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D&D 5E Martials v Casters...I still don't *get* it.

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Asisreo

Hero
Why are Eldritch Knights and Arcane Tricksters unconsidered in the debates?

The most common complaints is that Martials don't have versatility or utility out of combat, but they do in the form of these subclasses.

Sure, it isn't up the 9th-level spells but I believe that we can agree that a character isn't balanced when they

  • Has Full Martial Proficiency
  • Has 1d10 HD
  • 4-extra attacks
  • A fighting style
  • 2 extra ASI's
  • And the ability to cast Wish?!
Instead, they have a truncated portion of spellcasting to keep things balanced. But they still have some decent abilities like Dimension Door, Fabricate, Polymorph, and Fly.

While these spells aren't "better than what spellcasters can do at their level." Its still added versatility that increases their usefulness outside of combat, especially since a caster doesn't have to worry about doubling up on their spell or cantrips within their prepared classes.

Honestly, I still don't understand exactly what the community wants. Is it purely because of the flavor of spells/magic? If so, I feel like that's an issue with semantics but doesn't necessarily mean that the classes are weak or underpowered.

I want this to be an open discussion. I may still press your reasonings if I'm still unclear about the logic. It isn't to tell you you're wrong, per say, but if it seems illogical I may pipe up.

The point is to be able to understand exactly what it is that's wrong, so we can be more precise and productive as a community about the game and what it should be.



An Aside:​


I've seen many arguments in this debate about what a fantasy hero can do. Odysseus can do this, Heracles can do that. Beowulf was able to hold a fight against a powerful foe underwater. And none of these involved spells.

But I feel that the majority of these classes were imparted with "DM Fiat." Within their respective stories. Heracles is a demigod, not a human-born farmer. Beowulf, as well, was enhanced through what we would determine as from the DM.

These feats are perfectly codified as Blessings, Charms, or Boons in the DMG.

Edit: Whoops, didn't finish that.

It can be frustrating having those types of abilities dependent on the DM if that runs opposed to the type of game they'd like to play, but the DM had already restricted your power from the beginning. What this does is allows the DM to tailor the experience so that if you want to be Cú Chulainn but not Siegfried, the DM has the abilities to impart this within the campaign.

Challenge​

I have two identical monsters a hypothetical party must fight. You are a wizard with the Ultimate spells known list of every single wizard spell in the PHB, so long as it doesn't have a costly component (if you cast Wish, its works the exact same so don't worry).

These creatures have a muscular, hairless humanoid shape with Opalescent green skin and white feathered wings. It carries a Greatsword and is of large size.

Without reading the Monster Manual or looking up a similar creature, which sequence of 6 spells would you cast as a Wizard? I will tell you what they cast if they can counter and I will tell you your percent chance of success given a DC 19 Spell Save.

The purpose of this Challenge is not to "GOTCHA!" the other side of the argument, its an opportunity for me to gauge the way the people in this forum actually handles the large number of options. Because, to me, this range of nearly infinite options is an illusion and more feels like a guess-and-check to eliminate non-options.

If this challenge (not deadly) isn't much of a challenge to some, I'll re-evaluate my position on how options in-combat isn't necessarily amazing.
 
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prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Because, for the people that want martial characters ... they want them as true martials.

Not as spellcasters.

That might be an unsatisfying answer to you, but to people who prefer martial characters, the solution of "Just give them spells," is also unsatisfying. :)
I was thinking something similar, that people who want spellcasters want full-casters, and people who want martials want non-casters; because Arcane Trickster and Eldritch Knight are neither hot nor cold, some people spit them out.
 


Stormonu

Legend
Generalists (Eldritch Knights, Bards and Arcane Tricksters) always fall before specialists. While the generalists have generally a broader group of abilities to draw on, they can't match the sheer power that someone who specializes in one area can bring to the table.

And for a long time, we've had Linear Fighter, Quadratic Wizard syndrome so a lot of people have trouble even believing that the fighter-types have any high level use.
 


TwoSix

Unserious gamer
But I feel that the majority of these classes were imparted with "DM Fiat." Within their respective stories. Heracles is a demigod, not a human-born farmer. Beowulf, as well, was enhanced through what we would determine as from the DM.

