Hail and well met! I thought I’d share with you all something that’s been on my mind for a while and that’s the concept of character optimization in tabletop roleplaying games. I’ll occasionally refer to third edition (v. 3.5) Dungeons & Dragons because it’s one of the systems I’m the most familiar with (it’s also the system I’ve been using for most of the games I run nowadays). My intention is for this guide’s content to include such systems as GURPS, old or new World of Darkness, Rolemaster and so on. There are so many great systems out there it’ll make your head spin. Anyway, onto the show and the first of three parts of my collected thoughts on what it means to optimize in RPGs.
Salutations, nerds! Today, rather than my usual babble I have a playable race for you that should be compatible with Wizard’s Wake, one of the titles over at Nerdarchy the Store or really any other seafaring kind of adventure for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. So without further ado, I present to you, the Thylocanthus, an new playable aquatic race for 5E D&D characters. These seafolk would fit right into the tropical Gylathacean Isles where the magical wreckage of Wizard’s Wake rests amid gorgeous tropical islands or any aquatic underwater adventures. Perhaps they could work with the Order of the Golden Quill or immerse themselves in the goings on around Saltmarsh.
Over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted channel divinity to come up with the holiest character in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons to answer a community request. We returned to the Character Build Guide series we haven’t created for in a while and developed the Holy Paragon, a 5E D&D character leaning all the way into their divine nature. But now Mythic Odysseys of Theros released digitally and if you really want to play a character devoted to the gods, look no further. I’ve been incredibly excited about MOoT since we stumbled upon the release prior to the announcement and I looked through the whole hotly anticipated book this morning. I’m blown away.
When Fil Kearney saw Wizards of the Coast creating settings and material for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons straight from the planes of Magic: The Gathering like many other players he anticipated the classic five color mana system wouldn’t be far behind. But after six Plane Shift releases plus Guildmasters Guide to Ravnica officially incorporating the worlds of M:TG to 5E D&D magic in the two games remains distinct without any crossover. So like any creative gamer Fil set out to develop his own 5 Color Mana system. Tap Untap Burn is a robust system for incorporating Magic’s classic color wheel into 5E D&D and Fil poured a tremendous amount of work into this to excite longtime Magic fans as well as 5E D&D players without any knowledge of the seminal trading card game. So let’s get into it and see what you can add to your games.
Over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted take on a community request for how to run 0th level characters and adventures for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. During the early playtest stages of 5E D&D when it was called D&D Next I recall a starter adventure designed with decision points and prompts. This gives me some ideas to start from and explore another way to structure a 0th level adventure for 5E D&D, so let’s get into it.
Over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted get swole with the Muscle Mage, a quirky character concept for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. The concept of a wizard more into physical fitness than academic research sounds like a blast to explore during play and makes me think of two different ways to represent this idea as a 5E D&D character. Things might get weird here but we’re talking about a wizard more inclined to punch monsters in the face than stand in the back casting fireball so we’re starting from an unusual place anyway. Time to flex my imagination and get into it with two versions of a 5E D&D muscle wizard.
Salutations, nerds! Today we’re coming at fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons from a player’s perspective looking specifically at how to play to your dump stat in a way that doesn’t ruin your fun. If we’re doing standard array for ability scores everybody has an 8 they must put somewhere. If we’re doing point buy it’s totally possible to have no dump stat at all but I’ve found in my experience more often than not you end up with more dump stats than you would have otherwise because people will sacrifice points out of more things to get those sweet 18’s out of the gate. The thing is, very rarely do you actually see people playing to the ability score they’ve dumped. I’m sure you’ve seen this too, where someone takes 8 in Intelligence and Wisdom so they can have good Strength and Dexterity but they never show the drawbacks of those low ability score in action. So today we’re going to talk about little ways you can show your 5E D&D dump stat through your roleplaying. Ready? Buckle up, let’s go.
Over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel we create a lot of video content. There’s thousands of videos celebrating our passion for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons and other tabletop roleplaying games. (But yes, mostly D&D. We love the game!) One of our favorite videos to make are the Adventurers League Character Build Guides. We come up with a character concept and put it together soup to nuts. Along the way we explain why particular choices get made, building a character from 1st-20th level. Mechanical elements certainly factor heavily into decision making but practical reasoning and roleplaying share equal importance. For a little inside baseball it is almost always the latter ideas where a CBG begins. At the moment we’ve got 32 CBGs over at Dungeon Masters Guild, all pay what you want. Nine of them have achieved copper bestseller or better status, and there’s also four other PWYW products over there, which are encounters or adventures you can drop right into your 5E D&D game. Today I’m here to share one of my favorite CBGs, one I’ve been playing in a wonderfully fun game run by Esper the Bard on his YouTube channel.
