D&D 5E How long are you willing to wait for a build to "turn on?"

payn

Legend
Sadly it is no exeggaration... prestige classes werw such a neat concept, but because of the prerequisites (outside class levels) basically did not allow the DM (as intended in 3.0) to give them out as an award, but had to be planned for carefully. In 3.5 they reflavoured the concept to patch holes in the multiclass rules...
Paizo further patched it with archetypes and hybrid classes. The nice thing about those changes is that prestige classes went back to being flavorful items as they originally were intended.
 

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Paizo further patched it with archetypes and hybrid classes. The nice thing about those changes is that prestige classes went back to being flavorful items as they originally were intended.

Yes, that was a bit better. Still a patch, but a good one at that time. Actually one thing I liked about pathfinder.

5e in a way used that concept and added subclasses as a similar solution.
 

Laurefindel

Legend
in my experience (and every table is at least a little different) even most 'planers' don't plan to 20. I also have never met anyone who saw there plan 100% to the end. In 3e I had a player who used to plan his first 10 levels (feats, skill pts, ASI, spell choices) when making level 1 characters and would keep a spread sheet of it on his laptop. then every level he would go back and if he needed to change something would create a new tab, but also expand it to another level up... I asked him once what the least number of tabs (so variation from play) he ever had and he said in a game I wasn't in he made it to level 17 with only 3 tabs... in the game I was running at the time he was on tab 4 at 6th level.
Similar experience here.

In 3e, at least if you played it by RaW, most prestige classes had to be planned pretty much from the start to get all the skill points and feats prerequisites, or else had to wait another 2-5 levels to catch up. 5e is a lot less restrictive that way; the only thing to watch for if you want to multiclass is the 13 in the class abilities in and out, and ASI are relatively easy to get by.

But I do enjoy the mini-game of building characters with a relatively focused concept. I like it more now than ever because your character doesn’t suck if you decide to opt out at any point or change halfway through, and even if you do reach your goal, you’re not stronger than single class characters grown without preconceived intentions. So the mini-game can be played for the fun of it; not because you’re falling behind if you don’t, not religiously because you’ll ruin the whole character if you don’t go all in.
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
It isn't about 'build' for me but as far as character defining features I want them at level 5.

Levels 1-4 they're an apprentice and then at level 5 they're doing the thing.

This is a problem I have with playing a paladin. For me their greatest feature is the aura of protection and they don't get it until *6.

I was thinking it was 7. What class gets their main feature at 7?
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
It isn't about 'build' for me but as far as character defining features I want them at level 5.

Levels 1-4 they're an apprentice and then at level 5 they're doing the thing.

This is a problem I have with playing a paladin. For me their greatest feature is the aura of protection and they don't get it until *6.

I was thinking it was 7. What class gets their main feature at 7?

With Paladin it's both 6 AND 7.

Level 6 gets the big +CHA bonus to all saves aura (for you and allies within 10')

Level 7 gets the big Oath feature (often but not always an aura for ex: Devotion gets cannot be charmed aura).
 

Some complex builds only seem to do their thing at mid levels. If you're going for a complicated multiclass or holding out for a specific weapon, it my be level 6 or 7 before you finally get to do your mechanical thing.

So like it says in the title: What’s the longest you’re willing to wait for a build to “turn on." Is there some particular weapon, ability, or prestige class that makes it worth the wait? Or is it better to wait for one of those "everyone starts at 10th level" campaigns to go for those builds?

(Comic for illustrative purposes.)
I don't often think that far ahead. Usually, if I decide on a particular theme I want to be appropriately competent with my peers.

If I am playing a character who will be the next Stormwarden of the Pearl Tower, it would be nice to have shocking grasp at first level, levitate at 2nd, &c. If the character is Grackle the Elven Archer I would expect to be competent at the bow and be able to shape my fighter to be archery as my levels progress.

Given how 5e is designed, I guess I would expect to come into my own at 3rd level. I would be the best in the party of that theme, while obviously not amazing until later.
 


"Builds" aren't much in 5e compared to 3e and 4e but my big gripe with class design is that most games don't go past level 10 and yet you have to wait until 3rd level to start getting a trickle of unique stuff. 3rd level feels late for the Eldritch Knight to start getting a drip of magic, and so on. I hope 5.5e makes a course correction and lets everyone start playing their assassin or rune knight or berserker or whatever, right at level 1.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
In play, I come up with a character and go from there. It has to pay from 1st until however far the campaign goes, lets say ending somewhere in the 7-12 range. There's never a point when I can afford for it to be "not on". And I don't work out builds ahead of time. 5e is fairly forgiving as long as you don't do a few of the big sins of multiclassing so I can pull my weight and not let down my party no matter which way I go, including staying single-classed.

