I am starting playing in a new campaign of 5E, and what I currently have is a first level Wizard.

STR 10
DEX 14
CON 12
INT 16
WIS 14
CHA 12
Human ( Chaotic Neutral ) with a Sage background

Cantrips: True Strike, Blade Ward, Fire Bolt
L1 spells: Burning Hands, Detect Magic, Mage Armor, Thunderwave, Shield, Unseen Servant

I was going to multiclass into Monk on level two. The reason for this is me giving him a Background of being raised in a monastery (of an oriental militant order variety) where he neglected the honing his body into a deadly weapon part in favor for the vast but long abandoned library of arcane texts. But still had some training and likes to get close and personal.

The rest of the party: elven fighter archer, halfling bard, half-elven paladin

What I want is a magi-user that:

  • is built on top of that first level ( though if there is a poor choice in there somewhere already I'd want to know)
  • is still primarily a versatile magic-user
  • have a decent Arcana, History, Investigation, Perception, Medicine
  • can be on par in a melee with a single avearage melee-oriented monster of an appropriate level at least in earlier levels
  • does not use weapons or armor
  • can become a second tank for a time (the main reason I was going for Monk and chose defensive spells)
  • favors offensive spells of a closest possible range and a highest possible damage (those will be the ones prepared most of the time)
  • will not be outclassed by the rest of the party

What I ask:

  • Should I even multiclass, will it give anything at all? If yes, in what proportion? Will the Way of the Four Elements chosen or will other tradition give more benefits?
  • Should I get a familiar?
  • What school to specialize in?
  • What spell choices can support the theme most?
  • Feats or ability increases?
  • Any magic items that can help?

Full build progression is not required, but will be appreciated.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Related, possibly duplicate, plus follow-up to that question. Worth checking out. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 0:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ this may not be important to you, but you are missing one point for your attributes. Your "point" total for cost of attributes using the variant rules is 26 and you are given 27. \$\endgroup\$
    – Escoce
    Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 20:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ The trick to building a good magi-user is finding magi who don't mind being used. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 3:44

2 Answers 2


The big problem you have here is MAD (Multiple Attribute Dependency). The bane of multiclass characters, MAD makes it difficult to pull off certain class combinations. As a Wizard, you're going to want as much Int as possible. As a Monk, you want to get both your Dex and your Wis up as high as you can. And since you've said you want to be a tank, you might even want to get a better Con score at some point.

You get 5 ability score increases over the course of your career - enough to max out your Int, then probably your Dex, leaving your Wis and Con scores exactly as they are now. (And that's assuming there's no feats you want.)

You can improve on this situation slightly: assuming I've done my maths correctly, it looks like you've used point-buy to come up with your ability score array. If you dump the Str and Cha scores back to 8, it gets you an extra 4 points which you can use to bring your Dex or Wis up to 16 (or your Con up to 14, but I wouldn't recommend that).

The way around the MAD problem is to pick classes which align slightly better, attribute-wise. For example, for a spellcaster Monk, picking a spellcasting class based on Wis (i.e. Druid or Cleric) would reduce your problems a long way. Unfortunately, there are no arcane spellcasting classes based on Wis.

Your next problem is that you've picked 5 skills that you want to be good at. The combination of class and background only gives you 4, and getting more requires a heavier investment than you can really afford, so you're not going to be able to get proficiency in all 5. The obvious one to ditch is Perception, because neither the Wizard class, the Monk class, or the Sage background give proficiency in it. That said, it's probably the most important skill in the game, so maybe you want to customize your background and drop something else. I'd suggest that one of the Int-based skills would be the best not to have proficiency in, since you'll have a good Int anyway so you'll still be ok at it.

Ignoring all that, let's assume that you're going ahead with a Wizard/Monk and address your specific questions.

Should I even multiclass, will it give anything at all? If yes, in what proportion? Will the Way of the Four Elements chosen or will other tradition give more benefits?

