The following is a collection of party builds which I have trialled in EA which worked well for me.
A few things to note regarding character creation
Lock Breaker feat and Lowlife Background
This feat will give a character proficiency in Thieves Tools or expertise is they already have it AND gives ADV on using Thieves Tools to open locks. Combine this with either the Rogue class or any class with the Low life background (gives proficiency in Thieves Tools) to make the ‘best’ lock picker. A rogue with expertise in Thieves Tools will be inferior to one with this feat. ADV generally adds +5 on average. Therefore any DEX based Ranger, Fighter or Paladin (or Wizard / Cleric) can be the party lock picker.
Surprise is a very strong mechanic which you can exploit. Always be in Cautious mode and always make the first strike if you can. A well placed Fireball / Lightning Bolt on a group of minions or Sneak attack on a mage can turn a hard fight into a very easy one.
Sellsword background on Wizards
Wizards generally have low AC and can only really get 13 base from Mage Armor plus DEX and maybe +2 from Bracers of Defence. DEX for a Wizard will be around 14 for a +2 giving a total of 17AC max at the cost of an attunement slot and a level 1 spell slot every day. The Sellsword background gives proficiency in Medium Armor (but not Light Armor) so a Wizard can wear Halfplate for 15 + 2 DEX max. The same AC just from armor freeing up an attunement slot, a spell slot and it can go higher with enchantment bonuses.
Followup Strike feat
When you attack with a twohanded weapon you get a bonus action attack which does 1d4 + MOD. This works for Bows currently as well, though this seems to be a bug. A Greataxe does 1d12 damage with an average of 6.5. The followup strike does 1d4 which is 2.5 average damage. Assuming +5 from STR its 11.5 vs 7.5, about 65% of a main hand hit. Adding in more damage via weapon damage bonuses, smite and whatever else shortens the gap further. So the BA attack is really powerful, particularly on a Paladin.
Jump, Spiderclimb, Levitate and Mistystep are important spells to have to get all available loot. I generally pick them first on level up and rely on scroll learning to fill out certain damage and control spells (Sleep, Burning Hands, Thunderwave etc).
Rations, Goodberry and Create Food
You need 4 Rations for a long rest or the spells Goodberry (Ranger or Greenmage) or Create Food (Wizard). Having the spells is useful to ignore the ration mechanic basically but not necessary. Eventually you’ll get better backpacks which make keeping 20/30 rations on hand easy enough.
Crafting is good in this game. You can get some really good extra damage weapons often giving +1 enchantment and 1d6 / 1d8 of bonus damage. All the extra damage bonuses I’ve found have been on melee weapons not ranged so there is a bias to melee crafting.
Poisons can hurt and inflict Paralysis. Pretty good to have on a Rogue.
Somatic Spell casting
Assuming you are playing by the rules and do not turn this option off. There are a number of spells which require a Somatic component; ie to move your hand. This makes Sword and Shield and Dual wielding on these classes difficult. You’ll need to juggle between weapon sets to cast spells and back again. The Battle Cleric can overcome this and use a Shield or second weapon / torch. Using a Twohanded weapon also frees up a hand. This is most limiting with Paladins, Clerics (not Battle), Spellblades and Shadow-casters.
The Spellblade is a class that competes with itself for damage. It gains access to the conjuration, evocation, transmutation, and enchantment schools from the Wizards spell list at level 3 and is a 1/3 caster, meaning it will only hit Level 4 spells at most. Its not going to be a blaster so evocation spells will never be its sole focus, though it will eventually get Fireball. Its best strength lies in transmutation spells for mobility and enchantment spells for low level focused control. Expeditious retreat is a level 1 spell which last 10 min and gives Dash as a bonus action. With the Cloak of Aracnia providing wall climbing the Spellblade can bring melee right to an archer or mage. Also, Misty Step is a bonus action teleport and Hold Person can lock down a single target at Level 2 and one more at each her level. A Sylvan Elf DEX Spellblade using a finesse weapon and Shield can get anywhere they want on the battlefield. They also make good Archers for the extra mobility.
I built this party around Spirit Guardians (Cleric persistent AOE spell), Herald of battle (Battle Cleric bonus to adjacent allies) and Aura of Protection (Paladin +CHA to all ST to allies within 10 ft). The idea being to make a ball of damage which is hard to crack and resistant to control.
The characters are
– Half-Elf Paladin Oath of Tirmar. Twohanded weapon with Followup strike feat and STR boosting belt. Plate armour and AC boosting items to complement, as well as Shield, Shield of Faith and Protection from Good/Evil. Nova damage via smite and Scourge of the hidden. Aristocrat background for Persuasion / Intimidation skills.