In theorycrafting, it has to be viable from 1st - I have disdain for people who craft for 20th level unless it's a one-shot where you start there. In those cases I need to be able to keep up at the level 5 power bump, and basically be fully functional even if not yet "all the bonuses!" ready by say 7th or 8th. But those are more fun solo minigames of "what can I build:, I don't run those types of builds anymore. (And I admit that "anymore" - I used to build out 3.x characters 1 thru 20, though there you needed to be able to hit requisites for PrCs and such and if you missed getting a feat by a level because you didn't have prerequisites it would set everything back really far.)
 

jgsugden

Legend
in my experience (and every table is at least a little different) even most 'planers' don't plan to 20. I also have never met anyone who saw there plan 100% to the end. ...
I see a lot of different approaches, but some are definitely locked in planners that do not adapt.

For example, I had a player that came to me at the start of a campaign and showed me an excel sheet that laid out his character progression from level 1 to 20. In it, for each level, he selected classes, feats, spells, and magic items he'd acquire by then. They were not highly specific, but it included things like having a strength magic item by level 5 and a magic weapon by level 6.

I remember that the strength magic item was at level 5 because when he was a level 4 PC he already had two attuned items and the group found a homebrew magic item that would be good for him - but he declined to take it because he was planning on going back to town and paying for someone to build him Gauntlets of Ogre Power to stay on plan.

I knew he was a ... rigid ... player, so I worked his plans into my games broadly to keep him happy.

Now, I made sure we worked on the role playing side of things as well and that all of those decisions fit into a character story - but this wasn't that unusual of a situation for me as a DM ... some players just want to tell their PC's story as they dreamed it up, and DMs can find ways to make that work for the game overall - even when the focus in not on the elements you'd prioritize as a DM.
 

d24454_modern

Explorer
Similar experience here.

In 3e, at least if you played it by RaW, most prestige classes had to be planned pretty much from the start to get all the skill points and feats prerequisites, or else had to wait another 2-5 levels to catch up. 5e is a lot less restrictive that way; the only thing to watch for if you want to multiclass is the 13 in the class abilities in and out, and ASI are relatively easy to get by.

But I do enjoy the mini-game of building characters with a relatively focused concept. I like it more now than ever because your character doesn’t suck if you decide to opt out at any point or change halfway through, and even if you do reach your goal, you’re not stronger than single class characters grown without preconceived intentions. So the mini-game can be played for the fun of it; not because you’re falling behind if you don’t, not religiously because you’ll ruin the whole character if you don’t go all in.
Doesn’t it make more sense to happen upon a prestige class rather than actively seek it out?

If you don’t have a prestige class or archetype, then it probably wasn’t that important to the children to begin with.
 

Doesn’t it make more sense to happen upon a prestige class rather than actively seek it out?

I always went back and forth with this... and liked the idea of "anytime after X level" as the only prereq. Then if you happen to fall in with the thieves guild at level 5 your fighter and your wizard can both take "thief of the guild"
 

delericho

Legend
I strongly encourage my players to create a character they're happy to play from day 1 (which almost always means 1st level). The problem with deferring gratification is that there's a real good chance we won't get to the payoff for months, or even never.

There are, of course, some concepts that can't be played right away (the aforementioned Eldritch Knight, for instance). I'm hoping 5.5e might patch some of those holes, but the truth is that there will always be some holes - there just isn't a perfect answer to that one.
 

And obviously build vs. character is not a dichotomy. But you can absolutely have a character without a build, but except in terms of theorycrafting, not a build without a character.
Once play begins, you must have both a build (some kind of mechanics) and a character (personality and backstory and whatnot), unless the table ignores either all the rules or doesn't roleplay (so, straw-tables that don't count.)

Sometimes, a weird mechanical concept just intrigues me, and then I have to both figure out how to make a playable character around it (because no matter how cool your combat-combo is, it won't work in noncombat encounters) and then figure out what sort of person would learn to fight that way - which is how the build becomes a character. Trying to figure out how to shenanigan the fact that Elemental Affinity and Radiant Soul would both add to greenflame blade (and stack!) results in the Knight of Ciefid, and angelic warrior dedicated to burning the forces of darkness. Not the deepest concept but a full character (and fun to play).

Other times, the narrative concept comes first. Other times, I find a cool piece of art and turn that into a dnd character. No one process works better than the others.

I have met people who always approach character making the same way, but that would feel so restrictive to me.

As for the main question: I want some version of the core concept as soon as I start, even if the fully-realized version might take a while. Which is why the Knight of Ciefid wasn't brought to a low-level game.

Also, the comic implies that the concept requires a specific magic weapon. I never assume that's under my control, so I probably wouldn't even try to play such a concept without a discussion with the dm first.
 

Laurefindel

Legend
Doesn’t it make more sense to happen upon a prestige class rather than actively seek it out?

If you don’t have a prestige class or archetype, then it probably wasn’t that important to the children to begin with.
The character never really seek anything out, but the player had to be ready by the time the DM made the option available, or even invite the player to join.

