5E Help me with good RP/Optimization balance for Half-Elf (probably)Valor Bard (archer?)

OlegRu

Villager
SOLVED
Please refer to my new thread with last few questions for building




Edit:
doesn't need to be the combat star of the party - just a partial-support type as far as attacks.

I am just getting back into DND and it's my first time playing 5e. Please help me with my character build.

Basically, I want my character to be able to do some decent attacks in combat as well as cast spells, and I love skills and RP. By his backstory the character is almost certainly a skald type- he's very social with a genuine interest in the world, wanting to develop himself and inspire others, using the spoken word and song a lot. He's also from the North and good with wilderness stuff.


I imagine him being good at many skills and talking to others, casting utility and combat spells, buffing his teammates and also getting some attacks in while keeping himself away from the main brunt of the enemy - perhaps shooting arrows.


Would a Valor Bard Archer be a good way to have all this? I've seen many mention it as a great combat strategy, with 4 attacks later on, for this type of character and it would fit my guy RP-wise, as he stays away from the front line, but still gets to yell **** out, do some buffing of others, cast spells, but also have significant attacks.


Questions:

  1. If he's the archer build, would rapier be good as a backup melee weapon (for epic flavor in some situations)? Should he have a shield for when he's using the rapier or just a sword?
  2. Is casting with a bow going to be a problem? What about with a sword and shield?
  3. Armor-wise - since this build would have a high DEX (I imagine), is breastplate or something else worth it (capping out the modifier at 2)? Or should he use only light armor?
  4. Will I be sacrificing any cool stuff (magic, skills, abilities etc.) optimizing his ranged attack?
  5. Is getting feats going to leave him on the low end with ability scores? If I raise scores, should it be straight DEX and CHA?
  6. What would be the optimal progression by levels to build this guy?

Ability Scores (char is half-elf):

Our DM is letting us use standard array or point-buy. So I was thinking of doing:

10 16(+1 incl.) 12 (+1 incl.) 10 12 16 (+2 incl.)

or

10 16(+1 incl.) 14(+1 incl.) 10 10 16(+2 incl.)

I hate negative modifiers and I'm really into skills, which is why the 10s being lowest and why I'm debating of having the 12 in wisdom (survival, perception, maybe animals). I also don't want my char being weak or dumb.

Spells:Could really use help on choosing spell for my char as well!

Multiclassing: Open to it if it's not too all over the place or complex. Also, I'd like to stay away from things like sorcerer or paladin, as they might be effective but make no sense RP in my case.

What are your suggestions/advice?

(Please keep in mind I want to keep my character's theme for RP purposes.)


Thank You so for any feedback!
 
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Zardnaar

Hero
You're not going to be a great archer no matter how you build it. This is because you lack the classes features to bump up your damage and the +2 archery style to off set the -5/+10 part of sharpshooter. You also lack shells like hunters quarry and hex.

You can steal the level 5 ranger spell at 10 but blowing a level 5 spell slot for an extra two average attacks is a bit underwhelming. Level 10 is also a long time to wait to get the spells.

A lore bard can steal he and Eldritch blast at level 6 and fireball or lightning bolt at level 10 plus destructive wave.

You can still build an effective PC, but you'll be average at best at archery (fighters and rangers are best, assassin rogue with the CBE feat works as well).

If you have rolled stats and roll well and can start with crazy high scores it can mitigate this since you in effect get extra ASIs and using high stats to make a average build better is less of a problem than using them to make a great build absurd and valor bards are a bit MAD (you want good dex, con, charisma). Without multiclassing or playing a different class there is only so much you can do though as the bard is a primary caster so being good at combat is a bit much. If you're happy with that its fine but if there is a well built archer in the party you'll probably find your character underwhelming in comparison.
 
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OlegRu

Villager
So I want a guy who can fight and cast, and mainly is good for RPing and social, with good skills.

Is there anything better than a valor bard in my situation? Something that can do all that and deal damage that doesn't have to be a prime-combatant like our fighter and all.

I can't roll for stats as our dm only gave us the two options I mentioned, unfortunately.

Also, what you think of the other questions?
 

TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
You're not going to be a great archer no matter how you build it. This is because you lack the classes features to bump up your damage and the +2 archery style to off set the -5/+10 part of sharpshooter. You also lack shells like hunters quarry and hex.
I wouldn't go that far. A bard isn't as good an archer as a fighter or ranger, for sure. But archer-bard is one of the few ways to do a full caster that doesn't sacrifice a tremendous amount to get a good at-will attack pattern, outside of a sorlock or bardlock.

