D&D 5E Low dex wizard

As a rule, most people when creating a wizard PC will put the highest stat into intelligence, and then the next highest into dex. Wizards don't have many hit points and so avoiding getting hit is a priority, obviously.

Has anyone had any experience with not doing this - with instead putting the second highest stat into constitution and planning to accept getting hit more often and just hope to soak it up? My gut feeling says that this would have real survivability troubles at low levels especially, but I'm interested in hearing if anyone's tried it on the table, or if anyone's got any ideas about the best ways to make it work.

I know I can go to various character optimisation pages and they'll all tell me to play a dwarf for the armour proficiencies, or a tortle abjurer who is continually casting Alarm as a ritual to cheesily max out his ward, but the concept I'm trying to make work here is a minotaur labyrinth wizard from Kobold Press's Southlands. So no special racial defensive abilities, and nothing from the subclass to help me avoid getting hit (although there's a nice short-ranged area confusion-like ability that would sometimes help).

Is mage armour worth it at low levels, or is the difference between getting hit all the time at AC 10 and getting hit almost all the time at AC13 not worth the expenditure of one of my very few spell slots? Is it practical to pick up the much-maligned Blade Ward and at low levels trying to rely on reaction spells like Hellish Rebuke? Are there any feats/backgrounds or more obscure spells that could help me out? Should i just bite the bullet and go fighter or barbarian at level 1 for the armour proficiencies, and then multiclass into wizard? The character history isn't entirely incompatible with that.

And to complicate the issue - the minotaur race's class features are heavily based around their horn attacks - and labyrinth magic has a bunch of horn-, charging-, and goring-related spells. Horn attacks are non-finessable natural weapons. So if i want to use any of this with any degree of effectiveness (and i do, for characterisation reasons) that pretty much means i have to at least gesture in the direction of a decent Strength score as well.

(On a more general note, this is one of my capital-I issues with sterotypically big brawny races in 5e. They tend to get melee-focused special abilities, which are very hard to use effectively or at all for any PC that's not melee-focused. So you get very little use out of a lot of your racial features unless you conform to the stereotype. And it's not like i'm playing against type TOO much here - Midgard minotaurs have all thie maze-based mysticism and religion, and all sorts of labyrinth-based specialty spells, and spells that want you to charge and gore people. This SHOULD be a concept that works ok. Oh, and the general uselessness of Strength in 5e unless you're a heavily-armed hitting-people person is something I have Opinions about as well...)

edit: Midgard minotaurs are +2 Ctr, +1 Con, darkvision, perfectly remembers paths taken through mazes etc, and a 1d6 natural attack that turns into 2d6 and a free shove if you move 10 ft in a straight line before attacking
 
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DND_Reborn

Legend
FWIW, my second highest Wizard score is typically CON, then the third is DEX or WIS depending on what I want to do with the build. I like having a high CON for concentration spells and often take Resilient (CON) for saves and another +1 bump to CON.

If you do go the mountain dwarf wizard route, then with some armor and more HP you can survive, but IME I like just trying to keep my wizards positioned to avoid direct attack. I usually take War Magic was my tradition, so Arcane Deflection's bump to AC is nice on occasion, and of course there is always the shield spell.

Mage Armor is pretty essential of course, just to have some AC, and the 8 hour duration makes it worth it IME. If you aren't tied to Wizard, specifically, going Sorcerer and using Extended Spell can make your Mage Armor last 24 hours per casting with a couple Sorcery Points.

The Gnome Fade Away racial feat is pretty nice if you do get into trouble and need to retreat to safer locations.

Going Wizard, you can also utilize Mage Armor and focus much of your other spells on Rituals, so you won't need to expend spell slots when you cast them. It focuses you on utility, but saves precious spell slots for other things IMO.

I can't really say much on the minotaur issue as I've never played them or even looked into it.

Finally, you can always strike a good balance between DEX and CON if you want. For instance, with point-buy you can have three 14's and three 10's. You can put 14's in INT, DEX, and CON, and then use your racial ASI +2 for INT to get a 16. If you lower one of the 10's to an 8 and don't mind the dump stat, your racial +1 ASI and changing a 14 to 15 will yield a second 16.

For example, a forest Gnome has INT +2 and DEX +1.

STR 8
DEX 15+1=16
CON 14
INT 14+2=16
WIS 10
CHA 10

Or go rock gnome and reverse DEX 14 and CON 16.

At any rate, you can certainly make a CON-focused Wizard instead of DEX-focused and it will play perfectly fine IME.

Hope it all helps!
 

What's the point of character building if everyone is expected to follow all the prescribed formulas and best practices? Play what you want, even if its not what is best.
I don't want it to be 'the best'. I'm not really a character optimiser. I just want it to not be a drag on the party, and to have a reasonable chance of surviving for a few levels until it starts to get more robust.
 

NotAYakk

Legend
5e provides very little way for your allies to protect you.

If your DM wants to stomp on the fragile wizard, they will.

AC and other defensive mechanics are about the only mechanical ways to compensate for the DM choosing to go after the wizard and make it less harsh.

