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I got gifted a level-4 Fighter (freaking Toddy!) from a Deck of Many Things, and we're a level 10 party running through Doomvault. I'm not sure whether I should focus on raising his defense (so that he doesn't die with random attacks from higher level monsters), or on his attacks (assuming it's pointless to try and keep him alive).

Since I'm a Rogue/Bard skill monkey, I really just want Toddy to either do as much damage as possible, or to soak/protect as much damage as possible. He will be a Half-Elf, using any legal method to determine ability scores, and I see 3 specific paths for Toddy:

  • Strength-based DPR-focused Champion - Plate, Greatsword, GWF, and probably the ASI invested on STR

  • Strength-based Protection-focused Battlemaster - Plate, Longsword + Shield, Protection fighting style, and probably the ASI invested on a feat (Tough?). His maneuvers would be Commander’s Strike (helping the Rogue), Disarming Attack, and Trip Attack.

  • Dexterity-based DPR-focused Champion - Studded Leather, Longbow, Archery, and probably the ASI invested on DEX

I'd prefer Toddy as a frontliner, which is better in our party and also has higher DPR. So, can a low-level melee fighter do noticeable DPR on a higher level party, or should Toddy focus on the defensive side of things? With either, are there better build suggestions I can use?

Or are both terrible ideas, and should he just be a ranged DPR-oriented Fighter? If a melee Toddy will just die by the 2nd round of combat, I might as well have him in the backlines.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Does your party have access to magic items that could help Toddy be more useful? (I'm thinking like a tentacle rod that has a +9 attack bonus compared to Toddy's +6, or a wand of magic missle to do some guaranteed damage). It is unlikely that Toddy will do much damage on his own. Do you get to choose Toddy's background? \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Jan 31 at 13:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron We have some magic items, and I'm sure the DM won't mind if Toddy uses some, but we don't have any of those, as far as I know \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMoon93 Jan 31 at 13:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Yup \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMoon93 Jan 31 at 20:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ Do 10th level parties not have henchmen/retainers/minions any more? This guy should be back in camp taking care of your horses and keeping you from being annoyed by the occasional goblin or kobold who is too stupid to stay away from you \$\endgroup\$ – The Photon Feb 1 at 6:22
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With HP and damage being the main difference, Toddy should play it safe

A 4th level character will have very little HP compared to everything you will come across. He will have around 35 HP, where most of your team will have around 75. Any attack or area spell that would drop one of you to half HP would drop him instantly. This is not ideal for a front liner.

To work around this, I’d recommend playing it as safe as possible. Getting him the Sharpshooter feat as an Arcane Archer would be an ideal solution, considering many of the enemies you face will be resistant to nonmagical damage. The burst effectiveness of an Arcane Archer also works in your favor, as he can put in as much as he can before meeting his unfortunate (inevitable) death.

If a ranged magic weapon is available for your Fighter friend, you can afford to have him be a more versatile combatant, as long as he focuses on defensive capabilities. To utilize ranged weaponry, he should stay Dexterity-based.

A few other options that fit this niche are:

  • Samurai, for the temporary hitpoints it provides as well as Advantage to attack to offset the difference in hit-bonuses vs. high level AC.
  • Battlemaster, focusing on ranged support effects (Commander's Strike, Parry, Distracting Strike).
  • Eldritch Knight, using cantrips, Shield and Absorb Elements (Can use Strength since Fire Bolt is a ranged option)
  • Purple Dragon Knight, to serve as a "squire" that supports the main party.

