5E Bladesinger - a criticism of its design
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    Bladesinger - a criticism of its design

    Bladesinger (SCAG) is an Arcane Tradition for Wizard that seems to be balanced around the assumption a PC won't have high Intelligence and high Dexterity. I believe that is an unjustified assumption in a game where points buy is an option. The TotYP campaign I'm in will have a Wizard with Intelligence and Dexterity at 20/+5 and 18/+4 by level four, and both at 20/+5 by level eight.

    At 2nd level they gain Bladesong, which lasts 10 rounds and can be used twice between short rests. Bladesong includes Intelligence ability modifier in AC. With Mage Armor, it allows an AC of up to 23. This can easily be buffed. Shield can make it 28 for one round. Shield of Faith can make it 25 for 10 minutes, or 30 with Shield. It doesn't matter, because at 4th level all these ACs are only hit on natural 20.

    Bladesinger additionally gains Green-Flame Blade (GFB) from SCAG. GFB isn't wildly over-powered, but it scales with character level, and pushes the Bladesinger's damage toward the high-end for melee. Bladesong incidentally improves your Concentration save and Acrobatics (in case anyone was thinking of shoving or grappling you).

    Straight Wizard levels is the bar by which other classes are essentially judged. Can you survive a flying, invisible assailant who can turn you into stone, or a frog? If the answer is no, then no matter what your theoretical damage out put on paper, you're below the bar. BTW that assailant is a non-complex, single-classed character. With few conditionals on its abilities.

    Bladesinger as I read it appears to say: "You can take straight Wizard levels while having better AC than a plate-mailed fighter with Defense fighting style and shield. And you can put out top-notch melee damage." Other than fluff, I'm not sure at this point why anyone would play anything different? Even the dreaded SS/CEx Archer is trivialised by Bladesinger.

    Often people will now say - Bladesong isn't up all the time. Except, it is. It's up for two combats per short rest, which is the standard (ignoring the words in the DMG, the actual table for daily XP produces two, not three, combats per short rest). Many groups experience fewer than that. People also sometimes overlook that in easy or medium combats, you don't need it. So for combats where it matters, it's up about 100% of the time.

    Why am I writing this? I want to say to WotC's designers, stop making casters that trivialise melee. It narrows the game. It's less fun. Look at the casting power you give your melee classes (Eldritch Knight, Ranger, Paladin and if you want to count it, Arcane Trickster) and do not give casters anything that scales better in melee, than those melee classes scale in casting.


    [Edited to fix and clarify stat line.)
    Last edited by clearstream; Tuesday, 3rd October, 2017 at 06:39 PM.
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  2. #2
    The game is not really balanced around stats that high so early.

    If we were talking about point buy that wizard would have at most a +3 modifier in Dex and Int, giving 19 AC, the same as a fighter with chain mail, shield and defence.

    23 AC should only be possible after 4 ASIs (16th level for straight wizards with no feats).

    Another thing to consider is the crappy HP wizards have. If you invest two 16s in Dex and Int, it is quite likely you can only afford at most a 14 in con. One good hit can leave you at bad shape, and AC doesn't help agaist saving throws.

    Green Flame Blade is hardly high end melee damage. It barely competes with a dueling fighting style longsword on a fighter if you consider that the secondary damage always trigger, which is not the case IMX.

    EDIT: There is also the fact that GFB damage must be divided between two targets, while a long sword fighter would deal all damage to a single creature.

    Another thing to consider with GFB is that it does not scale on you casting stat, but on dex or str, so there is always a high opportunity cost for raising your melee stat vs your casting stat.

    So, I think the problems you are detecting comes more from the high stats that no class should have so early, than from the Bladesinger's design.

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    Last edited by DaviMMS; Saturday, 30th September, 2017 at 01:32 PM.

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    If it is a problem at your table, I would try talking to the player about it and houseruling. Perhaps limit the AC bonus to half int mod. In general my impression is that bladesinger is pretty popular and seen as fair.

    If you really want to communicate to the devs, twitter and the feedback surveys are probably better methods.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by DaviMMS View Post
    The game is not really balanced around stats that high so early.
    This.

    Having two values with 20 at level four is a massive advantage. Monks and Barbarians will also have excellent AC. Any martial gets to take feats early and keep taking them.

    It really isn't feasible to design for this eventuality - it's better to make sure it doesn't happen. Which can be summarized in three words: "use point buy".

