D&D 5E Casters vs Martials: Part 2 - The Mundane Limit

Stalker0

Legend
Well I was responding to the claim that these abilities weren’t about replicating spells. When all but three of the abilities specifically mentioned spells to reference for the effects.
You are also forgetting the clause in the OP that I was writing the abilities quickly and off the cuff, and were not trying to give them polish.

I used spells for brevity, but could just as easily have written out mechanics. Lets not make this debate about the word choice of example abilities, which were purely designed as examples to highlight the greater point... that martials can be given greater abilities and still keep things "mundane" in flavor.
 

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Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
You are also forgetting the clause in the OP that I was writing the abilities quickly and off the cuff, and were not trying to give them polish.

I used spells for brevity, but could just as easily have written out mechanics. Lets not make this debate about the word choice of example abilities, which were purely designed as examples to highlight the greater point... that martials can be given greater abilities and still keep things "mundane" in flavor.

The issue isn't that they weren't written out. It is, unless I misread, that the effect would be copying spells.

A warrior couldn't be getting the effect of haste. They should be getting ever-increasing movement speeds, attacks, reactions, and high initiative bonuses as they level. The martial speed increase and the magical speed increase should be noticeably different on D&D.
 

The problem is: some people want really epic, some people want Street Fighter level power, some people want superheroic, some people want this, some people want that, and so on...

You say "Martial characters really need epic destinies," but at just what level that is achieved is completely subjective. Personally, I would like Street Fighter level (mentioned above, I realized this is basically my limit, personally :) ), so what do we do? You want want thing, I want another, someone else wants something else...

A consensus on this will never be reached because people want different things. I respect your position which seems to be that you prefer a Street Fighter level martial but are ok with the Mythic Martial being an official option too even if you'd only use it once in a blue moon for a one off. I'm also for more options. I can pick and choose for my game.

But there is another parameter that makes these dicussions even more complicated. Where do you want each of these to sit in power compared to existing classess, particulary full spell casters?

Mythic Martial advocates almost always want it striving to be equal to a Wizard in power, agency, and solution to challenges. In fact, that's partly why they think mythical martials need to exist.

With Street Fighter / Heroic advocates it's not always clear to me.

So you want to design a Street Fighter? Where do you want this Street Fighter to sit in the power, agency, and solution to challenges? Are you trying to make it equal to the Wizard or are you good with it being just better than the current Fighter? [assuming the Wizard stays the same]

These are two very different goals. Equal to the Wizard requires some pretty creative solutions and might need to break the past design paradigms (introducing meta currency, narrative power, etc.). Just better then the Fighter can stick to more conventional design.
 

This is the part I have issue with. I'm 100% fine with Feats/Manuvers/Abilities, but if we are just filing off the names of Spells and handing those over, whats the point? Thats just 'everyone gets powers' but if they are all the same? Why?

This is part of the design difficulty. Spells effects in D&D are so wide ranging it basically covers anything -- short and long range movement, positioning and forced movement, physical enhancement, multi attack damage, divination, social enhancement, survival, creating obstacles, buffing, debuffing, etc, etc. If you limit martial abilities to never mimicing spell effects, what are you left with? And I'm just talking about effects -- of course they can and should be different fictionally.

So we get --

martial abilities can't produce spell like effects (which covers a huge range of things in D&D) even if the fictional representation can be explained in an action hero / mundane way

martial mechanics should be different than spell mechanics because they feel like same mechanics = same thing (even though it doesn't have to be this way)

these different mechanics can't be too far from the current Fighter and general combat mechanics otherwise it's not D&D, despite the fact that the current set up is unsatisfactory and probably contributing to why it's so hard to do this.

I'm ready for someone to surprise me, but it looks like the design space becomes so narrow that the excercise is doomed to fail.
 

Stalker0

Legend
A consensus on this will never be reached because people want different things.
However, this is not the point of the OP or this discussion. I've let things drift for a bit to allow for brainstorming but let me try and refocus the conversation.

The goal of this thread is not to turn martials into superheroes, or even mythic heroes. Simply put, too much of the community is against that notion, and as you noted, trying to push that notion is pointless.

