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D&D 5E How on earth is this balanced?! Twilight cleric, more in-play evidence

Mort

Legend
Supporter
I dunno. How many encounters is the average DM running per rest? If a 1st to 5th level Twilight Cleric gets to shine (yep) for one combat per rest, does it really break anything?

That's not really a good way to judge though.

If I homebrew a class that has the 2nd level feature "can cast meteor swarm.." once per week, is it really ok because it'll only matter 1 encounter per week?
 

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You know what would be fun, though probably way too time consuming? A controlled experiment.

Take 2 groups of gamers with as roughly close a "skill level" as you can get.

Pick an adventure (5e White Plume Mountain, being 8th level fits the bill) - it should be a published adventure expressly so that the DM DOES NOT adjust to the power level of the PCs.

Assign the 1st group the following 8th level pregens:
8th level twilight cleric
8th level polearm master/GWM fighter
8th level diviner wizard
8th level arcane trickster rogue

Assign the 2nd group:
8th level war cleric
8th level purple dragon knight fighter
8th level transmuter wizard
8th level (non-tasha's)beastmaster ranger OR mastermind rogue.

See if the groups have an equivalent time with the adventure or if one group fares better. Then switch the pregens between groups and run the same or different adventure and see if there is a difference.
Hmmm... breaking the group down

Diviner vs Transmuter. This one honestly has a minor difference. I mean a diviner is better than a transmuter basically by two lucky rolls in the right place. This might matter sometimes but is nothing compared to just being an 8th level wizard.

Polearm Master vs PDK/Banneret isn't a direct contest. We need to break it in halves - featless greatsword fighter vs polearm master and PDK vs Battlemaster

For the weapon let's assume they both started with 16 STR and now have 20 STR. The PDK has a sword and +2 Con, the Polearm Master has ... a polearm and polearm master. Both have +1 weapons and the Armour Mastery fighting style (because I really can't be bothered with rerolls for DPR). The PDK gets 2 attacks/round averaging 13 damage/hit (26dpr assuming hits). The Polearm Master gets 2 attacks/round averaging 11.5 damage/hit plus 1 bonus action attack averaging 8.5 damage (31.5 drpr assuming hits). So the polearm master is doing about 20% more damage before before the extra polearm reaction attack on foes coming in (which more than counteracts the not getting the bonus attack with action surge). In exchange the fighter gets about 8 extra hit points which means ... not very much most of the time as you just need it healing.

Then there's PDK vs Battlemaster. The PDK has a relevant ability, allowing healing up to 8 hit points per ally per short rest that doesn't work on downed allies - but it's normally going to be less than that if the PDK uses their second wind to heal themselves. The Battlemaster on the other hand has 5 superiority dice (all d8s). If they only use Precision Strike (not the best, just good and easy to analyse) and use it when they think they'd miss by 1-4 on a d20 then they are using it one attack in 5. They also turn this into a hit by my reckoning only failing 3 times in 16 on average (remember there's a 100% chance of succeeding if you miss by 1 down to a 3/8 if you missed by 4. So that's 1/5 *13/16 times you get extra hits while your superiority dice last. Or about 1/6 extra hits as long as you have short rests every 25 attacks or so (roughly 7-8 rounds).

If the battlemaster polearm master is doing 20% extra DPR (an underestimate due to the reaction attack) and is getting 1/6 attacks turned from a miss to a hit then they're going to do 40% extra DPR over the PDK. Which is going to lead to snowballing advantages as enemies go down faster and the best way to prevent them hurting you is take them down (and massively outweigh the PDK's healing).

Twilight Cleric vs War Cleric

The War Cleric basically brings their spells, weapons, and heavy armour and shield to the party. How much better the twilight cleric is situational.
  • Darkvision can be redundant (everyone has it or you don't need it) or it can be pure gold for humans trying to stealth in the dark. If the war cleric were to try that they'd burn all their second level slots.
  • There's a room in White Plume Mountain that's supposed to be climbing from chain and disk to chain and disk over a boiling geyser. A minute's worth of flight is not only enough to cross the room but to set up a basic rope system handing everyone advantage. There are I think a couple of other places where this is useful.
  • Renewing temporary hit points will allow the party to face-tank being boiled alive in a couple of places with limited harm.
So all else being equal the twilight cleric will give the party a significantly easier time - or lure them into thinking they're being clever. This in addition to really doing well in extended fights.