    @vonklaude: you need to internalize that
    1) for you, balance matters
    2) for people where balance matters, chargen should never result in initial scores above 15 (before racial mods)

    Either accept point-buy or devise your own chargen where 15 is starting max, perhaps:

    Roll 2d6+3 six times, assign freely - but where you can "flip" one value (5->15, 6->14, 7->13 and so on) as you assign it.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by vonklaude View Post
    Bladesinger as I read it appears to say: "You can take straight Wizard levels while having better AC than a plate-mailed fighter with Defense fighting style and shield. And you can put out top-notch melee damage." Other than fluff, I'm not sure at this point why anyone would play anything different? Even the dreaded SS/CEx Archer is trivialised by Bladesinger.
    A lot of people pick a class because of the fluff. I never seen anyone play a bladesinger.

    Quote Originally Posted by vonklaude View Post
    Why am I writing this? I want to say to WotC's designers, stop making casters that trivialise melee. It narrows the game. It's less fun. Look at the casting power you give your melee classes (Eldritch Knight, Ranger, Paladin and if you want to count it, Arcane Trickster) and do not give casters anything that scales better in melee, than those melee classes scale in casting.
    I can agree with that I guess, but you don't have to play with the class if you don't like it. Personally I would like to seem them buff the fighter rather than take from another class. I saw a great suggestion in another thread about how to do that (unfortunately I can't remember what the buff was or what thread it was )

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    I suspect that a table which has one PC with a pair of 20s by level 4 will appear overpowered regardless of the class that player was using.

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  7. #7
    If you roll 2 18s, you will be very powerful not matter what class you choose. Booming Blade and Greenflame blade is a lot lower damage output than what the dedicated melee classes can put out. A dueling style dex fighter with identical stats deal 2 more damage per hit, thats like a four-point ability score difference in damage potential. The same fighter class guy with 20 in two stats by 4 could have max Dex and Con, having a mountain of HP compared to the D6 bladesinger.

    The Bladesinger does not trivialize melee. You can do melee, but you will not be the best in it. The strength of the Bladesinger lies in the fact that it does not immediately fall over and die when put into melee while it still has most of the casting potential of the Wizard.
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    I'm playing a Bladesinger. Only level 3 so far, but I can tell you first hand that I am not overpowered at all.

    We rolled 4d6 drop 1 for abilities. As an Elf, my character has a 16 Int and 16 dex.

    Bladesong brings my AC to 19. My PC gets hit plenty.

    Also, consider that my PC only has 21 hit points (compared to the fighter who has 35 at this point). That's a huge difference.

    Bladesong is also designed so that the wizard has to be in melee or close to melee to be effective. That puts the PC at great risk. It is a finesse character with lots of versatility, but so far not overpowered in the least.

    Mage armor is a must, which wastes one first level spell per day.

    I'm limited in preparation of spells too. I can only prep 6 per day so I have to make some tough choices. Also, many of the buff spells that you'd think would help protect my character are concentration spells (blur), so if my PC does get hit and take damage (from any source) there is a chance that the spell will fade.

    At 4th level, I'll probably take Mobility as feat rather than ASI because I like the flavor and it will help my PC jump in and out of melee range.

    I like the class and after playing fighters, barbarians, wizards, and other characters, I definitely feel the difference from this character - but it isn't overpowered (at least yet).

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaviMMS View Post
    The game is not really balanced around stats that high so early.
    As I said, that's not a compelling defense. Roll 4d6 drop one is the standard rule. With points buy optional. The game should be balanced for values that can be generated using the standard rule. Worst case, it should be balanced for values appearing over 1% of the time. (Otherwise, why make it standard?)

    Two 17s (which our player has) on average occurs one in 25 characters, or once in six groups on their first set of characters. That's far too frequent to excuse with "game not balanced around high stats".

    The thing to keep firmly in mind here is that Bladesinger is a far better fighter than Eldritch Knight is a caster, and Bladesinger is a fully-functional caster too.
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    Quote Originally Posted by CapnZapp View Post
    This.

    Having two values with 20 at level four is a massive advantage. Monks and Barbarians will also have excellent AC. Any martial gets to take feats early and keep taking them.

    It really isn't feasible to design for this eventuality - it's better to make sure it doesn't happen. Which can be summarized in three words: "use point buy".

    @vonklaude: you need to internalize that
    1) for you, balance matters
    2) for people where balance matters, chargen should never result in initial scores above 15 (before racial mods)
    Points buy is not the default, the book default is 4d6 drop 1. You know the odds of two 17s as well as I do.

    It is feasible to design for that eventuality. The contention that it is not is unsupportable. The analysis is easy for anyone who knows Excel to do. The experience in play makes you lift an eyebrow almost instantly. The fixes are obvious (more cost or less use on blade song, or dial back the buffs, or both) and very easily playtested.

    Good balance is objectively a virtue in good game design. That has been shown over and over again, across numerous game genres.

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