The First Tuesday of every month, I like to tackle creating a D&D 5e Character that has a cool archetype or concept that is hopefully also interesting and dynamic. This is the final character of this year, and I’m going to build a character I’ve thought a lot about, but never put to word. The Trickery-Wizard Karis Shadowstone.
While some characters are foundations are set in the race, or a feat, or even what weapon to wield, many characters are mechanical in nature and are build from interesting interactions between rules or classes. I would guess, to be perfectly honest, that most characters start and end here, and that is absolutely fine. I find the mechanical complications and capitalizing on interesting interactions to be enough of a draw to build characters, and in this one, it’s simply an interaction between the Trickery Priests Channel Divinity and the Evokers, well, spells of massive destruction.
Character Concept: Surprise, Spells!
The concept here is one that is fairly straightforward. Using channel divinity from the Trickster Cleric, we can both create duplicates and go invisible, both of which allow us to gain advantage on attacks, and these attacks can be both spells and spell weapons. There aren’t many of these spells that have attack rolls, so the limitation in the concept is trying to achieve the most from the limited spell list that we have.
This Character comes at combat different than most wizards and clerics, adopting a very rogue-like mentality. It looks for opportunities to use Channel Divinity and make a duplicate and put themselves into a position to have advantage the following round and rounds, often by getting into direct combat. This means that we are going to need a different set of stats than most backline casters, as the backline is absolutely not where we will be.
The class is clever and tricky, using its brains and wit to achieve victory, and that is something we want to keep track of. Clerics need wisdom, Wizards intelligence, and being in combat means we need to keep an eye on constitution and dexterity. Therefore, Strength and Charisma are where we will put any low scores and will avoid using anything requiring those two stats.
We won’t be using weapons most of the time, and won’t need to pay attention to any of those proficiencies, and with us being a deceitful type, we don’t have a need for heavy armor. Medium armor is also unlikely, as when we are invisible we will be attempting to keep hidden, even while making attacks.
As this build is predicated on the combination of class and sub-class choices, I don’t really think that there is a whole lot of wiggle room. I could see adding a splash of Rogue or Bard here, but I find that the abilities being sacrificed are simply not worth it. Overchannel is a great Evoker ability, and Invisibility via Channel Divinity in Trickster Cleric is also a highly functional ability in the build, so losing out on either of those is likely not going to be worth the abilities of another class.
Racaial choices here are pretty wide, as the build works with a number of different stats, so many of the options provide a benefit. Elves provide Dexterity, with High elves providing Intelligence and an extra cantrip. Halfiling provides Dexterity, Luck, Bravery, with Stouts providing Constitution and Stout Resilience against poison. Humans will provide stat boosts wherever needed, and the Variant Human will let you take Warcaster at level 1. Gnomes provide a significant intelligence bonus, and advantage on mental saving throws against spell, with Forest gnome adding Dexterity and illusions to the mix and Rock Gnome adding a minor bonus to constitution. The rest of the races add little to the build, with stats or abilities that don’t contribute to the main build. Many times that doesn’t bother me, and I’ll build according to the theme, here, though, the concept fits many of them.
Looking a bit forward, however, I’m going to go with Gnome. This will allow me to double down on the invisibility and deception theme with Natural Illusionist but also the feat Fade Away, giving me even more invisibility. It’s a good fit both in terms of theme and abilities and will complement the character nicely
Feats and Weapons
For this build, there are no specific weapons that I really find appealing. A standard sword or dagger will work here as well as anything. If you want to spice it up a bit, going for something like a hand axe or a mace is entirely appropriate -you’re not going to get much use out of it, but it’ll be a fun addition.
For feats, there are three I am looking to utilize, with one that is a possibility based on how the stats play out. First, and the most crucial to our build, is amusingly, Crossbow Expert. This does mean that our character should carry a light crossbow on them, for when spells won’t make sense (proficiency through Cleric), but the main meat of the feat is this line:
• Being within 5 feet of a hostile creature doesn’t impose disadvantage on your ranged attack rolls.
This is critical because we want to take advantage of the duplicates advantage, which only works while within 5 feet of the target. While it is often used for melee, this will enable us to use our ranged spells – Acid Arrow, Chromatic Orb, Firebolt, and others, while within 5 feet of the target and not only not suffer disadvantage, but get advantage from it! This is the Surprise Spells.
Alternatively, we can take a lot of touch spells – Inflict Wounds, Vampiric Touch, Chill Touch, and Steel Wind Strike, and use those when we are within 5 feet of the target, and use the ranged attacks when we are invisible. I think both are valid methods to use the build, and if you’re going to be short on Feats, this is a good way of taking the character.
There are two other useful feats for the build, The first one is Warcaster, which grants advantage on concentration saves made to maintain a spell as a result of taking damage and also grants you the ability to make opportunity attacks with spells, which will be made with advantage if you have a duplicate nearby. The second and final one, which I mentioned when picking Gnome, is Fade Away, the gnome racial feat from Xanathars. This gives +1 to Int or Dex, both of which we use in this build, as well as, once during prior to resting, using a reaction to become magically invisible after taking damage from an attack. This invisibility lasts until the end of your next turn, or until you break invisibility in the normal manner.