Arcane Trickster vs PHB Beastmaster Ranger

The Beastmaster has several problems, starting with the beast being more an escort mission than an ally. Made even worse with AoEs and damaging terrain.

The rogue is obviously the better skill monkey; at level 8 they have expertise in four skills to the beastmaster's none - and one more skill plus thieves tools to two languages (from favoured enemy). Oh, and cunning action. Those rogue skills really do help - and a +11 stealth is seriously useful

The problem with ranger spells is that the PHB ranger only gets five of them (plus Primal Awareness) at level 8. By comparison the Arcane Trickster has six plus Mage Hand and two other cantrips (Booming Blade and Minor Illusion being popular). And PHB ranger spells get used up fast; just about everyone is likely to want Hunter's Mark and Absorb Elements. Which leads to three spells left to really improve things, and at least one should be an offensive combat spell (Entangle, Silence for shutting down mages, Spike Growth being obvious). Which leaves not much space left over, however good Darkvision, Pass Without Trace, and Enhance Ability all are. (Darkvision of course is treading on the Twilight Cleric domain). Pass Without Trace is arguably an encounter-solver, letting a cleric stealth like a rogue.

Meanwhile the Arcane Trickster has six spells known - and the rogue isn't expected to need combat spells. Find Familiar is arguably more useful than an animal companion - and doesn't have the cost for losing it. Silent Image is nice. Shadow Blade and Invisibility are great roguish spells, and Misty Step is great for escaping in an emergency.

There are just a whole lot of things the rogue does a whole lot better. Including damage and they are one of the two lead damage dealers here.
 

King Babar

Adventurer
It also brings up the question of WHY the Twilight Cleric gets to be a melee Cleric in heavy armour to begin with? What part of 'Twilight' sounds like a guy in a tin-can swinging a heavy weapon? The similarly 'shadowy' themed Trickery Cleric ALSO gets Divine Strike but doesn't actually gets any extra armor (and gets the TERRIBLE Poison type damage to Divine Strike).
I think the reason for that is because the Twilight domain is supposed to be a awkward combination of the older Moon and Protection domains.

By tying domains to a distinct subclass, WotC can only have so many available options without creasting bloat. It's the same reason we have the Tempest domain instead of Storm/Winter/Sea.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
It also brings up the question of WHY the Twilight Cleric gets to be a melee Cleric in heavy armour to begin with? What part of 'Twilight' sounds like a guy in a tin-can swinging a heavy weapon? The similarly 'shadowy' themed Trickery Cleric ALSO gets Divine Strike but doesn't actually gets any extra armor (and gets the TERRIBLE Poison type damage to Divine Strike).

It's mostly a ribbon ability.

Medium armor is better for clerics anyway.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
First, nice breakdown.

Hmmm... breaking the group down

Diviner vs Transmuter. This one honestly has a minor difference. I mean a diviner is better than a transmuter basically by two lucky rolls in the right place. This might matter sometimes but is nothing compared to just being an 8th level wizard.
The wizard is a strong base class and since both are full casters they'll both be fine.


Polearm Master vs PDK/Banneret isn't a direct contest. We need to break it in halves - featless greatsword fighter vs polearm master and PDK vs Battlemaster

For the weapon let's assume they both started with 16 STR and now have 20 STR. The PDK has a sword and +2 Con, the Polearm Master has ... a polearm and polearm master. Both have +1 weapons and the Armour Mastery fighting style (because I really can't be bothered with rerolls for DPR). The PDK gets 2 attacks/round averaging 13 damage/hit (26dpr assuming hits). The Polearm Master gets 2 attacks/round averaging 11.5 damage/hit plus 1 bonus action attack averaging 8.5 damage (31.5 drpr assuming hits). So the polearm master is doing about 20% more damage before before the extra polearm reaction attack on foes coming in (which more than counteracts the not getting the bonus attack with action surge). In exchange the fighter gets about 8 extra hit points which means ... not very much most of the time as you just need it healing.

