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

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Marandahir

Crown-Forester (he/him)
I like to think my take on it threads the needle. At least as far as having a complex semi-crunchy Martial goes. And while that Warrior is nearly entirely mundane (its support abilities aren't per say, but they're close enough, and it obviously scales beyond human capability) this is going to be juxtaposed with my take on the Battlemage, which takes the same Battle Combo concept and adapts it for integration with spellcasting, all under the guise of a Summoner type class thats all about conjured weapons and armor.

And meanwhile, things like the Paladin or Monk will have their own power sources and mechanics distinct from magic (Divinity and Psionics respectively), and between all of these and my other Martials (Rangers and Beastmasters as well as the described Rogue and Barbarian in that topic), I'll have the gamut of pokey stabby types from the purely mundane to the basically wizards.

I like that you have this take, and it's quite interesting.

My issue is more with the D&D Core and trying to thread the needle in core, rather than solving it with homebrew. I'm concerned about threading a needle through having all classes with their own distinct class archetype and distinct subarchetypes and their own distinct mechanics and also satisfying both the "Fighters Should Be COMPLEX" and "Fighters Should Be SIMPLE" crowds.

WotC has failed at this on a sub-archetypal level (Champion vs Battle Master, The Undying Patron vs The Undead Patron, Way of Four Elements Monk vs Way of the Sun Soul Monk, Pact of the Blade Warlock Pact Boon vs The Hexblade Patron, etc). Some of those are just "don't pay attention to that old failed mechanic, look here at this shiny new one that actually works and meets your thematic concept" others are dials of complexity and simplicity but otherwise overlapping narratively. 2024 One D&D is a chance to reboot this and fix those mistakes, but even just having Champion vs Battle Master is emblematic of the problem here. Mechanically, these WANT to be two separate basic Fighter dial kits that would share subclasses with each other and have a single generic subclass as the default. Alternatively, you could take the Battle Master and make it a dial all Fighters can choose in place of different Fighter core features (and not a weaker version of the Battle Master a la the Combat Superiority Fighting Style). But that would make Fighter akin to the Mystic Playtest -- multiple mechanical identities that share just the most basic of features like HD and skills. But I don't love the alternative of pushing all anime and complex fighters into the Monk class or else limited-by-their-nature subclasses.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
one of these days I would like to see someone go through books and movies and figure out every magic thing that conan every went up against, then suggest instead of upping the martials limiting the casters to that list... how well do you think THAT would go over.
In one story, a wizard conjures an air elemental that picks up a ton of swords and swings them around, basically becoming a mobile Blade Barrier that slices up scores of men before he loses concentration. Conan doesn't fight him personally, as I recall, which is a good reason why he survives.

Conan has the good fortune of not being an idiot and having high ability scores, plus just about every non-magical skill that exists, plus most things being vulnerable to 3-4 feet of steel being shoved into them. This is often a far superior situation than what the current D&D Fighter has to work with.
 

My issue is more with the D&D Core and trying to thread the needle in core, rather than solving it with homebrew

Its more a brand new game but I get your meaning :)

The principle issue I think is mostly that all Martials rely on and center around basic attacks, which to make an analogy is like the formless grey nutrient cube to the varietys of Cheesecake Factory overindulgence that is most magic in DND. Not a lot to them, and what few riders (like Rage or Battlemaster maneuvers, or the new Weapon Masteries) can be added either aren't satisfactory or too fiddly or both.

Which is incidentally what lead me to design my martials the way I did. Things wed call maneuvers in 5e are all just the various varieties of basic attacks in LNO, and abilities like Smash!, Battle Combos, or the Cunning Act all integrate with and enhance them. While the three core classes I described have a clear hierarchy of complexity, within each you could choose how much complexity you want relative to the class.

A Barbarian can just make their repeated Smash! and Slam! moves with a basic strike and not really think about it, or they could make use of the different basics to vary up the playstyle. Likewise a Warrior can just spam one Technique and call it a day, or they can go for different combos and get the most out of chaining them between enemies. And the Rogue runs down the middle with an improv take that can be as complex or braindead as one prefers. And while most of what I put in as explicit possibilities doesn't really approach anime gonzo type stuff, you could easily do that.