Once the Knight is near your party's level and has HP to spare, he can afford to shift over to using Two Weapon Fighting as a melee combatant, or he can continue to use ranged attacks as he has been.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It may be worth noting that any encounter toddy lives through is going to be worth his weight in xp. \$\endgroup\$ – goodguy5 Jan 31 at 12:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @goodguy5 Still, I feel it’s better to play it safe. Gaining a level 10 Arcane Archer that does fine with TWF is a lot better than gambling an NPC just to lose it at level 4. Having a high level Arcane Archer is a much better problem than a well armored corpse. \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel Zastoupil Jan 31 at 12:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ oh, of course. I was just noting that If Toddy gets combat xp (perhaps via a safely fired arrow), then he will quickly start to level up. \$\endgroup\$ – goodguy5 Jan 31 at 13:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sharpshooter is a horrible idea, his hit chance is bad enough as it is compared to the monsters you are likely to face. A two weapon fighting Arcane Archer is probably a worse idea however. \$\endgroup\$ – András Feb 1 at 10:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ An additional benefit to a Dex-based fighter is a higher Dex save. This is particularly useful for the OP who is in the Doomvault, where the most likely cause of death-at-a-distance for a mook is an enemy wizard's Fireball. \$\endgroup\$ – BBeast Feb 1 at 11:53
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Specialize in Mascot Skills

Deemphasize combat aptitude If there's a chance that Toddy might not be effective, you might as well commit to making Toddy fun. With your main character, you can already contribute to the combat strength of the party. If you have gotten far enough in your campaign to find a Deck of Many Things, you guys are probably already doing okay - do you really need more power to advance the game? After all, increasing your party's strength will likely result in your DM compensating with harder encounters.

What else can Toddy add to the party? Take a look through the list of feats and skill proficiencies for fun knick knacks. There are a bunch of feats few players bother to take because they aren't useful for combat. But you already control a combat-effective character, so why not take this opportunity to diversify? Perhaps Toddy is an Inspiring Leader that rouses the party with plucky enthusiasm?

Unearthed Arcana: Feats For Skills includes some nice options. Make Toddy a pack mule with Brawny, or the party cook with Gourmand . The group Historian, Medic, or Alchemist? Fill in any of your own character's skill monkey gaps by taking Prodigy. Pick up Land Vehicle tool proficiency for a coachman.

The Downside Even if your party doesn't need more battle power, this approach can be a drag for the party because Toddy will, RAW, drain XP from the other PCs. This decision isn't just about what to do with an extra character - it is also a decision about what you want to do with an XP leach. I still think it is worth considering whether you want to invest in fun or power, but this decision also affects the other members of your party, so it might be prudent to consult them as well.

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    \$\begingroup\$ We use XP milestones, so your downside isn't much of a bother, actually! ^^ \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMoon93 Jan 31 at 15:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BlueMoon93 Then Toddy will always be 6 levels behind, unless the DM gives him extra levels (which I wouldn't, he's not a PC). \$\endgroup\$ – aherocalledFrog Jan 31 at 20:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @aherocalledFrog I think you might be confusing milestone with Level Advancement without XP. The DMG describes milestone: "You can also award XP when characters complete significant milestones. When preparing your adventure, designate certain events or challenges as milestones" \$\endgroup\$ – Pink Sweetener Jan 31 at 21:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PinkSweetener to be fair, D&D Beyond doesn't differentiate the two, and actually seems to imply that milestone is advancement without xp. \$\endgroup\$ – tox123 Feb 1 at 4:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ I suppose Level Advancement without XP would actually support my Mascot answer. If Toddy is always behind in level, he'd forever be a combat liability. But as a sort of butler, he could still be useful! \$\endgroup\$ – Pink Sweetener Feb 1 at 19:34
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I did something similar: recommend a Battle Master, Dex based

I'll suggest against a front liner unless you have none. Here is why.

Our group picked up a 3rd level fighter who swore loyalty to my Champion, and the DM allowed me to run him (we all expected him to die, as were were level 11/12 at the time). He dropped to 0 HP any number of times but we've always been able to get him back up. I made him a Battle Master, Defensive fighting style, and while I am pleased (he's alive at level 6 now, amazingly) what I would do differently is to not make him a melee warrior but instead to make him an archer.
We equipped him with plate and shield, but he still seems to get hit a lot even with defensive fighting style (AC 21). Monsters at higher levels hit kind of hard.

