D&D 5E Casters vs Martials: Part 1 - Magic, its most basic components


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HammerMan

Legend
You do[/] know that martial have things they can do that casters can't? Why not just demand full spellcasting progression too?
really? like what? as i see it most casters can can sing "anythng you can do I can do better, I can do anything better then you" to well made martial classes...

lets take a party of fighters (1 champion, 1 battlemaster) and rogues (1 assassin 1 thief) . Then take a party of a Moon Druid, a Lore Bard, a Bladesinger Wizard, and a Hexblade/blade pact warlock... lets make all of them human. What can that 1st party do over the second (other then be stopped by a magic warded dooor)
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
as i see it most casters can can sing "anythng you can do I can do better, I can do anything better then you" to well made martial classes...
LOL, didn't I sing that upthread? :)

Anyway, you know, upthread there was a poster who said they wanted their "arch-martial" (my term) power-level character to be able to wade into an army and mow them all down.

Well, depending on your encounter set-up and just what you consider an "army", a level 20 Fighter (Champion) built right with a few magic items (mostly AC boosting so a natural 20 is needed to hit), could defeat well over 1000 "guards" with short bows. Depending on just how many attacks are coming each round, it could be more or less. If you had less than 40 attacks per round (with my set up), the PC could kill any number of guards, theoretically. If you want the full information I used, let me know and I'll post it. :)

I discussed it with my players last night, and frankly they were amazed by that number, and we all agreed that seemed superheroic to us. 🤷‍♂️

Could archmage also do it? Of course. Given the right spell, I can't think of anything a martial can do that a archmage couldn't...

But to make that happen, certain spells would need to be removed from the game IMO. But it also seems to me (in some ways) spells just get more powerful over all.
 

Asisreo

Patron Badass
For the subclass, again I'm sure this is a controversial decision, but I'm going to use the 4elemonk as a chassis. The playstyle is different, but the core structure will be roughly the same. Heroic Points get to be increased, and some restrict how many based on class level. Some have no restriction on maximum points spent.

Hero Path: Valor

You gain a Valor Techniques at level 3. You gain an additional one at certain levels. When you gain a new Technique, you can replace an old one with a new one. You also gain the Valiant Ally Valor Technique at level 3.

Valiant Ally. Once per short rest, when an ally other than you makes an ability check, you can have them add their proficiency bonus to the check. If they already add their proficiency bonus to the check, they double their proficiency bonus for that check.

Inspire. As an action, You can spend 2 Heoric points to grant an ally 2 temporary HP's at the end of each of their turns. For every additional heroic point spent on this Technique, the Temporary HP granted at the end of their turns increases by 1. This Technique is restricted by the Heroic Point table.

Quick Pin. When you take the attack action, you can spend 1 Heroic Point to make a grapple attempt without exchanging an attack. If you succeed on a grapple on that turn, you can spend 1 additional Heroic Point to restrain the target.

Steady Breath. As a bonus action, you can spend 1 Heroic Point to breathe normally in any environment. You also have advantage on saving throws against any harmful games or vapors such as Cloudkill and Stinking Cloud.

Blinding Strike. As an action, you can spend 2 Heroic Points and make a melee attack against one creatue. They must make a constitution saving throw. On a failed save, the target takes an additional 3d12 damage plus an additonal 1d12 for each additional Heroic Point spent and be blinded for 1 minute. The target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of their turns, ending the effect on a success. On a success, the target takes half of the additional damage and is not blinded.

Fang Breaker. As an action, you can spend 2 Heroic Points and make a melee attack against one creature. They must make a strength saving throw. On a failed save, they take 3d12 damage plus an additional 1d12 for each additional Heroic Point spent and their damage is halved for 1 minute. The target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of their turns, ending the effect on a success. On a success, the target takes half the additional damage and does not have damage reduced.

Observe Defenses. As a bonus action, you can spend 2 Heroic Points and your attacks gain a bonus to attack rolls equal to your Intelligence modifier for 1 minute.

