5E Just One More Thing: The Power of "No" in Design (aka, My Fun, Your Fun, and BadWrongFun)

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Greatest swordsman is probably not at all reasonably even a purely physical mele'r classed (my english...is not good enough for that word) individual anyway.

This is a world wherein magic exists. Magic that can directly make you a better swordsman. Yeah. Thats a thing.
So ... you're saying that you can't be the best martial character ... without magic?

Oh no. Do you realize what you've done? By incanting the words, "Magic > Martial in D&D" you have summoned the horses of the forum apocalypse, thereby causing the eventual disintegration of the thread.

Couldn't you just say something not controversial, like, oh, hit points are meat? :)
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
What you say, about narrating how this town guard is really a great swordsman in disguise for some reason... sounds great once. But it doesn't sound long-term supportable.
Agreed wholeheartedly it is possible to shine over a bit. One can also shine over character successes as accidental, a phenomena also supported by certain styles of character in heroic fiction.

D&D doesn't support it very well.
Fate is kind of sort of one I was thinking of but I suspect others exist as well.
 
So ... you're saying that you can't be the best martial character ... without magic?

Oh no. Do you realize what you've done? By incanting the words, "Magic > Martial in D&D" you have summoned the horses of the forum apocalypse, thereby causing the eventual disintegration of the thread.

Couldn't you just say something not controversial, like, oh, hit points are meat? :)
i edited my post. The edit could help explain what i mean.

If not then ill do so here concisely.

It is reasonable to say that a lower level swordsman could be the greatest. Depending on precise detail.

I was illustrating that one of those details that has a majority chance of being present is the simple fact that "the greatest swordsman" is likely to be a caster (though not necessarily primarily) because of the fact that there magic is an whole new section of realestate in which they can grow techniques to augment how good of a swordsman they are.

Realistically, the top swordsmen (most of them. In the thousands or more) would consider it a generally accepted fact in such a world that true mastery as a swordsman directly involves proper use of magic for the purpose of i proved sword techniques.
 
So ... you're saying that you can't be the best martial character ... without magic?

Oh no. Do you realize what you've done? By incanting the words, "Magic > Martial in D&D" you have summoned the horses of the forum apocalypse, thereby causing the eventual disintegration of the thread.

Couldn't you just say something not controversial, like, oh, hit points are meat? :)
wrong also. No. Im saying that magic improves/augments sword play and that hardly any swordmaster in such a world would not be mixing select spells into their martial art. Unless they were a bonehead and not a martial arts master.
 
He went there, didnt he ... sigh
No. You CAN but it would be statistically a tad bit absurd. It would be highly unlikely. In such a world, magic would have a tangeable effect on martial arts. Oh. And i actually didnt say that you would be unlikely to be the best MARTIAL character without magic (totally likely though. Ill confirm my support of that statement.) No no. Oh no...no. I said you would likely not be the "GREATEST SWORDSMAN" without magic. Really it applies strongly to any martial weapon or martial art user though.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Fate is kind of sort of one I was thinking of but I suspect others exist as well.
Any system that is built around a core assumption of character power progression over time will tend to give you headaches on this. No starting character can be the best at pretty much anything.

Fate is more focused on character change over time, as opposed to power growth, so yes, it can manage it pretty well. In the Dresden Files game, while you may not start as the literal best, you can be pretty darned good. Fate Accelerated, especially, can support this kind of play.

I expect Cortex+ will also support it well, though I don't know of a solid generic fantasy variant.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
So ... you're saying that you can't be the best martial character ... without magic?

Oh no. Do you realize what you've done? By incanting the words, "Magic > Martial in D&D" you have summoned the horses of the forum apocalypse, thereby causing the eventual disintegration of the thread.

