D&D 5E Battlemaster and Superiority Dice are causing martials to suffer.

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
I would suggest anyone who is interested in a better Fighter, take a look at Adventures in Rokugan for 5e. The Bushi class has a resource that they gain in combat, called Focus, which can be used to power various maneuvers, and they have several stances to choose from.

This gives them various area attacks, the ability to disarm, knock prone, etc., and increase damage by saving up their Focus for a powerful finisher.
 

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3.x tried the model of: you can disarm all the time, but better don't, because it is so difficult that it is borderline suicide...
EXCEPT when you have all the feats and the right weapon, then it is always too good.
5e just allows the fighter narrative control, when an easy attempt is possible, but limits it to a few times per encounter, to balance it.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
I don't blame the 3.0 design team for being wary and conservative about combat maneuvers. This isn't a defense of the final product- having things virtually locked behind Feats, most maneuvers being very niche, and difficult to pull off isn't very fun.

But I grok why a game designer might want to do this sort of thing. When everyone is using non-magical weapons, a combat maneuver like Sunder or Disarm just requires you to have holdout weapons.

When a game is built around an assumption that higher level characters require magic weapons, a combat maneuver like Disarm is huge and Sunder is just insane ("Yeah, ok, I'll destroy our loot, what a wonderful idea!").

Restrictions like not being able to grapple big foes easily, or having difficulty tripping behirs might not be fun, but not having them will make some players violently reject the idea as breaking their verisimilitude- when 4e gave us powers that could just knock a guy prone no matter how big or strong he was, there was a very loud and angry group of D&D fans who were extremely unhappy with the idea, leading to complaints about "magic Fighters".

Some people are not happy with the idea of high fantasy D&D, where legendary heroes can cleave the tops off of mountains. Just as some people are not happy with the idea of low fantasy D&D, where a player character is just marginally better than a town guard and forced to fight ogres and dragons.

Thus D&D has always had to walk a fine line, trying to have their cake and eat it too, with fantastic treasures and reality altering spells coexisting with heroes who can die to a single arrow at level 1.

The Battlemaster can get away with not having to make skill checks or even have serious restrictions on their maneuvers because they are using a resource. I feel very strongly that if the game had launched with all Fighters having maneuvers usable every turn without cost, many people would have torn their hair and gnashed their teeth.

This was design they had rejected with 4e, and did not want. And WotC, wanted to woo these people back into the fold, to regain whatever they felt they had lost to Paizo.

This is the current paradigm, and it would take a lot of people voting with their wallets to change it.
 

I'm not sure I'd ever have a player look at the options 1) Attack, multiple times for most of the campaign and 2) try to goad the opponent into hitting you instead of your friends and do nothing else, and then choose number 2 on purpose except in some weird edge case.

Wrapping extra effects into the things the martials already want to do because they're mechanically incentivized to do so (mostly taking the Attack action) means that you actually see these narrative adjusting actions in play instead of them being some theoretical "well, you COULD use your action to..."

Which is to say that I agree with the thread's premise: the existence of the Battlemaster drags other martials down. All martials should be able to goad, trip, disarm, and it shouldn't cost some specialized resource to do it, and it shouldn't feel like you're handicapping yourself to do something other than "I walk forward and swing twice."
All depends on framing and perspective. All characters can engage in any skill, but only some are proficient in it. The battlemaster is a character proficient in doing certain skills (maneuvers). If other martials want those same skills, they have options:
  1. Multiclass with BM. This is your character training in using maneuvers in combat
  2. Feat - Martial Adept. This is your character training in using maneuvers in combat
  3. Fighting Style - Superior Technique. This is your character training in using maneuvers in combat
That is just by RAW. There are of course lots of 3pp products (LevelUp is a good place to start).
 

I'm no expert in CharOp but i believe it depends of a few factors like weapon, fighting style, number of combat per adventuring day, lenght of combat etc...
Indeed, but I think that it is fair to say without heavy optimisation (which I believe will favour the BM), the Champion needs to be making 80 attacks between short rests before their damage matches a very basic BM.
That's eight 5-round combats at Tier 2. Most groups don't have that many between long rests.
 

