Shove n' Shiv (5e Optimized Character Build)

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Shoving an opponent to the ground then stabbing them is an unsportsman like yet effective technique that can be hard to master. Once a creature has been shoved prone, attackers within 5 feet targeting it gain advantage, while they have disadvantage on their own attacks. In addition, they have to crawl or stand up, both of which cost them half of their movement. Here is a simple guide on how to Shove n' Shiv your enemies starting at low levels. ​

Race: ·You have many options. While no racial feature is a must for the build to function, there are a few that do synergize well with what we are trying to accomplish.

-Custom Lineage and Variant Human can start with a feat, such as Sentinel or Tavern Brawler.

-Dwarfs make Heavy Armor viable without heavy investment into Strength.

-Grungs can force a DC 12 Con save against Posion when you shove them. (altho, being a Small creature means you can only shove Medium or smaller creatures)

-Reborn from Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft can add a d6 to any skill check, including the Athletics check for shoving a creature. For the example build below, I'll use a Reborn.

·If you are not using the optional rule from Tasha's to chose what stats get racial bonuses, then you will want a race that gives you bonuses to Dex, Wis, and/or Str.

Stats: (Point Buy)

·STR: 14 (In order to Shove effectively, you need a decent Str mod. If using standard array, make this 13)

·DEX: 15(+1) (This is going to be our primary stat for damage and AC)

·CON: 12 (We are going to be fighting in Melee, so we need hp.)

·INT: 8 (other things needed more. If using standard array, make this 10)

·WIS: 14(+2) (An important feature that makes this build function at low levels can only be used a number of times equal to our Wis Mod per long rest.)

·CHA: 8 (points were needed more elsewhere.)

Background/Skill Proficiencies Since we are a Reborn we're gonna have 4 skill proficiencies just from background and Race. For this example, I'm going to pick Acolyte for the Religion and Insight proficiencies, (as well as a Holy Symbol that we will need later), and add Athletics and Intimidation for our racial skills. Obviously, you can change up skills to your own preference, as long as you keep your Athletics score as high as possible.

Classes: The easiest method to Shove and Shiv without Extra Attack comes from War domain Cleric. It reads as follows.

 "War Priest: From 1st level, your god delivers bolts of inspiration to you while you are engaged in battle. When you use the Attack Action, you can make one weapon attack as a bonus action.
 You can use this feature a number of times equal to your Wisdom Modifier (A minimum of once) You regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest"

So once you have the first level of War Cleric, your first turn in combat will often look something like: Move up to target, Use the Attack Action, replace your attack with a Shove, then use your Bonus Action to stab your now prone enemy with your rapier. In order to take the most advantage of our 1 attack with advantage each round, we will be focusing on Rogue as our primary class, since Sneak Attack will be able to be triggered reliably just about every round where we aren't fighting a Huge or larger monster.


•Rogue 1[edit]

 Sneak Attack 1d6
 Thief's Cant

-We are going to start as a Rogue, because we get 1 additional skill proficiency this way. Speaking of skills, We're going to take proficiency in Stealth, Slight of Hand, Perception, and Investigation, and gain Expertise in Athletics to make us the ultimate Shove master, and either Stealth, Perception, Insight, or Thieves Tools depending on preference, and what subclass you want to get later. This gives us a +6 to Athletics at level 1.

•Cleric 1[edit]

 War Domain
 War Priest

-Now the build is online. First, lets look at how well your shove checks can go. If you have Guidance active on yourself, and use your Knowledge from a Past Life on an Athletics check, (d20+6+d4+d6), you will on average get a result of 22.5, a max roll of 36, and a lowest possible non crit-fail score of 10. You should be able to put most creatures who you challenge to a skill contest where they belong; down at your feet, in convenient stabbing distance.

Cantrips: Toll the Dead from Xanathar's is the best Ranged damage option for chasing down fleeing enemies. Guidance can be cast on yourself before Combat to boost your Athletics roll by a d4 if needed, or in non combat situations as it is most often used. Thaumaturgy has many effects that can be used to help you in social situations where you are trying to Intimidate or Persuade an NPC, and you should be able to use it to gain advantage on those rolls.

