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5E Balancing the Rune Knight

Gadget

Adventurer
The Rune Knight might be a little fussy and need a few balance tweaks, but it doesn't have a patch on the broken subclasses from Unearthed Arcana of yesteryear like the loremaster. The subclasses on UA in the past eight or nine months or so have been much better, probably because they are generally not as ambitious as the Mystic was back in the day.

Of course, that does not mean the Rune Knight is fine tuned balance wise, UA subclasses tend to be front loaded, as balancing for multi-classing is not really taken into account, and some of the mechanics need to be smoothed out. I would probably restrict multi-classing with the RK, especially "cherry-picking," but I don't see it as too out of line or as "out there" as the original mystic was. That said, I haven't seen it played, so ymmv.
 

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Haug (Hill Rune) - this is huge and strong. Drop the duration of resistance to 1 round, and let you use it twice/short rest. Or we can change it to once/long rest.
Uvar (Storm Rune) - also looks strong.

Maybe switch those two runes to be long-rest dependent.

Giant Might is 2/long rest. Maybe drop it to 1/long rest until level 7.

Now that is just gut feel, but the "save or suck" runes, or the redirect-one-attack runes, don't feel as strong as those two. The +2 strength one is also pretty solid, but I am less scared of that than resist all non-spell attacks.

You could also move those runes to requiring level 7 before you pick them.
 
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Hurin88

Explorer
Haug (Hill Rune) - this is huge and strong. Drop the duration of resistance to 1 round, and let you use it twice/short rest. Or we can change it to once/long rest.
Uvar (Storm Rune) - also looks strong.

Maybe switch those two runes to be long-rest dependent.

Giant Might is 2/long rest. Maybe drop it to 1/long rest until level 7.

Now that is just gut feel, but the "save or suck" runes, or the redirect-one-attack runes, don't feel as strong as those two. The +2 strength one is also pretty solid, but I am less scared of that than resist all non-spell attacks.
Yes, the Hill Rune and Storm Rune seem to be the main worries of people who feel the RK is too strong. Those and just the sheer amount of goodies the RK gets.
 

Iry

Adventurer
Hill isn't a big deal unless you have a Barbarian in the party (they might feel upset about it).

The real power is Storm and Defensive Runes. There are very few abilities that give enemies disadvantage on saves, much less every round for a minute. So you can reduce Storm to 1/Long Rest (2 at 15th Level).
 

Hurin88

Explorer
Am I right to assume that the active property of the Cloud Rune (Skye, the one that deflects an attack to another target) takes effect without a save -- i.e. there is no save involved in the use of this Rune? That seems quite good to me too. Especially since it seems (again correct me if I am wrong) it can target a melee attack, but transfer it like a ranged attack (30 feet away). So the dragon bites the party wizard, but the RK negates that damage and transfers it to one of the dragon's orc minions, killing him with no save and leaving the wizard untouched?
 

Hill isn't a big deal unless you have a Barbarian in the party (they might feel upset about it).
1/2 weapon damage 1/short rest is pretty huge.
The real power is Storm and Defensive Runes. There are very few abilities that give enemies disadvantage on saves, much less every round for a minute. So you can reduce Storm to 1/Long Rest (2 at 15th Level).
Yes, storm is trong.

Defensive rune, as an at-will ability, is nice. It becomes quite nice if the DM tells you their attack rolls, because you won't waste it. It does require buffing INT, which is otherwise costly on a Fighter, but the yield is great -- at-will almost-shield you can cast on other people.

Am I right to assume that the active property of the Cloud Rune (Skye, the one that deflects an attack to another target) takes effect without a save -- i.e. there is no save involved in the use of this Rune? That seems quite good to me too. Especially since it seems (again correct me if I am wrong) it can target a melee attack, but transfer it like a ranged attack (30 feet away). So the dragon bites the party wizard, but the RK negates that damage and transfers it to one of the dragon's orc minions, killing him with no save and leaving the wizard untouched?
Yes. But unlike the more problematic ones, it is a one-shot per short rest.

It is strong on "bruiser" monsters, who have big attack damage attacks, so long as their are other monsters to redirect the damage to (or a player who can soak damage better, say someone with a hill rune and resist to damage). On "knight" type monsters (who have many attacks for less damage) it is less effective.

The other less problematic ones are "save or suck", but if the save is passed, better luck after a nap.
 

Hurin88

Explorer
Thanks NotAYakk.

