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

Prism

Explorer
It appears a number of people in this thread have failed to understand that this is the problem I'm criticising: Bladesinger is a full mage (with better AC and Concentration saves and Acrobatics and mobility) who can also rush into melee as a competent melee type.

The bladesinger isn't really a full mage with benefits though in comparison to the other wizard subclasses. It is very front loaded so it might seem this way at lower levels but its melee ability drops off fairly quickly at mid levels and what you often end up with is a wizard that's hard to hit. Other wizards are getting various additional abilities which can be used to deal with a wider variety of situations.

For me the bladesinger is strong at low levels but worse than several of the other wizard subclasses at higher levels. Maybe that's a design problem but other classes have this issue too.
 

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CapnZapp

Legend
It appears a number of people in this thread have failed to understand that this is the problem I'm criticising: Bladesinger is a full mage (with better AC and Concentration saves and Acrobatics and mobility) who can also rush into melee as a competent melee type.

Full mages alone are the bar for power in 5e (less so than in earlier editions, but still so). A full mage who can compete in melee (with better AC than the heaviest armoured martial) is poor design. And avoidable. The class itself develops the concept wonderfully. It is flavourful and fun: I want to see better balanced archetypes in splatbooks because I want to see the game expand. If you didn't play 3rd edition, you missed the egregious power-creeping of its numerous splatbooks.

Power-creeping by design appears to arise from a myopic, commercially-drive belief that player purchase decisions are principally driven by munchkin behaviour. I believe that well-written, flavourful features, that do something different and valued, are more important to players than straight power options. In my experience, groups love embracing options that don't overshadow the content they've already invested in. With the value of hindsight, 5e can do better than 3e.

Finally, for those who think that balancing the game without taking the standard character generation system into account is fine, we're not going to reach a point where I agree with you. And that is independent of whether the game is easier to balance using points buy: stop conflating the arguments. I appreciate your input, but please don't recite the argument again here. If you'd like to explore it further, I encourage you to make your own thread.
At this point I really don't know what you want out of the thread, vonklaude.

We are not failing to understand you, we are just trying to help you understand why not more people are as bothered by the Bladesinger as you seem to be.

Is the Bladesinger design theoretically overpowered? Yes.

Is it near the top of the list of balance issues that create problems in practical play? It appears it isn't.

So what is left to say?

You ask people to take further discussion on chargen methods to a new thread, but all there is to say on that subject has already been said. If you don't or won't see the point of those arguments by now, reiterating them won't help.

I guess all that's left is to agree to disagree - yes, you have a few points, it's just that they feel much bigger in theory than in practice - and move on to another subject

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clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
You need to play with my group then. Today was 4 combats before taking a rest with level 1&2 characters. Challenging may be debated, but they were medium fights according the DMG (which is a measurement I seldom use). This really isn't uncommon with us, and in the other game we play (where I'm a player), we seldom take a short rest, because the opportunity cost is too high. We play based on a 24 hour world cycle, rather than the short rest/long rest/encounters per day setup, which removes abuse by short rest classes and the dreaded five minute work day.
Interesting. We have just had months discussing elephants in the room, where the consensus appeared to be that combats per rest is usually on the low side. But you've changed the rest system (probably a good idea) which reduces this examples relevance to balance in the context of the standard game.
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
This is akin to how some people are fine with saying "if you use feats and multiclassing you're on your own" as if asking the game to be balanced with those two "options" was unreasonable or strange...

The truth is simply that you have two axioms to choose between:

"The game is balanced around rolling dice since that's presented as the default chargen method"

and

"The game is balanced around a maximum starting ability of 15"


It's your choice to make. I just feel the first one is a little bit too faith-based for my liking. It's not like it's a secret that WotC is pandering to what the customers want over the best interests of game balance.

To me it's simple. People WANT to roll dice when creating characters. WotC therefore makes it the default choice. End. Of. Analysis.

