D&D 5E In your experience, are some classes overshadowed by others consistently?

What class types overshadow others consistently?

  • Casters almost always overshadow martials

    Votes: 4 10.0%
  • Martials almost always overshadow casters

    Votes: 2 5.0%
  • Depends on level. At some levels, martials are clearly better, and at other levels, casters are

    Votes: 6 15.0%
  • Specific class (please describe below) is clearly better than every other class

    Votes: 3 7.5%
  • No class or class type consistently overshadows the others.

    Votes: 16 40.0%
  • Depends on scenario, and can change from adventuring day to adventuring day

    Votes: 17 42.5%
  • Other (please describe)

    Votes: 3 7.5%

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
Please answer this question based on your actual game play experience, and not white room analysis. I'm looking for actual game table experiences here. For example, that means that if you haven't played end game level content, you wouldn't be able to give feedback on how balanced the classes are at level 20, because that would just be a guess.

In these actual play experiences, in the context of 5e, have you noticed a consistent overshadowing of one class or type of class over another in combat tiers. Not an occasional thing, or where a player might have particular skill in optimizing or using loopholes (that's the player and not the class that is causing the disparity), but the class/class type as a whole?

The poll is multiple choice, so choose as many as you want.
 

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loverdrive

Makin' cool stuff (She/Her)
That's super narrow, but playing a lvl 1 paladin feels like playing poor man's fighter. It gets fixed quickly, though.

Also I've played 20 levels of sorcadin and starting at lvl 10 or so he started to be pretty much universal. Nova damage? Lol. Consistent damage? Sure. Healing? Oh, I've got a metric ton of it (but that was mostly because GM handed me an amulet that allowed me to cast Healing Word). It wasn't like he could do everything better than everyone else, but I'm pretty sure he was the only character in our party who could be useful in any situation.

Prior to that he sucked and sucked hard, though.
 

Members of a cohesive, co-operative group should be happy when another PC gets to shine. It is imperative that the DM does their best to share the spotlight during any particular session and also across multiple sessions. It is also imperative that each player in the group share the spotlight within and between sessions. Some PCs will shine more brightly in certain scenarios than in others.

That said, my only experience with a particular PC consistently “outshining” others was in the hands of an uncooperative player who also happened to be fudging rolls and resource tracking. The issue went away when they did.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
My experience: almost all of my 5e gameplay is between levels 1-12. One campaign went to 15, but the vast majority caps out at level 12 or so.


What I've seen at my tables, is that in the combat tier, it's the martials who seem to dominate most of the time. A lot depends on scenario (the more encounters you have per adventuring the day, the more martials appear to have the advantage, while short encounter days the casters do well).

I fully admit that in our games, coming from an old school background, rests are harder to come by. Once monsters are alerted, they will act accordingly. That means they leave their encounter areas to go look for who just invaded their dungeon/castle/fort. These leads to several encounters per adventuring day, and thus helps the martials.

Ironically, almost all of the PCs I have played have been casters. The two highest were (level 15 tempest cleric and level 12 shadow sorcerer). Casters can dominate, but so much of it depends on pure luck. Did I happen to have the right spells prepared? How were the dice gods to me? Spells are very limited in resource, so if I blow my one 5th level spell and they make their save...

It was my cleric, not my sorcerer, who was the best in combat (spiritual weapon + spirit guardians + heavy armor) on a consistent basis. My sorcerer was either good, or bad, depending on the aforementioned luck.

The other casters in the various campaigns have had similar experiences.

Martials on the other hand, especially rogues (like the swashbucker or assassin) and rangers (even if they don't use their spells, like the gloomstalker with SS feat) are dishing out tons of damage nearly every round. The campaign we're close to wrapping up now (they are level 9), the swashbuckler is by far the biggest damage dealer. Barbarians never go down. Ever. While their damage is respectable (especially with GWM), it's their high HP and damage reduction that makes them dominate in combat because they just keep going and lock down opponents who don't want an AoO on them...

