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Sword Coast Legends Character Design

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Introduction[edit]

This article is going to start from scratch and assume minimal prior knowledge of character design (also known as "character optimisation", or CharOp). I'll cover some basic principles (or "minMaxims") and then apply them to Sword Coast Legends (SCL). I'll cover killing, surviving, and controlling in turn as mechanics, and then use that coverage to create some character designs and explain why I've chosen them.

minMaxims[edit]

Here are some principles of CharOp that apply to SCL.

  1. Begin with the end in mind. Plan for maximum level, even if you won't hit it. This is particularly relevant in SCL because leveling to maximum level is very fast.
  2. Derive as much benefit as possible from one thing (that is combat relevant). This means you get more benefit from spiking it high. This is known as the "gun is your skill list" approach. Diplomacy: "Give me what I want or I shoot you." Dodge: "I shoot it before it eats me." Lockpicking: "I shoot the lock off." Zoology: "I don't fathom the unfathomable horror, I shoot it with my elephant gun."
  3. Waste nothing.
  4. Understand what "dump stats" are. SCL has two potential dump stats, and every character has at least one.
  5. Understand your weaknesses and prepare to trade out damage to trade in survivability.
  6. Death is the most effective debuff. This applies to your character as much as to their enemies.
  7. Plan your character in terms of the action economy. Much like Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) Fourth Edition (4E) and Fifth Edition (5E), SCL has a definite action economy (I cover this in more detail in soon). In other words, every action your character takes matters. Hitting ten times for ten damage in two seconds is better than hitting one time for ninety nine damage in two seconds (unless you need spike damage to kill a target before it gets healed, and your spike damage is also high enough to kill the target before it gets healed).

The beauty and richness of D&D 4E and 5E is that although you can make optimal characters (particularly in 4E), you have to trade these various minMaxims off against each other to some extent. In SCL there are tradeoffs but to a far lesser extent.

Killing[edit]

Killing is only one part of being an adventurer (affectionately and disparagingly known as "murder hobos" depending on who's talking), but it draws the most attention because it's a quintessential part of the genre and because it's very visible.

The Action Economy[edit]

D&D works in "rounds", time units of six seconds. Each character involved in the combat gets a turn. In 5E, which SCL is theoretically based on, a character can use their turn to both move (Movement) and to act (Action). Movement covers a defined distance although it can be interspersed with multi-stage Actions. Actions are covered by a particular rule-bound set of options (unless the DM directly intervenes). Characters also get one "Bonus Action" a turn (not interchangeable with the normal Action) and one Reaction (this can be used during the turns of other entities, but only once before the character's next turn).

SCL is, more or less, real time and it works on a timed basis. The amount a character can achieve in a time is determined by their abilities (and their items). There's no particular time unit that is the best equivalent to a round in 5E. Cooldowns on SCL abilities are measured in seconds, with unaugmented spellcaster cantrips timed at 2 seconds per cast. So for the purposes of this article I'm going to measure actions in terms of seconds.

Unfortunately the in-game combat log has no time stamps, so the following is a guess at how things work.

Cooldown Attacks[edit]

Attacks with cooldowns have a casting time, represented by a circle moving around the base of the character. This casting time is affected by Action Speed. Cooldowns go from "none" (essentially, you can use the ability as quick as you can activate it) to 336 seconds. Cooldowns are affected by Cooldown Reduction bonuses on items. Theoretically you can achieve 100% Cooldown Reduction.

Attack roll vs Save.

Weapon Autoattacks[edit]

A character makes one weapon attack per two seconds. For every additional attack granted by the abilities Weapon Master and Combat Focus, the character gains an additional attack per two seconds. If a character is wielding a weapon in the off hand, they get an additional weapon attack per two seconds.

Attacks are also affected by Action Speed bonuses on items.

Action Speed items and the abilities Swift Quiver and Action Surge both apply to main hand and off hand attacks. So if your character has 100% Action Speed items from items or buffs and is dual wielding they will make two main hand and two off hand attacks in two seconds. If they have three extra attacks (Fighter with maximum Weapon Master, Ranger with maximum Combat Focus) they will do eight main hand attacks and two off hand attacks in two seconds.

Comparing Cooldowns with Autoattacks[edit]

This means that both Cooldown Attacks and Weapon Autoattacks can theoretically be made very quickly. There is a disparity here, though, which is that obviously autoattacks can be done forever whereas cooldowns can only be done once per cooldown phase, forcing the character to use other things whilst the attack comes off cooldown. Referring to minMaxim 2 (be as good as possible at one thing, and use it for as much as you can), we can see an ability with a cooldown of 40 seconds (that's one of the shorter cooldown durations) would have to be more than twenty times better, or hit twenty things at once, to be worth focusing on instead of an autoattack.

It is theoretically possible to get 100% Cooldown Reduction on items and therefore to make Cooldown Attacks effectively Autoattacks. At that stage the tradeoff becomes the comparison between what you can achieve with multiple Action Speed items allowing you to make Autoattacks faster, against what you can achieve with Cooldown Reduction items. Assuming the guesswork above is accurate, then a maxed out Fighter will have four main hand and one off hand attack per two seconds, with 100% Action Speed items that becomes eight main hand and two off hand attacks per two seconds, and when they pop Action Surge that's an additional 60%, taking them to 10.4 main hand attacks per two seconds and 2.6 off hand attacks per two seconds.

This is where the abilities on items become very relevant. It's not hard to imagine that a high level spell, say Meteor Swarm, would do damage equivalent to 13 weapon attacks - especially if you consider it will hit multiple targets. However there are two weapon qualities that have a massive impact. The first of these is Vampiric weapons. Vampiric Weapons that heal 100% of the damage dealt by the weapon are relatively common at high levels. This means that not only is the character doing a lot of single target damage, but they're healing themselves at the same time. The second is Vorpal. A Vorpal weapon has a 5% chance on critical hit to instantly kill a target. Because Autoattackers can itemise for Action Speed and Critical Range, they can get a Critical Range of 1-20 (every hit is a critical) which means 5%, or 1 in 20, of their hits is an instant kill. In practise natural 1s on the atttack may always be a miss like in D&D so it's 95% of 1 in 20 or 4.75%.

Saving Throws[edit]

Expand this section to see the count of status effect powers by save.

Understanding the threat landscape[edit]

Count of creature powers that inflict status effects based on Strength saves[edit]

4

Count of creature powers that inflict status effects based on Dexterity saves[edit]

6

Count of creature powers that inflict status effects based on Constitution saves[edit]

6

Count of creature powers that inflict status effects based on Intelligence saves[edit]

0

Count of creature powers that inflict status effects based on Wisdom saves[edit]

7

Count of creature powers that inflict status effects based on Charisma saves[edit]

0


Expand parts of this section to see the list of status effect powers by save.

Creature Powers that require Dexterity saves[edit]

Creature Powers that require Constitution saves[edit]

Creature Powers that require Intelligence saves[edit]

There are no abilities inflicting status effects based on Intelligence saves.

Creature Powers that require Charisma saves[edit]

There are no abilities inflicting status effects based on Charisma saves.


Specialist Articles[edit]

Sword Coast Legends Character Design/Headstart Weekend 3
Beating a mass-status effect module by abusing Action Speed mechanics and Vorpal Weapons on a Finesse Fighter.