log in or register to remove this ad

 

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

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
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:

log in or register to remove this ad

DaviMMS

First Post
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.

Sent from my SM-G900M using EN World mobile app
 
Last edited:

jaelis

Oh this is where the title goes?
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.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
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".

[MENTION=71699]vonklaude[/MENTION]: 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.
 

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.

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 :( )
 


Zaioh

First Post
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.
 

Rhenny

Adventurer
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).
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
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.
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
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".

[MENTION=71699]vonklaude[/MENTION]: 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.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
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.
And I want the game to be balanced for, or at least somewhat balanced for, a game with feats and multiclassing, since those are desperate needed crunch options for crunch-hungry D&D gamers...

It's simply not going to happen... the Bladesinger's AC with two 20 scores is just the symptom you happened across.

In general, feats are so strong that it really isn't balanced at all to allow different amounts of feats. In other words, in our ideal world there should not be any variant humans and no way to gain more than one feat before level six, and even then, if you took the feat, you should be stranded with a +4 modifier to your best stat.

What I'm saying is that we shouldn't focus on the Bladesinger. We should focus on your twin 20's. Even if you nerf the Bladesinger I would only switch to a Monk, say, or to a Fighter with two extra feats.

The problem isn't the Bladesinger's AC calculation. The problem is the too-high stats.
 


clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
Yep :)

Anyway, Klaude, I really wish for you to move on to constructive endeavors, so...

...have you considered rolling 3d6+3 drop lowest, flip one? :)
Why change a foundational rule (char gen) when one archetype could have been balanced better? That's really the tail wagging the dog.
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
And I want the game to be balanced for, or at least somewhat balanced for, a game with feats and multiclassing, since those are desperate needed crunch options for crunch-hungry D&D gamers...

It's simply not going to happen... the Bladesinger's AC with two 20 scores is just the symptom you happened across.

In general, feats are so strong that it really isn't balanced at all to allow different amounts of feats. In other words, in our ideal world there should not be any variant humans and no way to gain more than one feat before level six, and even then, if you took the feat, you should be stranded with a +4 modifier to your best stat.

What I'm saying is that we shouldn't focus on the Bladesinger. We should focus on your twin 20's. Even if you nerf the Bladesinger I would only switch to a Monk, say, or to a Fighter with two extra feats.

The problem isn't the Bladesinger's AC calculation. The problem is the too-high stats.
The problem really is Bladesinger's AC calculation in conjunction with the low-cost (bonus action, no Concentration needed) and high up-time (1 minute, twice between short rests).

Those stats are not "too-high". Look at the frequency.

One 17 and one 16 is about 1:6 characters. Take a High-Elf and that is 18 in each core stat. At level 4 that is Dexterity 20 and Intelligence 18. For AC 22 with Mage Armor / 27 with Shield.

The average roll is 16, 14, 13, 12, 10, 9. By level 4 that is Dexterity 18 and Intelligence 16. For AC 20 with Mage Armor / 25 with Shield. Creatures only have about +4 attack at that level.

Regarding feats, for this thread please focus on Bladesinger. I make no claim that poor balance of Bladesinger prevents poor balance of other features.
 

Waterbizkit

Explorer
Saw a thread like this some time ago, something about the Bladesinger being overpowered because of the high armor class on a full caster. I felt it was nonsense then, my opinion hasn't changed.

High armor class isn't an issue, do something other than target their AC, problem solved. And they're melee damage isn't top notch. Top notch melee damage it what you get from fighters, barbarians and paladins who crank their strength and pick up GWM. Bladesingers are passable in melee and quite frankly any Bladesinger swinging a weapon instead of casting spells is doing themself a disservice.

They can certainly hold their own more than other wizards, but they're still wizards first and foremost and any turn they spend swinging a rapier and not slinging a spell is almost always going to be a turn they did their enemies a favor.

Maybe I'm wrong, entirely possible, this is all my opinion at the end of the day, but I see no problem here.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I'm just saying that I have little interest in discussing Bladesinger-specific solutions to a non-Bladesinger-specific problem. I am certainly not prohibiting you from changing a single class.

Those stats are not "too-high". Look at the frequency.

The average roll is 16, 14, 13, 12, 10, 9.
You retort with numbers and statistics, so I need you to read my lips: the game's balance is best served by having a ceiling of 15 on starting stats ☺.

This observation is no less true regardless of what numbers you throw at me... 😉

If you want to change the game so it remains balanced even for higher numbers, be my guest. I'm just saying it isn't, no matter how much we wish it was...

...and, for games with feats, I am convinced the level 4 and 8 ASIs should be a choice between +2 to your primary stat and the feat.

But fixing the balance doesn't achieve this last goal. Only enforcing the 15 ceiling does.

Of these two approaches, the latter is much simpler and quicker.

Thus I conclude fixing the balance isn't worth it, since I *still* want the 15 ceiling, and that solution is quicker to implement anyway.