Detect Intent. As an action, you can spend 2 heroic points to detect the location of any hostile creatures within 100ft and can sense when a creature becomes hostile toward you for 10 minutes.

Comradery (level 6). As an action, you can spend 3 Heroic Points and choose a target within range. The next time the target makes an attack roll, the damage is counted as magical for the purposes of resistance and immunity. They also do an additional 2d6 damage plus 1d6 damage for each additional Heroic Point spent. This is restricted by the Heroic Point table.

Tremoring Strike (level 6). As an action, you can spend 3 Heroic Points. Choose a point within 60ft on the ground, each creature within 30ft of that point must make a strength saving throw or take 2d10 bludgeoning damage plus an additional 1d10 damage for each additional Heroic Point spent. They are also knocked prone. On a success, they take half damage and are not knocked prone. This is restricted by the Heroic Point table.

Focus (level 11). As an action, you can spend 4 Heroic Points to bolster your next attack. When you make a melee attack against a creature within 5ft of you on your next turn, you automatically hit and it guarantees a crit. This effect can be added onto subsequent attacks for each additional Heroic Point spent. This is restricted by the Heroic Point table.

Firm Stance (level 11). As an action, you can spend 4 Heroic Points to focus on defense. You are immune to all damage except pyschic and force until the start of your next turn.

Coordinated Positioning (level 11). As an action, you can spend 4 Heroic Points and for 1 minute, whenever you shove a creature, you can choose whether or not it provokes opportunity attacks. If the creature is a willing creature, it can use its reaction to make a melee attack or cast a cantrip with an attack roll or saving throw. If you shove a creature into a harmful effect, it takes double damage.

Myriad Strikes (level 17). As an action, you can spend 5 Ki points and choose a point within 30ft. You take the most direct path to each creature within range and make a melee attack against them without using your movement. If the melee attacks hit, they are counted as a critical.

Demolition (level 17). As an action, you can spend 6 Ki points and choose an inanimate object in range, you destroy one nonmagical object of size Large or smaller. It takes 1 minute to destroy an object of size Huge or smaller and 10 minutes to destroy a magical item.

Gallant Stride (level 17). You can spend 5 heroic points and choose 5 creatures within range. Those creatures are under the effect of the Freedom of Movement spell.

Honestly, It's not the best but I hope there's a good look at what a monk-based Heroic Martial would look like.
 


Vaalingrade

Legend
Could archmage also do it? Of course. Given the right spell, I can't think of anything a martial can do that a archmage couldn't...

But to make that happen, certain spells would need to be removed from the game IMO. But it also seems to me (in some ways) spells just get more powerful over all.
Or.

Ooooor.

Martials could be elevated to be allowed to have good and fun. Then no one loses.

I think a lot of obstructive mage fans think martial fans want to depower spellcasters, but we don't. We just want our characters to be fun and interesting instead of attack machines.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
Martials could be elevated to be allowed to have good and fun. Then no one loses.
I would be curious to find out just how many players aren't having fun with their martial PCs, even at the highest levels? How many people are actually dissatisfied?

IME, everyone's had fun and good times, even with martials in tiers 3 and 4.

To be perfectly clear: no, I am not saying there isn't a minority who is unhappy, obviously, considering people posting here about it. So, please, don't try to turn my actual, legitimate curiosity expressed above around, ok? Thanks.

I think a lot of obstructive mage fans think martial fans want to depower spellcasters, but we don't.
Maybe, I don't know. All I can do is express my own views, which is to depower spellcasters in general just because that is the time of game I prefer.

We just want our characters to be fun and interesting instead of attack machines.
Hmm... most of the examples I've seen people wanting often are about attacking or combat-related. Of course a lot of D&D is about combat for many tables, so that's understandable I suppose.

What, non-attacking things, makes your martial "fun and interesting"?
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I would be curious to find out just how many players aren't having fun with their martial PCs, even at the highest levels? How many people are actually dissatisfied?

IME, everyone's had fun and good times, even with martials in tiers 3 and 4.