My personal recommendation for an archer bard with point buy would be to go elf if possible, ideally eladrin (or drow if Mordenkainen's tome of foes isn't available). 15 Dex to start with a 17 after the +2, 13 Cha to bump to 14, 14 Con, and 12, 10, 8 (or 10, 10, 10) into the other stats to taste.

Grab Elven Accuracy as your level 4 feat (which bumps Dex to 18), and Sharpshooter at 8. (You can flip these if you'd like, but Sharpshooter really takes off once you can leverage Elven Accuracy.) Your standard tactics are to get advantage by any means necessary, and pump out 2 bow shots a round, and use your bonus actions to hand out Inspiration Dice. Greater Invisibility at level 7 will be a godsend of a 4th level spell, and obviously grabbing Swift Quiver as one of your Bard Secret spells is fantastic. (I personally am a fan of Find Greater Steed as the other spell, so you can do all this while flying on a griffon, but you gotta do you.)

If you're locked in on half-elf, this will still work, but you'll have to delay getting an 18 Dex until level 12 with point buy. There are other ways to make the concept workable, mostly involving Hexblade Warlock or Fighter multiclass dips, but then you're moving into bardlock territory, which is a bit different than archer bard.

If you have Xanathar's guide, you may also want to look at College of Blades, which works surprisingly well with ranged weapons.

As for your other questions, I'm not sure about the hands and casting issue, my tables always play and loose with those rules. A Ruby of the War Mage (a common magic item from Xanathar's) will let you get around it if needed.

Rapier and shield is probably ideal for backup melee, yes.

Your AC will be better with medium armor until you get a 20 Dex, so I would go for that.

Yes, you will be sacrificing to be good with a bow. You could easily have a 20 Cha by level 8 and be a much better spellcaster, at the cost of having a solid at-will attack option. You could dip 2 levels into warlock and do damage on par with the bow with eldritch blast, at the cost of delayed bard progression. Everything is a trade-off, sadly.
 

Zardnaar

Hero
I wouldn't go that far. A bard isn't as good an archer as a fighter or ranger, for sure. But archer-bard is one of the few ways to do a full caster that doesn't sacrifice a tremendous amount to get a good at-will attack pattern, outside of a sorlock or bardlock.

My personal recommendation for an archer bard with point buy would be to go elf if possible, ideally eladrin (or drow if Mordenkainen's tome of foes isn't available). 15 Dex to start with a 17 after the +2, 13 Cha to bump to 14, 14 Con, and 12, 10, 8 (or 10, 10, 10) into the other stats to taste.

Grab Elven Accuracy as your level 4 feat (which bumps Dex to 18), and Sharpshooter at 8. (You can flip these if you'd like, but Sharpshooter really takes off once you can leverage Elven Accuracy.) Your standard tactics are to get advantage by any means necessary, and pump out 2 bow shots a round, and use your bonus actions to hand out Inspiration Dice. Greater Invisibility at level 7 will be a godsend of a 4th level spell, and obviously grabbing Swift Quiver as one of your Bard Secret spells is fantastic. (I personally am a fan of Find Greater Steed as the other spell, so you can do all this while flying on a griffon, but you gotta do you.)

If you're locked in on half-elf, this will still work, but you'll have to delay getting an 18 Dex until level 12 with point buy. There are other ways to make the concept workable, mostly involving Hexblade Warlock or Fighter multiclass dips, but then you're moving into bardlock territory, which is a bit different than archer bard.

If you have Xanathar's guide, you may also want to look at College of Blades, which works surprisingly well with ranged weapons.

As for your other questions, I'm not sure about the hands and casting issue, my tables always play and loose with those rules. A Ruby of the War Mage (a common magic item from Xanathar's) will let you get around it if needed.

Rapier and shield is probably ideal for backup melee, yes.

Your AC will be better with medium armor until you get a 20 Dex, so I would go for that.

Yes, you will be sacrificing to be good with a bow. You could easily have a 20 Cha by level 8 and be a much better spellcaster, at the cost of having a solid at-will attack option. You could dip 2 levels into warlock and do damage on par with the bow with eldritch blast, at the cost of delayed bard progression. Everything is a trade-off, sadly.
Context I was talking about a half elf valor bard, yes there are other races and options available. Your elf build is a lot worse at being a bard with 13 charisma so you're sacrificed bard dice and spell casting ability to make an archer who is worse at being an archer than other classes.
 

Mistwell

Hero

What are your suggestions/advice?

(Please keep in mind I want to keep my character's theme for RP purposes.)


