opinion. I honestly could see the DC being raised, but its calculation is in line with most other things so I suppose it’s fine.

Now, at level 15 the Gunslinger gains Lightning Reload which allows the Gunslinger the ability to reload as a bonus instead of normal action.  Since many of the more powerful weapons only have one shot per load, this gives you a bit more flexibility to use them.  And finally, at level 18 they gain Vicious Intent which increases all firearm crit ranges to 19-20, and allows the Gunslinger to regain grit on a natural 19 or 20 roll.  They also gain Hemorrhaging Critical which causes targets who have been hit by a crit to take half the damage of the critical attack again at the end of the targets turn.  Both of these effects are absolutely nasty when combined with a Fighters multiple attacks and action surge effects.

So those are all the standard abilities of the Gunslinger, so let’s talk Trick Shots. There are 8 total Trick Shots by default, and you will gain 6 of them by level 18.  This means that only two Trick Shots will be left to the wayside. To be honest, there are no real “clunkers” as far as options go.  Matt did a bang up job with the options and they all feel good. There are a few I want to call out specifically as good choices for your first two, however.

First up, is Deadeye Shot.  This is a very straightforward option where you spend 1 grit point to gain advantage to your shot.  Good all around option that will always be useful. Another great starting one is Winging Shot where you can spend a grit when you deal damage to force the target to make a Str save or be knocked prone.  Good for setting up attacks for your allies. A third good option to start with is Dazing Shot, which deals normal damage and forces the target to make a Con save or suffer disadvantage to all attack rolls till the end of its next turn for one grit point.  Finally, Piercing Shot is just fun.  It increases your guns misfire chance by 1 in exchange for dealing normal damage to your target on hit, and then getting to make an attack roll with disadvantage against every target in a line behind the original.  Only the initial shot can misfire as well, and it costs one grit.  To be honest all the Trick Shots are good, these are just my personal favorites, and if I was building a Gunslinger I would go with Winging and Dazing at the start for more control options.  Damage is already plentiful, and having the ability to force disadvantage or knock things down is really helpful.

One thing I have barely touched on are the actual Firearms added in this PDF.  They are all fairly well balanced and priced. I do like that the most powerful guns can only be crafted, and I have a personal urge to play a Hand Mortar mad Gunslinger using Violent Shot constantly to just do as much AOE as possible.  The other crafted option besides the Hand Mortar is Bad News, which is a massively powerful 2d12 Rifle, and I am pretty sure that one is based off Percy’s guns from Critical Role. But there are a total of 7 options ranging from the simple Palm Pistol all the way up to a Blunderbuss and the aforementioned Bad News and Hand Mortars.

Overall, this is a solid option for Fighters and definitely fits the tone and feel of an old west gunslinger.  The only concern here is of course adding Firearms to your game. Not every DM is going to be willing to do this, and you would want to check with your DM before getting all excited for the path option.  I definitely think it’s worth picking up the PDF (its pay what you want so you can get it for basically nothing if you want) and looking into it. Bringing both firearms in a balanced way as well as granting Fighters a new option is just a solid overall product.

As always, if you are looking for more Path breakdowns, feel free to check out myPathologytag here on my blog for more posts!

As always thanks for reading everyone and Stay Nerdy!  Make sure to follow me on TwitchYoutubeTwitter, and join my Steam Group and Steam Curator pages!  Pledge to my Patreon!  Spread the word on social media & help me get out there so I can bring even more content to the masses.  You do want more content yes?

Writers note: All images but the one of John Wayne link to the articles or artist pages they were located on and belong to their creators.  Click them to find out more about the creators!

Pathology: The Drunken Master Monk – So you wanna be Jackie Chan?

Welcome to Pathology, the series where I take a look at a specific Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition Class and Path, and break down its abilities to hopefully help you understand how to make it work for you.  Today, after a vote, we are going to look at the Monk Path from Xanathar’s Guide, the Drunken Master.

I mean, lets face it.  We all want to be Jackie Chan at times!

First, in order to really understand the Drunken Master and how they work, you need to have a brief overview of the major abilities of the Monk.  Early on in your Monk career you will gain a few major abilities, and when I say early on I mean level 1 and level 2.