The Cloud Rune does still seem quite powerful to me, if we think that once per short rest means probably something like 3 times per long rest. Conditions apply, of course, and the passives of the Cloud Rune seem relatively weak, but you get to wait to see if the attack hits before deciding to use the active ability.

I think possible ways of toning it down (here I'm trying to give feedback for the subclass) would include any of the following:
--Restricting it to once per long rest.
--Allowing it to refresh on a short rest but requiring a WIS or INT save (brutes, who are the prime target for the ability, tend to have lower intelligence anyway).
 

Iry

Adventurer
1/2 weapon damage 1/short rest is pretty huge.
It doesn't disrupt the flow of the game any more than a Barbarian does. It feels great for the player, but it can't derail things the way more esoteric abilities can.
 

jmartkdr2

Adventurer
I've played a rune knight myself - it's pretty good but not any crazier than other good fighter or barbarian subclasses.

I could see slowing down the number of total rune activations (you still know 2-5, but can only use 1-4?), but I'd be more likely to keep that as a back-pocket option if the character is too good in actual play.

You could level lock Uvar, Skye, and maybe Ild (those are the higher-tier giants anyways), but I'd leave the rest. I could see why you'd want to restrict Haug, but I wouldn't want to make the weakest giant's rune hard to get. If you're sure resistance is too much, you could switch it to a bunch of temp hp (2 or 3 per fighter level?) which would be a lot less powerful but still feel pretty cool and thematic.
 

Undrave

Hero
Am I right to assume that the active property of the Cloud Rune (Skye, the one that deflects an attack to another target) takes effect without a save -- i.e. there is no save involved in the use of this Rune? That seems quite good to me too. Especially since it seems (again correct me if I am wrong) it can target a melee attack, but transfer it like a ranged attack (30 feet away). So the dragon bites the party wizard, but the RK negates that damage and transfers it to one of the dragon's orc minions, killing him with no save and leaving the wizard untouched?
It transfers the attack roll to a different target, that means if the target has good AC they can avoid the damage. Not sure why you'd want to add another failiure point here?

I've played a rune knight myself - it's pretty good but not any crazier than other good fighter or barbarian subclasses.

I could see slowing down the number of total rune activations (you still know 2-5, but can only use 1-4?), but I'd be more likely to keep that as a back-pocket option if the character is too good in actual play.

You could level lock Uvar, Skye, and maybe Ild (those are the higher-tier giants anyways), but I'd leave the rest. I could see why you'd want to restrict Haug, but I wouldn't want to make the weakest giant's rune hard to get. If you're sure resistance is too much, you could switch it to a bunch of temp hp (2 or 3 per fighter level?) which would be a lot less powerful but still feel pretty cool and thematic.
Temp HP is probably the best idea. I think the resist is strong at low level, but when magic damage start flying around it's not gonna do much. Temp HP remains good, especially if it scales with Fighter level, at all levels of play.
 

Hurin88

Explorer
It transfers the attack roll to a different target, that means if the target has good AC they can avoid the damage. Not sure why you'd want to add another failiure point here?
I get what you're saying, I guess I am just hesitant to accept affects that totally negate attacks with no save or chance of failure/resistance. I found the Mystic's 'Memory of One Thousand Steps' to be problematic in my last campaign, for the same reason. That's much more powerful than save or suck: it is suck without a save.
 

Undrave

Hero
I get what you're saying, I guess I am just hesitant to accept affects that totally negate attacks with no save or chance of failure/resistance. I found the Mystic's 'Memory of One Thousand Steps' to be problematic in my last campaign, for the same reason. That's much more powerful than save or suck: it is suck without a save.
Maybe but all the worse effect in this game are Saves and not Attack Rolls, and most creatures with an attack you'd WANT to redirect have multiple attacks. How much damage are you REALLY preventing here? D10+4 or something like that? At the cost of your reaction?

Basically, you're just saving the Wizard from spending a spell slot on using Shield.

It's the kind of thing that FEELS important, it's memorable, but in the long run it's not a big deal.

Plus, you know a lot of player will be agonizing over 'wasting' it on the wrong thing. Ideally you want to use it on a crit... but what if the enemy doesn't score a crit? How can you tell WHEN to pop that rune?! I think it's pretty neat in that regard, it's an important tactical choice and anything that makes the Fighter less mindless is good in my mind.
 