That WotC carefully weighed the balancing pros and cons of what chargen method to make the default borders on gullible, in my opinion. It was a marketing move, nothing more.

The truth is that point-buy is MUCH more balanced, but since WotC knows its customers doesn't like to hear that, they don't make an effort to tell us.

And it's not exactly as if I'm asking you to take my word for it either. I'm pretty sure y'all know deep down I'm right. It isn't very hard to see why the game just works better when your level 4 and 8 ASIs take you to a +4 and a +5 bonus - that is, that you truly have to choose between a feat and a +1 ability modifier increase to your prime stat.
Also need to call you out on being disingenuous here Capn. You've spent the last year asserting that it is reasonable to expect RAW to work properly.

Think about it. What people are saying seems to be - Class is fine if you just don't use the standard rules of the game. Something I've seen you object to in other threads.

That doesn't mean I disagree with your argument about better game balance. Only that it excuses failure to balance correctly with the reasonable limits of the standard system in mind. (Usually at minimum, a game designer stress-tests their work against the system minimums and maximums. One might not go to cases that occur less than 1% of the time, but one should certainly go to cases that occur 4% of the time!)
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Also need to call you out on being disingenuous here Capn. You've spent the last year asserting that it is reasonable to expect RAW to work properly.

Think about it. What people are saying seems to be - Class is fine if you just don't use the standard rules of the game. Something I've seen you object to in other threads.

That doesn't mean I disagree with your argument about better game balance. Only that it excuses failure to balance correctly with the reasonable limits of the standard system in mind. (Usually at minimum, a game designer stress-tests their work against the system minimums and maximums. One might not go to cases that occur less than 1% of the time, but one should certainly go to cases that occur 4% of the time!)

The issue is your points for what makes the bladesinger strong is all wrong. Bladesinger sucks at melee. It's only saving grace is it gets HIGH AC and really good concentration checks. Those things make it a better wizard (easier to stay alive) and (easier to keep concentrating on your encounter ending spells, which high AC also helps with...)

The only decent ability he has in melee is to lock down an opponent from attacking the rest of the party IF AND ONLY IF he takes warcaster so he can booming blade as an OA. Heck, by max level firebolt is doing nearly just as much or more than he does in melee.

It's like you get way to hyper focused on something. Yes there is a problem with bladesinger, but it's not for the reasons you keep spouting. It has nothing to do with it's melee ability and everything to do with it being the best wizard subclass for enabling wizard stuff hands down.
 

guachi

Explorer
It isn't very hard to see why the game just works better when your level 4 and 8 ASIs take you to a +4 and a +5 bonus - that is, that you truly have to choose between a feat and a +1 ability modifier increase to your prime stat.

Lots of snippage.

Your last point nails it.
D&D is a resource management game (in part). Much of that resource management has been removed (unfortunately, IMO). However, they've put management of ASIs and your abilities in.

I rarely play as I spend most of my time DMing. Because of the amount of AL games I've DMed I can pick two magic items from adventures I've run. I've chosen (unless I've changed my mind) Gauntlets of Ogre Power and a rapier +1. That's something akin to starting with a 20. The only "choice" is"how extremely broken do I want to make my character?"
 

Only that it excuses failure to balance correctly with the reasonable limits of the standard system in mind. (Usually at minimum, a game designer stress-tests their work against the system minimums and maximums. One might not go to cases that occur less than 1% of the time, but one should certainly go to cases that occur 4% of the time!)
Your player rolled not only an 18, but also a 17. That is a pretty edge case.

If you have suggestions for how to balance a character with primary and secondary stats that high, compared to one that rolled below 13 for them for example, while still keeping ability scores relevant, we're all ears. Rolling for stats is an inherently potentially unbalanced system.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
.... Yes there is a problem with bladesinger, but it's not for the reasons you keep spouting. It has nothing to do with it's melee ability and everything to do with it being the best wizard subclass for enabling wizard stuff hands down.

