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In my next campaign I'll be exploring the idea of a male drow cleric. We are using the standard array, and that leaves me with a maximum score of 15 in my spellcasting ability, and racial increases to attributes that are not crucial to being a cleric.

Players using optimal races will start with a spellcasting ability score of 17, of course. More spells prepared, higher save DC, better spell attack bonus, et cetera. And possibly a secondary bonus to their Con score for more hit points or other goodies.

Now, I don't want mechanical optimization to trump my roleplaying concept - that means drow and cleric stays, rest is open to changes and adjustments. What can I do to create a drow cleric, but minimize mechanical drawbacks and not be a second class spellcaster?

For a domain, I prefer Light, but it is not set in stone. We start at level 1, and hope to go to 10 or 11.

Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything is forbidden by my DM, as are all materials that came out after it. Variant races and subraces that predate Tasha's are negotiable.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you asked your DM if you can just move your ASI around? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 22 at 10:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ You can just ask them without referencing a source...? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 22 at 11:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ What is "competitive" here? Do you mean "How do I still get as high Wis as if I had a +2 to it"? \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Jun 22 at 11:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related on partially mitigating drow drawbacks. \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Jun 22 at 16:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AncientSwordRage It sounds like OP has tried that, and the DM said no. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 23 at 17:06
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You can't, and it's not that bad.

As you've noted, you aren't playing to optimize while others are. But in the end, that difference is going to be minimal. They will start with a higher modifier by about 1 - which really isn't much of a difference. Your die rolls will much more heavily influence the outcome, minimizing that mechanical issue.

We roll stats at my tables and there can be similar discrepancies in values. My players have not found issue with it, even the ones with 'lower' stats. I have also played characters with lower stats than others at the table and fully enjoyed those characters. I never felt 'behind' because the issue never really came up. We either hit or didn't, got a successful spell off or not.

Not playing an optimized character doesn't at all mean you aren't optimizing for fun.

Are you playing to optimize or aren't you?

You've noted that you don't seem to want to be 'optimizing', but you also ask how to remove some of the things that make your choice suboptimal - which suggests you do care about optimization.

There are things the drow race gives that others don't, and your build optimizes those things rather than the pure mechanical race-class combos can provide. And that's okay!

You don't need to minimize the complications - lean into them. This is your concept, and a concept that isn't fully optimized is more than okay. The bounded accuracy really makes these things not massive, and I've played characters who didn't have optimal mechanics but still were fun. Because the mechanics weren't what made the game fun, but the playing of the characters in the story.

A note on making decisions within the bounds and playstyle differences

We all have different ways of playing the game and we all want to have fun. The decision by the DM to require keeping the options provided and asking players to choose within those bounds is more than okay. It's not "wrong", but it does affect how their players respond - and that's really the issue here.

You should talk to your DM about your build, your concerns, and what can make your character concept come to life in their game. Your reaction is just as reasonable as theirs and nothing is 'wrong' here - it's just a mismatch of styles that can be alleviated by communication.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Honestly, this. People get so hung up on having a 16 instead of an 18 in an ability score and it's like... it just isn't that big of a deal in 5e. You'll get to 20 sooner or later, and then everyone's capped at the same exact same values. It's just a question of how fast you get to your max. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 22 at 13:56
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Spell selection

Some of the best cleric spells don't require an attack roll or saving throw. I played a Tempest cleric from level 1-20 with an "optimal" progression (20 Wis by level 8) and still used most of these.

I'll divide the spells into proactive and reactive. Proactive spells are what you cast when no one's injured or debilitated. Reactive spells are what you cast in response to hostile action. Clerics tend to have great reactive spells, but may struggle to find proactive spells that don't require an attack roll or saving throw.

First, the good proactive combat-focused spells for you:

  • 1st level - bless, protection from evil and good, shield of faith; you also cast faerie fire using Charisma as a drow
  • 2nd level - aid+, protection from poison+, silence, warding bond+
  • 3rd level - (none, really - animate dead+ and protection from energy+ are mediocre and the former has RP implications)
  • 4th level - death ward+, freedom of movement+
  • 5th level - holy weapon

That's a pretty good list, but there's a problem - proactive cleric spells are often (or only) cast before combat (indicated by: +). This is especially true if you exclude spells with an attack roll or saving throw. Only 1st level and 5th level spells have truly fantastic in-combat options.

