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Finesse rebalance

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
In another thread there was an aside about rapiers, with part of it being:

Does it bother you how perfect they are?
So I started to write up a serious reply about how it's not that they were perfect, but that others were not:

if any of it bothered me, it would be how imperfect a bunch of non-finesse weapons are.

Dagger as a simple, light, finesse weapon is d4. We're not going down from there, d4 is our base.

A martial light finesse weapon is the Short Sword, which averages 1 point more on a hit. Fine. A rapier is a martial finesse - no longer light - and it does 1 point more than the short sword. All good. These are properly balanced against each other, and using the d4 as a minimum point they are anchored against the minimum so they can't drop down lower.

Therefore the issue isn't with the rapier, it's that the longswords and other martial 1H weapons aren't d10. It seemed like they tried to balance finesse d8 and versatile d8, but versatile is so situational while finesse is such a game changer.
First thing I realized is that I was derailing a thread, so I didn't post it. The second thing is that the comment about how finesse is such a game changer compared to other keywords has a lot of truth in it.

So I was thinking about a reversion to a mechanic from an earlier edition, and then some 5e flourishes on it.

Finesse becomes that you use DEX or STR to attack. Damage is still STR. This weakens DEX as a do-all ability score and makes finesse less of a game changer out of the gate.

So a default DEX-based rapier is inferior to a default STR-based longsword.

Then we add in a Fighting Style
Swashbuckler: You may use your DEX or STR for damage with all finesse weapons. If you are not holding a shield or non-finesse weapon, you gain +1 AC in light, medium or no armor.

The +1 AC is to bring it up the the level of the other fighting styles, though it's a bit stepping on the Protection style. Other suggestions welcome.

Rogues and Monks would get either this fighting style (which would boost their AC) or just the use DEX for damage as well, as an additional feature.

A feat would also do something similar, probably as a half-feat that also raises DEX.

(Note that if I wanted to make this level of balance, I'd probably also adjust the melee vs. ranfged damage, especially since I did just decrease DEX melee damage but not DEX ranged damage.)

If you think the rapier is too good, would you use this? What does it break? (DEX-clerics?) How can we improve it?
 

jaelis

Explorer
IMO the rapier is a little too good, but I'm OK with the finesse rules in general. So I just say you can't use the rapier with a shield, and that works for me.
 

Cap'n Kobold

Explorer
I would make it a feat, so that Rogues and other classes can pick it up without multiclassing.
Monks don't need it, since they don't use Finesse as such.

Finesse Fighters and similar classes with Fighting styles already have two pretty good ones for Finesse in Duelling and Two-weapon fighting styles.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
I actually think the balance is good enough right now, but I might think differently in a Featless game. I also wouldn't make finesse a feat, as feats are optional rules.
 
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Xeviat

Explorer
I haven't found an issue with Finesse in my games. Finesse Fighters and Paladins are taking a penalty to AC by not wearing heavy armor. Rogues and Rangers are balanced around finesse.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
A weak character should never hit harder than a strong character, all else being equal. In my opinion, you could just have finesse weapons add Strength to damage instead of Dex, and leave everything else as-is. Maybe we'd actually get a character with decent Strength and Dexterity, once in a while.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I’m a big supporter of Finesse as Dex to hit but not to damage, at least on paper. I haven’t tried it in an actual game yet, but in theory I like it a lot.
 

UngeheuerLich

Adventurer
Only thing I don't like is that wizards rather use daggers than a staff and goblins don't use spears anymore.

I don't have a solution though.
Maybe adding abilities like martial arts to all classes that allow the use of finesse weapons with dexterity seems appropriate.
To make it fair I might be inclined to make all weapons use dex or str to hit and str to damage. I might allow half dexterity bonus rounded down instead of str to damage for finesse weapons if you only wield a light weapon in the off hand.
But this might be tol complicated.
 
Therefore the issue isn't with the rapier, it's that the longswords and other martial 1H weapons aren't d10. It seemed like they tried to balance finesse d8 and versatile d8, but versatile is so situational while finesse is such a game changer.
So, maybe piercing just needs to be a lot worse than slashing in some way? Because that seems like a difference, there, too. (Or the versatile blades need to be pierce & slashing, vs the finesse blades being piercing?) Or...


