The Fighter grits their teeth, taking yet another blow from the dragon. Against all odds, they’re still standing, hit points significantly reduced. Their comrades take the opportunity to run through the escape hatch, yelling frantically for their friend to follow. The Fighter turns to run, withstands the last opportunity attack from the dragon, and drags themselves after the party with only a few hit points left.
How did they manage to stand up to the dragon long enough for their friends to escape and still make it out alive? With the mountain of hit points they gained from the Tough feat, of course!
How the Tough Feat Works
When you take the Tough feat, your hit point total increases by twice your character’s level. If you are a level 16 Barbarian/Fighter, your hit point total will increase by 32. Tough doesn’t discriminate by class levels, so multiclass characters receive the same benefit as single-class characters. Every time you level up after you take the feat, you gain an additional 2 hit points per level.
Is the Tough Feat Good?
When you decide whether or not a feat is good, there are a few factors for consideration. Some feats are only suitable for specific classes, weapons, combat styles, or roles within a party. Others are widely regarded as generally suitable for everyone. Still others are typically ignored by the DnD community for being weak or too situational.
When you examine a feat, it’s not a matter of good or bad. You must consider whether the feat is worth giving up an Ability Score Increase. With a few exceptions, the only times you choose a feat are at ASIs, so the feat needs to be worth giving up +2 to one of your Ability Scores or +1 to two of your Ability Scores.
At lower levels, when you haven’t reached the 20 cap on your primary Ability Score(s), the trade-off is often not worth it, even for really good feats. Tough just doesn’t do enough to offset the cost for most characters at any level.
Although Tough can be a good feat for certain situations, Tough just doesn’t do enough to offset the cost of a feat for most characters at any level. The reason is that you are giving up a potential bonus of +2 to one or two of your Ability Scores.
We go into a comparison with Constitution below since that Ability Score directly impacts your hit points, but that +2 bonus can be crucial for characters who need to increase the Ability Score that affects their attack rolls or spellcasting.
Tough vs. Constitution
Let’s compare Tough and increasing your Constitution score. If you dedicate your ASI to improving your Constitution score, you add +2 to the score, which results in a +1 to your modifier. You add your Constitution modifier to your hit points every time you level up. If you are a level 16 character, you gain an additional 16 hit points if you increase your Constitution modifier by +1.
Tough easily takes the cake if your primary concern is solely hit points. However, your Constitution score applies to more than just hit points. Plenty of characters need to survive Constitution saving throws from spells or adverse weather conditions throughout the game. Spellcasters need to succeed at Constitution saving throws to maintain concentration on their spells. Tough doesn’t touch any of that. Given a choice, it’s much better to focus on Constitution.
However, there are cases when Tough is the better solution. If you begin with a high Constitution score or are your party’s main tank, it might be beneficial to focus exclusively on hit points. When your role is to absorb as many hits from enemies as possible, you can’t do better than the Tough feat, especially at lower levels when each hit could potentially knock down one of your weaker allies.
Which Classes Should Take It?
Tough is an interesting feat when it comes to classes because it has no prerequisite and, theoretically, is equally beneficial to all classes. Does that mean the feat is actually valuable for every character?
On paper, it looks ideal for Wizards, Sorcerers, and other magic users with the hit points of a wet paper bag. In practice, the only classes benefiting from Tough are melee characters who function as the party’s tanks. As we mentioned in the previous section, Tough only goes so far and if your character needs to withstand more, increasing your Constitution score is typically the better bet.
Spellcasters, in particular, are likely splitting their ASIs between their primary spellcasting Ability Score (Wisdom, Intelligence, or Charisma) and Constitution to maintain concentration on their spells. They only receive five ASIs and usually don’t have room for Tough.
Tough might be a good idea if you reach a point where your Constitution score is maxed out, and you gain an ASI without anything pressing. Typically, Fighters are the only characters who need the extra hit points for melee combat and get enough ASIs (seven, to be specific) that they can afford to spend one on this feat.
However, even Fighters are splitting their ASIs between either Dexterity or Strength and Constitution, and if they start with poor Ability Scores, they may never have the chance to take the Tough feat.