I agree with a good portion of your post, but I find the bladesinger abilities too self centered (for lack of better words) to be "best" at helping the party.

Obviously the wizard keeping himself alive is a big boon to the party, but that's ALL the bladesinger abilities are good at. Contrast this with some other traditions: abjuration can extend hit points to others, divination 's ability can ensure a hit, ensure a miss, or ensure the guy you want to go first goes first.

From a party perspective, the bladesinger is not weak, but other traditions more than hold their own.





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CapnZapp

Legend
Also need to call you out on being disingenuous here Capn. You've spent the last year asserting that it is reasonable to expect RAW to work properly.

Think about it. What people are saying seems to be - Class is fine if you just don't use the standard rules of the game. Something I've seen you object to in other threads.

That doesn't mean I disagree with your argument about better game balance. Only that it excuses failure to balance correctly with the reasonable limits of the standard system in mind. (Usually at minimum, a game designer stress-tests their work against the system minimums and maximums. One might not go to cases that occur less than 1% of the time, but one should certainly go to cases that occur 4% of the time!)

No, what it means is that treating point-buy as something exotic and unusual instead of Rules as Written comes across as strange to me.

It feels like you're seeking out problems by not admitting random roll is unbalanced, because it clearly is.

You might be thinking about my criticism against OP feats. Well, there we don't have a much better option available to us right under our noses.

Is it possible I would be in your situation railing against default version 1 of Great Weapon Mastery getting irritated when asked to simply switch to official version 2? I guess.

But we don't have official much-better balanced versions of feats.

But we do have a much-better balanced version of chargen.

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FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I agree with a good portion of your post, but I find the bladesinger abilities too self centered (for lack of better words) to be "best" at helping the party.

Obviously the wizard keeping himself alive is a big boon to the party, but that's ALL the bladesinger abilities are good at. Contrast this with some other traditions: abjuration can extend hit points to others, divination 's ability can ensure a hit, ensure a miss, or ensure the guy you want to go first goes first.

From a party perspective, the bladesinger is not weak, but other traditions more than hold their own.





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It's not like I think either of those subclasses you mentioned are bad. They are both solid and I could easily play a Wizard of either of them. It's not even that I overrate survivability. I don't. It's that by having to focus less on your survivability you free up your resources and other party members resources to do other things. It's that by having good concentration saves you no longer lose concentration spells in combat which saves your resources and party resources etc. That's ultimately what makes it the best wizard subclass in my mind. You say it's too self-centered, but I see major party benefits for that bit of self centeredness it has.

The Divination subclass has it's own uses and is a bit of an enabling type itself. It's probably a better wizard subclass by the time you hit level 12. I can go with that as you have enough resources to shore up your concentration and using 1-2 level 1 spells a day on defense at that point doesn't really matter. I tend to focus on earlier levels 3-9 as that's where most games I'm in end up and in those you are sacrificing quite a bit to have compotent defences and risk a lot with your relatively low concentration bonus.

Abjuration has very similar benefits to the bladesinger. Without doing a real analysis my gut tells me the benefits at least early don't stack up against the blade singers but it shouldn't be too far behind.
 


clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
At this point I really don't know what you want out of the thread, vonklaude.
I was perfectly clear in my title: I'm criticising a design decision that I don't agree with.

We are not failing to understand you, we are just trying to help you understand why not more people are as bothered by the Bladesinger as you seem to be.