These feats are perfectly codified as Blessings, Charms, or Boons in the DMG.
To try and condense an irresolvable argument, the argument for the "pro-martial" side is that getting Heracles/Beowulf style enhancement should explicitly be in the player-facing camp, and not dependent of DM fiat. Being able to travel 500 miles in a day (Wind Walk) or turn yourself into a dragon (True Polymorph) are in no way dependent on DM largesse, why should martial equivalents be similarly constrained?
 

Shadowedeyes

Explorer
Also, even if we assume for the sake of argument that Eldritch Knight and Arcane Tricksters are balanced with full casters and are an acceptable solution to the problem, you then have a problem that they are the only choice of subclass at that point. Choosing anything else is simply not a good option.
 

Undrave

Hero
To try and condense an irresolvable argument, the argument for the "pro-martial" side is that getting Heracles/Beowulf style enhancement should explicitly be in the player-facing camp, and not dependent of DM fiat. Being able to travel 500 miles in a day (Wind Walk) or turn yourself into a dragon (True Polymorph) are in no way dependent on DM largesse, why should martial equivalents be similarly constrained?
Exactly.

Casters are afforded player-facing versatility and non-combat ability, while the Martials are told to just "role play more! :)" which basically results in "DM may I?" which is fine in itself for a LOT of things, but not if its your only avenue. It also has an uncomfortable undercurrent of elitism ("Role play not roll play, pleb!")

Because it implies that the only solution to martial versatility or utility out of combat is to also make them casters, which is a non-answer for some.

That too.

Same if you make them Psionic, or a Monk with magical Ki abilities.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Why are Eldritch Knights and Arcane Tricksters unconsidered in the debates?
Because they are generally subpar to both standard martials and spellcasters.
The most common complaints is that Martials don't have versatility or utility out of combat, but they do in the form of these subclasses.
Not really. Versatility and utility come from a wide selection of spells that can be prepared, cast, or done as rituals.
Sure, it isn't up the 9th-level spells but I believe that we can agree that a character isn't balanced when they

  • Has Full Martial Proficiency
  • Has 1d10 HD
  • 4-extra attacks
  • A fighting style
  • 2 extra ASI's
  • And the ability to cast Wish?!
Wish is inherently unbalanced. Anyone who has access to it is unbalanced.
Instead, they have a truncated portion of spellcasting to keep things balanced. But they still have some decent abilities like Dimension Door, Fabricate, Polymorph, and Fly.

While these spells aren't "better than what spellcasters can do at their level." Its still added versatility that increases their usefulness outside of combat, especially since a caster doesn't have to worry about doubling up on their spell or cantrips within their prepared classes.
But it's not equal to what spellcasters can do at the same level. And that's the problem. Full casters are the benchmark. Nothing compares. Even the artificer with its 1/2 rounded up caster and access to extra magic items. Every time I look at that spell progression I can't help but think it's not a full caster. So it's less than. And the stuff it gets in exchange for that 1/2 spell progression simply does not compare to full spell progression.
Honestly, I still don't understand exactly what the community wants. Is it purely because of the flavor of spells/magic? If so, I feel like that's an issue with semantics but doesn't necessarily mean that the classes are weak or underpowered.
The community isn't a monolith. Some people want flavor. Some want storytelling. Others want unlimited power. The people focused on power and damage output want power and damage output. They're the ones typically fueling conversations about things being balanced/unbalanced, powered/underpowered, etc. The people who want flavor and storytelling tend to not care but also don't want to be ridiculously overshadowed at the table.
I've seen many arguments in this debate about what a fantasy hero can do. Odysseus can do this, Heracles can do that. Beowulf was able to hold a fight against a powerful foe underwater. And none of these involved spells.

But I feel that the majority of these classes were imparted with "DM Fiat." Within their respective stories. Heracles is a demigod, not a human-born farmer. Beowulf, as well, was enhanced through what we would determine as from the DM.

These feats are perfectly codified as Blessings, Charms, or Boons in the DMG.
DM fiat isn't universal, so what your DM does at their table doesn't really matter to what my DM at my table does. Unless it's codified in the rules, it doesn't matter. Or so goes the typical argument. If it's not listed as a specific ability tied to a specific feat or class or level or spell or subclass or race or subrace or lineage then it doesn't matter. "But your DM could do it" doesn't mean anything.
 

