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

Vaalingrade

Legend
No. I decide what my PC wants to do. Prior to the use of that power he didn't want to attack. If after the nose wipe he suddenly does, then it mind controlled me into wanting to, because a disdainful nose wipe can't otherwise make me want to attack.
That is literally what baiting people is. Making them want to attack when they don't want to.

Like constantly misusing philosophy terms until they yell at you to derail a discussion. They didn't want to get into the same dumb argument over bad faith discussions, but they get baited into it.
 

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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Why should it have a very low success rate? I thought the whole point of the Battle Master subclass was being exceptionally good at reading opponents and having preternaturally good instincts about who/what they are and how they tick (Know Your Enemy). Why can't their battlefield prowess also extend into the field of cold-reading targets to get a pretty high likelihood of pushing their berserk buttons or their deep-seated fears?
Know Thy Enemy requires a full minute outside of combat, and even then can't give the information you are talking about. A battle master is incapable of getting even more obscure information inside of combat in less than 6 seconds.
Uh....okay. So, you do realize that now that thing you called a strawman isn't, because of this statement? Because now you are saying that any time you force someone to move against their will, it's mind control.
:sigh: Context. Context. We're talking about mental powers forcing action, not physical, which I've now with this statement have said at least 4 times is different. That Strawman argument twisting what I am talking about to the physical was and still remains a Strawman.
Plus? Again, that's what failing a Wisdom saving throw means. (Or, in 4e, successfully hitting its Will defense.) It specifically means that the target does want to, even if only for a moment. You overcame their willpower, tricked or goaded them into a dumb move or feigned weakness that they foolishly tried to exploit. Getting the saving throw was their chance to realize the trick or taunt or feint for what it was. They failed.
Right. It's mind control. It's taking my PCs mind and forcing it to change to something the PC doesn't want to do. My PC was incapable of attacking wildly before the ability was use, and now "magically" his mind has been controlled and he wants to.
Do you have similar problems with, say, failing to know a historical fact because your character fails a History check? "No, my character definitely would know this." Or similar problems with being deceived by something you as a player know must be an actor's disguse, but which your character fails to see through by botching the Investigation check? Aren't those things exactly the same--forcing you to be ignorant, forcing you to be deceived, "against your will"?
No. Neither of those things force action.
Seems like another distinction without a difference to me. What choices you're permitted to make have been controlled. Sure, in one case it's narrowed more than the other, but either way, you're taking choices away from the target. And if these things should be supernatural, doesn't that mean 5e is now exactly as bad as 4e was on this score? Worse, even, since in 4e at least it was a tiny subset (IIRC two or three powers) of the vast array of options Fighters might take, as opposed to something literally anyone can get for the price of a single feat (or, with Tasha's, a fighting style)?
If you can't see the difference between, "Able to make any choice but one" and "Unable to make any choice but one," I don't know what to tell you. The difference between those two things is profound. I mean, let's say there are 10,000 choices. With one ability I can make 9,999 choices and with the other I can only make 1 choice.
On its own, no. But when you have a consistent trend of people doing it--demonstrated by both official modules and everyday DMing--it seems to me that, whether or not it is everyone's cup of tea, it is an accepted reading of the text that creatures in D&D worlds are not required to conform to the psychology that naturalistic creatures of Earth possess. When at least as many people run things "unrealistically" as "realistically," it seems a bit hard to argue that behavioral psychology must always work exactly like it does in the real world, and not (as is the case with many things) up to a coarse abstraction thereof, with occasional hiccups and foibles forgiven because they are part of enabling a gaming experience.
I've never encountered these things on a consistent basis. Modules don't do it. They generally just provide charts without direction to attack no matter what, and everyday DMing includes the ability(if communication is possible) to come to a non-violent conclusion to a random encounter.

