The Witcher 3 Character Builds Guide – Archetypes, Ability Trees, Character Progression

By   /   May 19, 2015

Geralt is a versatile fellow, and he has to be since he’s a monster hunter. Because of his versatility and the sheer depth of The Witcher games, there’s a complex and deep underlying character development system for every one of them.

Actually, it’s not that complex, and most RPG veterans will be able to get their head around The Witcher 3’s game mechanics quite easily. However, the application of the skillsets in this game are vastly different.

For more help on The Witcher 3, read our Gwent Cards Locations, Romance Guide, Alchemy Guide and Crafting Guide.

The Witcher 3 Character Builds

A large part of the abilities in The Witcher 3 are ones that will facilitate your play-style instead of directly influencing it, which leaves a lot of options for players as far as builds are concerned.

Our will cover 6 different archetypal builds that you can take use of. These builds are merely suggestive, and should give you a good idea of how you should develop your character.

Before going into that though, there are a few good important things to learn about the leveling system and the Ability Points system in the game.

Basic Leveling

Leveling
As with many RPG games, leveling is done by earning experience or XP.

XP is acquired by performing certain tasks, of which the most common is slaying foes, be it mobs of people or specific kinds of monsters. Each type of foe generally gives a different amount of XP, depending on how tough they are.

In addition to their toughness, the foes’ level also makes a huge difference as far as XP returns are concerned. Slaying enemies and monsters that are above your current level gives you a larger amount of XP, while slaying enemies that are well below your level will give you minimum experience.

The overall most rewarding method of earning XP is by completing quests. Completing quests not only has the potential to get you some good items, but also comes with a bonus amount of XP gain upon completion, all in addition to the many enemies you’ll slay while doing the quest.

Ability Points
As you gain a certain amount of XP, your character will level up. Leveling up will restore your Vitality and Stamina instantly, even if you are in battle, and will grant you with a single Ability Point.

Ability Points are points that can be spent on the four ability trees in the game’s development system to acquire new abilities, which greatly diversify your character’s skillset during combat.

A large part of the abilities are offensive, but there are plenty of passive and defensive abilities, along with utility abilities sets like Alchemy. You can earn around 69 points just from leveling itself, but that is not the only way to earn Ability Points.

There are various locations called Places of Power hidden in various places in the gaming world that can grant you additional Ability Points apart from the ones you’ll acquire through leveling. There are a total of 16 Place of Power in the game, spread out all across the world.

Ability Trees

There are four ability trees in The Witcher 3, each with 5 different sub-trees that have various abilities under them. A large majority of these abilities are offensive, but there are quite a few that are passive and some that are utility based.

Whenever you unlock an active offensive/defensive ability, you will need to assign it to an Action Slot. At the start, you only have one Action Slot available, but as you progress, more will open up and you can assign your abilities to them.

It is important to note that many abilities have different levels to them. Majority of the abilities can be upgraded by investing multiple points into them – some cap at level 5, while other more powerful ones even cap at 2 or 3.

The major exception to this leveling rule are the abilities under the General tree, which can only be leveled once. Abilities in each tree are categorized in tiers – the only exception to this rule is the General tree.

In order to unlock the next tier, you have to invest a specific amount of points into that specific tree. 8 points unlocks the second tier, 20 points unlocks the third, while 36 points will unlock the final tier.

Combat
Combat is one of the major ability tree, and focuses on abilities that will greatly aid in combat. These include new sets of moves/attacks, and also defensive & offensive buffs. Each point spent in the Combat tree will grant you +1% Adrenaline Point on an activated ability.

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Combat has the following sub-trees:

  • Fast Attack
  • Strong Attack
  • Defense
  • Marksmanship
  • Battle Trance

Signs
Signs are basically magical abilities, and this tree obviously deals with them. There are quite a few useful offensive signs, and a truly versatile Geralt is one who can take use of both melee and magical abilities in the battlefield.

There are five signs to take use of, and each sub-branch dedicates itself into upgrading/enhancing each sign. Each point spent in the Signs tree increases Stamina recovery by 1% on a given Activated Ability.

Signs has the following sub-trees:

  • Aard Sign
  • Igni Sign
  • Yrden Sign
  • Quen Sign
  • Axii Sign

Alchemy
Alchemy is a fan ability tree in which the player can learn various utility tricks such as creating potions that enhance Geralt’s stats, imbue weapon with various effects, or give buffs to regeneration/combat in various ways.

The versatility of this tree makes it extremely important in giving yourself an edge over different kinds of enemies and monsters in the game.

Alchemy has the following sub-trees:

  • Brewing
  • Oil Preparation
  • Bomb Creation
  • Mutation
  • Trial of the Grasses

General
The general ability tree does not have sub-trees, nor does it focus on a specific aspect of Geralt’s skills. Instead, as the name suggests, it is more generalized, and the skills within this tree are more passive-based than active.