To be perfectly clear: no, I am not saying there isn't a minority who is unhappy, obviously, considering people posting here about it. So, please, don't try to turn my actual, legitimate curiosity expressed above around, ok? Thanks.

IME post level 10 play of D&D (outside of 0e, 1e, and 4e) was either

  1. A major chore for the DM as they had to play favorites or dumb for the martials
  2. The martial PC players complain or get disinterested
  3. Everyone starts casting spells.
It's one of the many reasons why post 10th level play in D&D is rare. It's a lot of work for the DM to keep engagement and balance up.
 

Asisreo

Patron Badass
IME post level 10 play of D&D (outside of 0e, 1e, and 4e) was either

  1. A major chore for the DM as they had to play favorites or dumb for the martials
  2. The martial PC players complain or get disinterested
  3. Everyone starts casting spells.
It's one of the many reasons why post 10th level play in D&D is rare. It's a lot of work for the DM to keep engagement and balance up.
I don't really see a problem with 3, at least on the DM side.

I make high-fantasy scenarios at tier 3+ do it's not like I'm afraid of a everyone having access to magic in some form.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
IME post level 10 play of D&D (outside of 0e, 1e, and 4e) was either

  1. A major chore for the DM as they had to play favorites or dumb for the martials
  2. The martial PC players complain or get disinterested
  3. Everyone starts casting spells.
It's one of the many reasons why post 10th level play in D&D is rare. It's a lot of work for the DM to keep engagement and balance up.
Thanks for sharing your experiences!

I think the only reason I never encountered player disinterest with martial PCs is because in 1E/2E you had a lot of magic items for martials, as well as things like claiming land, building armies, etc. made it interesting.

I never had the experience with your issue #1 or #3, though.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I don't really see a problem with 3, at least on the DM side.

I make high-fantasy scenarios at tier 3+ do it's not like I'm afraid of a everyone having access to magic in some form.
Thanks for sharing your experiences!

I think the only reason I never encountered player disinterest with martial PCs is because in 1E/2E you had a lot of magic items for martials, as well as things like claiming land, building armies, etc. made it interesting.

I never had the experience with your issue #1 or #3, though.
Spellcasters can obtain magic items too.

IME That was the where the chore and favoritism came from. DM would have to shaft casters on magic items or they could easily overshadow.

"The chest contains a +2 longsword, a +1 dagger, a shield of fire resistance, goggles of the night, and a wand with 1/4 of its charges"
Maybe that was just NY DMs.
 

Asisreo

Patron Badass
Spellcasters can obtain magic items too.

IME That was the where the chore and favoritism came from. DM would have to shaft casters on magic items or they could easily overshadow.

"The chest contains a +2 longsword, a +1 dagger, a shield of fire resistance, goggles of the night, and a wand with 1/4 of its charges"
Maybe that was just NY DMs.
Seems like a regular treasure hoard to me.

It should be noted that not all magic items are distributed equally.

In a Tier 4 Treasure Hoard, there is a roughly 70% chance the items are "Minor items" which are mostly consumables. These consumables are more likely martial-oriented utility consumables than anything else.

For example, the obvious Potions of Giant Strengths are in all those tables and a Wizard probably won't be able to draw out its best usage.

Then, you have Potions of Flying or Invisibility. While a wizard could use them, at tier 4, the wizard probably doesn't want to use a consumables for an effect they can easily replicate. But a martial can also use these abilities to greater effect. A flying wizard is standard but a flying fighter can make fights against dragons epic.

So I don't think Magic Items are lopsided.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
Maybe that was just NY DMs.
LOL it could be, but a lot of my gaming was done in college in PA and AZ. ;)

Spellcasters can obtain magic items too.
Sure, which (especially with casting times in AD&D) made it easier for them to make certain their spells happened since activating a staff could not be foiled in the fashion casting a spell could be.

