Booming Spear (5e Optimized Character Build)
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The Booming Spear is a D&D 5th edition build that uses only official source material, namely the Player's Handbook, Xanathar's Guide to Everything, and Tasha's Cauldron of Everything. It is my attempt to create a gish build that really takes advantage of the blade cantrips, particularly Booming blade. Compared to the fabled Sorcadin, you should see higher sustain but lower burst potential.
Since Tasha's Cauldron of Everything changed the blade cantrips to have a range of "Self (5-foot burst)," they are no longer affected by the Spell Sniper feat and therefore can not be used at reach. However, this does not stop us from continuing to use Polearm Master and War Caster together. Neither the spear nor the quarterstaff have reach, but both are included in Polearm Master, so either will work for this build.
A Word of Caution: Before the blade cantrips existed, there was a developer statement saying that War Caster would not allow you to cast a spell in place of the opportunity attack provided by the Polearm Master feat because "polearm master applies only if you use the weapons it lists to make the attack." It seems clear to me that the blade cantrips now satisfy that requirement, but know that some people took that as a hard 'no.'
Before, your reach would allow you to hit an enemy with Booming blade while they were 10 feet away from you forcing them to take the extra damage in order to finish closing with you. That is no longer possible, so we need a different way to force our enemies to deal with Booming blade's effect. For that, we become Battle Masters.
Race: Variant Human
Ability Scores (with standard array): 16/10/14/14/12/8 swapping INT and CHA depending on your blade cantrip class.
Level 1: Fighter
Level 2: Blade Cantrip Class 1 (Booming blade, Sword burst)
Level 3-5: Fighter 4 (Battle Master, Pushing Attack)
Feats: Polearm Master, War Caster
When you first get both feats online, combat will primarily consist of approaching an enemy, using Booming blade on them, moving away, and using Booming blade again as a reaction if they close with you, but attaching a Pushing Attack on hit to knock them back up to 15 feet on a failed save.
At higher levels, you might need to choose between multiple attacks, Booming blade, and Sword burst when you approach depending on how many attacks you get with your action and how many enemies you face.
Because the build requires two feats, Variant Human is ideal so that you can get the build off the ground as soon as possible, but you can use any race.
But, personally, I go with some sort of combat veteran background for RP reasons.
Your main attribute is strength, followed by constitution. However, multiclassing requires you to meet certain thresholds:
- 13 STR (so you can multiclass out of Fighter) and
- 13 INT (Artificer/Wizard) or
- 13 CHA (Sorcerer/Warlock)
So, as a Variant Human with the standard array, you will want 15/10/14/13/12/8 (swap INT and CHA if using Sorcerer or Warlock) before racial adjustments and will put +1s into STR and either CON or your casting stat depending on max level and how many ASIs you expect to get.
If you use a point buy, you can afford 15/10/15/13/10/8 which is probably slightly better. You can put your second 15 into your casting stat and the 13 into CON if you want better save DCs, but, if you're an INT based caster and can get a Headband of Intellect, that's better.
This feat causes other creatures to provoke an opportunity attack when they enter the reach you have with a glaive, halberd, pike, quarterstaff, or spear you are wielding. Again, according to a dev statement, the intent is that you must attack with one of the listed weapons, but that requirement is not RAW. They really should errata it if that's how they feel, but I digress. You also get an offensive option for your bonus action.
Perform somatic components while holding a weapon or shield, use spells for Opportunity Attacks as long as they only target the provoker, and get Advantage on Concentration Checks caused by damage.
This feat allows you to avoid opportunity attacks from creatures you've attacked for the rest of that turn (even if you miss) and increases your speed by 10 feet. It also upgrades your Dash action, but you probably won't use that much.
Three opportunities per long rest to roll an attack, ability check, or saving throw twice and choose one that you can use after seeing the initial roll (but before the DM reveals the outcome) is a very strong defensive option on its own, but you can also use them to replace an attacker's roll. That's 3 times a day you can tell an enemy "No, you don't crit."
Grabbing Resilient gets you proficiency in a weak save like Wisdom while giving you a +1 to that ability score. If you plan ahead for this, you can start with an odd score in that ability to get full benefit.
If you choose to lean into casting once the main build is established, the biggest thing you will be sacrificing is HP. This is a good way to make some of it up if you have the ASIs and don't feel like you need a shore up a weak save.
