Arcane Bardcher (5e Optimized Character Build)
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Arcane Bardcher A man, clad in studded leather straps, walks towards a great green dragon. The man wields a shiny crossbow painted a dark onyx. A quiver rests on his back. As he approaches, the man raises a bright diamond in the air, chanting verses of an ancient, forgotten language. Light fills the air and the world is brightened for a few moments. As the ancient draconic being opens his eyes, he sees a figure step out of the silhouette of the man. The man continues chanting and an aura of magic slowly forms around both men. Suddenly, they raise their crossbows and let loose a torrential stream of bolts that clank into the dragon’s scales. With a silent scream of shock, the dragon topples to the ground leaving the glittering hoard to the two men. With a wave of their hands, two pegasi form from the air and the Bardcher makes his departure. There are different characters in Dungeons and Dragons. However, all characters fall into one or more categories. One of the primary aspects that distinguish characters is the question: Is this character Martial or a Caster?
The power level of builds usually depends on the answer to this question. In general, casters are much more powerful because of the utility and scaling that they have.
Another question we can ask is: Is the build Melee or Ranged? Ranged builds are consistently better than Melee builds for 2 reasons.
1. Ranged builds can shoot from afar. Therefore, they have more survivability, and if they are far enough away, may get another attack in before getting attacked.
2. Ranged builds also do not lose their edge when competing against Melee builds because there is no real difference in damage, as 2d6 vs 1d10 isn't that much in the long run. Also, in this build, we get more damage than Melee builds from level one with ranged attacks. However, one of the things that limit the power of caster’s is spell slots. Spellcasters just do not have the power to extensively sustain high amounts of damage (except eldritch blast).
What if I told you that there was a way to combine Martial and Caster classes to negate the sustain aspect of Spellcasters and the lower damage of Martial builds? Well there is a way. This build is called the Arcane Bardcher.
Firstly, I want to credit Four Fun D&D Character Builds for Power Gaming for the inspiration and basis of this build. However, this will edit some of the ideas and concepts of that build.
There are a few combining factors that each aspect presents that make this build pump out so much dmg. In order to understand them, we have to look deeper into what makes Martial and Spellcaster builds special. Martial builds don’t do much damage, EXCEPT for a few specific cases. IE: stacking attacks on top of Arcane Surge, Crit builds, and Gishes (Paladin and Ranger). Lets look at an example of each type:
A pure fighter wielding a greatsword: 4 attacks per attack action. Taking action surge makes it 8 attacks. 2d6 + 5 damage base. We also have an additional 10 damage from Great Weapon Master. With great weapon fighter, each 2d6 averages 8 damage. 23 damage per hit. Lets assume all attacks hit. 23 x 8 = 184 damage. On top of that, we can assume 184 damage is enough to kill something, so that is another attack from Great Weapon Master. Additional 23 damage. 207 damage. we also have an above 80% chance to Crit from champion. If there is a crit, that is 230 damage in a turn. Without action surge, that number over halves.
A crit fisher Barbarian with 3 levels in fighter. Also taking half-orc. 4 Attacks in a turn, with reckless attack, we can roll twice. Each attack does 1d12 + 9 damage, with an additional 10 damage from Great Weapon Master. An average of 7 damage per 1d12 with Great Weapon Fighter. 26 damage a hit. 4 Attacks is 104 damage. With reckless attack and champion, we have a 20% chance to crit with each attack. That is a bit over 60% total. If we crit once, we get an additional attack, 4d12, and 19 damage. That is 5d12 + 38 damage, averaging 73 damage. Taking half of that, is an average of 135 damage per turn. Much less than a pure fighter, but still pretty good. We also get a bunch of survivability from barbarian and half orc, whereas the fighter does not.
Finally, we all know the paladin. Considered one of the strongest classes in the game, it needs no explanation.
We take the strengths of these builds and we put them together, with the plus of being a full spellcaster with 9th level spells unlike the paladin.
As for why Caster’s are considered powerful, it is, like I previously said, the utility, but in addition to that, the extremely powerful spells and abilities, like divine intervention and Wish (which we have btw).
What is this build, you ask?
It is a Lore Bard 18/Fighter 2.
The fact that the bard can steal spells is what puts this build together. Spells like Tenser’s Transformation, Find Greater Steed, Wish, and Simulacrum, which all upgrade martial prowess are what makes this Gish the strongest build. We also get utility such as Counterspell from an early level. Lore Bard provides haste by level 7, a huge boost to damage. Fighter is the basis of the build, as it gives damage by level one, and provides one of the best capstones in the game (arcane surge lul).
