Level two is where some classes really start to shine. For some, it’s not a huge improvement, but for others, the second level is really what you’re waiting for. I think this is going to be one of the most popular of amounts for splashes. Let’s take a look at exactly why.
Gets you: Fighting style, divine smite, spellcasting
Paladins aren’t slouches at level 1, either. They aren’t the strongest class, not by far. At the very least, they get heavy armor and weapons, as well as a pool of 5 hit points to restore through lay on hands. At level 2, their efficacy essentially doubles. Not only do they have access to healing spells and bless, they can use their spell slots to smite, increasing their damage output immensely. Not only that, but they have access to a fighting style, which has implications no matter what they choose. Add to that another 5 points to their pool to lay on hands and this is a fantastic level for paladins.
Gets you: Action surge
Fighter already has one of the best first levels, but your follow up to it is to get action surge. That is great for pretty much any class. You can cast another leveled spell. You can make another set of attacks. In theory, it’s not the most impactful ability at second level, but as a splash, it’s fantastic. There are few builds that would go terribly wrong with a second level of fighter.
Gets you: Eldritch invocations, a spell slot
The second level of warlock doesn’t look like that much on paper. You get eldritch invocations and a second spell slot. Well, first of all, that is a spell slot that regenerates after a short rest. That makes it better than most in itself already. Sure, you have to settle for 2, while other full casters have 3 to start with and some have an extra slot to get back, but after that first rest, there’s no one that can compete with you for slots anymore, at least for level 1 slots. But wait, there’s more. Eldritch invocations are some of the most powerful level 2 abilities out there. A few, like repelling blast and devil’s sight, give you access to options no other class can replicate. Agonizing blast gives you more damage potential than any other cantrip can hope to provide. Beyond that, there are plenty of utility invocations which have a number of various uses, all for just 2 levels. Fantastic splash for any CHA-based class.
4. Wizard (Abjuration, Divination, Evocation, Bladesinging)
Gets you: Wizard school abilities, a spell slot
Each of these wizard schools has a very strong ability at level 2. Abjuration gets a shield, divination gets the portent rolls, evocation can exclude allies from their abilities and bladesingers can bladesing. Of these, the level 2 evocation ability is probably the weakest at this level, but all of them are quite powerful.
5. Cleric (Life, Light, Tempest, War)
Gets you: Channel divinity, turn undead, domain divinity ability, a spell slot
Many of these abilities are quite exciting. Life gives you a pool of 10 hit points which you can use to heal up to half hit points in an area. Light gets you a nuke in an area. Tempest allows you to maximize the damage of either a thunder or lightning spell. War gets you a +10 bonus on an attack. All of these are very valuable, though some of these scale better than others. For a splash, I’d say tempest and war are the best, but light and life are both fairly strong as well. I think the ideal splash of the life domain is just 1 level, but for tempest and war, 2 levels are more worthwhile. Overall, great stuff here.
Gets you: Fighting style, spellcasting
Finally, rangers get something. And, it’s not all that bad. In fact, if rangers got their fighting style at level 1 and one of their level 1 abilities at this level instead, they wouldn’t look that bad. Their spells are not bad, getting access to goodberries is great and hunter’s mark is solid as well. Overall, a good level, though obviously having to slog through a level with no combat abilities sort of diminishes a little.
Gets you: Ki abilities, unarmored movement
Unarmored movement isn’t the most impressive thing in the world, but it’s not worthless, either, especially when combined with your ki abilities. You can use your step of the wind ability to kite enemies, so they can’t make it to you. You can use your patient defense ability and defend against all incoming attacks. I think the most important, however, is the flurry of blows ability. With that, you can make two unarmed attacks at the cost of a single ki point. There isn’t much to say about it other than that. Good level for monks.
Gets you: Reckless attack, danger sense
I would consider both these abilities to be quite good. Advantage in certain cases is always pretty welcome, and while going reckless effectively lowers your defensive options, rage mitigates that a bit. Any STR based melee class looking for advantage has a pretty clear destination, and that’s 2 levels in Barbarian.