Heavy Armor Master (the comments on this feat, including the note and recommendation, are copied from the Death Knight guide on this site)
This feat reduces any non-magical bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage you receive by 3 pts. That means that your average sword (1d8+2 = ~6-7) will basically do half damage to you.
Getting this feat early on is a major boon to your survivability and you'll definitely notice its presence for quite a while, at a guess I'd say until you hit Tier 3 (level 11-16) at the least and it'll probably still be noticeable even then, just not nearly as impactful.
Thus, this feat is something you'll want to get very early on to get the most out of it - the earlier the better.
Note: This feat has diminishing returns and is most effective when facing hordes of weaker enemies. It is absolutely brilliant in Tier 1 (levels 1-4) and still rather good in Tier 2 (levels 5-10), but it quickly falls of past that due to a combination of circumstances (it only works vs. non-magical weapon damage, it's most effective at low damage per hit & high hit count both of which will be less and less the case at higher levels, and your AC will only get higher, thus reducing hit count but making it more and more likely that if you do get hit, it's a crit). Homebrew Recommendation: changing this feat from a fixed 3 pts to an amount equal to one's Proficiency Modifier as well as also letting it work vs. magical weapon damage when wearing magical heavy armor makes this feat scale without making it OP - in my opinion that is.
Level 1: Fighter
You start with one level of fighter for heavy armor and CON save proficiency. Pick the Dueling Fighting Style (+2 Damage).
The spear has the versatile property, so you can benefit from Great Weapon Fighting while wielding it, but the increase in damage is less, your min damage is lower, and your max damage is the same as if you use Dueling. Average damage on a spear wielded with two hands is 4.5 normally and 5.25 with GWF. Meanwhile, if you wield that same spear in one hand with the Dueling Fighting Style, the average damage is 5.5 and you can use a shield for +2 AC.
Level 2: Blade Cantrip Class
If you started with War Caster, your blade cantrips will do more reliable damage until you have two attacks. If you started with Polearm Master, your bonus action is probably more consistent and you could delay your spellcasting class. That said, you have a few options that are more or less optimal depending on the level you expect to achieve.
If you only have room for 1 level of a casting class (or if you only want one level), then it's largely a matter of preference, but Sorcerer probably gets you the most bang for your buck utility-wise while Warlock gives you the Hex spell which can be a significant boon to your damage.
You get 2 first level spells per day (and Magical Tinkering, but that's basically some extra minor cantrips). The draw here is access to a few spells normally only available to divine casters and access to the entire list when preparing spells like a cleric.
You get 2 first level spells per day and a Sorcerous Origin.
- Divine Soul gives you an extra spell known, access to the Cleric spell list, and lets you add 2d4 to a failed saving throw or missed attack once per rest.
- Shadow gives you 120-foot darkvision and the opportunity to maybe go to 1 instead of 0 once a day if you make a Charisma save. (You aren't great at those.)
- Clockwork gives you the ability to negate the Advantage or Disadvantage of a creature you can see within 60 feet of you 2-6 times a day.
You get 1 pact slot, access to the Hex spell, and an Otherworldy Patron.
- The Archfey lets you charm or frighten creatures in a 10-foot cube originating from you once a rest, but, unfortunately, it allows a save.
- The Fiend gives you temporary hit points when you reduce a hostile creature to 0 hit points.
- The Celestial gives you some extra cantrips and some minor healing.
- The Hexblade gives you the ability to curse a target for 1 minute causing it to take your proficiency bonus in extra damage from your attacks, get crit on a 19 or 20, and heal you if it dies.
You get 3 first level spells per day, you get a Spellbook with 6 first level spells (that you can add more to), and you can cast rituals. Get an owl familiar to use the Help action in combat for a little Advantage.
If you plan to take exactly 2 levels of a casting class, all the Sorcerer gains is 2 spell points it can use to cast one more 1st level spell each day. Personally, I think Artificer and Warlock shine at 2 levels.
You gain 4 infusions and can have 2 items infused at a time. Other guides go into more depth about infusions, but Enhanced Defense, Enhanced Weapon, and Replicate Magic Item are the ones you want to look at. This also makes throwing your spear an option via Returning Weapon.
You gain a second pact slot and 2 invocations. Most of them are useless to you, so you should pick Devil's Sight and then something like Misty Visions or Mask of Many Faces. Fiendish Vigor can be alright for a few levels, but only if you plan to take another level of Warlock so you can switch it out later.
