Casters vs Mundanes in your experience

Have you experienced Casters over shadowing Mundane types?


nnms

First Post
3rd ed. My 8th level diviner dominated combat. The buffs I could throw down on myself quickly made me better than anyone else. I also had access to a lot of quickened true-strikes so I would never miss in melee. And this was just with the PHB and no expansions. I can only imagine what I could have done with the feats and spells from a couple more years worth of splat books.
 

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Crazy Jerome

First Post
Basic and AD&D: We saw some higher level dominance of wizards, but this tended not to bother us then because we were playing some variation of Fantasy Vietnam, and any player that lost a character had to "start over" at whatever point we agreed was the starting level of the campaign. Since characters rarely cracked 15th, and most of the time were in the 5th to 9th range, the default "balance over time" worked well enough for us then. At 11th or so, wizards were dominant, but we didn't mind, since the poor guys had to put up with so much flak the rest of the time.

3E: Only played it with my current group, who are uniformly careful and nice with social contract to not overshadow other players. Our objection to 3E on these grounds was not that we couldn't make it work for us, but that it takes too much work to avoid caster dominance at higher levels. Could solve 75% of caster issues by the simple expedient of forced multiclassing limiting caster spell progressions to no better than what the bard gets. If that was the only objection to 3E, would quite enjoy that. :D

4E: Haven't played enough high level 4E to comment. In the upper ends of the heroic tier, have not experienced the beginnings of caster dominance that we would typically see in 3E, though.
 

kimble

First Post
Yes.
I remember a FR campaign where the combats with the Big Bads would always be:
a) Spellcasters flying, throwing fireballs at the Big Bad, while laughing hysterically*;
b) Non-spellcasters holding the minions and hopping that the spellcasters wouldn´t shoot them.

*Ok, not really laughing, but grinning.
 

eamon

Explorer
Mango!

It's a bad comparison. I've never seen a pure caster nor a pure fighter; at least not like the premise of this question suggests.

Many of the most powerful casters tended to be semi-fighters (e.g. clerics+druids over wizards).

All of the fighters used magic heavily, both through items, and by being buffed. The cliche quadratic wizard/linear fighter almost always conveniently ignores that.

I'm not exactly sure who needed who more, but I feel the fighters tended to need to casters more for the buffs. However, several instances in any campaign required the kind of stamina that casters simply couldn't manage. Also, we banned natural spell :p.

So, definitely mango!

Frankly I think its unwise to emphasize the question since its inherently divisive. I don't think its an inherent problem, even with scaling spells; it's mostly a problem with certain spells and the general lack of flexibility in the purely martial classes. The whole idea of class balance is inane anyway: it's about player balance, not the classes, and even there balance is a dangerous notion since different players want quite different things.

After 3e I wanted more balance. After 4e I want more creative chaos. So this balance thing - well, it's not wrong, it's just a worryingly boring detail that's getting way too much attention for my tastes.
 

Ratskinner

Adventurer
IME, the relative balance of casters vs mundanes was very dependent on the DM and the campaign. Just to be clear, I am emphatically not talking about leaving balance up to the DM, or a broken system that the DM had to "clean up". 3e was a little more caster-favorable in this regard, but it was still campaign-dependent.

Many things used to play into it:

  • Magic items: which ones show up? how common are they?
    • 3e's MI mechanics also heavily tilted to caster's favor.
  • Magic item creation: how hard is it?
    • If you rarely have PC's doing the crafting, that tilts away from casters.
  • Enemy spellcasters: Do they leave their spellbooks behind?
    • You truly hose Arcane casters, if they don't.
  • Monsters: Are they more than stacks of HP for the fighters to mow down?
When I DM'ed a "sandboxey" 2e campaign, I could tailor the magic dominance to suit the game the players wanted, simply by adjusting the above. 3e made it a bit harder, but at least arcane casters could be kept in check fairly easily, IME. (Sorry 3e, but you made the Divine caster just too good, IMO :D Not that my clerics ever took advantage of it.:confused:)


Part of the resentment that 4e engendered, I think, was in somewhat removing that flexibility. You know, the whole ‘The right way to play guitar is to play thrash metal’ thing that Mearls was talking about.



Anyway, as someone said above, I don't think that the LFQW thing was a fundamental problem with the rules. Just because someone can drive the car off a cliff doesn't mean that it needed a brake job.
 