Gets you: Wild shape, druid circle abilities, a spell slot
Let’s talk about something other than a splash for once. Let’s talk about level two. I would argue that in actually playing 2nd level characters, there isn’t much better than a level 2 moon druid. As a level 2 moon druid, you can use a bonus action to wild shape into a brown bear, which in essence gives you a 34 hit point cushion and two attacks per round. Not only that, but you can do that twice per short rest. However, beast forms don’t really scale that well, and as a splash, while wild shaping is great, your forms scale with your druid level and not character level, so at two levels of druid, you’re stuck wild shaping into the same somewhat unimpressive creatures. Not the most inspiring. As a circle druid, you get extra spells and the ability to recover 1 level worth of spell slots, which is fine but a little underwhelming.
Gets you: Cunning action
Even though this seems to rank low on this list, the second level of rogue isn’t that bad. The ability to dash, disengage or hide as a bonus action is something that is highly desirable. It’s a great ability, but having only that one ability and not advancing spellcasting is the only reason this level isn’t higher on the list.
Gets you: Jack of all trades, song of rest, a spell slot
Like most full caster classes, what you get from higher levels is mostly spellcasting scaling. You get the song of rest, which is a welcome addition to most parties, and jack of all trades, which at most levels adds +1 or +2 to skills you aren’t proficient in. Not the strongest, but gaining a full caster level is always welcome as a splash.
12. Wizard (Conjuration, Enchantment, Illusion, Necromancy, Transmutation)
Gets you: Wizard school abilities, a spell slot
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with these wizard schools. Some of them have powerful abilities, but all of those are locked away behind higher levels. At level 2, the abilities that these schools get just aren’t worth the splash.
13. Cleric (Knowledge, Nature, Trickery, Arcana)
Gets you: Channel divinity, turn undead, domain divinity ability, a spell slot
The reason that these archetypes are grouped this way is that their domains’ channel divinities are not quite as good as those of the other archetypes. Of these, I would say that the trickery domain’s invoke duplicity ability is the most interesting, but it counts as your concentration slot, which is less than ideal. It’s certainly interesting, but taking up your concentration stops some of the more interesting potential uses. As for knowledge, nature and arcana, all of the channel divinity uses aren’t that great.
Gets you: Font of magic, a spell slot
Sorcery points are great, but at second level, the only thing you can do with them is get back a level 1 slot. Nothing else to say, really.
Especially when thinking about gimmick builds, one thing to always keep in mind are “splashes.” Meaning taking just a few levels of a class to get some really good abilities quickly. Taking a splash of a class gets you access to some class features, some weapon, armor and tool proficiencies, and sometimes, spellcasting. In this first blog, I’ll rank the classes in terms of first level splashes in order to explore what a single splash would get you.
Requirements: 13 STR
Gets you: Medium armor, shields, martial weapons, rage, unarmored defense
Barbarian has the best first level in the game. It’s really easy to qualify for, rage is pretty fantastic, giving you resistance to weapon damage and extra damage, and between that and medium armor and unarmored defense, it gives you some solid defensive options. A great splash for any STR-based melee class that doesn’t need heavy armor.
Requirements: 13 STR or 13 DEX
Gets you: Heavy armor, shields, martial weapons, fighting style, second wind
A single level of fighter gets you a lot. Access to all types of armor and weapons is nice, but not exclusive. The lower barrier to entry is pretty nice as well, as you can qualify for it with either STR or DEX. Nearly every fighting style you can choose has merit and would fit nearly any splash. Second wind is also great, giving you basically a free d10+1 healing. Unless you are using your bonus action every single turn, you have a chance to do free healing, which comes back after a short rest. Really strong start to a really strong class.
3. Cleric (Life, Light, Tempest, War)
Requirements: 13 WIS (13-15 STR)
Gets you: Medium armor, shields(Light), heavy armor(Life, Tempest, War), martial weapons(Tempest, War), simple weapons, domain abilities, spellcasting
Clerics are always welcome in pretty much any campaign, but in particular, these domains are really great at level 1. Life gets you heavy armor as well as boosting your healing spells by a minimum of 3. War gives you extra attacks as well as heavy armor and martial weapons. Tempest gives you damage if you’re hit, heavy armor and access to thunderwave. Light gets you burning hands, faerie fire and warding flare. Meanwhile, every cleric has access to healing spells. Clerics tend to be classes you’d want to go heavier into, but single splashes, especially in these 4 domains, go a long way. A wizard who is able to heal and wear heavy armor is one hell of a wizard. Same with any other class you might splash cleric onto.