Also, if you look at the relative power between strong items in AD&D, let's review/compare from 1E the Staff of the Magi and a Holy Avenger. First the staff. It functioned at 8th level always, regardless of the caster's level. It required 2 segments to activate a function (so really quick compared to casting times in general), and had limited charges, up to 25 (though you could replenish them easily).
1640369757051.png


And the Holy Avenger (in the hands of a Paladin): Always +5 to hit/damage, base 50% magic resistance and failing that, dispels magic at a level of magic use equal to the paladin's level. And let's not forget that incredible +10 bonus damage to CE opponents!

1640370006853.png


The Holy Avenger always makes the Paladin better. The Staff of the Magi frees up the Magic-User to reserve lower level spells slots for other spells (which remember had to be memorized individually for each casting you might want!), but a 20th-level Archmage casts a 20d6 fireball in AD&D, the staff only an 8d6 version.

So, while yes, I agree casters also got magic items, their items (compared to the relative power of the PC) was not as big when you compared augmenting a high-level martial PC with a powerful magical item.
 

Stalker0

Legend
really? like what? as i see it most casters can can sing "anythng you can do I can do better, I can do anything better then you" to well made martial classes...

lets take a party of fighters (1 champion, 1 battlemaster) and rogues (1 assassin 1 thief) . Then take a party of a Moon Druid, a Lore Bard, a Bladesinger Wizard, and a Hexblade/blade pact warlock... lets make all of them human. What can that 1st party do over the second (other then be stopped by a magic warded dooor)
So if we allow for specific individuals within those parties:

1) Perform two actions in the same turn
2) Take a fireball to the face and suffer no damage
3) Crit on an 18-20
4) Guarantee an attack roll will hit
5) Disarm a trap as a bonus action
6) Use magic items that only work for clerics and paladins (maybe the warlock has something for that, not sure)
7) Go twice in the same round (you could argue simulacrum or time stop will do this, but technically that is a weaker version of yourself going, not quite the same thing).

Now I'm not here to say martials or casters are equal (I wrote the OP for a reason afterall), but there are definately things that martial classes can do that spells don't completely overwrite.
 

I would be curious to find out just how many players aren't having fun with their martial PCs, even at the highest levels? How many people are actually dissatisfied?
This isn't asking quite the right question. Before 4e I always played casters outside one-shots. In 4e I played a fighter, a couple of warlords, a monk, and a barbarian. In 5e I've played a shadow monk - and the only other martials so far I've even considered have been an echo knight and a soulblade rogue. Because the rest just look tedious to me. It's not about the archetype, it's the implementation. I do not like spamming attacks and not having out of combat options; my conception of the fighter includes using their brain to master the battlefield.

By contrast someone in one of my old groups who'd been playing since the 70s used to either play wizards and struggle with spell juggling or play fighters and have a not great time. But he took to playing a 4e elementalist pyromancer like it was the character he'd always been trying to play, mixing the simplicity of a fighter with the burnination of a wizard.

The right question is how many players are finding their characters arbitrarily restricted by this "wizards smart, martials stupid" dichotomy?
Spellcasters can obtain magic items too.

IME That was the where the chore and favoritism came from. DM would have to shaft casters on magic items or they could easily overshadow.

"The chest contains a +2 longsword, a +1 dagger, a shield of fire resistance, goggles of the night, and a wand with 1/4 of its charges"
Maybe that was just NY DMs.
If you look carefully at oD&D and 1e the loot tables were rigged to favour fighters and this was a part of the game. Clerics not using swords was a balancing factor - which included 40-80% of all magic weapons being swords (depending on edition) and swords going up to +5 while almost every other weapon went only to +2
 

LOL, didn't I sing that upthread? :)

Anyway, you know, upthread there was a poster who said they wanted their "arch-martial" (my term) power-level character to be able to wade into an army and mow them all down.