You gain an Arcane Tradition. If two levels of wizard is where you stop, Divination is the only one worth your consideration. You roll two d20s every morning, and, if they're high, you use them to replace a friendly roll; if they're low, you use them to replace an enemy roll. But, you have to decide to use them before the roll is made.
If you plan to take exactly 3 levels of a casting class, Artificer offers a some interesting options for your bonus action, but, unless you took it to facilitate a throwing build, Sorcerer becomes a bit more appealing again with Shadow's Darkness spell that you can see through, and the option to switch an invocation to Book of Ancient Secrets, Investment of the Chain Master, or Improved Pact Weapon when you pick a pact boon makes Warlock competitive as well. Also, unlike Artificer, both of those classes get access to 2nd level spells at level 3.
If you plan to take more than 3 levels of a casting class, taking 6 levels of Bladesinger Wizard for the unique Extra Attack feature, which will put our Attack action damage on par with a 1-handed Fighter's Attack action if we don't get the extra damage on Booming blade, is optimal. If we do get the rider effect, we out-damage a fighter with a 2h weapon before feats, etc.
Level 3 - Level 4: Fighter
At level 4, you'll take your third level of fighter and grab the Battle Master Archetype. This gives you four superiority dice for maneuvers per rest. Pushing Attack is the reason we're here, so grab that and two other maneuvers. I suggest Precision Attack because you can choose to use it after you make your attack roll to turn a miss into a hit and Trip Attack for when knocking your target down for advantage is better than backing off and pushing them, or, if you went Artificer 2 for returning weapon, Quick Toss. Menacing Attack and Bait and Switch are also worth consideration.
Level 5: Choose
Technically, you only need those 3 levels of Fighter to make this build work and more levels of Fighter don't contribute much to this particular game plan. However, we still haven't picked up War Caster yet, and a 4th level of Fighter is the quickest way to do that. Additionally, more Fighter levels eventually give you more and improved superiority dice, more ASIs than other classes, more HP than most other options via d10 hit dice and possibly putting some of those ASIs into CON, and the option to swing thrice instead of swinging and using a cantrip in the event that you know that your target wouldn't move.
So at this point, you have a decision to make. If you're not getting 6 levels of Bladesinger Wizard, you definitely go fighter, probably for the rest of your career but at least for the next two levels. However, if you are getting the Bladesinger's Extra Attack feature, you don't need it from Fighter and you could sacrifice some HP and ASIs, and slow your feat and damage progression. In exchange you could get to be a 17th level wizard with low INT. There are some really good spells that don't require saves, though, so your low INT isn't the end of the world.
You will have significantly more HP (~42-62 on average) and be able to get an optional feat or two as Fighter 14/Wizard 6, and, as your goal is to swing your weapon, you don't really need access to that many spells. Still, if you'll get to play at level 20, Fighter 3/Wizard 17 gets to cast Foresight!
There are many spells to chose from and, for the most part, you can pick whatever you want after Booming blade, but, considering our main stat is STR to support our maneuver DCs, focusing on spells that don't have saves is ideal.
The build is based on using Booming blade a lot, and you should probably grab Sword burst for three or more targets (see below), but there are some other cantrips that might be worth considering for their unique control or utility effects, especially if you get more than two.
- Guidance: This is a great way to improve skill checks out of combat, but, once one person in the party has access, its utility diminishes quickly.
- Light: Seeing is useful. If you can't see in the dark, this might help.
- Mage Hand: Interacting with things indirectly and from a distance can be much safer than the usual way.
- Mending: Depending on your GM, this can be immensely useful or a waste of a cantrip.
- Minor Illuson: This is also somewhat GM dependent, but if your GM rewards creativity, this is a gold mine.
- Prestidigitation: Prestidigitation is a grab bag of minor magical tricks and a very versatile option that rewards creativity.
- Shape Water: Being able to shape and freeze water can be a very useful trick but is also a little reliant on GM rulings.
- Sword Burst: Assuming you would hit all the time for full damage, Sword burst pulls ahead of other options at 3 or more targets. But you won't hit all the time and, because it uses a spell save DC rather than an attack roll, you will hit with Sword burst less reliably than your weapon attacks. Still, given enough targets, this will pull ahead so it's probably worth taking.