Requirements: 13 DEX
Gets you: Light armor, some weapon proficiencies, thieves’ tools, expertise, sneak attack
Rogue is a pretty fantastic splash. Depending on your build and proficiency level, expertise can be a godsend. Most commonly, of course, you’d put expertise on your stealth or perception skills, but there are plenty of other great choices. Unlike the bard’s expertise, you can take expertise in thieves’ tools as well, which can be very useful indeed. And of course, you get to add a d6 of sneak attack damage to any finesse or ranged weapon, which can be pretty reliably gotten in this edition. All that and a low barrier of entry makes a splash in rogue quite a good one.
Requirements: 13 CHA
Gets you: Some weapon proficiencies, sorcerous origin features, spellcasting
Actually, sorcerers are quite varied at level 1 as well. However, all the level 1 origin features are quite good. Draconic sorcerers get extra HP as well as starting with 13+DEX AC. Wild sorcerers can give themselves advantage on rolls, though they also have to abide by the rules of wild magic. Storm sorcerers can move themselves about the battlefield with ease. Aside from that, you get 4 cantrips and 2 sorcerer spells, which is definitely worth looking into.
Requirements: 13 CHA
Gets you: Light armor, simple weapons, patron feature, pact magic
Warlock is quite a unique class in that instead of getting regular spellcasting, you have pact magic. Pact magic, in this case, gives you a replenishing 1st level slot, which comes back every short rest. Unfortunately, warlocks don’t get a lot of spells at level 1, nor do they get a lot of cantrips. You do, however, have access to the SCAG cantrips for a splash to a melee build, and have access to the best cantrip, eldritch blast. Even with only a single level of warlock, it’s a good spell, though it is at its best after 2 levels of warlock. But that’s a subject for another post. Aside from that, you have your level 1 patron features. None of them are particularly impressive, though for a splash the fiend patron or undying patron level 1 features are both pretty solid.
Requirements: 13 CHA
Gets you: Light armor, some weapon proficiencies, musical instrument proficiencies, bardic inspiration, spellcasting
You get 2 cantrips and 4 spells, which isn’t so bad. Bards also can heal, so that’s a plus. Bardic inspiration gives out a d6 die to add to a roll, which you should be able to do at least 2 or 3 times as a bonus action, which is nice. In all, a solid choice.
Requirements: 13 INT
Gets you: Some weapon proficiencies, arcane recovery, spellcasting
The first wizard level is not the most impactful splash there is. Aside from getting no significant proficiencies, you only get one class feature aside from spellcasting. And that single feature is just more spellcasting. Aside from warlocks, who theoretically could have many more, wizards have the most spell slots at level 1 of any spellcasting class. Wizards do easily outpace warlocks at higher levels, but at the first level, what you get is just spellcasting. Fortunately, to make up for that, you get a lot of spells. Not only do you get more spells learned than any other class that has to learn their spells, you get to prepare at minimum 2, which is about as many as sorcerers and warlocks would get. To top it all off, you get access to a bunch of good spells, some of which other classes would really like, but don’t have access to, like find familiar, shield and absorb elements. Basically, it’s good for the access to specific spells, but not the most impressive for the cost of a single level.
Requirements: 13 STR, 13 CHA
Gets you: Heavy armor, shields, martial weapons, divine sense, lay on hands
Paladin is actually one of my favorite classes in 5e. However, you get most of your really worthwhile stuff at level 2, which I’ll explore at a later post. At 1st level, you don’t get any spellcasting, but instead divine sense and lay on hands. Divine sense is not that useful in practice and while being able to heal up to 5 points is fine, in terms of a splash, it’s not changing the world, either. You do get heavy armor and shields, which is quite nice, but the requirement conditions are higher. If you really want heavy and shields for a single level splash, fighter is just better.
