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D&D (2024) Martial vs Caster: Removing the "Magical Dependencies" of high level.

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The debate of Martial vs Casters at high levels continues!

While we can argue how "effective" martials are versus casters at high levels, I think one of the lingering narrative issues is the notion that high level scenarios often require magical solutions. No matter how cool your martial is, when the sacred key is protected by a wall of force.....you need a wizard. It leads to the notion that casters are "essential" at high levels, whereas martials are "optional". Now of course a DM can always tailor their game for a martial only group should they need to, but if you look at the standard spells and "common dangers" of high levels, they often require the use of magic to overcome. An improvement to the game might be in redesigning these spells and dangers with more mundane solutions, so that martial can contribute to the narrative of the dungeon crawl more equally to casters. Lets take a look.

Force Effects - Overcome with Damage
A simple start that is already a common houserule in many games, make it that force effects can be taken down with damage. Maybe you give the effect some kind of regeneration or minimum damage threshold to prevent teh "rif raf" from breaking it, but a high level martial can break down a wall of force or a resilent sphere with just raw power.

Flying - More tools to beat flying creatures
5e already started the ball here with the prone condition, which lets you ground a flying creature. Perhaps other tools could be added here, make a proning type weapon like a bola more usable at distances, or alchemical devices that can disrupt flying, etc.

Teleport Circles - Anyone can use
A simple change to the narrative, have it where anyone who knows that right symbols can use a teleport circle to go to another location (aka more stargate than magic circle). This gives martials a few more long distance options. It obviously doesn't replace caster teleporting but its a step in that direction.

Plane Shift - Portals/A way to back track
Similar to the teleport circles, narratively creature general ways to travel the planes that don't require the plane shift spell. This already exists in many worlds and narratives, so it could be made more ubiquitous.

Also for the plane shift (maybe banishment spell), perhaps it leaves a tear for a few rounds that the person who went through could pry open with damage or a high skill check and return where they came from. This allows a martial who has been plane shifted or banished a possible return path without having to use their wizard buddy to save them.

so that's a few starting ideas. What else do you think would make the high level world less insurmountable for martials?

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One of the best suggestions I have is to do what 4E did with rituals: put ritual casting up as a feat and let anyone who takes that feat cast rituals from one spell tradition. Let them have a ritual book to put them in.
So this points to a very important division in this discussion. My goal is this discussion is not to change the PCs as much as the environment in which they operate.

Otherwise we are back to just the standard debates, make Martials stronger, make them more epic, etc etc. The goal in this discussion is how to make the world and magic elements more "martial friendly"


Doing the best imitation of myself
So this points to a very important division in this discussion. My goal is this discussion is not to change the PCs as much as the environment in which they operate.
I think it's a good discussion to have. I believe that the real issue is that we don't take the martial/caster divide into consideration in terms of game tier. When you hit Tier 3, which I think is 11th level or so, I think that every character is more than martial. If for nothing else, it's for the plot immunity they get from hit points (or however else you describe it). I think a high level fighter does have a form of magic. That isn't the commonly held view of course, but I think explains how at high Tiers you really aren't playing different games.

One thing that I've thought about is if you're not going to change the world or environment, you simply don't have fighters or martial characters above a certain level. Also another not popular option, I suspect.

I am playing Pathfinder alongside of D&D now, and I think they've managed to deal with these issues. The most common discussion in classes is how the fighter is too powerful in Pathfinder terms. Perhaps look at some of the things they did?


One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
i think part of the answer lies in making skills not be so impotent, especially by letting them accomplish beyond mundane actions with skills at higher levels, just remember to balance the checks so everything isn't all riding on a single d20 roll, my preferred idea is the 'X successes before Y failures' method of rolling skill checks, going more for consistency of DC checks than a single sky-high roll.
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Utility magic is usually the culprit here.

There is very few universes out there in fiction where magic is so all encompassing and able to do everything with little to no cost that somehow juxtapose that with regular people being just as important and relevant to the plot, and of those most of them are just bad.

And meanwhile in DND 5e land, utility magic is inundated with a bajillion "turn off these game mechanics" buttons that basically have no meaningful cost or limits.

Its just bad design all around. Utility magic needs to either be rare or come with a significant and meaningful cost, if not both.

Combat magic can be as high octane as you want. Theres little issue there as that can be much more easily balanced even up against deliberately overly mundane alternatives.

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