Cheers 🍻

Sent from my C6603 using EN World mobile app
 

James Gasik

First Post
"High armor class isn't an issue, do something other than target their AC, problem solved". I'm not calling you out here, Waterbizkit, but I've heard this sort of comment a lot, and I want to point out a few problems with it.

Many enemies only really target AC. Even spells can target AC. So what you're saying is "force high AC guys to make saving throws". To do this, you have to start using more enemies that force people to make saving throws than target AC. Which is kind of unrealistic, as AC should be targeted pretty much all the time. Further, by doing this, you're not only making AC less useful (a buff for people with low AC), but you're also punishing a player's decision to have a good AC.

It's ludicrously easy to get high AC in 5e, and I see it happen more and more because, again, AC is targeted a LOT. There are no other defenses, so the game boils down to "attack AC, occasionally ask for saving throw". Most characters, by design, suck at saving throws, so skewing the game where saves are more common, having AC targeted less often is not going to end well. Anyways, knowing that AC is targeted a lot, players naturally decide they want higher AC. Which is pretty trivial.

The problem with the Bladesinger's AC is really that, while a Wizard can invest in higher AC, this usually comes at some cost. Higher Dexterity, Feats spent on armor proficiency, multiclassing, or playing a Mountain Dwarf. Or lol, you can be a Bladesinger and be rewarded for...investing in high Intelligence.

The bonuses on Concentration are more of the same. Normally a Wizard needs to invest in higher Constitution, spend Feats on Resilient or Warcaster, be a multiclassed caster by starting as a Fighter or Sorcerer...or again, lol, be a Bladesinger and have a benefit just handed to you. At fairly low level. Compare and contrast playing a Transmutation Wizard, a fairly weak specialty, which can net you Constitution save proficiency at...level 6.

Now as far as melee goes...yeah, the Bladesinger is far from top tier in melee. But it's an option now, where it wouldn't really be one for a standard Wizard. In addition, by giving the Bladesinger Extra Attack, it's an option for when the magic runs out. It's probably not a better option than, say, spamming Firebolt, but it is an option that can be improved (magic weapon) and that works just fine when you're forced into melee, or when the enemy is resistant to fire, etc..

Really, it's comparable to the Valor Bard...except you give up far less to be a Bladesinger than a Valor Bard does, when you look at how amazing the College of Lore is for the Bard. And you get better AC options right away, where the Valor Bard has to wait until level 3.

This isn't to say that the Bladesinger isn't giving up anything- you can't be, say, a Divination, Abjuration, or Evocation Wizard, which are pretty great choices. But the Bladesinger gives you a lot as well, and it's very front-loaded. You're getting more at level 2 than most other subclasses grant at level 3.

Again, let's compare a level 6 Bladesinger and a level 6 Eldritch Knight. Both have Extra Attack. The EK has Second Wind and Action Surge, the Bladesinger has two uses of Bladesong. The EK has standard Fighter-y goodness, such as all armor and weapon proficiency..the Bladesinger has light armor, a single martial one-handed melee weapon, and...Performance. The Bladesinger is able to cast 3rd-level spells and the EK is still only casting 1st. This gets a little better at level 7...oh wait, not really. 2nd level spells and War Magic are nice, but compared to 4th level spells...?

I don't have a problem with the Bladesinger, because you have to play one carefully to do anything in melee. You're still a primary spellcaster, and have fragile hit points. But at the end of the day, even if you find you can't do anything in melee, you're still...a primary spellcaster. With arguably the best spell list in the game. And you got a lot more free stuff from your subclass at level TWO, than most other subclasses. Hell, just that benefit on concentration- you're better at casting spells in melee than the Cleric, who is designed to cast spells in melee!

EDIT as Capn Zapp posted while I was working on this: Sure but isn't the complaint more that "if the game is balanced around the point-buy option, why is point-buy presented as an option"? Why say "hey you generate stats by rolling dice, but if you do, lol, the game is horribly unbalanced", THEN say "hey if you want a balanced game, use point buy instead, lol".*

*This sentence is not intended to imply that the writer thinks point buy is balanced, but instead, that the writer acknowledges many people feel that this is the case.
 
Last edited:

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
I'm just saying that I have little interest in discussing Bladesinger-specific solutions to a non-Bladesinger-specific problem. I am certainly not prohibiting you from changing a single class.

You retort with numbers and statistics, so I need you to read my lips: the game's balance is best served by having a ceiling of 15 on starting stats ☺.
After racial ability increases, 17 and 16. One ASI takes that to 18 and 17. With those stats, Bladesong gives AC 20 / 25 with Shield.

The Defense fighting style Fighter with Plate and Shield can achieve 21. Yes, Shield is a cast and it lasts one round, but you only need to cast it when you would be hit - 25% of the time or once or twice in the average combat at that level. Three of your four first level casts, when you go full fighter mode. Meanwhile Green-Flame Blade is keeping pace with the damage of most martials.