Guiding bolt, inflict wounds, spiritual weapon and spirit guardians are cleric staples that you won't be able to use optimally. Should you still them? Absolutely, but you'll be behind in a strict optimization sense. The Domain Spells gained from your subclass will be important for filling in the gaps. I'll cover that more in domain selection.

I won't cover the reactive spells in as much detail, as they are less affected by suboptimal Wisdom. Solid choices include: healing word, lesser restoration, dispel magic, life transference, mass healing word, revivify, greater restoration, and mass cure wounds.

Domain selection

Optimally, you're looking to improve your attacks, and pick up some more proactive spells:

  • Forge provides heat metal and animate objects, both excellent proactive options. Heavy armor proficiency is wasted on a drow, but the other defensive options are nice. Divine Strike also allows you to focus more on hand crossbow or rapier attacks, rather than cantrips.
  • Life boosts your reactive capabilities even further, but doesn't provide any proactive boosts beyond Divine Strike. You also can (effectively) prepare more spells, since many of the good reactive options are domain spells.
  • You mention that you'd prefer Light, but it's unfortunately not a very optimal choice. Nearly all of its domain spells require saving throws, Warding Flare uses are determined by your Wisdom modifier, and it provides bonuses to your cantrips rather than your attacks. On the other hand, fireball is such a great spell that it might be optimal in spite of your Wisdom.
  • Nature gives you access to spike growth and plant growth, which can be fantastic with a more tactical party. Heavy armor is wasted, but Dampen Elements is nice, and Divine Strike improves your attacks.
  • Trickery is fairly suboptimal in the general case, but may provide you with some interesting options. Mirror image, dimension door, pass without trace, and polymorph (targeting an ally) are all nice. However, the Channel Divinity options are...not great, and Divine Strike uses poison damage.
  • War provides you with an additional attack, but only Wisdom mod times. The heavy armor proficiency is wasted, as is the martial weapon one, since you already have ranged and melee options as a drow. Guided Strike and Divine Strike add to your attacks, and War God's Blessing helps out your party. War domain's spell selection doesn't provide many new options.

I would probably choose the Forge domain in a party without many frontline combatants, Nature in a more tactical game, and Life in any other situation.

Drow-specific issues

Your Dexterity (plus Divine Strike) makes your weapon attacks more powerful than your cantrips - unless it's sunny, that is. Sunlight Sensitivity is a problem that largely depends on the table.

  • Outdoor hexcrawl? Cantrips might actually be a better.
  • Underground megadungeon? Attacks are stronger, and your 120' darkvision is particularly excellent.

You can also cast darkness, though I've found that to be somewhat of a trap choice. Spending your action and your concentration to cancel out disadvantage is only worth it in longer fights. That said, it can also protect you from some spells, like hold person, which require the caster to see the target.


Alternative: Divine Soul sorcerer

I wouldn't normally suggest a different class in a targeted optimization question, but Divine Soul sorcerer fits "optimized drow Light cleric" extremely well.

From a roleplaying perspective, perhaps your character thinks he's a cleric? Or maybe presents himself as one? You could also ask your DM if they're okay with your Divine Soul sorcerer actually being a cleric in-universe, given the similarity. You can even choose to only learn cleric spells (and Light domain spells) without missing out on too much.

From an optimization perspective, Divine Soul is a better Light domain cleric than a Light domain cleric is.

  • Burning hands, scorching ray, fireball, and wall of fire are all on the sorcerer list.
  • Your improved attack rolls and saving throws mean that guiding bolt, inflict wounds, spiritual weapon, and spirit guardians are available at full strength.
  • You don't have a direct answer for Radiance of the Dawn, but sickening radiance, dawn, or an upcasted flaming sphere can work in a pinch.
  • Shield is a much better version of Warding Flare, in exchange for only affecting you.
  • Empowered and Heightened Spell improve your damage, and Twinned Spell improves your buffs and heals.
  • If you're willing to take non-cleric spells, hypnotic pattern and fear are excellent proactive options that will carry you through the whole campaign. The former's pretty lights also fit the Light cleric theme well.
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Focus on what you DO have.