First are your Martial Arts.  This causes your unarmed attacks to be treated as Melee Weapon attacks (technically though Unarmed Strikes are always weapons), and increases the damage you do with punches and kicks based on your level.  This also allows you to switch between using STR and DEX for you attack bonuses and damage bonus when using Monk Weapons or Unarmed Strikes.  Additionally you can make an Unarmed Strike as a bonus action when attacking with a Monk Weapon or Unarmed Strike, thus giving you 2 attacks right from level one.  Admittedly your Unarmed damage at level one is only 1d4 but it increases as you level.

Second is Unarmored Defense, which allows you to apply your WIS and DEX to your Armor Class when not wearing armor.

We all know Pandaren are excellent Drunken Masters

At second level you get the other two major Monk features, which are Unarmored movement, and Ki.  Unarmored Movement is straightforward, you gain a bonus to your move speed based on level, starting with an additional 10ft of movement at 2nd level.  Ki is your Monk Resource, and can be spent at level 2 to do one of the following actions:

  • Flurry of Blows: You gain 2 Unarmed Strikes as a bonus action instead of 1 for this turn.
  • Step of the Wind: Take either Disengage or Dash as your bonus action for the turn, and double your jump
  • Patient Defense: Take the Dodge action as a bonus action on your turn.

These all cost 1 Ki point, and you will gain more Ki as you level up.  The monk gains a lot of other fun class features (like Stunning Strike at level 5!) as you level but these 4 are really the CORE of the basic monk class.  Everything else sort of builds on this in my opinion.

What this means to me is that the monk as a base line is a Pressure class.  They are designed to get where others cannot easily reach and cause trouble for the squishy backline of the enemy, or inflict many repeated hits on a single target in the hopes of causing disruption.  A wizard will have a hard time concentrating on a spell when a Monk hits then 4 times, causing Concentration rolls for EACH hit!  A monk has the potential to do more damage than the Fighter or Barbarian, but more often than not they will do more consistent damage but less overall due to having their damage spread out over multiple hits.

But what about the Drunken Master?  What powers do they get when they take the Path at level 3?  Let’s take a look!

First, at level 3, you gain one of my favorite abilities as a Drunk Master.  It’s called “Drunken Technique” and to understand why it’s amazing, we need to talk about the Disengage action.  As written, Disengage allows a user to ignore all opportunity attacks that would be triggered by movement for the turn.  Normally, it takes a full action to activate unless you have an ability (Like the monks Step of the Wind) to activate it in another way.

However, the Drunken Master’s “Drunken Technique” ability grants them the following when the activate Flurry of Blows.  It grants both Disengage for the round, AND an extra 10ft of movement for the round.  This means that when a Drunken Master decides to Flurry, then can now move around the battlefield with impunity, ignoring any Opportunity attacks their movement would trigger, even moving say through an enemies square.  And since you can trigger Flurry at any time, and you can break up your movement AND attacks as you see fit, a 3rd level monk can easily bounce around and hit 1 to 3 different targets without worrying about getting hit back.  This ability is important by the way for when we get the Drunken Masters level 17 Capstone power.

At level 3 you also gain bonus proficiency in both the Performance skill and brewers supplies if you don’t already have them.

I want to take a moment here and discuss Stunning Fist, which ALL monks gain at 5th Level.  I want to explain a tactics you can use as a Drunken Master that other monks cannot do without taking a specific feat (Mobility).  You see, if you notice, a Drunken Master’s ability to move around the battlefield is unparalleled on a turn that they use Flurry of Blows.  They can easily reach multiple enemies.  At level 3 they could in theory reach and attack 3 unique targets.  At level 5, when they get Stunning Fist, they can reach 4 targets with their Flurry.

The main reason I bring this up is how Stunning Fist was changed from 3rd Edition, where it used to be a separate action, to 5th edition, where its now a Ki activated power.  When you successfully hit an enemy, you can spend 1 Ki to attempt to Stun the target.  They make a Con save vs your Martial Arts Save DC, and if they fail they are stunned till the end of your next turn.  You can, if you keep hitting one target, lock someone into doing nothing if they keep failing their saves.  However, the Drunken Master can easily with Flurry attempt to stun MULTIPLE TARGETS in one round.  This is a major deal and can let the Drunk Master control enemies very easily should they fail their Con saves.