The real discussion then, is how much can we push the power of martials but still leave them "mundane" in flavor. How far can we push it where most people would say "ok, I could see a crazy high level guy pull that off" vs "you would need like divine power or something to do that".
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
A consensus on this will never be reached because people want different things. I respect your position which seems to be that you prefer a Street Fighter level martial but are ok with the Mythic Martial being an official option too even if you'd only use it once in a blue moon for a one off. I'm also for more options. I can pick and choose for my game.

But there is another parameter that makes these dicussions even more complicated. Where do you want each of these to sit in power compared to existing classess, particulary full spell casters?
Yes, that is certainly another issue. I can of course only answer for myself, which I have. :)

Where do I see each of these sitting compared to full casters? I would be happy to see tier 3 at the Street Fighter level, personally, and reserve the tier 4 levels for the mythical martials with "superheroic" level capabilities.

Mythic Martial advocates almost always want it striving to be equal to a Wizard in power, agency, and solution to challenges. In fact, that's partly why they think mythical martials need to exist.

With Street Fighter / Heroic advocates it's not always clear to me.

So you want to design a Street Fighter? Where do you want this Street Fighter to sit in the power, agency, and solution to challenges? Are you trying to make it equal to the Wizard or are you good with it being just better than the current Fighter? [assuming the Wizard stays the same]
If full casters (not just Wizards, really) stayed the same, I feel martials definitely need improvement over the current classes. These improvements would reflect not just a power-level shift, but also additional features to make them more relevant in other pillars of the game.

Do I feel these changes need to make them rival full casters at the highest levels? Certainly not, because I see the potential for their agency elsewhere, and IME (limited though it may be at tier 4 with only one campaign making it to level 20) I feel keenly the importance of at-will vs. extremely limited usage (e.g. spells at tier 4, where at best you have 6 slots per long rest).

Of course I understand even with the "standard adventure day" of 6-8 encounters, a 20th-level full caster could likely use a single 6th+ level spell in each encounter they are likely to face. I don't think anyone will deny those spells can certainly change the course of an encounter, especially 8ths and 9ths! But so can the features of martials at those levels, even if not so strongly.

These are two very different goals. Equal to the Wizard requires some pretty creative solutions and might need to break the past design paradigms (introducing meta currency, narrative power, etc.). Just better then the Fighter can stick to more conventional design.
Yes, the goals differ. But from the OP (correct me if I am wrong @Stalker0) the first aspect was to examine magic and it ballooned into a hot debate about martials being unequal to casters. Part of the issue is how wide-spread and prevalent magic is to D&D, when it can accomplish virtually anything and make martials obsolete.

I am all for nerfing magic and have done so at my own table in numerous ways. But a lot of people want to keep casters at their current power and bring martials up to that level.

Yes, it will require some creative solutions, but the REAL problem as I see it is few people are trying to find any kind of solution, and prefer to just keep debating the topic over and over.

I have posted a few times offering drafts for features to make martials better and (surprise, surprise) have received little feedback or comment on them. Frankly, as you know I am more than willing to work on this, so at this point I really don't care (for myself) if people want "superheroes" or whatever, as long as they start putting in the time to develop it.

Otherwise, if people just want to whine or debate the merits of having better and more powerful options for martials, there's little point in me bothering to follow it any longer. After a dozen pages in Part 2, and many more in Part 1, we've basically accomplished nothing.

This is part of the design difficulty. Spells effects in D&D are so wide ranging it basically covers anything -- short and long range movement, positioning and forced movement, physical enhancement, multi attack damage, divination, social enhancement, survival, creating obstacles, buffing, debuffing, etc, etc. If you limit martial abilities to never mimicing spell effects, what are you left with? And I'm just talking about effects -- of course they can and should be different fictionally.
And so this returns us to the OP and the breakdown of magic in D&D (having nothing, in and of itself, to do with martials).

I think martial features can certainly be different from spells, and others might be spells if it is supported by the narrative of the feature. But the sum of it all (IMO) is this:

1. Magic is powerful. It allows casters to do things that without it they simply couldn't in most cases (if not all).
2. Because magic is so prevalent it detracts from roles other classes (martials) can play or fill.
3. Martials as designed in 5E fall short of the bar, rather drastically in some respects (when PCs can't even match IRL accomplishments).
4. Different groups want to see martials improved to different levels, some don't want to see any change at all.
And probably more...