You can accept that when the DM chooses to attack the wizard it will be harsh and not work to boost your defence. This being fun or not will depend on your DM and your tolerance for being threatened/taken out.

It could work fine.

You'll get a very different story, and it can be a fun one. It is a matter of taste and DM style.
 

jgsugden

Legend
I play in systems that use dice rolls for attributes, and if I'm feeling like effieicnecy will be important in that game due to the GM's style, and I only role one good stat - I make a wizard because you really only need to care about intelligence as the core of efficiency. They're a class that can be very effective with only one good attribute. Why? Because they can often go levels between taking damage, they're effective whether they go early or late in a round, and if their only skills are intelligence based, they're still providing unique contributions to the group.

Cruddles, my favorite deep gnome wizard, is in a party that is playing through an adventure path. Between levels 7 and 14 Cruddles was only damaged once unintentionally (I would sometimes step in to take a hit to draw it away from the front line because I had more hp than them and ending a session with full hp is a waste of resources). Usually, I stayed in the back, I used decent tactics, and I made use of abilities and spells (like shield, mirror image and blink) that reduced my jeopardy.

My dex was not that relevant. While it is nice to go early, I had spells that could be used before groups engaged (like fireball) or after (like hold monster).
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
I don't want it to be 'the best'. I'm not really a character optimiser. I just want it to not be a drag on the party, and to have a reasonable chance of surviving for a few levels until it starts to get more robust.
Nothing I said was about being "the best". You asked for other peoples' experiences with emphasizing CON, builds towards that, and such--which is what I provided.

As long as you play your character well, you should never be a drag on the party.

Surviving the first few levels (which pass quickly IME) has more to do with how you play your character than anything else.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
I played a Mountain Dwarf Wizard that had Con as their highest stat, then Intelligence, then Dex. It worked out well because I could wear armor!

I also find that DMs just tend to focus attacks on melee characters so it's usually easier to keep on the edges of combat. It would be a good idea to have Shield, Misty Step, or other emergency spells prepared.
 



As a rule, most people when creating a wizard PC will put the highest stat into intelligence, and then the next highest into dex.
Dex is good for being attacked with melee and ranged weapons. I think con is more important so you can survive things that have no dodge. I think exactly what you want to do depends on the stats you have.
 

Depends entirely on the DM's style and how they present encounters. In my anecdotal experience, you can often find places to hide and take cover while your concentration spells do their work. Just know that there will be a few times where someone comes up from behind and bops you. It happens. Having a good tool to reposition (like Misty Step or Thunder Step) is handy for such times.

Now, if you are standing in the open or (at best) just standing behind a friend or two you are probably going to take a lot more heat, figuratively and literally!
 

I think you've gotten tangled up in too many people's optimization theorycrafting. This will be a, in some ways, suboptimal character, and that's fine. It'll still be a 5e Wizard, and unless you dumpstat intelligence or just can't pick a spell to save your life, that will always be a powerful enough character to meaningfully contribute to the party. Personally I wouldn't advise being an unarmored Wizard without a 12 or 14 dex, but if you really can't spare the stat, do what you must.

Is mage armour worth it at low levels, or is the difference between getting hit all the time at AC 10 and getting hit almost all the time at AC13 not worth the expenditure of one of my very few spell slots?

If you have no other armor Mage armor is probably worth it at low levels, even with crap dex. Lets say you run into a gaggle of Goblins. Some will target the wizard with their bows. They have +4 to hit. With a 10 AC they hit on a six or higher (75% chance). With a 13 AC they hit on a 9 or higher (60% chance). Still bad, but you can also use Shield, bringing it up to a respectable 18 for one round in an emergency. If you win initiative you'd be better off using that spell slot to hit the Goblins with Sleep, but if you lost initiative (more likely with crap dex) you've got to focus on surviving. At level 1 you're probably only good for a couple hits, so anything that even marginally lowers the chance of them landing is generally a better use of your level one spell slots than any of the anemic level 1 damage spells. That said, if you can drop a whole group of gobbos or kobolds with a Sleep spell, or avert the fight entirely through some sort of Disguise Self/Charm Person/Silent Image shenanigans those are more effective use of your spell slots. Tough calls.

But whether or not you can afford spell slots for Mage Armor or Shield (or Absorb Elements) at Wizard levels 1 or 2, you absolutely should pick up the spells during those levels. At level 3 and beyond level 1 slots become a lot less precious, and these low level defense spells increasingly become the primary use of those slots, and since the eight spells you pick at Wizard levels 1 and 2 have to be level 1 spells, you'll want to grab the defensive spells then. Whether you actually prep or use them yet will be something to play by ear.

Is it practical to pick up the much-maligned Blade Ward and at low levels trying to rely on reaction spells like Hellish Rebuke?