At level 6 the Drunken Master gains two abilities.  One is called Leap to your Feet, allowing you to stand from prone for only 5ft of your movement, rather then half.  This is an incredible ability allowing all sorts of fun tricks.  For example: Fighting a bunch of archers?  Drop prone on your turn, so they get disadvantage on all attack rolls against you.  Next turn, stand for only 5ft of your movement, get near em, action to drop prone again.  Very easy for the monk to close the distance in this way.  This tactic is a bad idea if there is an enemy who can get within 5ft of you though so keep that in mind.

Also, you get Redirect Attack, which for 1 Ki Point, which lets you use your reaction to cause a melee attack roll that misses you to hit another target within 5ft of you that is NOT the attacker.  Pretty handy to mess with enemies.

At level 11 a Drunken Master gains Drunkards Luck, which lets them negate disadvantage on a save, attack, or ability check for 2 Ki Points.

Finally at level 17 Drunken Master Monk’s get their capstone power: Intoxicated Frenzy.  This ability lets them activate Flurry of Blows to gain not 1, not 2, but 3 additional Flurry Strikes!  This means they get a total of 5 Flurry of Blows attacks on top of their 2 normal attacks.  The negative here is that each of the 5 Flurry strikes must be made against a unique target.  So you could hit 1 enemy with both normal attacks, 1 flurry strike, and then move around hitting up to 4 other unique enemies with Flurry strikes.

Now personally, I love how thematic this final ability is but I think it’s a tad hampered by the requirement that each flurry attack must be against a unique enemy.  If you don’t have 5 enemies in the fight, you cannot get the maximum benefit from the power.  In any game I run, I would allow a player to split the attacks between 2 targets, and each attack cannot be made against a consecutive target.  IE If there are 2 enemies, you could hit one of them 3 times, and one twice, alternating the strikes between them.

So there you have it!  The Drunken Master Monk in all its glory!  Now, unlike the Divine Soul Sorcerer where I broke down some suggested spells per level and even homebrewed some Bonus Spell Lists, for this guy I am going to bring you a multiclass build that I discussed on twitter a while back with a few folks.

I present to you the concept of the Angry Drunk.

For this build you will be taking either 1 level or 3 levels of Barbarian.  The rest of your levels will be Drunken Master Monk.

This build works by leveraging the Rage ability of the Barbarian, mixed with the multiple attacks of the Monk, to generate some heavy damage spikes.  Now for this build to function, you actually need to have a high Strength score, as Rage only applies its bonus damage to attacks made with Strength based weapons.  Since a Monk can alternate which stat they use for their Martial Arts attacks between Dex and Strength, this is not really an issue.

Additionally, you will gain access to the Barbarian’s Unarmored Defense, which does NOT stack with the Monks.  You can use either calculation but not both to determine your overall AC.  This gives you a bit more flexibility in where you put your stats.  Do you go with CON, DEX, and STR?  Or WIS, DEX, and STR?  My personal suggestion is WIS, DEX, and STR since your Monk saves are tied to WIS.

Now if you only take a single level of Barbarian, you will gain access to a D12 hit die for that level, Rage, and Unarmored Defense.  You would have 2 Rage uses per long rest, and they would grant you +2 to your damage rolls when using STR for your Martial Arts, advantage on Strength checks and saves, and resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage of the nonmagical variety.  What you give up is the level 20 Monk ability, which lets you instantly gain 4 Ki if you start a fight with no Ki available, which I honestly never see happening unless you are slogging through a long extended fight.

However, if you take 3 levels of Barbarian, thats an additional 3d12 Hit Die, Rage 3x per long rest, Reckless Attack (to give yourself advantage on your first attack each round), Danger Sense to give yourself advantage on Dex Saves vs things you can see, and most importantly the Primal Path.

