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For context, I am aiming to create a melee fighter, but would like to avoid using Strength and Dexterity as my attack modifier. I know that there are a few ways each with their limitations, but when I try looking them up, I feel like I keep missing some, so I was hoping the community could help me comprise a list.

Some examples would be:

  • Monks use Dexterity for simple or dedicated weapons, though Kensai gain two additional weapons of their choosing.

  • Hexblade Warlocks use Charisma for their modifiers, but must be a one-handed weapon, unless you gain the Pact of the Blade.

Whether it be a spell, class, race, or feat, I'd like to hear my options. Thanks in advance.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is sort of setting off my "XY problem alarm". Is there some type of character concept or theme you are trying to build? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 14, 2023 at 3:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov yes. I was toying with the idea of a common farmer who is, in fact, a heavy hitter. By using the Hexblade's Charisma or Battlesmith's Inteligence, he might look average and even remain undetected by a Battle Master's "Know Your Enemy." However, before I settle on a build, I'd like to see my options \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    Jan 14, 2023 at 3:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov for more context, being a commoner, I wanted a single SAD class melee fighter. It was simply an attempt to organize my thoughts and options. \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    Jan 14, 2023 at 4:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Having done something, here's my related question: Does this low-Str/low-Dex idea for a Fighter work out? (I played him for a few sessions and had a blast) \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Jan 14, 2023 at 21:08

2 Answers 2

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There is a class (or lineage) for all four other abilities

These are ways I know of that allow you to use ability scores other than Dexterity or Strength to enhance your melee attacks:

  • Damphir Lineage (Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft): Vampiric Bite feature allows you to add your Constitution modifier instead of Strength with the bite.

  • Druid 1: The shillelagh cantrip allows you to use your spellcasting ability, Wisdom as a druid, instead of Strength. (Likewise, feats that let you pick up the cantrip, such as Magic Initiate). Duration one minute on club or staff.

  • Hexblade Warlock 1 (Xanathar's Guide to Everything): Hex Warrior feature that allows you to attack with your Charisma modifier instead of Dexterity or Strength. Works only with your pact weapon.

  • Way of the Astral Self Monk 3 (Tasha's Cauldron of Everything): Arms of the Astral Self feature allows you to attack using Wisdom modifier instead of Strength or Dexterity with your astral arms.

  • Artificer Battle Smith 3 (Tasha's Cauldron of Everything): Battle Ready feature allows you to use your Intelligence modifier instead of Strength or Dexterity, when attacking with a magic weapon.

  • Artificer Armorer 3 (Tasha's Cauldron of Everything): "Each [Arcane Armor] model includes a special weapon. When you attack with that weapon, you can add your Intelligence modifier, instead of Strength or Dexterity, to the attack and damage rolls."

  • Bladesinger Wizard 14 (Tasha's Cauldron of Everything): Song of Victory feature allows you to add your Intelligence modifier to the attack.

How to best realize your character concept?

Your stated goal (from the comments) is that you would like to play

a common farmer who is, in fact, a heavy hitter. (...), he might look average and even remain undetected by a Battle Master's "Know Your Enemy."

You should realize that no player character is "a common farmer", all of them are highly exceptional and have class levels due to being so. A common farmer would be a commoner, with ability scores of 10 across the board, so which ability you use would not really matter.

If your secondary goal is that someone cannot assess you correctly with Know Your Enemy, then none of the options will fully protect you, because Know Your Enemy will always work to reveal how powerful you approximately are, no matter which classes you picked, with this choice:

  • Total class levels (if any)

But worrying about that feature is entirely unnecessary: Any character with class levels, if PC or NPC, is already rare, those of 7th level or higher are rarer still, and those that happen to be (complicated to run) Battle Masters, are yet again more rare. You'd be unlucky to have that happen to you a single time in your average campaign, and even if it did, it would not be a big thing.

To realize your concept of appearing as a harmless, normal peasant while in fact being a powerful melee combatant, classes that do not need a lot of unusual equipment that will give them away will be a much more effective and simpler choice than worrying about the ability score that gets added to melee attacks.

The options that allow you to do it at level 1, druid or warlock, seem to be the best here, along with the monk. They do not need to wear heavy armor or carry martial weapons to be functional.

If you want to use a hoe, as you added as info in your comments, then either the hexlade warlock or the battlesmith artificer would be good options; both warlock can use any weapon (you also need to be 3rd level for a two-handed weapon). The artificer needs a magic hoe for this, but that should not be a problem, as he can infuse the hoe to become a magic weapon. A hoe is not a standard weaopn on the weapon table. Check with your DM which weapon they would like to reskin.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I tried to keep the comment short, but to clarify, he isn't a "commoner" stat block, but honestly believes his hard work gave him a common upgrade to "farmer" as one would to "guard," and any extra abilities are "the fruits of my efforts." With KYE, twas more that a soft ability focus would help him pass even the most scrutinizing inspections (as he is as strong and dexterous as any other farmer) which I believe seeing some commander NPCs having. \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    Jan 14, 2023 at 8:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ You should also include the limitations for all of those possibilities; Hexblade only allows Cha attacks for their hex weapon, shillelagh only works for one minute on the one club/staff enchanted, Battle Smith only works with magic weapons, etc. Otherwise you're implying these options are always working regardless of conditions. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Jan 14, 2023 at 17:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @VictorB I am not aware of any. There may well be something I missed though. I think it is a bit unlikely for the rogue, as they already are normally using Dex as an alternate stat to Str; at least the Soulknife, whom I suspected might have something, did not have on cursory inspection. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 14, 2023 at 21:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ Bladesinger only adds Int Modifier to Damage, not the attack roll. \$\endgroup\$
    – PeterHartz
    Aug 31, 2023 at 8:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ The Folk Hero background will help with appearing to be a "commoner". The background explicitly lets you get help from peasants and makes you upbringing ordinary. If you dress like a peasant, talk like a peasant, and travel with peasants who's to know that you're secretly a 12 level druid. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 31, 2023 at 15:28
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Attack With

Wisdom

  • Shillelagh (cantrip)
  • Monk (Way of the Astral Self) 3

Intelligence

  • Artificer (Battle Smith) 3

Charisma

  • Warlock (Hexblade) 1

Constitution

  • Dhampir race (Bite attack)

There are numerous ways to make attack rolls using various mental stats using cantrips, but they are not weapon attacks. The Monk astral arms is pretty 'magicy' too, for that matter.

Being a melee powerhouse without a high strength or dexterity score.

It's understandable that you might want the granularity of being able to hit people with a knife fairly successfully without also being good at picking pockets or being able to lift an entire cart above your head. While you can simply ask the DM to allow you to roll below your modifier for those tasks (this is nearly universally acceptable at any table) for roleplaying reasons, having it on your sheet directly might be desirable and it is more interesting for many players if it is a result of the game rules rather than DM fiat.

The simplest way to achieve this is by being a level 1 warlock (level 3 if you want to use a two-handed weapon), or a level 3 artificer. For the cost of these levels you can attack using charisma or intelligence in melee, and have low str and/or dex in a way that naturally carries through to the various game mechanics that rely on ability scores. Although both of these classes have spellcasting, both have subtle spell options that you could use such as long duration buffs or mostly invisible effects, so would not necessarily be shooting lasers at all times.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You brought up a good point with subtle spell, though I never thought of it for Artificers, and read this right after searching for ways to improve Shillelaugh with no luck, so agree that it doesn't make the best powerhouse (given that your options apply to a d10 weapon). \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    Jan 15, 2023 at 4:33

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