Over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted get back to basics and discuss the paladin class for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. In the video they look across all of the 5E D&D books with paladin content. There are paladin subclasses in the Player’s Handbook, Sword Coast Adventurers Guide and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything and Dave and Ted share an overview of the character class plus weigh in on their personal gaming experiences. Outside of official sources there are countless Sacred Oaths created by players all over the world. We’ve created one recently for our April early access Patreon rewards. The Oath of Vanity included with Hairable Ideas as a follow up to 2019’s popular Beardomancy will hit the store next month but you can get it now along with all our other supporters at the $2 level plus get immediate access to years worth of previous rewards. Check it out here. Over at Dungeon Master’s Guild there’s currently 681 products tagged as character options with warlock content too. But there is another source of homebrew content I’m looking at today — D&D Beyond, where people have used the homebrew tools there to create 600 Sacred Oaths for 5E D&D paladins. Let’s get into it and take a closer look at some!
Over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted discuss how wizards can make meaningful choices for feats in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. in 5E D&D wizards for the most part rely on a single ability score — Intelligence — for their features and abilities, including their spellcasting. So when a wizard character reaches 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th and 19th levels and earns an Ability Score Improvement, once the character hits that sweet 20 Intelligence the option to choose a feat becomes tremendously appealing. And of course a human variant character can choose a feat right at 1st level. In the video Dave and Ted go over several groups of feats a wizard can take to increase effectiveness in combat, lean into their scholarly side or enhance their already impressive spellcasting potential. Over here on the website we thought it would be fun to create a new feat or two designed with wizards in mind. And since we’re giving away three free digital Adventures & Supplements we’ll tie them into Beardomancy, one of our most popular products that’s getting a follow up in just a few days from now.
Over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted circle back to the basics and discuss the druid class for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. In the video they look at all of the 5E D&D books with druid content. There are subclasses in the Player’s Handbook, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything and Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica and Dave and Ted look over the character class as a whole plus weigh in with their personal gaming experiences. Outside of official sources there are countless Circles created by players all over the world. We’ve created at least one ourselves and there’s more from the D&D design team included in Unearthed Arcana playtest documents as well as terrific third party products containing new options for druid players. Over at Dungeon Master’s Guild there’s currently 625 products tagged as 5E D&D character options with druid content too. But there is another source of homebrew content I’m looking at today — D&D Beyond, where people have used the homebrew tools there to create 291 Circles for druids. Let’s get into it and look at the best ones from three different perspectives.
In the annals of Nerdarchy’s content creation vaults for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons I recently discovered a document Nerdarchist Ted created about two years ago called Warforged Components. Originally created to swell ranks with steel soldiers, since the days of the Last War these creatures of wood, metal and magic became recognized as a new species who now seek their purpose beyond fighting in others’ conflicts. Warforged as a fan favorite character race and in 5E D&D the definitive official version appears in Eberron: Rising from the Last War. In Nerdarchy’s own campaign setting a similar but very different species pursues a much more concrete goal — total domination of the multiverse. Vargarians are a bio-organic species and like the warforged they are created, except the Collective fashions their kind by subjugating populations and absorbing individuals, grafting arcanomechanical parts and subsuming their minds. But why should they get all the wonderful toys?
Recently while talking, we at Nerdarchy realized fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons rogues just haven’t gotten as much love and attention from all of us as we would like, especially in the realm of homebrew content and subclasses. That’s a real shame too, because the rogue is one of the staple classes of the fantasy genre on the whole. As a class, I find it interesting that rogues are sort of disenfranchised. Even the definition for the word rogue implies someone who doesn’t travel the beaten path. Rogues are usually the tricksters, those who argue for pragmatism, usually devoid of morality and other such inconveniences. I’ve often wondered why there was never an enforcer rogue. We’re familiar with stories of criminals employing some muscle to intimidate their enemies. Why isn’t that a thing we can do in 5E D&D? Well, now we can… as an Enforcer Roguish Archetype.
Fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons revolves around ability scores (physical and mental character traits) and how those scores apply to proficiencies (what you’re good at). Both are represented numerically, with modifiers to any number you roll on a d20 whenever you make a skill check. Ability checks are written like this: Ability (proficiency). For example, your Dungeon Master might call for a Dexterity (Stealth) check. The reason for this is Dexterity is the applicable ability score, while your Stealth proficiency allows you to further modify the skill check. Quick disclaimer: any 5E D&D DM can require or allow any ability check or skill proficiency check for any reason, even outside this purview. This article is meant as a guide for new players and DMs to explain how skill checks work and what they look like, narratively.
Over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted get back to basics and discuss the warlock class for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. In the video they look across all of the 5E D&D books with warlock content. There are warlock subclasses in the Player’s Handbook, Sword Coast Adventurers Guide and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything and Dave and Ted share an overview of the character class plus weigh in on their personal gaming experiences. Outside of official sources there are countless Otherworldly Patrons created by players all over the world. We’ve created quite a few ourselves in our products, newsletter and posts here on the website. There’s more from the D&D design team included in various Unearthed Arcana playtest documents, and lots of terrific third party products contain new options for warlock players. Over at Dungeon Master’s Guild there’s currently 840 products tagged as character options with warlock content too. But there is another source of homebrew content I’m looking at today — D&D Beyond, where people have used the homebrew tools there to create 755 Otherworldly Patrons for 5E D&D warlocks. Let’s get into it and take a closer look at some!