Kurotowa

Legend
Because it implies that the only solution to martial versatility or utility out of combat is to also make them casters, which is a non-answer for some.
Quite so.

There are TTRPGs where everyone selects powers from a set of generic templates and flavors them as appropriate for the character. A wizard taking the "AoE damage blast" power stipulates that it's a fireball, while a more martially inclined character would say that it's a cloud of throwing knives or a series of dashing sword strikes. The mechanics are abstracted to the point that they use the same ability rules even if the in-game manifestations are different.

D&D is not one of those games. Powers and abilities have much more specific flavor. Your character class has a meaningful impact on multiple levels of play. And for many people that specificity is a major selling point. The more free form and abstract games leave them lost and confused. Given the choice between modeling clay and Legos, they want the Lego set.

Now, even this choice is a spectrum. Some D&D players are more comfortable bringing some of that abstract ethos in and doing reflavors or reskins of existing mechanics. But that doesn't come naturally to everyone. Some people will say, "But I want to be a Fighter and if I change all this then I'm not a Fighter anymore." That was a lot of the pushback that 4e seemed to get. The classes had much more even access to abilities, but for a lot of people it came at the cost of the character and identity of the classes.

I don't know if there's a good solution to let us have it both ways, where non-casters scale as well as casters do at high level but aren't just getting knock off copies of Wizard spells. Certainly no one's come up with one that pleases everyone, though many attempts have their smaller bands of adherents. If anyone does come up with one it'll certainly be a major improvement to the game.
 

Asisreo

Hero
Because, for the people that want martial characters ... they want them as true martials.

Not as spellcasters.

That might be an unsatisfying answer to you, but to people who prefer martial characters, the solution of "Just give them spells," is also unsatisfying. :)
Heard. But this is a problem that extends beyond the caster v martial debate, does it not?

If I, for instance, am a fan of characters that take sacrifices of health to fuel their spellcasting, but this class is completely non-existant.

While I would appreciate if it was implemented in the game, would it be accurate to claim their absences is a general "problem?"
 

Stormonu

Legend
13th age put forth some marvelous, non-magical abilities for martial characters. Some of the ideas came into 5E as battlemaster "manuevers", but D&D lacked pulling in higher-level abilities and out-of-combat stunts/abilities for the sake of simplicity. Which is really a shame.

The Book of 9 Swords attempted to do something similiar, but you ended up with at best Wuxia-style semi-magic martial casters. I, and a great many others, really disliked the faux martial caster abilities this put forth as it didn't try and fix the problem with martial talents and abilities, but instead caved and "just made them casters to keep up."
 

Voadam

Legend
Why are Eldritch Knights and Arcane Tricksters unconsidered in the debates?

The most common complaints is that Martials don't have versatility or utility out of combat, but they do in the form of these subclasses.
I think they are generally considered like paladins and rangers, spellcasters, but not full spellcasting classes in these debates.

More spellcasting gives more versatility and out of combat utility. Limited spellcasting gives some more versatility and utility.

A noncaster fighter can hit things and maybe do a couple skill things.

A paladin can hit things and summon a mount and cure things and detect evil and a couple skill things.

A full spellcaster can do combat and do many different things and maybe a couple skill things.
 

Undrave

Hero
DM fiat isn't universal, so what your DM does at their table doesn't really matter to what my DM at my table does. Unless it's codified in the rules, it doesn't matter. Or so goes the typical argument. If it's not listed as a specific ability tied to a specific feat or class or level or spell or subclass or race or subrace or lineage then it doesn't matter. "But your DM could do it" doesn't mean anything.
If nothing else, it's not useful for an online discussion. We have no idea what one DM may and may not do, so we can only discuss what we all have in common, in the books.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Heard. But this is a problem that extends beyond the caster v martial debate, does it not?

If I, for instance, am a fan of characters that take sacrifices of health to fuel their spellcasting, but this class is completely non-existant.

While I would appreciate if it was implemented in the game, would it be accurate to claim their absences is a general "problem?"

The issues are different, but only because:

1. History. The Martials v. Casters debate has been there since the beginning (first two classes were Fighting Man and Magic User, and the third was a "gish" in Cleric).