Well, depending on your encounter set-up and just what you consider an "army", a level 20 Fighter (Champion) built right with a few magic items (mostly AC boosting so a natural 20 is needed to hit), could defeat well over 1000 "guards" with short bows. Depending on just how many attacks are coming each round, it could be more or less. If you had less than 40 attacks per round (with my set up), the PC could kill any number of guards, theoretically. If you want the full information I used, let me know and I'll post it. :)

I discussed it with my players last night, and frankly they were amazed by that number, and we all agreed that seemed superheroic to us. 🤷‍♂️

Could archmage also do it? Of course. Given the right spell, I can't think of anything a martial can do that a archmage couldn't...

But to make that happen, certain spells would need to be removed from the game IMO. But it also seems to me (in some ways) spells just get more powerful over all.
I think the mook scenarios that involved a fighter killing 1000 people in an army required enemy AC not more than 12 or 13, and HP not much more than 11..and tohit somewhere around +2 (though this could likely get up to about +5 assuming a fully AC based defensive loadout). I believe the assumptions also included the enemy only using clubs in melee and not rotating or readying attacks.

Deviations from these assumptions cause wide swings in the results, if suddenly your fighter can miss or not guarantee a kill on a hit, their efficiency drops like a stone. If baddies can hit on a 19, you've cut survivability in half. If more than 8 baddies can attack a turn, similar and separate drop in survivability. If baddies have readied attacks to expend before they get slaughtered..another drop.

Basically to achieve the "slaughter 1000" result, the army has to be composed of poorly trained, poorly equipped Keystone cops.

Now..change that to shortbows, and things are several orders of magnitude worse. Because then you have to add an assumption that your fighter has gotten into melee range at full health, instead of taking attacks from anyone within 320 feet (1/400 chance to hit at long range, but 4200 something squares are within range and close to 300 squares would be within normal range. Some amount of damage will get in, likely a lot considering you need 6 turns of movement to close.)

Fighter has a budget of somewhere around 80-100 hits they can take assuming 3.5 avg dmg from shortbow dice without any modifier or crits (another significant assumption). From short range alone, you could be looking at 7-14 hits/turn without rotation (add in another 3-7 hits with rotation). Fully kitted fighter goes down in like 15 rounds max, possibly in as few as 5 just from short range + walking distance from short range.

Our fighter dies to an army that can fit in a decent-sized auditorium having killed a number of enemies that could fit in some city buses.

TL;DR
Any scenario that leads to a melee fighter having a meaningful impact against massed enemies with ranged weapons relies on a dubious and extremely brittle set of assumptions.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
This isn't asking quite the right question. Before 4e I always played casters outside one-shots. In 4e I played a fighter, a couple of warlords, a monk, and a barbarian. In 5e I've played a shadow monk - and the only other martials so far I've even considered have been an echo knight and a soulblade rogue. Because the rest just look tedious to me. It's not about the archetype, it's the implementation. I do not like spamming attacks and not having out of combat options; my conception of the fighter includes using their brain to master the battlefield.
(bold added)

Hmm, ok, just to make certain I am understanding you (please correct me if I'm wrong):
1. Spamming attack is a problem because it is tedious (short of using a magic item this was an issue from the beginning of D&D IMO). In combat, pure martials are always attacking in one fashion or another (Paladins and Rangers obviously have spells, which is why I say "pure").

2. Your conception to master the battlefield via brains (more or less some form of tactics I would think?) is trying to influence the scope of the encounter in a more meaningful way. Similar to how a single spell could turn the tide due to mass effect, finding something that martials could do would even the field (no pun intended).

By contrast someone in one of my old groups who'd been playing since the 70s used to either play wizards and struggle with spell juggling or play fighters and have a not great time. But he took to playing a 4e elementalist pyromancer like it was the character he'd always been trying to play, mixing the simplicity of a fighter with the burnination of a wizard.
My first PC was a magic-user, and back then my concern was just keeping him alive until he had enough HP to handle common threats. :)

The right question is how many players are finding their characters arbitrarily restricted by this "wizards smart, martials stupid" dichotomy?
Well, I don't know if that is the right question, but certainly a valid one!