Okay, I need you to understand back that I'm certainly prepared to agree that the game works better with points buy than rolling, but the problem exists with Bladesinger even so. At 8th level, the Bladesinger can improve to AC 21 /26 with Shield. It is incorrect balance for a full Wizard to be capable of the same AC as the heaviest martial for two full combats, and significantly better for most practical purposes. While getting strong buffs to Concentration saves, Dexterity (Acrobatics) and walking Speed. Martial casters correctly do not have near-parity with full casters, for casting. Full casters should not have near-parity with martials, for melee.

If you want to change the game so it remains balanced even for higher numbers, be my guest. I'm just saying it isn't, no matter how much we wish it was...

...and, for games with feats, I am convinced the level 4 and 8 ASIs should be a choice between +2 to your primary stat and the feat.
Interesting fix. I prefer changing one word "short" to "long" in the Bladesong feature. That said, I'm not really after fixes here. My goal is to criticise some poor design decisions. I haven't seen anything from anyone yet showing that Bladesong design is spot on. It patently isn't.

Thus I conclude fixing the balance isn't worth it, since I *still* want the 15 ceiling, and that solution is quicker to implement anyway.
Changing one word is less fundamental and even quicker. It doesn't dampen the fun of every other class in the game, to resolve one egregious problem.

But even if we like changing to say that points buy is standard (I might in my campaign), Bladesong is still incorrectly balanced. You offer a basic logical error. I can accept that high stats are problematic, without that meaning that Bladesong is not problematic.
 

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 both at 20/+5 by level four.

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.
How do they have a 20?

Doing the math quickly.
It'd have to be a high elf with a Dexterity bonus of +2 and Intelligence of +1. With a 27 point buy you could put a 15 into Int and Dex for scores of 17 and 16 at 1st level. Then at level 4 you bump that to 18/17. Or either 19/16 or 17/18.
20 isn't possible unless you're buying ability scores higher than a 15. Which isn't in the rules/.

Even then, that character as spent 18 of their 27 points in two stats and like has 10s in three other stats and a 11 in the last. (Or, maybe, two 10s, one 12, and one 9).
That's a lot of weaknesses. The character would have a high AC but they'd never make an Athletics check or a Charisma or Wisdom saving throw. And unless the 12 is in Con, they won't have many hit points.

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.
o.0
Umm.... fly, invisibility, and polymorph are all Concentration spells. You can't cast more than one of those at a time. You can be invisible or you can be hiding, but not both. And once you cast your spell you lose the other buff.

And while a Dex 20 wizard should have a decent Dexterity check, they're not a rogue. So while they may be invisible, there's even odds they'll be detected even if they spend their turn taking the Hide action.

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.
You can do *adequate* melee damage. You're not matching the brute fighter with GWM or the sniper with sharpshooter or the rogue.
You're doing damage like the plate mail tank fighter. The bladesinger you describe is a tank, which is a fine role to fill. But it's not going to win battles on its own. And the damage dealing archer fighter or warlock or rogue is going to be super happy they're there, soaking up the hits.

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.
Not being up all the time is a HUGE catch. 2-3 combats per short rest is an average.
Which means that a third of the time it will be those two combats, a third of the time it might just be one combat between short rests, and a third of the time it could be four combats between short rests. And while the ones that count the character will have bladesinging up, that still means two combats where they're the party's tank and have an AC of 18. Which is still decent but by no means unhittable.

And unlike a fighter, the character won't have a high pool of hit points to soak up those smaller hits. (With said 12 Con, they'd have 22 hit points. Which is the equivalent of a level 2 fighter with 16 Con... or a level 3 fighter with 10 Con.) When there is the occasional critical, which will be one in twenty attacks against the character targeted by the most attacks in the party, they won't have the hit points to soak it up without going down. And once knocked unconscious, bladesinging is down. Ditto if they get hit with any form of magic that stuns or paralyzes.

That's also maximum AC. They can't ever find magic armour. Or a magic shield. There's maybe a single item that can boost their AC at that point. Meanwhile, monster accuracy just keeps increasing. While nothing is going to hit reliably at level 4, at level 8 or 10 that changes. The CR 5 hill giant is going to hit 30% of the time and makes two attacks. And the CR 9 fire giant also has two attacks and hits 45% of the time. And does 28 damage on a hit, which will serious wreck the day of a bladesinger with 50 hit points at level 8.
 
Last edited:

jaelis

Oh this is where the title goes?
So I'm pretty sure that no one is going to convince klaude that this isn't a problem for him. Because evidently it is, for whatever particular reasons apply. Which is why I say the best answer is, houserule it to work for you.

I imagine also that klaude is looking, for some reason, for majority support that it is a problem. I am pretty sure you will not find that. Who cares? Make it work at your table and enjoy your game, you don't need to play everyone else's.
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top