Thank You so for any feedback!
I strongly recommend Treantmonk's three part guide to Valor Bards. It will help you with exactly this question (and he builds a half-elf bard from levels 1-20).

[video=youtube;w8D40i2gtto]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8D40i2gtto[/video]
 
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OlegRu

Villager
Wow - you guys are really giving me a lot of info. I will reread it all more thoroughly when I'm home and reply with questions/comments. This is great so far, thank you! I hope all the responses are like this lol.

P.s. I put some edits at the end of my OP RE multiclassing and stuff.
 

OlegRu

Villager
I strongly recommend Treantmonk's three part guide to Valor Bards. It will help you with exactly this question.

[video=youtube;w8D40i2gtto]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8D40i2gtto[/video]
That's so funny, I have that exact video playing minimized, just audio, in my car while I'm driving! :) I am kind of a noob though so I get a bit lost and can't ask questions to a video haha
 

Mistwell

Hero
That's so funny, I have that exact video playing minimized, just audio, in my car while I'm driving! :) I am kind of a noob though so I get a bit lost and can't ask questions to a video haha
Oh that's OK, you have the ability to cast summon [MENTION=55582]Treantmonklvl20[/MENTION] and he should show up to answer your questions right here!
 
I am just getting back into DND and it's my first time playing 5e. Please help me with my character build.
Just curious: when were you last into D&D?

Basically, I want my character to be able to do some decent attacks in combat as well as cast spells, and I love skills and RP. By his backstory the character is almost certainly a skald type- he's very social with a genuine interest in the world, wanting to develop himself and inspire others, using the spoken word and song a lot. He's also from the North and good with wilderness stuff.
Yep, sounds like a Valor Bard.


I imagine him being good at many skills and talking to others, casting utility and combat spells, buffing his teammates and also getting some attacks in while keeping himself away from the main brunt of the enemy - perhaps shooting arrows.
Mostly sounds like a Valor Bard. Or you could focus more on CHA, skip the arrows, and substitute stinging insults (Vicious Mockery, it's a cantrip, you can insult enemies to death - how is that not awesome?).
 

TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
Context I was talking about a half elf valor bard, yes there are other races and options available. Your elf build is a lot worse at being a bard with 13 charisma so you're sacrificed bard dice and spell casting ability to make an archer who is worse at being an archer than other classes.
I specified eladrin or drow, so 14 Cha. I'm not as down with half-elf, since you can't get an 18 Dex with Elven Accuracy at level 4.

And yes, he's a worse archer than a dedicated archer, and a worse bard than a dedicated bard. BUT.... he's a better attacker than the dedicated bard, and a better caster than the dedicated archer. So really, it comes down to how much you value specialization over generalization. I tend to favor builds that are pretty good at several things rather than really good at one thing, so that's why I tend to like builds like these.
 

OlegRu

Villager
Just curious: when were you last into D&D?
In my late teens, about 15 years ago. I played a bunch of ADND2e and some 3e (which I remember disliking for being too technical, but maybe it was a childhood thing). I also played the Werewolf and Vampire table tops.
 
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OlegRu

Villager
So from reading all of the replies, here are my follow-up ideas/questions for you guys - @Zardnaar, @TwoSix, @Mistwell, @Tony Vargas, @Treantmonklvl20

I'll format this to go by topic:

  1. Is there something you'd recommend outside an archer bard that would fit my char's style (maybe some simple-type multiclass I mentioned in the OP or something else)? Also, is a ranged bard preferable to keep him safer due to lower defense/HP and for spell concentration?
  2. Ability Scores: Cool so I'll probably take the STR10 DEX16 CON12 INT10 WIS12 CHA16 then. (I care about strength as I'd like to have decent athletics score and wisdom, again, for the skills) Although, I'm a bit worried regarding the CON - I've seen a lot of talk that it's important - for concentration I think?
  3. So in order to avoid issues casting, I should equip just a sword if I'm not using ranged at the moment, not the shield? (and keep shield around just in case, but I'm not sure when I'd use it)
  4. For armor, yeah I don't want penalties to stealth as I'd like my char to be able to sneak around in the wilderness camouflaged or hide places, so I guess the best option is breastplate and then lighter armor if I get a 20 DEX.
  5. Feats/ASIs: So increasing attack stuff (DEX), i'll be sacrificing magic power (CHA)... hmmm.... so I'm going to talk about ASI/Feats here. From what I understand, the popular valor bard archer build is based on getting the Sharpshooter feat (and often-times Elven accuracy) plus Warcaster is quite popular - helps not lose concentration and can cast with weapons/shield in hand (from what I understand). I guess this means either 20 DEX/20 CHA and Sharpshooter or 18/20 20/18 (not sure which is preferable) and Sharpshooter, Warcaster or 19/18 and Sharpshooter, Warcaster, Elven accuracy.I'm too much of a n00b to know which is better and/or if there are better combos out there for what I'm trying to do.
  6. I guess as I play I could do some things tentatively - see what I enjoy doing more in combat (attacks/spells/both) and decide the order to take the ASI's and Feats as I go. But what would generally be the preferred order? Sharpshooter ASAP, then boost CHA, then others?
  7. Spells: I've read that a bard can't change his cantrips once selecting them, but that he can change up his spells each level - is this accurate? Can he change his spells from magical secrets? What are the most recommended cantrips and spells for this build? (I know if I go with valor bard archer, swift quiver is a must).
  8. Skills: I'm a huge fan of skills. I was thinking to take Athletics (I want to be a good swimmer/climber etc.), Stealth, Perception, Survival, Persuasion, Deception, and Acrobatics or Animal Handling(I want to be able to ride mounted at high levels without getting tossed). No sure what to waste my expertise on - the 2nd pair of skills comes at later levels so I could see what I use most as I go, but the 1st one is around the corner. I know having a boss CHA-based skill is a good idea, but I also wanted to boost my athletics, stealth, perception - not sure which to do.
 
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ccs

39th lv DM
Questions: If he's the archer build, would rapier be good as a backup melee weapon (for epic flavor in some situations)? Should he have a shield for when he's using the rapier or just a sword?
There's not much, if any, reason NOT to use a rapier in this setup. A d8 weapon that keys off your 16 Dex or a sword that likely uses your +0 Str. Hmm....

Shields: The math says use a shield. But you should play the character that your envisioning. So, does a shield fit that vision?

Is casting with a bow going to be a problem? What about with a sword and shield?
With a bow? No. For somantic components of spells you need 1 free hand. So unless you're always walking around with an arrow knocked it likely won't be interfering. And you can't cast a spell at the same time your firing the bow.
With sword/rapier + shield? That'll interfere. But you should talk to your DM about this. I've seen a great many who simply ignore limitations like this. At the worst you'll just have to learn to plan how to cast spells better.


Armor-wise - since this build would have a high DEX (I imagine), is breastplate or something else worth it (capping out the modifier at 2)? Or should he use only light armor?
Barring some other future modifier, your AC (with shield) will top out at either 18 (breastplate or chain shirt) or 17 (studded leather).
Without shield it's: 15 (studded leather), 16 (chain shirt), or 16 (breastplate).
I don't see any math reason except GP cost to go with studded leather (or lighter), and I doubt you'll be able to afford breastplate early on (it's 400GP). So chain shirt?
The only rules reason you'd take leather is if you use the starting equipment package.

Now on the RP end of the spectrum? You should absolutely use the armor that fits your vision. Even if that's not optimal. One of my own characters was a barbarian with decent stats. And I still wore a breast plate even though it'd have been about 2 AC pts higher with zero armor.


Will I be sacrificing any cool stuff (magic, skills, abilities etc.) optimizing his ranged attack?
Well, you won't get that feat/ASI bump until 4th lv. So you've got a few sessions to further ponder this one.
*Will taking Sharpshooter help more than taking ______?
*What will best help me play the character I'm envisioning? Sharpshooter or ______? I generally go with whatever furthers my vision.
*And keep an eye on how the story itself is progressing. Sometimes there might be other considerations.

As far as optimizing by stat? There's nothing wrong with your stats. As a bard Cha is important. And your 16 dex influences bow & rapier attacks, AC, initiative & is a fairly common saving throw. And since you don't want any negatives....


Is getting feats going to leave him on the low end with ability scores? If I raise scores, should it be straight DEX and CHA?
See my answer above.


What would be the optimal progression by levels to build this guy?

Bard 1, Bard 2, Bard 3, Bard 4..... and go with the flow of the game. As for Multi-classing? You'll have a tough time qualifying for that with either of the stat lines you're looking at.

Ability Scores (char is half-elf):

10 16(+1 incl.) 12 (+1 incl.) 10 12 16 (+2 incl.)![/QUOTE]

I'd do this one.
 
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TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
[MENTION=6995253]OlegRu[/MENTION]

1) Bard is pretty much spot on for your concept. If you want to be more skill-focused and a better caster, lore bard is probably a better fit, and certainly fits your RP concept. Valor is generally worthwhile if you're willing to invest feats, ASIs, and spell choices to make your weapon combat. Basically, you'd have to decide how high of a priority good archery is to your character.