10. Cleric (Arcana, Knowledge, Nature, Trickery)
Requirements: 13 WIS
Gets you: Medium armor, shields(Arcana, Knowledge, Trickery), heavy armor(Nature), domain abilities, spellcasting
Clerics vary a lot depending on the domain and the reason why these ended up lower on this list is because their domain abilities aren’t quite up to the same level. Nature and knowledge just give you skill proficiencies, though knowledge does give you double your proficiency bonus. Nature is the only among these that does provide heavy armor, however. Arcana gives you wizard cantrips, proficiency with arcana and access to magic missile. Not too impressive, but solid. Trickery gives you the ability to give someone advantage on stealth, which you can use to either negate a heavy armor wearer’s disadvantage or to give a rogue without a cloak advantage, and that ability doesn’t even use concentration. None of these abilities are very impressive, but of course these do come with that nice medium armor proficiency as well as a caster level in a healing class, which is always welcome.
Requirements: 13 WIS
Gets you: Medium armor*, shields*, some weapon proficiencies, herbalism kit, spellcasting
While not the worst, as you still get access to spellcasting, druid is, among spellcasting classes, one of the worst at level 1. All you get is 1 spellcasting level, and while the druid spell list is nice(other than wizard, the only spellcasting class able to get absorb elements, access to more exclusive healing spells like goodberry), it’s still all you get. In return, you get a flaw that makes you unable to wear metal armor. Yikes.
Requirements: 13 DEX, 13 WIS
Gets you: Simple weapons, an artisan’s tool or musical instrument, unarmored defense, martial arts
A single level of monk is not a great splash. The features it gets you are actually pretty decent, though plagued with built in weaknesses. Monks can’t really use their class features if they’re armored or using any martial weapons. However, to make up for these heavy restrictions, they have a version of the unarmored defense feature which is worse than the barbarian’s(relying on WIS instead of CON and not being to wear a shield is rough) and martial arts, which is pretty good. Being able to use DEX instead of STR for unarmed strikes and simple weapons is good, and getting free unarmed attacks as bonus actions is not too bad, either. However, between the heavy requirements and armor restrictions, it just doesn’t seem worth it for the most part.
Requirements: 13 DEX, 13 WIS
Gets you: Medium armor, shields, martial weapons, favored enemy, natural explorer
Welcome to the bottom of the barrel. Well, arguably. It’s completely arguable that 1 level of monk is just as bad or worse, but at least there are times when a splash in monk is what you might ever want. A splash in ranger gets you access to medium armor, shields, weapons… and nothing else. Favored enemy and natural explorer basically do nothing. You don’t even get a fighting style or spellcasting. Taking a level of ranger means you can talk to stuff and find stuff. I don’t even know what else to say. If you ever feel like taking one level of ranger, go take a level of cleric or fighter instead. Please.
Despite the way he looks, Grisel never thought himself destined for greatness. In fact, for a very long time, Grisel thought he was destined to a lonely, mundane existence, never knowing adventure or excitement, never suffering intolerable pain or loss, living his whole life in his little fishing village. But destiny had other plans for Grisel.
Growing up, Grisel was a simple boy with simple ambitions living in a simple village. Not content to be a fisherman as his father had been, Grisel joined his friends in signing up to be part of the village guard. However, unlike some of his friends, he had no ambitions of any sort of higher station. He guarded the storehouses, mostly against drunks stumbling into them in the dead of night. He was content to live that life, knowing no great desire but for the longing of the love of the most beautiful lady in his village, Tatiyana. But such desires he felt were distant as the sun in the sky. That is, until one day, when fate struck.
One day, several adventurers washed up on the shores of his village. They were taken in by the elder, who believed them to be an omen of good luck. His village had something of a tradition, which was carried out around once every year. Someone from the village was to be sacrificed to a creature from the ocean, who was a herald of the sea goddess. They had not yet chosen a sacrifice, and these adventurers had shown up just in time to be the sacrifices in question. And the village elder believed that more sacrifices would satisfy the creature so much that it would grant the village prosperity for years to come.