Couldn't you just say something not controversial, like, oh, hit points are meat? :)
You were thinking this thread wouldn't eventually disintegrate in any case? :rolleyes:

As far as the whole silly "best swordsman" thing, I wouldn't even know where to start. A first level anything that thinks they're the best at what they do is delusional. Which is fine. But if a magic user is a better swordsman than a dedicated martial character, I'd say you simply aren't throwing enough encounters.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
And 5e is also much more concrete than 4e in respect of magic. To me it is rather striking that you set out your thesis by reference to the best swordsman in the land rather than the best wizard in the land or the best planeswalker in the land.
Because the actual descriptor doesn't matter. It's whatever a character claims about themselves in the fiction. The whole "best swordsman in the world" thing was just a single example. By the same token, a wizard who is known as the greatest wizard known to man in a particular narrative I am running does not need to have better "game mechanics" than any other potential wizard in the game. Because up until those two characters actually start rolling dice at each other... those mechanics are meaningless. As a matter of fact, I don't even need to create game mechanics for that wizard and still let him be known in the narrative as the greatest wizard known to man. Because if it's known as such in the story... then it's known as such in the story. And I don't need to build this NPC mechanically to "prove" it. What a waste of time that would be. Build every single NPC mechanically just so we can categorize and compare who's the "good" blacksmith in the town or the "best" sage. Rather that just describe them as such.

If at some point down the road a PC wanted to get into a wizard's duel with that wizard? Then sure, I'll probably make the character up mechanically. But that doesn't mean I have to make him 20th level in order to define him as actually "the greatest" wizard either. I'll make him whatever mechanically would help benefit the drama of the story we are telling.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Any system that is built around a core assumption of character power progression over time will tend to give you headaches on this. No starting character can be the best at pretty much anything.
There arent huge amounts of fiction which are about that kind of progression... one of the reasons I pull up Cu Cuchulain aside from well that is one pile of awesome is that the character had large amounts of story about his being a prodigy and learning ahem feats of prowess and at extraordinary rates while exceeding his teachers etc etc.... glances sideways at D&D characters.

Fate is more focused on character change over time, as opposed to power growth, so yes, it can manage it pretty well. In the Dresden Files game, while you may not start as the literal best, you can be pretty darned good. Fate Accelerated, especially, can support this kind of play.

I expect Cortex+ will also support it well, though I don't know of a solid generic fantasy variant.
If 4e hadnt came out when it did Fate:Dresden files might have been the first formal RPG I wold have introduced to my kids. Though my son had already played some freeforming D&D.
 
You were thinking this thread wouldn't eventually disintegrate in any case? :rolleyes:

As far as the whole silly "best swordsman" thing, I wouldn't even know where to start. A first level anything that thinks they're the best at what they do is delusional. Which is fine. But if a magic user is a better swordsman than a dedicated martial character, I'd say you simply aren't throwing enough encounters.
Not really. Lets use a completely martial example to persuade you.

IRL tye greatest swordsmen train in varioua disciplines that arent strictly sword play to massively inprove their quality as a swordsman. For instance, hand to hand martial arts and gymnastics are common choices to develop more advanced swordplay.

Magic would be used by a swordsman in a similar way. Likely they would be signifficantly less trained in it than the sword itself, but still trained. They would also at very high skill level begin training with enchanted swords that benefit from years of experience. Ie. How to properly use a fire enchanted sword. Particular differences in use and techniques that are unique like being able to damage someone or their armor without being able to swing the sword so long as its currently pressed against them or especially a leather strap (which will burn through and destabilize a piece of armor).
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
There arent huge amounts of fiction which are about that kind of progression...
There are "huge amounts" of fiction that does, and huge amounts of fiction that doesn't. It isn't like "the fiction style with the most examples wins, and should be the basis for game design", though, so we don't actually need to find out which is biggest. The thing is that our RPGs (speaking broadly and generally) are not just writing a fiction. They are an imaginative activity that happens to have fiction as one output.

