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

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
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)
You're assuming the opponent has powerful spells left at their disposal. It also depends on whether or not the fighter makes their save. Just like my dwarf made his save and demolished the silly wizard who dared question the supremacy of martial types and got his ... hat ... handed to him.

Since my personal experience is the only one that matters, I say fighters rule, wizards drool. Or ... it just depends on the rules used, and half a dozen other circumstances. Given enough encounters without chance to recover spells they balance out. Just as important, they tend to fill different roles in the party and one is not "better" than the other.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
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.
I see where you're coming from, but you have to admit that advocating for freeform description as the primary narrative driver in D&D, which is predominantly a high-concept simulationist game, is going to raise a few eyebrows. I mean, you can stat up the "greatest wizard" any way you want, sure, especially if any NPC wizard has Schrodinger's stats, because then there's no concept of a relative comparison. But I think as soon as you run into any opposition in the narrative that mandates the use of mechanics, something is going to be formalized. And that's going to out some kind of bounds on the practical mechanic expression of the PC.

I'll be honest, I kind of wonder if this whole post chain is just a long con to get Saelorn riled up, considering your ideas are anathema to his play style. :)
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
...there were too many elves, anyway.
Yeah, I think the last time I ran an elf and the DM killed them off they just about started to cry because they had never killed off a PC in years of DMing. They were quite confused when I just laughed and chalked it up to the curse.

Maybe 6E will be the edition where I can finally play an elf and get them past level 3. :unsure:
 
You're assuming the opponent has powerful spells left at their disposal. It also depends on whether or not the fighter makes their save. Just like my dwarf made his save and demolished the silly wizard who dared question the supremacy of martial types and got his ... hat ... handed to him.

Since my personal experience is the only one that matters, I say fighters rule, wizards drool. Or ... it just depends on the rules used, and half a dozen other circumstances. Given enough encounters without chance to recover spells they balance out. Just as important, they tend to fill different roles in the party and one is not "better" than the other.
Im assuming a dual.

A dedicated swordsman who learns magic explicitly to give them an edge as a swordsman is only going to use spells that give them an edge as a swordsman for the most part. And you only need a few well placed spells to allow you big advantages. Entangle is probably not the best example thinking it over again. But its a first level spell. And prestidigitation is just a cantrip (which can be used all day long).

Im specifically looking at it in a way of a swordsman who uses magic to amplify or tweak their martial arts. They will win most times. Could be as simple as granting themselves advantage at certain times for well timed criticals or to hamper the other person's move economy. All that can be done without high level spells which means they will have plenty of spell slots to fuel this especially with upcasting. Status effects are also nasty and reminiscent of actual historical examples like usage of Metsubushi by swordsmen on their oponents. Plenty of low level magic to do that with. So no they wont really run out over the course of a dual (or likely several battles)

ps. I dont know why but i stopped being able to turn off bold. None of the latter bold text is intentional. There seems to be some sort of problem ive suddenly been affected by on this site's text interface.
 
Im assuming a dual.
That may be a typo, or it may be "dual" seems intuitive, but it's "duel" with an e. Because English. ;|

A dedicated swordsman who learns magic explicitly to give them an edge as a swordsman is only going to use spells that give them an edge as a swordsman for the most part. And you only need a few well placed spells to allow you big advantages. ... without high level spells which means they will have plenty of spell slots to fuel this especially with upcasting
Seems like the EK is just about perfect for that, and the above example of Shield is a proven one.
Im specifically looking at it in a way of a swordsman who uses magic to amplify or tweak their martial arts. They will win most times.
But it doesn't so much reflect being a better swordsman. Magic, in that sense, is like adopting a new technology. The guy who brings an iron sword to the bronze age duel has an advantage, not in his skills (at least, not his skill as a swordsman), but in technology. Magic, in D&D, is analogous to superior technology, that way.
 
That may be a typo, or it may be "dual" seems intuitive, but it's "duel" with an e. Because English. ;|

Seems like the EK is just about perfect for that, and the above example of Shield is a proven one.But it doesn't so much reflect being a better swordsman. Magic, in that sense, is like adopting a new technology. The guy who brings an iron sword to the bronze age duel has an advantage, not in his skills (at least, not his skill as a swordsman), but in technology. Magic, in D&D, is analogous to superior technology, that way.
English is not my primary. Thankyou for the correction.
 