I am not going to go too deep here on any of the Barbarian paths, but my personal suggestion would be to go Totem Warrior and choose either Bear or Wolf.  Bear would make you resistant to all damage except psychic (and its magical and nonmagical by the way), while Wolf would mean you get advantage on attack rolls as long as an ally is within 5ft of your target.  Either would greatly enhance the Drunken Master.  Also you can roleplay as an angry wrestler, like THE BOULDER!

I hope this has helped you realize your dreams of being the true Jackie Chan, and if you are looking for more Path breakdowns, feel free to check out my “Pathology” tag here on my blog for more posts!

As always thanks for reading everyone and Stay Nerdy!  Make sure to follow me on TwitchYoutubeTwitter, and join my Steam Group and Steam Curator pages!  Pledge to my Patreon!  Spread the word on social media & help me get out there so I can bring even more content to the masses.  You do want more content yes?

Pathology: The Divine Soul Sorcerer – Not Your Daddies Favored Soul!

Welcome to the first entry to my Pathology series, where I take on a DnD Class Path and break down its features and ideas for building a character using it.  Xanathar’s Guide is out now, and thanks to one of my friends (again, thanks Saevrick!) I now have my own copy.  I was browsing through it and fully intend to give it a full on review but I ran across a new “Path” option for Sorcerers that I had to talk about: The Divine Soul.  The best way to think of these are Sorcerers whose power comes from divine ancestors.  Imagine a child of Zeus’s bloodline and you get the idea here.

Firstly, this is a new Sorcerer bloodline available at level one and its primary function is to give the Sorcerer class access to the full range of Clerical Magic, essentially making an amazing support character.  Given the Sorcerer’s access to Meta Magic, this blend is an amazing option for those of us who want to play true support styled characters.  Lets talk about what the Divine Soul gets access to in addition to a normal Sorcerer, and the kind of things you can pull off using this Bloodline.

Level 1 Abilities:

At level 1 the Divine Soul gains the ability to learn spells from the Cleric Spell list.  Basically whenever you would gain access to a new known spell, you can choose from any available Cleric OR Sorcerer spells.  Now you don’t get more spells known so you are still limited in what you will have access to (15 total spells by level 20) but you now have a much broader base to choose from.  Additionally, you choose which kind of Divine blood you hold, giving you an extra spell known.  Good gets Cure Wounds, Evil gets Inflict Wounds, Law gets Bless, Chaos gets Bane, and Neutral gets Protection from Good and Evil.  This is not based on your alignment either.  A LG Divine Soul can have “Evil” blood and start with Inflict Wounds as an example.

You also gain Favored by the Gods, which lets you (once per short/long rest) to roll 2d4 when you fail a save or miss an attack and add it to your die roll.  This can prevent near misses and help you not miss those important rolls!

Level 6 Abilities:

At level 6 you get Empowered Healing which is honestly an amazing support ability.  Whenever you OR AN ALLY WITHIN 5 FEET! rolls dice to determine total hit points healed, you can spend a sorcery point to reroll any number of those dice once, assuming you are not incapacitated.  You can only do this once per turn but honestly, this prevents low healing rolls on clutch heals and effects you and any healer within 5 feet.  That’s amazing.

Level 14 Abilities:

You get wings.  Period.  You can use a bonus action to bring them into existence and gain a fly speed of 30ft.  They last until you die, are incapacitated, or you dismiss them.  Seriously, you just get straight up wings.  They also change appearance based on your bloodline (angel wings for law/good, devil wings for chaos/evil, dragonfly for neutral.  These are on use with no limit either which is hilarious.

Level 18 Abilities:

One per long rest when you are at less then half HP remaining you can (as a bonus action) recover a number of hit points equal to half your max.  So good luck taking the Divine Soul down.

Now reading over this you can clearly see that the Divine Soul sorcerer is built to be an off healer and support character.  The ability to select from two full spell lists, plus the bonuses to healing and mobility, grant a Divine Soul sorcerer the ability to get where they need and help those who need it.  These abilities are in addition to the normal Sorcerer tricks such as Meta Magic and Font of Sorcery.  So why should you play a Divine Soul instead of the other options?