Then there's PDK vs Battlemaster. The PDK has a relevant ability, allowing healing up to 8 hit points per ally per short rest that doesn't work on downed allies - but it's normally going to be less than that if the PDK uses their second wind to heal themselves. The Battlemaster on the other hand has 5 superiority dice (all d8s). If they only use Precision Strike (not the best, just good and easy to analyse) and use it when they think they'd miss by 1-4 on a d20 then they are using it one attack in 5. They also turn this into a hit by my reckoning only failing 3 times in 16 on average (remember there's a 100% chance of succeeding if you miss by 1 down to a 3/8 if you missed by 4. So that's 1/5 *13/16 times you get extra hits while your superiority dice last. Or about 1/6 extra hits as long as you have short rests every 25 attacks or so (roughly 7-8 rounds).

If the battlemaster polearm master is doing 20% extra DPR (an underestimate due to the reaction attack) and is getting 1/6 attacks turned from a miss to a hit then they're going to do 40% extra DPR over the PDK. Which is going to lead to snowballing advantages as enemies go down faster and the best way to prevent them hurting you is take them down (and massively outweigh the PDK's healing).
I think this is a clear edge to the BM. Even if you give the Bannerette feats, he's still going to come out behind.

Twilight Cleric vs War Cleric

The War Cleric basically brings their spells, weapons, and heavy armour and shield to the party. How much better the twilight cleric is situational.
  • Darkvision can be redundant (everyone has it or you don't need it) or it can be pure gold for humans trying to stealth in the dark. If the war cleric were to try that they'd burn all their second level slots.
  • There's a room in White Plume Mountain that's supposed to be climbing from chain and disk to chain and disk over a boiling geyser. A minute's worth of flight is not only enough to cross the room but to set up a basic rope system handing everyone advantage. There are I think a couple of other places where this is useful.
  • Renewing temporary hit points will allow the party to face-tank being boiled alive in a couple of places with limited harm.
So all else being equal the twilight cleric will give the party a significantly easier time - or lure them into thinking they're being clever. This in addition to really doing well in extended fights.
Yeah, pretty much.

Arcane Trickster vs PHB Beastmaster Ranger

The Beastmaster has several problems, starting with the beast being more an escort mission than an ally. Made even worse with AoEs and damaging terrain.

The rogue is obviously the better skill monkey; at level 8 they have expertise in four skills to the beastmaster's none - and one more skill plus thieves tools to two languages (from favoured enemy). Oh, and cunning action. Those rogue skills really do help - and a +11 stealth is seriously useful

The problem with ranger spells is that the PHB ranger only gets five of them (plus Primal Awareness) at level 8. By comparison the Arcane Trickster has six plus Mage Hand and two other cantrips (Booming Blade and Minor Illusion being popular). And PHB ranger spells get used up fast; just about everyone is likely to want Hunter's Mark and Absorb Elements. Which leads to three spells left to really improve things, and at least one should be an offensive combat spell (Entangle, Silence for shutting down mages, Spike Growth being obvious). Which leaves not much space left over, however good Darkvision, Pass Without Trace, and Enhance Ability all are. (Darkvision of course is treading on the Twilight Cleric domain). Pass Without Trace is arguably an encounter-solver, letting a cleric stealth like a rogue.

Meanwhile the Arcane Trickster has six spells known - and the rogue isn't expected to need combat spells. Find Familiar is arguably more useful than an animal companion - and doesn't have the cost for losing it. Silent Image is nice. Shadow Blade and Invisibility are great roguish spells, and Misty Step is great for escaping in an emergency.

There are just a whole lot of things the rogue does a whole lot better. Including damage and they are one of the two lead damage dealers here.

This will be a stark difference, in all likelyhood - in favor of the arcane trickster. Now, if you changed it up to a gloomstalker or a Tasha's beastmaster ranger - different advantages and closer.

Change it to a monk - that would also be interesting.
 

If this "one class can completely overshadow another class and be better in nearly every way" how is it in our Curse of Strahd West Marches campaign that started in January we've had 42 characters created (so far) by 15 players and we have not a single Twilight Cleric? Are the players just plain dumb and/or not playing optimally? Or are they all really smart and in silent solidarity on opting out of picking a Twilight Cleric b/c they see it would ruin the game? Yes, one table does not prove anything, but it's not like we don't have any power gamers at our table. So, there's that, FWIW.
Honestly the Twilight cleric to me doesn't just look powerful - it looks boring.

