D&D 5E Martials should just get free feats

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
Not much about casting classes has really changed from 3.5. In fact, in many cases, classes like the Sorcerer got upgrades, as they now get real class features.

You can point to less spell slots, but the fact is, low level spell slots stopped mattering in 3.5; their effect was too weak compared to enemies you'd face, and the fact that save DC's scaled based on the spell level meant that only incredibly vulnerable enemies would fail their saves. Even with "caster level" automatically upgrading spells, when you're facing a CR 8 Gray Render with 125 hit points, what damage spell is even going to make a dent in the thing? A 10d6 Fireball that's going to do 35 damage?

What's different are fundamental changes to the rules themselves to keep the ceiling lower; there's no crazy prestige classes, Feats are less plentiful and top tier Feats like Shock Trooper simply don't exist. I remember early 5e, with people freaking out about what basically amounts to a nerfed Power Attack (ermagerd, -5 for +10 damage! Pfft, try -10 for +20 and then add Leap Attack and Shock Trooper...).

Concentration actually causes more damage to the game's fundamental balance, though it's easy to see how many people fail to see it; 3.5 was intended to have casters buffing the hell out of Fighters, who were designed to be the best targets for buffs. Of course, casters instead realized they could be amazingly good by buffing themselves. Now nobody is getting buffs, because most casters have better things to do with their concentration. Even something like Bless, which grants amazing accuracy buffs in a system that otherwise has accuracy progress at a glacial pace, is rarely picked over other spells.

The stat cap of 20 hurts martials badly as well; gone are the days where a low level Barbarian can down a potion of Bull's Strength and suddenly have 26 Strength giving them a +12 damage bonus with their two handed swings.

The biggest gutting of characters was effectively removing magic items from the game's calculations, bringing us back to the AD&D era where one lucky drop could completely warp the game's balance- it should be noted that in AD&D, magic items were, by design, made to favor the Fighter, and to shore up weak points in the class. All of that is pretty much gone now, as many DM's, seeing that items are optional, and not really seeing how adding, say +2 magic armor isn't going to unbalance their game (as there's no guidelines as to how/when/why you should let a character have such a bonus) have become very conservative.

I mean look at defense. In the first Tier of play, characters can easily shoot up to AC's of 20 or beyond, but while enemies keep getting better to hit chances, AC basically levels off. Eventually you're up against CR 9's with +11 to hit, making even a 21 AC (plate, shield, fighting style) being less valuable than resistance (since there's that 5% chance to get walloped for 12d6+7).

AC less than that starts becoming a joke, and classes like the Barbarian, Ranger, Rogue, and Monk who dare to enter melee risk being knocked into next week with regularity.

Yeah someone will say "but Rage! But bonus action Dodge!", and I'll point out that neither of those things is going to be available in every turn of every battle. Not to mention the fact that many Barbarians basically cede their AC anyways by granting constant advantage to their enemies.

Meanwhile, casters can gain all kinds of ways to buff all sorts of defenses; AC, saves, resistances, and that gold standard, preventing an enemy from being able to attack at all!

But that's not the worst of it, the worst is if you don't constantly keep everyone low on resources, something the game really isn't designed to do (monsters are not designed with the idea that people are going to be at 25, 50, 75, or 100% of resources, and in fact, they are designed with the idea that everyone is at full hit points every encounter, something that is simply not in the stars for groups without casters unless you are taking way more short rests- which has it's own effect on resources for many classes).

The worst is when the caster has some extra spell slots to play with. He didn't need to use them today. Or maybe we're taking a day off because it turns out, only getting back half your Hit Dice per diem eventually catches up to the melee guys.

And the caster goes, well now, time to crank out a Simulacrum and start figuring out how to jump start an industrial revolution with Fabricate, or something equally ridiculous, while the best thing other classes can do is say "uh, can I pick somebody's pockets for spare change?" (and the Fighter can't even go looking for an arena fight, because he's trying to NOT take damage, lol).

Sure, a Fighter can outpace other classes in damage, if they're built to do so. And...that's about it. Utility in other aspects of the game is not a major concern for the class. They are made to fight, and that's mostly it. Which ignores the fact that D&D is supposed to have three tiers of play, not one.