Using standard array and without Tasha's reassignment rules (or a house-rule equivalent), there's not an easy way to "stay competitive" with other characters who are built to maximize the utility of their ability score bonuses...so let's maximize the utility of the bonuses you do have. You could lean into the advantage your +2 Dex bonus gives you and focus on your martial prowess.

War clerics, for example, get two main-weapon attacks per round at level 1, a Channel Divinity ability that nearly guarantees you'll hit your target when you use it at level 2, and a number of helpful buffs that can keep you punching above your weight class. Instead of picking attack cantrips, grab some utility ones (Guidance is a classic favorite) and cast Arrow or Rapier when you need to save your spell slots. Pick some spells that let you buff and heal yourself (or your teammates, if you feel inclined to be generous); most buff spells don't care about your Wisdom modifier, and for healing it's only a 1HP difference in most cases.

If you're really set on being a primary-caster drow cleric, then KRyan's answer is the gospel truth; you either have to accept that you'll be a step behind for several levels (eventually if the game goes long enough, everyone will hit the attribute cap in their primary stats and you'll catch up) or save this character for a campaign with less punishing rules constraints. But it's worth considering the other possibilities.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Even once caps are hit, assuming feats are in play, being down a feat is as bad as being down 2 in your primary ability score. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 22 at 14:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan from an optimization point of view, that's true and the kicker is that the half feats from Tasha's that could remedy that are off the table. (Fey touched, skill expert, what have you ...) \$\endgroup\$ Jun 22 at 14:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I would argue that even without optimizing, it’s still true—if you want to take feats that bring your character to life, or even are just fun, but you feel “left behind” being down by 2 in your primary score, as the OP seems to be, then you still get fewer feats to perform that characterization or have that fun (or you continue to feel “left behind” if you choose to take them over catching up). Yes, feeling “left behind” might vaguely be an “optimization” concern, but it’s hardly a matter of heavy min-maxery—it’s a rather valid opinion, and a significant flaw in 5e IMO. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 22 at 14:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I played a warlock whose highest stat (after min-maxed ability scores) was 15—still had fun for plenty of other reasons, but he never “felt right” for his story, which had him being, ya know, reasonably proficient as you’d expect for a character of his level. My point is that it detracted from the game, and really wasn’t necessary. Certainly didn’t add to the game. (This was with rolled ability scores, which I’d label a much greater “mistake” than not houseruling ability score bonuses.) \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 22 at 14:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ +2 Dex bonus also works well with Knowledge Cleric and leaning into the skills real hard \$\endgroup\$ Jun 22 at 22:48
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You're already competitive.

One of the things 5e introduced to D&D was the concept of "bounded accuracy", meaning it's just not really possible for a player to min-max their way into being vastly better than anyone else. You could of course badly nerf yourself (say, if you put 8 in your Dexterity and then insist on playing an archer), but with even mild attention paid to making good choices, you won't be way out of line. A drow cleric will be slightly weaker than a more wisdom-focused race -- but only slightly. You'll hit about 5% less often, your enemies will save against your spells about 5% more often, and honestly? It's not really noticeable.

Your perceptions will likely exaggerate the difference a lot more than the math actually supports. I know this because I've been playing a Cleric with a base 15 wisdom in the Curse of Strahd campaign my home group has been running. I find myself rolling a 12, missing, and thinking "Ugh, my ability scores strike again!" And of course that's ridiculous, because I needed a 16 to hit and even if I'd had a 20 Wisdom, that's still a miss.

My best advice is to ignore your instinct to min-max and just play the character you want to play. It'll all work out fine on the mechanical end.

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Play a half-drow cleric instead.

While a drow cleric is (and always will be) suboptimal without using the rules in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything to move a stat bonus into Wisdom, there is a potential solution that would allow you to play a male cleric of a drow god: play a half-elf with a drow parent. (Sword Coast Adventurers Guide).

Half-elves, after all, get to pick two stats to get a +1 bonus in, as well as their innate +2 to Charisma. You really just need a 16 in Wisdom rather than a 17, so that's the best you can really do.

Now, I don't want mechanical optimization to triumph my roleplaying concept.

Fleshing out the back story can support your concept: maybe a male drow mated with a human slave, maybe the human captive or explorer had a consensual relationship with a drow, maybe a drow woman with fertility problems sought out, or captured, a human mate to have a child.