I am going to bed. I have a long day tomorrow. :)
 

Azzy

KMF DM
Or maybe there's mundane techniques in-universe that detect magic without spells or magic items.

Turns out magic has a special vibration that someone trained to listen for it can 'feel out'. Or a scent like ozone that varies based on type and magnitude.

Anything besides magic is a special thing out of context for the world and not actually a part of the fantasy world.
Considering that the default rules allow one to identify a magic item's powers by handling during a short rest, this has precedence.
 

Scribe

Hero
This is part of the design difficulty. Spells effects in D&D are so wide ranging it basically covers anything -- short and long range movement, positioning and forced movement, physical enhancement, multi attack damage, divination, social enhancement, survival, creating obstacles, buffing, debuffing, etc, etc. If you limit martial abilities to never mimicing spell effects, what are you left with? And I'm just talking about effects -- of course they can and should be different fictionally.

I think you just solve this in 2 streams.

1. Feats/Abilities/Maneuvers which could be within the realm of the possible. A decapitation strike, skilled training. Things of that nature. The things which are physically within the realm of a Human to actually do, is already extremely impressive if you look at martial art demonstrations, or the agility present within an acrobatic performance.

2. Magic Gear, and Martials being the best able to put it into use. I dont understand the outright disdain some show for just good old Magical Items.
 

However, this is not the point of the OP or this discussion. I've let things drift for a bit to allow for brainstorming but let me try and refocus the conversation.

The goal of this thread is not to turn martials into superheroes, or even mythic heroes. Simply put, too much of the community is against that notion, and as you noted, trying to push that notion is pointless.

The real discussion then, is how much can we push the power of martials but still leave them "mundane" in flavor. How far can we push it where most people would say "ok, I could see a crazy high level guy pull that off" vs "you would need like divine power or something to do that".

Sure, but it got conflated with the notion of balancing this "action hero" with full spellcasters.

So if it's -- How much can we push the power of martials but still leave them "mundane" in flavor? And we don't care if the "action hero" ever gets near full spell caster power, agency, and solution to challanges. We just want the "action hero" better than the current martials and better emulate some the "action hero stuff" we see in fiction.

Then I think it's very doable. Although I still argue that embracing a bigger toolbox would be even better to do this.

This will unfortunately still be difficult to crowd source because even if you get people to play within these parameters, there are people that are putting further parameters on the design that I don't think you are envisioning. Hence the pushback on your OP and those abilties "just being spells" by several posters even if they can be rationaled in the fiction as action hero/mundane effects.

Anyway, I will try to get out of the way now unless I have specific comments on proposed abilities or suggestions for abilities that fit the parameters of

1) enhancing the power of martials but still leave them "mundane" or "action hero" in flavor
2) want the class better than the current martials, but don't care if it ends up being much lower powered than current full spellcasters


The goal of this thread is not to turn martials into superheroes, or even mythic heroes. Simply put, too much of the community is against that notion, and as you noted, trying to push that notion is pointless.

I disagree that just because some people are against the notion of mythic martials that it shouldn't exist as an option. Given the existance of the mythic D&D spellcaster and fictional examples of mythic martials as inspiration for the earliest D&D, it has a good reason to exist in the game as an option both from a game balance and historical D&D perspective (fulfiling the rhetorical promise from earlier editions). People can ignore the option but there isn't really any good reason to deny it to others who want it. But of course, discussion on the creation of that mythical martial does not have to be this thread.
 

Undrave

Hero
We've got to start with adjusting what 'mundane' means in a world with flying tanks that shoot fire and are entirely natural, and work from there.

The D&D world isn't Earth nor should it be. So 'normal' people shouldn't have the same limits -- and even then at least look at the actual limits of humans rather than the misconceptions of 50 years of game design.

Seriously. I want my high level Martial to be able to match world record athletes while wearing their full gear (while not going beyond encumbrance limits). As it stands, only Barbarians have a chance to reach world record jumps and stuff, and that's because they can break the 20 cap on ability scores.