The Witcher 3 Character Builds – Combat Adrenaline

Combat

  • Muscle Memory à Precise Blows
  • Strength Training àCrushing Blows
  • Resolve à Razor Focus

Signs

  • Far-Reach Aard à Aard Sweep
  • Melt Armor
  • Sustained Glyphs
  • Suggestion

Alchemy

  • Heightened Tolerance
  • Acquired Tolerance
  • Frenzy

General

  • Bear School Techniques
  • Rage Management
  • Adrenaline Burst
  • Focus

Armor Type

  • Heavy Armor

Weapons Type

  • Melee Sword

Mutagen Type

  • Red Mutagens

Understanding The Witcher 3 Combat Adrenaline Build
This is an offensive build that focuses on generating Adrenaline in order to maintain a sustained assault on foes. The build not only focuses on offense exclusively, but also allows you to tank multiple enemies with high vitality and usage of heavy armor.

Bear School Techniques and Rage Management will be the prime factors in determining the effectiveness of your build. The core of the build though lies obviously in the Combat.

You want to have full upgrades on Muscle Memory, Resolve, and Precise Blows, while investing as many points as possible in Strength Training, Crushing Blows, and Razor Focus. These abilities will allow you to generate plenty of Adrenaline to maintain sustained attack.

With this build, it’s quite obvious to be using Red Mutagens to get the maximum attacking power. However, have at least one Mutagen for the Signs, because with the Stamina penalty due to heavy armor, you want to be using Far Reaching Aard and Suggestion quite regularly.

The remaining points can be spent in any of the other abilities that you feel would work well with this setup.

The Witcher 3 Character Builds – Heavy Blows

Combat

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  • Muscle Memory à Precise Blows
  • Strength Training àCrushing Blows
  • Rend

Signs

  • Melt Armor
  • Sustained Glyphs
  • Exploding Shield

Alchemy

  • Heightened Tolerance
  • Poisoned Blades
  • Protective Coating

General

  • Cat School Techniques
  • Survival Instinct

Armor Type

  • Light Armor

Weapons Type

  • Melee Sword

Mutagen Type

  • Red Mutagens

Understanding The Witcher 3 Heavy Blows Character Build
This build is a little squishier than the previously described, but it’s one that focuses more on agility and critical strikes.

Crits deal tons of damage, and maximizing them is an art in most games. Same goes for The Witcher 3, in which critical hits can really allow you to completely dominate foes that are well above your level.

The true stars for a critical build are Rend from the Combat Tree and Cat School Techniques from the General tree. The latter is the reason why we’ll go with light armor for this build, as not only does it allow you to retain good amounts of stamina, but also gives that added critical hit damage buff.

Rend when leveled fully gives an insane 50% additional critical hit chance, which can be used perfectly with oils from the Alchemy tree to deal terrifying damage on foes on a regular basis. That, along with the usual suspects in Muscle Memory and Strength Training, can make Geralt a killing machine.

However, due to the lack of armor, you should consider defensive Signs and (more importantly) the Survival Instinct ability from General. Using potions like Thunderbolt and other defensive ones will be vital with this build.

Invest the remaining points in Combat or Signs to make this a more versatile build.

The Witcher 3 Character Builds – The Poison Sword

Combat

  • Muscle Memory à Precise Blows
  • Strength Training àCrushing Blows
  • Resolve à Razor Focus

Signs

  • Melt Armor
  • Sustained Glyphs à Magic Trap
  • Exploding Shield à Active Shield

Alchemy

  • Poisoned Blades à Protective Coating à Fixative
  • Steady Aim à Pyrotechnics
  • Synergy

General

  • Griffin School Techniques
  • Focus

Armor Type

  • Medium Armor

Weapons Type

  • Melee/Bombs

Mutagen Type

  • Red/Green Mutagens

Understanding The Witcher 3 Poison Sword Build
This build focuses on pure poisoning and bombs.

For this very reason, you’ll have to take time to acquire the necessary items in order to make it fully effective. Using the medium armor range seems like a sensible choice because you’ll need the stamina to throw bombs and to move about.

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Of course, in order to get the most out of you poisons, you’ll actually need a weapon to imbue it with. This is where the usual suspects from Combat Skills come in.

In addition to the poisoning and stuff though, it’s important to take use of plenty of Signs as well, which is why investing in Igni, Yrden, and Quen type Signs can be extremely useful.

Using majorly Red Mutagens with one (or maybe even two) Alchemy-oriented Mutagens can really get the best out of this build, as it’ll give you a nice mix between attack power and bonuses for Bombs and poisons.

