In an Underdark campaign, I have a Tiefling Valor Bard who is about to hit lvl 4. I want her to eventually pick up a couple levels of Paladin, and her primary role is as a melee character, with a bit of spell panache to help control the battlefield. She also is able to be the "face" of the party if needed.

Her current stats are:

Str: 16
Dex: 14
Con: 13
Int: 8
Wis: 12
Cha: 17

My optimization question is whether Warcaster is just too good to pass up, or if I should instead take ability score improvements at lvl 4 (targeting Con and Cha). Odds are that I will be taking paladin as lvls 6 and 7, so I will not get my next feat/ability until lvl 11. Design-wise, I would pick up some additional damage from smites as a Paladin and the Protection fighting style. The extra Con would help this role, and the extra Cha would help my spell saves, which are low at 13. However, Warcaster is just really good, with it's OA spellcasting ability, freeing my hand to take a shield (since my focus is already hands-free, see mechanical note below), not to mention the Concentration save buff.

One mechanical note is that my DM has already allowed me to use an amulet from my backstory as an arcane focus instead of a musical instrument, and it happens to also be the symbol of the God I would most likely follow as a paladin.

For completeness, here are my spell choices:

0: Thaumaturgy (Tiefling), Minor Illusion, Thunderclap
1: Dissonant Whispers, Silent Image, Tasha's Hideous Laughter, Thunderwave
2: Heat Metal, Hellish Rebuke (Tiefling), Suggestion

My overall goal for this character is to be survivable in melee, and still get utility out of Bard spells. I am resigned to the fact she will always be outpaced by the evocation wizard and fighter/rogue in terms of damage, and the monk in terms of survivability. If I had to pick one over the other, survivability wins out over utility.

I welcome any other comments, but my primary concern is whether to take Warcaster at lvl 4 or buff my abilities.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Without specifying a particular goal you want to optimize towards this question is likely to be closed as opinion based. Please tell us what your goal with this character is so that we can answer your question objectively. Right now it's a question whether someone prefers the feat or ASI, which is opinion based. \$\endgroup\$ – Thyzer Apr 25 '17 at 19:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ How often do your enemies provoke opportunity attacks? If less than twice per encounter, an even Con + Cha is better. \$\endgroup\$ – András Apr 25 '17 at 19:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @András we've been combat light so far, but that is changing. Since we're in underdark tunnels with little maneuverability, I think that there won't be many OAs for a while. \$\endgroup\$ – Marshall Tigerus Apr 25 '17 at 19:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sidenote: valor is not really efficient with paladin. The multiclass would give you martial weapons and medium armor, all of that is wasted as you already got them from valor. You might find more value in sorcerer or warlock. Paladin fits much better to Lore. \$\endgroup\$ – András Apr 25 '17 at 21:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with thyzer that if if you had metrics this would be a much more solvable question and less open to opinion (Survive x damage per fight, have useful abilties in x combats per day, deal x damage in a round, etc.) \$\endgroup\$ – Joshua Aslan Smith Apr 25 '17 at 21:34

From your post, I'm identifying the following as key goals:

  • Survivability is more important than utility;
  • Enjoy the utility of your Bard spells; and
  • Plan to take levels in Paladin with a Protection bent.

With these in mind, the ASI is more useful to you than the feat.

The ASI will give you broad utility via increases to your skill checks and a bump on your spell save DC. The boost to Cha will help you avoid combat scenarios via social skill checks and spell saves; while the boost to Con will help keep you standing when combat does break out.

Warcaster will not offer you that utility nor survivability. The only really notable thing that you'll gain is advantage on concentration saves. A few of the spells in your list will gain use from that, but a lot of them don't require concentration. Of the ones that do, they're best used before combat has started to avoid the fight altogether or at least delay it (Silent Image, Suggestion).

You might argue that the feat will let you hit them with a spell when they provoke an OA, but you can also just as easily hit them with your sword for a comparable amount of damage. Furthermore, because you plan on multiclassing to Paladin, you will be able to boost the damage output substantially with delicious smite damage.

For the most part, my theory behind this is survival via mitigated damage. If you avoid a fight because your skill checks were good enough, that's a lot of damage you didn't take. If you avoid a fight because you charmed a significant opponent out of the battle, that's a lot of damage you didn't take. If your enemy dies because you smited them with an OA, then that's a lot of damage you didn't take. And, should all else fail, if your enemy does end up hitting you, you've got a few more hit points to help soak that up.

You had mentioned that you won't be able to keep pace with other members of the party in terms of damage or survivability. So instead, outpace them all in the social skills, it's where you're meant to shine.

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