That may be a typo, or it may be "dual" seems intuitive, but it's "duel" with an e. Because English. ;|

Seems like the EK is just about perfect for that, and the above example of Shield is a proven one.But it doesn't so much reflect being a better swordsman. Magic, in that sense, is like adopting a new technology. The guy who brings an iron sword to the bronze age duel has an advantage, not in his skills (at least, not his skill as a swordsman), but in technology. Magic, in D&D, is analogous to superior technology, that way.
I think it would depend on what sort of magic. Some types definitely represent ecpanding your conorehensive swordsman skill set. Again. My gymnastics example. Casting a spell to give you superior maneuverability (thereby allowing more tightly arranged movements or so e other martially relevant thing) woukd be an example of using magic as a specifically swordsmanship-relevant skill.

Also i dont mean to exclude melee attackers that actually have magic. Im saying in general a swordsman whos swordsmanship includes magic as a part of the technique would realistically be a higher calber swordsman.
 
Also i dont mean to exclude melee attackers that actually have magic. Im saying in general a swordsman whos swordsmanship includes magic as a part of the technique would realistically be a higher calber swordsman.
Also one who trained to counter or leverage other's magic - like, say, the Mageslayer feat - could be considered a 'better swordsman' in a setting where magic is common enough* to train against.







* IRL, left-handed swordsmen are conventionally thought to have an advantage, because they frequently train against right-handed opponents, while right-handers infrequently encounter left-handed sparring partners. About 10% of the population is left-handed, so 'common enough' might mean well over 10% of titular 'swordsmen' using magic, in sparring and training.
 
Also one who trained to counter or leverage other's magic - like, say, the Mageslayer feat - could be considered a 'better swordsman' in a setting where magic is common enough to train against.
mage slayer feat works a lot more effectively against a dedicated mage than it does against a swordsman who includes bits and pieces of magic in their martial art. Much of which that feat wouldnt always be relevant to.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
However I think power advancement can change the story so much that tadah people do not play high level D&D nearly so much.
Yes, in D&D, play starts as one thing, and it changes as power rises. I don't deny that. But let us be careful...

Folks who play D&D most certainly can say, "I want to play a character that is the Best Swordsman." They just have to start at high level. Then, across play the game would not change so much. Ergo, "the game changes too much" isn't really the barrier.

The thing we are missing is that there's likely a stark difference between the concept in your head of the experience of "the best swordsman" and the experience high level D&D supplies.

D&D combat is, to this day, squad level tactical wargaming. In D&D, you have a whole bunch of combat mechanics bits, and when it is over, you find the resulting narrative is that the character is the Best Swordsman, because, empirically, it has been proven such.

But the Best Swordsman is.. Inigo Montoya. He doesn't win because he has these feats, those class abilities, this other subclass, and a huge bag of hit points. He wins because he is the Best Swordsman. The only way to beat him is to use something other than Swordsmanship.

Correct me if I am wrong - but in a game where you want to step in and declare that your character is the Best Swordsman, you ought to start with that declaration, and have things cascade from that fact, rather than have a bunch of other stats that add up to that fact.

Here's the thing that gets lost in this discussion. D&D has something that, say, Fate, or Cortex+ does not - extensive headroom.

I think, if you set down to it, games with people who step into the Best Swordsman role directly last no longer than a typical D&D campaign. Probably less, in fact, because if you start at the top... where you going to go? How much story can you tell before you start getting repetitive?

D&D's power growth, and the change of game that it includes, is a feature, not a bug. After a while of play in games that don't have power growth, eventually it gets old, the character has been fully explored in both the tactical and dramatic senses, and typically folks wrap it up, and play something else.

In D&D, after a while of play, you have a choice - wrap it up at the power level you prefer and start something else, or you can keep playing, and the game will change it up for you, without having to wrap up and create a new continuity. A D&D character kind of refreshes in each tier of play, which cannot be said for the Greatest Swordsman, who is pretty much stuck where they started forever.
 