The 1st level of Monk gets you Unarmoured Defense and Martial Arts, which is enough to make it a good investment. Further levels in Monk take a lot of investment to get anything particularly worth having, so I'd recommend sticking with Monk 1/Wizard 19. If you do decide to take more Monk levels, make sure you do it in multiples of 4 so that you don't lose an ability score improvement. If you do take enough levels to get a Monk tradition, Way of the Four Elements is probably not a good choice. Your Wizard spellcasting will far outstrip the little bits of spellcasting it offers. The Way of Shadows likewise just gives some spells you have access to anyway. The Way of the Open Hand is probably your best bet.

Should I get a familiar?

What you have to understand is that familiars don't really boost your combat ability in any way. They offer great utility, as scouts/messengers, particularly if you pick something like the Hawk or Owl that's good at Perception. Regardless, it's not a big investment, just 5 gp and a single 1st-level spell (of which you have a minimum of 8 at Wiz 2), so I'd honestly recommend getting a familiar to anyone playing a Wizard.

What school to specialize in?

Abjuration is probably your best bet for helping you survive in melee. Necromancy is also good at this as long as you're killing things with spells. I went into a lot more detail about this in my answer here, so I'd suggest taking a look at that rather than me reproducing it here.

What spell choices can support the theme most?

There are now no Wizard spells that will directly boost your unarmed strikes, so your best bet for using a spell to increase your fighting abilities is probably just casting Haste on yourself. Other than that, your best bet for melee spellcasting is probably Vampiric Touch, particularly if you choose to specialize in Necromancy. Again, I went into a lot of detail about this here, so I'll keep self-linking instead of writing it all out again.

Feats or ability increases?

Ability score increases, definitely. You really need them, and there aren't any feats that you need as badly. War Caster is the usual choice for melee spellcasters, but you're not planning on holding any weapons or shields, so you don't really benefit from it much. Not to sound repetitive (it's actually a different answer this time), but I went into a lot of detail about which feats are good for a melee spellcaster in my answer here. But for you, I'd definitely suggest sticking to ability score increases.

Any magic items that can help?

Quite a few, actually. The ones you would want the most are the ones that would help you with your MAD problem: The Amulet of Health, the Headband of Intellect, Ioun Stones of Agility, Fortitude, Insight, or Intellect, Manuals of Bodily Health or Quickness of Action, and Tomes of Clear Thought or Understanding.

The other item that would be particularly useful for you specifically is the Bracers of Defense. Obviously, there are a lot of other items that are useful for everyone in general, or spellcasters in general. If you're playing Hoard of the Dragon Queen, there's an item called the Insignia of Claws that you definitely want to get if you can.


My answer to this question, since it isn't rules based, but asking somewhat "what should I do?" I answer thusly.

Start with a Level 1 Monk, and at 4th level take "Magic Initiate" from pg 168, which will grant you two contrips and a 1st level spell from the class of your choice.

I think this sounds more inline with what I "believe" you are trying to accomplish which is really a monk with some spell casting rather than a mage with a little kung fu.

You see as you get higher in character level, if you don't increase your monk level consistently, your kung fu will get weaker and weaker for your tier of play to the point of being utterly useless and simply causing you to have to spend more experience points to gain your next class level.

My way, although really more monk focused than magic focused at least doesn't steal levels from your character, it does however steal a +2 attribute boost at level 4 which is a very helpful boost. It however will allow you to have some magic as a monk without being forced to take the Elements pathway to get it.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ This is completely contrary to what he is attempting to do. He primarily wants to be a spell caster with a monkish background, not a monk with a bookish/arcane background. It doesn't address his request at all, it tells him to basically not bother with what he wants to do, and instead take a hacked attempt at a weakened version of what he wants to do that will never stand out as what he envisions the character as. \$\endgroup\$
    – Aviose
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 16:43
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ You don't spend Exp in 5th edition. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jason_c_o
    Commented May 7, 2015 at 4:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jason_c_o sure you do. When you gain a level from experience or mile stoning you spend that level on a class level. \$\endgroup\$
    – Escoce
    Commented May 7, 2015 at 11:28
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Escoce After going up a level, you still have all the experience points required to gain that level - that doesn't sound like an expenditure. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 3:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ It is...once you assign the class those points are going to, you can't change your mind. They are spent. \$\endgroup\$
    – Escoce
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 4:47

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