D&D 5E Would you allow switching shield proficiency for Agonizing Blast as a DM?

Tomice

Explorer
Hi!
From a DM's perspective:

A player wants to play a Hexblade 1 / Swords Bard 19.
Here are some build videos, it is a very Gishy build:

But he doesn't like using a shield on this character.
First, he imagines the character fighting more like Witcher Geralt of Rivia with all the fast, acrobatic 1.5 handed swordsplay.
Second, using a shield makes the character complicated in terms of hand usage and spell focuses.

Would you as a DM allow the player to swap shield proficiency for Agonizing Blast on level one?
Note: We're not talking about whether such homebrewed swaps should be used at all, just about this specific change.

Agonizing Blast would need a second level of Warlock or a feat usually, so it is something powerful to add.
On the other hand, losing shield proficiency is no small thing in terms of power level.
Also, the character would still be in melee a lot, Eldritch Blast would still remain a backup "weapon".
The change is meant for flavor, not for powercreep.

Thoughts? Would you allow it?
I would, especially because I believe this change would actually weaken the character.
 

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Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Agonizing Blast would need a second level of Warlock or a feat usually, so it is something powerful to add.
On the other hand, losing shield proficiency is no small thing in terms of power level.
Also, the character would still be in melee a lot, Eldritch Blast would still remain a backup "weapon".
The change is meant for flavor, not for powercreep.

Thoughts? Would you allow it?
I would, especially because I believe this change would actually weaken the character.
My gut reaction is no, since it's a feature that normally requires a second level in the splash class.

That being said, your reasoning for allowing it seems solid. Assuming I felt the same and had reason to believe it wouldn't annoy my other players, I might do the same.
 
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lingual

Adventurer
If a character doesn't want to use a shield, then don't use one. Use the longsword with either/both hands and have a free hand is the benefit. I generally don't think characters should get benefits for style choices. Any hexblade dip build is going to be effective.

A PAM might want to trade in proficiency in all melee weapons that are not spear/staff/etc. for Magic Initiate or a free fighting-style. Or other seemingly "reasonable" benefits .
 

I'd say no for a multiclass. That one invocation basically puts you at standard fighter DPS and covers your ranged attacks. Bard is an already OP chassis, the only minor deficiency is damage. They want that, they should pay 2 levels for the cheez dip.

If it was a pure Hexblade, I would allow it. Melee warlocks are basically paying extra resources to do the same/less damage at 0 range. I give hexblades the second attack for free already.
 

I'd say no. Riffing on some optimised online power build is a red flag for me for starters, but to each their own. But as others have said, the player wants to have his cake and eat it too. Wants an 2nd level warlock class feature but doesn't want to disrupt his power build to get it. Pretty much every PC has class features they don't (or rarely) use - it seems a bit rich to ask for one of the most powerful invocations as a trade, especially as there's already a perfectly RAW method of getting access to it via a feat. But it'd depend on table style. Personally I'd take a dim view of this sort of nakedly mechanics-driven class dip (why does the PC suddenly decide to stop focusing on his pact with his patron after his first adventure and start singing, anyway?) but it'd depend on your table. If you're running a very optimised party, then it'd be arguably less of an issue.
 

No. I wouldn't allow it. There is nothing that makes those things comparable, the player is just giving up something someone might consider valuable that they don't use in exchange for something that would be very valuable to them. I also wouldn't let them swap their Bard ritual caster feature (which goes unused on any Bard who doesn't learn a ritual spell) for, say, an extra fighting style.

One of the limitations of class and multiclass power is you usually end up with some stuff of middling value to you. Being able to trade that in for whatever you want is gestalt class building, which isn't inherently bad, but is just a different game. Hexblade dips are already arguably overpowered without a special dispensation.

They can already achieve the thing they want with the Eldritch Initiate feat. I would happily negotiate on allowing a player to take that feat before they had the one Warlock level they technically need to take agonizing blast as an option, or on allowing them to take that feat more than once if their aversion is that there is some other invocation they absolutely need.

Bending the rules of technicalities on a case by case basis is one thing. Making class features into an anything goes swap game is another. The later might be interesting, but it is upping the power level of your game, and is likely to have unforeseen consequences.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
Would you as a DM allow the player to swap shield proficiency for Agonizing Blast on level one?
Note: We're not talking about whether such homebrewed swaps should be used at all, just about this specific change.

Agonizing Blast would need a second level of Warlock or a feat usually, so it is something powerful to add.
On the other hand, losing shield proficiency is no small thing in terms of power level.
Also, the character would still be in melee a lot, Eldritch Blast would still remain a backup "weapon".
The change is meant for flavor, not for powercreep.

Thoughts? Would you allow it?
No, I would not allow it.

When you select your class, you are accepting even parts of it that you might never use. For example, Barbarians get light and medium armor proficiencies--which directly oppose Unarmored Defense. Sure, some barbarians might use armor because of low DEX, but my current barbarian has DEX and CON 16, so is AC 18 with his shield just from unarmored defense... But I still have proficiencies in light and medium armor because they are part of my class. I could eventually go with Half-Plate (AC 15), but my AC would only be 1 point better...

I would, especially because I believe this change would actually weaken the character.
If the player is not intending to use a shield, it isn't weakening the character.

So, if they player goes to Warlock 2, they can get Agonizing Blast anyway. I mean, really what is the difference between Warlock/Bard 2/18 or 1/19 other than getting the extra feat at Bard 19. Tell the player:

Warlock 2 over Warlock 1 gets you a second spell slot for pact magic, another known spell, and two invocations.
Bard 19 over Bard 18 gets you a feat...

I would just go Warlock 2, personally.
 