Iry

Adventurer
It's the kind of thing that FEELS important, it's memorable, but in the long run it's not a big deal.
This. If the PCs and monsters are just trading damage then it's business as usual, even if some of the numbers seem impressive. These kind of things make your players feel like badasses, and keep morale high, but don't affect you in the slightest. You always have more monsters.
 

Maybe but all the worse effect in this game are Saves and not Attack Rolls, and most creatures with an attack you'd WANT to redirect have multiple attacks. How much damage are you REALLY preventing here? D10+4 or something like that? At the cost of your reaction?

Basically, you're just saving the Wizard from spending a spell slot on using Shield.

It's the kind of thing that FEELS important, it's memorable, but in the long run it's not a big deal.

Plus, you know a lot of player will be agonizing over 'wasting' it on the wrong thing. Ideally you want to use it on a crit... but what if the enemy doesn't score a crit? How can you tell WHEN to pop that rune?! I think it's pretty neat in that regard, it's an important tactical choice and anything that makes the Fighter less mindless is good in my mind.
There are informal "kinds" of monsters in 5e.

A TRex is a "Brute". Brutes are bags of HP, often low AC, with huge attacks.

"Knights" are more common. Knights tend to have decent HP, more AC, and more attacks.

Redirecting "Brute" hit is powerful. Doing the same to a "Knight" attack ... less so.

5e has an informal and soft cap on how deadly a single attack is. The lack of "game changing" single attack roll spells is an example of this, and is one of the reasons why True Strike sucks.
 

Hurin88

Explorer
.... anything that makes the Fighter less mindless is good in my mind.
I wholeheartedly agree with that. I definitely want the fighter to have nice things.

I think the hesitation I have is just that it can be used so often. Using it on the Wyvern's sting to send 35 damage from a party member to the Wyvern rider is quite the swing for a single reaction. A short rest refresh means the power will be in use probably more battles than not. And that is just one of the RK's runes... he has more, as well as his giant size power. That just seems like a lot of goodies in one bag.
 

Undrave

Hero
One thing for sure, I think any balancing should be done on the individual runes, and not on the frequency of use because otherwise the class is just terribly boring. If you get to only use active runes twice a day at level 3, it doesn't feel like its your specialty.

Also, the Barbarian gains dmg resistance at level 1, this guy gets it at level 3. I don't think it's that bad of a deal.

I wholeheartedly agree with that. I definitely want the fighter to have nice things.

I think the hesitation I have is just that it can be used so often. Using it on the Wyvern's sting to send 35 damage from a party member to the Wyvern rider is quite the swing for a single reaction. A short rest refresh means the power will be in use probably more battles than not. And that is just one of the RK's runes... he has more, as well as his giant size power. That just seems like a lot of goodies in one bag.
Fighters and Rogues are generally more front loaded in terms of subclass than others it's true.

The damage from that reaction will be very dependant on what they face. Sure, it looks cool if you're fighting a big beefy monster and only a handful of minions, but you can't redirect the attack on the big monster himself, and like I mentioned... you don't know how much damage that attack will actually do and you don't know what each attack afterwards will. And you don't always know if you'll face something stronger before the next short rest. During fights with lots of normal enemies it won't be that big a deal, and it will essentially scale with the level of challenge the party will face.

Also, a good DM will make it hard to pick which reaction to use. If the Rune Knight is in melee with someone and use the rune, that means they can't stop that guy from running over to the squishy and smack them in the face.

You could cut down the number of use of Giant's Strength.
 

Hurin88

Explorer
You could cut down the number of use of Giant's Strength.
Yes, I was thinking about that. If I did that, though, I would probably be less concerned with limiting the uses of the active runes. I wouldn't want to nerf everything all at once.

Our first game is tonight, so right now I am leaning towards keeping Giant's Strength as is (not really that different in power from Hunter's Mark for the Ranger), but limiting the active runes to once per long rest. That does make the RK more of a Giant-sizer than a spellcaster, but we will see how it goes.
 

Undrave

Hero
Yes, I was thinking about that. If I did that, though, I would probably be less concerned with limiting the uses of the active runes. I wouldn't want to nerf everything all at once.

Our first game is tonight, so right now I am leaning towards keeping Giant's Strength as is (not really that different in power from Hunter's Mark for the Ranger), but limiting the active runes to once per long rest. That does make the RK more of a Giant-sizer than a spellcaster, but we will see how it goes.
You could also make it that they can only activate 1 of their 2 runes per short rest and see how it goes.
 


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