And no, there is no requirement to conform to Earth psychology. Nor is there anything saying or imply that they are not of similar psychology to Earth.
So you can decide if your character would be fooled by a mundane disguise, such as one made via the Actor feat? Or decide if you know whether a character is lying to you, Insight rolls be damned?
Apples and Oranges. My PC is not being forced to take a specific action with those things.
Berserker Barbarian, level 10 feature, Intimidating Presence. Berserkers are well-known for being one of the only other subclass to be truly non-magical, since (as the Barbarian descriptive text notes) some Barbarians simply "draw from a roiling reservoir of anger at a world full of pain." Intimidating presence forces a target to make a Wisdom save, and failure makes the target frightened. The target does not get a second saving throw, but the Barbarian can choose to extend the effect as long as the target remains in line of sight and no more than 60' away--without granting additional saves. Nothing in the text indicates that it is magical in nature--meaning, if you assert it is, you must prove it, not simply call it "mind control" because it could make you do something you don't want to do. The rules can tell you what you have to do, even if you'd rather not. That's why they're called "rules."
Non-magical doesn't mean non-supernatural.

"Beginning at 10th level, you can use your action to frighten someone with your menacing presence."

That sounds supernatural to me.
 

Will saves can't resprent this or that, martial abilities have to always stick to the more explicit action economy, you have to narrowly define the fiction that the martial is taking instead of just leaving is open to fit the fictional circumstances, etc.

On that second part... kind of? There's a fair bit in D&D that is abstracted (e.g. HP), but taking action isn't really one of them. Even casters follow the pattern of "cast a spell, achieve the effect described in the spell." There's some wiggle room, but even back when there were very few explicitly defined combat actions outside of the basic attack, in every group I played with, improvised actions were met with the question "what are you trying to do?" and then the criteria for success was set with that in mind. The types of combat actions in WotC era D&D are essentially just that, but spelled out in advance so you don't have to negotiate with the DM over every little thing.

On the first part, there's definitely room for broadening design space, but I think that effort needs to be taken to make sure that design space doesn't just become magic in its framework. Like, I'm all for save or x effects for martial characters, but then if you start making those more powerful (which I'm fine with too) and broad in effect, you have to start thinking of balancing, and it's real easy to go from that to looking at how magic is balanced and replicating it, and then essentially you have spells in everything but description. As an example of how one might keep martial ability design separate, one could say that instead of balancing based on use per day like spells, you could do it at will, but with diminishing returns on the logic that an enemy that sees you pull off a big move is more likely to find a way to avoid or counter it with each successive attempt. Another balancing mechanic might be risk, where a failed attempt makes you vulnerable either in general, or to specific consequences specified in the ability.
 

On that second part... kind of? There's a fair bit in D&D that is abstracted (e.g. HP), but taking action isn't really one of them. Even casters follow the pattern of "cast a spell, achieve the effect described in the spell." There's some wiggle room, but even back when there were very few explicitly defined combat actions outside of the basic attack, in every group I played with, improvised actions were met with the question "what are you trying to do?" and then the criteria for success was set with that in mind. The types of combat actions in WotC era D&D are essentially just that, but spelled out in advance so you don't have to negotiate with the DM over every little thing.

On the first part, there's definitely room for broadening design space, but I think that effort needs to be taken to make sure that design space doesn't just become magic in its framework. Like, I'm all for save or x effects for martial characters, but then if you start making those more powerful (which I'm fine with too) and broad in effect, you have to start thinking of balancing, and it's real easy to go from that to looking at how magic is balanced and replicating it, and then essentially you have spells in everything but description. As an example of how one might keep martial ability design separate, one could say that instead of balancing based on use per day like spells, you could do it at will, but with diminishing returns on the logic that an enemy that sees you pull off a big move is more likely to find a way to avoid or counter it with each successive attempt. Another balancing mechanic might be risk, where a failed attempt makes you vulnerable either in general, or to specific consequences specified in the ability.

These kind of statements are exactly the frustration in having these conversations!

There is a segment of folks that equate mechanical sameness has to mean narrative sameness (even though entire games are based on this not being true), and don't want similar mechanics for spellcasting and martial.

THEN, when you suggest a different, powerful mechanical framework for martials --- how about martials get abtracted physical actions for their powerful abilities! -- it gets shot down as not being done before or whatever other reasons. I mean, we're trying to solve something that hasn't been done well under the current design structure so seems like we might want to get creative.