- Dwarven plate +2 – 20AC (cost 5000 or so gold)
- Defence style – +1 AC
- Crown of the Magister – Bonus to all saving throw, bonus vs certain spell schools as you gain gems and free spells. Bonus to Persuasion and Intimidation.
- Cloak of Protection – +1AC +1 ST (cost 1000 or so gold)
- Belt of Fire Giant Strength – Sets STR to 27 (costs 20k gold or so)
– Sylvan Elf Battle Cleric. Access to Spirit Guardians and Herald of Battle (+1 AC, All ST, Att and Dam to adjacent allies). Can also use a shield and still cast somatic spells. Access to good wizard spell list instant damage spells. Flawless concentration is important on this character. Academic is my preferred background.
- Halfplate +1 – 16AC
- Dex 14 – +2 AC
- Shield +1 – +3 AC
- Ring of Protection – +1 AC / all ST
- Open Attunement slot
- Open Attunement slot
– Sylvan Elf Shock Arcanist w Sellsword background (ie Battlemage build). Halfplate with AC stacking items (Ring and Cloak of Protection, Ring of Abjuration and Wardenblade). Arcane Fury to melt bosses and provides general DPR via low level spells.
- Halfplate +1 – 16 AC
- Dex 14 – +2 AC
- Ring of Protection – +1 AC / all ST
- Cloak of Protection – +1 AC / all ST
- Ring of Abjuration – +1 AC / all ST
- Wardenblade – +1AC
- Circlet of Blasting – Scorching Ray 1/long rest
- Wand of Magic Missiles – 7 charges, recharges 1d6+1 per day.
– Sylvan Elf Shadowcaster Rogue. Lockbreaker feat @ 4 to almost always succeed on Thieves tools checks. 20 AC with mage armour, max DEX and bracers of defence. Access to Shield, Protection from Good/Evil and Blur spells for further defence. Spy background for Poison creation and use.
- Mage Armour – 13 AC
- Dex 20 – +5 AC
- Bracers of Defence – +2 AC
- Cloak of Arachnia – Wallclimbing, protection from poison, immune to Web
- Open Attunement slot
The idea is to upcast Spirit Guardians and race from fight to fight. Cleric in the front and centre flanked by the Battlemage and Paladin with the Shadow-caster behind. The Paladin will have an AC of 24 with good gear and Shield of Faith up, the Battlemage 22 AC and the Shadow-caster 20 AC. The Battle Cleric will be around 22 AC.
The Battle Cleric keeps SG up and uses dodge actions to impose disadvantage on attacks or blast away. From Level 8 can attack twice with the attack action making weapon attacks a good option.
The Battlemage loves it when enemies clump together so keeping a tight formation to exploit Spirit Guardians and open up good spell opportunities is key.
The Paladin provides Nova damage and solid melee DPR in a high AC and ST shell.
The Shadow-caster can peel to the back to maintain stealth to keep ADV on ranged attacks if the terrain allows for it.
- High AC and ST all round
- Synergises well together – good mix of Nova, AOE and sustained DPR.
- Good spread of equipment types
- Clumped together so vulnerable to AOE damage and control.
- Can take a bit to get going but works well enough from Level 3 onwards.
- I dislike having to recast Mage Armor during every random encounter so I normally fight those without it on my rogue.
Alternative ‘Rogue’ 1
The Shadowcaster Rogue subclass makes the Rogue a bit tankier. You can swap the Shadowcaster Rogue for a DEX based Spellblade with the Lowlife background getting Lockbreaker @ 4 and Armor Master or DEX ASIs after that. It will have an AC 22 (Leather +1 + Dex 5 + Defence style 1 + Armor Master 1 + Shield +1) and do 1d8 + 5 + 1d8 (Frostburn Rapier) x 2 = 4.5 + 5 + 4.5 = 28 Melee vs 1d8 + 5 + 4d6 = 4.5 + 5 +4*3.5 = 23.5 Ranged from the Shadowcaster. Action Surge can boost this too for Nova damage. You will lose a Poison maker however so its a balance. Poison is often resisted but can be powerful. The DEX Spellblade has less of a reliance on positioning and can hold their own in a solo fight. The Thunderwave spell also adds some good battlefield control.
Alternative ‘Rogue’ 2
This build requires high DEX (preferably 20) and INT (preferably 20 but can be 18 or use the Circlet of Intellect – set to 19).
The key here is Lowlife background for Stealth, Sleight of Hand and Thieves Tools proficiency to replicate a base rogue skill set and the Lock Breaker feat to get expertise on using Thieves Tools and ADV on picking locks. The Greenmage subclass synergises well by giving proficiency in Light Armor which uses DEX to boost AC and give proficiency in the Shortbow as well as the Archery Fight Style (+2 attack). The weapon attack will be better than the firebolt cantrip (the highest damage cantrip) until level 11 (1d8 + 5 +1 enchantment = 10.5 avg) vs Firebolt (2d10 = 11 avg from level 5 and 3d10 = 16.5 avg from level 11) and level 16 for most others (3d8 = 13.5 avg). The benefit of bow weapon attacks is you can use poison arrows which can bump up damage significantly.
