Every person who plays the Dungeons & Dragons
roleplaying game has his or her own reasons and rewards for playing the game. Some players revel in working alongside their friends to achieve goals. Others enjoy exploring the stories crafted by the Dungeon Master and players as the campaign unfolds. Still others appreciate the opportunity to transport themselves beyond their everyday lives to a world of fantasy and adventure.
If you’re reading the Player's Strategy Guide, it’s likely that you enjoy playing effectively at the table—building an interesting and powerful character, using your powers efficiently and wisely, creating compelling storylines, and working well as part of a team. If that’s true, congratulations! You’ve come to the right place.
On the other hand, you might be struggling with the number of options available to your character. If you have difficulty deciding between one feat and another, or if your party can’t seem to overcome the challenges placed in front of you by the DM, relax. We’re here to help.
In this book, you’ll find tips, tactics, anecdotes, and explanations, all designed to help make your games better. This book helps you optimize your characters, provides tips for managing character resources, advises you on solving age-old gaming challenges, and assists you in creating and managing effective adventuring parties. You’ll also find ideas for how to create cohesive parties, how to enhance the capabilities of allies (buffing) and how to hinder the effectiveness of enemies (debuffing), and how to adapt your party’s strategies to take advantage of the strengths of different combinations of characters.
Chapter 1: Building Your Character
The process of character design is one of the most enjoyable parts of any Dungeons & Dragons game. Some players are driven by a character’s story. They research names and come up with elaborate backgrounds. Other players thrill to a mechanically optimized character who blasts through challenges with ease.
Most of us fall somewhere between these two extremes. We want a well-designed character who also has an interesting and compelling background. This chapter is for players in the middle of the spectrum. It guides you through the various aspects of character building and advancement, from the basics of your race and class to planning your epic destiny. It includes the following sections.
Know the Campaign: The importance of the Dungeon Master’s authority over his or her game.
Characterization Builder: Painting the big picture to guide your choices.
Building a Foundation: Concrete advice for making decisions about your character’s class, race, and background elements, from both a mechanics perspective and a story perspective. Also includes tips on selecting powers, skills, and feats that you will enjoy using and that will add the most to your party as a whole.
Level Up!: What to think about when you gain a level, including retraining and replacement advice.
Paragon Paths: Get the most from your paragon tier character.
Epic Destinies: Plan your character’s destiny.
Advanced Options: Explore the possibilities of multiclassing, hybrid character rules, and other unusual options.
How To . . . : Each of these entries explores how specific mechanical choices can build a specialized character who maximizes his or her talents in a specific area.
Building a Foundation
Some players begin the character creation process by thinking about their character’s race, and others gravitate toward class choice first. At the risk of oversimplification, the former player tends to favor story over mechanics, and the latter often reverses those priorities. Since we have to start somewhere, this book handles class selection first, but you can easily jump back and forth between the sections depending on your preferences.
Regardless of which way you lean, you shouldn’t make the two decisions independently of one another. Even though any race can pair effectively with any class, certain combinations offer significant advantages for your character.
This section guides you through the initial decisions that shape your character, including class, race, ability scores, and background. These selections influence all the later choices you make about character creation and advancement.
Choosing Your Race
Ask a player to describe his or her character: Odds are that he or she uses both race and class in the first sentence. Why? Compared to your selections of powers and feats, your race makes only a marginal contribution to your list of mechanical options. Instinctively, however, players recognize the importance that the choice of race has on a character’s identity. Race influences a wide variety of aspects, such as a character’s accent, speech patterns, clothing, backstory, and feat and paragon path prerequisites. Even a character’s name often owes a debt to his or her race: Someone named Tordek Stonewalker isn’t likely to be an elf.
Just as your class choice often operates as shorthand for the party role you plan to assume, your race can act as a signal to other players about the personality you intend to depict through your character. Sure, you could play an ale-swilling half-elf who has a plaited beard and a predilection for living in caves, but if it walks like a dwarf and quacks like a dwarf. . . .
Before committing to a particular race, learn about any restrictions or alterations your DM has applied to the races present in his or her campaign setting. Even if elves are mechanically identical to the race depicted in the Player’s Handbook, the fact that they live as slaves to hobgoblin warlords might influence your decision to play an elf rogue.
Beyond the story you want to tell with your character, a race’s mechanical traits affect your choice of our character’s race. Every race has a variety of traits that differentiate it from other races. However, these fall into a limited range of categories. When selecting your race, consider how each race’s traits—ability score bonuses, racial powers, skill bonuses, and other miscellaneous racial traits—interact with your preferred class (or, if you’re choosing race first, how they might guide your later class selection).