The Support Character
I usually find myself playing a support role character. Whether it’s when I’m playing DoTA, D&D, or such table top games like Pandemic, I naturally gravitate towards that role. It’s not that I don’t like to hit things, just I’d prefer to help the party than kill the monsters. It works out pretty well, since most people love to hit things and therefore play classes that allow them to focus on that.
But why don’t supports get more love? Every party, no matter the medium, needs at least one support player. Without that role being filled, the game, whatever it is, usually comes to an abrupt end when the party bites off a little more than they can chew. Without the support’s buffs, healing or AoE damage from the back of the room, things can go poorly very fast. Play a game of Overwatch and you’ll see people start screaming for a healer right after they have chosen a tank. Now, D&D is usually a much nicer community to play in, (Overwatch is bad, but DoTA may be the worst community of all) but someone has to play that role. But since my days playing AD&D, the support classes have taken on new meaning, so your not always just playing a Cleric.
Supports come in all shapes and sizes. Some supports act as combat medics, some cast those ever important AoE spells, and others bring buffs and mass healing. So let’s take a look at the various support characters out there, and what they bring to the table.
Cleric - Life Domain
The most traditional of all supports, the Life Domain Cleric should be able to supply most of the healing your party will ever need. They are especially powerful at lower levels, and they will keep the party alive when they are at their most vulnerable. Just look at the abilities they get within their first three levels:
Life Domain spells include Bless, Cure Wounds & Lesser Restoration. So that’s a couple “healing” spells and a good buff by third level that the Cleric automatically has prepared all the time, and this means they can choose other spells to prepare without worrying about packing in their healing.
Disciple of Life - Whenever you use a spell to heal someone, they regain additional hit points equal to 2 + the spell’s level. This is amazing for players, not so much for the monsters. So at 3rd level, the Cleric can cast Cure wounds at 2nd level. The spell would do 2d8 + modifier + 4 from this ability. A max roll will bring most characters back to their max HP, especially if the Cleric has a decent modifier.
Channel Divinity - At 2nd level, you can restore hit points equal to 5x the Cleric’s level. These hit points can be divided amongst all creatures within 30ft. So at 2nd level you are basically getting a baby’s-first mass cure wounds. Ten hit points may not seem like a lot, but at 2nd level, they can be the difference between life and death.
These are amazing support abilities at such a low level, and our cleric only becomes more powerful as a support as they continue to gain levels. If you’re looking for the ultimate in healing support classes, this is the one for you.
Bard - College of Glamour
I’ll be the first to admit, I haven’t played a Bard since I was 15 years old and it was adapted from Dragon magazine. The class has changed a ton since then, as they were more a rogue/fighter based character back then, and they sure as hell didn’t have spells! The 5e Bard is a fantastic support class, having a little of everything a support could need. The bard can buff & heal party members, and can even serve as a third option for fighting in battle. A well balanced support class if there ever was one, here are just a few of the things a Bard can provide:
Access to healing at first level - The Bard gets spell access right away, and has the ability to take Cure Wounds and/or Healing Word at 1st level. While having the Bard as your primary healer doesn’t make much sense given all their other talents, having that extra Cure Wounds at lower level sure is nice when you only have 1d8 worth of hit points and your Cleric has burned all their spell slots on Ceremony for some reason.
Mantle of Inspiration - This is a pretty powerful buff at just 3rd level. A number of creatures (number equal to the Bard’s charisma modifier) that can see you within 60ft gain 5 temporary hit points and can immediately use its reaction to move up to its maximum speed without taking an opportunity attack. Hit points and movement? That’s awesome, especially if your party is in a tight spot and needs to make a tactical retreat (not that players ever would). I know people may say that 5 temp hit point isn’t a lot, but at 3rd level, when you combine it with movement, it will definitely save the life of your squishy wizard with a d6 for hit points.
Song of Rest - If you spend a hit dice during a short rest, you gain an extra 1d6 of hit points. Music soothes the soul I guess. This is great at lower levels, and only increases in strength, with 1d8 at 9th level, 1d10 at 13th and finally 1d12 at 17th. In my opinion, the short rest hit points get more valuable as time goes on. As you are adventuring at higher level, you have more opportunities to take that short rest in between big battles. Every hit point counts when you’re getting ready to fight the BBEG.
So while Bards my not be the strongest healer in the support class, I would argue that they are the most versatile support class that someone can play.
Druid - Circle of Dreams
Those nature loving fools. The Druid has traditionally been a purely support class. I do like that by giving them Wild Shape at 2nd level, and including the Circle of the Moon as an archetype, the Druid now has the capability to tank for a party. That said, the Druid still remains a powerful support in the game of D&D.
Early access to more than just healing spells - I’m seeing a pattern here. Healing spells at lower levels are crucial. I think I may have mentioned that. But there are some pretty great “support” spells available at lower levels. Barkskin is a pretty great buff spell (AC can’t go lower than 16), and so is Find Traps (2nd level), Pass without Trace (2nd level), Freedom of Movement (4th level) and Stoneskin (4th level). Many of these spells are underrated, and depending on the makeup of the party, can come in very useful.
Balm of the Summer Court - You gain fey healing energy and a pool d6s equal to your Druid’s level. As a bonus action, you can target someone quite a distance away and spend up to half of your Druid level of d6s on healing for them. You then get all your fey healing dice back after a long rest. While d6s aren’t as nice as a d8, the fact you can get a good chunk of healing out there as a bonus action and without expending a spell slot is awesome. Once again, you can never have enough healing
Impressive AoE spells - For a possible front liner, the Druid also gets some impressive AoE spells at higher levels. Sure, traditional magic user’s high level AoE spells are more powerful, but not many of those wizards are leaving the comforts of the back of the room. A Druid can wild shape, fight, and if needed, back out and cast some devastating spells if the enemies clump together. Sunbeam (an underrated 6th level spell), Fire Storm (7th level), and Storm of Vengeance (9th level) are all massively powerful AoE spells for their levels to help you clear out rooms.
Look, I get it. There are any number of support classes and combos out there (not even including the 100’s of home brews) but these are the ones I would use. I’m a traditionalist. They are healing and buff heavy, and not everyone thinks that that is what a support should be. So post your comments and let me know what you think is the best support set up in 5e, because I’m sure one of you is angry I didn’t mention Monks.