D&D 5E Great scores weak subclass; strong subclass so-so scores


Cry havoc! And let slip the pigs of war!
I have been a fan of taking “weaker” subclasses just because I like their flavor. I also am a fan of playing against type with fixed ASIs.

Now to my point…

What do you think is the relative importance of ability scores, optimized race and subclass
In various combinations?

I have usually done point buy and just this once rolled. (I think all classes in 5e are viable generally). But I wanted to play a melee alchemist artificer…with a SCAG style duergar…

That is what got me thinking…I have often done fine with nothing higher than a 16 by level 8!

How much can high scores elevate a weak subclass/race combo? How important is each relative to eachother?

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B/X Known World
As long as you put your best bonus in your primary attack stat, drop your floating racial bonus in same, and ASI that stat to +4 at 4th level and +5 at 8th level…you’re keeping up with the game’s assumed math and will mostly keep the default 65% success rate. Anything beyond that is gravy.


Cry havoc! And let slip the pigs of war!
As long as you put your best bonus in your primary attack stat, drop your floating racial bonus in same, and ASI that stat to +4 at 4th level and +5 at 8th level…you’re keeping up with the game’s assumed math and will mostly keep the default 65% success rate. Anything beyond that is gravy.
I have often defied this to an extent. And I think 5e is easy mode in many cases.

I did not phrase my question well.

What do you think is more potent—a strong subclass with fair scores or a lower powered subclass with great scores?

In my case I am taking a race and class that are not synergistic and the subclass is so so to begin with. BUT I have great scores for once and it got me asking that question. Just curious…

I have a barbarian warlock with a 16 high in attack stat and he is 11th level…he does great.


As long as i get to be the frog
1. It’s a group game. In group play with a normal sized party. A single martial pc being 20-40% less effective in most combat circumstances will be barely noticeable. Heck, you could probably be at half strength of a normal pc and the party is likely still fine. Would make them just shy of 90% effective for a 4 player party.

2. The dm will eventually figure out what the party can handle and will adjust future encounters to be a bit easier with that knowledge OR the party will just rest more frequently and use resources at a faster pace to compensate.

In essence (2) functions as the feedback mechanism to keep the game running fine.

Bigger issue may be if you are much weaker than other PCs you may dislike that.


Depends on Party role

Support PCs like healers and buffers don't care about scores. Just class and subclass.

SKill PCs like scouts, faces, and loremasters base their character around high modifiers and thus care more about scores than subclass.

Defensive PCs like defenders, blockers, and meatshields only have minimal ability score needs. Defenders want a high primary score to hit with their marks and control attacks. Meathields and Blocks only care about subclass.

Offensive PCs vary. Some classes like fighter and most casters focus on their base class for offense so subclass doesn't matter. Whereas some classes like barbarian and ranger get a huge chunk of damage from subclass and can live with bad stats on great subclasses.


As an experiment in a game I'd grown tired of, I made a monk whose highest ability score was 11 (and took Way of the Open Hand). I was actually surprised at how well he did in game, and his overall mobility saved the party in several combats. While the DCs to avoid his trip/push/stun attacks weren't great, they were being used often enough that they'd eventually work when things got clutch. I managed to get him up to about 9th level before a critical failed Death save took him out in a fight. ("Don't worry about healing me, get rid of so-and-so. I've got at least two more rounds to stabilize" :eek: ). They did kill the boss, though.

So, overall, I think it really depends on the table. If the game is pretty casual, having high stats is not a concern and you'll most likely get moments to shine. If you're playing with a more hard-core group something like the above probably would get you kicked out of the game as "too weak" and dragging down everyone else.

Basically, you have to read the room.

Really high stats can paper over anything. If my DM said I can play as the weakest subclass/race combo, but start with all 20s vs. an optimal subclass/race combo with standard point buy I would take the former. It's not even a question for me until you get down to all 16s. No matter what you're playing as you'll want some combo of attack bonus, AC, spell DC, hit points, etc. High stats also give you greater freedom for skills, feats, MADness, and multiclassing.


Cry havoc! And let slip the pigs of war!
it's not just for subclasses, but perhaps classes too - if you roll a great set of stats, it's time for a monk :D
Exactly! I usually point buy but wanted a “frontline” alchemist. I don’t know why…I just did.

I filmed my rolls for my pals but they would never question me. Best rolled perhaps I have ever had.

In fact, I thought eh, too much. So I rolled AGAIN. Statistically absurd. Either one bananas with first being best.

Rolled a third time to just see where it would end. The “worst” was a 16 and two 14s…

So I am going to play a frontline alchemist who is a duergar with sunlight sensitivity. Not to win a medal but we like the old school limitations.

I will try to get a blade cantrip at some point but cantrips are so tight! I want him to be throwing bombs…for kicks and flavor taking acid splash and poison spray flavored as bombs. If I end up in sunlight it will be good. Later will try to get booming blade or gfb and firebolt.

Since my scores are so good I might take weird things areas of ASIs. Artificer initiate maybe…perhaps even poisoner.

Another thing I noticed since starting this thread is the rolls really free up some infusions…no need for stat boosting items really.

I think the good stats also free me up to just do flavor more without worrying about some contribution…but survival is almost never a problem it seems.

Even with god stats I still think battlesmith is more potent for what I want to do. I like going the weird route. Even had a weird idea about a dip into warlock and calling his artificer stuff “infernal” tech to keep it more magical and less science gadgety…


One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
in my opinion, the most impactful thing on your potency is your subclass, then stats, then species,

a really powerful subclass isn't going to be properly hindered by mediocre stats or can run full force with SAD, think of twilight cleric, even if you have the most garbage stats you're still going to have 300ft darkvision and twilight sanctuary and all the rest of it's abilities, in fact the only thing limited by your stats in that subclass is the number of additional people you can share your darkvision with(WIS mod, min 1).

most classes generally only need two, sometimes three half-decent stats in the right places to passably perform their job, but having more is never going to do them any wrong and can often help you overwhelm foes through sheer brute force.

finally IMO, species is really only minimally influential on your strength, barring perhaps some specific outliers and combinations(which typically is also dependant on your subclass to some extent), but for the most part your species is going to be set dressing to the real stars of the show as it were.
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