Dausuul

Legend
Well, I voted a resounding yes, and not just for combat casting as a few other posters have focused on.

In my experience, too often the high level casters can dictate the flow of adventuring though spells and their use or non-use. Thy can cast fly, or spider climb, or use powerful divinations etc etc etc, and that really puts them the ones in the saddle when it comes to deciding what to do.

Yeah, this. (I must spread some XP around.) CoDzilla may rule the battlefield, but the wizard has a thousand ways to accomplish the party's goals without ever getting in a fight, or while skewing the fight massively in favor of the PCs.

Caster dominance shows up earliest and is most severe in 3E, followed by 3.5E where they took a minor nerfing. It wasn't as bad in TSR-era D&D, partly because saving throw DCs did not scale and partly because wizards were less able to negate their signature weaknesses of low hit points and disruptable casting. Still, it was pretty bad. 4E largely did away with caster dominance, but at the cost of radically redesigning both caster and noncaster classes.
 
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Melkor

Explorer
I started playing around 1983 or 84, and have played with a couple of guys from that original gaming group ever since.

One of whom loves to find rules loopholes and push the limits of exploiting a system. He is the same player that always plays a Magic User/Wizard.

Even so, in my gaming groups, it has never been a problem. The combination of Wizards being weak at low levels (and having to survive to earn that 'payoff' of power at higher levels), the limit on spells per day, and a common-sense DM kept his characters from ever making the rest of us feel completely useless.

Granted, we did expect that the Wizard would be able to do amazing things if he survived to high levels, and it was a part of the game that we actually enjoyed.
 


keterys

First Post
4e: No
3e: YES, painfully so.
OD&D/1e/2e: Yes, but a bit group / level dependent.

I would suggest that while 1e was in much better shape than 3e, since it had some of the triggers, it's worth bringing up that I've done fights where you might run into, say, 8 9th level fighters and 2 3rd level wizards... and oh god you were scared of the wizards, not the fighters. Stinking Cloud and Color Spray and all sorts of things, oh my.

It's also a _very_ big deal how much of the spell pyramid a player or enemy caster gets access to - if the PCs can rest almost whenever, then casters get a bit ridiculous. Similarly, if a monster caster has their full pyramid, every time, then they're _also_ much scarier than they should be. It just gets too swingy if you can bring your entire load for the day to bear in a single encounter, no matter who you are. :(
 

Surmos

First Post
I started playing around 1983 or 84, and have played with a couple of guys from that original gaming group ever since.

One of whom loves to find rules loopholes and push the limits of exploiting a system. He is the same player that always plays a Magic User/Wizard.

Even so, in my gaming groups, it has never been a problem. The combination of Wizards being weak at low levels (and having to survive to earn that 'payoff' of power at higher levels), the limit on spells per day, and a common-sense DM kept his characters from ever making the rest of us feel completely useless.

Granted, we did expect that the Wizard would be able to do amazing things if he survived to high levels, and it was a part of the game that we actually enjoyed.

Sorry to piggyback off your post but I had a similar experience for a long time. I noticed something similar at lower levels. Heck I even had this same frame of thinking for a long time starting back when I played earlier editions.

As I've become a more open gamer in both tabletop and digital gaming I can't justify it anymore. I now believe that this balance can be achieved without removing the flavor and maintaining most of the creativity casters are accustomed to having. The issue seems to be one of compromise (compromise of an older perception) and perception of what is "balanced" as far as what casters are capable of. If I was going by the Tolkien series, then of course wizards would be some of the most power creatures to walk the planes. That's how they were. I can't remember wizards not being that strong (as far as how that series portrayed how strong wizards could be)

At PAX Mearls made a good point. Gaming has changed over the past 38 years. D&D has a history and a great deal of things that are considered "canon", but IMHO I think that older perception of a wizard being that powerful needs to change a bit.

I don't deny that may rub long-time players the wrong way, but without a balance being achieved it causes the game to potentially be less fun for other players not playing a caster. I also accept that the concept of "unmatched power" is what makes the world more "real" and "realistic" for what some players expect as well.

*immature rant*
The more I read these forums the more I'm blown away by fellow gamers lack of willingness to budge on issues like this. Its almost like for some it is better to have the mechanics of the game support a perception instead of promoting a game that is balanced and have house-rules that build that perception they want to achieve . I'm not saying its necessarily right or wrong either way, just my opinion.
 

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