The problem with requiring non-overlapping magisteria is that magic inevitably gobbles up as much of the possibility space as it can. Even 5e, the alleged "no bloat!" edition, adds spells with nearly every book published--and the spells already present cover an enormous swathe of possible actions.

We should decide and stick to "This is what martial power can't do" and "this is what magical power can't do". This way no one cares when there are overlaps on effects as long as you don't break a rule.
The problem has always been that D&D NEVER sets a 'this is what magic can't do' limit. Like, ever. It looks at the game's rule or some part of the game world and thing 'Magic should break that." and never holds back. Magic SHOULD have clear limits. If nothing else, a ton of stuff should be kept OUT of Arcane and given fully to Psionic. No more mind reading for you, Mr. Wizard. That's the Psion's turf.
 


Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
However, this is not the point of the OP or this discussion. I've let things drift for a bit to allow for brainstorming but let me try and refocus the conversation.

The goal of this thread is not to turn martials into superheroes, or even mythic heroes. Simply put, too much of the community is against that notion, and as you noted, trying to push that notion is pointless.

The real discussion then, is how much can we push the power of martials but still leave them "mundane" in flavor. How far can we push it where most people would say "ok, I could see a crazy high level guy pull that off" vs "you would need like divine power or something to do that".

I think the first step is to list what aspects martials are allowed to increase as bonuses everyone agrees with

  1. Accuracy
  2. Actions
  3. Armor class
  4. Attacks
  5. Climb/Jump/Swim speed
  6. Hit Points
  7. Movement speed
  8. Skill Checks
  9. Unarmored Damage
  10. Weapon Damage
Now the questionable stuff
  1. Ability Score
  2. Attack rerolls
  3. Bypass Resistance
  4. Darkvision
  5. Immunities
  6. Immortality
  7. Resistances
  8. Save or Die
Basically which Epic Boons should be not Epic for pure Martal?
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
So I went through all the epic boons and made a list of which could be perceived as nonmagical


DEFINITELY COULD BE NONMAGICAL
Boon of Combat Prowess
Boon of Fortitude
Boon of Immortality
Boon of Invincibility
Boon of Irresistible Offense
Boon of Peerless Aim
Boon of Perfect Health
Boon of Recovery
Boon of Resilience
Boon of Skill Proficiency
Boon of Speed
Boon of the Unfettered
Boon of Undetectability

POSSIBLY NONMAGICAL
Boon of Fate
Boon of Luck

LIKELY MAGICAL BUT COULD BE JUSTIFIED AS NONMAGICAL
Boon of Magic Resistance
Boon of Planar Travel
Boon of the Fire Soul
Boon of the Night Spirit
Boon of the Stormborn
Boon of Truesight

DEFINITELY MAGICAL
Boon of Dimensional Travel
Boon of High Magic
Boon of Quick Casting
Boon of Spell Mastery
Boon of Spell Recall
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
Do people think that a Heroic class should have a lot of very specific capabilities, or fewer, versatile powers?
My vote is for a lot of very specific capabilities.

@Minigiant I like the direction you're thinking is going!

Finally before I head out, something I thought of the other day when it comes to WotC and the apparent focus of D&D:
1640692346970.png
1640692402603.png

1640692423810.png
1640692441838.png
1640692555872.png

Each of these highlighted sections focuses on spellcasters for the most part. Very little is commented on as to what other classes are capable of.

It's a pity, really, IMO.
 

Or maybe there's mundane techniques in-universe that detect magic without spells or magic items.

Turns out magic has a special vibration that someone trained to listen for it can 'feel out'. Or a scent like ozone that varies based on type and magnitude.

Anything besides magic is a special thing out of context for the world and not actually a part of the fantasy world.
I already do this non-magically for creatures trained in Arcana (though I recognize that this benefits wizards more than other classes).

I’ve been toying with making it explicit to my players that magic is a difference of degree, not of kind.