As far as the martials stupid thing, to me that is mostly about the player. But, I get your point, because even a clever player is limited by the scope of what their PC can do. But even in that light, many of the suggestions still revolve around combat (understandably) or don't really take way from the "stupid" thing (Hulk leap and smash, for instance!).

Can you give me an example of something you feel that would take away from the dichotomy, particularly outside of combat?
 

Um... no, I'm not. All those examples (fighting men like Hulk or Hercules) are still superheroic-types.


Yep, they are basically playing superheroes, too.
A first level wizard who can cast Burning Hands and Shield is a superheroic type (and far more of a superheroic type than someone who merely doesn't age). If you don't want superheroic types then you need to ban 100% of all spellcasting. Including two thirds of D&D classes.

If on the other hand you want to allow wizards to be superheroic types then it is rampantly hypocritical to say fighters can't be. You're asking the martial characters to play muggles in a highly magical world.
LOL go ahead and complain! Myself (and others IIRC) have already agreed magic in D&D at high levels is superheroic!
High level = first level. If you don't want superheroic characters then spellcasters all have to go.
I've nerfed casters over all so much for MY game because instead of raising martials to be superheroes also, my preference is to bring casters down to the heroic level instead.
And to do that you need to turn the casters into conjurers and illusionists, capable of preparing tricks that must work through mundane means.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
I think the mook scenarios that involved a fighter killing 1000 people in an army required enemy AC not more than 12 or 13, and HP not much more than 11..and tohit somewhere around +2 (though this could likely get up to about +5 assuming a fully AC based defensive loadout). I believe the assumptions also included the enemy only using clubs in melee and not rotating or readying attacks.

Deviations from these assumptions cause wide swings in the results, if suddenly your fighter can miss or not guarantee a kill on a hit, their efficiency drops like a stone. If baddies can hit on a 19, you've cut survivability in half. If more than 8 baddies can attack a turn, similar and separate drop in survivability. If baddies have readied attacks to expend before they get slaughtered..another drop.
Well, instead of assuming what my scenario was, you could have just asked. ;)

Seriously, though, yes "guards" with AC 14 and 11 HP, +3 to attack. Standard guard stat block except I gave them all short bows, but you can really replace it with any d6 weapon. Making it d8 would certain make things worse, but it still roughly 750 (a smaller "army"). Even allowing them to hit on a 19 as well would still keep the number at well over 300 (maybe not an "army" anymore, but still incredible!). BTW, those reductions are still assuming 50 guards are attacking each round...

Basically to achieve the "slaughter 1000" result, the army has to be composed of poorly trained, poorly equipped Keystone cops.
Really? You consider the guard stat block, your basic soldier really, "poorly trained, poorly equipped Keystone cops?" Interesting.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
A first level wizard who can cast Burning Hands and Shield is a superheroic type (and far more of a superheroic type than someone who merely doesn't age). If you don't want superheroic types then you need to ban 100% of all spellcasting. Including two thirds of D&D classes.
Using magic in a fantasy game is not superheroic, it is magic. :rolleyes: That is what casters are about. To remove it would be like playing a martial without hands or feet.

If on the other hand you want to allow wizards to be superheroic types then it is rampantly hypocritical to say fighters can't be. You're asking the martial characters to play muggles in a highly magical world.
Well, as written in 5E any martial without magical features is a muggle, aren't they? But they are (especially at higher levels) HEROIC muggles, and depending on just what it takes to satisfy your definition of "superheroic", superheroic muggles. ;)

High level = first level. If you don't want superheroic characters then spellcasters all have to go.
Nope. If you think first level = high level and characters are superheroic, you're playing a different 5E than I am. Even the designers (and most players IMO) would levels 1-2 are often thought of as the apprenticeship levels.

A first level wizard could get defeated by a group of commoners pretty easily, especially depending on what spells he has prepared.

And to do that you need to turn the casters into conjurers and illusionists, capable of preparing tricks that must work through mundane means.
Not at all. We decreased spell slots, nerfed damage cantrips so you can't spam them repeatedly, and made all casters known casters.

But hey, you play in your world and do what you want.
 

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