I am a new player and don't have any first hand experience to inform my decision. I am planning to play a gish, starting out as a Fighter at level 1, with the end point being a Fighter (EK 8)/Wizard (War Magic 12). I'd be looking to milk the EK's War Magic for all it's worth as a character who will comfortably wade into melee more often than not, whilst also cultivating a wider range of spells in terms of both flexibility and level range. I'd want to use said spells both as combat options and for RP or adventuring (by which I mean the non hack-and-slash) purposes.

Character Build Criteria

  1. I want a lot out of this character concept (both in terms of combat variety/flexibility/flavour and RP).
  2. My group will be using Point-Buy. We won't be rolling for HP.
  3. When it comes to ASI, Strength is preferred. I will be wielding a greatsword.
  4. Intelligence(For the sake of my Spell Save DC) will need some attention
  5. I am looking to pick up four feats in the course of my 'career'(with the first being from variant Human).

Starting stats

With the above in mind, I find that I am taxing my Constitution stat to make ends meet. As a result my stat spread at character creation looks like this:

STR 15(+1) | DEX 8 | CON 14 | INT 15(+1) | WIS 10* | CHA 8

*(will eventually also be taking the Resilient feat for it)

I had reconciled myself to keeping Con at 14.

I now find myself deliberating cutting yet another 2 points from it to pad both my -1 Dexterity (mostly due to a concern of Dex saves being more important than I had originally surmised) and -1 Charisma (to not undermine some RP interactions I'd wanna try), bringing it down to a flimsy 12.

I had originally decided that one of my feats would be War Caster, even though I'll be using a greatsword, to better protect my concentration spells, as well as for the flavour/options that turning OAs into spells seems to provide.

Although I do see how my Arcane Tradition's Arcane Deflection can overlap with these 2 features, I realise that a Constitution of 12 is probably taking it too far. Which finally brings me to my two questions.

The Questions/Queries

  1. Firstly, in light of all of this, should I drop War Caster and run with Tough instead to shore up the atrociously low HP I'll have? I am asking this regardless of whether I choose to run with a Con of 14 or one of 12.

  2. And secondly. Is it even feasible for a martial caster to hope to get by with these amounts of HP?

    I am not sure if the AC (and minor saving-throw bonuses) from my combination of spells and class features (Shield or Arcane Deflection/Haste or Greater Invisibility/Durable Magic, to name some) grant me enough HP/Defense to sustain this character from 1-20.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you creating a level 20 character, a level 1 character to play up to 20, or something else? \$\endgroup\$ – Davo Feb 1 '19 at 15:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also you say "I want a lot out of this character concept (both in terms of combat variety/flexibility/flavour and RP)." But could you explicitly tell us 1) what your goals for the character are? 2) What aspects are you looking to optimize here? 3) What combat role do you want the character to fill? Obviously the answers will be very different if you are asking about a front-liner than about a character that is going to attempt to keep far away from danger. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Feb 1 '19 at 15:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Davo At the moment I am creating a level 1 character with the aim of playing a custom campaign to a high level. I enjoy diving into concepts which is why I am planning this far ahead, and I have a very specific vision in terms of his background and how I'd want him to develop. The campaign's (unknown) level limit isnt an issue per se since I could see myself returning to this character in future campaigns to complete the concept. \$\endgroup\$ – Elyjah Feb 1 '19 at 15:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Thank you. I've been trying to turn my wall into something consumable for a while now and your help is greatly appreciated. \$\endgroup\$ – Elyjah Feb 1 '19 at 16:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @goodguy5 I just edited my post to confirm that we're not rolling. \$\endgroup\$ – Elyjah Feb 1 '19 at 17:02

You probably don't need the Tough feat

Not counting constitution, with fighter 8/wizard 12 (with fighter at first), you wind up with a cool 100hp. This is on par with d8 classes like Bards, Warlocks, Monks, and Clerics; classes that can conceivably be front/mid line (they get 103 hp without constitution).

Combine with your decent con-modifier of +2, and you're up to a total of 140. A full fighter would only have 24 more hp (164, with +2 con). As long as you're not trying to compare yourself to a level 20 barbarian with 24 con (285 hp), you don't look too shabby.

Don't forget that a lot of your survivability is going to come from armor class. You don't need as many HP if you're hard to hit; you won't have to do anything special to be allowed to wear plate mail, and you've got access to shield and arcane deflection (Though, you can't use both as they each need a reaction).