As luck would have it, Grisel was chosen to guard the house in which the adventurers were locked. That is where Grisel met the dwarf Wade, who tempted him with promises of gold and riches and women and adventure. But Grisel was not easily swayed. When Wade inquired as to Grisel’s desires, Grisel had only one to voice. Wade promised Grisel that women easily fell in love with the bravery of adventurers, Grisel’s heart turned a little. Not enough to free the adventurers, but enough.
On the night of the sacrifice, Grisel found out something that troubled him. The village elder had decided that the adventurers were not sufficient sacrifice for the creature, they needed to sacrifice someone from the village itself. The lottery was cast and the person chosen was Tatiyana. That was enough to move Grisel. When the night was dark and most of the village hid and huddled in their homes, waiting for the creature to leave, Grisel brought the adventurers their weapons and freed them. Wade convinced him to stay and fight, handing him a bow with which he was not at the time proficient. The adventurers fought the creature as Grisel aimed shot after shot at the creature. Most of his attacks missed, though a couple found purchase. Then, as the creature loomed and most of the adventurers were felled, Tatiyana in its sights, Grisel shot one final fumbling shot. It struck the creature in an exposed weak point at its core and destroyed it. Grisel had done it! He had killed a fearsome creature!
Scoring the final blow against the creature gave Grisel a great sense of confidence. Wade invited him to join the party and he did. He bade farewell to Tatiyana and joined Wade and his friends on his first adventure, to a haunted island. There, he watched and his new companions all get killed by shadow creatures which emerged as soon as they stepped onto the island. Then he sailed away to the Moonsea, where he started his journey as an adventurer, learning to wield his draconic blood for arcane power, as well as finding a place among the followers of Bahamut, doing his great works.
Not only does Grisel serve Bahamut, but in fact, he has met Bahamut on several occasions, though Grisel has yet to notice. He has been sent by Bahamut to right wrongs all across the land and even across time. Along the way, in service of Bahamut, Grisel has felled many dragon cultists, defeated many dragons, and even become a hero.
As a servant of Bahamut, Grisel is no friend to evil chromatic dragons, especially those in league with the cult of the dragon. On his adventures, Grisel has taken out many dragons in the pursuit of his ideals. Dragons such as Venomfang, a young and foul green dragon living in an old wizard’s tower. Then he and his companions fought a fully mature white dragon named Arauthator, the Old White Death, who was defeated, but managed to flee with his life. The next dragon he faced was Chuth, the Emerald Assassin, a brutal green dragon and loyal servant of the cult. As one of the witnesses to the horrifying events at Phlan when Vorgansharax laid claim to the Cinnabar Throne, Grisel and his allies set their sights on the Maimed Virulence and took him down right at the seat of his power. Not simply satisfied with taking out such a colossal and corrupting threat, whose influence spread like poison across Phlan, Grisel sought out more disruptive draconic prey. To that end, he took to Skyreach Castle, to the lair of Glazhael the Cloudchaser, and took down that great white beast. After hearing of Grisel’s reputation for dragon slaying, King Hekaton of the court of the Maelstrom requested Grisel’s help from the Lord’s Alliance, despite his shaky relationship with the organization. With the king’s help and that of some other fellow adventurers, Grisel took down the Doom of the Desert herself, Imryth the ancient blue dragon, along with her spawn, an adult blue dragon named Anaxaster. Though he did not himself deliver the final blow, his strikes were powerful enough to drive her back into her lair. If an evil chromatic dragon should hear the name “Grisel,” even in a whisper, they now know to hide.
Indeed, as when Grisel left his home, his little fishing village, he was hailed as their folk hero, Grisel felt destined to be a hero. He personally witnessed the fall of Phlan as the dragon Vorgansharax took the town over. But it wasn’t too long before Grisel had a chance to return to take down the great beast. He, along with a new team of adventurers, called Team Lightning Round, took the beast down in the beast’s own lair, a throne room littered with a hoard of treasure. Grisel had become a hero, the hero of Phlan. But more adventures await him in the future. He is not yet done. Until he feels he has earned enough renown to win the love of Tatiyana, he will not return home, even if it takes him the rest of his life.