Blade Ward is an interesting idea for this build, as in not as terrible as it is for most, but I think the "accept you'll get hit, and give up your action to lessen the impact" strategy doesn't really make sense even for a high con, low dex Wizard. You don't want to invest one of your 3 known cantrips on something that is usually not a better option than taking the disengage, dash, or hide actions. I might consider it later in the game when you're learning your 5th or 6th cantrip. Hellish Rebuke is a Warlock spell, so you won't be using that.

Should i just bite the bullet and go fighter or barbarian at level 1 for the armour proficiencies, and then multiclass into wizard?
Both solid options. Keep in mind the only one of those that actually grants heavy armor is taking Fighter at level 1. Medium Armor is certainly also nothing to dismiss, even with crap dex, but if you are going to devote a whole level primarily to shoring up your AC, you might as well go for the best you can get. Fighter also gives a fighting style to increase your AC by yet one more and Second Wind for a little self healing when you do still get hit. If you take one level of Fighter then someday you can take a second, and Action Surge double spells.

Barbarian is definitely less optimized, but still very cool, gets the job done, and would make for a generally very survivable character. At low levels raging when you run out of spells makes a lot of sense. A second level someday would let you attack recklessly with those horns. Unfortunately as your wizardry eclipses the power of your melee attacks the benefits of a Barbarian dip start to diminish, so I really wouldn't advise the second level (unless your DM lets you use your horns with the Booming Blade cantrip, in which case those horns might get a lot of use, and being able to use them with advantage radically ups their viability).

For the character to make sense I would talk to the DM about letting you start already having your spell book, and just not being able to use it yet. Maybe you found or inherited it, or maybe you were a Wizard school dropout who focused too much on sports and never managed to cast any spells.
 

Has anyone had any experience with not doing this - with instead putting the second highest stat into constitution and planning to accept getting hit more often and just hope to soak it up?
My Dwarven Bladesinger went CON/INT/WIS/STR/DEX/CHA. He was a frontline tank, no armor, accepting the hits because he had LOTS of hit points and used False Life pretty regularly.
 

I have a 13th level wizard with 12 Con and Ac 12. I don’t even bother casting mage armour. So, yes, I put one of my better stats - a 14 - into dex but I almost never need it. When I get hit, I get hit hard. But then I run away and use battlefield control to keep myself safe or have something else up my sleeve to eradicate my enemy.
 

It really depends on your group's style, including the DM. In my group, it's pretty uncommon for the wizard/sorcerer/warlock to get into melee, so survivability is higher at low levels. At medium levels, ranged attacks become more common, and they're almost always the target of those. In these types of games, having a low AC and/or Con isn't a big deal, but in the rare event you get into melee, you're going to be in a lot of trouble! I tend to favor Con slightly over Dex for this reason, as it also helps with Concentration.

I'm not a fan of Mage Armor, as I've found it to be too costly for the benefit. You only have 2 spell slots at level 1, so you're giving up 50% of your class ability to have a 15% chance of any given attack miss you. At level 2 wizard you get a total of 4 (including Arcane Recovery), so you're giving up 25%. Once you're out of spells, you become a really bad archer by using cantrips, so the sooner you make yourself fall back to this the worse off you are. Perhaps at level 3+ you might consider it worthwhile, as well as in any game where the DM is fond of targeting you.
 

Dausuul

Legend
I think this would be viable at my table, but it depends heavily on your DM and fellow players. If you have aggressive melee warriors in the party, and your DM has most monsters just wade in and start bashing the nearest enemy, you're fine. If your fellow PCs are cautious or evasive types, and the DM is fond of sneaky tricks and cunning tactical play, your AC will matter a lot more.

As a note, if you do decide to dip for armor, you may want to consider cleric. Many cleric domains grant heavy armor, you don't lose any spell slots, and you get access to a domain feature and first-level cleric spells to make up for your delayed access to wizard spells and features.
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
Ask the DM about the terrain and the scenery. Hiding behind some bushes (cover = better AC) or behind the corner of a building (breaks line-of-sight) is a viable defensive survival strategy.

I kept a Wizard with 1 HP (ambushes hurt, Ouch) alive through the rest of an extended-length encounter by thinking like a Sniper Archer Ranger.
 

Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
If you are using the Minotaur from Monsters of the Multiverse, you have some fun options. Are they optimal? Not at all, but I think they'd be fun:

(assuming Point buy) Start with a 16 Int, 14 Str, 14 Con, 10/10/12 or 8/12/12 as desired.

I'd specialize in Warmagic, Bladesinging, or Abjuration (depending on how you conceive your melee combat: I see you say "nothing from the subclass to help me avoid getting hit" -- that would point to abjuration)

The Minotaur has horns to attack, but something like Shocking Grasp or even Booming blade let you use Hammering Horns to push your opponent away from you (it requires an unspecified melee attack). With Booming Blade, that would not trigger the cantrip, but it would mean that the creature can't move towards you to attack, once you have pushed it away! (but with shocking grasp, you've already done scaled damage)

Fun!
 
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AC for a wizard is nice but not essential.
There are so many things that can damage you which is not targetring AC and good positioning can keep you out of trouble more often than not. At least if the DM is not too tactically exploiting weaknesses.
 

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