Is the Bladesinger design theoretically overpowered? Yes.
So far I've read the following
  1. The problem is that you are using the standard character generation rules. It's fine if you use the optional character generation rules. Correct balance should be defined by the standard rules, not the optional rules.
  2. It's fine so long as your ability scores are moderate. Correct balance should consider reasonable extremes - both high and low. By level four Bladesong's AC is equal to the heaviest melee if you roll a 16 and a 17. About 1:6 characters.
  3. It's fine so long as you have more than two combats per short rest. Ignoring literally months of discussion about how rare and problematic more combats per short rest is. What was it Tweet suggested - can't long rest until you've had two short rests, can't short rest until you've had two combats. Correct balance at the very least works with the typical game in mind. Just because some groups will have four combats a short rest doesn't mean it shouldn't be balanced for those who have two.
  4. It's fine because the best way to use it is to hang back, protected by your AC. This is a separate argument/problem. Bladesong can be over-powered and it can be best used by hanging back, at the same time.
  5. It's fine because you're only moderately good at melee. Correct balance doesn't make the strongest class also moderately good at melee. And that isn't the only way to benefit from Bladesong.
  6. It's fine because there are bigger problems elsewhere. This is a logical fallacy. There can be bigger problems elsewhere and Bladesong can be poorly designed. Nowhere am I extending any argument about the prioritisation of problems with 5e for fixing. I'm talking here only about Bladesong.
  7. It's fine because I play one and I don't feel OP. I don't believe I've ever heard a player complain when their class was strong. It is helpful to have anecdotes, but a designer's job is to look at the overall balance of the game.
  8. It's fine because Wizards don't have many hit points. This is a decent argument, and one I considered before making this thread. The ability later in their career to trade spell slots for HP is pretty neat, and I wish had been made more basic to the class. But until you get there the high AC actually exacerbates your problem because creatures get down to only hitting on critical hits (natural 20s) at which point the class becomes too volatile. This low HP aspect of the class is a problem, not a solution. One very large issue with the high AC arrangement is how it can be combined with other abilities, such as Shield of Faith or Warding Bond with narrative warping effect.

My claim is that Bladesinger has a problem in a reasonably common situation using standard rules. I believe the class could easily have been designed without that problem. If it was intentional, and represents the sort of splatbook power-creep we saw in 3rd edition, then I want to put up a red flag and say that as a player and DM, that power-creep sucked. It confronted DMs with a choice: use the new content, and overshadow existing content, or avoid it and lose the option to expand your game. Or do a lot of work and fix things yourself.

With the benefit of hindsight, I'd like the 5e designers to avoid doing that. I don't expect them to get it right every time, but I hold them to a high standard.
 

jaelis

Oh this is where the title goes?
I believe the class could easily have been designed without that problem.
If you have what you think is an objectively better design, why not just share that? I think it would be easier to convince someone that your design is better than it is to convince someone that the existing design doesn't work.

For instance, I don't think rolling stats is broken, but I agree that point buy is objectively better :)
 

CapnZapp

Legend
[*]The problem is that you are using the standard character generation rules. It's fine if you use the optional character generation rules. Correct balance should be defined by the standard rules, not the optional rules.

You make it sound like random roll is established orthodoxy while point buy is some kind of suspicious splatbook addition.

Don't expect balance when using random roll.

I don't think this subject should be restrained to a Battlesinger thread, though.

[*]It's fine so long as your ability scores are moderate. Correct balance should consider reasonable extremes - both high and low. By level four Bladesong's AC is equal to the heaviest melee if you roll a 16 and a 17. About 1:6 characters.

Now you're just reiterating #1. And nobod has said it's only fine as long as your ability scores are moderate. It's at low level its broken with high (nay, maximized) ability scores.

[*]It's fine so long as you have more than two combats per short rest.

This can't be directed at me - I'm one of the most vocal people for dispelling the "6-8 encounters easy" myth :)

[*]It's fine because the best way to use it is to hang back, protected by your AC. This is a separate argument/problem. Bladesong can be over-powered and it can be best used by hanging back, at the same time.

No, this is at the core of the issue. You are severely overestimating the value and OP:ness of a Wizard's melee abilities. This is because you for some reason refuse to see the opportunity cost.

Compare to the Bard. In 3rd edition it came across as the designers going "okay, so if we make the class 50% as good in three areas that's balanced right since 150% is pretty good right". It turns out that 50% is worthless and could just be 0%.