Folks who play D&D most certainly can say, "I want to play a character that is the Best Swordsman." They just have to start at high level.
Hmmm... that gives me an idea for a "Prodigy" variant, probably wouldn't be too crazy under BA: a prodigy picks one skill or weapon or whatever, and just plain starts with max proficiency. They may get a little better as they gain hps & extra attack or other class perks, and if they have room to improve the relevant stat, but they're already notionally "the best" (as good as the 20th level guy with the same stats, anyway), in the sense of learnable skill. They just lack experience (a 'less skillful' swordman of several times there level will still mop the floor with them due to hps).
 
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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Im assuming a dual.



A dedicated swordsman who learns magic explicitly to give them an edge as a swordsman is only going to use spells that give them an edge as a swordsman for the most part. And you only need a few well placed spells to allow you big advantages. Entangle is probably not the best example thinking it over again. But its a first level spell. And prestidigitation is just a cantrip (which can be used all day long).



Im specifically looking at it in a way of a swordsman who uses magic to amplify or tweak their martial arts. They will win most times. Could be as simple as granting themselves advantage at certain times for well timed criticals or to hamper the other person's move economy. All that can be done without high level spells which means they will have plenty of spell slots to fuel this especially with upcasting. Status effects are also nasty and reminiscent of actual historical examples like usage of Metsubushi by swordsmen on their oponents. Plenty of low level magic to do that with. So no they wont really run out over the course of a dual (or likely several battles)



ps. I dont know why but i stopped being able to turn off bold. None of the latter bold text is intentional. There seems to be some sort of problem ive suddenly been affected by on this site's text interface.
Sorry, but I'm not following. In D&D 5E there is no way to give yourself advantage using magic other than True Strike which requires an action. It's not a good exchange. In some other system or hypothetical setting it may matter. But who says that straight fighters aren't using magic to supplement their fighting ability without explicitly casting spells?

I argued back in the 4E days that fighters were intrinsically using magic even though their powers were labelled "martial". That kind of sounds like what you're talking about, being able to bend reality to enhance your fighting ability without explicitly casting a spell. But it doesn't work like that in 5E.

mage slayer feat works a lot more effectively against a dedicated mage than it does against a swordsman who includes bits and pieces of magic in their martial art. Much of which that feat wouldnt always be relevant to.
Why not? If the mage fighter is concentrating on a buff spell they're at disadvantage on their concentration checkds. The first time they cast a spell during a round the mage slayer gets a free attack. If they aren't buffing or casting spells, they have no intrinsic benefit.

Again, if you're talking about some system other than D&D it may matter. Then again, you may or may not have the equivalent to the mage slayer feat. If there's some option to do what you're talking about I've missed let me know. But I'm discussing fighters vs spell casters as defined by D&D 5E rules.

In general a person focused on one specific skill will be better at that skill than someone who did not specifically focus if all other factors are the same. Assuming that we're talking spell casting as defined in 5E let's say you separated identical twins at birth. Give them similar upbringing, amount of time spent in training and so on. Have one split their time between swordsmanship and magic. Have the other focus on just swordsmanship. IMHO the latter will be a better swordsman because they haven't divided their training between two unconnected disciplines.

Whether they are better in any specific fight depends on many other factors.
 
I argued back in the 4E days that fighters were intrinsically using magic even though their powers were labelled "martial".
You were in disagreement with what the content of the game explicitly said about magic and martial abilities then, too.
That kind of sounds like what you're talking about, being able to bend reality to enhance your fighting ability without explicitly casting a spell. But it doesn't work like that in 5E.
It still doesn't work like that in 5e. As in 4e, the few cases of martial resources left in 5e are powered by 'deep reserves' or 'pushing beyond normal limits' - or in the case of the 5e BM sub-class "martial techniques passed down through generations."
None of which fit 5e's own idiosyncratic definitions of 'magic.'

In general a person focused on one specific skill will be better at that skill than someone who did not specifically focus if all other factors are the same.
In 5e, only if they're a Bard or Rogue, but, otherwise, sure...

Assuming that we're talking spell casting as defined in 5E let's say you separated identical twins at birth. Give them similar upbringing, amount of time spent in training and so on. Have one split their time between swordsmanship and magic. Have the other focus on just swordsmanship. IMHO the latter will be a better swordsman because they haven't divided their training between two unconnected disciplines.
They'll both have the same proficiency bonus with the sword, and, if the 'split' training is in the form of taking the EK sub-class vs the Champion, have the same number of Extra Attacks, with it, too.
 