In particular two of its early abilities are simple no-sells. The first is that "Darkvision for all" is a bit of an atmosphere destroyer. The second is that the ability that has everyone up in arms would be no fun to use at the table.

Essentially the optimal play for a Twilight Cleric in turn 1 is always the same. You stand roughly where you are and channel divinity which when you cast it does basically nothing. It's not big, it's not flashy, and it can be done on autopilot. At least the healbot gets to take actions and then burn their spells on healing at a time they will save peoples' lives.

And once the Twilight Cleric has made the least interesting first turn the tension drains out of the fight before it even had time to really get going. The whole thing routinely becomes a mopping up excercise where the PCs are never in danger and it's never tense.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
Honestly the Twilight cleric to me doesn't just look powerful - it looks boring.

In particular two of its early abilities are simple no-sells. The first is that "Darkvision for all" is a bit of an atmosphere destroyer. The second is that the ability that has everyone up in arms would be no fun to use at the table.

Essentially the optimal play for a Twilight Cleric in turn 1 is always the same. You stand roughly where you are and channel divinity which when you cast it does basically nothing. It's not big, it's not flashy, and it can be done on autopilot. At least the healbot gets to take actions and then burn their spells on healing at a time they will save peoples' lives.

And once the Twilight Cleric has made the least interesting first turn the tension drains out of the fight before it even had time to really get going. The whole thing routinely becomes a mopping up excercise where the PCs are never in danger and it's never tense.

This is why I think the Peace clerics Aura ability is superior from a play perspective. Sure it's powerful, but it requires all affected to REALLY think tactically and to really be on top of the flow of the combat. Any ability that encourages such engagement from the group is awesome.

Vs. the twilight aura which, as you say, is quite boring.
 

This is why I think the Peace clerics Aura ability is superior from a play perspective. Sure it's powerful, but it requires all affected to REALLY think tactically and to really be on top of the flow of the combat. Any ability that encourages such engagement from the group is awesome.

Vs. the twilight aura which, as you say, is quite boring.
Indeed. The Peace Cleric is definitely powerful, but Emboldening Bond is a tether and can't even cover the whole party for a long time, Balm of Peace encourages the cleric to take risks and end up in the thick of things, and the Peace Bond is nice and chaotic as long as it's not being abused by using self injury shenanigans to get teleports. And the Emboldening Bond's combat buff is offensive, meaning that the adjustment I might need as a DM would be throwing another monster in to the combat.

If the Twilight & Peace Clerics were a response to 5e clerics being underpowered (I don't know if they are) or inflexible out of combat the Peace was a decent response.
 

Undrave

Hero

That's not really a good way to judge though.

If I homebrew a class that has the 2nd level feature "can cast meteor swarm.." once per week, is it really ok because it'll only matter 1 encounter per week?
Fair point - although the scale of your analogy is a bit off.
 

Savage Wombat

Adventurer
Don't use White Plume Mountain - I recently ran a group of completely inexperienced players with 8th level pregens through it, and they slaughtered everything present with ease. You'd want to test with something slightly dangerous, or use lower level pregens.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
Don't use White Plume Mountain - I recently ran a group of completely inexperienced players with 8th level pregens through it, and they slaughtered everything present with ease. You'd want to test with something slightly dangerous, or use lower level pregens.
Not sure I'll actually do it, though I'll run the idea by my group (planning on our first in person session shortly).

Would need a stand alone adventure as opposed to a lengthy one.

What about Lore of Lurue from Candlekeep Mysteries? I have it, but have barely even skimmed it yet - anyone care to comment on difficulty?

Edit: I suppose if I get really motivated (and way too focused on procrastination) I could recruit a few more and do it on roll20 - worth a thought.
 


Honestly the Twilight cleric to me doesn't just look powerful - it looks boring.

In particular two of its early abilities are simple no-sells. The first is that "Darkvision for all" is a bit of an atmosphere destroyer. The second is that the ability that has everyone up in arms would be no fun to use at the table.