What a jack-of-all-trades feature needs to lie at is a topic for another discussion, but it's closer to 80-90% than 50%.

Back to the Wizard: the simple fact it isn't a better Wizard than other Wizard severely crimps your OP argument. Yes, other wizards are jelous of the Bladesingers AC, but that's it. Fighters aren't jeoulus of Bladesingers.

Wizards aren't overshadowed by Bladesingers. Fighters aren't overshadowed by Bladesingers (any more than they're overshadowed by other wizards, at least).

Since nobody is overshadowed, what's the problem?



[*]It's fine because you're only moderately good at melee. Correct balance doesn't make the strongest class also moderately good at melee. And that isn't the only way to benefit from Bladesong.

Not sure if there's a point here...?

[*]It's fine because there are bigger problems elsewhere. This is a logical fallacy. There can be bigger problems elsewhere and Bladesong can be poorly designed. Nowhere am I extending any argument about the prioritisation of problems with 5e for fixing. I'm talking here only about Bladesong.

Actually none of the rest of us are talking about the Bladesinger, since only you have such big issues with them. The rest of us are talking about you and your big issues with Bladesingers :)

Humor aside - if you didn't come on so strong you could have had a more nuanced discussion. It doesn't sound like you truly believe there ARE bigger problems elsewhere... which is about the only thing that draws replies to your posts, to be honest.

[*]It's fine because I play one and I don't feel OP. I don't believe I've ever heard a player complain when their class was strong. It is helpful to have anecdotes, but a designer's job is to look at the overall balance of the game.

Correct.

[*]It's fine because Wizards don't have many hit points. This is a decent argument, and one I considered before making this thread. The ability later in their career to trade spell slots for HP is pretty neat, and I wish had been made more basic to the class. But until you get there the high AC actually exacerbates your problem because creatures get down to only hitting on critical hits (natural 20s) at which point the class becomes too volatile. This low HP aspect of the class is a problem, not a solution. One very large issue with the high AC arrangement is how it can be combined with other abilities, such as Shield of Faith or Warding Bond with narrative warping effect.

Don't think I understand "low HP is a problem not a solution". Being "too volatile" (I guess you mean "either well, or dead") is life as normal for a Wizard. Not sure why this should be fixed here, especially since it's a good check against any "melee OP:ness" of Bladesingers...?
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Isn't the answer here simply that the Bladesinger has been published? Thus it isn't going to be changed?

You either choose to play with it or you don't. And if you feel it is overpowered... well, that's a shame. You either play with a subclass you feel is overpowered, or you don't.

What else is there to say?

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Mort

Legend
Supporter
Isn't the answer her simply that the Bladesinger has been published? Thus it isn't going to be changed?

You either choose to play with it or you don't. And if you feel it is overpowered... well, that's a shame. You either play with a subclass you feel is overpowered, or you don't.

What else is there to say?

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Just because something is published, doesn't mean it's set in stone for your game.

One of the great things about boards like this one is bouncing around ideas to see if the gameplay can be improved at your table.



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I was perfectly clear in my title: I'm criticising a design decision that I don't agree with.