Shadowedeyes

Adventurer
I think most of the big points have been brought up already. Difficulty in balancing at will options is tough. I did also want to point out that by making such things actions anyone can take, fighters specifically are weakened. This might have already been mentioned, but one has to ask why play a fighter over, say a paladin or barbarian who can do these things and have rage/smite/whatever as well.
 

FallenRX

Adventurer
I think most of the big points have been brought up already. Difficulty in balancing at will options is tough. I did also want to point out that by making such things actions anyone can take, fighters specifically are weakened. This might have already been mentioned, but one has to ask why play a fighter over, say a paladin or barbarian who can do these things and have rage/smite/whatever as well.
The idea i suggested was expanding them on the "Special Attack" options like Grapple and Shove, where you can trade out attacks to do these things, this kinda makes fighters innately the best at them, because they can simply do it the most, because they have the most attacks, on top of Action Surge.
 

Staffan

Legend
I'll add that Pathfinder 2 has a reasonably neat solution, but it is tied to the game's action economy so it would be really hard to implement in 5e without a major overhaul.

In PF2, you have three actions each round. Each action can be an attack, but at -5 on the second attack and -10 on the third (or subsequent if you can pull off shenanigans that will give you more), and since the game is designed so you'll about a 50% chance of hitting equal-level foes (60% for fighters using their primary weapon type) that's a pretty sharp drop-off in effectiveness. Anyone (well, anyone who's any good at the Athletics skill) can make combat maneuvers (shove, trip, grab, disarm), but this counts as an attack and requires either a free hand or a weapon designed to do that kind of thing. This is sometimes still useful – perhaps you want to trip your opponent to nuke their action economy or to set them up for the rogue's sneak attack, or something like that – so you will see situational use of maneuvers.

Fighters (and to some degree other classes, but mainly fighters) can take class feats (essentially selectable class features you get every other level) that build upon these maneuvers. But most of these have something that makes using them non-automatic. For example, Brutish Shove is a level 2 feat that lets you make an attack with a two-handed weapon and if you hit, you automatically Shove the foe 5' back (and can follow them if you want). In this case the limitations are twofold: you have to be using a two-handed weapon, and the feat/action has the Press trait which means it can't be your first attack in the round. Another one is the 4th level Knockdown, which lets you combine an attack with a Trip attempt in a single two-action activity, and your multiple action penalty doesn't increase until afterward (and you don't need a free hand if you have a two-handed weapon). That's strong, but sometimes you'd rather attack twice, or maybe move-attack-move, or something, which means it's not something you do all the time.

Anyhow, PF2 fighters can take lots of feats along those lines if that's what they like in their fighting style. And if they don't, well, regular Trip ain't too bad either.
 

FallenRX

Adventurer
I'll add that Pathfinder 2 has a reasonably neat solution, but it is tied to the game's action economy so it would be really hard to implement in 5e without a major overhaul.

In PF2, you have three actions each round. Each action can be an attack, but at -5 on the second attack and -10 on the third (or subsequent if you can pull off shenanigans that will give you more), and since the game is designed so you'll about a 50% chance of hitting equal-level foes (60% for fighters using their primary weapon type) that's a pretty sharp drop-off in effectiveness. Anyone (well, anyone who's any good at the Athletics skill) can make combat maneuvers (shove, trip, grab, disarm), but this counts as an attack and requires either a free hand or a weapon designed to do that kind of thing. This is sometimes still useful – perhaps you want to trip your opponent to nuke their action economy or to set them up for the rogue's sneak attack, or something like that – so you will see situational use of maneuvers.

Fighters (and to some degree other classes, but mainly fighters) can take class feats (essentially selectable class features you get every other level) that build upon these maneuvers. But most of these have something that makes using them non-automatic. For example, Brutish Shove is a level 2 feat that lets you make an attack with a two-handed weapon and if you hit, you automatically Shove the foe 5' back (and can follow them if you want). In this case the limitations are twofold: you have to be using a two-handed weapon, and the feat/action has the Press trait which means it can't be your first attack in the round. Another one is the 4th level Knockdown, which lets you combine an attack with a Trip attempt in a single two-action activity, and your multiple action penalty doesn't increase until afterward (and you don't need a free hand if you have a two-handed weapon). That's strong, but sometimes you'd rather attack twice, or maybe move-attack-move, or something, which means it's not something you do all the time.

