Over in another question, I ran into some communication breakdown with another person because we didn't have a shared understanding of what the term "build" meant. Basically, the asker understood a character's "build" to include items and equipment and some others did not.

In the wider D&D and Pathfinder community, is there a generally agreed definition of what constitutes a character's "build"? If so, what is that definition?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 23:36

3 Answers 3


Your build includes any and every mechanical option that is relevant to its functioning the way you intend it to. In short, “build” means what you say it means.

If you say that your build doesn’t care what weapon you use, then the choice of weapon is not part of the build.

If you say your build requires a melee weapon of some sort, that is part of your build, but which particular melee weapon is not.

If you say your build needs a melee weapon with reach, then that is part of your build, but any number of polearms can fit the bill.

If you say your build needs a holy avenger specifically, then that is part of your build, and finding one becomes a requirement for someone interested in playing that build. Someone suggesting something so specific should probably include discussion on how to accomplish that (most likely through out-of-game agreement with the DM), but ultimately even if they don’t, that just makes it a difficult suggestion to use, not an invalid one.

If you say your build absolutely relies on this one particular tactic and everything you are building towards revolves around 1. ensuring you’ll be able to do that thing and 2. capitalizing when you do it, then even your tactics can be part of the build. That might be as simple as just ensuring you can always grapple things no matter how big, strong, or magically-protected they are, to something as specific as the Black Tactica war weaver–counter-nuking build, to something as convoluted as a particular approach to Pun-pun ascension.

Your build includes all those details you feel you need to include in order to make the build function as intended.

Anyone telling you that any part of what you consider to be part of your build, is not actually part of what is covered by the word “build,” is quite simply wrong.


Historically, items have been a part of builds, and it's part of normal convention, because feats and skills and such depend on what items you have, and many builds depend on key items and magical items. You don't include most items, just the ones needed for some key functions.

This isn't true in all systems, as some systems don't see items as important, but is certainly very true for Pathfinder and D&D, and examples are presented for both below.

A reasonably common definition would be that a character build is the set of mechanical traits a character has that allows them to perform well at a stated task. This includes feats, skills, attributes, items, and a variety of other things.

Here's an example of that definition online.

In video game terms, your character's "build" is the arrangement of stat points and/or gear for your character that will allow you to achieve the best results for your playstyle. This only applies to games where it is impossible to max out all your stats, or if you want to stay at a certain level.

For example, here, an early build for a wish wizard is presented which relies on a magical item.

This character manipulated several loopholes in the laws of magic to devestate his enemies and survive his brother's magical powers. By casting Wishes out of a custom Ring of Infinite wishes created by Spell-like Wishes from powerful Outsiders (which, as spell-like abilities, can create magic items at no XP or GP cost to the caster, and as Wishes, require no feats to create).

Mostly, he just Wishes his problems away by emulating a vast array of potential spells with Wish.

High-end effects are cast from Divinely Quickened Scrolls created by Wish.

Or this build for killing a tarrasque, which relies on scrolls and such.

Summary. Cost: 17250gp - +1 mithril chain shirt of speed 6000gp - necklace of karma bead 5100gp - bracers of archery 500gp - mighty composite +4 longbow 1125gp - scroll of maximized cats-grace 700gp - scroll of polymorph 700gp - scroll of improved invisibility 325gp - scroll of fly 100gp - scroll of expeditious retreat (caster level 4) various cleric spells - free 28825gp - Miracle finisher scroll 28850gp for equipment we should have anyway, 2950gp for scrolls, and 28825gp for the Miracle finisher... Summary: If you're going to build your D&D character into a one-man army, this is the way to go.

Looking at a more recent example, are items included?

So I am looking for suggestions on how to increase that since I see the character being more of the in your face duelist type even though ranged would probably be easier with a handful of archery feats like Rapid Shot, Many Shot, and the like. So far I'm juggling with the idea of losing the buckler to make use of Fencing Grace for dex to damage, or just dipping a couple levels into Unchained Rogue, getting a couple sneak attack die and dex to damage that way. Is it worth losing 3 levels of spell progression though and delaying the increase to my bonus from Archaeologist's Luck?

So yes, items are included. What's not included normally are more roleplay based aspects, but items are a key mechanical part of your character and so are included in any build.


Generally, a build refers to the best way to fit a play style.

Play style varies a lot, depending on the play. One person may wish to play as a noble knight in shining armor. Another may wish to play as someone sneaky or deceitful. Whereas someone else might be more about mechanics, wanting to build a dragon slayer, a melee magician, or a ranged attacker.

Classes are not builds. Classes are a set of restrictions. A sneaky character doesn't necessarily have to be a rogue; it could be a barbarian.

Builds will mix and match anything needed to fit their play style well.

Specific magical items are generally not a part of builds, simply because there's no expectation that you can get a certain type of item. How would one go about getting a +1 mithril chain of speed? In a PC game like Baldur's Gate, where you know certain items exist, you can have builds specifically revolving around an item. In a tabletop game, it's unlikely, unless there were certain items in-game that are confirmed there, such as a heirloom sword, or stealing a noble's magical cape.

What normally happens with builds is that the items are much more generic. The Spiked Chain Fighter builds specifically requires a Spiked Chain to work. But it doesn't need certain items to work.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ "Detailed are generally not a part of builds, simply because there's no expectation that you can get a certain type of item." I'm not sure what you're trying to say in this sentence. It seems like you meant "details" instead of "detailed", but the paragraph specifically refers to magic items. (Maybe you meant "specific magic items" instead of "detailed"?) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 5:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ There are D&D editions and playstyles in which you can be quite assuredly guaranteed of getting the exact items you want, so that part doesn't seem accurate to state of builds as a generality, and it's also contrary to the fact many published builds do involve magic items. (If you're not in a game you can reliably get any of those items, you just don't play that build or don't leave yourself dependent on eventually getting it.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 8:06

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