Spells: You can switch out your spells during long rests, but these are the ones that I would keep prepared by default. Healing Word can be used as a bonus action to save a downed ally, and has a good range. You should not be the primary healer of the party, because you will have very few spell slots, that you should save for crucial moments. Detect Magic can be cast as a Ritual, and can give you crucial information about what magic is effecting an NPC or Area. Bless can be the difference between Life and Death for your allies and enemies, and is worth using even with limited slots. Command is a spell that will be as effective as your imagination makes it.

•Rogue 2[edit]

 Cunning Action

This gives us more options in combat with what we do on the turns we don't Shove n' Shiv (tm).

•Rogue 3[edit]

 Roguish Archetype 
 Sneak Attack 2d6

I feel the best flavor and stat fit for this character we are building is the Inquisitive Rogue from Xanathar's Guide to Everything. It has many ways to engage in skill contests in battle, and between Guidance, Memories from a Past Life, and Expertise, we are gonna be really good at those. The Inquisitive also is the best fit for an Inquisitor, and thanks to your 1 Cleric level, you qualify to be one.

•Rogue 4[edit]

 Feat: Martial Adept/Sentinel
 Proficiency Bonus=3

One potential pain point for the Shove n' Shiv (tm) strategy is that enemies can potentially disengage, stand up, and run half their movement away from you to a safe spot behind their allies, meaning you have to either chase them down to do the same thing over again, or target someone else, and do the whole thing over again. Here are 2 options on how to stop them from running.

·First, Martial Adept lets you pick 2 Battle Master maneuvers and gives you one (1) Superiority Die. Pick Grappling Attack or Tripping Attack as a maneuver. When in combat, use the Attack Action to either Grapple or Shove prone, then use your Bonus Action to use the manuver that inflicts the other condition. When a creature is prone, they must spend half of their movement to get up, but if they are grappled, they have no movement until they escape the grapple. The only downside with this method of combining conditions is that you have to spend you only sup-die in order to do it once per short rest. You can get more dice by multiclassing into Fighter, but that comes with the opportunity cost of a lower Rogue level, and Rogue levels are pretty good.

·The other option presented here that is not resource dependent is Sentinel. This doesn't stop them from standing up, but it will stop them from disengaging and fleeing. This works well if you will have other ways to get Sneak Attacks after the initial Shoving and Shivving turn, such as Insightful Fighting from Inquisitive, or throwing a net on them to restrain them, and following up with a War Priest attack.

Oh also we hit character level 5, so don't forget to increase your skill bonuses.


There are several branching paths from this point that seem viable. On one hand getting 1, 3, or 6 levels of Fighter for Superiority Dice, Action Surge and maybe Extra Attack with some ASIs tacked on seems like the obvious path if you are dedicated to the gimmick and want to stop people from getting up off the floor. On the other hand getting a 2nd or 4th level of Cleric can offer some great utility if your party is in need. But then again, maybe you don't need to do any more multiclassing, and maybe all you need is more Rogue levels for bigger sneak attacks, Uncanny Dodge and Reliable Talent. Once you get Reliable Talent at Rogue level 11, you will be incapable of rolling less than 20 on an Athletics check, despite only having a +2 Str mod, not to mention you will never crit-fail any skill check that you have proficiency with. I have shown you how to walk this path, but it is you who must carve it out to its final destination.

Other Options[edit]

·In the last UA, Travelers of the Multiverse, there are 2 race options that seem at least as good as the Reborn for this build. The Giff, who have advantage on all Str for free just by virtue of existing, and the Thri Kreen, who have good natural armor and 4 arms, meaning you can wield a Rapier and Shield and still have 2 free hands to shove/grapple with. If they still have these good features when they get officially published, then I'll add their official versions to the race section.

·If you are more interested in control and abusing action economy than dealing massive damage with sneak attack, you can forgo Rogue levels entirely to build a Strength based Battle Master with Heavy Armor and way more attacks.

·If Inquisitive doesn't suit your fantasy, or XGE isn't available to you, Soul Knife from Tasha's Cauldron is a way to make you even better at your skill checks, as it gives you a pool of Psi-Dice that you can add to a failed roll for a skill or tool that you have proficiency in. You get a number of Psi-Dice equal to your Proficiency Bonus x 2, and they start out as d6s, but will increase in size over time. With all the bonus dice for Skill checks in this build, it seems like it should be impossible for you to ever fail a skill roll where you have proficiency. If that also doesn't appeal or is unavailable to you, Assassin or Thief from the PHB also work fine.

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