Anyhow, PF2 fighters can take lots of feats along those lines if that's what they like in their fighting style. And if they don't, well, regular Trip ain't too bad either.
PF2E solution i feel is the best solution. Genuine good design.
 

I'm no expert in CharOp but i believe it depends of a few factors like weapon, fighting style, number of combat per adventuring day, lenght of combat etc...
Not really, other than total number of combat rounds per rest (short or long.) I mean, in theory weapon die has an effect because crits are "roll 2x the dice," but this effect is very small due to Champions only getting a crit in 10% of cases where they would not otherwise have. Likewise for fighting style, and the only style which benefits is Great Weapon Fighting, because it affects the dice output. All others affect something other than the dice (hit bonus or static damage) which means being unaffected by crits. That is, if you go from a 1d8 one-handed weapon to a 2d6 greatsword, the difference in damage is 2.5 from damage dice (going from 4.5 to 7 average), and GWF bumps that up to 8.33... Meaning that, on average, per swing, fighting style is only adding 0.1×3.833... = 0.3833... extra points of damage per swing. Sure, it adds up over the course of many combat rounds. But it's gotta be a lot of combat rounds to close the gap, regardless of fighting style.

I've crunched the numbers on this one. Except at very high level (15+), you need at absolute minimum 20 rounds of combat between short rests in order for the Champion to catch up to the Battle Master. You'd need even more to catch up to something like a Paladin. This either means having extremely long combats (e.g. two 10-round combats or three 7-round combats per short rest) or having extremely frequent ones (e.g. 5-7 combats again per short rest.)

It's a simple function of dividing the average damage bonus from BM dice by the average damage bonus per swing from Champion, and then dividing that result by the Fighter's total attacks per Attack. (This is because (Damage)/(Damage/attack) = # attacks, so if we divide by attacks/Attack we get # combat rounds.) Of course in doing this I did make some simplifying assumptions, but most of those assumptions specifically favor the Champion, not the Battle Master. E.g. it is generally more powerful to increase you hit rating rather than your damage dice due to the existence of Great Weapon Master, so this is a floor for what the Champion must reach, not a ceiling. I also ignored any benefits the BM might get from her natural 5% crit chance, because BMs should try to have a maneuver available to spend on any crits they may get, further pushing up the average.

The Champion extra damage from crits is laughably small at any level actually likely to be played.

Edit: Note that the above numbers DO assume a Champion wielding a greatsword with GWF. The numbers would be slightly less than doubled (about 80% larger) if I had instead used a 1d8 one-handed weapon.
 

FallenRX

Adventurer
Not really, other than total number of combat rounds per rest (short or long.) I mean, in theory weapon die has an effect because crits are "roll 2x the dice," but this effect is very small due to Champions only getting a crit in 10% of cases where they would not otherwise have. Likewise for fighting style, and the only style which benefits is Great Weapon Fighting, because it affects the dice output. All others affect something other than the dice (hit bonus or static damage) which means being unaffected by crits. That is, if you go from a 1d8 one-handed weapon to a 2d6 greatsword, the difference in damage is 2.5 from damage dice (going from 4.5 to 7 average), and GWF bumps that up to 8.33... Meaning that, on average, per swing, fighting style is only adding 0.1×3.833... = 0.3833... extra points of damage per swing. Sure, it adds up over the course of many combat rounds. But it's gotta be a lot of combat rounds to close the gap, regardless of fighting style.

I've crunched the numbers on this one. Except at very high level (15+), you need at absolute minimum 20 rounds of combat between short rests in order for the Champion to catch up to the Battle Master. You'd need even more to catch up to something like a Paladin. This either means having extremely long combats (e.g. two 10-round combats or three 7-round combats per short rest) or having extremely frequent ones (e.g. 5-7 combats again per short rest.)