…/clearly/ what's missing is ::drumroll:: 1e AD&D style Weapon vs Armor modifiers! Yep. If finesse weapons were good vs light armor and sucked vs heavy, while versatile weapons got generally favorable mods, it'd all balance neatly (OK, messily) out!
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
Oooorrr ... just make the rapier a d6. The mods are cool, but the book keeping can be intense. No harm in a little theory crafting though...
 

Gladius Legis

Explorer
An idea I've been playing around with recently is keeping DEX to attack and damage for finesse, but the character must also have a certain STR score to be able to wield the weapon in a finesse manner. The STR requirement would vary depending on the weapon.

A dagger's STR requirement to finesse would be pretty low, say STR 9. Shortsword finesse could require STR 11, and the rapier STR 13.

The idea would be to put a major disincentive on all these STR 8 finesse builds, while at the same time not unduly punishing DEX-based melee with lower damage. If you want to finesse anything, you need to invest at least some into STR, but at least your damage is up to par.
 
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If you think the rapier is too good, would you use this? What does it break? (DEX-clerics?) How can we improve it?
Here is the question: what problem are you trying to fix?

Is the problem one about certain builds (such as rapier/shield fighters)? Is it a problem with the weapon table balance? Is it a problem with finesse being a default build for certain "skirmisher" classes (rogue, monk, ranger)? Is it a problem with certain weapons being neglected in favor of finesse weapons?

Lets look at each separately.

First, the weapon table is hopelessly fubar. Seriously, heavy weapons begin and end with greatsword, tridents are martial spears, rapiers are king of finesse, and there is no reason to ever use a heavy crossbow since the only classes proficient in it gain extra attacks that make it a trap option. If you're going to try to fix the weapon table by changing finesse, you are only doing one of nearly a dozen fixes needed to balance that table.

Second, I have no problem with rogues, rangers, and monks using finesse weapons as the default fighting style. Rogues don't always get sneak attack, monks need it as the only way to get consistent damage, and rangers need all the help they can get dual-wielding. Either your are weakening all of these classes (by making them wait/pay for the damage boost) making them all MAD, or giving them a benefit that replicates what they get anyway, to which I ask what is the problem?

Third, the fighting style is basically a tax. You are basically giving a scaling dueling style + protection style for non-heavy armor. You've also killed dual-wielding stone dead as, barring a feat, you can only dual wield light weapons and all but one finesse weapon is light, meaning the two-weapon fighting becomes "using a greatsword, but requiring two to-hit rolls". Dual Wielding has it hard enough as is.

Finally, you're really only delaying the acquisition of dex-to-damage by a level (fighting style for ranger/paladin) or three (feat for non-vumans). Anyone serious about the style is going invest the resource in it anyway, and your back at square one around 5th level. If giving dex-weapons a 1-3 point damage penalty in tier 1 is big concern, then go for it. I barely think its worth the hassle.

So if you are going to change finesse, be prepared for a lot of options to become sub-optimal, dual wielding being the primary example.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Here is the question: what problem are you trying to fix?

Is the problem one about certain builds (such as rapier/shield fighters)? Is it a problem with the weapon table balance? Is it a problem with finesse being a default build for certain "skirmisher" classes (rogue, monk, ranger)? Is it a problem with certain weapons being neglected in favor of finesse weapons?
Speaking for myself, none of the above. The problem is that Dexterity can do everything Strength can do and more. The only reason for a martial character to invest in strength at all is
a. If the DM is actually tracking encumbrance
b. If they’re building for Great Weapon Master and/or Polearm Master
c. If they feel like it and don’t mind building a suboptimal character.

a is very rarely a concern, and b is dependent on an optional rule.

The fact that fixing this problem also addresses the problems you mentioned in one way or another is all the more reason to do so.
 