So far I've read the following
  1. The problem is that you are using the standard character generation rules. It's fine if you use the optional character generation rules. Correct balance should be defined by the standard rules, not the optional rules.
  2. It's fine so long as your ability scores are moderate. Correct balance should consider reasonable extremes - both high and low. By level four Bladesong's AC is equal to the heaviest melee if you roll a 16 and a 17. About 1:6 characters.
  3. It's fine so long as you have more than two combats per short rest. Ignoring literally months of discussion about how rare and problematic more combats per short rest is. What was it Tweet suggested - can't long rest until you've had two short rests, can't short rest until you've had two combats. Correct balance at the very least works with the typical game in mind. Just because some groups will have four combats a short rest doesn't mean it shouldn't be balanced for those who have two.
  4. It's fine because the best way to use it is to hang back, protected by your AC. This is a separate argument/problem. Bladesong can be over-powered and it can be best used by hanging back, at the same time.
  5. It's fine because you're only moderately good at melee. Correct balance doesn't make the strongest class also moderately good at melee. And that isn't the only way to benefit from Bladesong.
  6. It's fine because there are bigger problems elsewhere. This is a logical fallacy. There can be bigger problems elsewhere and Bladesong can be poorly designed. Nowhere am I extending any argument about the prioritisation of problems with 5e for fixing. I'm talking here only about Bladesong.
  7. It's fine because I play one and I don't feel OP. I don't believe I've ever heard a player complain when their class was strong. It is helpful to have anecdotes, but a designer's job is to look at the overall balance of the game.
  8. It's fine because Wizards don't have many hit points. This is a decent argument, and one I considered before making this thread. The ability later in their career to trade spell slots for HP is pretty neat, and I wish had been made more basic to the class. But until you get there the high AC actually exacerbates your problem because creatures get down to only hitting on critical hits (natural 20s) at which point the class becomes too volatile. This low HP aspect of the class is a problem, not a solution. One very large issue with the high AC arrangement is how it can be combined with other abilities, such as Shield of Faith or Warding Bond with narrative warping effect.

My claim is that Bladesinger has a problem in a reasonably common situation using standard rules. I believe the class could easily have been designed without that problem. If it was intentional, and represents the sort of splatbook power-creep we saw in 3rd edition, then I want to put up a red flag and say that as a player and DM, that power-creep sucked. It confronted DMs with a choice: use the new content, and overshadow existing content, or avoid it and lose the option to expand your game. Or do a lot of work and fix things yourself.

With the benefit of hindsight, I'd like the 5e designers to avoid doing that. I don't expect them to get it right every time, but I hold them to a high standard.
That's some okay theory reading. How did you find the bladesinger performing during actual play? Did the rest of the table have fun?
 

That's incorrect. The player rolled two 17s. That occurs about 1:25.

How does that work out? High Elf gives Dex to 19 and Int to 18. Level 4 ASI only gives 2 ability points. Where are they getting that additional ability point from to get to both stats at 20/+5?

Do you believe that a player who was so lucky in rolling such high numbers in their required ability scores is inherently balanced against a player who rolled similarly unlucky low scores? Simply by virtue of rolling being the 'standard method'?
Do you believe that if that unlucky player made a Bladesinger character, that it would still be too powerful and trivialise the martial classes?

Bladesingers still have weaknesses: They have a high AC if they are willing to burn their resources to achieve it, but they are likely to be shoved around, grappled or knocked over easily. They get a single extra attack, but don't get the other abilities that boost those attacks or grant additional ones like the real martials. GFB can keep them close to level in ideal conditions, but is only really a single-trick pony, and less useful than the same amount of damage dealt in a more controlled fashion as a martial would. In many situations the Bladesinger would do better to make both their attacks instead.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Just because something is published, doesn't mean it's set in stone for your game.

One of the great things about boards like this one is bouncing around ideas to see if the gameplay can be improved at your table.



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If this thread was about asking for ways to tone down the Bladesinger for an individual table, I wouldn't have written anything. But thus far it hasn't been, it's been to merely just complain about how it's supposedly overpowered. Which is pointless, because there's nothing that can be done-- the subclass has been published. So if someone wants to complain for the sake of complaining they can go right ahead... but the rest of us will just look at them funny when they do because it seems like a pointless waste of energy.
 

Mistwell

Legend
That's incorrect. The player rolled two 17s. That occurs about 1:25.

AND has a high Constitution you said.

My claim is that Bladesinger has a problem in a reasonably common situation using standard rules.

Three years, literally only you in all that time has made this complaint about this subclass. I even checked other sites like Reddit, and I can find NOBODY ever making this argument that you claim comes up as a "reasonably common situation".

I asked you how long you have played with this PC to see if it's really representative of even a full array of levels, and all we got was crickets in response from you.
 
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