Essentially the optimal play for a Twilight Cleric in turn 1 is always the same. You stand roughly where you are and channel divinity which when you cast it does basically nothing. It's not big, it's not flashy, and it can be done on autopilot. At least the healbot gets to take actions and then burn their spells on healing at a time they will save peoples' lives.

And once the Twilight Cleric has made the least interesting first turn the tension drains out of the fight before it even had time to really get going. The whole thing routinely becomes a mopping up excercise where the PCs are never in danger and it's never tense.
Kinda like Warlock Eldritch Blast boring? If a player wants to spam an ability and the table and/or player find it boring, that’s at least partly (if not completely) on the player.

A possible cure for the Twilight Sanctuary draining the tension out of the fight is for the DM to have informed baddies (try to) run away temporarily.

I am with you on the one hour shared long range Darkvision thing, to an extent. Although, Darkvision isn’t “instawin” either. Darkness as dim light still comes with its disadvantages.
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
Yeah, the "this thing isn't broken, because the DM can fix it" is a terrible argument, and also contradictory. Why the heck would a DM need to fix a game mechanic if it isn't broken? I've never changed anything in my games that I thought was completely fine the way it was. I've never changed Paladins, I've never changed Barbarians, and I've never changed Warforged. However, I have changed Dragonborn, Monks, Rangers, and Yuan-Ti Purebloods before (to make Dragonborn stronger, Monks less boring, Rangers actually useful, and Yuan-Ti not absolutely broken). "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Why would we want to fix this thing if it wasn't broken? I know what I've seen, and in my campaign, the Twilight Cleric has been OP as %#$&. They've regularly out-damaged the TCoE Beast-Master Ranger with a Longbow, the Archery Fighting Style, and Sharpshooter, and have been able to solo kill/survive tons of monsters that should have been impossible for them to take on at that level. And not only is it OP, like the others have said, it's remarkably boring. It's spamming the same 3-4ish spells/abilities over and over all the freaking time, and I'm saying this as someone that has played a Warlock. It's just overflowing with super-useful abilities, and none of them encourage creative play, it's just "activate this, attack that, boom! They're dead and you're immortal".

I'm a powergamer. I like having powerful characters, and as a DM I like it when my players are powerful heroes that face huge challenges. I like my games being on hard-mode, and the Twilight Cleric just makes it easy mode way too often.
 

It really amazes me how many people like to say "it's not a problem because the DM can fix it."

Which, if true, essentially means EVERY game system is perfect.
What they're really saying is it's not a problem because I'm such a good DM.

An awful lot of forum posts are really just people finding ways to boast about their supposedly amazing DMing skills.

I found once I realised that it became a lot easier to skim right over them and focus on the signal rather than the noise.
 
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A DM “fixing” something and a DM coming up with novel ways to challenge powerful PCs may be two circles of a Venn Diagram, but they are far from synonymous.
 

What they're really saying is it's not a problem because I'm such a good DM.

An awful lot of forum posts are really just people finding ways to boost about their supposedly amazing DMing skills.

I found once I realised that it became a lot easier to skim right over them and focus on the signal rather than the noise.
That’s quite an uncharitable reading of the dissenting opinion in this thread (and perhaps others… although no doubt your assessment is correct in at least a few cases).
 

Yeah, that's to me the worst thing about it. Excessive healing with minimal damage is annoying and slow - renewing ablative armour is just tedious to deal with. I'd far rather see OP offence doing too much damage than something that just jams the game.
This I can get onboard with. Certain players already slow down the game with not being prepared for their turn and/or not bothering to learn their abilities between sessions. We don’t need to exacerbate that with abilities that eat up game time with tedious resolution.
 
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Mort

Legend
Supporter
That’s quite an uncharitable reading of the dissenting opinion in this thread (and perhaps others… although no doubt your assessment is correct in at least a few cases).

But is it really a dissenting opinion to say x ability is not overpowered because the DM can fix it?

You can argue an ability is not overpowered because it is of a similar power level to others, you can argue it's not overpowered because it's too niche, or any number of other reasons why it may appear to be overpowered but isn't.

But arguing the DM can control for it isn't really valid because:

1. It's taking a system argument and putting it on the shoulders of the DM;
2. In theory the DM can control for just about anything, so it's not really valid to use that as an excuse;
3. It completely avoids the actual issue of whether the ability is within the power level expected, etc.
 

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