Another vote for no, but because it would make EB his best attack option, matching or beating any melee option that resembles the style described.
 


Dausuul

Legend
Another vote for no, but because it would make EB his best attack option, matching or beating any melee option that resembles the style described.
That would be my concern as well, though I'm not familiar enough with the build to say if that would in fact be the case (and I'm not watching a half-hour video to figure it out).

What levels will the campaign actually take place at, and what level does the build hit its stride? "Level 20" builds are junk because a) most campaigns never get anywhere near level 20 and b) even if the campaign does go all the way, you still only get to use the build for 5% of the game. An effective build should not make you wait more than a level or two before it starts doing its thing.

I'd be concerned that he will spend much of the game at levels where Agonizing Blast significantly outperforms the longsword fighting that he wants to be good at.
 
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ECMO3

Hero
Hi!
From a DM's perspective:

A player wants to play a Hexblade 1 / Swords Bard 19.
Here are some build videos, it is a very Gishy build:

But he doesn't like using a shield on this character.
First, he imagines the character fighting more like Witcher Geralt of Rivia with all the fast, acrobatic 1.5 handed swordsplay.
Second, using a shield makes the character complicated in terms of hand usage and spell focuses.

Would you as a DM allow the player to swap shield proficiency for Agonizing Blast on level one?
Note: We're not talking about whether such homebrewed swaps should be used at all, just about this specific change.

Agonizing Blast would need a second level of Warlock or a feat usually, so it is something powerful to add.
On the other hand, losing shield proficiency is no small thing in terms of power level.
Also, the character would still be in melee a lot, Eldritch Blast would still remain a backup "weapon".
The change is meant for flavor, not for powercreep.

Thoughts? Would you allow it?
I would, especially because I believe this change would actually weaken the character.
No I would not. I would allow him to get it through the eldritch initiate feat though.

When a player comes to me with ideas like this, the first thing I look at - is there an easy way to get this already? If the answer is yes I usually go with the RAW option, and for this particular character either a level in Warlock or a feat will do it.

This is especially true when the ask is for a purely mechanical upgrade instead of a thematic change. If he wanted to change the EB damage type to necrotic because his patron is form the shadowfell, that is probably something I would consider. It is not really an upgrade, it is thematically appropriate etc.

If it is not worth a feat or another Warlock level .... well then it does not mean enough to the build to bend the rules for I don't think.

A few examples of rules deviations I have made -

a Dampir Undead Chainlock with a Sprite Familiar, wants the familiar to be corrupted by the same Vampire Lord he serves. So the Sprite is creepy, it has black wings and a dark shadowy body and little vampire fangs. As far as melee attacks its fangs do 1 piercing instead of a longsword that does 1 slashing - I went ahead and did this. It is pretty much all flavor, the only mechanical difference is the melee damage type is changed from slashing to piercing.

A second example - a character wanted to use a Kukri. I took a dagger, took away thrown property and made it slashing damage - Again all flavor and actually inferior to a dagger.

A third example - A multiclass bard wanted to use Shillaleagh with his Lute and bash people. I let him do it, this is actually a slight buff because he can use the Lute as a spell focus .... but it is not enough to overcome the cool factor.
 
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Tomice

Explorer
A PAM might want to trade in proficiency in all melee weapons that are not spear/staff/etc. for Magic Initiate or a free fighting-style. Or other seemingly "reasonable" benefits .
I unterstand now how much of a "can of worms" situation this is.
The PAM fighter might just ask what he gets for his shields proficiency he doesn't use either...

I thought it was ok, because the build was specifically designed to do more damage with a sword then EB+AB and also designed to be rather tanky, relying on the shield quite a bit. So it would be more of a sidegrade than an upgrade.

Thank you all for the insights! 👍
 

cbwjm

Legend
I think that, considering agonising blast is an invocation that they can select at 2nd level as a warlock that I would not allow this. They can take a second warlock level to get it if they really want it.
 

ECMO3

Hero
I unterstand now how much of a "can of worms" situation this is.
The PAM fighter might just ask what he gets for his shields proficiency he doesn't use either...

I thought it was ok, because the build was specifically designed to do more damage with a sword then EB+AB and also designed to be rather tanky, relying on the shield quite a bit. So it would be more of a sidegrade than an upgrade.

Thank you all for the insights! 👍
It is a clear upgrade, not a sidegrade. Losing proficiency in something he does not use and getting a benefit that he will use is always an upgrade.

Taking away shield proficiency and giving him proficiency in say painters tools would be a sidegrade.
 

As a player, I like making strong builds but part of the fun is doing it with the default rules. Changing the rules in order to min/max my build would feel a bit like cheating, to me.

As a DM, I'd be wary of doing this swap for a player because +5 damage to 4 eldritch blasts per turn is going to be a lot stronger than a +2 to AC. I'd just tell him to take the feat or the warlock level is he wants to min/max his damage.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I wouldn't allow it, and here is why:

First, if they really want AB but don't want to take 2 levels in walrock, just take the feat "eldritch adept". Done.

Second, the rules already tell us that they are not equivalent.

The Feat "moderately armored" gives you 2 things. First a stat boost (so it's a "half feat") and proficiency in medium armor and shields. So a proficiency in shield is "worth" a quarter feat, roughly speaking.

Meanwhile, getting a warlock invocation takes a full feat (eldritch adept); so clearly shield proficiency is not worth as much as getting AB
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I wouldn't allow it. Opens a can of worms I would never want to deal with. 'What can I exchange this feature for'?

I'm not particularly worried about it from a power level consideration - Assuming the character is really going to be in melee more often than not then it's more of a sidegrade. Better ranged damage that's only sometimes used but less AC that's often used.
 

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