Author Topic: Low Level Casters: Which is best and is multiclassing worth it?  (Read 3137 times)

Offline Jack the Lad

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Hi peeps

I'm in a game that's starting at level 1 and which I think will probably not go much past level 10, if at all, and I'm looking for some character advice.

Last time I posted here with a similar question the consensus was 'go Moon Druid', which I did, and it was really fun and really strong, but I'd like to do something different this time.

It's a three person party and the other two characters are a Fighter (Battle Master) and a Sorceror (Dragon).

My current concept/idea is a Wizard, but I'm not sure if a Cleric, Warlock or Bard might work better, or perhaps some combination of them (last time I was considering Life Cleric 1/Lore Bard X or Tome Lock 3/FS Sorc X).

1. How good of an idea is multiclassing at low levels? Is it worth slowing down spell progression to grab things like heavy armour, book of ancient secrets, agonising eldritch blast etc? A lot of the stuff I've read about it in guides assumes that you're level 20.

2. If I don't multiclass, is a Wizard my best option? My experience of low level play makes me think that HP damage is pretty important, though I going Elf + Longbow + Familiar using the Help action might be pretty good in that regard.

3. If I do go Wizard, which specialisation is best? I'm leaning towards Theurgy because I'm greedy and picking from two spell lists sounds super good, but I don't know how useful it is in practical terms and there are a lot of strong contenders.

If it makes a difference, we're playing with 4e-style 5 minute short rests (2 per long rest) and healing surges that we can spend to restore 1/4 of our HP (you get a number based on your hitdie; d6 Wizards get 6, d10 Fighters get 10).

Any and all advice much appreciated.
« Last Edit: September 03, 2016, 08:14:27 PM by Jack the Lad »

Offline TenaciousJ

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Re: Low Level Casters: Which is best and is multiclassing worth it?
« Reply #1 on: August 16, 2016, 11:55:12 PM »
Warlock X/caster X gets overhyped because of Eldritch Blast shenanigans.  Getting some short rest level 1 or 2 slots sucks when it costs you your high level slots.  Even if you're casting the best cantrip in the game, you're a sucker for being reduced to a cantrip machine that much quicker.  If you swing the fight in your favor faster via better spells, you won't need the highest DPR cantrip so badly.

Cleric 1/wizard X and cleric 1/bard X are fine because even though you fall behind on spell level you don't fall behind on spell slots.  Falling behind on slots is what reduces your power, because your higher level slots are game-changers even if you're just casting a lower level spell that has a greater effect from a higher slot.

Bard does not really need to multiclass unless you just want to get heavy armor from a cleric dip.  Life is one possibility, but the heals on the bard's base list do the job of getting unconscious PCs back into the fight just fine without the life domain's enhancement.

That kind of group probably wants a bard more than a wizard, though either choice is solid.  The sorcerer has access to some of the wizard's list, and even a blast-happy draconic sorcerer should have some control spells too.  A bard can take enough control with its base list and with magical secrets to adequately fill that role while also picking up some debuff removal and spot healing.  Magical Secrets is just that good a feature.

Wizard school largely comes down to your play-style because every wizard is still pulling from the best base spell list in the game.  I have seen an abjurer be nearly impossible to kill, a diviner turn the tide at the most crucial time, and an enchanter turn encounters upside down.  Even the evoker in my current game is still more than doing his part since he still has spells like Shield, Blindness, Hypnotic Pattern, etc.  Illusionist has huge potential for a creative mind.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2016, 11:56:53 PM by TenaciousJ »
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Offline awaken_D_M_golem

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Re: Low Level Casters: Which is best and is multiclassing worth it?
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2016, 05:34:59 PM »
AC is the dominant defense at early level.
So doing a dip for Cleric 1 to start is excellent.

Even the Poison Spray cantrip is running
all the way down at equal to a d6+3 damage.
Almost any martial weapon attack can be better.
This makes the various cantrips secondary
effects, much more important.

Wiz Bladesinger in SCAG is worth a look.

Or say if you can sit-n-spin until you get
the Bard 5 encounter based buff going.

Your group has enough extra healy/bonus hp
to probably not need a dedicated "H"-ealer.
« Last Edit: August 17, 2016, 05:37:02 PM by awaken_D_M_golem »
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Offline NumberKruncher

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Re: Low Level Casters: Which is best and is multiclassing worth it?
« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2016, 07:42:47 AM »
If the DM allows the life cleric bonus to apply to goodberry, a vhuman life cleric 1/bard X with magic initiate (druid) is a better healer than almost anybody.

For a 13 WIS investment, you have a bard in heavy armor that can hand out 4hp goodberries.
Dwarf FTW.

Offline TenaciousJ

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Re: Low Level Casters: Which is best and is multiclassing worth it?
« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2016, 08:10:26 AM »
Magic Initiate isn't really the right way to go about because the MI 1st level spell can only be cast once a day.  Get Goodberry with magical secrets at bard 6 along with Aura of Vitality if you want to be the most efficient healer.