It's a simple function of dividing the average damage bonus from BM dice by the average damage bonus per swing from Champion, and then dividing that result by the Fighter's total attacks per Attack. (This is because (Damage)/(Damage/attack) = # attacks, so if we divide by attacks/Attack we get # combat rounds.) Of course in doing this I did make some simplifying assumptions, but most of those assumptions specifically favor the Champion, not the Battle Master. E.g. it is generally more powerful to increase you hit rating rather than your damage dice due to the existence of Great Weapon Master, so this is a floor for what the Champion must reach, not a ceiling. I also ignored any benefits the BM might get from her natural 5% crit chance, because BMs should try to have a maneuver available to spend on any crits they may get, further pushing up the average.

The Champion extra damage from crits is laughably small at any level actually likely to be played.
The only way Champions crits can really be competitive with battle master is if you give them an On-Hit weapon or ability, like a Flametougue or a Frost Brand.
 

The only way Champions crits can really be competitive with battle master is if you give them an On-Hit weapon or ability, like a Flametougue or a Frost Brand.
Correct. If they get something which increases their dice per attack, that has a major effect.

E.g. at several level ranges, the greatsword GWF Champion (hereafter just "Champion”/”Champ") needs about 22 rounds of combat. If wielding a flametongue weapon, on the other hand, your basal weapon damage jumps from 2d6 to 4d6, meaning the average rolled damage (as GWF applies to magic weapon bonus dice) goes from 8.333... to 16.666...

This means, on average, between level 3 and 14 inclusive, the Champ with a FT greatsword gets 0.05×16.666... = 0.8333... average bonus damage per swing. (We can say "per swing," btw, because this damage can only occur on attacks the Fighter would have successfully landed anyway, regardless of subclass.) Battle Masters go from 4d8 to 5d10 in that range, meaning an average between 18 and 27.5 average bonus damage. The Champ with a FT greatsword will need an average of between 21.6 (so 22) attack rolls at low levels and 33 attack rolls at later levels in order to make up the gap. With Extra Attacks at level 5, this means the number of rounds required is about 10.8, rising to 16.5 at middle levels as the BM gets more/better dice. Once you get EA2 at 11, it falls back down to 11 combat rounds per short rest, which is still rather long but doable.

This still means you need at least two combats per short rest, and they'd better be on the long side (5-6 rounds apiece), which I have been told is exceedingly rare in 5e, with the average reportedly being closer to 3 rounds, very occasionally hitting 4.

It is only at the absolute highest levels (15+), with a flametongue greatsword, that the Champion can consistently keep up with the Battle Master, assuming no special favoritism other than giving the character a specific, powerful magic weapon. (That is, you don't shower the Champion with gifts and give the Battle Master nothing.)
 

ECMO3

Hero
People usually see battlemaster and its maneuver system as a cure for the issue of the martial caster gap, and i can understand why, martial have a terrible issue of a lack of options, and battlemaster gives resources and options, which make the class feel far more dynamic and interesting.

But here is my issue, one of the reasons why martial are suffering is because

  1. Martials cannot do certain actions because thats what the battlemaster does.
  2. Martials and what they do are tied to resources...for no real reason.
These two ideas i feel limit martials from what i feel they could be, why can martial threaten people into attacking them, why cant they simply disarm and trip people, why can't they rally or parry and such. And why should any of this be on any resource?

Its silly, what resource am i spending to goad someone into an attack or making a distraction? Magic? No, Stamina? How much effort does it take to goad or shout orders? Evasive Footwork, and grappling sure, but basic stuff like that?

The idea martials need resources to do these things is insane, they should just be able to do them, Special Actions, like shove or grapple show a clearer way forward for martials, with actions they can trade out attacks to do to get unique options.

The issue with martials is the fact battlemaster exists so other martials cant get these options, and the fact that they are on an arbitrary resource that represents nothing but trying to imitate 4E's power system, which was just as nonsensical and one of the reasons that game failed.

I feel we can do better than just turning martials into casters with a different resource, Martials defining trait is always being able to act without being tied to resources on what they can do, so i feel we should design them around that.

Martials should be characters of action, who just do, while casters should be powerful but limited by resources, I feel like limiting martials to resources to do technique is absurd, they should always be able to do a lot with a action, even PF2E which a lot of people praised for solving the issue did so in this way.