Humans have a very solid psychological hook that helps then stay engaged - power advancement. You can create a game that doesn't use that hook, but doing so... is leaving a very powerful tool unused.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Humans have a very solid psychological hook that helps then stay engaged - power advancement. You can create a game that doesn't use that hook, but doing so... is leaving a very powerful tool unused.
And exactly... that hook is very noticeable its why WoW keeps adding power advancement to keep people reinvesting.

However I think power advancement can change the story so much that tadah people do not play high level D&D nearly so much.
 
So ... you're saying that you can't be the best martial character ... without magic?
Didn't quite sound like that, to me...

Depending on the system, build and options available, you might well have cases where magic could make one character a much better swordsman, but the hypothetical best swordsman might benefit little, or not at all, from the same magic. In 1e, for instance, a high level fighter didn't benefit from a Potion of Super-heroism. In 3e or 4e, with inherent bonuses, a magic weapon well below your level wouldn't stack with your own attack bonus. That kinda thing. Thus, you could if you arranged things just right, have magic add to skill, but still have ultimate skill being, ultimately, skill.

So, you could have dynamics like Crouching Tigher/Hidden Dragon ("Without the Green Destiny, you are nothing.")

Oh no. Do you realize what you've done? By incanting the words, "Magic > Martial in D&D"
Well, asserted that the game should be imbalanced (as long as it's in favor of magic), which is, at least, a clearly stated-position consistent with the designs of most editions.

They would also at very high skill level begin training with enchanted swords that benefit from years of experience. Ie. How to properly use a fire enchanted sword. Particular differences in use and techniques that are unique like being able to damage someone or their armor without being able to swing the sword...
A good point. A magic sword is just a better sword, or a sword with a different damage type or whatever. It's a different tool, you might well leverage those differences.
A game can make a magic weapon that just makes you better no matter how good you really are, or that just makes the sword better, leaving skill separate, or that bestows skill itself up to a maximum. There's lots of ways to handle it that could add to the story and/or be true to the character concept.
 
Didn't quite sound like that, to me...

Depending on the system, build and options available, you might well have cases where magic could make one character a much better swordsman, but the hypothetical best swordsman might benefit little, or not at all, from the same magic. In 1e, for instance, a high level fighter didn't benefit from a Potion of Super-heroism. In 3e or 4e, with inherent bonuses, a magic weapon well below your level wouldn't stack with your own attack bonus. That kinda thing. Thus, you could if you arranged things just right, have magic add to skill, but still have ultimate skill being, ultimately, skill.

So, you could have dynamics like Crouching Tigher/Hidden Dragon ("Without the Green Destiny, you are nothing.")

Well, asserted that the game should be imbalanced (as long as it's in favor of magic), which is, at least, a clearly stated-position consistent with the designs of most editions.

A good point. A magic sword is just a better sword, or a sword with a different damage type or whatever. It's a different tool, you might well leverage those differences.
A game can make a magic weapon that just makes you better no matter how good you really are, or that just makes the sword better, leaving skill separate, or that bestows skill itself up to a maximum. There's lots of ways to handle it that could add to the story and/or be true to the character concept.
Case in point. Lets take pappy palps (palpatine). Now he is primarily a wizard BUT lets say he wasnt. Lets say he was PRIMARILY a martial artist. Something we know about palpatine was that he was supernaturally (magically) fast. As a matter of fact though yoda was a slightly better swordsman palpatine was known to be one of the fastest swordsmen in all of star wars history and probably the fastest (though not quite the best) of his time. Even faster than yoda. His speed is an aspect of magical enhancement that would signifficantly alter how he uses his sword play skills. Using techniques which greatly benefit from speed. It has even been said that in regard to sword play techniques that involved speed were his true specialty. Magic augmented specialties wouod only proliferate further with someone who is actually primarily a martial artist unlike pappy palps.

Ps i <3 palpatine. Favorite space wizard ever to hit the screen (favorite space wizard in literature is marko ragnos)
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Not really. Lets use a completely martial example to persuade you.