You could probably also fit this character concept into a warlock, depending on your willingness to stretch class flavor.

2) Con is very important, for both hit points and for making concentration checks. Most people recommend starting with a 14 here if at all possible.

3) Personally, if I'm sitting back casting, I'd rather have just the shield than just the sword, but that's personal preference.

4) A) Breastplate if you can afford it. B) Scale mail or chain shirt if you can't (depending on how much you value stealth). C) Studded leather if you value stealth, can't afford a breastplate, and have a 16 Dex, OR you decide to go lore bard.

5) Yea, the general feats you'd be looking at are Sharpshooter (a near must for focused archer builds), War Caster (helps with concentration and lets you not worry about hands), and possibly Elven Accuracy. I like Elven Accuracy because it does give a +1 stat bump, and both elves and half elves will usually have a 17 in Cha or Dex at level 1 assuming point buy. Others don't value the bump quite as highly, and it usually devolves into math arguments when discussed. :)

I, personally, don't find character building past level 10 or so very interesting, so I tend to only evaluate the best feats for levels 4 and 8. At levels 12, 16, 19, I assume you'd just want to bump your favorite stat up to 20 if it isn't there already.

6) Tough call. I think in strictly numeric terms getting your main stat to 20 is probably better, but I tend to value the quality of life benefits that feats provide over the number increase. But there's good arguments for either direction. I would personally advise not getting Sharpshooter until 8, because it really starts to pay off once your accuracy has improved and you have more ways to generate advantage. (Even without Elven Accuracy, advantage is huge for Sharpshooters.)

7) Yea, can't trade cantrips, but you can trade in one spell for another whenever you level. For Bards, up to level 10 I tend to think of it as you gain 2 spells every level, but lose 1. Spells to choose have to be based on the concept, but for an archer, anything that gives advantage is good. Look for spells that don't require concentration, and any spells that are bonus actions or reactions.

8) Well, with jack of all trades, you'll be decent at a lot of skills. I tend to prefer to put Expertise in skills I have a high stat in, but really, this is something that can definitely be a role-playing choice. I haven't seen too many DMs play a style where any one particular skill check will make or break you, but only you know that about your own game.
 
Apparently the original version of this formatted weird, so the edit.

1) Your primary thing will be neither Ranged combat nor Melee combat, it will be spells. Just because Bards can use weapons doesn't make them anything other than what they are: A primary spellcaster.

2) That said, by all means a rapier and a longbow and a good Dex are all a good idea, then you can stick stuff from Range or Melee when you aren't slinging spells.

3) I would make rapier/shield the default, because that +2 AC from the shield will give you a better AC, and nothing makes a Lower Con score more tolerable than taking less damage

4) Glad you like skills, because you took the right class, with Jack of All Trades you get all of them! (kinda), + all the tools, + initiative bonus, + any other ability checks.

If it was me, I would half-plate up whether it gave me disadvantage on stealth or not, but if that's a big deal, then yes, a breastplate is a good option.

5) When it comes to ability score increases - I would recommend Warcaster first and foremost, otherwise you can't perform somatic components when that rapier and shield are out. Then I would get that Cha up to 20. Again, spells are the real power of a Bard, not sticking people with sharp stuff (unless that "sharp stuff" are a bunch of animated objects!). After Cha is 20, then if you like Sharpshooter, or Dex, or whatever, go for it.

Hope that helps.
 
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UngeheuerLich

Adventurer
Reminder:

Starting with 10,16,14,10,10,16 is fine. Same goes for starting with bow as your main weapon.
By level 4 you should know if you increase cha or dex.
By level 8 you know better. By level 10 you can make an educated guess if you are using a bow or would rather have an attack spell or a great concentration based buff or debuff.
And best is: you can always switch between both builds. If you somehow end with 18 dex and 18 cha at level 8 you are not a lot behind as others might have taken a feat or two.
Also you never know what magic items fall into your hand or what other players do and what kind of adventures you are playing.
A valor bard can adept to anyithing and be a great addition to any party and you really need to work to make a bad valor bard.
 

Paul Farquhar

Adventurer
So I want a guy who can fight and cast, and mainly is good for RPing and social, with good skills.

Is there anything better than a valor bard in my situation? Something that can do all that and deal damage that doesn't have to be a prime-combatant like our fighter and all.

I can't roll for stats as our dm only gave us the two options I mentioned, unfortunately.

Also, what you think of the other questions?
Has anyone suggested paladin yet (If you ignore the bit about not outdoing fighters)?
 

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