Someone on Reddit called this sort of thing "inherent customization", something Mages get already just by the nature of spells and whether or not one just wants to blast or think.

But beyond all this, the thing I think really underpins this whole issue is that of picking a genre and sticking to it. Ive been of the opinion that magic as designed in 5e (and arguably in DND in general) has been violating the genre its meant to occupy; as such jacking up martials to match just further violates it, and that is where I think a lot of the dispute over whats appropriate and how far it should go lies.

People may not like the idea of nerfing magic (and in particular, utility magic) into the ground, but its kind of necessary unless we're ready to acknowledge that clashing genres together (particularly ones very far apart) isn't going to work, and thus just embrace DND as mythic fantasy rather than the mix of epic and sword/sorcery fantasy.

You can't really keep magic as is without violating the genre, and the same goes for martialing, just in the other direction.

If WOTC (and Hasbro) had any conviction to stand by their own ideas rather than the heavily divided whims of the community, then they could pick a lane, deal with the loss of whose who don't like it, and still have a successful franchise that will only get stronger when the resultant games are all the better for it.
 

I think a big part of it that people carry in a "basically like Earth" mindset as the core assumption for how things "should work" when they are thinking about what is and isn't possible in D&D settings.

This works great as a baseline but I think it causes two fundamental problems.

1. People are less willing to accept as mundane phenonomena which would be supernatural on Earth.
2. Because no comparable Earthlike baseline expectations exist for magic, people either don't question or assume that there aren't any nonmagical conditions which could or should limit magic.

In D&D, there isn't a spellcasting equivalent to "I don't care who you are, if you fall that far you die".

And when you think about it, it's kind of crazy considering how much "dangerous sorcery", "forbidden magics" and the like is baked into genre fiction.

In terms of how to narrow the gap, I think both aspects should be addressed.

Enough parts of the rules should permit the mundane accomplishment of Earth-supernatural feats that folks get the idea that "We're not in Kansas any more". So people stop narrowing their eyes suspiciously when someone suggests they want to jump really far or throw something really heavy.

And, if magic is going to be reliable and predicable and limited to a subset of the population, it should have some worldbuilt guidelines and limitations. For example, if the all that is required for spellcasting are the right magic words(V), the right gestures (S), and the right materials (M), then there either should be some kind of execution standard for delivering these components that separates a Wizard from a schoolteacher with expressive hands or there should be something "special" in-setting about the wizard themself.

If we say that a standard for proper execution exists, then we can start to question mundane circumstances where it might be more difficult or impossible to meet thay standard. (E.g. the environment is too loud for you to deliver the verbal components, it's so dark you can't see your hands well enough to guarantee execution of the somatic component, some aspect of the environment reacts somehow with the material component that prevents delivering it).

Another approach would to make magic less predictable, and/or more costly, especially at higher levels. Plenty of real world scientists and researchers have been killed or maimed studying forces they didn't fully understand or didn't afford the appropriate level of respect. Why should magic be different?

Tl;dr: Make it obvious that martial characters in fantasy settings are still fantasy characters. Introduce spellcasting mechanics that interact with setting mechanics somehow.
 
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Vaalingrade

Legend
The sheer amount of 'non-anime' hedging going on is part of the problem too. We're just straight up discounting an entire medium in service of some dumbass meme that stopped being relevant thirty years ago. and was pretty suspect in its intentions even then.

As if anime is just the Z-fighters and not Spike Jeet Kun Do, Gourry and Zelgadis's Swordsmanship (and hey, Zel's a gish too!), the casual hard-punching from Way of the House husband, or Yor's acrobatic badassery.

Nah, we're stuck in 1998 for some reason. And one of those examples was from before then.
 

Tl;dr: Make it obvious that martial characters in fantasy settings are still fantasy characters.

I think the issue though is that DND doesn't really have a baked in default setting. The Realms are still there as guidelines here and there, but especially lately it's not typically assumed as the default unless you're strictly playing modules, and even then!

That lack of a true common ground doesn't help perspectives on the upper limits of the mundane.

Not to keep plugging my game but that is actually something Ive kept in mind and have been working to balance; the desire for a baked in default as well as easy portability to other settings. The way Ive written the classes and abilities all come with flavor that are unified by a common vision rooted in the games default setting but would also easily fit with minimal or no modification in other settings.
 


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