As we’re building this character, its important to pay attention to what spells are going to be useful, and which ones are going to be either worthless or simply worth less.
This build has a variety of benefits for nearly all of the spells we cast. With Evoker giving us benefits to spells and cantrips with saves, Trickster giving us benefits to close range spells with Melee Attacks, and Invisibility giving us benefits to ranged spells.
Starting at first level, cleric is the class I would choose. It grants the best armor and weapons proficiencies, as well as solid initial hit points. Proficiency in Wisdom Saving throws will come in handy, though Charisma will be less prevalent and useful. One of the first Level 1 Wizard spells will be Mage Armor when it becomes time to take them, so I’d hold off on wearing medium or heavy armor.
At first level, we take the Trickery domain, because that is what the character is based around! Without it, what are we doing here?! This gives us access to, through Domain Spells: charm person, disguise self, mirror image, pass without trace, blink, and dispel magic. The other two levels will be left behind as we won’t be going higher than 6th level with the class, but Charm Person and Disguise self become immediately available.
Also at first level, Trickery also gets us Blessing of the Trickster, with which you can grant gain advantage on stealth checks. Useful, but not really part of our consideration.
I would take Cleric all the way to 4th to grab Crossbow Expert before swapping over to Wizard.
At Second level cleric, we get Channel Divinity. With Cleric we can use this to turn undead, and as a Trickery Cleric, we can use this to Invoke Duplicity. This ability gives us two advantages, one of which is allowing us to cast spells through the duplicate, and the other is getting advantage on any attacks made against a target that both you and the duplicate are within 5 feet of. This is where we start using our melee attack spells and some ranged spells. At 2nd level, you get one channel divinity per rest, and it lasts a minute, so you’ll likely have this for every other fight (given the general cadence of an adventure) We’ll gain another use at 6th level.
Third level gets us access to second level cleric spells, and forth gets us the feat of our choice. We could also use this time to increase our stats, but hopefully, with a good starting roll, (Dex 16+ and Int 14+) and our racial stat bonus pushing our Int pretty high, we should be reasonably able to grab Crossbow Expert or Warcaster.
At this point, with no 3rd level cleric spells calling us to take 5th level cleric right away, We should move over to wizard, and work on Evoker for at least 4 levels. This will give us access to the basic evocation abilities, a solid chunk of wizard spells and our next Feat/ASI.
At first level of Wizard, we’ll get access to arcane recovery, allowing us to replenish spell slots. At second level, we choose our Arcane Tradition, Evoker, and gain sculpt spell, allowing the few AOE spells you’ll cast, likely at close range, to exclude yourself and any allies nearby. Unlike some later abilities, this applies to all evocation spells, so any cleric spells with an AOE will be sculptable as well.
Being 8th level now as a character, we’ll have access to 4th level spell slots but still won’t have any 3rd or 4th level spells to use them with, but that is fine enough with us upcasting a number of our spells, most notably Inflict Wounds, and scorching ray.
From here, when you pick up the last two levels of Cleric is really up to you and the pace of the game. 5th level nets you 3rd level cleric spells and the ability to destroy undead, with 6th level getting your second Channel Divinity slot and Cloak of Shadows as a Channel divinity option.
Evocation allows potent cantrip at 6th, which means you’ll likely find a useful cantrip with a saving throw to pick up. Empowered Evocation at 10th level will add damage (hopefully +5, by this time) to your wizard evocation spells, and 14th level, your capstone is going to be Overchannel, allowing you to max damage your wizard evocation spells if you need to, a very strong ability.
Brocc Shadowstone, Gnome Trickster
Wizard 14 Evoker
Cleric 6 Trickery Domain
Race: Gnome gives us bonuses to Int and Dex, stats we will be using often, as well as good saving throw bonuses and the ability to cast minor illusion.
Highest Stat: Intelligence. This will give you a high DC on any of your wizard spells that have them.
Second Highest Stat: Dexterity, This will allow us to be in the thick of the fighting with a little bit more safety. high reflex saves and a good armor class will make a big difference with our low HP total.
Armor: None! Who doesn’t like mage armor! it’s a solid spell that, while it does eat up a first level spell slot every day, I find well worth it
Weapons: Crossbow (main weapon) Shortsword (melee, if needed)
Skills: Medicine and Religion
Spells: Spells we are going to look at are those that take advantage of our using attack rolls with either fade away/invisibility/improved invisibility or through Invoke Duplicity, gaining advantage on our attacks, and reliably hitting the opponents with attacks that cause a lot of damage due to the risk-reward equation we are playing.
Cantrip: Booming Blade, Greenflame Blade, Shocking Grasp, Fire Bolt, Ray of Frost
1st level Chromatic Orb, Guiding Bolt, Which Bolt, Inflict Wounds
2nd level Acid Arrow, Scorching Ray, Spiritual Weapon, Invisibility
3rd level Vampiric Touch
4th level Storm Sphere, Greater Invisibility
5th level Steel wind Strike
6th level Chain Lightning, Freezing Sphere
7th level Crown of Stars
That is the Trickster Cleric Evoker I came up with. He takes a lot of effort to get mileage out of, but I think it’ll be fun none the less.