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This answer about maximizing the languages you can learn points out that you can use downtime to keep learning languages, but if you aren’t going to do that there’s a particular build suggested for maximizing them. That got me thinking: how would it be to actually play such a character? Obviously, you know basically every language in the game, without magic, which is awesome, but in most campaigns language only plays a relatively minor role. Even in campaigns where it plays a major role, there are plenty of situations that care not one whit for your language skills.

The big one is combat. There may be a few combat options (taunts, impromptu negotiation, etc) that your languages help with, but for the most part they don’t. So the question becomes, if you’ve devoted so much to learning so many languages, how can you best leverage whatever else you’re getting along with those languages?

So then, the question is, supposing that by 20th level, you had

  • The half-elf race

  • The acolyte background

  • The Linguist feat

  • 14 levels in ranger

  • 1 level in cleric (Knowledge Domain)

  • 3 levels in mastermind rogue

  • 1 level in druid

Leaving you with 1 class level and at least 2 feats open. How do you maximize this character’s contribution to combat?

This is not the same as maximizing damage per se, though that is surely the typical way to contribute to a combat. But other approaches to contributing—battlefield control, buffs or debuffs, healing—are valid too, so long as they come out of those class levels.

In short, your goal here is to answer “How can we best justify these choices of race, background, feat, and class levels from a combat perspective, rather than doing it just for the languages?” A good answer will demonstrate that they are leveraging those options well. A better answer will discuss how to level the character and progress towards that point.

The best answer, hypothetically, will not only do that, but also integrate the languages learned into combat—but it still has to be good, not just for the sake of utilizing the languages. Note that I don’t honestly expect this to be possible, and I will prefer an answer that ignores the languages over one that tries to shoe-horn them in where they don’t really work. In particular, since most details of culture and relations are setting-dependent, it would be very difficult to back up an answer based purely in roleplaying—even though such details would be very welcome as an addition to an answer, an answer focusing solely on them would have to be very thorough and would have to somehow back up the claim that these things should work in whatever campaign the character finds themselves in.

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The Linguist is surprisingly effective

It is better than a Beastmaster Ranger, but a lot weaker in combat than Ranger 12 / Assassin Rogue 8.

What can we work with

We can narrow down our possibilities by looking at what is given:

  • To take advantage of the Rogue levels and Sneak Attack, we need to forget two-handed melee weapons
  • The Mastermind Rogue's best feature is Master of Tactics, it is quite useful in most parties, but uses up our bonus action, so dual wielding is out1
    • So is Horizon Walker, as it needs a bonus action every round to fuel Planar Warrior
  • The Druid excludes metal armor, so to have a decent AC, we need high Dex2

With the high Dex, we should go archer; Archery fighting style.
The last level goes to Rogue, for another ASI. 15th level Ranger features are good, but they all pale in comparison to Sharpshooter.
The -5 to attacks can be quite well mitigated by Stalker's Flurry4, so Gloom Stalker is the archetype. And Dread Ambusher is great.

Build

Levels

  • Ranger (Gloom Stalker) 14
  • Rogue (Mastermind) 4
  • Cleric (Knowledge) 1
  • Druid 1

Order for most languages as soon as possible

  • Cleric 1
  • Druid 1
  • Ranger 1 (language of favored enemy)
  • Rogue 3 (Master of Intrigue)
  • Rogue 4 (Linguist feat)
  • Ranger 6 (second language)
  • Ranger 14 (third language)

Unless our party provides reliable advantage to ranged attacks, he should take Sharpshooter only after he gets Stalkers Flurry, so on character level 18.

Order for most power as soon as possible

  • Ranger 12 (Extra Attack, 3 ASIs: +4 Dex, Sharpshooter)
  • Rogue 3 (Cunning Action, Sneak Attack)
  • The rest only adds HP and increases proficiency bonus

Ability scores, with point buy

  • Str 8
  • Dex 20 (15 starting, +1 racial, +2 on level 8, +2 on 12)
  • Con 14
  • Int 10
  • Wis 16 (15 starting, +1 racial)
  • Cha 10 (8 starting, +2 racial)

Sharpshooter feat

Skills

  • Insight (acolyte)
  • Religion (acolyte)
  • Stealth (cleric, see background)
  • Perception (cleric)
  • Investigation (rogue)
  • Athletics (ranger)
  • 2 others (half-elf)

Many languages

Equipment

Studded Leather
Longbow
Shield, Rapier (backup)

How can we justify these choices from a combat perspective

The Linguist is acceptable not because, but in spite of these choices. If he takes the levels to maximize the number of known languages as soon as possible, he gets Extra Attack only on level 12.
In my opininon, after level 5, until level 18, he is weaker than any single classed character.

Race is negative

The best part of half-elf, the +2 for Cha is useless for him. If he were a Variant Human, he could get Dex 20 and Sharpshooter 4 levels earlier.

Background is positive

There are 4 skills that might be relevant for combat:

  • Stealth, for advantage by hiding
  • Perception, to find things to shoot at
  • Athletics, for Shield Master of grappling, if we go that way
  • Acrobatics or Athletics, to avoid grapples and shoves

Cleric provides none of these, but Acolyte gives him duplicates of Insight and Religion, so he can take Stealth and Perception from his class. Athletics comes from Ranger, Acrobatics from Rogue multiclass.

Classes

Ranger is neutral

One of the weaker classes, and levels 13-14 are basically empty from combat perspective5.

Rogue is positive

It is never a bad addition for builds that use ranged or finesse weapons.
Assassin would be much stronger in combat, especially with Gloom Stalker's Dread Ambusher.

Cleric is neutral

Getting some cantrips is good, for example Toll the Dead is great for the time when he has disadvantage on attacks.
Life Cleric would be better with Goodberry, but Knowledge is fine too.

Druid is neutral

One of the worst dips in the whole game, it hurts most builds much more than it helps. This build is one of the few exceptions, still, after Cleric, this does not give you much.


1) it is subpar anyway
2) without this limitation, we could have gone with Hexblade for the final level, using Cha for attacks. Damn those druids, and the lack of decent, core non-metal medium armor3
3) Hide armor is horrible, obviously
4) Practically a reroll on a miss once per round
5) Vanish is not bad, but he got a better ability from 2 levels of Rogue

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  • \$\begingroup\$ you can try getting dragon scale mail for medium armor, or work with your DM to convince him to allow you to possess scale armor made from actual scales, and therefore non-metal (that's what I did with the druid I'm currently playing) \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster Jan 1 at 15:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @András You should add that comment to your answer, I think. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 2 at 14:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Bounty complete, love this answer. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jan 7 at 23:28

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