Even casters follow the pattern of "cast a spell, achieve the effect described in the spell."

Yeah, so this would be something martials get to do that casters don't -- limited use abstract "physical action" that lead to effect and bypasses the action economy system if they use a limited resource. It's different mechanically than spellcasting at least...
 

These kind of statements are exactly the frustration in having these conversations!
Then your frustration might be in that you're trying to make a completely different game out of D&D. D&D isn't a narrative style game in the first place, so trying to exchange concrete action based results (which again, even casters adhere to despite the fiction being that they break reality) for narrative based results is definitely going to get pushback, because if people wanted that, there are games that do it far better than anything you could tack onto D&D. People have balked at even something as simple as Fate style meta-currency in D&D.

What I suggested would allow for more powerful actions that make use of more varied mechanics while keeping to the basics of how D&D works. What you're suggesting... just doesn't.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
:

Bad Ass Move
You do a combination of goading, faking weakness, repositioning, grabing, pushing, pulling, climbing, jumping, and whatever other action hero moves are possible in this world.
Every enemy with a possible path in a 15 ft radius ends up next the maritial user and the user makes a melee attack against them. NO SAVE. A creature can use a Legendary Save to avoid this effect.

So in the instance of crossbow enemies on a 10ft ledge and sword people nearby, maybe its -- "You parkour up the wall dragging the 3 crossbowmen down by their ankles and attack them. While you are attacking the crossbowmen, the sword people charge in at you thinking they have an opening and you strike at them".

The key to this abiity is it breaks the standard action economy for the martial and goes straight to effect. You take this action and you no longer have to describe every 5 ft movement, climb check, grapple, whatever. It's a Bad Ass Move. It has a concrete effect. It gets you closer to spell like effects and can be explained entirely in the action hero vein. You can limit it to x times a day due to a combination of exhaustion, circumstances need to be right, heroic moxy, etc.

can we get a book of these please or at least a blog post:)
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
One thing I did for my own game Mansions and Minigiants is that many of the warrior types "Space Marine" when they hit the superhero tier. They get super strong, super fast, super tall, and super tough. Essentially becoming minigiants.

The Knight and Noble classes activate their bred Noble bloodlines.
The Outlaw realized that one of the Gods curated their lives to create a Fated bloodline.
The Berserker class reactivates their muscle growth and becomes a hulk..
Adventurer can choose a Ancestral, Divine, Monstrous, Noble, or Fated bloodline or any Weapon Mastery.

Even the Alchemist and Brawler diets themselves into a Perfect Body at level 10.
Overall they being 7ft "GigaChad(ette)s" at level 10 with increased speed, carrying, leaps, and dives with nearly arrowproof skin.

Then you have Superheroic Fighters and Swordmasters who get Weapon Mastery and can say "rolling is for chums" X times a day and just pick where the dice lands.

And don't mess with a Epic Noble. They can geas Lawful characters and enrage Chaotic ones by invoking their social station and responsibilities if they know their culture. Epic Rangers can do it do because Rangers know the best racial slurs.
 

Then your frustration might be in that you're trying to make a completely different game out of D&D. D&D isn't a narrative style game in the first place, so trying to exchange concrete action based results (which again, even casters adhere to despite the fiction being that they break reality) for narrative based results is definitely going to get pushback, because if people wanted that, there are games that do it far better than anything you could tack onto D&D. People have balked at even something as simple as Fate style meta-currency in D&D.

Yeah, you may be right in terms of acceptance of narrative abilities in D&D. But I don't think the Bad Ass Move existing turns the game into Fate. It's a specific limited use instance of narrative power, not the default action resolution. And it's not even big time narrative, like introducing backstory or objects. But I'm not wedded to this and your suggestions should be explored as well.

My wider point is that not only are martial abilities restricted in the narrative for some, but some are heavily restricting the mechanics that could be used to represent this more limited narrative as well.

I'm not sure these can be reconciled.
 