But thats just my opinion on this, how do you feel?

TLDR; Battlemasters hogging all of the special techniques martials should just be able to do, and the idea that doing these things cost some weird limit hurts the martial experience overall. Martials should just be able to do these things with attacks/actions themselves being the resource, and they should not have weird limitations
Any character can attempt to disarm someone, it is explained in the DMG p271. It uses one attack which means a martial with extra attack can disarm someone and then get in another attack (or disarm another person) without using any resources at all. Also because of the math involved disarm from the DMG is more likely to work than using the battlemaster disarming attack. Disarm from the DMG uses your attack roll DC which averages 10.5+pb+ability as a DC (13.8+PB+ability with advantage), while the battlemaster maneuver DC is 8+pb+ability, while

"Tripping" is shoving prone and again any character can do that. A character with extra attack can do this with a single attack.

What battlemasters have is the ability to do these as part of or in addition to a weapon attack. That is all. It is an appropriate buff for their weapon attacks due to their subclass selection.

While I am at it though, any fighter can get a battlemaster maneuver through the superior technique fighting style and any character can get two of them through the martial adept fighting style. A fighter can double up on these and have 3 maneuvers and 2 dice every short rest.

Finally resource cost is part of the game to make the mechanics work. Why can't a Rogue sneak attack more than once a turn? Why can't a cleric cast as many spells as he wants, what resource is he using to pray to his god. Why can't a Monk stunning strike over and over?

If you really don't like it you can always get rid of martials. That would sove the problem of not being able to explain limited use resources.
 

NotAYakk

Legend
I don't want a game of "disarm disarm disarm" or "trip trip trip".

But the D&D combat state space isn't large enough or detailed enough to cover "their weapon is open" or "they are off balance".

Random openings are the best I can imagine to emulate this.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Most of the battlemaster maneuvers are totally available to other characters, it's just that the battlemaster is better at them. They can do damage and disarm you, for instance, while another character has to choose.
If you play with feats, all of them are available to other characters.
 

Stormonu

Legend
One thing I have been surprised about in the games that I run is against using Battlemaster fighters, as "too fiddly". I've had at least four players who have either gone Barbarian or Champion Fighter because they don't want the extra complexity inherit to the Battlemaster's maneuvers - or that is at least the perception of the subclass. It's why I brought them up earlier.

Have other groups encountered the same thing? It almost seems like the divide is play a Wizard/Cleric to do cool stuff or play a Fighter Champion to do simple hack'n'slash combat. Battlemaster gets left out of the scene except for a very small group of individuals, who eventually end up leaning the Wizard or Champion direction after a while. Or run off and do monks.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
One thing I have been surprised about in the games that I run is against using Battlemaster fighters, as "too fiddly". I've had at least four players who have either gone Barbarian or Champion Fighter because they don't want the extra complexity inherit to the Battlemaster's maneuvers - or that is at least the perception of the subclass. It's why I brought them up earlier.

Have other groups encountered the same thing? It almost seems like the divide is play a Wizard/Cleric to do cool stuff or play a Fighter Champion to do simple hack'n'slash combat. Battlemaster gets left out of the scene except for a very small group of individuals, who eventually end up leaning the Wizard or Champion direction after a while. Or run off and do monks.
In actuality, nobody really plays Fighters in my area. When I was playing in AL, there were two, one Champion and my Battlemaster. In the home games I've played, not a single Fighter. I'm not sure why this is the case, when it seems the Fighters are very popular elsewhere.
 

In a real fight or sparring you can try to do a special thing all the time, but it's likely not going to work after the 2nd or 3rd time because your opponent is going to see it coming and be ready for it. Your cool maneuver is very likely going to be stopped by a fist or sword to the face before you even get a chance to do it again.

And that's not counting things like fatigue, it might not be that you're too tired to fight at all, it just might be you're too tired to think of trying something else.

But the rules are limited in the fine details of doing such things, I think a resource system is good enough to handle such abstractions.
 

Weiley31

Legend
As a Battlemaster player, I have no regerts making every other martial suffer.

On the plus side, thanks to Dragonlance, it seems like other martials will soon get some of that Superiority Die loving too.
 

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