Decoctions such as Cockatrice work brilliantly with this built since it is so Alchemy-heavy.

The Witcher 3 Character Builds – Hardened Magic

Combat

  • Muscle Memory à Precise Blows
  • Strength Training àCrushing Blows

Signs

  • Exploding Shield
  • Sustained Glyphs
  • Melt Armor
  • Active Shield
  • Magic Trap
  • Firestream
  • Quen Intensity
  • Yrden Intensity
  • Igni Intensity
  • Quen Discharge

General

  • Griffin School Techniques
  • Survival Instinct

Armor Type

  • Medium Armor

Weapons Type

  • Melee/Bombs

Mutagen Type

  • Blue Mutagens

Understanding The Witcher 3 Hardened Magic Build
If you’re looking for a better defense and more survivability, the sensible thing to do is to invest heavily in Signs.

Signs are cool for their magic-like application, but a large part of the tree comprises of tactical abilities that allow better survivability in harder difficulties.

Attack Power is cool for the basic difficulties, but when you take it up a notch you need utility and good defense, and slapping on a heavy armor exclusively isn’t considered good defense.

Instead, opt for medium armor to trigger the Griffin School Techniques, which will provide additional Sign-related bonuses. The Sign-focused build is based more on survival than pure assault, which is why Yrden and Quen Signs will be used more than the others.

Signs, along with the basic Combat skills such as Muscle Memory and Strength Training will be the core of the build. Quen signs will give the best protection outside of physical armor, allowing you to defend for long periods and dodging.

This build is more tactical, and one of its major drawbacks is that it takes time to build to its full potential. This means that you’ll likely be playing a defensive Geralt with the build structure already projected in your play-style.

For this very reason, it is recommended that you only try out this build after you’ve completed the game already at least once for a more challenging, yet more rewarding experience.

The Witcher 3 Character Builds – Unforgiving Rage

Combat

  • Muscle Memory à Precise BlowsàWhirl
  • Strength Training àCrushing BlowsàRend
  • Fleet Footed àCounter Attack

Signs

  • Aard Sweep
  • Melt Armor
  • Exploding Shield

Alchemy

  • Heightened Tolerance
  • Frenzy
  • Refreshment

General

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  • Bear School Techniques
  • Rage Management
  • Adrenaline Burst

Armor Type

  • Heavy Armor

Weapons Type

  • Melee Swords

Mutagen Type

  • Red Mutagens

Understanding The Witcher 3 Unforgiving Rage Build
This is an all-out attack-minded, physical combat build that focuses on powerful abilities like Whirl and Rend. Those two abilities, alongside the basic Muscle Memory and Strength Training will make up the core aspect of your build.

Whirl is an exciting and excellent ability when facing mobs of enemies or monsters, but it is also extremely costly. For this reason, it’s recommended to use General skills like Rage Management and Adrenaline Burst, alongside of course Bear School Techniques.

This is a build that is very beginner-friendly, as it is concerned with all-out offense, and the defense only really comes from the physical armor, Vitality bonuses, and your ability to dodge effectively.

Even the Signs are more or less offensive based, and should provide you with sufficient arsenal to decimate any kind of opponent. A very simple yet effective build that will result in a purely offensive and engaging play-style.

The Witcher 3 Character Builds – Ranged Sharpshooter

Combat

  • Muscle MemoryàPrecise Blows
  • Strength TrainingàCrushing Blows
  • Lightning ReflexesàCold BloodàAnatomical Knowledge
  • Resolve

Signs

  • Sustained GlyphsàMagic Trap
  • SuggestionàPuppet

Alchemy

  • Heightened ToleranceàRefreshment
  • Steady Aim
  • Frenzy

General

  • Bear School Techniques
  • Steady Shot
  • Metabolism Control
  • Adrenaline Burst

Armor Type

  • Heavy Armor

Weapons Type

  • Melee Swords/Crossbow/Bombs

Mutagen Type

  • Red Mutagens

Understanding The Witcher 3 Ranged Sharpshooter Build
Playing with a ranged weapon is not going to be everyone’s preferred choice, but experienced players will learn to value the importance of the crossbow, especially when it comes to generating Adrenaline.

For this reason, a build that is focused around the use of ranged weaponry to improve Adrenaline generation, and then to spend that Adrenaline with your melee attacks is really the best way to go.

The crossbow can do a good amount of damage, and with crowd-control Axii Signs you can actually prolong the amount of bolts you can shoot through a given unfortunate foe (or set of foes).

The obvious focal skills here are the ones under the Crossbow sub-branch in the Combat ability tree. You can greatly increase the critical hit chance of the crossbows and also generate lots of Adrenaline, then unleash havoc with a few bombs and swings of your weapon.

Don’t forget to share your own character builds with us by commenting below!