Most of the this thread is just a rehash of all the same back and forth, but it has set off a light bulb for me on one new thing:

Not only do some mundane martial advocates want limitations on the fiction --- which is fine, that is the premise. How do we create this sort of somewhat better than real life action hero. (of course I and many others would like this action hero as only 1 choice of martial along side those martials that grow to mythic hero status since that is what spellcasters do and more choice is good!)

BUT ALSO, some want to restrict the game mechanics that can be used to model this action hero at the same time!

Will saves can't resprent this or that, martial abilities have to always stick to the more explicit action economy, you have to narrowly define the fiction that the martial is taking instead of just leaving is open to fit the fictional circumstances, etc.

Even if sticking to the action hero, people are having trouble getting these types of "scenes" into the mechanics because they are not using the whole tool box. If you are going to stick to action hero, don't make the class jump through a bunch of mechancial hoops just to do this action hero stuff (which by definition is never going to be as powerful as the mythic spellcasting anyway).

I've said it before but D&D is TEAM adventuring game (that is why it gets compared to comic book supers a lot IMO).

By definition, you can't really have Black Widow and Dr. Strange having equal impact and spotlight without plot contrivance. In a rpg this can be done by metacurrency, or by broader effect first abiltiies that give some of this narrative control. Maybe there are other ways, but trying to make a bunch of discrete little abilties that are bound by the D&D action ecnomy doesn't seem like a good way to do it. (the discrete action economy stuff can be there for the at-will abilities)
I don't know why you would think I want to restrict the mechanics. I don't have any particular issue with giving Fighters spell slots and letting them cast martial 'spells'. Use whatever mechanics you like.

But the issue is this. If you have a Fighter spell that has the same mechanical effect as Misty Step, then it is only really not a teleport if you are going to stop it being used in circumstances in which there is no other explanation of the spell other than 'teleport'. You could let it happen anyway and not care about what happens in the fiction I guess, but if you do care, then the fiction imposes constraints.

The issue here is fundamentally conceptual not mechanically. As long as Fighters are constrained by basic ideas of what is real and wizards get increasingly wilder and more earth shattering ways to break the laws of physics, there is a widening conceptual gap. That means that you can only really balance them, to the extent that 5e does, in the realm of the thoroughly abstracted such as damage.

It doesn't matter what mechanics you write. Conan cannot conceptually be balanced against Dr Strange. If you want to balance a warrior against Doctor Strange, then at the very least you need Thor or the Hulk.
 

I don't know why you would think I want to restrict the mechanics. I don't have any particular issue with giving Fighters spell slots and letting them cast martial 'spells'. Use whatever mechanics you like.

But the issue is this. If you have a Fighter spell that has the same mechanical effect as Misty Step, then it is only really not a teleport if you are going to stop it being used in circumstances in which there is no other explanation of the spell other than 'teleport'. You could let it happen anyway and not care about what happens in the fiction I guess, but if you do care, then the fiction imposes constraints.

The issue here is fundamentally conceptual not mechanically. As long as Fighters are constrained by basic ideas of what is real and wizards get increasingly wilder and more earth shattering ways to break the laws of physics, there is a widening conceptual gap. That means that you can only really balance them, to the extent that 5e does, in the realm of the thoroughly abstracted such as damage.

It doesn't matter what mechanics you write. Conan cannot conceptually be balanced against Dr Strange. If you want to balance a warrior against Doctor Strange, then at the very least you need Thor or the Hulk.

Sorry, wasn't calling you out. Just adding to the thoughts in your post which seemed to be going in the same direction.

Seems like we are very much on the same page.

One way to balance against Dr. Strange = Hulk (mythic martial)

Some people want a Black Widow (action hero martial) to be able to adventure alongside Dr. Strange and have the same importance/impact to the story though. I have no problem with this.

This is impossible using Black Widow's on paper power set though.

AND on top of this, it is difficult to model even this level of power -- typical action hero stuff because of current mechancial limitations that some people are demanding on martial abilities. (will saves have to mean mind control, etc)

One way to do this is with powerful limited use abililities. Another way to the power of mundanes is to do this is by abtraction or meta currency.

