D&D 5E Are Wizards really all that?

Those rogue stats are a pretty strong condemnation of the design as anything other than a front line fighter dressed up in stealth cosplay.
I think any conclusions on the rogue design is a bit of a over reliance on a single set of data. This actually shows that our rogue is the only one in the group that is much of a marital (so yes, for us he's dressed up like a fighter), and only non-caster, in the group. There are also some house rulings around crits and poison that allow him to do insane single hit damage at times. As well, he's always the one doing damage (it's his one stick). The other characters are often busy solving other problems or solving them in other ways.

But, it does show that at least in our group, martials hit more than caster's spells do. But again, those numbers ignore that many spells still have an effect on a save and that casters are not just doing damage.
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
Won't such an analysis have to assume each creature is encountered with equal frequency? I'm not a statistician, but I think it would be hard to make this sort of analysis meaningful for understanding actual play. (I have the same problems when people start counting immunities and resistances: yes, all devils are immune to fire and poison, but the conditions under which they are met are comparatively rare.
Oh I wouldn’t average the results. I’d plot each monster separately.

Wizards that burn through powerful resources out of combat end up being terrible elemental archers in combat.
Many days played out in our games don't even have fights. Are you having 6-8 brawls break out daily during intrigue/diplomacy/downtime days? During downtime the rogue might try gathering information and maybe gets a skill check. The wizard craps out fabricated gear, changes their appearance and reads thoughts, scries, etc. That doesn't run them out of superpowers, which recharge the next day.

5E D&D works best as a hack and slash dungeon crawl. The further you get from that, the more casters dominate.

Just want to point out a few things:

Focusing on damage dealt ignores that most spells are "Save or Suck" in nature, and that successfully landing a Polymorph on the Big Bad is fundamentally transformative to the combat in a way which is not replicable otherwise. Regardless of relative success rate, going from BBEG and his 3 minions to just his 3 minions, then once they're dealt with, just the BBEG, sways the nature and difficulty of the combat in a way not easily represented with just damage figures.

Second, comparing combat performance is like comparing the rate of speeding tickets for cars vs motorcycles. The motorcycles may well generate more, but they only get tickets if they Allow themselves to. They can get to 150 and be gone and there's nothing the cops can do about it, and everyone involved in the interaction recognizes that to be true. If a combat is going poorly, the full caster can get the whole party out of there. If they're creative and have the time, they can likely bypass the combat entirely. Oh I need this artifact from within this tomb? Well the Fighter may be better at slaughtering everything within to get to it, a caster can potentially remotely scout it, teleport right to the end, and get back out without fighting a single creature. In many cases, the only reason they wouldn't is because they don't want to - it's more fun to slaughter your way through the tomb, after all.

Finally, combat is not only one pillar, it's the one at which non-casters have the best chance at (relatively speaking) shining. Sure a Fighter or Ranger with great survival skills could lead them through this treacherous swamp, across the mountains, and over to this city on the other side. Or, you could just teleport there (or at least 90%+ of the way there). You can travel at a day's notice to other planes of existence, and easily bypass what otherwise would be entire adventure arcs. Socialization, you can carefully craft a speech and make alliances which will allow you to persuade someone to do something. Or, you could just dominate them and compel them to do what you say.

Now, certainly there can and will be times where the spellcasting solutions are not appropriate or applicable, or carry enough downside to not be worth consideration. The point is simply that they're There, In Addition To the same options present for non-casting characters. And, given the choice, having more options (especially ones which can bypass difficult situations entirely) tends to be viewed as superior to not having those options.


Having run through a pretty good range of levels. I'd say Martials are fine even good-to great in combat. In a combat situation, they keep up with the casters just fine and even exceeded them.

But combat is 1 pillar out of 3. Once you get to exploration and social interaction, casters have a big advantage. I've seen rogues able to hang in those pillars (especially if the DM is being liberal with skills) but fighters and barbarians tend to get left behind.


5E D&D works best as a hack and slash dungeon crawl. The further you get from that, the more casters dominate.
I would quibble with the bolded part. I think it works best as a careful dungeon crawl, with a focus on resource management and exploration. But I agree with your overall point about how moving away from that resource management makes classes that have more powerful but limited resources seem even more powerful.