A bit of a themed Party Build – all about fire.
Oath of Motherland Paladin The Oath of the Motherland has a number of fire centric spells provided.
Spellblade Fighter A DEX based fighter with the lowlife background can act as the part rogue and gets access to evocation spell like burning hands and scorching ray.
Battle Cleric Access to Fireball. Enough said. A Sun domain cleric also works but lacks fireball and would need to juggle weapon to cast effectively.
Shock Arcanist Wizard The most damaging Wizard subclass.
The idea here is to use Fireball spam at the beginning to alpha down an encounter. Each class will get access to Fireball eventually meaning you can have 4 casts in the first round and another 4 if you surprised them.
Its a fair bit gimmicky but was fun. Early on you can have the Spellblade and Paladin up front castig spells before melee with the Battle Cleric and Shock Arcanist behind casting Flaming Sphere. The Spellblade and Paladin will be using Burning Hands and Scorching Ray for EA though.
Stealth and Ranged
Surprise is a very strong mechanic which you can exploit. Always be in Cautious mode.
As long as you are in stealth and make the first attack you will start the encounter with the enemies ‘surprised’. When surprised they cannot act on the first round, you also get ADV on attacks from Stealth.
When you hit a target from stealth, the target and those in line of sight will contest their Perception vs your Stealth. You fail, your stealth drops and you are visible, you win and you stay hidden. Metal armour generally gives DISADV on Stealth checks.
The Rogue will act as a sniper applying the most damage in a single hit mainly from sneak attack. The Cleric should be the first to engage in melee if need be. The only class the really needs the ADV for damage is the rogue but that be controlled with good positioning.
Its a bit rough in some scripted boss room fights but outside of that is really effective. It gets less so against tankier mobs in later levels. The various undead Broods around level 7/8 take a bit of damage to kill so this type of pot shot party build is less effective.
Rogue Shadow-caster. The best rogue and a great archer. Use poison arrows or apply poisons for extra damage. Cloak of Elvenkind or boots of Elvenkind to get ADV on Stealth checks. The cloak is better as it gives DISADV on the contesting Perception check. Either and Elf or Snow dwarf for Longbow or Heavy XBow proficiency is best.
Ranger. This build requires high DEX and STR, so either roll stats well or use a STR boosting item (Gauntlet of Ogre Power are good enough – set STR to 19). You can run without the STR melee weapon but I like the idea of a switch hitter who is still effective.
The idea is to gain an extra lower damage (1d4) attack as a bonus action via the Followup Strike feat which is currently bugged to also include bow attacks (the text says melee only). This allows for 2 attack actions and 1 bonus action attack, so 3 attacks in total. This works well for a Paladin and also the Ranger more so than the Fighter a the Ranger and paladin can apply extra damage.
Favoured Foe will add damage to your chosen enemy type up to your knowledge level (which is 4 max). The Ranger subclass Dark Tamer adds you proficiency bonus to your damage against enemies with Superior Darkvision. This includes Soraks, Skeletons and Vampires, Minotaurs, Spiders just from EA alone. So basically half your foes, giving +3 damage on attacks at level 8 or so. This is great when paired with a Longbow and the archery fighting style for +2 attack and 1d8 + DEX damage and the Bracers of Archery for +2 damage more. Against most undead you will do 1d8 + 5 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 18.5 twice and 16.5 once. You can use a bonus action on your previous turn to cast Hunters Mark to add 1d6 more (3.5 avg) per hit, but you are trading maybe 7 damage against your spell target vs 12-16 damage from you BA attack.
This is good from range but eventually you will get placed into melee or will want to melee something so this is where the STR part comes in via a good twohanded weapon, preferably with some added damage (like a Blessed Blade). You will still be able to take advantage of the Followup Strike feat.
The Shadow Tamer also has the benefit of having a built in ADV for Perception, Investigation and Stealth in dim or no light as well as tremorsense (see in the dark), as well as ADV on DEX saves. You will want a darkvision party and aim to go bump in the dark. The ADV on Stealth in the dark coupled with the Pass Without a Trace spell makes you very hard to spot. Makes for a great shadow hunter.
Law Domain Cleric. The Law domain gives Martial Weapon proficiencies and some good spells / abilities. Wear a Breastplate or go DEX and use Leather. Use a heavy XBow and keep a finesse weapon plus shield for melee. Spy background is good here for the Stealth proficiency.
Greenmage. Lowlife or Spy background for Stealth background. Use a long bow and cast Entangle and Fairie Fire for a bit of control and Entangling Shot for single target restrain.
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