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DEFCON 1

Legend
I see where you're coming from, but you have to admit that advocating for freeform description as the primary narrative driver in D&D, which is predominantly a high-concept simulationist game, is going to raise a few eyebrows. I mean, you can stat up the "greatest wizard" any way you want, sure, especially if any NPC wizard has Schrodinger's stats, because then there's no concept of a relative comparison. But I think as soon as you run into any opposition in the narrative that mandates the use of mechanics, something is going to be formalized. And that's going to out some kind of bounds on the practical mechanic expression of the PC.

I'll be honest, I kind of wonder if this whole post chain is just a long con to get Saelorn riled up, considering your ideas are anathema to his play style. :)
Hey, don't blame me... this whole thing just came out of my point about why WotC releasing new material isn't a bad thing and why I thought it silly that players demanded WotC to amend supposedly "unbalanced" material because of their need to "win" the game. People instead just got so fixated on my "greatest swordsman in the land" idiom and completely spiraled the conversation away from what the whole point was in the first place.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Hey, don't blame me... this whole thing just came out of my point about why WotC releasing new material isn't a bad thing and why I thought it silly that players demanded WotC to amend supposedly "unbalanced" material because of their need to "win" the game. People instead just got so fixated on my "greatest swordsman in the land" idiom and completely spiraled the conversation away from what the whole point was in the first place.
I asuume that's because the new point (does @DEFCON 1 actually play with no linkage between mechanics and narrative?) is a lot more interesting!
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
I asuume that's because the new point (does @DEFCON 1 actually play with no linkage between mechanics and narrative?) is a lot more interesting!
Well, to answer that question... my response is that there's not NO linkage, but rather that having the "best of the best" game mechanics are not REQUIRED in a character to exemplify how they are represented in my game.

The whole "greatest swordsman" argument right now is actually kind of... not what I intended to be focused on. My point originally was that there are people on the boards who equate game mechanics to a character's place in the narrative. That if a character doesn't have the "best" game mechanics available, then their character isn't "competent". Because how could you be "competent" if you knew you were leaving better mechanics on the table? To which I said that's a ridiculous way of looking at it, because even if you have the "best" mechanics for your character, you are still going to have a whole heap of failures. So those "best" characters are not the requirement for being "competent"... how the character is perceived in the game world does it.

Now I flippantly said "the greatest swordsman in the world" (not realizing people would just grab that phrase and go out to town on it) as the appellation of how they were perceived in the game world, when apparently I really just should have said "competent". A "competent" character in the game world just needs to be seen as such by the people within the world and within the story. They do not ALSO need to have the best game mechanics available too (despite the claims of others). If the people in the narrative see the PC as competent, then it doesn't matter if the character only has a 16 STR rather than a 20, and they don't have the Great Weapon Master feat, or any of the other "requirements" people seem to claim you need to have to be good at your job.

But because I said you didn't need to be a 20th level Battlemaster Fighter to still claim to be "the greatest swordsman in the world" within the story of your game (because again, the "best" game mechanics are not required to exemplify who you are)... people just took that phrase and ran with it all over the place.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
The whole "greatest swordsman" argument right now is actually kind of dumb.
With respect... please allow room for other people to find interest and wisdom in things that you didn't intend. And don't get insulting about it, please.

So those "best" characters are not the requirement for being "competent"... how the character is perceived in the game world does it.
This does not address the issue that started the tangent - when the mechanics do not support the in-game-world perception.

I agree that you used entirely the wrong language - because the question of what qualifies as "competent" is nowhere near the question of what qualifies as "world's best." It is very easy to be seen as "competent" in the world - you go out, you kill some monsters that would make a common man shudder, and come back alive, and you are competent.

And if that's all you were talking about, that's fine. We are in basic agreement on that.

But because I said you didn't need to be a 20th level Battlemaster Fighter to still claim to be "the greatest swordsman in the world" within the story of your game (because again, the "best" game mechanics are not required to exemplify who you are)... people just took that phrase and ran with it all over the place.
So, people on the internet actually listened to you. They took you at your word. They specifically didn't restate your position in words you didn't use to change it...

...and you're not happy with that? :p
 

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