So in a balanced game, 1/3 fighting, social interaction, exploration, the Fighter is good at one, and poor at the others. The Rogue is a little worse at fighting, but they can do consistent damage at range, and they get better social interaction and exploration. This seems balance.

Then you get the Paladin, who can be better than the Fighter in most every way. Wait, that doesn't seem right, does it?

And even if a Bladesinger was half the Fighter a Fighter is, that's on top of everything else they can do that the Fighter cannot.

People will say "lol, D&D isn't meant to be balanced" or "ha, try being a caster without a Fighter" but seriously, what are those attitudes doing in 2023? Everyone should have equal potential to share the spotlight, it's ludicrous that someone would be given a smaller piece of the pie and that's considered ok.

Plus, about that "needing Fighters"...do you, really? Clerics can have a stronger defense package than the Fighter, be better at locking down enemies, can grant themselves more hit points and have better ways to recover the same. Maybe a Wizard does less damage, but they have more ways to turn a fight into a non-encounter, something the Fighter simply cannot do.

I know that I'm not going to sway any opinions here; but if you're running a game and have never had to stop the action entirely because a caster has done something that seems completely out of bounds, yet turns out to be perfectly legal, I don't know what to say.

My experience has been that that sort of thing happens at least once a session, lol.
 

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CreamCloud0

One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
They should ALWAYS come close to matching a specialist.
okay, following this logic, if a subclass should contain enough 'specialisation power' for a class specialised in another area to rival the specialist at their own specialty such as allowing a caster to be as proficient in martial abilities as a martial specialised class, it should mean that, all things being equal, a martial with a martial specialised subclass should be as good as having TWO martial classes in a single character, should it not?
otherwise would that not create wild imballance in the power of subclasses of the same class between those that focus on the class's existing specialty who get relatively little more due to 'already being proficient in that area' and subclasses that 'branch out' and provide an entire other class's capabilities
 
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S'mon

Legend
The biggest gutting of characters was effectively removing magic items from the game's calculations, bringing us back to the AD&D era where one lucky drop could completely warp the game's balance- it should be noted that in AD&D, magic items were, by design, made to favor the Fighter, and to shore up weak points in the class. All of that is pretty much gone now, as many DM's, seeing that items are optional, and not really seeing how adding, say +2 magic armor isn't going to unbalance their game (as there's no guidelines as to how/when/why you should let a character have such a bonus) have become very conservative.

I mean look at defense. In the first Tier of play, characters can easily shoot up to AC's of 20 or beyond, but while enemies keep getting better to hit chances, AC basically levels off. Eventually you're up against CR 9's with +11 to hit, making even a 21 AC (plate, shield, fighting style) being less valuable than resistance (since there's that 5% chance to get walloped for 12d6+7).

Yeah, I mostly run old school adventures in 5e with a lot of magic items. My Barrowmaze game has two level 10 heavy armour martial characters with AC 26. And I nerf a few spells, like Simulacrum.
 

Sure, but all Clint said was I think martial classes are already competitive with casters. Most of the tier rankings I see, including ones with large numbers of responses, suggest the same. They are also heavily played. So for my campaigns, this would be unbalancing. That's my impression too. If someone else has a problem with 5e casters being OP, I find that surprising but sure, your game must be different I guess.