« We like you kid, how about you join our organisation? »
« Sorry, I only have 5 ranks in stealth and missing the ´sneaky’ feat. I can grab the feat in two levels but it will take three more levels until I have 8 ranks in stealth. »

But that was 3e, in which prestige classes were a good idea badly implemented. In 5e, it’s mostly getting combos of abilities from different classes and subclasses that make the build-a-character mini game. Like getting the most out of the Tempest Cleric maximized lightning and thunder damage channel divinity on a storm sorcerer for various lightning effects shenanigans. Anyhow, you probably heard of all the synergetic cross-class pollination tricks, but very few are more powerful than a straight on single class for more than a level or two, at the cost of being behind for a level or two. 5e is actually pretty well balanced for that. There are one or two combinations of front-loaded classes that stand out early on, but they wash out with other single and multiclass pretty fast.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I don’t play 5Ed, but extrapolating form other editions- and other RPGs as well- it depends. Before 3Ed, my D&D characters generally didn’t have much of a “plan” to them…but PCs in other systems often did.

In 3.X, though, I routinely mapped out plans for the PC to grow. After all, I had plans about my future, why couldn’t they have plans for theirs. And just like me, sometimes, the plan for the future had to change because things changed in the present.

Given that, how long I would wait for my vision of a character to be realized would depend on the character and system in question.

Sometimes, the GM would matter too. There was one guy who ran good games, but he was never satisfied with the systems he was using to run them. So his campaigns would run a dozen sessions or so, then abruptly end. When he was the GM, I always played something with a front-loaded concept.
 

my big gripe with class design is that most games don't go past level 10 and yet you have to wait until 3rd level to start getting a trickle of unique stuff.
I feel this was something of a missed opportunity for 5E. IMO they should have set the default starting level to 3, with the first two levels as apprentice tier for those who want to run full "zero to hero" campaigns. Then starting characters would be fully "online" out the gate, except for multi-class characters, and by spreading out starting abilities over three levels, it would make the 1 level dip much less exciting.

A DM can already start the campaign at level 3, and I usually do for this reason. The problem is the existing tier system, as you pointed out. The actual apprentice tier is levels 1-4, with a big power boost at level 5, the heroic tier. The heroic tier is the "sweet spot" of 5E that most people enjoy, but it only goes from levels 5-10. Games tend to stop at about level 11, because a lot of DMs don't like the next tier, where player abilities start to disrupt simple adventure design. If the game was designed for level 3-10 as heroic tier, then it would optimize everyone's enjoyment.
 

payn

Legend
I feel this was something of a missed opportunity for 5E. IMO they should have set the default starting level to 3, with the first two levels as apprentice tier for those who want to run full "zero to hero" campaigns. Then starting characters would be fully "online" out the gate, except for multi-class characters, and by spreading out starting abilities over three levels, it would make the 1 level dip much less exciting.

A DM can already start the campaign at level 3, and I usually do for this reason. The problem is the existing tier system, as you pointed out. The actual apprentice tier is levels 1-4, with a big power boost at level 5, the heroic tier. The heroic tier is the "sweet spot" of 5E that most people enjoy, but it only goes from levels 5-10. Games tend to stop at about level 11, because a lot of DMs don't like the next tier, where player abilities start to disrupt simple adventure design. If the game was designed for level 3-10 as heroic tier, then it would optimize everyone's enjoyment.
I sort of agree, but I know there are folks that like high level content. Probably at least six of them. After E6 in the 3E/PF1 days, I'm confident that folks can just run games indefinitely at certain points to keep whatever spot they find sweetest.
 

d24454_modern

Explorer
I feel this was something of a missed opportunity for 5E. IMO they should have set the default starting level to 3, with the first two levels as apprentice tier for those who want to run full "zero to hero" campaigns. Then starting characters would be fully "online" out the gate, except for multi-class characters, and by spreading out starting abilities over three levels, it would make the 1 level dip much less exciting.

A DM can already start the campaign at level 3, and I usually do for this reason. The problem is the existing tier system, as you pointed out. The actual apprentice tier is levels 1-4, with a big power boost at level 5, the heroic tier. The heroic tier is the "sweet spot" of 5E that most people enjoy, but it only goes from levels 5-10. Games tend to stop at about level 11, because a lot of DMs don't like the next tier, where player abilities start to disrupt simple adventure design. If the game was designed for level 3-10 as heroic tier, then it would optimize everyone's enjoyment.
This would be horrible for me because I actually like high concentration games like Final Fantasy and the like and that requires levels much higher than 10.

What’s even the point of levels if the gameplay itself is static?
 

I sort of agree, but I know there are folks that like high level content. Probably at least six of them. After E6 in the 3E/PF1 days, I'm confident that folks can just run games indefinitely at certain points to keep whatever spot they find sweetest.
This would be horrible for me because I actually like high concentration games like Final Fantasy and the like and that requires levels much higher than 10.

What’s even the point of levels if the gameplay itself is static?
Apparently I wasn't clear... I didn't mean for the game to end sooner, merely expanding the part most people enjoy to include levels 3-4, shortening the "apprentice tier" by two levels. I personally have no problem running past level 11, with my first campaign ending at level 18 (and I'm currently working on a one-shot to revisit those characters).
 

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