Quoting myself from another thread:

Quote
Don't forget Aura of Vitality is essentially 20d6+50 with the Life cleric 1 dip out of combat for a 3rd level slot.  A cleric won't get that kind of efficiency per slot except maybe with Prayer of Healing/Mass Cure Wounds on enough targets.  Aura of Vitality can be split as needed.

Healing Word does the job in-combat, since healing is a waste of an action unless it keeps someone from dirt-napping on their turn.  Bards get the spell too.  The heals that can keep up with CR-appropriate damage in combat are Heal and Mass Heal, which are both available to the bard via magical secrets and don't benefit from the level 17 Life cleric feature since they are flat healing amounts.
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Offline NumberKruncher

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Re: Low Level Casters: Which is best and is multiclassing worth it?
« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2016, 02:01:07 PM »
Magic Initiate isn't really the right way to go about because the MI 1st level spell can only be cast once a day.  Get Goodberry with magical secrets at bard 6 along with Aura of Vitality if you want to be the most efficient healer.

Quoting myself from another thread:

Quote
Don't forget Aura of Vitality is essentially 20d6+50 with the Life cleric 1 dip out of combat for a 3rd level slot.  A cleric won't get that kind of efficiency per slot except maybe with Prayer of Healing/Mass Cure Wounds on enough targets.  Aura of Vitality can be split as needed.

Healing Word does the job in-combat, since healing is a waste of an action unless it keeps someone from dirt-napping on their turn.  Bards get the spell too.  The heals that can keep up with CR-appropriate damage in combat are Heal and Mass Heal, which are both available to the bard via magical secrets and don't benefit from the level 17 Life cleric feature since they are flat healing amounts.
oh man, you're right!
Dwarf FTW.

Offline Jack the Lad

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Re: Low Level Casters: Which is best and is multiclassing worth it?
« Reply #6 on: August 28, 2016, 03:19:15 PM »
Thanks very much for the input so far, all - very much appreciated.

Having thought about it some more, I agree that Warlock definitely isn't worth it as a dip.

My DM won't allow Life Cleric + Goodberry, which I think is understandable since it does seem pretty crazy.

On further consideration Heavy/Medium armour proficiency don't seem as good as I'd originally thought, since there's no other reason I'd want to get 15 or even 13 Strength and it's not that much better than Mage Armour, but shield proficiency is still +2 AC and Bless/Command/Guidance/Shield of Faith/Healing Word are all really good.

I'm currently thinking Elf (Eladrin) Wizard with no dip.

Point Buy: 15 Int, 14 Dex, 14 Con, 12 Wis, 8 Str, 8 Cha.

16 Int/16 Dex after racials.

Cantrips: Minor Illusion, Mage Hand, Prestidigitation
Spells: Mage Armour, Find Familiar, Shield, Silent Image, Thunderwave, Alarm

My DM isn't a fan of Divination or Necromancy, so I'm thinking Abjuration at level 2 (with Alarm to recharge the barrier) but I can see Bladesinger or Theurgy potentially being good too.

What do you think? I'm kind of liking straight Wizard, but is Cleric 1 worth it?

e: One other idea which just occurred to me is just going Favoured Soul Sorcerer instead. It'd mean two sorcerers in the party, but it grants medium armour, shields and (with Life domain) access to Bless and Cure Wounds without sacrificing progression at all.
« Last Edit: August 28, 2016, 08:41:01 PM by Jack the Lad »

Offline 8wGremlin

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Re: Low Level Casters: Which is best and is multiclassing worth it?
« Reply #7 on: August 31, 2016, 07:17:07 PM »
I'm late to the game but I'm advocating the following build:

Arcane Cleric Vhuman Wis > Con, Dex=14
Wear Medium armour and a shield (AC = 18, holy symbol on shield)
Take: Booming Blade and Firebolt or Ray of Frost* (both are now cleric cantrips, and key of Wis)
Feat: Magic Initiate (Druid)
- Take Shillelagh (keys of Wis) & Produce Flame (acts as a light) as cantrips
- Take Absorb Elements or Longstrider** as your 1st level

Just keep going to Cleric 8 - where you now get your Wis mod to damage on cleric cantrips (booming blade and firebolt amongst others.)
You can get Warcaster at 4th level you can now Booming blade as a reaction.

* Firebolt has the 120' range but is fire damage which is a common resistance, Ray of frost has only 60' range, but has some control as slowing them down.
** Absorb elements is a reaction that halfs the incoming elemental damage, and adds bonus to your next attack, and is situationally useful
Long strider gives you +10' movement for an hour, no concentration.

I like it, hope you do to.



