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I am making a variant human barbarian and I'm wondering If I should get Tough as my 1st or 4th level feat? Which gives more Hp overall?

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You end up at the same HP no matter when you take Tough.

(Twice your level + 2/level thereafter) works out to the same number no matter the level when you take it.

Consider: if you take Tough at 1st level you immediately bump your HP max by 2, then another 2 at 2nd, another 2 at 3rd, another 2 at 4th for a total HP max bump from Tough of 8HP.

Alternately: if you take Tough at 4th level you immediately bump your HP max by 8.

Thereafter: in both cases you increase HP max by an additional 2HP at each level.

Worked Example:

Assuming a CON mod of +3 and the no-roll-for-HP option, here it is charted out. (I'll also assume you never take another CON ASI, just to make the L20 prediction easier. But as long as you assume both "paths" take the same CON ASIs, nothing in the comparison changes.)

\begin{array}{r|c|c} & \text{HP max,} & \text{HP max,} \\ \text{Level} & \text{Tough at 1st} & \text{Tough at 4th} \\ \hline 1 & 12+ 3+ 2=17 & 12+ 3+ 0=15 \\ 2 & 19+ 6+ 4=29 & 19+ 6+ 0=25 \\ 3 & 26+ 9+ 6=41 & 26+ 9+ 0=35 \\ 4 & 33+12+ 8=53 & 33+12+ 8=53 \\ 5 & 40+15+10=65 & 40+15+10=65 \\ \vdots & \vdots & \vdots \\ 20 & 145+60+40=245 & 145+60+40=245 \end{array}

So does it matter?

The consideration, then, needs to be in how much you value that HP earlier, vs. whatever the opportunity cost of taking Tough is. In other words, how does earlier HP bump compare to the other feat(s) you are considering? That's for you to decide.

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It's the same amount of health overall either way

Tough basically gives you hit points equal to twice your current level in addition to 2 additional hit points for every level thereafter. What this means is tough gives you 40 hit points over the course of 20 levels.

If you get it at level 1, you get 2 hit points at the beginning. Levels 2-20 accrue 38 hit points (19 x 2) for a total of 40 hit points.

If you somehow get it at level 20, you get 40 hit points.

Does this mean it doesn't matter what level you get Tough at?

Not at all. 2 hit points is pretty huge at level 1. Level 1 parties are notoriously frail due to any crit from a monster easily dealing more than 10 damage and most characters having that much. The difference between getting Tough at 1st level and 4th level is 6 hit points to help you actually get to level 4. In addition to that, you're looking at the difference between +1 attributes all around at level 1 and one extra feat, which can be pretty huge. Does a barbarian need charisma, intellect, or wisdom? Not really. Useful to be sure, but specialization is more important than being a jack of all trades.

I'd personally grab the feat at level 1 and focus your attribute increases on your preferred stats or getting even more feats

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You should not take it at all (if you want to optimise your character)

I assume you asked this question because you want your character to be able to live longer in the game. While other answers pointed out that it doesn't matter if you take the feat early or late with regard to hitpoints, I would advise you to not take the feat at all.

The small amount of health you get for the price of a feat will hardly ever matter, while there are many other feats that are truly powerful and can help your character and build become stronger and better.

But if you really want to take the feat anyway

But since the question is framed in a way that taking the feat is a given, there is a factor that might influence the decision, as the dark wanderer hinted at in a comment: The later you take the feat, the less you will have to give up for it. At level one, you will 'pay' your only feat slot for something of dubious value with much better alternatives available. However, at higher levels, you should already have the feat or feats that can help your build the most, so it might hurt you less to take the feat at that point.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While this is the right answer, an answer component within the frame of the question would help this answer meet out frame-challenge guidelines. For example, it is probably worth pointing out that the feat is better to take later, since the effective loss of a feat will be felt less keenly then. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Nov 24 '15 at 18:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ This doesn't answer the question. The question is also not asking for what's optimal, it's being confused about how the feat works. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 24 '15 at 18:30
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The total amount of benefit is the same no matter when you take it, therefore it often can make more sense to take this fest later when it gains you a measurable immediate benefit in boosted HP. Early on you may find that it's better to boost your ability score bonuses for an overall better benefit earlier in the game.

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