2. Martials (as in Conan) and Casters (as in Gandalf) are two of the prime archetypes that we have had in general.

In other words, the absence of a particular type of caster or type of martial is more easily fixed than the issue of balancing those two fundamental archetypes.

(I am not taking a position on this, by the way, just describing it. Even questions as to whether or not "balance" needs to be achieved level-by-level or can be done by weakening casters at low levels to compensate for higher levels is something that others can take up, not to mention the age-old 'how extraordinary can a martial ability be before some % of people start complaining' problem.)
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
If nothing else, it's not useful for an online discussion. We have no idea what one DM may and may not do, so we can only discuss what we all have in common, in the books.
Right. But, as pointed out, boons etc exist in the books. So we have that in common. Trouble is they're locked behind DM fiat. As we don't all share the same DM...that's where the problem is. It may be a technicality, but it's a distinction that makes a difference, I think.
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
Why are Eldritch Knights and Arcane Tricksters unconsidered in the debates?

The most common complaints is that Martials don't have versatility or utility out of combat, but they do in the form of these subclasses.

Sure, it isn't up the 9th-level spells but I believe that we can agree that a character isn't balanced when they

  • Has Full Martial Proficiency
  • Has 1d10 HD
  • 4-extra attacks
  • A fighting style
  • 2 extra ASI's
  • And the ability to cast Wish?!
Instead, they have a truncated portion of spellcasting to keep things balanced. But they still have some decent abilities like Dimension Door, Fabricate, Polymorph, and Fly.

While these spells aren't "better than what spellcasters can do at their level." Its still added versatility that increases their usefulness outside of combat, especially since a caster doesn't have to worry about doubling up on their spell or cantrips within their prepared classes.

Honestly, I still don't understand exactly what the community wants. Is it purely because of the flavor of spells/magic? If so, I feel like that's an issue with semantics but doesn't necessarily mean that the classes are weak or underpowered.

I want this to be an open discussion. I may still press your reasonings if I'm still unclear about the logic. It isn't to tell you you're wrong, per say, but if it seems illogical I may pipe up.

The point is to be able to understand exactly what it is that's wrong, so we can be more precise and productive as a community about the game and what it should be.



An Aside:​


I've seen many arguments in this debate about what a fantasy hero can do. Odysseus can do this, Heracles can do that. Beowulf was able to hold a fight against a powerful foe underwater. And none of these involved spells.

But I feel that the majority of these classes were imparted with "DM Fiat." Within their respective stories. Heracles is a demigod, not a human-born farmer. Beowulf, as well, was enhanced through what we would determine as from the DM.

These feats are perfectly codified as Blessings, Charms, or Boons in the DMG.

Edit: Whoops, didn't finish that.

It can be frustrating having those types of abilities dependent on the DM if that runs opposed to the type of game they'd like to play, but the DM had already restricted your power from the beginning. What this does is allows the DM to tailor the experience so that if you want to be Cú Chulainn but not Siegfried, the DM has the abilities to impart this within the campaign.
Yep. That’s about right. Can’t argue with any of that in my opinion.
 

Yeah, if caster are more powerful than martials, making martials to be casters too is an unsatisfying solution.

However, I feel that one big issue that prevents fixing the problem (if you believe there to be a problem,) is that a large part of the playerbase wants martials to be explicitly non-magical in 'they're normal people' sense and I really don't think this can work. If one person can do all sorts of supernatural stuff whilst another can do just things normal people in real life could do, you can never balance that. I feel it would be best if it was explicitly stated that past certain level (tenish) martials are mythical heroes and do not need to conform to what is 'realistic' and can do all sort of superheroic and unreal stuff.
 
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Gadget

Adventurer
Heard. But this is a problem that extends beyond the caster v martial debate, does it not?

If I, for instance, am a fan of characters that take sacrifices of health to fuel their spellcasting, but this class is completely non-existant.

While I would appreciate if it was implemented in the game, would it be accurate to claim their absences is a general "problem?"
This is not an accurate representation of the argument. Your above stated desire is somewhat niche, at least much more niche than the general martials vs casters argument. Furthermore, to be an accurate comparison, your health-sacrificing caster would have to be in the game to begin with, just perceived as being continually subpar.
 

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