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
I'll add that yes, sometimes casters really shine. In one big confrontation late in Out of the Abyss our cleric just obliterated enemy forces with a Fire Storm. They were lined up just right, didn't have any fire resistance, and on average had just the right hit points and rolled poor saving throws, so that one spell was responsible for something like 80% of the fight. (Then my Assassnin/Gloomstalker wreaked havoc on the survivors.)

So, yeah, sometimes all the mooks are in a 30' cube, and most of them fail their saves, and concentration doesn't get broken, so Hypnotic Pattern lets you gang up on the boss and then kill mooks one at a time. When the stars align casters can seem like gods.

But that's not the norm, in my experience. When it works out it's exciting for everybody. I've never seen a player of a martial grumble about it.

There is either consensus here that the Wizard, at high levels, is vastly superior to martials, or the people who believe so are just the most strident and incessant in expressing their opinions, but either way I don't see much pushback against that narrative.

However, I'm not so sure.

Some caveats for the following:
1) I recognize this doesn't address the complaint that casters get to do "cool things" while martials just get to make attack rolls. This is about the supposed difference in actual power/effectiveness in combat.
2) I have literally zero experience above level 15, so this only addresses tiers I to III
3) In the absence of magic items my argument would change, but while a goal of 5e was supposed to be that magic items are optional, I've never actually seen in played that way.

Here are my observations:
- First, the most powerful spells use saving throws, not attack rolls
- Monsters tend to make saving throws much more easily than they dodge weapon attacks (that is, than PC's miss with their weapon attacks)
- Far more magic items give bonuses to weapon attack rolls than to saving throw DCs
- More magic items boost Strength than Intelligence above 20
- Martials get advantage on attack far more frequently than monsters get disadvantage on saves
- Concentration prevents many of the best spells from being used simultaneously
- Casters have concentration broken fairly easily
- Two words: "legendary resistance".
- While many creatures have resistance/immunity to mundane weapons, resistance/immunity to magic weapons is very rare. Meanwhile, resistance/immunity to magical damage types is at least as common, if not more so, but can't be negated by picking up a magic wand (maybe it should).

What all this adds up to (again, in my experience, below tier IV) is that monsters too frequently make their saving throws, and casters end up contributing very little. And when they do contribute a lot it is not by themselves, but in synergy with a martial. For example, they banish the boss while the martials kill the minions. Or they haste the martial who then novas on the boss.

I asked myself: would I rather have a group of all martials, or a group of all casters? And except for some edge cases, in most battles I would rather have all martials. If you get extremely lucky on dice rolls a group of casters could win a tough fight, but it's far more likely that a couple monsters make their saving throws, they attack the casters who are trying to concentrate, and the whole thing turns into a rout. A group of martials is going to take a lot of damage, but they are also going to pump out a lot of damage, and overall have a better chance of winning. (Once again, my opinion.)

But of course what I really want is a mix of the two. Which kind of suggests the game is working as intended.
Why are you only looking at combat? And seemingly obsessed with straight damage spells?

I think that's where you fell at the first hurdle.

Wizards are ridiculous because they can dominate in exploration/social pretty easily (or just invalidate social in a lot of cases, why ask when you can just combine the right spells), and they're absolutely every bit as good as martials, or better, in combat. You don't even mention summons, which is absolutely wild.

You see the problems that face, but you're not seeing the work-arounds. Also, you say "Well it's easier for monsters to make a save", and not only do I not really agree that's true, maths-wise, it's not a 1:1 comparison.

It's easy to get Advantage on an attack or two, sure. But an attack or two isn't going to do the damage of level 9 spell is it? It's not going to create a "save or suck" situation, or basically end a monster's whole career. Legendary stuff sounds great until you see it in practice, where, maybe a spell doesn't last nearly as long, but the consequences for the monster of it even lasting as long as it did are pretty.

I don't agree with your Martial/Caster conclusion, the best scenario for "winning" is probably like a couple of Paladins (who are half-casters) and the rest full casters. There's no way that a party of "martials" could keep up with a party of Paladins, I'd suggest.

An Advertisement