For instance -- even though Black Widow can't fly, circumstances often make it so she can use her skill set to accomplish the same thing in a combat scene. She parkours, jumps off platforms, bounces off other huge enemies, and makes it to a building rooftop 3 building over. Thor flies over and Hulk jumps in one jump.

But from an rpg point of view, the player needs some mechanic to trigger that all those things are available. The dragon lowers its head at just the right time for the mundane to jump on it and off again onto the high ledge with a cave opening.

This maybe can also be done with limited use abilities that follow traditional action economy (maybe), but seems like there is a lot of push back there as well because if you use existing mechanical contructs to do this (will saves, always works, etc.) then you get this "turning things into spells" deal even if the fictional representation is purely mundane/action hero.

I just had the realization of the extent of this mechanical hand tying going on. I always thought it was mostly a conceptual issue, but people are having trouble "giving nice things" to these action heros even after agreeing that this is the concept.

From your other posts, I don't think you disagree?
 

Sorry, wasn't calling you out. Just adding to the thoughts in your post which seemed to be going in the same direction.

Seems like we are very much on the same page.

One way to balance against Dr. Strange = Hulk (mythic martial)

Some people want a Black Widow (action hero martial) to be able to adventure alongside Dr. Strange and have the same importance/impact to the story though. I have no problem with this.

This is impossible using Black Widow's on paper power set though.

AND on top of this, it is difficult to model even this level of power -- typical action hero stuff because of current mechancial limitations that some people are demanding on martial abilities. (will saves have to mean mind control, etc)

One way to do this is with powerful limited use abililities. Another way to the power of mundanes is to do this is by abtraction or meta currency.

For instance -- even though Black Widow can't fly, circumstances often make it so she can use her skill set to accomplish the same thing in a combat scene. She parkours, jumps off platforms, bounces off other huge enemies, and makes it to a building rooftop 3 building over. Thor flies over and Hulk jumps in one jump.

But from an rpg point of view, the player needs some mechanic to trigger that all those things are available. The dragon lowers its head at just the right time for the mundane to jump on it and off again onto the high ledge with a cave opening.

This maybe can also be done with limited use abilities that follow traditional action economy (maybe), but seems like there is a lot of push back there as well because if you use existing mechanical contructs to do this (will saves, always works, etc.) then you get this "turning things into spells" deal even if the fictional representation is purely mundane/action hero.

I just had the realization of the extent of this mechanical hand tying going on. I always thought it was mostly a conceptual issue, but people are having trouble "giving nice things" to these action heros even after agreeing that this is the concept.

From your other posts, I don't think you disagree?
Yeah. I agree. One way this has been approached in the past is through metacurrency. The old Buffy game gave the companion characters a lot more metacurrency than a Slayer. (I never played it so I can't really say how well this works).

It may be that this allows some kind of balance against these characters, but I'm not sure that it feels particularly satisfying.

In a way it kind of works that way already. The fighter cannot dodge Fireballs or Dragonbreath plausibly unless we allow an obscene a lot of luck (although what I think happens most of the time at most tables is probably that people don't think about it all and just approach it as pure game).
 
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DND_Reborn

Legend
The fighter cannot dodge Fireballs or Dragonbreath plausibly unless we allow an obscene a lot of luck (although what I think happens most of the time at most tables is probably that people don't think about it all and just approach it as pure game).
Oi! Don't even get me started on saving throws... :(

But FWIW when I DM we actually try to narrate saving throws, particularly when the effect is visible. I allow a PC to move up to half their speed to reposition themselves in the process of making a save. So, in your example a Fighter to makes his save might move to partial cover, helping explain narratively how he avoided half the damage, etc.
 

Eubani

Hero
When designing new martial abilities one must realize that you either engage the circus that wants to quash any new martial design and get nowhere or ignore them and get on with it. There will always be spell caster supremacist that will whine as soon as a martial character can do more than "I attack" for hp damage and the occasional ability check and the liars that scream "It's magic". If you constantly stop to engage these clowns you will only ever get bogged down and get nowhere, they have been at this for decades.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
I am more, at this point, waiting for someone, anyone, to form some sort of consensus on what the martial improvers are really looking for, because IMO there is way too wide a spread in what they want... I've tried to do this, but received little feedback on it. 🤷‍♂️

Otherwise, what is the point of the discussion?