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    \$\begingroup\$ My downvote is simply because this is an answer to a different question entirely, and one that the querent emphasized was not what they were asking. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 22 at 12:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan but Molot did say "Variant races and subraces that predate Tasha's are negotiable" \$\endgroup\$ Jun 22 at 14:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Yes, the question said "drow stays", but I still think half-drow could be worth considering. If the character looks sufficiently drow-like then they might still in-character identify as a drow and be treated as a drow by those who don't know. Perhaps they are not even aware that they have a human parent. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philipp
    Jun 23 at 11:19
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You cannot.

Mechanically, the choice of the drow race for this cleric will always be purely a downside. There is nothing prior to Tasha’s that makes it anything else. And that is why Tasha’s was written in the first place, so that you could play a drow cleric without it being a strict negative for you, mechanically.

Of course, no one needed Tasha’s to fix this issue. People allowed moving ability bonuses around as a simple houserule all the time well before that book was published. Details might change, but the general flaw in the system, and its simple solution, was certainly recognized by many before Tasha’s made it official. So if your DM doesn’t have Tasha’s or hasn't had a chance to vet it or whatever, that’s fine—it shouldn’t be stopping them from addressing this issue. But your comments indicate that, for whatever reason, they are not. That leaves you with no good option.

Quite simply, you need your DM’s support here, or you need to decide to play a different character for this campaign and save this one for a campaign that will have that support, or you need to just suck it up and play a character that has a moderately-large negative for no good reason. And it is no good reason—you can certainly get by without the bonus to your primary casting stay, but it will be painful, and it won’t add anything of value to your game. You’ll just be behind everyone who has one.

Even more simply, your DM has made the wrong ruling here. You picked up a square peg, and the DM has told you they will only offer round holes. You can jam it through, or put it down and select a round peg. Maybe you’ll find a square hole in the future.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "And it is no good reason—you can certainly get by without the bonus to your primary casting stay, but it will be painful, and it won’t add anything of value to your game." This presupposes a certain style of play. To me, 'being the character I want to be' is an excellent reason to do something, and it wouldn't be painful at all. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 23 at 17:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Even more simply, your DM has made the wrong ruling here." As someone who'll be making the same ruling in the future - that is a matter of opinion and story. More importantly, "lower" ability scores were never a problem (frankly, I like even negatives) and Tasha's was merely adding official support for a circumstantial house rule. It merely boils down to the basic question "do your characters start off heroic/special". The answer to that is always no at my table but its yes at many others. I think your bias here is thick enough that it is clouding your response. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rheios
    Jun 23 at 19:45
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From the Shadows I Strike at Thee!

Since this is the same PC you refer to here and here I will build my answer around you playing a Light Domain cleric of Vhaeraun. As other answers have said, this is already a sub-optimal choice. You are committed to playing a drow, and in my opinion your most powerful racial ability is your superior darkvision, so let's use that not to optimize the character, but to at least offset some of its sub-optimality while embracing the role-playing aspects that are the reason you selected it to begin with.

First, operate as much as possible in the dark. Underground and traditional dungeons make this easy, but when you are outside on the surface, you will need to convince the rest of the party to do their adventuring at night. The humans, halflings, and other races without darkvision shouldn't worry - you have both light and dancing lights as cantrips (from domain and race respectively) and you promise to make sure that they can always see, in return for them agreeing that most of the adventuring is done when you can remain in the dark. This theme of reciprocity is important - if they agree to structure the adventuring and combats in ways that help you, you will help them; guidance cantrip, scouting, volunteering for guard shifts (trance means you need only 4 hours to their 8).

Next, lean in to your high Dex and embrace your role as scout. Take a Background that gives you Stealth proficiency (Criminal, Spy, Urchin, Urban Bounty Hunter), along with your Perception proficiency as an Elf (and remember to give yourself Guidance on Perception checks). Use your 120' darkvision as much as possible and see them long before they see you. Take Insight as a cleric proficiency get as much as you can from observing folk and monsters when they don't know that you are watching them. Their body positioning and emotional tells may hint at where they feel safe, where they think an attack will come from, they may unconsciously glance at secret doors, etc. A good Insight may reveal what they don't want you to Perceive!