Speaking for myself, none of the above. The problem is that Dexterity can do everything Strength can do and more. The only reason for a martial character to invest in strength at all is
a. If the DM is actually tracking encumbrance
b. If they’re building for Great Weapon Master and/or Polearm Master
c. If they feel like it and don’t mind building a suboptimal character.

a is very rarely a concern, and b is dependent on an optional rule.

The fact that fixing this problem also addresses the problems you mentioned in one way or another is all the more reason to do so.
d. They tend to climb, jump, swim and other Athletics abilities.
e. They opt to wear heavy armor
f. They push, shove, trip, or grapple.

I've yet to see a Strength fighter that is truly suboptimal. The biggest concern is that Dex saves are more prevalent than Str saves, and Initiative is keyed off Dex. That said, the only place I see 8 Str/18 Dex fighters is Char-Op boards and theorycrafted DPS spreadsheets.
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
Speaking for myself, none of the above. The problem is that Dexterity can do everything Strength can do and more. The only reason for a martial character to invest in strength at all is
a. If the DM is actually tracking encumbrance
b. If they’re building for Great Weapon Master and/or Polearm Master
c. If they feel like it and don’t mind building a suboptimal character.

a is very rarely a concern, and b is dependent on an optional rule.

The fact that fixing this problem also addresses the problems you mentioned in one way or another is all the more reason to do so.
When you look at Dex, it is one of the better ability scores, being in the top 3 for a majority of character designs (i.e. every non-str based attacker), but it isn't "better" than Str in every way, unless the DM allows it to be so.

Jumping, Climbing, and Swimming are all Strength/Athletics checks, and despite their objections, I've seen quite a few Dex based characters suffer greatly for leaving Str in the toilet. You also forgot that grappling requires Str to use, and I've seen that as a valid strategy. If you don't track your max carry (and container capacity, which is actually more of a limiting factor), then you are cheating as a player, even if the DM doesn't. Dex saves generally just reduce/negate damage, whereas many Str saves are "save or suck" effects that can really disrupt a character in combat.
 

Arilyn

Explorer
A weak character should never hit harder than a strong character, all else being equal. In my opinion, you could just have finesse weapons add Strength to damage instead of Dex, and leave everything else as-is. Maybe we'd actually get a character with decent Strength and Dexterity, once in a while.
Yes, yes. I'm tired of 18 str. and 8 dex. or 18 dex. and 8 str. warriors. It makes no sense. A true fighter is going to be strong and nimble. Would you really want to enter into battle all buffed up but super clumsy, or very nimble with strength of tissue paper? I know, it's D&D, and D&D often makes little sense, but this one always bothered me.
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
That said, the only place I see 8 Str/18 Dex fighters is Char-Op boards and theorycrafted DPS spreadsheets.
I've seen a few in play, but not many. The first I saw was a half-elf paladin, who worked out moderately well, but was well behind the DPS of the great weapon barbarian and red dragon sorcerer. The next was an elf fighter/eldritch knight, but he was an archer so that's to be expected. The final one I've seen was a rogue who multi-classed into fighter (champion) to try and increase the chance of critical sneak attack, and he was... mediocre.
 
I've seen a few in play, but not many. The first I saw was a half-elf paladin, who worked out moderately well, but was well behind the DPS of the great weapon barbarian and red dragon sorcerer. The next was an elf fighter/eldritch knight, but he was an archer so that's to be expected. The final one I've seen was a rogue who multi-classed into fighter (champion) to try and increase the chance of critical sneak attack, and he was... mediocre.
I have seen archers (which I wasn't counting, as ranged characters they don't have much choice in Str) and I have seen an elf EK with better dex and a rapier, but I've seen plenty of paladins, barbarians, fighters, and even rangers in medium/heavy armor with longswords. None of them suffered for it. The idea that Dex is automatically better than Strength is really based on Dex having a much better save, and of course Init.
 

Horwath

Explorer
We just bumped up all non finesse melee weapon damage dice by one step. Or two...

I.E.
Long sword: 1d8 -> 1d10
Great sword/axe 2d6/1d12 -> 2d8
quarterstaff: 1d6(1d8) -> 1d8(1d10)
great club: 1d8 -> 1d12
 

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