So in my experience, at levels 1-12ish, it's the martials who consistently shine in combat.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
Martials on the other hand, especially rogues (like the swashbucker or assassin) and rangers (even if they don't use their spells, like the gloomstalker with SS feat) are dishing out tons of damage nearly every round. The campaign we're close to wrapping up now (they are level 9), the swashbuckler is by far the biggest damage dealer. Barbarians never go down. Ever. While their damage is respectable (especially with GWM), it's their high HP and damage reduction that makes them dominate in combat because they just keep going and lock down opponents who don't want an AoO on them...

So in my experience, at levels 1-12ish, it's the martials who consistently shine in combat.

My 5 experience is in the same range as yours maxes out at 12th or so.

From what I've seen, casters certainly can't compare in damage output - unless they get very lucky AND exhaust too many resources.

But that's not even close to the whole story.

Casters can drastically affect how difficult the "serious" fights are. A well placed, sleep, faerie fire, web, hypnotic pattern, haste etc. Can make massively impact how much damage the martials are pulling off AND further limit the damage the martials are taking. When the relationship is synergistic - that's when parties really tend to shine.

A caster that tries to dominate (in 5e, 3e was a whole different animal) may be able to for a fight or so - but will quickly wear himself out. But the true strength of most casters is to provide massive aid throughout the adventuring day that makes the martials exponentially more effective at what they do.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
My 5 experience is in the same range as yours maxes out at 12th or so.

From what I've seen, casters certainly can't compare in damage output - unless they get very lucky AND exhaust too many resources.

But that's not even close to the whole story.

Casters can drastically affect how difficult the "serious" fights are. A well placed, sleep, faerie fire, web, hypnotic pattern, haste etc. Can make massively impact how much damage the martials are pulling off AND further limit the damage the martials are taking. When the relationship is synergistic - that's when parties really tend to shine.

A caster that tries to dominate (in 5e, 3e was a whole different animal) may be able to for a fight or so - but will quickly wear himself out. But the true strength of most casters is to provide massive aid throughout the adventuring day that makes the martials exponentially more effective at what they do.
My sorcerer's best effectiveness was trying to limit how many mobs were engaging the party, so the martials could effectively manage them. Damage output, shutting down fights, nova damage, etc wasn't my thing. It was things like hound of ill omen + levitate to lock a bad guy in place, and hope they didn't make their save or had legendary resistance.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
A caster that tries to dominate (in 5e, 3e was a whole different animal) may be able to for a fight or so - but will quickly wear himself out. But the true strength of most casters is to provide massive aid throughout the adventuring day that makes the martials exponentially more effective at what they do.
My sorcerer's best effectiveness was trying to limit how many mobs were engaging the party, so the martials could effectively manage them. Damage output, shutting down fights, nova damage, etc wasn't my thing. It was things like hound of ill omen + levitate to lock a bad guy in place, and hope they didn't make their save or had legendary resistance.
I've played a cleric to 8th, and I'm DMing two campaigns--one's at 15th and the other is at 8th (I think).

The big advantage to magic that I've noticed is that it can untangle tactical knots. The casters who set out to do damage don't hurt the party, but the ones who control the battlefield and/or shut down opponents are the ones who end up being really scary.
 

Every class has strengths and weaknesses, although they're not perfectly equal. The paladin may seem like the overall best, but it often struggles with ranged combat and mobs. The ranger is considered the overall weakest, but it's still advantageous in specific situations, such as in their favored terrain or against a favored foe.