For one group to say. "We want martials to rival spellcasters in power, especially at higher levels." and the responses to be:

1. Ok, who's stopping you? (So, just do it.)
2. You can't because magic is more powerful! (Ignore these people and do it.)
3. Sounds good, my advice is to try to give some justification for greater adoption. (It's advice, that's all, do it however you want.)
4. And so on... (Regardless, just do it.)

In other words, if you want it, just do it. But, you have to start somewhere.... unless you want to keep going back and forth to no end.
 

Stalker0

Legend
Also on the list of things being discussed are 5e Menacing Attack and Goading Attack, which NPCs can get and use against PCs.
This is a good example of finding that line of "mundane" vs "supernatural". Lets look at these 5e abilities.

Goading Attack - So the thing I do find fault with is the damage of the ability, this "goading" notion does imply some form of mental adjustment. If the attack was just a distracting strike or something, the idea that your attacks draw someone's attention and gives them penalties on their attacks....I mean that's a very real and normal physical phenomena....and why it passes the mundane test. So I think the mechanics of the maneuver are well within mundane means...even if the name's flavor does invoke a more supernatural cause.

Menacing Attack - The way this works is that we respect in the physical world that fear is not always logical, and that combats are in fight....very scary. So the idea of an attack that creates fear in an opponent...is very mundane. Further, lets note the mechanics here only add in some penalties, aka your engaging a bit more cautiously. Its not forcing you to run away screaming in the night, its just a combat penalty.

I would argue that these are a good step away from the "come and get it" ability to force movement (without use of physical objects) from multiple opponents.
 

No. Neither of those things force action.
I flatly disagree. Being deceived by a disguise forces plenty of actions that would never occur otherwise.

Non-magical doesn't mean non-supernatural.

"Beginning at 10th level, you can use your action to frighten someone with your menacing presence."

That sounds supernatural to me.
Then prove it.

Prove that it's supernatural. Don't just claim it without support; that's a circular argument. Don't just use "well it sounds supernatural to my ears." It doesn't sound supernatural to mine--you're going to need more than just your impression. Give me an actual argument for why it's supernatural, from the rules themselves.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I flatly disagree. Being deceived by a disguise forces plenty of actions that would never occur otherwise.
What specific action(s) must I take?
Then prove it.

Prove that it's supernatural. Don't just claim it without support; that's a circular argument. Don't just use "well it sounds supernatural to my ears." It doesn't sound supernatural to mine--you're going to need more than just your impression. Give me an actual argument for why it's supernatural, from the rules themselves.
It's my opinion man. It sounds supernatural to me.

Edit: I don't need to give an argument from the rules. That's the point of this. The rules SHOULD call it supernatural. I don't have to rely on what the rules state for my position.
 

In other words, if you want it, just do it.
Functional, effective game design is dramatically harder than this.

This is like saying, "You want to learn how to draw art good enough for people to commission you? Just do it." Uh...yeah, 'cause that's not, y'know, sweeping literal years of developing skills and actual real-money expenses under the rug like they're mere trivialities.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
Functional, effective game design is dramatically harder than this.
I never said it was EASY LOL, I just said do it. ;)

Work on it, offer drafts up for suggestions, etc. instead of debating the point over and over. Arguing the point with someone who doesn't think it is valid is IMO really a waste of time. I for one would love to see martials get some love, but my ideas fall far short of what other posters (in the 1st thread, really) have said they've wanted. Still, I am all for trying to help people make D&D the game they want to play, even if it isn't for me.

The OP offered a lot of examples, and some people critiqued them to try to move it forward, but then it drifted away. :(

If all the time spent debating it was used to develop it, we might actually see some progress. So, do you want to work on it, try to find a common ground for the power-levels people want, etc. or not? We could revisit the OP or start brain-storming other ideas. :unsure:
 


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