Creating Toddy

Toddy Stats (27 point buy + 1/2 elf )
S 14 (13+1) D 16 (15+1) C 14 I 10 W 12 Ch 10 (8+2)
Fighting Style: Archery. (+2 to hit!)
Feat for level 4: Medium Armor Mastery (What? See below)
Skill Proficiencies: Stealth and anything else you want. (Pick Athletics or Acrobatics, and so on ... )

Ok, why a +1 on Wis save? Don't want him turned against the party, don't want him feared, so hedge the bets a bit as save DC's go up. Not a min / max issue but a "there are a lot of wisdom saves out there from mind altering spells."

(Alternate Point Buy for a more min/maxing: S 15 D 16(15 +1) Con 15(14 +1) I 8 W 10 Ch 10. Boost Con and one other 6th level, or boost Dex to increase to hit chances.

With Half Plate, 16 Dex, and the feat his AC is 18 when shooting with his long bow. If he needs to help in melee, using sword/shield his AC is 20 unless you can get him a +1 Shield for 21. He is not a problem for Dex/Stealth at all thanks to the feat. (See below).

Toddy' Role

Toddy is not your major damage dealer: you and your PC allies are. He is an enabler. The +2 to hit for Archery style beats a Dex boost for an ASI, and hitting targets triggers some of his BM* maneuvers - be sure to hit!

If he survives to 6, I'd add 2 to his Constitution. That depends on how your DM, your group, and you dole out an XP share for Toddy. But you can add another feat like Sharpshooter ... up to you.

Toddy in Action

Primary weapon: Long Bow.
Secondary Weapon: Rapier / shield.

Battle Master Maneuvers: pick any three, but make sure to get this one.

  • Commander's Strike. Your higher level party members (particularly those with two handed attacks or Great Weapon Attacks) will be able to get an additional attack by using their Reaction to attack when Toddy gives them this benefit. 4 times per short rest. We have found this to be very useful (our two-hander Barbarian has Great Weapons Master). Your Rogue getting a reaction Attack not on the Rogue's turn gets the sneak attack benefits if sneak attacks can trigger. Very useful! (Our Rogue appreciates our helpful BM ...).

    The other two I'd recommend because I've found them tactically useful:

  • Distracting Attack: you hit, one of your allies gets advantage on an attack roll. Really good for a Paladin ally, but good for any other attacker. Boosts their crit chances. Triggers your Rogue's sneak attack damage even if he attacks from range.

  • Maneuvering Attack: allows an ally to re-position using a Reaction and not get hit with an OA. Tactically handy in many different situations.

What can Armored Archer Toddy do for you?

  1. Add some ranged damage, make some of your higher level attackers more effective, and add some additional attacks in selected points in a fight.

  2. Get allies out of trouble when the enemy has them cut off or swarmed.

  3. Sneak about with you, the Rogue, to provide a little muscle/help when you are scouting.

    This last one is situational, but very handy. If while scouting you do mix it up, Commander's Strike aids you. When he is in sword and board mode while sneaking around with you (tactical situation depending), Toddy gives up his action/bonus action for your additional Attack (Reaction) which has a great deal more damage potential than his attacks do due to your weapon + mod + sneak attack damage.

Logistics considerations

Something to plan for: be sure to have a Medicine kit, or potion, or both, for the occasional "he's down" that is bound to happen (we did) as you run into really tough monsters with his shallower HP pool.

Survival

He will survive better as an archer, and benefit giver, for longer than he will when being thrown into the meat grinder of Tier 3 melee.

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Buff Toddy

The only you way Toddy is going to make a difference is by using your party's assets to strengthen him. Toddy will miss most attacks. Best way to make him actually hit is the Archery fighting style, but then he's only dealing 7-10 damage on average (depending on the archetype. This is still probably the best build, but isn't going to make Toddy particularly powerful). Try these out:

Magic Items

There are some magic items that will let Toddy punch above his weight class. If you have access to some simple items like the wand of magic missles (which you don't need to be a spellcaster to use), he will have some effectiveness even as a non-caster. But picking up Eldritch Knight and grabbing a wand of fireballs would be very effective (about 5 fireballs per day). You can avoid needing to pick up Eldritch Knight for spellcasting requirements by using the half-elf High or Drow variants.