As for martials vs casters, it really depends on the build. Our earth genasi ancestiral barbarian is an utter beast at 14th level, having ridiculous levels of damage reduction and battlefield control. If you take out my hill dwarf cleric (with 18 Con), she has almost as many HP as the rest of the party combined. Recently our bard has started casting Haste on her, making her even more powerful. Thus the bard is fulfilling his support role extremely well by buffing PC and debuffing enemies, which may not be flashy, but he's still pretty awesome at this job. Neither overshadows the other, but rather enhances both.
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I wouldn’t say any class consistently outshines any other, because it’s dependent on so many factors. Some classes may consistently underperform or overperform in a particular campaign because of some combination of how the DM tends to run the game, how the players tend to play their characters, how the scenario is set up, etc. But at another table or in another campaign those roles may flip.

Now, casters do consistently have more non-combat utility than non-casters. But that doesn’t necessarily translate to outshining them. It can, but it doesn’t always. Again, depends very much on the DM, the players, the scenario, and a bunch of other factors.
 

ECMO3

Hero
In my experience Rogues overshadow all others, especially Arcane Tricksters or Rogue multiclasses with a full caster.

If you play to their tropes (locks, traps, sneaking) with expertise they are better than any other class can hope to be at those things, if you put expertise elsewhere you can still be as good as others in those things while also being a better face than the Paladin or a better swimmer than the Barbarian. Their combat weaknesses aren't really weaknesses becasue with cunning action they can make the enemy play to their game when they fight or avoid a fight completely since they can outrun a wood elf Monk.

No other class is as versatile or rewarding to play. Fully half the characters I play are Rogues or Rogue multiclasses and I find they are also my most memorable characters I have played.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
I've played a couple casters to 14 & 16 (wiz & artillerist). GM'd for a ton of AL tables up to 10ish (2 nights a week for a few years precovid) & my home games to low-mid teens.

If no martials take things like GWM/SS things are ok. That typically lasts till 6-8ish at most when fighter & rogue rocket away. Things begin going insane the moment they do though & when fighter gets their 3rd attack at 11 while caster spell slot gains are effectively frozen. It's a very difficult problem to solve & I've not found any minor fixes I like. The llusionist bracers from GGTR that let someone cast 2x cantrips /round pull casters evenish (but still behind) except that does nothing for non-damage casters & is completely bonkers if the warlock gets it. Sorcerer can side step the problem sorcerer 10-11th on on if they have or took 2 levels in warlock to replace one high level spell slot with what is effectively 6d10 at will single target nuke with 30ft knockback from 3*(5.5+5)+10ft knockback which is easily a 4th level spell based on dmg284.

Artillerist does ok if they stick to the defender turret & web. Their damage spells tend to have equal or worse scaling than cantrips, but that only goes so far & they wind up feeling like tattoo yelling da plane da plane because the martials are so insulated they just dgaf about web at some point.

Wizard & sorcerer generally have the same must take spells so the wizard's spellbook is minimal if any benefit while the sorcerer can convert their one high level slot into a bunch of lower slots (ie 2nd & 3rd level ). If the wizard gets a reasonable number of scrolls/spellbooks to scribe they are effectively in need of becoming a gold & platinum black hole while the party is constantly suggesting giving extra money for the fighter in plate to buy plate or so the cleric/druid can cast raise dead spells if needed. I've taken to doing things like "and you find 500gp worth of spellbook inks" & it helps some but becomes a double edged sword of impending depression as the wizard realizes not only do these spells not solve mech but the others in phb/xge/tcoe/etc(?) don't either.

Warlock might as well be lumped in with fighter & rogue as far as visible contribution since basically nothing but the helmed horror is built with screw you features to hit it notably like the giant list that hit other casters
 
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Argyle King

Legend
I find that characters who are geared toward ranged combat seem to perform better overall.

Some feats are obviously better choices than others -especially with the amount of feat choices available being so limited.

Class-wise, I've seen paladin and warlock regularly pull ahead of other classes. Paladin is one of the few classes which has subclasses which are solid 1-20; all of the PHB ones are good.

A lot of classes have somewhat lame and lackluster features for later levels, so multi-classing is typically better than sticking with them.
 

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