I do think it's objectively true that caster/non-caster imbalance is not the issue it was in 3e D&D.
I don't think that anyone thinks that balance is as flat out terrible as it was in 3.X - but that doesn't mean that it couldn't be better. I'm going to make the following assertions that I think are all hard to argue with.
  • Class balance is situational and determined by the campaign as much as it is anything.
  • Classes are also balanced differently at different levels; for example the combat balance between a fighter and a ranger is very different at level 10 and level 11 when the third attack kicks in for the fighter.
  • The wizard scales harder than the fighter and casters scale harder than non-casters in general
  • The value of strength and athletics goes down over time as spells like breathe water, water walking, flight, and polymorph make climbing, jumping, and swimming easier to bypass - and strength and athletics are all fighter/barbarian stuff.
  • At first level the wizard is strictly but only slightly superior to a fighter out of combat; they get the same sized stat array, and the same number of skills, but the wizard gets cantrips and can use levelled spells but are unlikely to have some to spare.
  • Out of combat the gap only increases with level as the wizard gets more and higher levelled spells and hence more flexibility
  • At first level the fighter is much stronger than the wizard in combat. Much tougher, much harder hitting, and just as mobile
  • A high level wizard has more mobility, can use low level spells for defence, and has better combat spells. The fighter is doing single target hit point damage. The wizard scales better at combat.
  • Therefore there will be some level at which the wizard catches the fighter in terms of combat ability
    • Personal observational experience says probably by level 7, certainly by level 9 (OK, so this one is just personal observation)
  • By D&D Beyond statistics 90% of games end by level 10 - which is only slightly after the endgame kicks in.
  • (On preview): The magic items in by the book 5e are if anything weighted against the fighter in 5e; an AC 26 fighter would RAW require a +3 Shield (Very Rare) and +3 Plate Armour (Legendary). Admittedly neither of these require attunement.
There are also some points about the fighter in specific:
  • The fighter gains less from their feat level at levels 4 and 8 than the wizard; the wizard also advances their spellcasting. (Suggested fix: Fighters, Barbarians, and Rogues (and probably Monks) get a free trained skill every time they get a feat)
  • The fighter level 9 ability (Indomitable) for a 1/day reroll is just very weak. And, worse, it's weak at a point when the fighter is already falling behind and needs something good. (Suggested Fix: Advantage on all saving throws - to bring back the classic fighter being spell resistant and to compete with the paladin and later monks)
  • The fighter's class abilities from levels 12-19 are a complete blasted wasteland of repeats of abilities and options that simply weren't good enough for them to pick at lower levels.
    • There are a few fighter builds where there's genuine synergy between two combat feats (Xbow expert/Sharpshooter and Polearm Master/Sentinel stop-and-flail come to mind) so the fourth feat/ASI is more valuable than it would have been earlier. Level 12 sometimes avoids this problem for fighters; level 14 doesn't.
    • Suggested fix: Fighters get an extra subclass in Tier 3 and 4 to represent how they go beyond normal limits. Or cap the game at level 11.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
I'd say in this case it was excellent logic, for his game.
I'm not seeing a problem in my games either, so AFAICT that means there's no problem in my games.
The problem is that there is no "for my game." It is "because it isn't a problem in my game, no fix should ever be allowed for anyone else's game."

Because that's what's actually going on here. "I got mine, so it doesn't matter you didn't get yours." There are fixes for this problem which do not make undue burdens for people who don't see a problem...like the one proposed in this thread. Arguments otherwise have been, consistently, in bad faith and bad logic.

So the bad logic is in fact exactly what's going on here. "I don't have a problem, therefore whatever problem you have shouldn't be fixed."
 

ECMO3

Hero
okay, following this logic, if a subclass should contain enough 'specialisation power' for a class specialised in another area to rival the specialist at their own specialty such as allowing a caster to be as proficient in martial abilities as a martial specialised class, it should mean that, all things being equal, a martial with a martial specialised subclass should be as good as having TWO martial classes in a single character, should it not?

Pretty close, yes. It should have enough specialization to match the generalist of a class focused on that. Not enough to macth a specialist who takes a subclass in that class to further dive in.

So other classes (I believ all of them) should have subclass options to near match a fighter in martial combat. They not have sublass options that would match an optimized fighter who chooses a subclass and further subclass options to strengthen his partial prowess.

I would disagree with the "two classes" metric, because the base non-martial does not start at 0 martial prowess.

If the basic Figher with no subclass is "100%" of a martial class -A Wizard with no subclass who maximizes strength and Constitution is I would say roughly at 20% of a fighter in martial combat. Less at high levels, more at low levels and this is the most extreme example. If taking a subclass like Bladesinger boosts that to 75% then logically a Fighter taking a martial subclass should boost it by the same 55% (to 155%). So not two martial classes but certainly substantially more than a baseline fighter. I think the options in Battlemaster and Echo Knight come pretty close to meeting that number. Rune Knight and Arcane Archer do too, although it is debatable if they are really martial subclasses. Other subclasses don't boost martial prowess that much, but then they are not really designed to play into the master of martial combat theme.
 

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