IRL tye greatest swordsmen train in varioua disciplines that arent strictly sword play to massively inprove their quality as a swordsman. For instance, hand to hand martial arts and gymnastics are common choices to develop more advanced swordplay.

Magic would be used by a swordsman in a similar way. Likely they would be signifficantly less trained in it than the sword itself, but still trained. They would also at very high skill level begin training with enchanted swords that benefit from years of experience. Ie. How to properly use a fire enchanted sword. Particular differences in use and techniques that are unique like being able to damage someone or their armor without being able to swing the sword so long as its currently pressed against them or especially a leather strap (which will burn through and destabilize a piece of armor).
What I'm saying is that if the spell caster has all of their resources available, they will win most fights. But long term? After 5 encounters? Suddenly there's no guarantee. I'm also discussing how magic is implemented in D&D, which may not apply to other systems.

Let's say I'm doing PVP between an Eldritch Knight and a Champion Fighter. First encounter, the knight can cast spells like Shield to block blows. But eventually they're going to run out. They had also better hope the Champion doesn't have the Mage Slayer feat because if that's the case that Champion may suddenly win most times because once per round when the knight casts a spell the champion gets to smack him.

As far as magical swords, I see no reason a caster would understand them better. A flaming sword doesn't require the person using it to understand the magic behind it any more than I need to understand how my cell phone works. A mechanic isn't necessarily a better driver. It's not like there's any reason for the mundane fighter to be totally ignorant of flaming swords.

But the supremacy of magic vs martial is as old as D&D. My buddy in high school swears he should have won our impromptu PVP session between my fighter and his wizard. He may well have, if his hold person spell had worked. But my fighter walked away that day and Binkster wasn't going walk anywhere under their own power.
 
What I'm saying is that if the spell caster has all of their resources available, they will win most fights. But long term? After 5 encounters? Suddenly there's no guarantee. I'm also discussing how magic is implemented in D&D, which may not apply to other systems.

Let's say I'm doing PVP between an Eldritch Knight and a Champion Fighter. First encounter, the knight can cast spells like Shield to block blows. But eventually they're going to run out. They had also better hope the Champion doesn't have the Mage Slayer feat because if that's the case that Champion may suddenly win most times because once per round when the knight casts a spell the champion gets to smack him.

As far as magical swords, I see no reason a caster would understand them better. A flaming sword doesn't require the person using it to understand the magic behind it any more than I need to understand how my cell phone works. A mechanic isn't necessarily a better driver. It's not like there's any reason for the mundane fighter to be totally ignorant of flaming swords.

But the supremacy of magic vs martial is as old as D&D. My buddy in high school swears he should have won our impromptu PVP session between my fighter and his wizard. He may well have, if his hold person spell had worked. But my fighter walked away that day and Binkster wasn't going walk anywhere under their own power.
Im thinking more along these lines:

In one corner we have a level 25 fighter

In the other corner we have a level 18 fighter level 7 wiz or dru.

Root tangle or similar spell, prestidigitation to ignite oil containing sword (dont even have to have legit enchantment) attack

Next turn fighter does what fighter does. (Yes next turn specifically because a martial artist who bothers to learn magic is going to bother to get various advantages that will guarantee certain strategic advantages like initiative)
 
What I'm saying is that if the spell caster has all of their resources available, they will win most fights.
Nod.
But long term?
Long term, they recover those resources.
After 5 encounters?
Depends on the encounters. But, in theory, over 6-8 encounters it'll approximately balance out. The caster will dominate in encounters where he expends the spell resources to do so, the fighter will be the stronger contributor in those where the caster sticks to cantrips. Either way, it's the caster's choice.

Let's say I'm doing PVP between an Eldritch Knight and a Champion Fighter. First encounter, the knight can cast spells like Shield to block blows.
And, they can both Action Surge.

But eventually they're going to run out.
Nod. The nth Champion they face that day will like beat them.

But the supremacy of magic vs martial is as old as D&D.
Prettymuch exactly as old.
 

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