In combat, your cleric spells will either provoke Saves or make attack rolls. You will be 'behind' on both, since your sub-optimal Wis gives you lower DCs and lower spell attack bonuses. Concentrate on attack roll spells and as often as possible employ the rule that you have advantage on attacks when your opponent cannot see you. If you are in the dark and at greater than 60 feet from your target, most of the time you will be able to see them, and they will not be able to see you. Consistently getting advantage on your attacks will be better than the point or two you are missing as a Wisdom bonus, and the greater chance of crits will be an occasional payoff.

Ignore attack cantrips at character creation and take utility cantrips instead to be of use to the party. There aren't any attack cantrips that let you attack at greater than 60 feet with an attack roll. Instead, use bow fire as your cantrip (that is, in situations where you do not want to spend a spell slot). You have shortbow proficiency from cleric as a simple ranged weapon, so you will have advantage on attacks at 80 feet and under when they can't see you. Damage of d8+Dex mod when attacking with advantage is better than any Wis based cantrip you could have. You may occasionally find tactical use in placing the light cantrip on an arrow before firing it.

At 4th level when you pick up another cantrip consider an attack spell - this is also the time you get an ASI so putting that into Wisdom will help.

Have a serious discussion with your DM about how you are making sub-optimal choices for role-play reasons, and then ask about trading one of your Background tool-use proficiencies for proficiency in Poisoner's Kit. Make the case that your drow backstory means you should be allowed to craft poisons, even if injury poisons only, and work with them to homebrew something fair. Save your money and collect ingredients initially; later you can begin to apply injury poisons to your arrows, certainly by the time you reach 5th level, when martial characters get Extra Attack and casters get a damage bump on their cantrips.

As suggested by Peter Cordes, at 8th level when you get a Divine Strike feature, ask your DM whether you can swap out the Light Domain Wisdom-based bonus damage to cantrips for the Trickery Domain bonus of d8 poison damage to weapon hits once per turn and apply this to your arrows.

For spell slots, focus on spells that help the party strikers eliminate the big threats (underscore your image as a team player) and spells that let you attack at greater than 60 feet (where you will have advantage on your rolls).

For your first level slots, faerie fire (which you get from light domain) is a big boost for your teammates. You will need to close to 60 feet to cast it, but it is a save (not an attack roll) so you wouldn't get advantage from casting it unseen anyway. Guiding Bolt does great damage (especially when you crit), gives a minor boost to your teammates, and has a range of 120 feet which means you can have advantage on the hit roll if you attack while unseen. Healing Word has a range of only 60 feet, but with your high Dex / ranged combat approach you should have the movement rate to be able to move in to heal (bonus action) and then move back out of sight range to attack with your bow. Your Warding Flare ability (light domain) should be saved for when you are 'trapped' in sight (someone moves to you as a reaction or an indoor battlefield forces you to be in sight).

For your second level slots, scorching ray (light domain) has a range of 120 feet, which means if you attack while unseen you have three attacks at advantage (and six chances to get a crit). Check with your DM on spiritual weapon, since it is possible that they will rule that the weapon has advantage when you are unseen even if the weapon itself can be seen.

For your third level slots, as Red Orca says, "fireball [light domain] is such a great spell that it might be optimal in spite of your Wisdom" (and your inability to squeeze advantage out of using it while unseen).

To implement all this, you will need buy-in from the other players, but that's your job as a cleric of Vhaeraun - getting people to work together to advance your own aims. In my experience, this should be done formally in Session 0, or even before this informally if you know the other players personally. [Even absent my particular idea for how to play your drow cleric, you absolutely need a Session 0 to make sure that everyone is on board with you playing an evil character]. As characters approach third level, a similar session can reveal whether the division-of-roles is working or not, and can inform decisions about Archetype selection.