 
« Last Edit: August 31, 2016, 07:20:40 PM by 8wGremlin »

Offline TenaciousJ

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Re: Low Level Casters: Which is best and is multiclassing worth it?
« Reply #8 on: September 01, 2016, 09:13:40 AM »
Quote
* Firebolt has the 120' range but is fire damage which is a common resistance, Ray of frost has only 60'

Chill Touch has 120 ft. range and necrotic is a less common resistance.  It also shuts off monster regeneration regardless of what the creature's regeneration trait says turns it off, and that extra rider against undead is sometimes relevant.
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Offline 8wGremlin

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Re: Low Level Casters: Which is best and is multiclassing worth it?
« Reply #9 on: September 01, 2016, 05:13:54 PM »
Quote
* Firebolt has the 120' range but is fire damage which is a common resistance, Ray of frost has only 60'

Chill Touch has 120 ft. range and necrotic is a less common resistance.  It also shuts off monster regeneration regardless of what the creature's regeneration trait says turns it off, and that extra rider against undead is sometimes relevant.

ooh chill touch, that is a nice idea, completely over looked that one.

Offline Jack the Lad

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Re: Low Level Casters: Which is best and is multiclassing worth it?
« Reply #10 on: September 03, 2016, 06:23:17 PM »
Thanks again, all - some really great info and advice here.

I'm late to the game but I'm advocating the following build:

Arcane Cleric Vhuman Wis > Con, Dex=14
Wear Medium armour and a shield (AC = 18, holy symbol on shield)
Take: Booming Blade and Firebolt or Ray of Frost* (both are now cleric cantrips, and key of Wis)
Feat: Magic Initiate (Druid)
- Take Shillelagh (keys of Wis) & Produce Flame (acts as a light) as cantrips
- Take Absorb Elements or Longstrider** as your 1st level

Just keep going to Cleric 8 - where you now get your Wis mod to damage on cleric cantrips (booming blade and firebolt amongst others.)
You can get Warcaster at 4th level you can now Booming blade as a reaction.

* Firebolt has the 120' range but is fire damage which is a common resistance, Ray of frost has only 60' range, but has some control as slowing them down.
** Absorb elements is a reaction that halfs the incoming elemental damage, and adds bonus to your next attack, and is situationally useful
Long strider gives you +10' movement for an hour, no concentration.

I like it, hope you do to.

I hadn't considered just outright going Cleric rather than just dipping it, but this post and the discussion in NumberKruncher's 'Ultimate cleric' thread make it sound like a really good option.

However! My game has now started. I ended up going with the Eladrin Wizard I posted upthread. We've played two sessions so far, which both went well, and we'll be reaching level 2 next session.

I've spoken to my DM and can change my character if I want, but I'm actually really liking the character and concept I have (Seneschal/Adviser/Tutor/Archivist to several generations of a family of human nobles) and I kinda want to stick with it.

With that in mind, what should I go for at level 2? Assuming I don't grab Cleric 1, (my DM says if I did I could swap my levels around as if I'd started Cleric 1) Bladesinger would get me 19 AC twice per short rest and 1d8 with a rapier for Booming Blade, but I feel like cantrip damage might be a bit of a red herring to optimise for.
« Last Edit: September 03, 2016, 06:30:52 PM by Jack the Lad »

Offline Nifft

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Re: Low Level Casters: Which is best and is multiclassing worth it?
« Reply #11 on: September 03, 2016, 08:20:49 PM »
Abjurer will give you a big pool of HP which you can eventually share with the Fighter or Sorcerer.

Bladesinger will give you some decent defensive options, but I think they're all focused on you.

To me, Booming Blade says: "I am your opponent!" (since you limit the target's movement while the target is adjacent to you).

If you're not intending to be a melee character who loves being in melee all the time, I'd suggest something like Greenfire Blade or Shocking Grasp which don't reward enemies for staying next to you.

Offline TenaciousJ

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Re: Low Level Casters: Which is best and is multiclassing worth it?
« Reply #12 on: September 03, 2016, 11:30:00 PM »
Optimizing for cantrips is somewhat of a trap.  You can make a viable character that way, but you're sacrificing the raw power of being a single-classed wizard.  You don't need optimized cantrips so much when you're reaching the highest level spells possible at the soonest available level.  Casting more "big deal" spells obviates optimized cantrips.

Abjurer is very survivable and group-friendly, especially if the DM uses spell casters.  Bladesinger is alright but it's more style than substance.  Unlike the abjurer, the defensive portions only benefit yourself, and you should just stay away from melee range if you're not trying to be a gish.
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Offline Nifft

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Re: Low Level Casters: Which is best and is multiclassing worth it?
« Reply #13 on: September 04, 2016, 01:53:25 AM »
With your DM's house rules on healing surges, I think your party won't need a Cleric. IMHO you could easily stay single-class Wizard and have a great game. If you want to support the party, or if you're worried about finding yourself in melee too often, the Abjurer's better-than-healing HP pool is pretty great for negating damage.

On the one hand, TenaciousJ is right: don't over-optimize for cantrips, since they're not your long-term plan.

On the other hand, you are level 1, and your spell-slots are rather limited. You should have at least one ranged attack cantrip and, if you expect to be in melee (either because your party is too small to protect you, or because you just like touching an Orc to death right in the face with your magic fingers) then you ought to get some kind of melee cantrip. I suggest Shocking Grasp, since the Reaction negation is tactically very nice: you can freely run away, or your allies can reposition around the shocked target without risking an AoO.