I.e.
  • You can detect magic with your mundane senses: Detect Magic is simply an automatic success;
  • There are no diseases or poisons that can only be cured magically, a high Medecine roll is always more effective than Cure Disease, though Cure Disease and Cure Poison save you from investing in the Medecine skill;
  • Invisibility requires you to take the Hide action to actually hide. It stands to reason that you aren’t truly invisible, just transparent. This also goes for invisible sensors and the like;
  • the Alarm spell can be defeated by a sufficiently high Stealth roll;
  • Neither LTH nor Wall of Force are impervious to damage, though Wall of force is more solid.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
My vote is for a lot of very specific capabilities.

@Minigiant I like the direction you're thinking is going!

Finally before I head out, something I thought of the other day when it comes to WotC and the apparent focus of D&D:
View attachment 149003View attachment 149004
View attachment 149005View attachment 149006View attachment 149007
Each of these highlighted sections focuses on spellcasters for the most part. Very little is commented on as to what other classes are capable of.

It's a pity, really, IMO.
It's less focus and more that 5E was written based on a survey that was too high of a bar to make a consensus of what warriors look like after level 5.

The playtest focused a lot on the fighter class and the community could not agree on what it it. WOTC was not willing to bitr the bullet and make a decision on their own because of 4e's reaction.
 

The problem has always been that D&D NEVER sets a 'this is what magic can't do' limit. Like, ever. It looks at the game's rule or some part of the game world and thing 'Magic should break that." and never holds back. Magic SHOULD have clear limits. If nothing else, a ton of stuff should be kept OUT of Arcane and given fully to Psionic. No more mind reading for you, Mr. Wizard. That's the Psion's turf.
This. In the PHB, Bards got a nifty exclusive spell that gives an opponent disadvantage on their first attack. In Xanathar’s, Wizards get the same thing with a spell that does more damage (but targets a higher save). In the PHB, one difference between Sorcerers and Wizards is that Sorcerers get access to the nifty 1-hour buff: Enhance Ability. Come Tasha’s, Wizards get it too. If I remember correctly, Xanathar and Tasha’s also gave Wizards access to radiant damage, something that used to be closed to them.
 

- You can detect magic with your mundane senses: Detect Magic is simply an automatic success;
  • There are no diseases or poisons that can only be cured magically, a high Medecine roll is always more effective than Cure Disease, though Cure Disease and Cure Poison save you from investing in the Medecine skill;
  • Invisibility requires you to take the Hide action to actually hide. It stands to reason that you aren’t truly invisible, just transparent. This also goes for invisible sensors and the like;
  • the Alarm spell can be defeated by a sufficiently high Stealth roll;
  • Neither LTH nor Wall of Force are impervious to damage, though Wall of force is more solid.
Another example (dovetailing with another thread). Anything created by magic can be targetted by attacks: Evard’s tentacles, spiritual weapons, Bigby’s hand, etc.
 

Stalker0

Legend
So I went through all the epic boons and made a list of which could be perceived as nonmagical


DEFINITELY COULD BE NONMAGICAL
Boon of Combat Prowess
Boon of Fortitude
Boon of Immortality
Boon of Invincibility
Boon of Irresistible Offense
Boon of Peerless Aim
Boon of Perfect Health
Boon of Recovery
Boon of Resilience
Boon of Skill Proficiency
Boon of Speed
Boon of the Unfettered
Boon of Undetectability

POSSIBLY NONMAGICAL
Boon of Fate
Boon of Luck

LIKELY MAGICAL BUT COULD BE JUSTIFIED AS NONMAGICAL
Boon of Magic Resistance
Boon of Planar Travel
Boon of the Fire Soul
Boon of the Night Spirit
Boon of the Stormborn
Boon of Truesight

DEFINITELY MAGICAL
Boon of Dimensional Travel
Boon of High Magic
Boon of Quick Casting
Boon of Spell Mastery
Boon of Spell Recall
That’s an interesting idea. For a quick adjustment, you could give a 16th level fighter say a bonus “epic boon”. That would be a major boost in power, and the player can decide if they want more magical or keep it mundane
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
That’s an interesting idea. For a quick adjustment, you could give a 16th level fighter say a bonus “epic boon”. That would be a major boost in power, and the player can decide if they want more magical or keep it mundane
Would something like a boon awarded when casters get certain spell levels work?

At most, maybe 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th? But that might be too much, LOL! :D
 

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