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We've recently acquired the manual of bodily health, which grants a permanent +2 to Constitution score.

What are the optimisation considerations (e.g. increased HP, better at maintaining concentration) for who in the party to assign this buff to?

(I'm trying to pre-empt any responses discouraging optimisation - That's not what I'm interested in for this question.)

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4 Answers 4

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Rather than looking at the static details of the character sheets, I'd look at the actual in game results.

So don't ask "Who has the fewest HP?" or "Who gets hit the most?", but instead ask "Who gets knocked unconscious at bad times most often?".

Don't ask "Who is most likely to fail a concentration check?" and just ask "Who lost concentration on a critical spell most often?"

This has the advantage of not only being a lot easier to sell in-game, but also of addressing the direct problem. You don't need to buff the low-hp guy who never gets hit. You don't need to buff the tank who already never goes down.

You need to apply the buff to the person who has less Con than they'd like to have based on what's happening during your adventures. It might turn out to be the Rogue, who has neither the lowest HP nor takes the most damage, but is the one who always ends up getting knocked down before they can cripple the bad guy with their sneak attack.

It might be the Bard, who rarely casts Concentration spells, but does have Hypnotic Pattern and just cannot afford to have it broken.

Whoever it is, only your party can answer, but I wouldn't base it on their character sheets alone.

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Those tomes and books are special because they increase your maximum as well as current scores. So while you could look at it in terms of immediate benefits, I think it's best to think about the long term. You should consider:

  1. Which player might reach 20 CON and want to go over?
  2. Does a player have abilities that rely on CON for DCs?

As for the HP and Concentration saving throws, remember that there are lots of ways to aid those two, specifically in terms of Magic Items (Amulet of Health) and Feats (Tough, War Mage).

The reason for the rarity of that item is that it increases the maximum score, so think about who would benefit most from an increased maximum rather than current.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is an excellent answer, covering an aspect of the mechanics that hasn't been referenced by anyone else. I can't imagine it got down-voted; much less why anyone would do so and not leave a comment :( \$\endgroup\$
    – Brondahl
    Jun 18, 2021 at 23:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1. Erik's answer is good, but is short-term oriented. HP/Con boosts are useful, but the using the Tome just for getting from 14 to 16 Con seems quite wasteful of its potential => there are much cheaper ways to get that boost: ASI, magic item, spells, etc... On the other hand, there are very few ways to raise the 20 cap, and the Tome is one of those very few ways. Unless the GM will hand over Tomes like candy, I would argue it would be best to take the long view here, and give it to one of the characters who focuses enough on raising their Con that they will hit the cap. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 19, 2021 at 11:35
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  • HP Boost.

    • This is the most obvious benefit, but actually splits into 3:
      • Who currently has the lowest HP (i.e. who is currently squishiest?)
      • Who is currently taking most damage (i.e. who will become a more effective tank?)
      • Does anyone get a disproportionate benefit from those HPs (e.g. Barbarians effectively double the benefit, due to those HPs last "twice as long")
  • Buffing Concentration Checks

    • Casters who are likely to have passive buff abilities gain a 5% chance of resisting having their concentration broken.
      • So who is most likely to be holding passive buff spells up, and how often are they going to get hit during that?
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 It might also be worth metioning that high AC and saving throws (particularily dex) also give disproportionate benefit from HP which is less obvious than e.g. Barbarian resistance during rage. \$\endgroup\$
    – SilentAxe
    Jun 18, 2021 at 9:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ As well as resistance through rage, Barbarians (pure or splashed) deserve extra mention for Unarmored Defense. Max-level barbs deserve additional consideration for Primal Champion, which raises their Con ceiling \$\endgroup\$ Jun 18, 2021 at 20:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Punintended: Note that Primal Champion sets their Con ceiling to 24, not raises by +4. (Your maximum for those scores is now 24.) So to get to a con-max of 26, you'd need to use the Manual after you're already level 20. So yes, definitely a factor to consider; raising your max Con before level 20 won't matter when/if you hit max level as a single-class barbarian. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 19, 2021 at 17:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes Fair point. I was thinking more along the lines of "Primal Champion represents how important Con can be for Barbarians, and a max of 24 lets this important stat better push against the limits of bounded accuracy" \$\endgroup\$ Jun 20, 2021 at 18:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Punintended: Yeah, true. And yes if you have high Dex and Con, Unarmored Defence is often better than wearing medium armor. (But otherwise a breastplate is a pretty solid option that some low-AC barbarians overlook! 100% agreed that high AC gets more value out of high HP, for attackers without huge +hit bonuses that will nearly always hit anyway.) \$\endgroup\$ Jun 20, 2021 at 18:09
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Biggest consideration: what are the players who don't get this going to get, and when?

These books, especially to players like me, are priceless. If dnd had microtransactions I would probably pay for one!

So if I was going to be happy with another player getting something like this I would want something just as good, and I would want it soon, and I would want it as useful to my character as this would be.

If this is the only powerful reward coming to the party, seriously consider how upset the players who don't get this might be.

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