Tentacle Rod. This rod with a shield would be very strong. It gives you 3 attacks with a +9 attack bonus. You do have to be closer to the front (15 feet range), so it is risky, but Toddy's damage output would be great compared to other builds.

Spells

Some spells allow other creatures to make attacks using the original caster's modifiers. These spells let Toddy basically attack as a Tier 3 character when cast by your party. Magic stone says:

If someone else attacks with the pebble, the attacker adds your spellcasting ability modifier, not the attacker's, to the attack roll. On hit, the target takes bludgeoning damage equal to 1d6 + your spellcasting ability modifier.

A Battle Master with a sling and these stones could make good use of the +5 spellcasting ability modifiers of your party and still use his maneuvers (such as Commander's Strike).

Another really strong spell for this purpose is dragon's breath:

Until the spell ends, the creature can use an action to exhale energy of the chosen type in a 15-foot cone. Each creature in that area must make a Dexterity saving throw, taking 3d6 damage of the chosen type on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

This spell turns Toddy into a breath weapon that packs a punch. If you plan on using this spell often though, you will want a durable Toddy (so focus on plate armor, a shield (preferably magic ones), and maybe grab Eldritch Knight for the clutch casts of the shield spell).

Help Toddy Live

This is going to be the hardest part, as some enemies will be able to kill Toddy outright from full health, and most enemies can kill him outright if he's damaged. There are a few ways to prevent him dying outright (so you can at least stabilize him if he falls).

The aid spell will increase his maximum HP (which proportionally is ridiculous if upcast while he's at this low level).

Choose up to three creatures within range. Each target’s hit point maximum and current hit points increase by 5 for the duration.

At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 3rd level or higher, a target’s hit points increase by an additional 5 for each slot level above 2nd.

With a 7th level spell slot (if one of your teammates can part with it), this doubles the HP of Toddy and provides a good buff to two other party members as well. Even a 3rd level spell slot, helps greatly to mitigate instant death. Your other option is death ward.

The first time the target would drop to 0 hit points as a result of taking damage, the target instead drops to 1 hit point, and the spell ends.

This is especially useful for Toddy because he will be dropping to 0 fast, so this will definitely proc (whereas it may never proc on one of your party members who have more HP and healing options).

If you are not using the dragon's breath method, then just keep Toddy in the back. He still will benefit from aid and death ward, but he will take much less assault and a Battlemaster with a bow is almost as good as one with a sword. Just have him pepper a couple arrows (preferably from a magic bow, so they aren't block by magic resistant creatures), and let him command you to sneak attack on his turn.\

Note: even with an archer build, you want to make sure he has enough strength for Plate armor

Also, if you have one, make sure he is in range of the paladin's auras so he is much more likely to succeed on saving throws.

Whenever you or a friendly creature within 10 feet of you must make a saving throw, the creature gains a bonus to the saving throw equal to your Charisma modifier (with a minimum bonus of +1). You must be conscious to grant this bonus.

It might even be worth it to have the paladin sit back more and used ranged attacks unless he needs the smites to help protect Toddy (unless Toddy will be safe enough only 15 feet from the enemies, such as in a narrow chamber).

If you will be in foliage or other natural obscurers often, grabbing the Variant Half-Wood Elf would be very strong for Mask of the Wild:

You can attempt to hide even when you are only lightly obscured by foliage, heavy rain, falling snow, mist, and other natural phenomena.

If using this build, it is better to drop your armor down to Breastplate and put Toddy's first level-ups in rogue for Cunning Action.

Toddy's levels

Toddy will reach the first few early levels very quickly, so while it is tempting to grab level 5 for the extra attack, this is not a good idea. You should expect Toddy to die, so I would immediately rush Barbarian to grab the Path of the Zealot at level 7. This will give you Warrior of the Gods which says:

If a spell, such as raise dead, has the sole effect of restoring you to life (but not undeath), the caster doesn’t need material components to cast the spell on you.

This means your party can keep bringing him back for the cost of only a spell slot. Keep in mind, though, that using raise dead comes with this cost:

The target takes a −4 penalty to all attack rolls, saving throws, and ability checks. Every time the target finishes a long rest, the penalty is reduced by 1 until it disappears.