For me it comes down to Meta magic and the ability to recover spell slots as well as versatility.  This is honest to go my perfect class combination.  If I were to build one, here is what I would do.

First, I would choose the Good bloodline, giving me Cure Wounds.  Since spells scale based on spell slot used this gives me a solid healing spell no matter what level I am.  I would then choose my two level 1 spells and 4 cantrips, and given that I would be in a support role first instead of a damage role, I would most likely go with this spread (and you can choose both cleric AND sorcerer spells for this)

  1. Cantrips: Spare the Dying, Fire Bolt, Mending, Acid Splash
  2. 1st Level: Bless, Chromatic Orb

The reasons for these spells are pretty simple.  Spare the Dying should be on any support caster who can have it as it will simply stop any death saves on touch.  Fire Bolt and Acid Splash give you two different damage options at range (one single target, one multi target) with two different elemental types.  Mending is actually super useful and can repair all sorts of things.  I even repaired magical plate mail with it although it takes time.

For the first level spells since you already have Cure Wounds, you take Bless to give your party a boost for a while, and Chromatic Orb gives you a flexible damage spell allowing you to pick and chose the elemental type you hit with it, hopefully exploiting a weakness.

From here its all up to you.  At 3rd level you get two Metamagic options.  Good ones to think about are Distant Spell (turn Cure Wounds into a 30ft Range Spell), Twin Spell (hit 2 people with many of your spells), and Empowered Spell (Reroll them damage dice!).  If it were me, I would take Distant and Twinned.  Hitting 2 targets with Cure Wounds or Chromatic Orb is beuno.

Personally I would most likely split my spell selection between buffs (Haste is a MUST in this setup) and damage abilities.  If you find yourself getting into melee or being targeted for example, Spirit Guardians would be an excellent choice.  Heal with Twinned Spell is a scary option at later levels, or Harm with Twinned or Empowered as well.  In fact, you will most likely want to spend your limited known spells on utility first and damage second.  Mage Armor (if you have Barbarian’s / Monks in the party), Dispel Magic, Counterspell, Death Ward, Mass Cure Wounds, Time Stop, and so on.  Mixing any of these effects with your meta magic can be amazing as well.

The Divine Soul Sorcerer: An excellent Healer and Support caster for your next character.  Be aware that a Sorcerer is not a ritual caster as well, meaning that you cannot cast spells for no cost.  Leave those to the Clerics, Druids, and Wizards in general.  Here are some spells that I personally suggest you take a look at if you are building a Divine Soul Sorcerer.  These are my own personal preferences of course.  You could take the Ritual Caster feat to get around this, and I have done this and it is incredibly useful, but it does cost an Attribute Increase so keep that in mind.  Also your DM needs to allow feats (they are OPTIONAL after all!)

Suggested Spells Per Level

  • 1st Level: Mage Armor, Bless, Bane, Chromatic Orb, Guiding Bolt
  • 2nd Level: Spiritual Weapon, Enlarge / Reduce, Shatter, Warding Bond,
  • 3rd Level: Fireball, Haste, Dispel Magic, Counterspell, Fly, Stinking Cloud, Mass Healing Word
  • 4th Level: Death Ward, Polymorph, Stoneskin, Dimension Door, Guardian of Faith, Stone Shape
  • 5th Level: Mass Cure Wounds, Greater Restoration, Cloudkill, Animate Dead
  • 6th Level: Heal, Sunbeam, Disintegrate
  • 7th Level: Finger of Death, Plane Shift, Teleport
  • 8th Level: Dominate Monster, Earthquake
  • 9th Level: Time Stop, Meteor Storm, Wish, Mass Heal

EDIT: Recently I posted an article giving all the Sorcerer Bloodlines, including our friend the Divine Soul, Bonus Spell lists!  Check it out here.

If you are looking for more Path breakdowns, feel free to check out my “Pathology” tag here on my blog for more posts!

As always thanks for reading everyone and Stay Nerdy!  Make sure to follow me on TwitchYoutubeTwitter, and join my Steam Group and Steam Curator pages!  Pledge to my Patreon!  Spread the word on social media & help me get out there so I can bring even more content to the masses.  You do want more content yes?