As my own separate two cents, it seems like Fighter12/Wizard8 would net you a couple extra features at the moderate cost of a maximum spell level and 5th and 6th level wizard spells (such as three attacks, indomitable, and Eldritch Strike (as well as 8 hp).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I might have missed it in the question but this answer assumes that the table isn't rolling for hit points. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Feb 1 '19 at 16:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Elyjah for a front liner/tank, yeah, that may be so. (depends on how well your team does at crowd control during battle). For a multi class, since you have some additional options for defense, that mitigates a 14 Con. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 1 '19 at 16:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Minor nitpick: going from fighter 8 / wizard 12 (slots lvl 14) to fighter 12 / wizard 8 (slots lvl 12) is actually 2 levels lost. On another note, you also lose access to wizard lvl 6 and lvl 5 spells which may be quite the deal. \$\endgroup\$ – Sdjz Feb 1 '19 at 16:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you'd like a note on what it's like to actually play a front line fightcaster with a Con of 12, an AC of 17, and a decided lack of optimization, my gnome warlock with Pact of the Blade is usually the last one standing at the end of a really nasty fight. I've played him long enough that we're past 20th, and he's been knocked out maybe a half dozen times ever. This in a party that is also wildly unoptimized, where our bard has more hit points than our paladin. So, yeah, it's definitely possible to play an hp light character to 20. \$\endgroup\$ – TheVagrantDog Feb 1 '19 at 17:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TheVagrantDog Can you capture what's in this comment into an answer? I think your experience is quite valuable. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 1 '19 at 17:31

This will answer your second question more than the first, but hopefully it's still valuable to you.

I've mentioned before (often, probably to excess) my main 5e character, Zook Waywocket. He started life as a Gnome Warlock, serving the Fey Queen of Air and Darkness as a pastry chef. Though I rolled his stats, not one of his ability scores topped 16, his Con clocked in at 12, and the only thing keeping his tiny little body from becoming a smear was a suit of leather armor.

I've played Zook, either as a PC or a DMPC, since 2015. He's currently well past Level 20 and an archfey in his own right, his weapon of choice is a spatula, and he is considered, by far, the scariest member of the party. His Con is still 12, his AC is 17, and he has 132 hit points. Most fights, he's on the front line, carving into enemies with his spatula (to be fair, it is a very nice spatula), and he compares favorably to our other frontline fighters- a paladin with an AC of 23 and 168 hit points, a Holy Avenger, and a chip on her shoulders, and a, I kid you not, bard of lore with an AC of 15 and 212 hit points.

In all of our fights, and as you can imagine there have been plenty, he's been knocked out of a fight on the following occasions:

  • At Level 2, Zook let himself get hit so he could use hellish rebuke. A lucky shot from another baddie dropped him and almost got the entire party killed.
  • At Level 4, an already wounded Zook got picked up and dropped by a peryton. Ouch.
  • At Level 8, the party took on an orc army, numbering in the 80's (we had some backup and a defensible position, it wasn't as suicidal as it sounds). The orc leader dropped Zook but couldn't kill him before the enraged paladin managed a crit and beheaded him.
  • Also at Level 8, the party fought their way into a crypt and got separated. Zook got surprised by an umber hulk and dropped it by himself, but not the blind monk that accompanied it.
  • At Level 11, the party took on the entirety of the Fire Temple from Princes of the Apocalypse at once. It didn't go well for us, and Zook was knocked out and taken hostage.
  • At Level 15, Zook was murdered. This was actually intentional and part of the plan that culminated in him becoming an archfey, but it shocked the hell out of the rest of the party.

That's it. Zook has won every other fight he's been in, and he's fought everything from dragons to elemental princes to devils to, just, hordes of bad guys. He's soloed monsters at or near the party's level, once killed another party member (a very annoying necromancer) 56 times in one session, and currently has the entire aboleth race after him for some very mean things he did to one about ten levels ago.

All this is to say that Zook, little gnome badass that he is, managed to survive without a high Con, without ever having an AC higher than a level 1 fighter with chain and shield, and with the same +2 spatula for a weapon from level 8 onwards. Low Con is not only feasible in a frontline fightcaster, it's been done, and I'm confident that it can be done again. All you really need to succeed with your character is to be comfortable with what they're capable of, and clever in your choice of spells.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Given that my character's personality will have a prideful streak, I can't deny the very realistic possibility that he might compare himself to, or even antagonise, an apparently notorious gnome when a situation seems unfeasible. 'If Zook could do it...' :P That said, could you maybe elaborate a bit further by providing an example of a spell that you employed in a creative way? Definitely not asking for a show of hands, since I think half the fun is figuring out such applications ourselves. But as someone new, I'll admit that a nifty non apparent trick-o-the-trade would be well received. \$\endgroup\$ – Elyjah Feb 1 '19 at 19:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Elyjah If you want I can include some examples in the answer, but my main advice for using spells creatively is to look for unintended consequences. At low levels I would use Repelling Blast to knock baddies off of/into hazards, some of which I or the bard had created; at higher levels I would stab myself to activate Misty Escape. Lately I've favored combinations, like using an enchantment to convince someone to not question an illusion. And for the record, good luck with the antagonizing. Zook is evil, murderous, loveable and has a fan club. \$\endgroup\$ – TheVagrantDog Feb 1 '19 at 20:10

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