Your DM has said that you will not be sharing backstories - that is ok, since in my experience no one is as interested in your character's backstory as you are. For this concept to work, though, the other players need to know what kind of character you want to play, and vice versa. Basically, you need to be explicit with each other about your characters' roles and functions in the party. The concept I have described is that of a cleric, but one that takes on the functions of scout and ranged support more typically assigned to rogues, monks, and missile martials. At the same time, your traditional cleric role of battlefield healer will be diminished by your lack of parity with a Wisdom bonus and the difficulty of staying in healing range of your teammates while in the darkness. This might not be a problem at all if no one wants to play a rogue or stealthy monk, and if there is another player who wants to be a healer (whether cleric or even bard). Even if the classes proposed don't line up easily, it's not necessarily a deal-breaker. In my experience, at this point the most important thing is to understand why people want to play the classes that they do. Someone who wants to play a rogue as a fast-talking face or deadly combat striker may be relieved that you would like to scout and disarm, as it lets them invest more strategically in their Proficiency and Expertise. Someone who wants to play a rogue because they enjoy the spotlight of solo scouting and trap disarming will be more difficult to negotiate with and ultimately your idea may not be compatible with theirs. In my experience, the most important thing is to understand what kind of fun each player wants to have so as not to intrude on their fun. As long as each person is allowed to have undiminished "core fun", they are often willing to compromise about "ancillary fun".

As one example, three players including myself were discussing character concepts when preparing for Descent into Avernus. We would be playing two characters each, and I wanted to have an elven druid and a gnoll rogue, with the backstory of the elf having raised the gnoll from a cub. My core fun would come from roleplaying the initial blind loyalty of the gnoll to the elf but the increasing tension between them as he became more powerful, independent, and tempted by Yeenoghu. My character concept made the gnoll a great scouter, but I wanted him to favor melee combat with scimitar rather than being a more effective sniper / ranged striker. Another player planned on having a human valkyrie and dwarven death domain cleric. Having the gnoll constantly in melee could have detracted from her role as tank and tank / healer, but in discussion it came out that her core fun came not from the tank role per se but from having fewer, easier decisions during combat, so she was happy to share the front line with the gnoll. The third player wanted a rock gnome witch and wood gnome bard. His core fun came from having more eccentric characters and being reactive rather than proactive. He was happy to take on the ranged support role that my rogue was lacking in return for my druid focusing on the battlefield control and tactical leadership that his bard could do but he was not interested in. Clearly all of these characters were sub-optimal, but what made us work well together as players was identifying early on where our core fun lay and making sure we could all achieve that fun without interfering with one another.

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There are a few items which could help with raising your Wisdom score, though they are very rare and one is an artifact, so they might be tricky to acquire in the campaign and you DM needs to be on board.

The following items could help:

  • +2 Wis Tome of Understanding (very rare) DMG p.209
  • +2 Wis and +60' darkvision Orb of the Veil (very rare) EGW p.268
  • +2 Wis Ioun Stone, Insight (very rare) DMG p.176
  • +2 Wis (up to max of 24) Book of Exalted Deeds (artifact) DMG p.222

The other idea, again, depending on your DM and the alignments of the party, could be for your DM to devise a way for you to receive a demonic boon now and again. Though, this may have a high cost but possibly fun-to-role-play in the right campaign, because accepting a boon "corrupts the soul and drives a person toward acts of chaos, evil and madness." (MTF p.30)

  • +4 Wis Demonic Boon of Orcus MTF p.31
  • +4 Wis Demonic Boon of Fraz-Urb'luu MTF p.30
  • +4 Wis Demonic Boon of Baphomet MTF p.30

On a different note, if you get a choice of getting any rare magical item of your choice in the campaign, I would choose Cloak of Displacement (DMG, p.158). It will really increase your survivability. This, along with casting Sanctuary, choosing the Warcaster feat and having high AC with a shield, will make you pretty untouchable. Plus, Sanctuary does not require concentration, so you can support the party, while the creatures will find it practically impossible to land a blow on you. If you get into a pickle, use Dodge, and unless the creatures crit, you'll be unassailable. I have tested this out many times and, to the great chagrin of my DM, it always saved us.

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There is a very simple mechanic that I've used as a DM and requested to be used when playing that balances optimized characters with non optimized characters nicely.

A level handicap.

I have created some absurdly overpowered characters in my time while following all the rules, and sometimes even breaking them by making up new rules. And what lets me play them in just about any game session is offering a level handicap. I'm proud that my level 3 can keep up with a party of level 5s.

So if you're not going to optimize but want to keep up anyway just ask if a level bonus would be OK. It's a simple mechanic to implement and makes the optimizers feel like they beat the system.

What the DM and your fellow players think is more important than what the book thinks. Talk to them. The rules don't exist to stifle creativity. They're there to inspire it. Don't let them keep you from playing what you want to play.

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