Level One: We start out by taking variant human. Without crossbow expert, we can't do any damage whatsoever with this build. Since we are also a fighter, the three skills we want to take are perception, acrobatics, and stealth. We also want 13 charisma, at least 15 constitution, and at least 16 dexterity. We can get this easily using point allocation. Take Leather Armor, Longbow, and 20 Arrows, sell them all, and buy studded leather armor. Take two hand crossbows for the martial weapons, sell one of them, sell the light crossbow (not the 20 bolts). At level one, we have 2d6+6 damage with +7 to hit. 13 damage a turn is huge at the first level. In addition, we have a ton of money from selling a lot of the equipment that we get. Background can be anything that fits with the roleplay, since (i forgot to mention) we also have way too many proficiencies in skills from the Bard.
Next, we start leveling Bard. There is no real increase in damage until level 4, where we get Heat Metal, which, for a turn of preparation, gives us an additional 2d8 worth of damage on subsequent turns. When we get Heat Metal, make sure to switch your main weapon to a Heavy Crossbow for an additional 2 damage every turn. We switch back to a hand crossbow next level. Level 4 also brings more proficiencies and cutting words.
Level 5 is sharpshooter, when we switch back to the hand crossbow. If you have been hoarding money from the start, we can buy a +1 crossbow now.
Level 7 is the next real increase in power. With additional magical secrets, we get Haste and Shield. Now on turn one, we can cast haste, take 2 crossbow attacks, then on later turns get 3 attacks.
Level 9, we get an ASI, which we put in dexterity.
Level 10 is animate objects, a better alternative to haste for damage.
Level 11 is the second magical secrets. We get Find Greater Steed and Counterspell. Find Greater Steed is great in general, letting us snipe enemies from the sky or adding action economy. Maybe even both! We take Pegasus for the speed.
Level 13 is another ASI, which we put in dexterity.
Level 15 is Magical Secrets, where we get Simulacrum and Tenser’s Transformation. Tener’s Transformation also applies to Find Greater Steed, and Simulacrum. Simulacrum straight up doubles our damage, and Tenser’s Transformation (which we cast using our 6th and 7th spell slots) adds an extra attack ability, and 2d12 dmg per hit, making our Pegasus a powerhouse.
Level 17 Tough
Level 18 takes True Polymorph. If your DM lets you (if they go by the book), you can true polymorph your Pegasus into a rock, and then polymorph it into a Young Silver Dragon.
Level 19 has Shapechange and Wish.
Level 20’s capstone is Action Surge, giving a burst damage that adds 1/4 of our damage to the DPR.
Variants: We can take College of Swords if we want Extra Attack instead of Haste. The Flourish just isn’t worth it for me though. And Tenser’s Transformation already lets us get an extra attack. We can also concede action surge for another 6th level slot to cast Tenser’s Transformation.
The Result: With 6 attacks in a turn, including the simulacrum, + either the 4 attacks from the pegasi or the 6 attacks from the silver dragon, we can do a ton of damage: 1d6 + 2d12 + 10 + 5 = 31 damage per attack, x6 = 186 dmg + 24 x 4 for the pegasi is 282 damage a turn. If we include action surge, that number gets boosted up to 406 dmg, and goes to 13+13x4 + 17 +13x 2 = 474 damage in a round. In addition, there is an extremely high chance to crit which adds 31 more damage, getting to 505 damage. 282 damage every round, that can be sustained is bonkers. If we need aoe, just pick up a spell that can do that or use the dragon’s breath. We have Counterspell and a whole lot of unused spell slots to use it with. Wish can do anything. 24 AC with shield. If we get a +3 crossbow, that is 30 more damage too. We add 1d12 to Initiative, fly at 80 ft in a round, and have a range of 120 ft. Tell me a build that can beat this one. Our health is also amazing too! We have 237 hp which is bonkers. Barbarians get 226 at 20th level with a constitution of 5. We have expertise in 4 skills, cutting words to help the team, 7 proficiencies + background proficiencies, and jack of all trades. Song of rest for short rests, resistance against being frightened or charmed, and we can add our bardic inspiration to ability checks. if we find a magic item that increases constitution, charisma, or dexterity, that's more damage, bardic inspiration, or health.