A zealot's Divine Fury will also give you extra damage on ranged attacks while raging (which most barbarians don't get access to unless it's a thrown weapon). Once you reach Barbarian 3, then you can return to Fighter to finish out the levels (and pick up some really important ASIs to catch up).

How I would build Toddy

Half-Elf leaves much to be desired for relevant ability scores, but it lets you save a couple point-buy points that need to go to your strength. If you are willing to part with Toddy, definitely roll stats for the chance that he is super viable but at the risk that he just dies super fast. If not, use this point-buy:

\begin{array}{c|c|c|c} Strength & \text{7 points} & 14 & \text{for Plate armor with the Half-Elf increase} \\ Dexterity & \text{9 points} & 15 & \text{18 with Half-Elf and level 4 ASI for attacks} \\ Constitution & \text{7 points} & 14 & \text{you need as much HP as you can get} \\ Intelligence & \text{0 points} & 8 & \text{hopefully a paladin can help you with these saves} \\ Wisdom & \text{0 points} & 8 & \text{hopefully a paladin can help you with these saves} \\ Charisma & \text{4 points} & 12 & \text{to use the Charisma bonus from Half-Elf (see the next section)} \\ \end{array}

Race

There is a Half-Elf variant in Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide that will come in handy called Drow Half-Elf

A half-elf of drow descent can choose the drow's Drow Magic.

This replaces Skill Versatility, but is much more useful (as your party will be better at most important skills anyway. Getting access to faerie fire is particularly useful for you as a rogue if you are the only one in the front at the time (say the paladin has stepped back to put Toddy in his aura). This is the reason we put some points into Charisma to increase the save DC.

Class

  • Archery Fighting Style (this is necessary to help you hit with your attacks; and make hits with a magic stone sling extremely likely)
  • Battlemaster (being able to command your allies to attack is going to greatly increase Toddy's utility)
  • You want proficiency in acrobatics (to avoid grapples as best you can), perception (so that he doesn't become a tax on group perception checks), and medicine (so he can do first aid if a party member falls). Your other proficiency is up to you (although Survival would be my choice). note: remember, you get medicine and one other from your background

Equipment

  • Heavy Crossbow (since we will be forgoing extra attack for a while, will replace with Longbow at level 8)
  • Sling (for the magic stone spell when it can be used effectively)
  • Shield, magic if possible (for those fights where Toddy is using magic stone from a sling, a tentacle rod, or dragon's breath)
  • Plate armor, magic if possible (unless using the Wood Half-elf and Mask of the Wild, which is a very different build using a Breastplate)
  • wand of magic missles (this gives some guaranteed damage on the particularly well-armored foes)
  • wand of fireballs (this gives some burst AOE damage in fights where it's needed/useful)
  • tentacle rod (for when you can safely be in 15 feet, or if you need that paladin aura so you are there anyway)
  • if you don't have magic stone in your party, any magic ranged weapon will be vital (or use the tentacle rod)
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Staff of the Magi and Staff of Power require attunement by characters with particular classes; an Eldritch Knight having access to the Wizard list does not make them a Wizard. \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Jan 31 at 14:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @T.J.L. I thought one of the erratas changed that, but that only talked about spell scrolls, my b. Fixed \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Jan 31 at 15:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Resurrection and Raise Dead both have the same -4 penalty that wears off over 4 long rests. Only True Resurrection and Revivify (3rd lvl, cast within 1 minute of death) avoid "rez sickness". Well, and dndbeyond.com/spells/reincarnate. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Feb 1 at 1:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes My bad. Don't know how I forgot tha \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Feb 1 at 2:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you drop Plate armor, you only need Str 13, and Toddy can benefit from rage \$\endgroup\$ – András Feb 1 at 11:32
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I'd suggest the Champion archer, mainly because of playstyle reasons. It's fairly simple to play, and won't remove attention from your main character or add a lot of delay selecting maneuvers or spells. The second choice would be the Champion duelist, so he can use a shield and keep living. Give him the Shield Master feat if you'd like some control and protection for yourself.

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